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Is a de-esser necessary for mixing vocals?

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Is a de-esser necessary for mixing vocals?

Postby dred2009 » Thu Jan 17, 2019 3:38 am

I would like to know:

Where do I download a good free de-esser;

if a de-esser plugin is necessary for mixing vocals;

if it's possible to remove the sibilance with just an EQ;

and what's the difference between a de-esser and an EQ.

Thank you all in advance.
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Re: Is a de-esser necessary for mixing vocals?

Postby Tim Gillett » Thu Jan 17, 2019 7:46 am

Many great recordings have been made without De essers.

Traditionally De essers were often used to reduce distortion when recording to lower fi recording media or in radio or TV.

People sometimes use the word "sibilance" to describe distortion triggered by sibilance.

Here's an example of a lecturer who probably has quite a sibilant voice but the bigger problem here is the distortion triggered by his sibilants. It's probably due to an unskilled person in charge of the audio.

https://youtu.be/PjE_yaJjXE8
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Re: Is a de-esser necessary for mixing vocals?

Postby BJG145 » Thu Jan 17, 2019 9:25 am

I've just noticed Elf browsing this thread, so, I'm not going to spend any time typing... ;)
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Re: Is a de-esser necessary for mixing vocals?

Postby Mike Stranks » Thu Jan 17, 2019 9:29 am

Cutting to the chase because of limited time...

I was recommended 'Spitfish'... Simple to use and effective... I also sometimes use the De-esser that came with my DAW... horses for courses.

De-ess or EQ? I'll use a De-esser if there are sibilance issues throughout a take... more likely to use EQ if it's an infrequent occurrence.

I do a lot of spoken word recordings with one female. Excellent voice, but a slight tendency to sibilance. A gentle application of a de-esser to the whole recording session cleans it up nicely.
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Re: Is a de-esser necessary for mixing vocals?

Postby The Elf » Thu Jan 17, 2019 9:30 am

Most DAWs come with a de-esser in their armoury. Tell us a bit about where you're wanting to host this de-esser and we may find you already have it!

De-essers are very useful for taming sibilant vocals, but they're not the only (and not always the best) tool for the job. They are very different from EQ in that they only act when they know they are needed, this being achieved by the de-esser analysing the audio as it passes through and turning down the sibilant sections. Some de-essers will split the audio to only act on the sibilance specifically.

And de-essers are also very useful away from vocals. They can be very useful in managing guitar fret squeak, or tom rings for instance. I've used them across an stereo mixes to tame troublesome hot spots.
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Re: Is a de-esser necessary for mixing vocals?

Postby Zukan » Thu Jan 17, 2019 9:44 am

They are a great tool for smoothing out reverbs.
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Re: Is a de-esser necessary for mixing vocals?

Postby Sam Inglis » Thu Jan 17, 2019 10:12 am

The current trend seems to be for very bright vocals and mixes, and depending on the vocalist and the recording, it can be pretty hard to get something into that ballpark without using a de-esser or similar tactics (laboriously automating an EQ on all the sibilants is the hardcore way to do it). As Zuke says it's also often a good idea to aggressively de-ess the signal feeding vocal reverb or delay even if you're not doing so on the vocal itself.
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Re: Is a de-esser necessary for mixing vocals?

Postby Guest » Thu Jan 17, 2019 10:31 am

Tim Gillett wrote:
Here's an example of a lecturer who probably has quite a sibilant voice but the bigger problem here is the distortion triggered by his sibilants. It's probably due to an unskilled person in charge of the audio.

https://youtu.be/PjE_yaJjXE8

This is strange, sometime ago I spoke to this speaker on the telephone and I don't remember him having any sibilance at all.
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Re: Is a de-esser necessary for mixing vocals?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:05 pm

dred2009 wrote:Where do I download a good free de-esser;

I think others have already given some suggestions there, although most DAWs have a de-esser bundled in anyway.

if a de-esser plugin is necessary for mixing vocals;

Not always, but it is quite a common requirement -- largely because of the close-miking technique routinely used for vocal recording.

if it's possible to remove the sibilance with just an EQ;

Yes, but not in real time. It would require a lot of EQ automation as the amount of EQ required has to vary so that it only attenuates the sibilant parts of the vocal, rather than everything all the time.

...and what's the difference between a de-esser and an EQ.

A de-esser is essentially a frequency-selective compressor. There are several variations on the theme. Some attenuate the whole signal, but only when a strong sibilance is detected. Others only attenuate the sibilant region when a strong sibilance is detected. ...but the end result is similar, either way.

It is worth noting that a lot of sibilance can be prevented or reduced at source by experimenting with the position and angle of the microphone. Moving the microphone sideways), slightly away from the direct mouth axis, or higher (so it's level with the forehead but pointing down at the mouth) can often help, or leaning the microphone back so it's at a slant rather than straight-on to the mouth (which reduces it's sensitivity to the high-end vocal components) .
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Re: Is a de-esser necessary for mixing vocals?

Postby The Elf » Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:11 pm

You can always frequency-split the vocal and control the highs on a separate mult track. There are tricks for getting a zero-loss frequency split, with polarity trickery involved, but I have a template for doing it and have long since forgotten how I created it!

I've never had to resort to automating EQ - volume, yes, but not EQ.
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Re: Is a de-esser necessary for mixing vocals?

Postby Tim Gillett » Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:31 pm

Still Vibrations wrote:
Tim Gillett wrote:
Here's an example of a lecturer who probably has quite a sibilant voice but the bigger problem here is the distortion triggered by his sibilants. It's probably due to an unskilled person in charge of the audio.

https://youtu.be/PjE_yaJjXE8

This is strange, sometime ago I spoke to this speaker on the telephone and I don't remember him having any sibilance at all.

Listening to excerpts of a range of his YT talks/interviews in different venues with different mics etc I suspect he would be regarded by many as having a "sibilant" voice.

But it wasn't my point. The obvious "sibilance distortion" in that edited upload (can you hear the distortion and distinguish it from his consonants as such?) was preventable. I don't think it was caused by the lecturer's voice but (again) by inadequate skills in audio production.
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Re: Is a de-esser necessary for mixing vocals?

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:39 pm

Zukan wrote:They are a great tool for smoothing out reverbs.

Why isn't this tip in the Creative Mixing thread Zukan? :lol:


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Re: Is a de-esser necessary for mixing vocals?

Postby Jack Ruston » Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:43 pm

I'd avoid de-essers as a general rule. They can be a handy quick fix, but they're not the precise way to deal with this. There are many factors that make up how 'offensive' any given sibilant sound is...the length, frequency, amplitude, way in which it hits the vocal compression, the attack time of that compression, any distortion, anything else in the track that may be masking etc etc. If I were you I'd deal with them manually...Start by reducing the level on the waveform itself...in other words, before any other processing occurs. Where that doesn't get you the desired result, you can separate the 'ess' and apply some eq as needed. Be aware that when you 'tune in' to this process, there's a tendency to over-do it. Typically, in most modern production styles, you will want a vocal to be a little bit more sibilant that might be considered natural.

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Re: Is a de-esser necessary for mixing vocals?

Postby Zukan » Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:48 pm

Martin Walker wrote:
Zukan wrote:They are a great tool for smoothing out reverbs.

Why isn't this tip in the Creative Mixing thread Zukan? :lol:


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Dunno....I expect it is because I'm not all there....
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Re: Is a de-esser necessary for mixing vocals?

Postby CS70 » Thu Jan 17, 2019 1:43 pm

You can use if you like but for the amount of sibilants you have in a regular song it’s just as easy to automate volume and you have much more control.

De-essers are fun to use on delays, reverbs and any timbre where you need less shhhhhhhh :)
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Re: Is a de-esser necessary for mixing vocals?

Postby Exalted Wombat » Thu Jan 17, 2019 2:16 pm

Tim Gillett wrote:Here's an example of a lecturer who probably has quite a sibilant voice but the bigger problem here is the distortion triggered by his sibilants. It's probably due to an unskilled person in charge of the audio.

https://youtu.be/PjE_yaJjXE8

He's using THREE mics. You'd think they could have got a decent recording from one of them!
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Re: Is a de-esser necessary for mixing vocals?

Postby dred2009 » Thu Jan 17, 2019 2:35 pm

The Elf wrote:Most DAWs come with a de-esser in their armoury. Tell us a bit about where you're wanting to host this de-esser and we may find you already have it!

I use Mixcraft 7 pro edition. I believe it does not have a De Esser, but I could be wrong.
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Re: Is a de-esser necessary for mixing vocals?

Postby dred2009 » Thu Jan 17, 2019 2:40 pm

The Elf wrote:You can always frequency-split the vocal and control the highs on a separate mult track.

Frequency-split? Ohh, I was thinking about this when I was mixing a piano. It would be very useful. Do you do that with an EQ?
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Re: Is a de-esser necessary for mixing vocals?

Postby Tim Gillett » Thu Jan 17, 2019 2:44 pm

Exalted Wombat wrote:
Tim Gillett wrote:Here's an example of a lecturer who probably has quite a sibilant voice but the bigger problem here is the distortion triggered by his sibilants. It's probably due to an unskilled person in charge of the audio.

https://youtu.be/PjE_yaJjXE8

He's using THREE mics. You'd think they could have got a decent recording from one of them!

True, suggesting to me it's not a mic or a gear issue but a" gear between the ears" issue. Harder to remedy because we cant easily package and sell expertise and diligence as a commodity.
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Re: Is a de-esser necessary for mixing vocals?

Postby dred2009 » Thu Jan 17, 2019 2:45 pm

CS70 wrote:De-essers are fun to use on delays, reverbs and any timbre where you need less shhhhhhhh :)

Oh, that sounds cool, I'll try this trick later.
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