DeEssers are mixing tools for vocals that are used to reduce or eliminate the presence of excessive sibilant sounds such as S, Z, CH, and more in a recording.
A deesser works by analyzing the audio signal and identifying when sibilant sounds are present. They then apply a frequency-specific attenuation or reduction to these sounds, effectively reducing their volume or intensity.
They are commonly used in music production, podcasting, voiceover work, and other audio applications where sibilant sounds can be a problem.
Although it’s mainly used on vocal tracks, you can use it for other instruments to reduce harsh-sounding frequencies.
What Does A DeEsser Do?
There are many great deesser plugins you can use and most of them offer the same features.
No matter which plugin you use, the work process of a deesser is very simple and it works like a compressor.
With a deesser, you can choose specific areas on the frequency range and it will compress only these areas.
After that, you can choose the threshold and reduce the amount in decibels as you do with a compressor.
So, the main difference between a compressor and a deesser is that a compressor will compress everything whereas a deesser only compresses specific frequencies.
Sibilance in vocals generally lives between 5kHz and 9kHz and this is the area you want to use deesser on.
In general, sibilance in male vocals is between 5kHz-6kHz, and in females, it’s between 7kHz and 8kHz.
So, you need to choose this range of frequencies for deesser when mixing vocals.
How To Use DeEsser?
Using a deesser plugin is very straightforward because it has very simple controls and settings.
As I have said, you just need to choose frequencies and set a threshold and reduce the harsh sibilants with a reduction control.
But you need to be careful not to overuse it because in that case, there will be no dynamics in vocal performance and compressed parts will sound bad.
So, like compressors, deessers are very delicate tools and you need to pay attention to every detail.
Listen to the vocal performance and find out where these harsh sibilants live and choose that area on a frequency range.
Then set the threshold where it starts working and reduces sibilants where it sounds good.
From that, you can set the amount of reduction and tweak the threshold again to achieve the desired results.
Where To Place DeEsser In A Signal Chain?
Many beginners mixing engineers or someone who never used a deesser before might have a question about where to put a deesser in a signal chain.
There are different methods but in general, the best way is to insert a deesser before a compressor but after an EQ plugin.
So, a deesser sits between EQ and compressor but you need to EQ your vocal track first and then use a deesser.
A compressor makes sibilants stronger and more prominent so, if you use a deesser after the compressor, it will be hard to make them sound good.
But when you insert it before the compressor, an already optimized signal of the vocal track will go into the compressor and then you will be able to compress the whole frequency range.
It’s a little bit hard to explain it in words and the best way to understand it, I recommend trying it yourself on one of your mixes.
Just pick any vocal performance and EQ it. Then add deesser and try to reduce sibilants. Finally add your favorite compressor, compress it and see how it sounds.
Also, you can do an A/B test: mix the same vocal take with the same EQ and compressor settings but use a deesser only one of them and then compare the two.
You will see the difference immediately. This way you will better understand how deesser works.
Deesser is an amazing mixing tool for vocals that can tame bad-sounding sibilants and harsh frequencies. It can be used in mixing vocal tracks, optimizing vocal speeches, podcasts, etc. Also, it can be used for other instruments such as guitars, drums, and more.