De-Essing Vocals-(De-Ess to Remove Sibilance)


Great De-Essing Tech Sheets from that show how to connect up a compressor to De-Ess

The first Tech Sheet 1 shows how to de-ess with a compressor using the EQ on a Mixing Desk

The second
Tech Sheet 2 shows how to de-ess with a compressor and a graphic equalizer.

What is De-Essing?

De-Essing is the removal or reduction of unwanted Sibilance or unwanted “esses” in a vocal either being performed live or recorded. A lot of singers or even people just speaking, due to the way they pronounce certain words will often unintentionally put too much emphasis on consonants such as “S”, “Sh”, “Ch”, “Z”, “J”. This results in too much Sibilance being produced leading to a loss of clarity and generally spoiling an otherwise good vocal sound. Sibilance occurs in the range of frequency’s between 2 kHz-10 kHz, depending on the individual. De-essing is used to reduce the amount of sibilance on both recorded and live tracks and therefore knowing how to de-ess can noticeably improve the clarity of the vocal.

Two Ways to De-Ess
The easiest approach to de-essing is to simply turn down the level of the vocal signal whenever the performer is over emphasizing the "Sh" and "S" causing sibilance to occur. In reality however this is almost impossible to do as the moment the sibilance can be heard you are in effect too late as the loss of clarity of that particular word or phrase has already taken place. What is required is a method that detects sibilance occuring the moment it starts to happen and instantly reduces the volume of the appropriate frequenices.

Two common ways to de-ess is to use a compressor in conjunction with a Graphic Equaliser or the EQ on the mixing desk. By incorporating the side chain facility the vocal that is in need of de-essing is patched into a compressor and then the signal feeding the side chain input is equalized so that the sibilant frequencies are over emphasized. The compressor then becomes a de-esser as it re-acts to this over emphasized signal and only reduces the level when there is a high level of sibilance. The compressor is acting over the entire frequency range but de-esses the vocal by only reacting when the sibilance frequencies are pronounced. With careful adjustment of the attack and release times the compressor can be fine tuned so that it is very effective de-esser. The above De-Essing Tech Sheets both explain and show how to hook up an audio compressor including what leads you need, how to patch them in and the ideal settings to dial up to get the best de-ssing results.

Is De-essing really necessary, does it really matter?
If as a singer you have always struggled with too much saliva in your mouth or just simply over pronounce the "S", "Sh" & "Ch" sounds then this will really help tighten up and control your vocal. If you are sound engineering for theatre performances or public speaking/conference events then clarity of the vocal is an absolute must and again de-essing this way can really help improve intelligibility. If however you are performing though a cheap and poor sound PA system in a bad sounding room then the effects of de-essing may be less easy to appreciate, until you improved the overall sound initially.