DeEsser plug-ins are undoubtedly very useful tools to have on standby in today’s modern vocal production workflows. Every major DAW ships with at least one stock DeEsser plug-in, however, there are a number of amazing third-party DeEsser alternatives that are well worth checking out if you are plan to either swap out or upgrade your current stock DeEsser of choice for something a bit more special… or specialised…
In this article we list 7 super clean sounding DeEsser plug-ins that you should consider trying the next time you need to process a sibilant vocal track… but first:
What Is A DeEsser?
DeEssers are typically used in a mix to attenuation sibilant sounding consonants in recorded vocal tracks. Audio engineers use DeEssers when recorded vocals feature prominent sounding "sss" or "shh" sounds that to their ears sound overly harsh or whistle like. In the frequency spectrum sibilance is found upwards of 2kHz - Exact frequency positions being unique to whatever vocal track needs DeEssing.
DeEsser plug-ins a generally very simple tools. Think of a DeEsser as a multiband compressor with only a single band. This single band is typically either a “narrow” band which attenuates a tight range of frequencies or a “wide” band which compresses a range of frequencies above a set frequency.
When Should I Use A De-Esser Plug-in?
DeEssers are typically used to reduce or remove prominent sibilance in vocal tracks. Audio engineers also use DeEsser plug-ins on drum overhead tracks when cymbals sound too ringy in the mix or on mix buses or masters when top end harshness needs toning down.
How To Setup A DeEsser Plug-in?
DeEsser plug-ins vary slightly in operation though the vast majority follow the same basic principle of attenuating problematic frequencies. Some DeEssers are ‘smart’, meaning sibilance is detected automatically, others need dialling in manually meaning audio engineers will need to locate the sibilant frequencies by ear.
Sibilance is often made more prominent in a mix when a general levelling compressor has been applied to a vocal track. DeEssers can either be placed before the main vocal compressor to help attenuate the harshness before compression or placed later in a chain. In my opinion, there’s no wrong or right way here… position a DeEsser plug-in anywhere within a plug-in chain as long as you get transparent sounding results.
soothe is described by Oeksound as a dynamic equaliser. Unlike traditional EQ, soothe features self-adjusting frequency bands. soothe automatically adjusts the frequency-wise reduction based on the input which saves users from manually notching problematic mid and high frequencies. The attenuation kicks in when needed and where needed, without affecting the nearby frequency areas. This performs DeEssing very well indeed with super clean results every time, which is why we awarded soothe with an Expert’s Choice Award.
Waves Sibilance is a recent release by Waves. Prior to Sibilance, Waves offered just two DeEssers - their DeEsser and Renaissance DeEsser plug-ins. Both are great sounding DeEssers but they have been looking a bit long in the tooth as more modern alternatives by other third-parties have been offering easier and faster workflows. Sibilance has levelled the playing field in terms of automatic DeEssing.
Watch our video to see and hear Waves Sibilance in action.
Visit Waves for more information and to download a free 14 day free trial of Sibilance.
The e²deesser is one of the easiest DeEsser plug-ins to use as it features a set of straightforward controls, two of which you’ll use all the time:
Sensitivity: Adjust to detect more or less sibilance
Amount: Set how much sibilance you want to be reduced
There is no detection frequency to set or fine tune as e²deesser has already been set with the best detection parameters with presets designed to suit any vocal track.
e²deesser also features one of the most intuitive visual displays.
Watch our video to see e²deesser in action.
Visit Eiosis for more information and to download the 15 day free trial of e²deesser.
FabFilter Pro-DS provides a comprehensive set of controls, yet it is very simple to use and sounds amazing. The scrolling waveform graphic at the top displays the sibilance reduced in yellow which helps users to quickly hone in on pesky harshness. The threshold and range controls operate like any compressor but these need to be used in-conjunction with the frequency range sliders below in order to get great sounding transparent results.
Watch our video showing FabFilter’s Pro-DS in action.
Visit FabFilter for more information and to download the free trial of FabFilter Pro-DS.
Accusonus have developed a range of one knob style plug-ins that provide fast processing along with great results. The De-Esser is a recent addition to the ERA lineup. Like other ERA plug-ins, De-Esser does the vast majority of the work under the hood. Sibilant frequencies are automatically detected providing users with only a couple of important choices:
How broad do you want the DeEssing?
How much DeEsssing (reduction) do you want to apply?
Watch our video to hear ERA De-Esser from Accusonus in action alongside other ERA one knob style plug-ins.
ERA De-Esser Pro
The ERA 4 Pro Bundle now includes all of the plug-ins from the Standard Bundle and adds the ERA De-Esser PRO, a sophisticated, yet fast and easy to use de-essing plug-in. Except from the large main knob, ERA De-Esser PRO offers some extra controls to give you the granularity you need to really dive in and fine-tune the settings for when you’re fixing up a really bad recording.
Accusonus users asked for more control from the ERA single dial de-esser without making the UI convoluted and complex. So that’s exactly what Accusonus did. They put in a lot of work in and ended up with a solution that achieves very surgical results fast. It's a spectral de-esser which makes it a cost effective alternative to the de-esser in iZotope’s expensive RX suite.
ERA 4 De-Esser Pro is designed to be a sophisticated, yet fast and easy to use de-essing plug-in. It offers ‘precision-grade’ de-essing and customizable audio repair functionality.
FOCUS: Fine tune the engine processing by spotting the problematic frequency region, without affecting any other frequencies.
FOCUS range audition button: Preview the selected FOCUS range without any processing applied onto it. This way you can spot any problematic region much easier.
SHAPING control: Another parameter to fine tune the processing. Moving the slider towards the SHARP side, a more steep curve is applied onto the sibilance region, leading to a tighter result.
DIFF button: Listen to what is being removed from your recording during processing.
Real-time Processing Display (waveform view): Visualise any detected sibilance.
Visit Accusonus for more information and to download the free trial of ERA De-Esser.
Sonnox Oxford SuperEsser V3
The SuperEsser reaches well beyond where any other DeEssers goes as it operates between 20Hz and 20KHz meaning this can be used for different style of compression, not just traditional DeEssing.
SuperEsser features 3 listen modes along with a fantastic display which allows users to both hear and see where problem frequencies are well before attacking any of its controls. If the GUI looks a bit daunting then fear not! There’s a simple mode which enables users to dial in quick fixes, use the advanced mode for increased functionality and fine-tuning.
Visit Sonnox for more information and to download the free trial of Oxford SuperEsser V3.
Softube Weiss Deess
Softube’s Weiss Deess plug-in takes inspiration from Softube’s line for line clone of the Weiss DS1-MK3 plug-in. This DeEsser features two completely independent bands instead of one which most de-esser plug-in provide. Sibilance issues are generally across more than one frequency range making this a particularly useful tool if you need to attenuation more than one point of harshness in your vocal tracks.
Visit Softube fore more information and to download the 20 day free trial of Weiss Deess.