De-essing 101


De-essing is any technique intended to reduce or eliminate the excessive prominence of sibilant consonants, such as the sounds normally represented in English by “s”, “z”, “ch”, “j” and “sh”, in recordings of the human voice. Sibilance lies in frequencies anywhere between 2–10 kHz, depending on the individual voice. This is, therefore, an important process in polishing your vocals and setting them in your mix. We need some of the sibilance to be able to understand the lyrics and the content of the vocal, but we don’t want an overabundance of that. This is because, especially in low volumes, those non-musical sounds can poke thru mix and be very distractive.

From the abundance of de-existing tools out there, we have stumbled upon one that seems to be pretty easy and straightforward to work with. The name of this plugin is Sibilance by Waves Audio.


Let’s start


So, here is a short loop previously prepared in our SoundBridge: DAW which contains all the essential elements of the full track including the vocals. Let’s start by placing an instance of Sibilance on the vocal track and get to know its functions and possibilities.


The Interface


As you can see from the picture above the interface of the Sibilance is quite simple but what differs this plugin and the technology behind it is the fact that can separate the vowels and the formants from the sibilant artifacts and identify them. Let’s get a bit more detailed about Sibilance`s parameters now.

Detection Width – is located on the left side of the interface. Use this to identify and focus on unwanted S or Sh sounds—lower values detect narrower frequency ranges for detection and higher values result in a wider detection range

Lookahead – improves Sibilance detection. Moreover, It adds 12 ms of latency to the process.

Monitor –  toggle to audition detected sounds only.

Threshold – sets where sibilance processing will begin. What’s more, adjust the Threshold level to include or exclude unwanted sounds in the detection process. The graph displays the threshold with two green lines.

Range – determines the maximum attenuation of detected sounds. Furthermore, the graph displays the attenuation amount with the yellow Detection line.

Mode – allows you to mix between two compression modes: Wide and Split. Wide Mode (0): entire frequency range of detected sounds will be attenuated Split Mode (100): only frequencies above 4 kHz will be attenuated Range.


Audio Examples


So, after the initial introduction, now it’s the time to hear this great plugin in action. We will first hear how the vocal line sounds unprocessed and then processed with the Sibilance. Finally, we will hear the vocal in context of the full mix.


~Vocal – Unprocessed

~Vocal – Processed with Sibilance

~Full Mix – Vocal without Sibilance

~Full Mix – Vocal with Sibilance