Controlling Microphone Sibilance When Recording Voice

This is a great little tutorial on combatting sibilance while recording that resulted from a poll taken by @CreateMusicTips and answered by @RandyCoppinger, a professional recording engineer and audio mixer since 1991. Regarding techniques used to help deal with sibilance on the microphone, Randy says…

I may adjust the microphone placement, including rotating it slightly off axis, raising it and/or moving it further away from the mouth. I’ve heard of people taping a pencil across the grill to break the path for high frequencies to the capsule, but I’ve never tried that one.

For me, microphone selection is a big deal. If someone sounds sibilant, my first instinct is to change the microphone. Since different people seem to have different frequencies for their “S” sounds, it isn’t the same choice every time.

I do find that the Lawson L47 (a microphone that aims to sound like a Neumann u47) seems to tame most sibilance problems. I don’t think there’s such a thing as a single, “perfect” microphone for anything, and having multiple microphones from which to choose for sibilance issues is one of my key examples to prove this point.

DerrEsser2 Controlling Microphone Sibilance When Recording Voice

Empirical Labs ELDS DerrEsser

At work we have a LilFreq EQ by Empirical Labs that includes one of the best de-essers I’ve ever heard. Last year I saw that they’ve spun off the unit into its own API 500 lunchbox module called the Empirical Labs ELDS DerrEsser (see the image on the right).

The key with any de-esser is tuning it. You only want the de-esser to activate when there is sibilance and to be neutral when there isn’t.

Setting the unit to trigger at the frequency of the sibilance usually starts with a Real Time Analyzer (RTA) so I can figure out where today’s mouth is producing that sound.

For men it tends to be 3-7k Hz, and For women it tends to be 5-9k Hz. Once you get the frequency sorted then it’s just a matter of setting the threshold so the de-esser clamps down enough without going too far.

Vocal recording words to live by!

When it comes to plugin de-essers, my favorite is the Massey De:Esser. Another one that comes with high praise is the Eosis E2 Deesser.

578660 Controlling Microphone Sibilance When Recording Voice

Empirical Labs ELDS DerrEsser De-esser and Dynamics Module

The DerrEsser from Empirical Labs is a multi-function dynamic filtering device, in an API 500 series module format. Perhaps the most flexible de-essing tool available, in its basic "DS" mode, the DerrEsser is an effective, level-insensitve de-esser that adjusts the high frequency gain on overly trebly or spiky vocals, or other source. By using a crossover technique, and dividing the audio up into a high frequency range and a low frequency range, the ELDS DerrEsser can use its Voltage Controlled Amp to turn down comparatively high or harsh high frequencies in an extremely musical manner.

However, unlike other de-essers, the ELDS is not limited to just de-essing, and allows for multi use of its circuitry. It also features a high-frequency limiter that can almost entirely remove unwanted fret and finger noise from dynamic acoustic guitar performances, as well as tame aggressive, diaphragm-shaking vocals, in a very musical way. Besides Bypass, there are essentially four modes of the DerrEsser: DS Mode— (Bypass Button IN, all other buttons OUT).

As a de-esser in the DS mode (HF Limit OFF), one can set the threshold to tame harsh S's (sibilants) that result from an overly bright singer or from EQing to make a vocal sound aggressive and clear. In this mode, the dynamic action is "level insensitive," as the detector circuitry compares the high-frequency content to the low-frequency content. Overall signal level doesn't matter at all. When there is enough HF compared to LF, the threshold is exceeded and the DerrEsser starts to turn down the frequencies above the crossover point set by the Frequency control on the front panel.

Great care was taken to ensure this DS section meets the Empirical Labs reputation for originality and ease-of-use by employing the latest technology VCA, specially selected for glitch free, distortion free, and noise free performance. The time constants were carefully selected and the corner frequency is user adjustable with a high-performance active crossover. HF LIMIT—(Bypass Button IN, HF LIM IN, all other buttons OUT). In this mode, the DerrEsser looks at the general level of the high frequencies only. Think of it as a high-frequency compressor. If there is enough high-frequency content to exceed the threshold, then gain reduction occurs. It's level sensitive, but responds much more to high frequencies. This mode can also act as a de-esser but is more of a general high-frequency smoothing device.

The HF limiter is probably the first carefully tailored soft knee HF limiter in existence. Both the DS and HF LIM modes offer what is perhaps the highest performance of any similar device. HIGHPASS—(Bypass Button IN, Listen IN, HP/LP OUT, HF LIM doesn't matter). By using the "LISTEN" Function, the user can employ the superb filter circuitry inside the DerrEsser to process their audio. With the LISTEN button IN, and the HP/LP switch OUT, the user will be hearing the high freq

 Controlling Microphone Sibilance When Recording Voice

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