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Discussion in 'Vocals' started by DogsoverLava, Jul 9, 2014.

  1. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    I have a demo track I'm using to build an arrangement of a song (all scratch) which shows lots of sibilance which I only really noticed when I stopped mixing on headphones and adjusted EQ to a less bass heavy mix (phone skewed to treble).

    Vocals were recorded using EV N/D 357 w/ no pop filter into a M-Audio profire 610 and probably my mouth on the mesh... so lots of issues with them as vocals -- but maybe a good practice track to play with.

    If I want to use this track to play with treating sibilance after-the-fact, where should I start? Aside from better source recording technique are there vocal techniques themselves that assist as well (with dynamic mics)... Is this level of sibilance fixable? How much would a pop filter and better mic technique have taken care of this from the front end or is sibilance something to expect to have to deal with? Do I use some kind of selective gate or EQ? Many thanks.

    Here's the partial clip

  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

  3. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    Kurt - is what I have a normal or expected amount of sibilance (from this kind of amateur track) that can be treated, or is it unusually abnormal and outside of the parameters of treatment?
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    it's very common to dee- ess vocals either as they are recorded or post tracking. a good dee-esser is invaluable. get one and don't look back.
  5. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    Thanks Kurt - I'm playing around with some VST versions to get familiar with how some of these might be best applied (using this recording) - am I right in assuming that it's best to treat the dry signal as opposed to the wet? Any specific advantages of treating pre or post EQ? I'm doing some listening trials and am going to A/B/C/D some samples to see the specific net affect depending on where in the chain these go
  6. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    i prefer hardware to plugs. i usually dee ess when i'm tracking and to a dry signal pre eq.

    vst / plugs are ok but at some point you will be upgrading your system or DAW software and chances are you will loose the plugs you have collected. hardware is forever.
    kmetal likes this.
  7. jo

    jo Active Member

    since I don't track that much anymore I de-ess with the Massey plug and I never go to the hardware anymore (Pendulum/Empirical). De-essing is one of the few things I prefer in the digital domain ... silly old me
  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I've used several De-esser plugs; Waves, Fabfilter, Lisp, Blue Cat, Eventide... and I've come to the conclusion that not all of them are the same. Beyond the differences in the coding for different plugs, it also depends on the vocalist, and their inherent amount (and frequency) of sibilance that determines how effective they can be.

    The thing that most people don't realize is that sibilance isn't necessarily caused by just one frequency- often it's caused by multiple frequencies in a given range, and if you start to attenuate all those frequencies in a blanket method, you'll find that you are also cutting frequencies that you might not want to, and the result is that the top end can start to suffer.

    There are several methods you can use other than using a de-esser plug; one is to zoom into the area of the track where the S's are the most sibilant, and simply reduce the gain of that section. This can be very effective, but also very time-consuming.
    Another method is to create a de-esser processor yourself, using an EQ, and Expander and a Compressor. This has the benefit of being able to pin-point certain problematic freq's without also cutting the other freq's around it that aren't causing problems.

    And sometimes, if the S's are just too harsh, you may need to look at re-tracking with a different mic, paying close attention to the horizontal plane where the vocalist is positioned on the mic. Adjusting it - or the vocalist - by mere centimeters can make a substantial difference.

    Ultimately, sibilance begins at the performance level. If you are hearing large amounts of it, try a different mic, or a different position.

    Here's a great article from SOS that explains the how's, why's and where's of using an anti-sibilance filter.


  9. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    Thanks Donny - that's a great article - the magazine looks good. Is this an essential reading kind of publication?
  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I don't know about "essential", but I always felt that they offer reviews that were in-depth and useful.

    SOS (Sound On Sound) has been around for years, it was developed in the U.K. in the mid 1980's as a kind of alternate answer/option to our Mix Magazine, based here in The U.S.

    Both are respected publications, although Mix has always catered - and still does as far as I know - to a fairly high caliber of gear for professional studios and engineers who work in the upper echelons of the industry.

    David Schwartz, the editor and founder of Mix, has been quoted as saying that he's aware of the "elitist" attitude of his publication, and justifies it by stating that the professional recording industry needed - and still needs - a fair and balanced source of information for these professionals who seek information on ultra-high caliber gear.

    For example, if you were looking for info and reviews on something like an SSL G Series Console, you turned to Mix for answers.

    For guys like me, it was always filled with pipe dreams ... I call it "gear porn".... pictures of gorgeous 30 foot consoles in beautiful control rooms, filled with boutique gear that I knew I'd never be able to afford.

    SOS gave me an option, and became a source that - for the most part - I could trust for gear that was more in-line with what I could afford.... although it has also managed to cater to both the lower budget "artist" studios and the professional level. They've become respected by the mid-level project studio crowd as being a reputable source for gear that is more realistic in terms of what guys like me can afford.

    In my own opinion, I will say this... and I'm quite sure that this is the case for all trade publications, whether it's Mix, SOS, Recording Magazine, Electronic Musician, etc., ... while thy are all pretty decent at breaking down the various features of equipment, when it comes to suggested purchasing, there will almost always be a bias on equipment reviews for products made by those that advertise with the publication.

    These magazines exist because of advertisers - it's their bread and butter. So, I find it almost impossible to believe that these reviews are not biased in some way. After all, they certainly don't want to lose the $250 thousand dollar advertising account from Alesis, or Yamaha, or Avalon, or whomever is paying them good money to advertise by writing a "bad" review, so it only makes sense that they'll all show some kind of mercy for products that other independent reviewers night find to be "not so good" - and have the freedom to say so .... because they aren't risking a loss of revenue by doing so.

    So "essentially" speaking, your best bet in finding out about gear, at least from an unbiased point of view.... is probably right here at RO. ;)

    IMO of course.

  11. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Basically I like your concept on your vocals sound. While you might think you need a DE-ESSER? With this track is in need of is a fair amount of high frequency limiting on the vocal as opposed to the DE-ESSER. This will allow you to keep that airy sound without it over building. Causing huge sibilant issues.

    High-frequency limiters are not generally something you even find available in hardware items. These were modifications that were made to existing broadband limiters. A simple RC filter is added to the detector section of the limiter. Making it respond more to high-frequency content than flat across the broadband.

    I would then follow the high-frequency limiters with downward expansion in a very carefully set threshold. This merely ducks the audio, set to approximately the same amount as the high-frequency gain reduction is pulling. So as to prevent the slamming door in the face gating. Which doesn't sound natural at all. This is also used, when the downward expander threshold is set to start expanding on the breaths. What you don't want to eliminate but merely reduce. I typically do this with hardware but then I also take software and draw my own, in a compression graph software program. Adjusting the frequency response of the detection to favor the high frequencies. This smooths everything out while retaining that airy sound on the vocal without sibilance.

    Personally, I have no problem reducing sibilance in software or hardware. I don't particularly care for one over the other. Silly old me. But I've always had DE-ESSER sibilance controllers and high frequency limiter, switchable modifications on my hardware limiters. Which can also easily be accomplished in software, just the same way. So it really doesn't matter which way you go. As long as you can accomplish the desired effect. This is one of the reasons why I have found that the stock ingredients, included with old versions of Adobe Audition (1.5 which I'm still using) is so invaluable to me. I don't need a GUI to look like an 1176, no. In fact I don't want that interface in my software. Not that I don't use things like that. I do. But for specialized processing like I've described? Nothing can beat a graphic oriented dynamic range controller in software. And not a cartoon that looks like an 1176 or anything else like that when you need specific specialized dynamic processing. Otherwise, we've all done it with hardware items since the before times of digital. But that's what real audio engineers do. We modify equipment to make it do what we needed to do. When we needed to. But if there's not an app for that? You unfortunately have to use your own brain. And your ears. Not your eyes. Not the specifications. In fact I prefer knowing what the equipment can't do than what it's supposed to do. That's more important than the specifications. And that's a difficult concept for a lot of young engineers to accept. They've grown up with advertisements and specifications thinking that's what it's all about. It's not. It's only about the sound and nothing else.

    What you currently have is still perfectly usable, if you try some of what I've suggested. But it takes experimenting and time. Not something you do with the client sitting there as you goof around. It has to be something you've already practiced doing beforehand. So that when you go to do it in software, it's not an experiment anymore. It's a preset you've already created and saved. This is where Pro tools has failed everyone. And ProTools, fools. Because there's a sucker born every minute. And nobody wants to use their own brains or talent because they have a lack of that. And that doesn't make for a real Audio Engineer. That makes for a kid playing games with audio software. It's not a game. It's a profession.

    You'll get it right, I know you will.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  12. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    Thanks Remy - I'm reading and practicing with limiters and will see what I can do -- lots of playing and I did hear some immediate differences that were workable beyond the de-esser plugins I've played with. Like you said - it's a journey of discovery - you need to time to play around. That's why I thought this would be a good track for me to play with - building up a repertoire. I'll post when I have a few examples.

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