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The Best Way To Set A DeEsser For A Great Sounding Voice-Over

One of the most common tools used to process professional voice-over recordings is a DeEsser. I will show you the procedure I follow to set a DeEsser processor to yield a great voice-over sound. I’ll explain exactly what a DeEsser is and how it works. I’ll also explain when it’s necessary and when it’s not. By the end of this video, you’ll understand how to use any DeEsser on a voice-over recording to get optimized results.


 What Is A DeEsser?

A DeEsser is a compressor that isolates on a particular frequency window. When working with voice recordings, we usually use a DeEsser to focus on high-frequencies and sibilant sounds. Those are the “SH” or “ESS” sounds we make with our voices. A DeEsser can reduce high-frequency sibilant sounds but offers you lots of control. You can have the DeEsser only work when those sibilant sounds reach a specific loudness, leaving the high frequencies untouched when they’re not loud. Also, many DeEssers allow you to fine-tune which high frequencies are being affected. This is helpful because, as you might expect, everyone’s voice is different. 


Most DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) offer a DeEsser processor in their stock plugin library. However, numerous third-party DeEsser plugins are available, even some free ones. I’ll illustrate specific DeEsser plugins, including the Fabfilter Pro DS, iZotope’s RX 10 DS, and The Waves Scheps Omni Channel, which is a multi-effects plugin that includes two onboard DeEssers. Some dynamic EQ plugins can also be used as a DeEsser. But I won’t be covering that here. I’ll save that for a different lesson.


Why Use A DeEsser for Voice-Over?

There are a few situations when you might use a DeEsser to process a voice-over recording. First, a voice-over artist may naturally have a particularly over-sibilant voice sound. This might be due to mouth size and shape, the configuration of a person’s teeth, or the style of speech. Another use is when processing a voice (on a particular microphone) that requires a sizable increase in high frequencies to balance the sound. Increased sibilance is often a byproduct of this type of large upper-frequency EQ adjustment. A DeEsser may not be a good choice when a sibilant voice sound is created by an imbalance in the raw recording (often caused by room reflections). A better choice is to improve a raw recording first, then reassess if a DeEsser is necessary.


When deciding to use a DeEsser or deciding on the amount of DeEsser processing, I suggest you approach the decision with balance in mind. You will likely intend to remove an overabundant sibilant or offending frequency. However, you need to weigh how much of the “Ess” sound is part of the voice-over artist’s personality and character. Ask yourself if removing too much changes the authentic sound that makes the voice-over artists who they are (original). 


How Does A DeEsser Work?

A DeEsser generally has two main features. First, a frequency selector allows you to identify the frequency space to be modified. Second, a threshold that sets the processor’s engagement level. Some DeEssers include a filter type selector that allows you to change the shape of the filter’s detector (some include low shelf, bell, narrow cut, and high shelf). Another helpful feature common among some DeEssers is a Sidechain listen selector, which allows you to listen (solo) to only the frequencies affected by the DeEsser. Some DeEssers include a gain reduction meter indicating the depth of the reduction imposed.


How Te Set A DeEsser?

Setting a DeEsser for voice-over is a snap once you understand a few concepts about frequency. In this video, I show you my method for finding the optimal DeEsser frequency. I accomplish this by using a real-time frequency analyzer found in some parametric EQ and other plugins.  The Waves F6 Floating-Band Dynamic EQ is a powerful tool for many reasons, especially its frequency analysis features. I illustrate how I use the F6’s RTA (Real Time Analyzer), the frequency averaging speed, and the Maximum peak curve to identify the overabundant upper frequencies in a raw voice-over file. I also illustrate how this can be done with iZotope’s RX10 Insight Pro plugin. Then, the identified frequency range is translated to the DeEsser’s band pass frequency selector. Then, I walk through how I set the other DeEsser controls to yield an optimal processed voice-over sound. Other DeEsser plugins, including the Waves Scheps Omni Channel (DeEsser section) and Fabfilter’s Pro DS plugins, are examined to illustrate the similarities. 


Want To Learn More?

There are many more ways to manipulate audio. You can learn more about shaping frequencies and other processing techniques to improve voice-over recordings. Understanding audio frequencies and using an EQ is a fundamental audio engineering skill and a significant first step. You can enroll in the EQ Fundamentals For Voice-Over training course.

What Is A Custom Preset And Why Do I Need One?

A custom processing preset for your voice-over is a series of plugins explicitly tuned for your voice, in your room, and on your microphone. If you want to compete in today's voice-over world, you must ensure that your demos and auditions are extraordinary. Voice-over artists at every experience level from all over the world are fighting to win work. However, if you don't have a professional sound, you will lose out to someone who does.

Custom voice-over processing presets can take your audio presentation quality to the level necessary to compete with the pros. Instead of taking it upon yourself to tweak the parameters like EQ, compression, DeEssing, and saturation to name a few, you can hire a professional voice-over audio engineer to create it for you. Once you have the custom preset on your system, you have "The Sound" every time you press the record button. The investment pays for itself with the money and time saved. Here are the top reasons why they are so popular:

  1. A custom processing preset lets you focus on your strengths, leaving more time for pitching your voice-over and less time stumbling with engineering.
  2. A custom processing preset gives you the confidence necessary to help you perform your best.
  3. A custom processing preset allows you to outshine the competition, win more auditions, and get more work.


Demo Your Custom Voice-Over Preset Sound Free!

Once you submit your voice for processing, you will be notified if your audio recording quality needs improvement or if it's ready for prime time. If your production quality needs improvement, you will be offered suggestions to help identify and resolve any issues before being asked to resubmit audio. On the other hand, if your audio recording quality is up to par, you will receive a sample of your custom-tuned processed sound to review for free. 

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