Effects and Signal Processors - De-esser

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The word de-essing is literally what its name suggests: the elimination of that annoying hiss noise you hear in certain vocal recordings when certain consonants containing higher frequencies, such as "s", are pronounced. This hiss takes place because in that moment the signal gets saturated by the consonant s's frequency, thus generating a distortion. An immediate countermeasure would be to equalize the disturbing frequency and solve the problem. However, this solution is not effective on a practical level, because by doing so you'd modify the entire frequency content of the whole recording, and ruin it completely and irredeemably, so don't do it! To bring about a correct de-essing process we need to use a compressor combined with an equalizer, as shown in the following diagram:

Effects and signal processors - Diagram of a de-esser

Diagram of a de-esser

This is how it works: the original signal is passed through an equalizer that enhances the annoying s's even more, whilst bringing all the other frequencies down drastically.

Effects and signal processors - Equalizing of the input signal

Equalizing of the input signal

The signal which exits the equalizer has a relevant amplitude only when s's are present. Then this signal is sent to the compressor' sidechain input, thus activating it only when s's occurr. Therefore every time an s is present, the signal coming out of the equalizer goes beyond the threshold set on the compressor, which in turn is then activated and lowers the voice's volume, thereby avoiding saturation. Once the annoying s has buggered off, the voice's volume returns to its original level.


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