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Sibilance is a short burst of high-frequency energy where the esses of the vocal are overemphasized. This can come from a combination of mic technique by the vocalist, the type of mic used, and heavy compression on the vocal track in mix bus. Sibilance is generally felt to be highly undesirable, so a special type of compressor is used to suppress it called a de-esser. Most de-essers have two main controls, threshold and frequency, which are used to compress only a very narrow band of frequencies anywhere between 3k and 10k to eliminate Sibilance.
Modern software de-essers are much more sophisticated, but the bulk of the setup still revolves around those two parameters. One frequently used additional feature is a listen button that allows you to show only the frequencies that are being compressed which can be helpful in finding the exact brand of offending frequencies. While vocals are the usual recipient of de-essing, sometimes the de-esser might be used to control an excessive high frequency from other instruments. Cymbals, Guitars, and even the Snare Drum can occasionally benefit from this unique tool.
The de-esser is an essential tool for modern mastering and modern software de-essers are better than ever at doing the job. We will look closer at just how to use it in the video in next chapter.
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