One of the major new additions in the latest round of updates would have to be Logic Pro’s latest dynamics plug-in. After reviewing some of the more useful and practical features last week, we will be taking a closer look at how to use DeEsser 2 today, along with a rundown of the basics for beginners, its intelligent new Relative tech and some helpful tips for getting the most out of it.
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Apple’s All-New Sibilance Remover
Not to be confused with Apple’s multi-year campaign to modernize the UI on its existing LPX FX, DeEsser 2 is a completely new plug-in built from the ground up. And thank the bass gods for that because the previous gen legacy version certainly wasn’t anything to write home about. Dated and difficult to use, the original DeEsser worked, it just wasn’t very good or overly practical in its implementation. Its successor, however, is very much the opposite.
A DeEsser is a dynamics plug-in or effect that reduces sibilance or unwanted/harsh Ssss sounds as well as other high-frequency offenders. Ideal for vocal performances — singing, rap, voice overs — it is also applied on other instruments and even in the mastering process sometimes as well. Sure a basic Sssss remover doesn’t sound all that interesting, but they make the world of difference on almost all of the audio we consume everyday. Podcasters, YouTube content creators, reviewers, and, well, anything with insufferable, sharp, earsplitting sibilance could use a little DeEss-ing.
How to Use DeEsser 2
Learning how to use DeEsser 2 (or any DeEsser really) is all about trusting your ears and fully understanding the controls. It essentially comes down to making a few adjustments in order to zero in on unwanted frequencies without having a negative affect on the vocal overall. We want to ditch those harsh high-end S’s wherever they appear in a performance without ruining the top end of the vocal itself. But with some careful listening and understanding of the readouts on the plug-in, DeEsser 2 makes the whole process fairly simple.
You’ll find DeEsser 2 via the Audio Effect slot on the channel strip: Dynamics > DeEsser 2
First let’s focus on the main three options along the front face of the plug-in: Threshold, Max Reduction, and Frequency. Set the frequency control to center around the range of frequencies you want to remove. Generally speaking, female voices land between 5 kHz and 8 kHz while male voices sit in the 3 kHz to 6 kHz range. A good place to start (this can be adjusted at any time in the process) would be around 6,000 Hz or 7,000 Hz. From the Range section, you can choose whether to reduce a narrow band of frequencies with the “Split” option or a wider range with “Wide” (centered around your previous choice on the Frequency knob).
One tip here is to insert a Channel EQ in the FX slot immediately before your DeEsser 2. Use the Analyze frequency feature on the EQ while the vocal is playing back to see what the high frequency response looks like. Your favorite frequency analysis plug-in would work just as well. You’ll still need to use your ears to set the Threshold in DeEsser 2, but this is a great way to get in the ballpark. Don’t be afraid to turn the gain control on the right hand side of the EQ up temporarily just to get a better look at the high frequency energy analysis.
Threshold determines how much of the vocal performance in the selected frequency range will be reduced. Generally speaking, you’re going to have to play with this control by ear, as it will change depending how a given vocal was recorded. For beginners, a good rule of thumb here is to adjust the threshold until we see the Detection meter on the left begin to display blocks of yellow during the moments in the performance with a harsh Ssss sound. You’ll see real time feedback on the companion Reduction meter next door at the same time.
As the name implies, the Max Reduction knob sets the maximum amount of reduction (in dB) the vocal performance can be subject to. The Reduction meter on the left of the UI displays the amount of sibilance reduction in real time. Much like the Threshold/Detection setup, you can either use the knob to set the Max Reduction or the small blue line on the Reduction meter itself.
DeEsser 2 Filter:
Now on to the filters. After you have selected a frequency to center your sibilance reduction around on the Frequency knob, you can fine-tune that selection with the Filter options. The Low Pass filter (on the left) is much a broader range that will reduce sibilance from the frequency you chose (on the Frequency knob) and up. Whereas the Peak Filter (the right option) is a much narrower range of reduction that centers around the setting you chose on the Frequency knob.
You can also use the new plug-in for selection-based processing on individual audio regions
There are two different global Modes available on DeEsser 2 that determine how it reacts to incoming vocals/tracks. The Absolute threshold option can be thought of as a more legacy or traditional method of DeEssing. Great for high-level (or loud) signals, this is the option that seems to be working best for us in most situations. It’s much like the third-party DeEsser products we have grown accustomed to.
With a Relative threshold:
However, the new Relative Mode is very interesting. Designed for nuanced reduction and lower-level signals, it provides a more responsive type of gain/sibilance management. To keep things simple, it essentially automatically adjusts the threshold behind the scenes based on the input signal. Once you have set a threshold in the aforementioned fashion along with a Split or Wide range band, DeEsser 2’s Relative tech will adjust the threshold so there is an even amount of sibilance reduction, no matter how loud or quiet the vocal performance is.
It’s the kind of thing you’ll want to experiment with. Most pros are probably used to dealing with this in a more hands-on fashion with automation and the like, and it might be hard for beginners to wrap their head (ears) around at first. For us, it seemed to work well overall and tends to make getting a natural or transparent, if not somewhat subtle, DeEsser job done easily. There are times when it seemed as though Logic’s automatic adjustments might not have been the exact same choice we might have made manually or with automation. But overall, it is a very welcome new addition to Logic’s mix suite/compression options, even if you still need to dial in more specific edits after the fact.