What do I use to De-ess a vocal?

I know you’ve had this problem. You get the vocal sounding bright enough, then you notice that the “S” sounds and “T” sounds are making your ears bleed.


The solution to this problem could be a de-esser. I’ll show you how to use one in an upcoming post. Finding the right de-esser is the trick though. They are definitely not created equal. If the de-esser you are using is not doing the trick, you can try another kind of de esser… they all sound different.

I use the Pro Tools version usually. Massey has one, but I don’t like it so much. I used to have a Waves rennaisance DeEsser that I though was the best… now I use the C4 (Waves) to get rid of those pesky “S’s”.

tip: the waves C4 usually works with the default setting or the “Pop Vocal” setting works well too

One thing that I’ve noticed people doing (who have more time to mix than I do) is manually go in and fade the esses down with the pencil tool… (ouch) … mind-numbing if you ask me, but what ever gets the job done.

I have noticed that once I get the sibilance taken care of, my track may sound a little dull again. Sometimes you can add an eq AFTER the de esser just to brighten it back up.

Let me know what de-esser or other way that you take care of sibilance.

Til next time



  1. Great advice as usual!
    I personally find de-essing manually a bit more natural sounding. Of course, like you mention…if you have the time to do it!
    I have learned that when you zoom-in a waveform (in this case from a vocal sound) you can spot the s’s and t’s fairly easy. You can see that while most of the waveform begins to look almost like a single line as you zoom in, the spots where the s’s reside will still look denser (darker).
    So, I just spot those, then select and trim accordingly which is easily done with the trim tool in PT. Usually I speed up the process by copying the first edit and pasting it for the remaining s’s. Pasting while holding ‘option’ (on Mac) takes care of different lengths. Then it is very easy to go back at any time with the ‘smart tool’ and adjust (if necessary) those requiring more or less attenuation.
    Just a nice and very efficient de-esser and most important, free! Again, of course, if you have the time and patience…

    God bless!

  2. Forgot to say! What I actually automate is the gain of PT’s Trim plugin. It’s just like automating the volume independently from the track’s main fader. So, that way I can still adjust volume and/or ride the fader without affecting the already trimmed s’s!
    Muchas gracias!

    1. That’s some good advise Luis. I never thought about automating the plug in… and the copy/paste tip… I think I’ll use that one!

      Thanks Luis


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