Those damn s’s and p’s

When recording the human voice one of the hardest thing to get right are the plosives. It’s important for a good sounding recording to even out the volume of them compared to the rest of the voice. The problem is, those damn s’s, p’s and t’s pop out like a jack-in-the-box!

The easiest way to deal with them are with the use of a de-esser. Note that de-essers differs in quality very notably, so getting a good one is important. Even more important is that you use it right. Every voice and recording is different so you really need to use your ears, but the best tip I can give you is to not overuse it. Overuse of de-essers can make it sound like the persons lisping.

De-essers can also ‘dull’ out the voice. Since de-essers basically compress high frequencies and lowers them the voice can sound like it lacks ‘air’. You can compensate a little by boosting the higher frequencies a little. Some of you might realize the problem in that – that’s right, you’re boosting the s’s again. Try to find a good balance. Use your ears.

A classic and cheap way to de-ess is to skip the de-esser altogether and just automate the volume. In todays visual environment it’s easier than ever. Zoom in real close and lower the volume where the s-sound is. Voila! Done right it can be the most natural sounding. The downside is of course that it takes a lot of time. Some like to cut parts of the s’s out and make a short fade, but that’s a technique I’ve never really used myself.

These same techniques can be used to take out plosives such as p’s (or ‘pops’). If you have a de-esser that can be set to work on many frequencies it immediately becomes a much more flexible tool and can be used for this as well. The Sonnox SuprEsser is one of those and is capable of getting very surgical. I’ll review it here soon.

Originally posted on May 29, 2008 @ 2:35 pm

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