Have you ever been in a predicament like this? You've recorded your (or anybody else's) golden voice and followed all the steps correctly. Throughout the recording process, the vocals were pleasant, clear, and sounding just right.
However, when it comes to mixing the music, you feel compelled to use some compression. And then it happens. The singer's voice is harsh, icy, and slightly fake.
Then you've probably experienced ‘essing,' a common sibilance issue. This is where the de-esser comes into play. In this article, we'll be taking a look at some of the greatest free de-esser VSTs that are available at the moment.
Note: We now have a list of the best premium de-esser VST plugins, so check that out if you want the very best and you don't mind paying for it.
But first, if it's your aim to do music professionally, you'll want to check out our free ebook while it's still available:
Free eBook: Discover how real independent musicians like you are making $4,077 - $22,573+ monthly via Youtube, let me know where to send the details:
Sleepy-Time DSP's Lisp is a free De-Esser plugin with a level-independent sibilance processor. To speed up this procedure, the Lisp De-Esser employs an automated sibilance detecting algorithm.
As it’s internally tuned to the human voice range, it can identify and reduce irritating “ss,” “teh,” and “ch” noises in your audio by measuring the volume and pitch of its input in real time. Simply set the reduction amount and Lisp will take care of the rest!
Most contemporary de-essing systems rely on threshold/frequency-based methods, while Lisp's internal mechanism does not. Instead, regardless of the input level, it employs a modified version of the Sleepy-Time Records transient detection technique (previously discovered in the KVR-DC2012 entry: Transient) in combination with rapid frequency detection and phase-cancellation approaches to eliminate undesired sibilance.
No matter how far away the vocalist is from the microphone, the outcome is a highly natural and pleasant vocal with harsh “s” sounds under control. Also, the entire procedure is extremely CPU efficient, allowing you to have more instances in your project.
Lisp has shown to be the easiest to use of all the free De-Essers so far, owing to its automated identification mechanism, and it also allows you to listen to the frequencies that are being lowered, similar to SpitFish, which is a nice complement.
Download: Sleepy Time DSP
SPITFISH is a simple de-esser that works well with mono or stereo vocal recordings. This plugin dynamically filters away harsh, unpleasant s-like noises that would otherwise hiss like a cat, just like vintage analog de-essers.
You can get the entire ‘Fish Fillets' bundle of plug-ins, as well as a slew of additional freebies, by downloading from the link provided below. The download and installation process is simple and shouldn't take more than a few minutes.
It's also a simple plug-in to use, with only a few settings to keep in mind. There are settings for depth, sensation, and tune, the latter of which allows you to pick from three distinct frequencies.
You should be able to have a decent grip on how to utilize this plug-in fairly fast if you understand what a de-esser is for and how it fits into things. For those of you that are new to de-essers, let’s take a look at the basics of this particular one.
The ‘depth' knob may be used to modify the degree of de-essing.
This controls the level of a band-cut filter tuned to the center frequency of the detector you selected. When SPITFISH is acting as sensitive as stated above, all you have to do is dial in a little bit of ‘depth' to get a substantial amount of de-essing.
If it sounds too severe, use the ‘soft' mode instead. This switch modifies the internal time constants and sends a smoother transition curve to the detector, which rules over ‘no' signal and ‘completely essing'. Additionally, you may opt for greater ‘depth' with smoother behavior, even though it appears that SPITFISH is virtually always taking something away. However, this can considerably assist in balancing out an exceptionally hissy signal.
Of course, vocals aren't the only option. You may also attempt ‘de-essing' cymbals or hi-hats on a drum track, in addition to smoothing out the whole thing. Simply listen with your ears. The unit also has a stereo' mode that allows it to process stereo audio. When pushed, the signal remains stereo, but the detector works with a monaural sum of both channels. Normally, this isn't a problem.
Download: Digital Fish Phones
Dead Duck Free Effects isn’t just a de-esser, it also includes 26 audio effects, ranging from EQ, compression and other mixing tools.
The effects pack is rather extensive, with sixteen distinct FX units available in VST plugin format. This is a collection of fundamental effects that every producer should have in his toolbox, ranging from simple delays and modulation effects to compressors and channel strips. All of the plugins have a consistent appearance, which I like, and they're certainly among the nicer-looking freebie plugins I've seen recently.
The DeEsser on Free Effects works similarly to any other compressor in that it applies gain reduction to the signal in the ‘de-essing' band when it exceeds the ‘Threshold' level in a ratio specified by the ‘Amount' parameter. To isolate and eliminate undesirable high frequency peaks in the input signal, use these parameters in conjunction with ‘Low Freq' and ‘High Freq.' Use the ‘Listen' option to silence frequencies outside the de-essing band, allowing the gain reduction effect to be heard more distinctly.
Download: Dead Duck
Tonmann DeEsser is a simple high frequency dynamic processor. It's mostly intended to remove stinging sibilants that may appear on voices following compression or applying a strong boost. The plugin has been meticulously developed to prevent any unnatural or alienated sound that may occur in problematic circumstances with other (even hardware) DeEssers.
Some of these DeEsser's characteristics are as follows:
- True stereo functionality, but also operates in mono mode.
- There are two reduction modes available: wideband and lowpass.
- The detecting range's center frequency and bandwidth are fully customizable.
- Adjustable detection threshold to keep a vocal's “crisp” sound characteristics.
- Sibilants with quick and sharp attacks should use the Look Ahead function.
- Time of release is variable.
- A wide range of adjustable attenuation allows you to use it before or after a compressor, as you want.
- In the “What you remove” listen option, one can actually hear what'll be dulled.
- For optical supervision, there are two level readouts.
This plugin is currently only available for Windows and is still 32-bit. If your DAW doesn't support 32bit plugin loading, you'll either need to use a wrapper like jBridge or look for another workaround. But it’s still an awesome, straight to the point de-esser that is recommended.
This De-esser from Techivation comes with an absolutely stunning GUI when compared to the rest of the plugins on this list. Despite the fact that the GUI just includes a few knobs and buttons, each one has a significant influence on the audio sound quality.
To prevent falling into the trap of making limitless, tiny modifications, they made sure that only the most important choices were visible on the GUI. The offered choices are meant to rapidly provide you with a satisfying sound with just a few tweaks. The results are fast and highly efficient.
T-De-Esser can help you with:
- Removing roughness from tightly mic'd sound sources.
- Transparently controlling sibilance in voice and conversation.
- Poor recording quality that has created an uneven tonal balance, which needs to be corrected.
- Reducing glare from bright guitar and piano tracks.
- Synth tones which are too piercing.
- Controlling the high-frequency transients in overheads like snare, hi-hats, or crash.
- The removal of superfluous high frequencies, aiding your recordings in having better dynamic range during mastering.
T-De-Esser can help you save time and effort by streamlining your audio project workflow. It works just as well on single tracks as it does on buses. It excels in a variety of applications, from sound design and post-production to the most complex and challenging mastering applications.
It was created with the goal of being as easy to use as possible. It's simple to set up and operate, and you may customize the processing to suit your specific demands. The fact that it functions more like a volume rider than a compressor is a game-changer, as it makes it an extremely adaptable tool for sibilances and other dynamic control appliances. The sound transparency, ease of use, and the fact that such a powerful tool is free are the three finest characteristics of this De-Esser.
Nova is a parallel dynamic equalizer plugin by Tokyo Dawn Labs. While it looks to be a normal parametric EQ, it has a lot of extra capabilities, such as a full dynamics section with multi-band compression.
Nova is entirely free to download, in contrast to its $60 larger brother, the Incredible Tokyo Dawn Labs Nova GE (Gentleman's Edition).
The TDR Nova GE expands the capabilities of the Nova by adding more frequency bands, mid/side operation, and a slew of other features. The equal loudness functionalities, as well as all other parallel dynamic, expansion, and equalization capabilities, are retained in both plugins.
Here are the tools that come included in this monster of a plugin:
- Parametric equalization
- Dynamic equalization
- Frequency selective compression
- Multi-band compression
- Wideband compression
Now, you may be wondering what an EQ/ compression tool is doing on a list of free de-essers. Well, in fact, de-essers are essentially dynamic EQs and compressors put together. They find target specific frequency bands (usually where sibilance is most audible or unwanted cymbal noise) and then it uses compression to knock down the volume of those harsher frequencies.
Dynamic EQ does the same thing, only it can compress frequencies all over the spectrum, as opposed only targeting the higher ones. This gives a lot more control, as not only can you take away those harsh vocal sounds, but you can also compress the boominess in the lower frequencies and tighten up your mix even further.
It's difficult to compare the Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Nova to other EQs. There's nothing about the Nova that makes it stand out as an EQ on its own.
The plugin's new functionality, on the other hand, is what really makes it shine. While Nova's EQ isn't the most accurate, with only four bands, its comprehensive dynamics section, as well as gain equalization, makes it an excellent pickup.
It has a unique, lovely tone to it that you won't hear anyplace else. It's also beyond us how it's free for all of that functionality.
While Nova doesn't quite match the accuracy of other paid-for plugins, it does come close. That's fantastic for a free plugin.
Download: Tokyo Dawn Labs
Viper ITB created VeeDeeS, a free De-Esser VST plugin which is totally free, and does what it says on the tin. No more, no less. It’s main goal is to remove sibilance consonant sounds made by the human voice. It can be a really useful de-esser to use when phonemes like “S,” “Z,” “SH,” and other similar sounds “stand out” in recordings, especially when the voice has been EQed to be very loud and prominent.
Attack and release timings may be tweaked according to the needs of the vocals using the simple knobs provided. Something that stands out about these plugins, is that the sibilants can be reduced without affecting the major body of the vocal performance. This could be due to the fact that VeeDeeS focuses on frequencies only above 3kHz. The VeeDeeS attenuates everything above, but leaves frequencies lower than that untouched.
This keeps the most enjoyable elements of the human voice whilst getting rid of the nastiness often heard in cheap microphones.
Overall, though nothing mind-blowing, it does its job perfectly without asking for anything in return.
Download: Viper ITB
DeBess is a development of the previous DeEss, which was the pinnacle of numerous previous attempts at an unique de-esser with an unusual algorithm for detecting exclusively ess content and rejecting everything else in that frequency range, regardless of how many overtones it contained. DeEss found esses using a set of sample comparisons, and it was incredibly successful… Except that some people couldn't get it to respond, while others required it to be much better at rejecting even the lightest softening of other details.
DeBess does this by increasing the size of the sample comparison window. It's now a slider, in fact! If you like, you may make it more blurrier than DeEss, just move the slider up slightly to mimic the original, or turn it up for maximum isolation de-essing.
If you're utilizing home recording equipment or moving-coil microphones, there may not be enough variation between samples to engage DeBess. DeBess isn't for making stage microphones lisp because you're using high sample rates and your mics don't stretch all the way up to the sampling limit. It's designed specifically for de-essing only the ess sounds out of the highest-end vocal recordings at no expense to anything else.
If you're having trouble getting DeBess to work and plan on treble boosting for that ultra-bright voice sound, try brightening before DeBess. It prefers to deal with extremely brilliant esses so that it can duck and darken them. Instead of attempting to duck your esses, use the filter control to build a better EQ for them.
Top Free De-Esser VST Plugins, Final Thoughts
As you’ve realised by now, there are a bunch of fantastic de-essers that are more than capable of dampening those higher frequencies. Whether it be on an airy vocal track or abrasive cymbal sound, there’s a free de-esser that will do the job immaculately.