You know the headache: there’s a killer vocal take with all the right emotion, but the “sss” “shhh” and “ch” sounds (aka the sibilant sounds) are just impossible to mix. Riding the fader sounds too drastic, as does a regular compressor—you don’t want the vocal to be pumping so obviously. So what can you do? Say hello to Sybil, the professional sibilance tamer from Antares. Sybil is a de-esser plug-in, which means it’s purpose-built to help tame harsh sibilant frequencies without disturbing the rest of the audio.
The De-esser Plug-in for Professionals
To understand how it works, let’s start by reviewing the track below.
Sybil: Vocals Full Track Dry
There’s a bit too much presence from the vocal, which is overpowering the treble percussion. When we solo the vocals, the harshness in the sibilance becomes more audible:
Sybil: Vocals Solo Dry
This is a tricky problem to fix. If we use an EQ, it can color the sound too much by shelving or low-passing out the higher frequencies. Using a regular compressor will cause the vocal to pump too much because of the mid-range body. The best possible solution is to use Sybil, a purpose-built de-esser plug-in.
Sybil offers a solution with side-chain compression. This means that the input signal is passed internally through a high-pass filter before triggering the compressor. The high-pass filter is not applied to the signal itself, but rather is used specifically to ensure that the compressor is only triggered when the sibilant sounds are too harsh.
In the graphic below, you can see the settings that I’ve used for the high-pass filter and the compressor for Sybil.
Now, let’s hear how it sounds:
Sybil: Vocals Solo Wet
Finally, let’s hear how it all sits together in the complete mix:
Sybil: Vocals Full Track Wet
As you can hear, the vocals are still very present in the track, but the percussion can shine a bit more, and vocals feel more even without being over-compressed.
Cymbalsss and Ssssnares
It’s not just vocals that can wreak sibilant havoc on a mix. Percussion with significant treble overtones such as snare drums and cymbals (especially crashes and rides) can make mixing drums an ordeal. Take a listen to this acoustic drum loop:
Sybil: Drums Dry
The loop is quite compressed, which results in a “squashing” effect that I really like. But it also means that the sibilance from the crash, ride, hi-hats, and snares is too harsh and threatens to overwhelm the sound. My first thought might be to use a high-shelf EQ to gently ease down the sibilance. Let’s hear how that sounds:
Sybil: Drums EQ Shelf
Unfortunately, I’m really losing too much using the high-shelf EQ. It’s too blunt a tool to solve this problem. Let’s try using Sybil instead:
Sybil: Drums Sybil Wet
Notice how the loop sounds more well-rounded without sounding like it’s trapped in a tube or pumping for air? That’s what you can accomplish with Sybil—producing a clean and near-transparent reduction of sibilance that you can’t attain by EQing or compression alone.
As you can see, Sybil is a fantastic tool for any audio tracks that need de-essing, from vocals to synths to percussion. If you’re ready to explore the possibilities with Sybil, download a free trial of Auto-Tune Unlimited. Available through subscription, Auto-Tune Unlimited comes complete with Sybil, all of the AVOX plug-ins, every current version of Auto-Tune, and more. It also offers the lowest cost-of-entry to access the most comprehensive collection of pro vocal effects ever offered from Antares. Just click here to start your subscription, or try it out for 14 days at no cost.