What to Avoid When De-Essing Audio as a Podcast Editor

Hey, everybody! Today, I want to dive into the nuanced world of de-essing. After a call with an editor about this very subject, I had some thoughts I'd like to share, not just about the technical aspects, but also about how our ears and experiences shape the way we approach editing.

What is De-essing?

De-essing is a tool used to soften or reduce the sharp sibilance in speech (those pronounced "s" sounds). But be warned, it's a tool that can be easily overused. While working with an editor, I found that he was going overly aggressive with the de-essing on my voice. The goal of de-essing is to take the edge off that sharpness -it's often not possible to eliminate it entirely.

Finding the Sweet Spot

When using a de-esser, like my go-to FabFilter Pro DS,it can be helpful to start with an extreme setting and then dial it back until I achieve a natural sound that's pleasing to the ears. Applying overly aggressive settings never sounds good and can make the voice sound like it has a lisp, which is not something we want. The key is to find a middle ground that sounds more natural.

Ears and Experience

Your approach to de-essing might depend on your age, experience, and sensitivities. Younger editors may cut too aggressively due to sensitive ears, while older editors might face the opposite issue. We all need to be aware of how our unique hearing biases our editing decisions. That's why feedback is vital; it helps us break out of our echo chambers and get a variety of opinions.

The Benefits of Community Feedback

I'm a big advocate for getting feedback on your work. In places like the Podcast Editing School, you can post your audio and gain insights from a group of peers. This diverse feedback helps you become more confident in your mixing abilities and ensures that you're not working in isolation.

Revisit and Revise

Our ears develop, and our tastes change. That's why it's crucial to revisit your templates and presets regularly. What sounded good a year ago might need a tweak today. By starting from scratch with your plugin selection and settings at the beginning of a new season or after a client's hiatus, you might find that you can achieve a better-sounding result. A lot of times, less is more.

Wrapping Up

De-essing is about achieving a delicate balance that pleases a wide audience while retaining the authenticity of the voice. I hope you find these insights helpful in your own audio adventures. Until next time.