Last Updated on July 17, 2023.
De-esser plugins are essential not only for making any vocal track sound professional but also to tame the harshness on almost any other tracks in your mix, like hi-hats, cymbals, and even in the mastering phase.
Now, in this article, I will list the best free and premium de-essers that I was able to find as well as tell you what a De-Esser really is, how it works, and more.
FabFilter Pro DS
Most powerful and reliable De-esser that is also quite simple to use.
Lets you hear to the vocals and the sibilance on their own and EQ them.
Great budget De-Esser that offers the best bang for your buck.
What is a De-esser Plugin?
A De-esser is a form of compressor that is designed to only act on a specific frequency range where sibilance usually occurs and to allow the human voice to be processed and mixed in such a way that sits upfront in the mix without having the harsh sibilance artifacts taking over the mix.
De-essers could essentially be thought of as multi-band compressors that only affect the high frequencies.
However, what really is sibilance?
Sibilance can be perceived as unnatural sounding “s”, “t”, and “f” sounds that stand out too much in a recording which, if not reduced or controlled, can completely ruin a mix.
Here’s an entire post on what a De-Esser is and how it works.
What is the best de-esser plugin?
If you’re looking for the absolute best de-esser that you will never need to upgrade from, then I’d recommend the FabFilter Pro DS since it’s extremely powerful and reliable.
If you’re looking for something a little more on the affordable side, then I’d recommend checking out Waves Silibance.
List of the Best De-Esser VST Plugins
Here are all of the best De-esser plugins that I consider to stand out amongst the rest, be it in terms of overall performance, ease of use, or affordability.
Let’s get started with the one that I believe to be the absolute best one;
FabFilter Pro DS ($179)
Automatically detects and attenuates Sibilance!
With its ‘Single Vocal’ detection algorithm, FabFilter Pro-DS can accurately identify sibilance in vocal recordings and attenuates it transparently.
When using the ‘Allround’ mode, Pro-DS becomes a great tool for high-frequency limiting of any material, like drums or even full mixes, not just vocals, which makes it an overall versatile plugin since it’s not just meant to be used for a single thing.
FabFilter Pro-DS offers everything you need to get the best result possible, presented in a simple and easy-to-use interface.
Wide band or linear-phase split band processing, an optional look-ahead of up to 15 ms, adjustable stereo linking with optional mid-only or side-only processing, up to four times linear-phase oversampling… and more.
- Adjustable Threshold, Range, and detection HP and LP filtering settings
- Wide Band or linear-phase Split Band processing
- Optional look-ahead time up to 15 ms
- Freely adjustable stereo linking
- Optional mid-only or side-only processing
Waves Sibilance ($29)
Best De-esser in terms of Price-to-Performance!
Sibilance is a transparent vocal de-esser that is capable of removing harsh vocal ‘s’ sounds faster than all the previous de-essers released by Waves.
Sibilance allows you to make the vocals brighter without adding any harshness to them.
It doesn’t apply gain reduction to narrow frequency bands alone but rather uses spectral filters to detect peaks in certain regions and then applies the processing after having separated the vocals from those regions.
This allows Sibilance to only process the problematic areas, leaving the rest of the track’s content unaffected.
Just like with Pro DS by FabFilter, Sibilance is not just meant to be used on vocals, but on any track where you need to deal with harshness.
- Smooth, glitch-free removal of harsh ‘s’ sounds like never before
- Separates the sibilant parts of the vocal without changing the vocal’s original tone
- Easy-to-use threshold and sensitivity controls
- Innovative sibilance detector powered by Waves’ Organic ReSynthesis technology
DeEsser by Waves ($29)
Very simple to use yet effective!
DeEsser makes it simple to find the spots that are causing those horrible sibilant sounds and control them since it’s got different presets tailored specifically towards male and female vocals as well as the different types of sibilance, such as “Shh” and “Ess” sounds.
It also features Sharp sidechain filters, wideband and split compression modes, as well as audio and sidechain monitoring.
Despite being a fairly dated plugin that’s over a decade old, it’s definitely still going strong and can absolutely be compared to the newer and more fully-featured alternatives out there, and for the extremely low price that it sells for I don’t think that you could ever go wrong.
XILS DeeS ($89)
Splits the track into Vocal and sibilance (each with EQ)!
DeeS can help you get clean and professional-sounding vocals in no time, as well as restore other vocal tracks and get rid of their flaws.
Removing the harshness and the sibilance should be extremely easy with DeeS, plus the plugin is easy to use since it’s very visual.
It splits the track into two independent channels; The Vocals, without any sibilance, and the sibilance on its own, each with its own EQ.
The Detection module helps you to find the right Voice frequency range to process to remove the sibilants, and specify the quality of the processing.
Get DeeS here: Pluginboutique.
Renaissance DeEsser by Waves ($29)
Combination of Waves’ C4, R-Vox, and DeEsser plugins!
This specialized sibilance de-esser allows you to reduce undesirable high frequencies while preserving the sparkle and musicality of the source, and similar to most de essers, it can also be used on other sources such as cymbals, etc., not just vocals.
Renaissance DeEsser combats harsh sibilance by combining the unique technologies used in Waves’ C4, R-Vox, and DeEsser plugins, optimizing it for cleanliness, efficiency, and effectiveness.
Renaissance comes with a large display in the middle that lets you see everything that is going on and how the plugin is attenuating the signal, then it has a threshold and range sliders which allow you to control when and how much the de-esser will affect the signal.
You can also choose between high-pass or band-pass to determine how the plugin will operate and you can adjust what frequency it will do so, and lastly, it also allows you to only listen to the frequencies the plugin is affecting.
Oxford SuprEsser ($244)
One of the most Powerful De-essers out there!
The Oxford SuprEsser is both a very highly-featured professional De-Esser and a Dynamic EQ and is one of the best De-essers out there, even considering the high price.
There is a simple mode for quick fixes, but also an advanced mode for increased functionality and fine-tuning.
The combination of an intuitive FFT display and three listen modes enables you to easily see and hear exactly where the problem frequencies are, allowing you to quickly reduce or remove the offending audio.
Since the SuprEsser can operate at all frequencies, ‘plosives’ and other annoyances can also be removed.
Additional features include Automatic Level Tracking, Linear Phase Filtering, and a Wet/Dry blend control for final balancing.
- Highly featured professional De-Esser
- Linear Phase Dynamic EQ
- Transparently controls aggressive frequencies
- Automatic Level Tracking follows energy levels (no need to automate threshold)
- A large intuitive graphic display makes finding frequencies very easy
Weiss Deess by Softube ($199)
I really like Softube; I use one of their Saturation plugins quite often, especially because it’s so simple to use, and their Weiss Deess is also an amazing plugin.
Whether you’re trying to reduce vocal sibilance, the sharpness in a hi-hat or cymbals, or simply reduce some harshness in the mastering phase (link to my Mastering Plugins list), a good De-esser can come quite in handy.
Weiss Deess has two independent bands and a variety of filter shapes and excellent band-width control, allowing you to home in on precisely what you need to deal with, without collateral damage.
Additionally, it’s a very visual plugin, which can be very useful since you can actually see what is happening to the signal.
- Two bands of de-essing. This is the only de-esser you’ll need.
- Stunning and intuitive visualisations make this de-esser a breeze to use.
- Clean tweak-and-go faceplate, with immensely detailed controls hidden in side-menu.
- Ultra-professional tool, but without the daunting, complex look.
Get Weiss Deess here: Pluginboutique.
Oeksound Soothe2 ($199)
soothe2 is a dynamic resonance suppressor, which means that it identifies problematic resonances in real-time and applies matching reduction automatically.
It applies these reductions where needed, without affecting nearby frequencies; Basically, it attempts to smooth out the sound without affecting nearby frequencies, and therefore keeping the original tone.
Soothe2 puts emphasis on the visual aspect a lot more than most other plugins, since the controls section is very small, while the majority of the window belongs to the waveform display.
This can definitely be very useful to people who still can’t hear the subtle processing that is being applied since they can actually see it.
Best Free De-Esser VST Plugins
I absolutely love finding free plugins since I generally prefer not spending anything on one, especially if they sound good.
These are the best free de-essers I could find!
Even though it’s quite normal to EQ your vocals to make them brighter so that they sit well in a mix, sometimes this boost can accentuate the “s” and “z” sounds, also known as sibilance, and this is where a plugin like the Tonmann DeEsser comes in.
It is a basic high-frequency dynamic processor VST plugin that is designed to get rid of “stinging” sibilants that may occur on vocals after compression or adding that high-end boost.
The plugin has been carefully designed to suppress any artificial or alienated sound that may arise under awkward situations with some other DeEssers.
It only features a handful of controls, such as Center Frequency, Bandwidth, Attenuation, Threshold, Release, Look Ahead, and a wideband and low pass filter, which makes it an ultra-simplistic plugin to use and one that is ideal for beginners.
- True independent stereo operation, but also runs in mono mode
- Wideband and lowpass reduction modes selectable
- Fully adjustable center frequency and bandwidth of the detection range
- Adjustable detection threshold to retain the “crisp” sound character of a vocal
- Look ahead feature for sibilants with short and sharp attacks
Find out more about the Tonmann DeEsser here.
VeeDeeS by ViperITB
A de-esser is a type of compressor that only acts on the higher frequencies in order to get rid of the “s” and “z” sounds, and all of this is done without affecting the rest of the frequency spectrum allowing you to remove those sibilant sounds without affecting the rest of the vocals.
VeeDeeS acts on frequencies above the 3kHz while leaving everything else untouched, and all of this can be done in a very easy and intuitive manner since it only has 3 controls in total; Attack, Release, and Sensitivity.
Sadly, VeeDeeS is only available as a VST for Windows 32-bit.
Download VeeDeeS here.
SPITFISH is a dead-easy to use de-esser, aimed mainly at mono or stereo vocal tracks.
Just like classic analog de-essers, this unit dynamically filters out harsh, annoying s-like sounds that would otherwise ‘spit’ in your face, and just like the previous two VSTs on this list, it’s extremely easy to use since it features just a handful of controls, such as Sensitivity, Depth, and Tune.
What makes Spitfish de-esser stand out to me is its “Listen” feature which lets you hear the frequencies that are being removed, making it a lot easier to really pin-point the sibilance and to know when it’s actually being affected.
Note: Probably won’t work on the latest Mac OS.
This plugin is only available for Windows as a 32/64-bit VST.
Find out more about the Spitfish here.
Modern De-Esser by Antress
Modern De-Esser is a freeware de-esser VST plugin by Antress. It features frequency control in the 3000 to 9999 Hz range which can be adjusted via the Frequency knob.
While it may not be my favorite plugin looks-wise, it’s definitely a great freebie that you should try out since it can help you tame harsh frequencies with relative ease.
Sadly, it doesn’t come with the “Listen” feature like Spitfish does, but it still features some useful and simple to-use tools to address sibilance, such as threshold, ratio, width, and release.
Lastly, Modern De-Esser is only available for Windows 32-bit in VST format.
Lisp by Sleepy-Time DSP
Whether you use a traditional de-esser, sidechained compressor, dynamic EQ, or even edit your tracks manually, cleaning up sibilance problems in your vocals can get pretty tedious.
Lisp is a new type of de-esser that aims to speed up this process with its automatic sibilance detection algorithm that is internally tuned to detect the human voice.
Lisp can automatically detect and lower any “ss”, “teh”, and “ch” sounds in your audio by tracking both the amplitude and pitch of its input in real-time. Just set the reduction amount and let Lisp do the rest!
Out of all the free De-Essers so far, Lisp has proven to be the easiest one to use thanks to its automatic detection system, plus it lets you listen to the frequencies that are being reduced, similar to SpitFish, which is a nice bonus to have.
Find out more about Lisp here.
Dead Duck De-esser
This isn’t just a de-esser, but actually, a full 25 original VST audio plugins bundle that also includes a De-Esser.
This bundle includes all the essential mixing tools such as EQ, compression, and limiting to creative sound-shaping tools such as delays, modulation effects, and reverb.
Not only are all of them free, but they also sound and work impressively well.
So, make sure to get your hands on this bundle asap!
Learn more about the Dead Duck Bundle here.
DeEss by AirWindows (Windows, Mac)
DeEss is a very simple, yet powerful tool that will help you remove most of the sibilance in your tracks for completely free.
It works by tracking slew rates, not by filtering and frequencies. It keeps a string of recent slew rates, and if it sees high slews that keep going back and forth (flipping direction) that’s how it triggers.
To use it, just crank up the effect so you can plainly hear where it hits, and then use the ducking control and the treble roll off to tailor the kind of “esses” you do want.
Download DeEss here.
What is the best free de-esser plugin?
I think that Lisp is the one that has the most to offer thanks to its automatic detection system, plus it lets you listen to the frequencies that are being reduced, similar to SpitFish, which is a nice bonus to have.
In most cases, I don’t really think that premium VSTs are that much better than the free ones, but as far as de-essers are concerned, if you truly want to get professional results then I’d stick to a premium one.
Still, it’s much better to use free ones than nothing at all!
I hope this information was useful!
Have a wonderful day!