One of the most prevalent issues I hear when mixing vocals is harsh, sibilant recordings. This can be especially noticeable within Hip Hop and Rap style vocals because we’re usually compressing the verse audio heavily, which can make these unpleasant sounds more obvious. There are many different ways to correct this problem. First, we can save ourselves some of the headache by selecting the right microphone. If the performer has crisp “S” sounds and / or bright consonants, we should select a mic which complements their delivery. Also, a quality preamp, particularly a tube pre, can soften these harsh sounds and give the vocal a warmer tone.
Of course, not all of us have the luxury of choosing a microphone and preamp from a large selection of gear and tones. You may only own one microphone and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean we can’t fix the problem of harshness in your recordings. There are many possibilities within mixing that allow you to get quality results, no matter what the dry vocal recording sounds like. In the video below, I reveal some of the options and solutions for harsh, sibilant vocals by using a De-Esser.