At first glance, SuprEsser seems to be a straight-laced
de-esser with a tidy user-interface centered on an orderly FFT spectral analysis display. But after time spent, you realize that even simply-presented controls, like the wide/band buttons for trigger and audio modes, allow you to perform all sorts of audio-ninjary, while the neat FFT display actually presents a lot of critical information and has grabbable control elements to boot. Even the prim and proper look of the advanced-mode screen contradicts the hidden power and puissance of this profoundly-capable plug-in.
In use, SuprEsser succeeded at de-essing every track I threw at it (except for a few moderately-distorted vocals on the upcoming Glorytellers album, featuring contributing writer Geoff Farina, that none of my tools could de-ess transparently due to broadband distortion from a cheap vocal mic). And SuprEsser sounds extremely transparent, in part because by default, it tracks the volume changes of the overall input signal and automatically changes the threshold of the compression band so that soft passages get just as effective de-essing treatment as loud passages, and all the highs aren't squashed out of the loud passages. Makes lots of sense, doesn't it? If not, here's the skinny on how a modern de-esser works: a full-band signal comes in and is internally split into two signals by a band-pass filter (and a complementary band-reject filter) chosen to isolate the sibilance (e.g. 3-12 kHz); the band-pass signal is compressed if it reaches a fixed or dynamically-calculated threshold; the two signals are added back together and the resulting full-band signal is sent out. All that sounds like a single-band compressor or a dynamic EQ, doesn't it? Well, that's exactly what SuprEsser is. To further the discussion, let's break down SuprEsser into its components.
SuprEsser's band-pass and band-reject filters are modeled on the filters from the highly-acclaimed Oxford EQ plug-in. They are linear-phase (and thus impart a significant processing delay due to implementation by convolution); therefore, when the split signals are rejoined, there is no phase cancellation. You can freely choose the center frequency down to a low of 20 Hz, and the width can go from almost full width at 10 octaves, down to a sharp notch of 0.2 octaves. You can also just grab the edges of the pass-band in the FFT display and slide them left/right. A slope setting for the filters goes as steep as 72 dB per octave-not a problem for the linear-phase implementation.
SuprEsser's compressor is an enhanced version of the compressor section of the well-regarded Oxford Dynamics plug-in. Like any comprehensive compressor, there are controls for attack, hold, release, ratio, and knee. And as you might expect, the ratio setting, which is specified in degrees, can be set to zero degrees for brickwall limiting. But interestingly, the ratio can also be set for negative slope to actually remove signal when it hits the compressor above threshold! This is handy when you want to eliminate (or should I say utterly annihilate) harsh fricatives.
Combine the Oxford filter and compressor sections and the result is an extremely efficacious de-esser that doubles as an excellent frequency and level-conscious compressor. For example, instead of honing in on the esses of a vocal, try removing plosives by tuning the pass-band down to 20 Hz and varying the width until it sounds right; this works even with deep voices that might otherwise be thinned out by a static high-pass filter. Likewise, SuprEsser is wonderful at controlling the overabundant boominess of an acoustic guitar when strummed too hard-just adjust the filter to capture the guitar's body resonance and set the compressor accordingly. How about a screechy instrument? Or a single offending tone or whistle that makes you wince? Sure, find the offending frequencies and clamp them. Again, the volume-tracking threshold setting contributes to SuprEsser's transparency, and the precise, "grabbable" FFT display, colorized to show pre/post-effect, with peak-level and crossover-frequency indicators, is critical for analyzing the signal and making immediate adjustments. Plus, "listen" buttons for the band-pass and band-reject signals allow you to hear directly what's being affected and what remains untouched.
But wait, there's more. I hinted earlier at the wide/band trigger and audio buttons. With these two buttons, you can independently select whether you feed the full-band or the pass-band signal to the compressor's sidechain (trigger) and audio inputs. Not only can you emulate de-essers of yore that utilize a sidechain EQ to trigger a broadband compressor, but you can do the opposite-use the full-band signal to trigger compression only in a chosen band. For example, I used this feature with great success on a room-mic track that needed the low-mids pulled out only when the room spill got too dense and slurry, but during thinner/quieter parts, I wanted the low-mids untouched. Furthermore, there's a wet/dry mix control so you can blend together the compressed (de-essed) and uncompressed audio for another dimension in controlling the "life" and "punch" of the sound. All-in-all, the unpretentious interface belies SuprEsser's wealth of capabilities, but even if you purchase SuprEsser solely for its de-essing prowess, your money will be well spent.
($300 MSRP; www.sonnoxplugins.com)
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