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Wilkinson Audio DeBleeder – A Real-World Review

By Rob Tavaglione. This plug-in intelligently suppresses drum bleed and leakage from close mics while retaining the drum's natural decay. It requires a bit of tuning and some effort, but yes, DeBleeder really works.

Getting tom-toms and snares up to “in your face” levels without getting too much cymbal bleed also in your face always presents a number of difficult methodological choices. You can gate them, downward expand them, edit the hell out of them, automate LPFs, precisely automate attenuation, and on and on. All these methods work and they all have certain drawbacks. Now you can add Wilkinson Audio DeBleeder to the list, with its own brand of intelligent analysis and a unique set of user-controlled parameters to “plug-in” your way to in-your-face, clean drum hits.

DeBleeder (VST, VST3, AU, AAX, Mac, PC) uses just four, largely familiar controls, but it does so intelligently, allowing a fine-tuning that aims to not only smoothly remove the cymbal bleed from closely placed drum mics, but also retain the natural decay of the drum. I tested DeBleeder as channel-insert on a number of snare and tom-tom tracks, and although I’m sure there are a number of other creative uses, I figured that core-function efficacy is what we’re all curious about here. It requires a bit of tuning and some effort, but yes, DeBleeder really works.

It starts out with tuning the sidechain to see the right signal via Fundamental. Hit Aud to audition the sidechain and tune in the first harmonic above that fundamental for the most accurate tracking. Don’t worry; it’s easier to sweep the control intuitively to find the sweet spot than it might sound. You can adjust the bandwidth of your sensor and select its shape (cone or bell) if that helps zero in on the right frequency. You can select Ext to use an external key, if you used drum-mounted contact triggers for example, and turn the control fully clockwise for full bandwidth—flat—sidechain sensing.

The Range and Reduction controls sort of work in concert to achieve just the right response. Range limits the frequency range that DeBleeder will work on, and it is useful to fine-tune this control to not act on your fundamental and allow resonance/decay to pass thru. Reduction rather obviously controls the amount of reduction possible, but the fine-tuning controls are where the expertise lies. Threshold, also obviously, sets the level required to enact processing and it has two sensor properties—a soft or hard control. Soft considers events for processing that are under threshold, while Hard looks only at events above.

Related: Review: AudioSourceRE’s DeMIX Pro, by Rob Tavaglione, Jan. 31, 2019

What’s that? Why didn’t I call that “knee?” Because if you hit the “I” button for more info, you will not only find numerical values to each parameter you’ve set, but also a hidden Advanced Parameter—Knee—that controls how ghost notes are processed (although Wilkinson says this control is seldom needed).

Release allows control as you’d expect and is highly tempo dependent; once you’ve got all the controls balanced out, you’ll enjoy the clarity of nice, tight drum hits and the more responsive reverbs that result from such clean hits. Left to its own devices, DeBleeder (with your help fine-tuning parameters) will get rid of most of your bleed problems with a nicely solid and consistent drummer. For troublesome drummers and really tricky spots, you’ll have to automate parameters, especially Reduction’s Threshold control.

Even with DeBleeder’s help, snares and tom-toms still remain time-consuming culprits in our quest for organic drums and minimal time spent mixing them. For only $80, we’ve now got a useful tool that slightly outperforms the aforementioned bleed-removal solutions and does it with a little less effort in a little less time—and that’s definite progress toward solving this age-old problem.

Wilkinson Audio •

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