Reduce loudness of breaths in podcasts with this Waves plugin

With speaking comes breathing (duh), and sometimes a panelist might be drawing air in very loudly, or your vocal leveling tools might bring the breaths up, causing an uncomfortable experience for listeners. Here are the best ways to reduce loud breaths in a podcast, so your listeners can stay focused on the dialogue.

I’m a big fan of iZotope’s suite of filters, but their DeBreath module has been a disappointment. It doesn’t work as seamlessly as you’d expect (For example, it will sometimes think words are breaths), so I decided to look elsewhere for a tool that would reduce the loudness of breaths in the podcasts I edit.

The one tool I’ve found that really does a great job is Waves’ DeBreath Vocal Plugin. This tool accurately identifies breaths within dialogue and reduces them to your chosen level. They even added a ‘room tone’ setting that will apply some very subtle background noise. This way, it doesn’t sound like the audio channel has gone completely silent when someone is taking a breath.

DeBreath Plugin in Action:

I’ve been using this tool to reduce the loudness breaths but not completely remove them, as obviously it’s natural for someone to be taking breaths in between words or sentences. This plugin works much better than iZotope’s and has been pretty fool-proof in my experience, however, I’d recommend running this filter before editing, so that you can catch occasional mistakes it may’ve made.

My one complaint about this plugin is that it only supports mono tracks. I hope that one day they add support for stereo.

The only other good solution to this problem is simply reducing the loudness of the breaths manually, but this is a time-intensive task. The Waves plugin works with Adobe Audition and other DAWs, and at the time of this posting, is on sale for $25 (a 75% discount).

While I’m on the subject of Waves: I also really love their Noise Suppression plugin for removing background noise. This plug-in has a single slider for maximum ease of use, and can be much more effective than Adobe Audition’s. Just be careful about how much de-noising you apply!