Annoying Sibilance Problem

Ok so here's the scoop.

I've got a Grado Gold mounted on my Technics SL1200 and everything sounds wonderful, except on some recordings I get some pretty nasty distortion on hard T sounds and S sounds in vocals. It's not on every record but when it's there it's very apparent. I can't imagine the records are the problem as some of them are new, but I do not have another table/cart to test that right now.

The funny thing is if I swap the preamp over to mono the distortion is pretty much gone. Any ideas why it's doing this? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
I had the same problem but also had some distortion with some of my New albumn's that were pressed by CLASSIC...especially the ones by female vocal artists like Diana Krall and Norah Jones.One of my dealers stated that Classic was pressing albums too fast and were creating poor recordings,and even had a hard time getting replacements from the manufracture.I avoid buying Classic labels.
This happened some time ago...They might be back on track with their pressings now,and taking more care in what they are doing.
I had that problem before..and in my expereience, there are so many things can contribute to that sibilance problem. Here are the few things you can do:
1. Check anti-skating: if the sibilance occurs on the left channel, try to reduce anti-skating and vice-versa.

2. If the sibilance occurs on both channel, increase the VTF to the manufacture's max recommendation. If it's still there, maybe the disc you are playing exceeds the cartridge's ability to resolve the signal from the groove.

3. Get a cartridge that is more resolving or track better/ or match better with your tonearm (fine line contact with very very small stylus tip like Audio Technica, Lyra..etc tracks very well)

4. Could be the defective disks. As Dgordonl said..many female vocal recording issued by Classic records exhibit this problem. All but extremely fine line contact stylus cannot track this cleanly no matter how good your setup/alignment is.

5. Also recheck your alignment . This could help reduce it.

Good luck.
so let's share a bit here...

A new recording by Mobile Fidelity... pressing by Classic?: Alison Kraus & Union Station "so long so wrong" side two 'It Doesn't Matter', and even worse 'Find My Way Back To My Heart' are close to unbearably sibilant in my system.

I have tried to track this issue down, and had some expert opinion that: "sibilants are caused by frequencies out of the '[soundssssss] envelope'... (as close I can recall that statement)
I'm not a recording engineer and do not exactly get the full meaning of it, BUT it seems it has to do with a 'phasing' problem in the 3kHz - 7kHz frequency band (during recording, BUT also during playback)

Having said that, I now have checked my cartridge with the 'Ultimate Analog Test LP' by Analog Productions and an oscilloscope according to their instructions.
Two cart parameters are out of spec. by some margin and then some: cross-talk and channel balance (I spare you the details, if interested have a look at the thread: )

So, it COULD well be, that your cart has an issue, which is mostly unnoticeable, ONLY with sibilants, AND in my case orchestra tutti, and massed instruments, i.e. if things get loud and busy. The sounds then get 'smeared' by the phase-incoherence L/R as I currently understand it.

If you can, try another cart and see if it reacts differently. And oh, I assume that your arm set-up is OK, and that you have already tried various alignment-tweaks without any noticeable improvement...

I have a Grado Statement Reference low-output cartridge on my TNT with JMW 12 arm and I get excessive sibilance on some LPs, especially female vocals. I think that this is a known trait of Grados if I am not mistaken.

Jaytea is right - trying different VTF and anti-skating settings (if your tonearm is so equipped) will help reduce this problem.

Good luck.

Grados are known to do that.
Jaytea and Headsnappin are exactly right.

Axelwahl wrote:
A new recording by Mobile Fidelity... pressing by Classic?: Alison Kraus & Union Station "so long so wrong" side two 'It Doesn't Matter', and even worse 'Find My Way Back To My Heart' are close to unbearably sibilant in my system.
I've played THREE copies of this LP in my system. One was brought over by a friend. The other two were mailed to me by fellow A'goners. They were convinced the recording or the LP was flawed because of high frequency distortions ("unbearably sibilant") when played in their systems. Just like in Axelwahl's.

All three of these LP's played perfectly. This LP does have very extended and fairly complex high frequencies. Close miking combined with a reverberant recording space make tracing and reproducing those HF's a challenge, but with the right equipment and setup it can be done, with beautiful and lifelike sonics.

I have other LP's that contain even more difficult sibilants. One in particular is my acid test. Only 2 or 3 sytems that I've heard will play that LP cleanly, but that also can be done.

It can't be done easily or cheaply. It can't be done with a Grado, thanks to its bludgeon of a stylus. But there's nothing wrong with that Allison Kraus LP.
I've tried adjusting the table to no avail. I'm starting to think it's the cart/stylus. I may bring the albums over to Goodwins and toss it on their table with the Goldfinger... That should tell me if it's the album or not.

Switching your preamp to mono may be helping in two ways:

1. Many preamp mono switches act as HF rolloff filters, so HF problems simply become less audible.

2. Summing to mono may prevent distortions resulting from L and R information that's at the same (high) frequencies but every so slightly out of synch or phase with each other.

It is VERY difficult for an amplification chain to cleanly reproduce two (or more) similar or identical waveforms that should be marching along as individuals, so to speak, without "glomming" them together into a distorted mess. The higher the frequencies and the greater the amplitudes, the tougher it is for the system to keep all the separate waveforms separate. Blending to mono before amplification begins greatly simplifies the job (and the music, naturally).

Your Grado is unquestionably part of the problem, but your amplification from phono stage to power amps may (or may not) also be contributing. Best guidance IMO is to try a more resolving cartridge first, to see how far it gets you and whether or not you like the new direction.
I was going to accuse the Grado as well based on past experience with older, lower cost models, but its been a while, so I decided no.

Wouldn't expect that with a more modern higher cost Grado though still. I have never heard that particular cart set up properly for certain so can't really say still.
What would you guys recommend for a more resolving cart? I'm going to be buying a p5 table this summer and love the idea of the 3 point mounting to assure it's aligned properly for the Rega carts, but the Apheta is out of my price range.

Would the Exact 2 or the Elys 2 be decent alternatives to the Grado?
Obviously the Grado isn't only the brand you can play with and experiment. Purchasing P5 might not solve the sibliance problem or even make it more revealed which none of us know for now.
Jaytea has the right point of steps you should go through to resolve. I'd only add to check stylus/cantilever wear.
I have the same Allison Krauss pressing on Mobile Fidelity, and I have tried playing those same tracks on three diferent turntables with three different cartridges, one which cost several thousand dollars, one costs about $1700 and the other a Rega, about $400.00. Only the Rega in an inexpensive system was able to navigate these tracks. I wonder if it is because this system is so less revealing? This one record has caused me to try everything I can think of over the past several months as I assumed the problem has to be with my system and not the record.

You need to tell us about your phono stage and its gain and impedance characteristics before anyone could recommend a cartridge. Might be wise to start a new thread (or search old ones) for that. In general, as several have stated, a line contact or micro-ridge stylus will provide a quantum leap in HF clarity and reduction of inner groove distortion.

I agree with Marakanetz that a P5 may not be an upgrade vs. your present rig, though it will certainly be very different.


Those are interesting results. Your speculation that the least costly system played that LP most acceptably due to lower resolution may be correct, in a general sense.

Was the amplification in that system entirely or primarily solid state? Were the tweeters a soft dome type? Were the interconnects and speaker cables either very entry level and/or shielded? Was the TT driven by a rubber(y) belt?

Any of the above can contribute to the smothering of subtle harmonic information. They often don't so much distort HF harmonics as simply bury them, leaving a clean but often colorless presentation. Strong fundamentals but little individuation of instruments and voices. I could name names, but I still have a few friends left here. ;-)

A system that's good enough to pass most HF harmonics but isn't quite good enough to do so without distortion might easily sound worse. Frustrating hobby we got here...
I think there is no absolute answer to this problem. The only way to get around it is to try different options and see what works well. The reason why i said this is that I have a few jazz/female vocal discs that exhibit this problem, and it took me months trying to fix it, including re-alignment, changing tone arms, cartridges, turntable, preamp, amp...after consulting with various reputable dealers, users, reviewers, and each of them gave different answers, and different solutions work for different situations.

Regarding Ugabevo's experience, I do encounter it recently as well. My Audio Technica AT33PTG cartridge has a extremely small stylus tip, and with its high compliance, when mated with a low mass arm (SME 3009), it tracks extremely well. Never exhibits a trace of sibilance distortion when playing those problematic discs, but it does show that on those problem-causing passages, the sibilance is heavily emphasized (maybe due to pressing or recording..i dont know).

On the other hand, a Stanton 681 EEE MKIII with a japanese Shibata aftermarket stylus (bought from LP gear) has a much larger tip, a bit less compliance, when mated with a medium mass arm (rega 250B with techno weight & Pete Riggle VTF adjuster) also track those discs ALMOST as clean, but it is a little less smooth or resolving.

My Lyra Helikon has a tip size somewhere in between the AT and the Stanton. On my Phantom is very detailed, but it CAN have a hint of distorted sibilance once in a while.

I did try different combinations of these cartridges and tone arms, but these combos works best together.

So there you see, perhaps with different stylus tip masses, shapes, different cartridges ride different portions of the groove, hence behave differently , and compatibility with tonearms also effect how a cartridge performs.

If you try all these options, i am sure you will at least find one solution that works. But keep in mind that there are so many aspects that can effect analog performance so you might not cover them all at the same time..--> Dont drive yourself crazy!! Just look at it as a challenge ..hehehe..(at least now i look at it that way).

After all these problem, I still prefer listening to LPs though.
The phono stage is built into the preamp and can be swapped from MM to MC. The specs from the manual are as follows:

MC - 125mV for 0.5V output from source unit
MM - 125mV for 0.5V output from source unit

The input impedence for line-in is 47K Ohm +/- 5%

Signal to noise ratio - 97dB
The total empiricists "I never liked math guide" to phono stages first asks if you just changed your phono stage. second do you run it through a big tone mellow line stage after that.Which helps as foil.
I switched away from an all tube ARC pre with phono to a cheaper SS Graham Slee Amp 2 using a H.O. Dynevector 20 X m.c.. I only did this because the ARC had a noise floor at eye level and it had the kind of gain that could not be tamed. The new one is SS and while supremely quiet and toned up by a two 6SN7 line stage (Great rich tubes) I had the AE line stage hot rodded. As it broke in the sibililants became unbearable. I hung with it and depending on the record it has calmed down considerably with brake in. The voices aren't nearly as bad as massive collections of orchestral strings blaring out the high octaves. I May have to go back to work if I don't get bailed out. Then I will by an SLP-05 and use a separate a boulder phono.
I had a Grado master that had the same problems. Sent Cartridge back and tech made an adjustment and helped some what. A nice older gent. I upgraded tonearms from Rega 600 to Graham 2.2 and isuue was greatly diminished. However still there. The Grado was spectacular in some respects. Ironic it had an uncanny ability the reproduce the female voice when no sibilance was present. I remember one annoying track in particular "Radar Love". Gone to a Benz L2 and sibilance not a problem.
The specs for the phono stage make no sense? Is there any chance that you are running into the MC input or your preamp is set for MC gain internally? How high is your volume control set ? Is it possible that you're phono stage is overloading?
Hi Doug,
you say:
>>> ... there's nothing wrong with that Allison Kraus LP. <<<
Thank you for sharing that. I had a suspicion this COULD be the case. Certainly my system is not up to it (last track on side 2) in the current state.
Now it looks like I have found my 'Test-record' for this problem ---. Other than these two tracks I'd mentioned all sounds very nice otherwise.
Would you please share the other two 'tricky' LPs mentioned, it might me a good challenge to tackle those.

Hi Silvergsx,
you state:
MC - 125mV for 0.5V output from source unit
MM - 125mV for 0.5V output from source unit

That spec sounds impossible for the MC...

that 125mV looks like the overload spec. for MM and even high at that, see below.

An example could look like this:

Gain: 40 or 60dB @ 1kHz (i.e. MM or MC)

Input Overload: >100mV @ 1kHz, 40dB gain
>10mV @ 1kHz, 60DB gain

Axel, I'm merely going by what it says in the manual that came with it. I'll shoot the company an email today and see if that's a typo and try to get more information on it.

My #1 most challenging/torturous LP for reproducing clean high frequencies:

‘Les Plaisirs de la Renaissance’, Deller Consort, Harmonia Mundi, HMU 963

That Allison Kraus record is difficult because her closely miked voice and its echoes present waveforms at high frequencies that are very close together (in time). Many systems can't avoid mushing them together, which usually sounds horrible. The Deller LP is more difficult for several reasons:

1. Deller's voice is much stronger. Bigger amplitudes challenge the tracking ability of the cartridge, the ability of the phono and other amplification stages to avoid slewing distortion or overload, the ability of the power supplies to resist being modulated by the signal and the speed and non-distorting cababilities of the midrange and tweeter drivers.

2. Deller is doubled and/or harmonized by an alto recorder, an instrument whose rich and tight harmonic structure is also difficult to reproduce. When he and the recorder hit/hold the same note or harmonically related notes, keeping the two voices separate is a severe challenge.

3. Unlike Krauss, both Deller and the recorder actually know where the notes are. ;-) Pitch stability from the TT is super-critical.

4. The recording was made in a stone hall - nicely authentic but intensely echo-ey, with multiple and extended reverberant decays.

5. One of the most challenging tracks was placed on the inner grooves (on side 2), adding smaller modulations to the challenges.

Other Deller Consort recordings would probably present similar difficulties. Keeping all these strong, closely related high frequency waveforms clean and separate is a terrific challenge. I've have other Deller recordings on CD so I know it can can be done. The trick is to do it from an LP, with its richer and more complete harmonic structures.

As Jaytea described for himself, it also took me four years of work (and a lot of money) to be able to play this LP cleanly. It's one of the first I play to test any new component or tweak because it is so unforgiving, and so satisfying when all is right. :-)

Another tough challenge in a similar way is the 'La Boheme' on Decca/London with Renata Tebaldi. On any 'La Boheme' Mimi's first big solo comes near the end of side 1, where tight inner groove modulations make the problem we're discussing more challenging. The Decca recording was also made in a sonically rich acoustic (though not stone, thank goodness!), which brings echoes into play again. Tebaldi's voice is of course more powerful and pure of tone than any pop/jazz singer, which adds amplitude and the need for tonal accuracy to the challenge.

If you can get through side 1 cleanly (which took me 2-3 years) don't congratulate yourself yet. The big crowd scenes and multiple voices on side 2 are more difficult for some components. It's a never ending battle. :-)
Hells Bells, great stuff!

Doug, now you mentioned one that I actually have, and I know EXACTLY what you say.

+++ Another tough challenge in a similar way is the 'La Boheme' on Decca/London with Renata Tebaldi. On any 'La Boheme' Mimi's first big solo comes near the end of side 1, where tight inner groove modulations make the problem we're discussing more challenging. +++

I have the 'wide silver band', -- so much the better. I have made some progress in getting that 'improved' but not perfect for sure. That groove made me send a re-tipped Dorian two times back to the re-tipper. It got better, but also never really 'right'. That Tebaldi soprano could crack glasses, I say.

Thank you for your most helpful detail,