Can sibilance be eliminated?

Can vocal sibilance be eliminated completely or is this the price of high-detail digital playback? I don't have enough experience with analog playback so I don't know if this is also a problem?
Yes. I would start with power conditioning and resonance control. There is a wealth of info in the thread archives. Digital playback does not have to be annoying.
I would start with microphones and the rest of recording equipment first.
I have a CD only system & it has great detail that exhibits no sibilance but I wouldn't necessarily say that was a condition relegated to digital payback. Your system synergy (or lack of) will have a lot to do in determining what is the best direction to go regarding your particular problem.

Since you did not list any of your components, it's difficult to even begin to offer suggestions, as it could be any number of things.
Sibilance is a natural occurrence in song/speech. 99% of the recordings I've experienced depict this (100% of the older live performances I've attended as well, prior to them receiving digital help/bandaids in the "near" real time).

Other than teeth/mouths/tounges it's also influenced by microphone usage skills.

Certainly it can be blocked/filtered by various means, but to do so will also be @ the detriment of other portions of the music.

My main speakers for 8 years were Ls3/5a's (the industry standard for reproducing speech) and they portrayed such S's with aplomb.

Too much, however is too much, but a certain amount is considered to be normal.
Yes, assuming the negative sibilance is not in the recording itself, it can be entirely eliminated through proper AC line conditioning assuming you have a certain caliber of components.

Although vibration and resonance control can perform wonders in and of itself, I do not agree at all with the statement that vibration or resonance control having anything to do with inducing negative sibilance into a playback system.

I've found the worst of the sibilance can be decreased or eliminated via careful controlling of room reflections and power conditioning.
Some questions & comments:

Why would you completely want to remove all sibilance? It is a natural byproduct of certain vocal output and occurs fairly often in "real life". Probably the base-line here should be to set expectations correctly - if the sibilance is accurately recorded in your program material you probably want it accurately reproduced - no?

Next, are your speakers properly set up & calibrated? That's the first thing to attend to. Sibilance reportedly/typically occurs in the 5-10KHz range, so if your speakers are peaking in the upper ranges (including maybe even higher than 10K) that could contribute mightily. That's probably the #1 thing to check out.

Room (reflections, etc.) is probably next. Since your speakers are what makes the sound and the whole room environment (including speaker placement) is the next-most significant thing that affects what sound(s) reach your ears then that's the next place to focus. Little things, like "is there a flat-topped coffee table between you & the speakers?" may contribute significantly to what's reaching your ears in your listening position. You can find a wealth of material on room factors at Rives, etc. that may help.

If you plan on keeping your speakers, etc. then all that stuff above is the stuff that matters most. Cables and power cords and conditioners and all that other "stuff" have such an infinitesimal impact on the sounds you hear, when compared to speakers & room environment & source material, that you can pretty much de-prioritize those things until you have your speakers and room tamed. As usual, JMO & YMMV...
As others have said, most sibilance is in the source recording. Different types and brands of microphone produce recordings that are dramatically different, and some are better than others with regard to sibilance.
Try playing back the record at reduced volume level. Problems caused by your playback system will generally increase with volume. It the problem persists at all playback levels, it is probably in the recording.
Marakan hit the nail on the proverbial head. Audiophiles are gladly ignoring that the chain starts with the recording and that they actually have very little control over many aspects of the sound reproduced by their system. Mr. hosehaed is also so right in his statement that sibilance is, often enough, part and parcel of a singers instrument and delivery.
To the best of my knowledge, sibilance is used to categorically describe a certain type of sound ie a hiss, whistle, s, sh, and in the case of audio, perhaps including certain sounds that certain cymbal strikes make or perhaps sandpaper blocks.

There is nothing wrong with sibilance in one's system or speech. The problem is negative sibilance ie where an 's' is now pronounced as 'sh'.

Assuming the negative sibilance is not in the recording, based on my own experience, I would attest that negative sibilance is entirely based on the quality of AC electrical and whether it is purified and/or conditioned.

A reviewer/columnist who evaluated my system last summer noticed immediately that there was no negative sibilance and he inquired about my passive line conditioners.

In addition, as an experiment about a year ago, I removed only my amplifier's dedicated passive in-line conditioner and installed a 20amp Hubbell IEC connector at the end of my 10 gauge 6N OFC solid core romex. The romex was connected at one end to a dedicated 20amp circuit breaker in my service panel and the other end now plugged directly into the amplifier.

Among other negative effects induced, the most prominant was negative sibilance. And this was noticeable within seconds after making the switch. Upon switching back, the negative sibilance was gone.

Therefore, at least in my experience, I feel confident quite stating that negative sibilance is induced entirely by the noise generated in my AC and without my line-conditioners.

Marakanetz says it all. Until excess sibilance is eliminated at the source it will continue to plague the musical reproduction chain.
Sibilance is one reason I went with tubes, it is unnatural sounding with solid state amps. That extended (etched) sound in the upper regions that solid state produces is not real sounding, in my opinion. When P. Barber leans into her microphone for the effect of sibilance then that is reproduced, but if a singer wants sibilance in her natural voice then she needs a new coach.
I would start with a recording of good singers recorded by good enginners,say Maria Callas or Deitrich Fisher Discau(spelling) or the Robert Shaw Chorale,to see how much of it is the other recordings you are playing and how much of it is your system.
I suspect the recordings are the culprits but can't say for sure since I've not heard your system
Great question. The thing bothering me now is whether or not being a stereo nut has made me sensitive to normal speech sibilance that most sane people never pay attention to.
Other thing, it seems like percieved sibilance peaks and wanes with things like sinus allergies and headcolds. But maybe I am nuts. Good luck. I have decided to live with it for now and enjoy the good side of detail in playback, maybe one day I'll attack it with more tubes and dollars.
I think the original question has to do with too much sibilance & although there are some very poorly recorded tracks that accentuate sibilance, I find it's not usually an issue with the recording.

I've found that some silver cables are a little on the bright side which may accentuate the sibilance which can be the cause of some concern.
Yes, sibilance can be eliminated.

Absolutely NO, it is NOT the price you pay with high detail digital playback. It's the price you pay with poor digital playback.

The problem is that most CDPs are still relatively poor performers, even many of the high-priced models. The Meitner blows away many other high priced digital pieces not just because it's great, but because many of the pieces it replaces or compared to are relatively poor.

Why do you think that we have more CDP modders than anything else? Most stock CDPs just won't cut it in a system where the rest of the equipment is at a high level. The result is a high sibilance, fatiguing and unsatisfying system where the user then makes the mistake of blaming the recording because some recordings can expose sibilance worse than others. Even worse, you find many people addressing the problem going down the cable or other equipment swapping road to nowhere.

Yes, you can diminish some sibilance through power conditioning and maybe a tad through vibration control, but, generally, nothing compares to the amount of sibilance generated through most digital playback. The funny thing is that most people (including myself) accepted it and/or don't realize it, until you hear truly great digital playback.

My advice is don't accept sibilance as a natural product of digital. The bad thing is that it's going to cost you and will be tough to find either through mods or stock equipment. However, in the long run, it will save you much more time, money and aggravation.
In my experience, cables also play a crucial role in sibilance control
Most of the time, natural sibilance is not really a problem and I understand that it is part of the way we make speech. But I think the problem is that most digital playback would add a layer of electronics which results in a sound that is shapeless, formless, noise-like, to the "s" or "shhh" sound especially with female voice since I guess it has a more high-frequency contents(the area where most digital playback has problem) than male voice.
Is anybody here claiming to have actually removed essentially all negative sibilance (except for that which is in the recording itself) from their playback system?

Or are we simply theorizing here?


I think you can remove virtually all sibilance/distortion from digital. If you want to get technical and say absolutely 100% is not possible even with the best parts and designs, I could acknowledge that point. No playback system I've heard is the same as the real thing yet.

However, I feel confident saying that more removal is possible than most people think. Certainly, you can get it to the point of where it is reasonably negligible by today's standards and not causing fatigue or causing you to avoid certain hot recordings. See my recent review to see how I got rid of it.

One possible litmus test CD you can try is Charles Lloyd Canto. The first track is about 16 minutes long. Even if that type of music isn't your cup-of-tea, you should be able to listen for 16 minutes. If you're CDP and the rest of your system is up to par, you should be wanting to listen until completion. You may even be nodding your head or tapping your feat at the end. If something is wrong, it will quickly grow weary, fatiguing after no more than probably 9 minutes.

BTW, this track is also good for picking up low-level detail and testing system transparency. You will likely hear the performer breathe as he plays early-on. However, the difference is whether you occasionally hear the breath or you hear virtually every breath - deep and shallow. It's quite an excellent recording IMO.
Stehno - I have no audible sibilance in my CD playback system. I also recently modded a Shanling T200 and the sibilance is gone...
I replaced all of the power supply caps in my CDP player (digital side) used as a transport with Black Gates, installed Harrris Freds and replaced the caps just in front of the BNC with Black Gates and all of the system induced sibilance is gone. S's sound perfectly "normal" now with absolutely no emphasis. Mind took several hundred hours for the BG's to break in.