Excessive sibilance and edge....treat room?


Hi Everyone,

Before I purchase room treatments...

Will treating room help in reducing excessive sibilance and edge? Besides equipment mismatch etc etc...what causes a room to "sound" that way?

Room size is 10 x 14 x 10. It's a bedroom...concrete walls. Wood laminate floor with throw rug. Drop ceiling.

Thinking of treating 1st reflection points...side walls, front wall and back wall(back wall is actually a floor to ceiling wardrobe).

Should I use absorbers (foam or rockwool) or diffusors to achieve my goals? I was thinking absorbers for side walls and diffusors or absorbers for front wall. What do you guys think? Might skip treating the back wall altogether since it's a wardrobe. If I do treat the backwall...I think it would definitely be foam as it's light and I can use double sided tape.

Thanks for your help.
pc123v
There are those here who, it they knew your equipment, could better resolve your dilemma.

That being said, room treatment, of some sort, usually does the trick.

All the best,
Nonoise
"Will treating room help in reducing excessive sibilance and edge? Besides equipment mismatch etc etc...what causes a room to "sound" that way?"

You should list your entire system. Room treatments can only do so much with high frequencies. Even if you get your room is treated properly, HF's are directional. The tweeters are pointed right at you with nothing in between. Unless you are willing to put something in front of them, there's not much you can do.

With a situation like this, its much better to fix the problem directly, instead of forcing the rest of your system to conform around some flaw.
I would start with new speakers, that should cure that problem.
HI Zd542 and everyone,

Trying to minimize sibilance and edge through room treatment.

Hyperion 938
Hyperion HT 88 (18 watt mono)
Resolution Audio Opus 21 Cdp
Grover Huffman interconnects (latest version)
Supra 3.4 Ply

Need help in deciding whether it's gonna be absorbers or diffusers or a combition...before I invest in some.

Thanks again.
First step is to diagnose the problem. Move your seat so that is fairly close to the speaker (say 6ft or so away) and adjust the toe-in so it is about the same as that when you are seated at a normal distance. Now listen to your speakers. By listening in the nearfield, you are listening to your system/speakers, with room effects reduced in prominence. If you can, compare what you hear in this position at home with what you hear in other systems, such as at a dealer's showroom. This will tell you whether it is other parts of the system that are causing the problem vs. the room.

If it is other parts of the system, it is unlikely that room treatments will really solve the problem. You would end up using excessive treatment to kill high frequencies that will not easily die, and the end result will be a lifeless system.

Almost all gross problems are best attacked by addressing placement of the speakers. You need to do a lot of experimenting with room placement, amount of toe-in, height of speaker/and or the amount of back tilt to the speaker. By changing the angle of the drivers to your listening chair, you can dramatically change high frequency balance, hopefully for the better.

As for room acoustics problems that you can ameliorate with treatment, again, start with diagnosing a problem. Have someone walk around the room while talking to listen for problems with the voice sounding unnatural or difficulty in understanding the speaker. Also, in various spots in the room try clapping to determine if you can hear a distinct echo. If you do hear a long and distinct echo, you do have problems that require treatment. An excessively lively room with "slap echo" (sound bouncing back and forth between parallel surfaces), this can be the source of excessive brightness and sibilance. Also look for large flat reflecting surfaces in the path of the sound; one of the worst offenders being a coffee table in front of the listening chair.

As for specific treatment, it is pretty hard to guess what would be the best approach. As a general rule, I would say start with simple things and be wary of overdoing treatment; it is easy to start down that path and becoming obscessed with the changes and then overdoing things). If you have hardwood floors, an area rug in front of the speakers is a big help. If the wall behind the speakers and behind the listening chair is a bare, hard surface, put up a fabric wallcovering of some sort on at least one of those surfaces (by covering one of two parallel surfaces, the back-and-forth bouncing of sound that creates slap echo is reduced). You can also try putting up wallcoverings at the first reflection point on side walls to see if that helps (try blankets as a temporary fix).

For specific, dedicated room treatments, you should consult websites that discuss this matter and contact some of the vendors of products. They are pretty good at advising what is the best approach. I would pick a vendor that makes all kinds of treatment-absorbers, diffusers, combination devices, "velocity-based" and "pressure-based" devices, etc. (GIK Acoustics is an example).

My experience has been if you want to achieve natural tonal balance from the mids and up, it HAS to be inherent to your speaker's sound, not a by-product of your room. Do this: sit 4 ft directly in from of your speaker and listen to vocals from a known source. If they sound natural, you're good. If they don't, no amount of room treatment will change that.
I'm pretty sure that you are going to have to fix this with equipment. I'm not familiar with the tweeter that your speaker uses. I've never heard silk dome horn, so I can't comment on it. I do see some potential problems with certain parts of your system. Your CD player is excellent, but they don't call it Resolution Audio for nothing. Its a very detailed CD player and its not forgiving. If you play a bad recording, you will definitely hear the bad and the good equally. Normally, I don't like to recommend cables to fix problems, but your Supra 3.4 Ply is almost certainly not helping any. Its one of the more fast, detailed, bright, etc.. cables you can get. If you can somehow try a different pair of cables, you definitely should. Also, given your amp is only 18 watts, its very possible you are working them too hard. When an amp is straining, it becomes very difficult to listen to. You may have to get something more powerful.
Consider isolating your source. Footers made of cork, rubber, foam, wood what ever works. Diana Krall (The Girl in the Other Room) use to fatigue the heck out of my ears due sibilance. Solved the problem by isolating the cdp.
Also consider isolating the speakers. I had an annoying high end artifact that would surface every now and again and removing the flagstone under my spiked speakers eliminated it completely. Even with 2" maple butcher blocks atop the flagstone, the high end annoyance was still there, to a lesser degree.
That one baffled me.

All the best,
Nonoise
@Zd542 & Larryi & Everyone...wow...a big thank you for all your advise.

While my system is not really edgy per se...it definitely could be smoother and more refined in the top end.

Listening in the nearfield does yield a smoother and fuller sound. Unfortunately...that is not my desired position since I am on the computer all the time while listening to music.

I wouldn't say that my bedroom is live sounding...but when clapping, there is a distinct echo (not long though). That is what I would like to tame and hopefully it would ultimately result in a much smoother and refined top end. Would also like improvement in soundstage and image size...Larger!..:)

I listen to jazz female vocals and jazz instrumental...not loud and my bedroom is smallish...I am hoping that my amps (18 watter monos) have adequate power to drive my speakers...90 at 6 ohms. I can't be sure though.

Would treating the 1st reflection points on the side walls and some kind of diffuser or absortion on the front wall be a step in the right direction? How about that echo? What's the best way to get rid of it?

Thanks.
We used to put tissue paper over the NS10 tweeters! Change speaker cable to ordinary 12 gauge mains. Have you window treatments? Move speakers out and away from the walls.
Pc123v,

My advice to listen in the nearfield was not to advocate that this be the setup you use, but, rather, as a means of diagnosing a problem. Because you heard better sound in that position, it does indeed indicate that you would benefit from proper room treatment. This can be as simple as covering part of the walls with a tapestry or having an area rug on the floor. Bare walls--without bookcases or anything else to scatter sound--are sources of problems.

As for actual acoustic treatment, there are panels that can be purchased that are reasonably decent looking so that your room does not have to look like a recording studio. I will mention, again, GIK Acoustics. They make relatively thin panels that can they cover in fabric that can be printed with whatever you want (you send them a photo) or some stock pattern/image that they frequently use. I am not saying that they are the best, in terms of sound, but, I do know that their products work and look decent.

I know some creative people that have cut plywood into geometric patterns and then covered the plywood with fill material and then covered everything with colored fabric. These geometric blocks were then assembled into a really nice pattern that looked like art, rather than room treatment, and this worked reasonably well.

It often does not take that much treatment to transform a room (which means it is also easy to transform a room too much). Good luck.
excessive edge May be the room, but too often its a poor interaction between the components, cable, etc. It is OH SO VERY difficult to fix that kind of thing with room treatments. Usually with excessive treating, you still get the edge, but with a dead sounding rest of the audio spectrum.
Silk dome tweeters are 'slow'. They stretch out the HF resulting in your issue. Soft and sibilant, and therefore with an edge. Aluminum, Beryllium, Titanium, Mylar. For in-between, Phenolic is a good compromise. Soft tweeters suck!
"Silk dome tweeters are 'slow'. They stretch out the HF resulting in your issue. Soft and sibilant, and therefore with an edge. Aluminum, Beryllium, Titanium, Mylar. For in-between, Phenolic is a good compromise. Soft tweeters suck!
"
Are you kidding?
I think you misunderstood me there. I gave a list of the opposite of 'soft'. If however you didn't misunderstand, then no, I'm not kidding. I hear the same thing with soft dome tweeters.
"08-29-14: Csontos
I think you misunderstood me there. I gave a list of the opposite of 'soft'."

I'm pretty sure I didn't understand what you were saying. Is it that you think soft dome tweeters sound harsh and have a lot of sibilance, and that metal tweeters do not?
Okay, if anyone has something to learn in this hobby, it's definitely me! I would not consider soft dome tweeters to be harsh. Looks like there's a lack of communication here which could very well be attribute4d to me. Sibilance as I may erroneously understand it is a lack of transient precision or clarity. Hard domes or ribbons/planars are unforgiving toward the signal further up the chain, hence a tendency to slur HF transients resulting in sibilance. Soft domes tend to cover the sins of the aforementioned but incidentally fall by nature to the same/similar fate?
"Sibilance as I may erroneously understand it is a lack of transient precision or clarity."

Sibilance is a subjective term so it can vary a bit from person to person. I don't think your statement is wrong, just incomplete. Sibilance (vocal) is when there is an unnatural emphasis on certain sounds when spoken. Words that start off with letters like S, C, K, T are the most common to be effected by sibilance type of distortion. Most people describe the sibilance they hear as harshness that definitely is not natural sounding. If you were to take a recording of someones voice and play it on a system that you hear sibilance on and compare it to what the person actually sounds like in real life, you should not here sibilance. One thing to keep in mind is that sibilance can be caused by any number of things. Things like metal tweeters can enhance it, but sibilance can be on the recording itself. Given that, you can definitely hear it on "soft" sounding gear like tubes and speakers with soft tweeters. You almost have to deal with it on a case by case basis. That's what makes it so frustrating.

"Sibilance as I may erroneously understand it is a lack of transient precision or clarity."

Looking at your definition again, it may make more sense to not say a lack of precision or clarity, but too much precision or clarity. The result being unnatural.

Keep in mind, this is just the way I explain sibilance. No doubt, others will add more to it, and possibly disagree with me on some points. Its subjective.
I have a vague sense we're on the same page. Defining sibilance as too much precision or clarity seems a bit oxymoronic, though. How can you have too much? By saying HF are being stretched to sibilance with soft tweeters to me is more accurate since distortion is after all the result which is in the end a loss of original content/experience. You could say distortion is an addition to original content but still, I would not use terms that contradict that. I'm pretty sure I'm in agreement with the rest of your assessment.
"Defining sibilance as too much precision or clarity seems a bit oxymoronic, though. How can you have too much?"

Again, its a subjective term and not everyone will explain it the same way. But in the above case, a good example would be a microscope. Just as you would bring forth detail that you would not normally see with the naked eye, an audio system has the potential to reveal more detail than you would hear naturally. For example, most vocals are recorded with microphones that are very close to the singer. So in reality, unless someone is talking or singing directly into your ear, you have the potential to hear much more detail in the recorded voice than you would under normal conditions where the person would be much further away.

If you look at the playback side of the equation, the problem can be further enhanced by component choice. I've always felt that one of the reasons sibilance is so annoying on speakers that have metal tweeters, is the fact that there are no parts of our bodies that are made out of metal. Its very difficult to make a metal speaker driver have the timbrel accuracy needed to reproduce the human voice when the materials that we are made of are so vastly different than metal.

Keep in mind though, as I said before, I'm just giving a couple of examples based on my own subjective judgment and that the issue of sibilance is a much broader topic than I'm going over here.

"By saying HF are being stretched to sibilance with soft tweeters to me is more accurate since distortion is after all the result which is in the end a loss of original content/experience."

That's a very good example of how subjective this topic can be. When you say that high frequencies are stretched to sibilance with soft tweeters, I have a hard time visualizing what you are referring to. But that doesn't mean you're wrong. Its very difficult to describe in words how something sounds.
Another way I could state it is to say that HF transient response is audibly better with hard vs soft tweeters in that HF are more highly defined with them, thus less sibilant. The microscope analogy is a predetermination by the recording venue and therefore the effective original. Whatever it is is the playback goal. I don't see how that relates to this topic. I think you are misplacing subjectivity with communication. Language is after all the largest barrier. Having only a keyboard to communicate with exacerbates this problem to the extreme imo. Probably the main catalyst to the subjectivist disposition so ubiquitously held in virtually all the forum sites. Consensus took a serious back seat with the inception of the internet. I can relate to the 'metal' dilemma which is why I like mylar ribbons the best.
JMO ... Pc123v’s syllabus and edginess issues are in the mid treble region between 2500 and 5000hz ... they are being created by excessive energy in that region ringing longer than normal ... this is referred to as Long or Extended RT60 or Decay times ... the note just keeps on ringing

Energy travelling up the wall collides with energy travelling along the ceiling at the wall/ceiling interface where the combined two energy in that region are summed together increasing the energy’s output in that region ... this extra energy just sustains the note longer than it should and the perception is Syllabus Edginess Fatigue and Irritation

You need to absorb and reduce that extra energy at the wall ceiling interface and the ringing goes down and along with it all the irritations

Simple test put on a set of head phones and if the syllabus is still there ... it’s your equipment

Pc123v has a very easy fix .. he has a dropped ceiling .. replace hard 2x2 or 2x4 hard tiles with two inches of Owens Corning OC703 or 4 to 6 pound Roxul batting ... this is what everybody uses for their first reflection and bass traps and would be a drop in replacement for the hard tile

First by replacing hard ceiling tiles you will reduce the bounce of the first reflection off the ceiling ... next you will be absorbing much of the energy that travels along the ceiling and collides at the wall/ceiling interface causing the extended ringing and a third side benefit is if there is a air gap between the dropped ceiling and the actual ceiling ... this will act as a bass trap
.
"The microscope analogy is a predetermination by the recording venue and therefore the effective original. Whatever it is is the playback goal. I don't see how that relates to this topic. I think you are misplacing subjectivity with communication."

Again, its all subjective, but it relates to the topic because regardless of how the sibilance occurs, people are going to want to try and fix it. (At least the people that are bothered by it. I have friends that don't mind it in the least). Personally, I don't think my example is a predetermination by the recording venue and therefore the effective original. The reason for that, is vocal sibilance is not a natural occurrence. Its a product of the recording/playback chain.

What speakers use mylar ribbons? I don't think I've ever heard one before. I tried Magnepans, but they were way too sibilant for me. lol.
You used the microscope analogy as a bigger than life product as it would relate to a recording. Being closer to the subject doesn't necessarily conclude with sibilance. In any case, ime it's been a lack of performance on the amp's part that has been bothersome to me as far as sibilance is concerned. If an amp isn't fast enough to negotiate the important consonants to life like realism, it's a poor design no matter what else it's good at imo.

I should say mylar on aluminum foil such as those on my Kappa 9s. Or the solid mylar domes on the Kef 105s.
"You used the microscope analogy as a bigger than life product as it would relate to a recording."

Now I get what you are saying. I didn't mean it like that. I was thinking in terms of distance or proximity. For example, when a voice is very closely miked, its kind of like having someone very close to you, talking directly into your ear. Its not natural, or normal even. Since you hear so much more detail, I thought a microscope was a good example.

"Being closer to the subject doesn't necessarily conclude with sibilance."

Your absolutely right. You don't have to get sibilance just because you are close. I do feel, however, that the chance of sibilance occurring does increase in situations of close proximity. But even then, results can vary. Different equipment, room, personal taste, etc.., will all play a part.

"In any case, ime it's been a lack of performance on the amp's part that has been bothersome to me as far as sibilance is concerned. If an amp isn't fast enough to negotiate the important consonants to life like realism, it's a poor design no matter what else it's good at imo."

At least you know where the problem lies. Sometimes its very difficult to pin down the source of the problem. It can be any component, not just the speakers.

"I should say mylar on aluminum foil such as those on my Kappa 9s. Or the solid mylar domes on the Kef 105s."

I thought you may be referring to those folded ribbon tweeters that some companies are now using. Martin Logan is probably the best example. The tweeters on your Kappa 9's look similar to the ribbon tweeters that Genesis used.
There's lots of issues other than amp specifics especially when vinyl is the source but once everything is in order, I really think it's the amp you then are actually listening to. It always seems to be recognizable through any other changes. At a certain level I think it becomes the weakest link. On a descending scale of importance, I place it at the top for the reasons I've stated.

I've seen the Kappa Emit type tweeters on other brands of the same era. Can't recall any names.
"08-31-14: Davehrab
JMO ... Pc123v’s syllabus and edginess issues are in the mid treble region between 2500 and 5000hz ... they are being created by excessive energy in that region ringing longer than normal ... this is referred to as Long or Extended RT60 or Decay times ... the note just keeps on ringing"

"Simple test put on a set of head phones and if the syllabus is still there ... it’s your equipment"

Unless you have actually heard the OP's system, I don't see how you can be so sure its a room issue. Also, the test you list isn't a bad idea, but it is incomplete. If you use headphones, you won't be able to hear the speakers, poweramp, cables and possibly the preamp (depends on the signal path to the headphone amp). If you really want to rule out the room, a much better way to do that is to try the system in a different room and see if the problem still remains. Its more work, but it won't cost anything.
Before I would invest in room treatment. I would borrow a speaker from a friend or maybe the dealer that you purchased the gear from and see if you still have the sssssibilance issue. Borrow a pair that is known to be on the mellower side (Sonus Faber, Spendor, etc.). Or you if that is not an option, see is you take your speakers to another system and see how it sounds. Either way, this might give you more insights on the cause. In my experience, the sibilance issues are more from the gear than from the room.