Getting rid of harsh, shrill treble

I cannot play my classical cd's at a volume where the midrange and bass come through without harsh, shrill treble, especially the violins. I have bookshelf speakers on stands and subwoofer in a small 120 sq. ft. room. I have no treble control on my pre-amp. I tried a Taddeo passive Digital Antidote II between my CD player and pre-amp with minimal result. I have a solid state integrated amp, will switching to a tube integrated amp cure this problem or is it my speakers?
Post removed 
I agree with Tvad that more information would be helpful and I would add that harshness can also be due to, among other things, cables, plugs, dirty contacts, power line issues, RFI, interaction between your components, need for vibration control, etc. My own experience has been that it could well be a combination of a few or even many of these factors - every one of which I have experienced at one time or another myself. I would suggest an approach where you deal with these issues one at a time in order to see what helps or hurts in your system.
Agreed with Tvad. There are too many unknown variables to answer your question. It could be the room, speakers, speaker setup, CD player or amplification. A complete list of all system components and a description of the room are needed in order to help folks make recommendations.


Please describe your system, including cables
It's probably the room and listener placement (sitting too near the rear wall seems to add harshness along with the bass boost).
As others have responded, changes are system dependant..
however, I had great success using a JPS Labs digital cord powering my CD player and it greatly reduced brightness and sibilance..
Your MD 308 amp is known for a balanced presentation and is probably not the source of the harshness and shrillness (unless it hasn't been broken in for long enough). Your Rega Jupiter is probably also not the problem. Per your question, switching to a tube amp could smooth the highs somewhat, but I suspect the better answer would involve a combination of different speakers and some room treatment.

Alternatively, a cheap and dirty fix would be to buy an equalizer and use it to reduce the treble energy. This is pretty sure to work, but you have to accept the compromise in signal quality that would be incurred.
Unless you have a harsh component (s)'s probably room acoustics as others have mentioned. That said, I find good violin recordings (at least on cd) far and few between.


I considered suggesting the equalizer but am afraid everyone will think I am a Behringer salesman! But, since Jameswei raised the subject, I think that you should spring for a Behringer DEQ2496...about $350 with mic and cable. The analyser function will tell you what your system is doing, and help fix it as much as possible with room treatments and such. Then, when all else fails, use the equalizer function. Finally, don't assume there will be any audible signal quality degradation. Only your own ears can inform you about this.
I was thinking of purchasing a new Jolida JD1000RC 100 wpc all tube integrated amp, to replace the solid state MD-308, and hopefully alleviate this problem with violins. Your suggestion is probably what I need since I do not have perfect pitch, and I might avoid the sales process. My Jamo D-830 speakers have excellent depth to the soundstage, and midrange/bass notes come through like in the concert hall. It is the violins that are just too loud, overpowering the rest of the instruments. A treble control of some kind is probably what I need. If the Jolida has a treble control on the pre-amp section I will give it a try. I suspect it does not, based on the photos I have seen of it. Thanks for your help, I will have too begin experimenting.
Classical_fred just nailed the primary weakness of the redbook CD format! Bowed violins and violas are the ultimate test for a quality CD player. Even the best CD players will give some minor digital "glare, brightness, or harshness" on these instruments. This is inherent in the digitizing an analog conversion process of redbook CD's.
Post removed 
It is your speakers. The highest fundamental note on the violin is like 2000 Hz so most of the problem is likely in the mid range.Two way speakers are awesome but it is still demanding of a 6.5" driver to cover up to 2.5 Khz. The rigid magnesium cone will likely have high resonance out of band (ringing). Normally a very steep cross over can help reduce this out of band ringing but you may notice the ringing on certain resonant but high pitched instruments like violins. Just a hunch.
Post removed 
I second the Behringer solution. Done in the digital domain, and taylored to your very room (by your own ears). Plus I agree with other who say that violin recordings are tough in general. Even in analogue.
I had harsh treble from my Polks, what I did to the speakers was put stick on felt pads around the tweeter or use those circles you put under furniture. Stick them around the tweeter to absorb unwanted brightness. This might tame some high frequency sibilence.
Post removed 
>>Even the best CD players will give some minor digital "glare, brightness, or harshness" on these instruments. This is inherent in the digitizing an analog conversion process of redbook CD's.<<

Absolutely untrue. There are many players, some at "modest" price points, that do not display said characteristics.
Agree with Tvad on this point. However it's more difficult to find a CDP with a glare-free yet detailed treble, than it is to find components that "resolve" the problem by rolling off the highs.
This is one of my best digital recordings of violin when played back on my system.... judged on tone.

The problem may be related to the AC supply. An isolation transformer for the CD player (eBay) would be a cheap way to find out. 125 to 500 VA would be a reasonable size. Topaz and Xentek are good names.
the room and the speakers are generally the guilty party
Hello Tvad,
I am not an electrical engineer! How can I find out where my loudspeakers have impedance dips to prevent the same problem with a new tube amp? What is an impedance dip? Should I try replacing my speakers first and keep my amp? I have been reading reviews on von Schweikert VR1's; B&W CM1's; Joseph rm7 si Signature MK2's; Linbrook Sig Monitor's; Green Mountain Audio Europa's; and the Micro Walsh's 35 inches tall? Thanks for your time.
Post removed 
An SS amp is relatively unaffected by speaker impedance compared to tubes.
Your speakers are a tough load for a tube amp. I'd prefer 8 ohm nominal speakers with tubes. In any case, you are talking band aid solutions....the problem is your speakers....even the room acoustics should not make violins sound harsh and shrill. This is a well known problem for lightweight rigid drivers with small motors.

As you probably won't take this one piece of advice to heart and are probably on a road to spending $1000's of dollars on band-aids.....I beg you to spend a few minutes and google "magnesium cone ringing problems"....see for yourself....don't take my advice but form your own opinion based on well known and published issues with lightweight rigid cones.
I agree with Shadorne that the problem is most likely in the speakers. It may be caused by the metal cone (about which he knows more than I do), it may be a radiation patten discontinuity in the crossover region (my theory), it may be inadequate crossover design (an easy catch-all category), or it may be all of the above.

Speakers have a harder task than electronics, and there's more that can (and generally does) go wrong there as compared to the rest of the chain.

Wow. I tend to think that the harshness or the shrillness is the actual sound that was captured in the performance or in that recording process. Not all recorded music is soothing or smooth. An unwelcome quality of sound is appropriate depending upon the listener I would imagine. Having a solid state amplifier at 15 watts per channel with 2-way bookshelf speakers on stands in a similarly small listening room I too experience "harsh, shrill treble" at times but it appears to be more of a source problem than a system failure. Some CD recordings of the same music on different CD's sound better than others. Some CD's just sound bad no matter where you play them. Saying that, I do check connections when I hear unexpected harshness and will use a contact cleaner every few months (Kontakt) on cables and speaker connections and on AC plugs as well. This appears to smooth the contact prone harshness. I also clean the CD's when necessary and some shrillness or harshness does go away on some discs. I agree with other responses that suggest speakers have a lot to do with what you will actually hear especially in two-way configurations with a cross over and how efficient those speakers are with that particular amplifier. I would take that CD with the objectionable violin passage to my local stereo dealer and hear it on their house McIntosh and Martin Logan system and compare it to what I've got. It might be just as shrill. Or, I would purchase the same CD and see if the newer recording sounds better than the older, harsher CD. That fix is pretty cheap compared to other options. Just a thought.
also, your md 308 is no harsh amp.
Thanks to all,
I will be speaking with John Strohbeen at Walsh Ohm this week. Maybe he can put me back in the concert hall, so to speak.
Post removed 
I have been reading about the Magenta ade-24. It is a device specifically designed to reduce this problem. It is an analog device that would go between the CD player and the preamp. For $250 it sounds like it would be well worth it to try it. That's a lot cheaper than most cables people will suggest.

You didn't mention if you play LPs. If you do, do you have the same problem?

Here is a review of the Magenta unit:
What preamp do you have?

I have heard this symptom before many times, including in my own system.

A tube preamp worked wonders for me, and many other people as can be attested to on this forum. There are many flavours of tube preamps, from very neutral ones (similar to SS), to very coloured ones (warm).

It would be an easy test to borrow and swap in a tube preamp and see what you think of the sound.

I can't recommend a tube preamp enough to remove shrillness/brightness, and to get great sound in general!

You might want to consider Dakiom Feedback Stabilizers.
{Each of the above words links to a different Audiogon review.}
Got a pair of Ohm Walsh Micro Tall's connected to a Jolida JD100RC integrated amp. I am in the concert hall!!:) Thanks for all your suggestions.
Post removed 
I think Rodargent has a very good point. The treble on some CDs is extremely shrill and after all this time I still think, what the hell's wrong with my stereo and get pretty disappointed with the sound. Then I put on a well recorded CD and ahhhhhh.... So there are Cds that for me at least are almost unlistenable. Unfortunately I like the music on some of those bad sounding CDs.
So a lot of this problem can be software based. Of course, if the treble is always harsh then you probably have a hardware problem. A bad CD on such a system can leave one seeking shelter and give you a negative attitude about audio in general.
Reasons IMO some CDs sound bad is the technology used to record them in the first place. Recordings made when tubes were just going out and being replaced by early solid state can be harsh. Also early DDD digital recording can sound nasty but with no tape hiss:^). Authentic classical instruments (which I like a lot) recorded either way can sound extra harsh.
Classicalfred, have you noticed some of these problems with recordings of specific eras? Also you might want to audition some tube buffer stages, preamps or CDPs with tube output stages and/or warmer cabling.
Digital sources have been a major contributor to this problem in my systems as well. A nearly jitter-free digital source can be a revelation. I don't know if your source can accept, or is worth adding the newest generation Audiocom Superclock 4, but you may want to consider it. Steve Nugent at Empirical Audio recently installed one in my transport. Given the list price of the stock unit you'd think it'd been engineered to the max - well, not quite. Good digital is apparently very hard to achieve, and the price tag alone is no measure.
In another thread these speakers were recommended to me. I have not purchased them yet, but am auditioning them for 120 days to hear if I like them. So far so good.
Post removed 
I have a Sunfire Super Junior sub placed between and slightly to the right of the Ohm's. I can't tell you how warm these speakers are getting as they break in. It is an incredible deep three dimensional soundstage, with plenty of bass, and warm non-harsh treble. You have to understand I have a 13'L x 13'W x 8'H listening room. This sound is the case, even on my very old CD's such as EMI label, Otto Klemperer discs of Wagner Overtures, Brahms Symphonies, etc. Archiv, with Reinhard Goebel and Musica Antiqua Koln used to be so harsh in treble I had to turn the volume way below realistic levels. I agree with Jb0194 that my CD's are the problem, but with different speakers and a tube integrated amp I have solved at least 50% of the problem. I had what is known as the magnesium midrange/bass cone ringing problem. If you don't believe me just Google "Magnesium cone ringing" and you will see. Many people, not all, experience this with both Jamo and B & W bookshelf loudspeakers. The Ohm Walsh talls use a polymer coated midrange/bass cone and tweeter. B&W uses an aluminum tweeter and Jamo uses a magnesium midrange/bass cone, making for harsh/shrill treble. I must admit that the Ohm's are not as detailed as my Jamo's or B&W's were. This is especially true on complicated orchestral passages where the entire orchestra is playing; but the deep three dimensional sound stage, liquid midrange, and warm treble are what I enjoy listening. My 26 year old son, a physics undergrad major, and masters in computer science and engineering says I am out of my mind and that I imagine a difference in the sound, however, I hear it loud and clear. I have forgotten my equipment now and am enjoying my music collection. The only equipment I still might replace are my speaker cables (I need an 8' run for each). What in your opinion is a "warm" speaker cable brand I might look into?
Post removed 
Thanks for your cable suggestions,
Have you listened to Jordi Savall and Hesperion XX on the
AliaVox label. It is a French label. "The Medieval Fiddle" ; "Orient & Occident"; and his 18th century recordings have incredible violin, warm laid back, yet detailed and clean, no shrill/harsh treble. Compare these recordings to Archiv digital like Reinhard Goebel and Musica Antiqua Koln, and the difference is like night and day. I have subjectively concluded that 50% of this harsh/shrill treble problem lies with equipment. The other half is one's source material. I only buy the expensive digital remasters anymore. The best classical ones can be found at
Classical fred

No, I have not listened to those. I will do some internet digging today in search of those recording...thanks for the heads up.

Someone pointed out this cd as a very good violin recording...I'm going to give it a listen.

I spent $127 on a Taddeo device that goes between my Jupitor CD player and my tube integrated amp. The harsh, shrill treble is still there. Do you think this Magenta thing really works? Have you tried one in your system? I logged onto the Magenta site and read the Knutson review, apparently Stereophile gave it a good review as well. I don't want to drop another $250 into my playback system with little or no results. I am not buying anymore CD's unless they are audiophile quality. I think I am beginning to believe that the source is way more important than the playback equipment. The problem is that there is such a small selection of classical orchestral works in the audiophile quality CD market, I am talking about JVC xrcd's and Mobile Fidelity, etc. The only online stores that I have been able to find are Acoustic Sounds and Audiophileresource. Do you know of any other sites that sell classical audiophile CD's?
Try these...
I am running Walsh 5 Series 3 loudspeakers. The one thing I changed that finally tamed the upper octave like nothing else was switching to, get this, solid core .9999 silver wire, teflon insulated. I've always thought cable guys were kooks - but this cable does violin partials, cymbals and everything else above 10khz just right. I'm using a 12 foot run, which round trip (24') has a DC resistance of 0.12 Ohms (measured). Really, try it: you will be amazed ay how it eliminated high frequency hash.
mamboni, What is the brand of cable? How much did they cost?
Thanks for the info. Have you purchased any of the Blue Line CD's from I was wondering if they sound as good as xrcd24's.
I'm not sure if the last post "stuck" so here it is again:

$3.84 per foot of 18 ga teflon-coated .9999 silver wire for purchases of 50-99 feet at: