Hear sibilance on Krall, Famous Blue, D. Fagen?

Hi, Folks,
I have made some changes to my system that I am overall very happy with, but I'm noticing some "sibilance" or harshness to certain voices and I'm wondering if I'm simply hearing some things I hadn't heard before because my system's more resolving, or if there's a synergy problem that has given me a tipped up "presence region." So I want to know if you hear these things too:

1) Jennifer Warnes on Famous Blue Raincoat, first track, "First We Take Manhattan:" I'm hearing an edge to her vocals... sounds like some sort of processing.

2) Morph The Cat: Title track; Donald's massed voices on the verses. How do those (highly processed) vocals sound to you? Breathy? Harsh?

3) Diana Krall, "Let's Face The Music and Dance" from "When I Look In Your Eyes." Very closely miked, but do you hear harshness in some sibilant consonants?

Trying to figure out if this is the recording or my system! Thanks in advance!
Might be helpful to know whether this issue is source specific (i.e. CD, digital files, or vinyl only) or common to all sources.
I think its the metal tweeters on the new speakers you bought.
Much more on the digital side; not really noticing it very much on vinyl.

No metal dome tweeters anywhere near my rig! ;-)
Please don't take any offense since that is not my intention, but I'm afraid that you're hearing the limitations of your digital source components. I have tried for many years to eliminate such sounds from digital playback and unfortunately it's very hard and expensive to achieve. The distortions you describe are some of the typical shortcomings experienced when you compare analog to digital on high quality playback systems. I have spent more than I'd like to admit improving my digital sources and it still does not match the purity of high frequency reproduction (particularly a lack of sibilance) that I get from good LPs. I base this on several decades of experience in high end audio.
No offense taken!

I have the Jennifer Warnes "Famous Blue Raincoat" and Diana Krall,"When I Look In Your Eyes" CDs. Neither of the two tracks you mentioned have sibilance problems when played on my system.

I found this doing a search on the Web.

Music Hall cd25.2 CD player; power cord


As the owner of a Music Hall cd25.2 CD player, I read with interest Sam Tellig's review in the April, 2006 issue of Stereophile and Sallie Reynolds's review in the August, 2006 issue of The Absolute Sound.

In Ms. Reynold's review, the following sentence appears: "Then, on a tip from Roy Hall at Music Hall, I changed the power cord in the CD player to the Acoustic Zen Tsunami, and it instantly rewarded me with a wall of sound very like its name." In the Manufacturer Comments section of the same issue of The Absolute Sound, there is a note from Roy Hall in which he comments on both the Music Hall a25.2 integrated ampfilier and the cd 25.2 CD player as follows: "The power cords supplied with the units are not good enough. This will change in the future. If you really want to improve both of these units in all respects buy a good, heavy-guage power cord (preferably shielded). I don't think you need to buy an expensive one. Remember the golden rule of wire--'The more it costs, the worse it sounds.'"

Assuming that I, like Sallie, might hear an improvement with a new power cord for my cd25.2, and assuming that Roy Hall's advice about his own product is worthy of consideration (which I assume is the case), I'm wondering if you folks have a recommendation for a power cord that meets his criteria: (a) good, (b) heavy-guage, (c) shielded, (d) not expensive. It is hard for me to believe that given the mid-fi nature of my other equipment (Outlaw Audio RR2150 receiver, Monitor Audio Silver RS6 loudspeakers, etc.), I would want to spend more than, say, $100 on such a cord. (By the way, Ms. Reynolds notes that the Acoustic Zen Tsunami power cords sells for $350, which is sure to cause DUP to refill the cartridge in his poison pen.)




Early on I threw Jesse Cook’s Gravity [Narada 63037] at the CD25.2, listening closely to his solo run at the climax of "Mario Takes a Walk." I was struck by a clinical vibe coming off Cook’s acoustic guitar. He sounded a little thin, even cold. At the highest registers I thought I’d caught hints of sibilance. Was this coming from the recording itself or CD player?


When I first read your posted message I was thinking possibly the power cord and or the wall receptacle.
Yes, the receptacle can help control sibilance.
I would try a different power cord first. Then if that helps try a Hubbell Extra Heavy Duty Industrial Series HBL5262 (15 amp) or HBL5362 (20 amp) duplex receptacle.
This receptacle has non plated brass contacts and a non plated brass supporting back strap.
Hubbell PDF. See page 6.

For the duplex cover plate just a cheapo non breakable nylon plate. Leviton or Pass & Seymour.
Is it different vinyl vs. CD playback or same?
Rebbi, I don't have any of those recordings, but based on what Jim and Bill have said I would expect that the major contributor to the problem is the system rather than the recordings. Given that, and given that "jitter" (high frequency random or pseudo-random fluctuations in the timing of D/A conversion) is generally recognized as being a major and pervasive issue in digital audio, which can cause or contribute to sibilance, and given that jitter can be heavily influenced by the transport-to-DAC interface, a couple of experiments would seem to be in order (in addition to what Jim has suggested):

1)As an experiment, try temporarily putting a cheater plug (a 3-prong to 2-prong adapter, with the safety ground pin left unconnected) on the AC power plug of the DAC, and perhaps also on the AC power plug of the CD player you are using as a transport. That will break any ground loops between the two components, which can often be a significant contributor to jitter in a coaxial S/PDIF interface. The cheater plug on the DAC will also break any ground loops between the DAC and the preamp, which conceivably could also be a factor.

In saying this, btw, I'm assuming that you are using a 75 ohm coaxial cable, intended for digital applications, between the CD player/transport and the DAC. I see that your CD player/transport also provides a Toslink output, which would be immune to ground loop effects but has other downsides, including some that make it susceptible to jitter, which chances are result in its being the less desirable of the two interfaces.

2)If and as possible, try different cables between the CD player/transport and DAC, and in different lengths. It might even pay to try an analog RCA cable, although theoretically that is not ideal. What length will be optimal cannot be predicted with any certainty, as it depends on unspecified and unknown variables such as the risetimes and falltimes of the CDP's digital output signal. But odds are that either a very short length (less than 1 foot) or a fairly long length (5 or 6 feet or thereabouts) will stand the greatest chance of providing optimal results.

Hope that helps. Best regards,
-- Al
On Diana Kralls "Let's Face The Music and Dance" This song should sound very intimate and Diana's voice is supple and rich and really big and full it exudes a drinkable velvety smoothness without any harsh edges of any kind. (On my vinyl rig playing new 180 gram pressing)
It might be a good idea for the OP to list his system. Also, what were the changes?
(Zd, he has a system page).
For the hell of it, try playing the CD thru the Music Hall CD 25.2 CDP only. Your M1 may have a superior DAC and clock, but jitter may be introduced thru the path of the cable.
I'm suggesting a variation of Al's cable troubleshooting by going right to the source. Even though you own a middle of the road CDP, I've seen good reviews.
"09-04-15: Lowrider57
(Zd, he has a system page). "

I see that, but the last comments are several months old. If the OP made some recent changes to the system, I thought that there was a good chance he didn't update his system page. Also, unless I missed something, the OP hasn't told us what components were involved in the upgrade. Since the problems started after, I would begin by looking at the changes.
Thanks so much for your ever-helpful posts. I have a Signal Cable power cord on loan from a friend but hadn't yet tried it on the DAC because my stereo cabinet only has a puny hole for running cables out the back and I'm not sure the beefier cord's plug will fit. But now I'll have to give it a try.

Wow, thanks for all that research. Since I'm bypassing the CDP's internal DAC, I think I'll try a better cord on the DAC first, but I'd never seen Roy Hall's comments on the stock power cord, so that's very useful.

Yes, my system page isn't up to date. I've sold my Ref 3A De Capo's and I'm on a hunt for speakers that may be better suited to my new SET amp.
I am currently breaking in a new pair of speakers. I'm not getting more specific on make and model because this is from a small manufacturer and I am sensitive to not putting negative comments on the Internet that may have more to do with my ears and system than the product itself. Also, they're not fully broken in yet and I'm still futzing around with the positioning.
I'd never heard this sibilance before and I'm trying to figure out if it's coming from the speakers or somewhere else in the system. Or maybe that's just how those tracks were recorded.

Also, FWIW, the Warnes FBR is the Cisco gold 24th Anniversary CD with the extra tracks. On Steve Hoffman's forums, some seem to love this version and some find the remastering a little harsh and sibilant! ;-)

Ironically, I don't particularly care for the music on either the Warnes or the Krall, but since they're audiophile warhorses I thought they should sound good. :-P
Rebbi, I notice the AN Kit one uses a 5U4G rectifier. I have 5 pieces in my system that use this tube, and I have done some fairly extensive tube rolling with this rectifier. Some 5U4GBs, especially, can give me excessive sibilance in my system. It may well be that your current speakers are more resolving than the deCapos, and now you are hearing the sibilance though it may not specifically be caused by that speaker. What rectifier are you using in your AN? It may be possible to mitigate the problem by a change in that tube.
"I am currently breaking in a new pair of speakers. I'm not getting more specific on make and model because this is from a small manufacturer and I am sensitive to not putting negative comments on the Internet that may have more to do with my ears and system than the product itself. Also, they're not fully broken in yet and I'm still futzing around with the positioning."

I understand your desire to not post negative comments on the speaker. But setup issues are not negative comments. Everyone has occasional issues setting their equipment up, and every piece of audio equipment ever made is prone to having some issues. If anything, its helpful to do this, because if there is an issue, someone else will have the same problem. If you find a solution and share it, that info will probably help someone in the future.
I would try the Signal Cable power cord on the Music Hall cd25.2 CDP first, even if you are using it as a transport only.

What are you using for a digital cable from the Music Hall cd25.2 to the DAC? I assume it is at least 1.5 meters long.
If subtle and only occurs in 2-3 recordings out of many, its most likely some artifact of the recording, either natural in the voices recorded and/or artificial due to defects or dirt on the record or CD. Most commercial recordings are not perfect and unpleasant artifacts can sneak in on occasion for sure.

How do cymbals and violins sound?

Sibilance is a manner of articulation of fricative and affricate consonants, made by directing a stream of air with the tongue towards the sharp edge of the teeth, which are held close together; a consonant that uses sibilance may be called a sibilant, or a strident.


I hadn't listened to Warnes' "Famous Blue Raincoat" for a while So I did so today as well Krall's, "When I look In Your Eyes".

As for "Famous Blue Raincoat", "First We Take Manhattan", Warnes voice sounds smooth and warm. No edginess heard on my cd. My CD was made in 1991 under the "Private Music inc." label distributed by BMG.

Krall's "When I Look In Your Eyes", "Let's Face The Music And Dance". On that track in particular Krall drags out some of the words like it's her last breath. Especially the words, dance, music, romance, and chance. I guess I just never noticed it before. I think the mike used and the closeness to her mouth with the way see pronounced her words brings out the sss and zzzs but in no way, at least on my system, is her voice irritating or the sibilance over exaggerated. Because sibilance was what I focusing on while listening to the CD I found myself listening to her every word, yes, s and zs, but again not exaggerated and not irritating to listen to. I think she deliberately wanted the song to sound the way it does. Listen to the track again and see if she doesn't stretch, lengthen, certain words out. Especially the words dance, music, romance, and chance.
Let's Face The Music And Dance video.

I am not sure you won’t find a hint of sibilance in any female voice if closely listening to every word spoken with the letter sound of s or z in it. The question is are the "sibilance" exaggerated in the recording to the point where they are irritating to the listener or is the over exaggeration of "sibilance" caused by the audio system?

I ran across an old CD I use to take with me when auditioning audio equipment at a B&M audio dealerships.
The CD is by Alison Krauss, "Now That I've Found You".
Krauss' voice should sound sweet, not harsh or edgy.
That was not the case on some digital equipment or speakers I listened to.

Thank you, and very interesting, indeed!

I listened to the track again today. All is well until she gets to the word "soon [we'll be without the moon…]." The letter "S" in the word "soon" is very strident. I'm not sure why.
Sibilence usually comes into play most naturally with the letter S in vocals. Depending on amounts and frequency of occurrence could be natural or a form of distortion somewhere in the recording and or playback chain.

All is well until she gets to the word "soon [we'll be without the moon…]." The letter "S" in the word "soon" is very strident.
09-04-15: Rebbi
She sings the phase twice in the song. Neither passage of the words "soooon, we'll be without the moon", sounds hard or harsh to me.

I think you need to listen to the rest of the CD a few times and stop concentrating so much on track #1. You also probably need to put more hours on the new speakers.

You never did say what you are using for a digital cable from the transport to the dac, and the length of the cable.
Hello Rebbi. I noticed mention of a cheater plug. Perhaps you can go a step more. Try reversing the ac plugs orientation on your cd player. If your system is becoming more refined it becomes possible to notice faults previously masked. If reversing the orientation of the ac plug improves this CD it means all CD's will now sound better. The other thing I would check on is the phase. Reverse the phase if you have a switch on your preamp or cd player. If no swith then simply reverse the red and black power cables to your speakers. Unfortunately recordings are mixed as to phase and being sensitive to it I wouldn't be without a phase reverse switch such as I have on my Spectral preamp. Good luck and please advise. Pete
Hi, Brownsfan,
The Kit 1 does use a 5U4G rectifier as standard, but my rectifier tube and the 300B's were backordered when my kit shipped, and when the tubes came Brian Smith was nice enough to substitute a 274 B tube as a substitute, which does sound better than the stock 5U4G (which I've also had a chance to try). It doesn't mean, though, that a better 5U4G wouldn't help. Thanks for the tip.
I had two Signal Cable power cords and found a way to thread them backwards into the cabinet and connect them to both the DAC and the CD player I'm using as a transport. I believe that the system sounds better - more solid bass, especially, and "cleaner" overall - but the harshness is still there.
I'm beginning to think the speakers need more break in, but we'll see and I'll try some of the other suggestions here and report back.