"While I'm at it, are there other recordings, say, in the female singer/songwriter genre with inherently excessive sibilance?"
The short answer is "yes" I believe.
Sibilence can be a natural phenomenon that gets captured in the recording.
It can also be artificially introduced during playback, in particular during vinyl playback when say a stylus is worn and/or when a cartridge is misaligned.
Otherwise, based on my own experience, properly functioning playback equipment of relatively good quality should not typically introduce additional sibilance artificially.
You're likely simply hearing more resolution from your system, only uncovering something that was already there. You need to look at your system as to cause.
And yes, I agree, sibilance, particularly the artificially created kind, is extremely annoying. When it occurs, I can no longer listen until the cause is corrected.
Almost forgot, the sibilance could also be partially due to lack of burn in, settling time on new AC lines, I've found a lack of refinement in newly installed lines. I could also be in the recording, you'll have to play a lot more cds in order to determine recording or system at fault.
Thank you gentlemen. I'll stick with the current arrangement for awhile. Starts me thinking about these new power lines. I've seen some pretty ridiculous threads on burn-in (volume knobs??) so I won't even go there...for now. Really...what's the current literature say about that?
Sibilance due to settling time on new AC lines is just as ridiculous as burning in volume knobs so take what you read with a grain of salt.
Given the factors above are attended to, I have found better digital analyzing or decoding, eliminates much of the after edge from voices.
At times it can be difficult to tell if it's entirely the recording, the artist's enounciation, or the replay gear itself.
Reba mcEntire's voice is one of the best on the planet, superior range, emmotive, and evocative. however many of her recordings don't seem to be done with better audio replay gear in mind. Alan Jackson is in the same camp, production wise.
I feel the producer of the album is largely responsible too for artifacts in it's content. though keep in mind whose audience these recordings are targeted for as to the why of it. It wasn't long ago that some genres were mixed in such a way as to be replayed, primarily on a single speaker car radio... or just boom boxes. R&B, Rock, Blues, Pop, etc.
Bluegrass & Folk, for instance is not far removed from being tilted more towards a content oriented sector. Today that same group of devotees are older and consequently possess better replay devices. Add in further refinements in electronic recording gear, and today's 'grass by and large, sounds excellent regardless the level of gear.
Top tier artists also usually get better studio efforts... though not always.
If you pay attention to the producer of the great sounding albums more so than the artists, you'll find you amass a better level of quality recordins in your library.
Annoying sibilance is most likely systemic...not break in and such.
Do you have anything (power conditioner) between the 'box' and your system? I didn't see any reference to one.
Check the wiring to make sure that you have everything wired correctly, and that you're getting 120V from the wall, and that it's clean power.
This is an all day project, one best done with a step by step process, committed to paper beforehand. When you come up on the problem,(polarity, whatever) you'll join the 'flat forehead' society which I founded many years ago.
My oldest rule of audio...."If something sounds wrong, something IS wrong..."
Don't try to rationalize or make excuses. If it sounds wrong it IS wrong...you just have to find out what that wrong thing is.
."If something sounds wrong, something IS wrong..."
Also I like to follow "if it ain't broke, then don't fix it".
Most, if not all, Pat Barber recordings are sibilant. She is sibilant even live. Don't worry about it. Never tune your entire system to a specific recording.
Sibilance is nasty. The higher the resolution of your system, the worse it is when it comes to sibilance. The only way to deal with it is to try to have your system render it in the most natural way. Source components, cables, acoustic treatment, power conditioning all can change it. The most difficult part is taming sibilance if you have metal dome tweeters. But it is still possible.
I found that cables do affect sibilance. You can not get rid of it completely, but you can change its signature and make it less annoying. I found that with Acoustic Zen Silver Ref II interconnects and Satori Shotgun speaker cables, the level of sibilance in my system was high and it was annoying becuase it had this artificial feel to it. I changed the cables to Purist Audio 20th Anniversary Aqueous and the sibilance sounds much more natural. The system still reproduces sibilance because it is on the recording. But how it reproduces it is a totally different matter. It is much more tollerable now and does not feel like a razor blade on your ear drum.
But essentially, when you bring your system to a certain level of resolution, there is no getting rid of faults in the recordings. It just doesn't work that way.
Some recordings with excess sibilance that I can think of is "Hell Freezes Over" by Eagles, "All for You" by Diana Krall. Louis Armstrong sounds sibilant on most of the recordings. Some of the Sinatra remasters.
Just realize that if it's on the recording, you will hear it.
Sibilance drives me nuts, I can't stand it. For me it's one of the worst qualities in audio. Unfortunately, if it's on the CD anything in the chain can make it worse. It's one of the qualities I check first in any auditioning, be it a cable, component, outlet, whatever. If it makes sibilance worse; end of story for me. No other qualities can compensate.
Sibliance on cd can be from an unbroken player. I have experienced it. My X03SE was Sibliance City for 500 hours. Now, pure bliss.
Check the absolute polarity of your ac to start.
Ensure you have isolation & conditioning for your CD player.
Dedicated lines do nothing for those items.
Sibilance, to me is the most annoying of virtually all system flaws. I remember my first foray into High End audio was disappointing almost entirely, because there was virtually no female singer who didn't sizzzzzle into the mic, or so I thought.
Extended HF, with no regard to interconnects, speaker cables, GOOD solid state, (which back then was an oxymoron), a cart for the table which could actually track correctly. That sibilance unearthed a vast multitude of problems.
"What's New", by Linda Ronstat was such a dissapointment for a long time because of this. The music, I loved, the rendition of her voice, not so much.
They obviously peaked her voice in the upper ranges; why, to give it more 'presence' I suppose.
There is a device which produces 'tube like' distortions, known as, and I'm no doubt wrong on this, "Aphex Aural Exciter", which introduces tube like distortions onto the recordings. Many female vocalists, Barbara Streisand being, at least at one time, the most visible, LOVE this effect.
In designing some speakers, one of my principal goals was to have NO SIBILANCE ADDED. Sure some recordings sound that way, but a speaker with just a few db of spike in the upper regions, and in the wrong bandwidth, can send most of us running from the room. Again, and I've said it before, a good theology for speaker designers, could be "The best tweeter I ever heard, I didn't."
This should be viewed as, HF's sound electrostatic, not 'dome'.
I'd personally rather have a slight roll off than that nails on the chalkboard sibilance.
"I'll talk, I'll talk, God, please make them stopppp!!!!!!"
To add some perspective to my initial inquiry, I use a Shunyata Hydra 4(Shunyata Taipan Helix Alpha 20a power cord to the wall) for my CDP (Cambridge Audio 840C), pre (Belles 28A), and tuner. My amp is a Spectron Musician SE MK2, plugged straight into the wall; speakers are Von Schweikert 4SRs (version 1), rear tweeters turned all the way up. I did find that changing the IC cords from RCA to XLR between the pre and amp made a slight reduction in sibilance. Over the last couple of years Ive added a number of power conditioning tweaks, piece by piece, in and around the system...and I really need to do a little controlled experimentation to identify what they do/dont do. The tweaks include two Blue Circle Noise Hounds and a PS Audio Noise Harvester plugged into adjacent outlets. Any thing jump out?
Sibilance is usually in the recording and is a characteristic of microphones, some worse than others.
Actually sibilance is a REAL microphone artifact which is really on the recording. Eliminating it is best done by prevention. After that any strategy which limits it is doing so by smearing or attenuating the signal. This can be more pleasant to listen to but not because it's "correcting" the signal. Choosing cables or anything else which universally eliminates it may not always be a good thing. Tube based systems exhibit less sibilance than S.S. and the reason for that was the subject of a lively debate sometime ago in a TAS roundtable discussion. It was postulated ( but without uniform agreement) that tubes might gently smear the signal which is what makes them so " musical". My advice is to buy better recordings and to have tubes somewhere in the preamp or output stage of a cd player to gently minimize the remainder.
Without any scientific data to support this, I would say that, while I agree that sibilance is a real artifact, that it's not limited to simply microphones. The reason I question this is, why does it manifest primarily and while not exclusively, at least mostly in vocal recordings.
Massed strings, which because of the focus of thier collective bandwith, would seem to be very prone to this same effect, yet I don't find it in the same amounts.
That, plus as I listen to the remakes of Winston Ma's works, recordings which sound so unbelieveably sibilant in thier original forms, sound extraordinarily less so after he performs his 'magic'. Winston told me personally, that his process is one of (of course many more things than this and I am simplifying) removing layer after layer of noise within the recording.
The harmonics of say a female voice, an octave, two, and three above the dominant in that female voice reside in the 1khz, 2kz, 4khz frequency bandwidth. This, not too coincidentally is spread over the range of many mid to HF driver crossovers.
With time and phase 'smear' in this region, coupled with great amounts of noise in SOME recordings the result is a heightened distortion level.
As to tubes smearing this information, I don't think that's it. Tubes, by most, even solid state designers are by consensus thought to have better low level resolution. That greater resolution may simply give more information over the entire spectrum allowing for a fuller more complete therefore less sibilant sound.
I offer up the one theory, crossover issues in dynamics, as one thought after living with the Sound Labs for quite a while and not having anywhere near the same level of sibilance introduced. Also, the Quads, and even the Maggies full panel units. None of these panels, to my ear share in these sibiant issues to nearly the same degree.
This group of theories has, again, no proof offered, and may be completely wrong. But given hundreds of hours, make that thousands, of listening, it seems that some or all of these may contribute to the annoying artificacts we call sibilance.
Sibilance is "always" much more obvious when the system is not well set up overall, including AC conditioning, however-even in a perfectly set up system if the disc played is not in correct phase sibilance will be an issue. This is the reason I would no longer consider a system where I could not change the phase in the source(CD plyer) or preamp, preferably the pre.
Since records have the same phase problems I have a Spectral preamp which provides phase switching for any source-and does so in a completely transparent manner.
This phase problem will continue to be a factor for downloaded music so a great preamp with this feature will be worthwhile for a very long time to come for serious listeners-imho.
Lrsky - Yes I don't think it purely a microphone artifact.I don't know if it's magic but lots of people use de- essers to limit sibilance during the recording process. Psacanli - Unfortunately it's common that people don't pay attention to phase during the recording process. I would not say ,however, that sibilance is always more obvious in improperly set up systems unless you are defining "properly set up" as hearing less sibilance exclusively. In fact, I can imagine cases where just the opposite is true. If an engineer has not made an attempt to minimize it and it ends up 'on the disc' a system which uniformly reduces your hearing it is robbing you of detail which would not be considered a "properly set up system" for someone who values detail above " musicality"
Nice post. I'd agree that if you have an excellent system then a small portion of your collection will have a little too much sibilance (that is because not all studios are equipped with decent gear - many speakers have a midrange scoop for example to make them sound pleasant and laid back - even in studios)
In retrospect most of my upgrades, were to reduce sibilance!
Power cords were the biggest cure for me, my elrods cant live/listen without them!
Also ceraballs under my phonostage really helped, I will add more under my amps when funds allow.
I have a nordost shiva on my power amp (soon to be replaced), if I swap this with an Elrod any remaining sibilance is gone.
Sibilance in recording is also a function of the singer's mic technique. If you see a singer who looks like they're about to swallow the mic, there's a good chance that you're looking at a singer who'll make sibilant recordings. I've hear the before/after effect of moving a mic away from a singer's mouth and it can be quite ssssssignificant.
Mdrummer01 - I had the same problem on Barber and many other recordings (my system is very revealing). I changed tweeter's in-series cap from $10 variety to $100 variety and most of sibilants disappeared. Amplifier distortions also convert to sibilants - my previous SS was "brassy" and less clean. Cheaper tweeters might have small resonances in 8-11kHz range where sibilants are.
Audphile1 - I also use Acoustic Zen cables, Satori Shotgun and Absolute IC.
I have zero tolerance for artificially produced sibilance in my system.
In almost all instances I've had sibilance issues over the years, it was related to either poorly configured phono setup or worn stylii on cartridges (these do need to be replaced periodically, remember, for optimal performance).
If its in the recording, then it is what it is. It will be there on a good system regardless of whether source is phono, digital or whatever and that's the way it should be.