Treble harshness - interconnects as culprits?


I have good quality speakers, highest quality integrated amp,a high quality transparent/ very responsive dac attached to a sonos (via coax) which connects to my music library on a nas.

The system is very transparent and overall great ... Except:

I have recently observed some sibilance and high frequency/ treble harshness on mainly live female vocal recordings like 1960 Edith Piaf, but also on more recent recordings. Even at very low amp volume levels.

The only components of poor quality are my speaker cables and my radioshack analog RCA interconnects between dac and amp (only RCA input). Could the interconnect cause this? Or do I have bigger system compatibility issues?


The usual culprit in harshness is the source.
Most decent 'down from the source' are subtractive. If they have a bad thing it is usually not added to what comes in, rather it takes away a bit of something.
(IE: why I use a tube buffer between my DAC and pre, to not have such a pure HF passthrough, to cut the digital nasties in my system).
So I would say if you are getting treble harshness it is from your files on the computer. The DAC is probably just responding to the files, or the DAC is picking up EMI stuff from the computer
On the other hand, Do you use a powerline conditioner? (Mainly on the digital items) And is the connection USB, toslink, or RCA between the computer and DAC?
I would try a toslink, to cut the electrical connection between the computer and the rest of the stereo.
Then, try a small powerconditioner, like from Audio Advisor (where you can try it and if it does not work, return it within thiry days full refund, They send it free if over $200. so your only loss would be return shipping)
You could try different interconnects, or speaker cables, but I dont think that would alleviate your problem.
Additional thought: perhaps your computer is processing the files differently than before. I know I can accedentally reset something and not know it on my computer. Perhaps the way the files are being used has be changed?
Anyway, it might be a reason to check how your server is processing the files going to the DAC.
I would get rid of the RS interconnects anything would be better choose one. Try kimber PBJ. Any Kimber stuff is good.
Elizabeth makes some very good points and doing the things she suggested should all help.

Other considerations are that there is a very good possibility that the sibilance does exist in the recordings themselves and your system is simply showing you what is on those recordings. Also, different cables do sound different and some cables and certain combinations of cables (say interconnects/speaker cables or speaker cables/power cords) can sound more or less sibilant than others.

So being the somewhat frugal beast that I am, I would try different interconnects and/or speaker cables first (especially if I had them on hand). And if you don't have a good AC power conditioner in the system, I would get one... not only for better sound, but for protection against spikes and power surges.

The only culprit here is the power. You would need high quality power cords like a Transparent Audio Reference power link or a good Regenerator like a Pure power or a Monarchy. I have gone through this exact situation. Any attempt to cut down harshness through interconnect will only lead to coloration and softening of transients because the problem doesnt exists there and you are trying to forcibly cure it there. POWER POWER POWER !!!!
There was a thread on this the other day. Get rid of the Radio Shack ICs and get the free ones that come with your oldest and cheapest CD or DVD player. If it sounds worse you know that is the problem.. The other way to approach this is to buy a very high quality Cardas Golden eference IC and use those. That will almost certainly fix the problem but you will be out about $850 for a meter. Not the highest price in the world but not cheap. You should alsp get Dream Weaver Speaker Cables from Jen Labs I use the cheapest but the all copper braid is a great cable and the higher up you go the better. This will solve the problem but the price of admission here is fair considering all the labor but firmly up there.
Some good ideas so far, but one thing that has not been mentioned is jitter.

Mizuno - You said in the OP that your dac is being fed by the S/PDIF output from Sonos. Sonos' S/PDIF output has a high level of jitter. Jitter results in frequency modulation that is audible as harshness in the high frequencies, which is exactly what you are reporting. If your dac does not reclock, then you are probably hearing the results of jitter. What dac are you using?

what about the room (reflections), or the unforgiving nature of the integrated amp and /or speakers ?

i'm not saying it isn't a cable problem. the obvious solution is to try other cables.

you have not mentioned the brands you use for speaker or integrated amp.

perhaps a tube integrated in lieu of a ss ?

cables are less expensive, maybe, or as has been suggested , another dac, with a tube might be another thought.
asked this in your other thread on the same topic what speciifc equipment do you have? the other thread noted spendor speakers - what integrated and DAC are you driving these with? what speaker cables are you using?
move the speakers around.

The dac is a w4s dac1 with upgraded caps ( same as dac2) and the amp is the lfd ncse.

I indeed seem to mostly experience the harshness on older live recordings, rarely on more recent ones.

First with the dac break in the harshness arose , and little by little it seems to become less prOnounced. Am about 150h in the process.
Not sure if you're answering your own question or not with the comment you made above about the DAC breaking in "harshness arose .... seems to become less." - might want to contact W4S and see what they say about the breakin experience and possibly how their DAC "reacts" with the source you are feeding it with.
Do think, if nothing else, that you are short changing yourself in what music your are probably "not hearing or isn't being revealed" using the radioshack ICs and whatever comparable SCs you are using, as well as the quality of the cable between the "source" and the DAC.
Hi Mizuno

I kind of agree with Facten's statement.

"Do think, if nothing else, that you are short changing yourself in what music your are probably "not hearing or isn't being revealed" using the radioshack ICs and whatever comparable SCs you are using, as well as the quality of the cable between the "source" and the DAC"

I know the biggest change in sound I've heard other than moving speakers around and changing to quality components was changing stock ICs better quality ICs. I got good results when I swapped out the thin stock ICs that came with my cable box that I was using from my preamp to amp to MAC UltraSilver + ICs. I didn't spend an insane amount of $ on these ICs. I'm sure if you even went from the stock ICs to something from Blue Jeans Cable or Monoprice you would hear an improvement.