I am a music lover who has appreciated good quality two-channel audio for over 30 years. While not a technical expert, I have some familiarity with the concepts and equipment involved. I listen to a broad range of classical music (90%) and various other stuff like jazz (10%).

I recently revised my system by replacing vintage SAE amplicication with new ARC gear, as detailed below. This has provided wonderful results overall, with clear detailed and musical sound on a broad range of the music I listen to. I am generally very pleased with these results.

However, one thing that is a bit of an annoyance is that on vocals (mostly female) I now hear a definite and pronounced sibilance that seems to be over-emphasized. This does not appear to be related to any overall edginess or harshness in the system, as other music sounds quite natural and smooth, including higher frequency stuff like violins and piccolos.

In reviewing some previous threads on this subject, I did not get a very clear picture of this issue: in particular, it seemed that a number of observers were suggesting that this type of sibilance is caused by problems in the recording process and might even be expected as natural with improved playback system quality.

This explanation seems strange to me, as I am experiencing this phenomenon with a considerable variety of source material, including many recordings where there would not be close-miking of singers.

I would very much appreciate any advice or observations that might help me better understand this problem of sibilance, and possible approaches for improving the situation.


ARC CD-1 player
ARC LS 25 Mk. II preamp
ARC 150.2 amp
KEF 105.2 speakers
Cardas cross ICs (xlr)
heavy-gauge stranded copper speaker cables
Powerpack II conditioner
Room: 14'w/20'l/10'h wood panneled with carpeting

Without changing speakers or their placement, I have lost any concern about sibilance problems. I guess I would say that ac filtering, a quality frontend, and a good stylus cleaner have done the job.
Have you tried cleaning the cable contacts & than applying them with Walker SST or similar (Mapleshade SilClear)? This has worked very well in my system which has a tendency to sound bright on some recordings before.
If your overall playback experience is OK, then it is the mic technique used by some vocalist you enjoy. Most vocalist I work with have some adjustments to make as I do not let them "eat" the mike "as seen on TV!!!". I use a double layered 5" round pop filter on everyone. This keeps them back from the capsule to eliminate this problem. I also do not use EQ or reverb as I do not fix what is not broken. Some vocalist will drive the reverb units into overload, also causing this problem. A great singer recorded naturally is marvelous.

I love Josh Groban, but his DVD has numerous vocal pops and "s" sounds which should never happen at his level of engineering assistance and gear expense. The problem is in a live recording you only get one chance. It also helps if you explain to the vocalist why you are asking them to do these is to make them sound the best they can sound. It is not to be mean. Once they listen to what I do they understand.

We are to embark upon a great project of recording a weekly Southern Gospel Radio Show which will air nationally, but we will also make CD recordings of each show avaialble for purchase in 16 bit wav cd redbook format.

For radio MP3 quality would most likely be good enough, but I just can't go there engineering wise. All those years to get better than "cassette quality", only to take a step backwards?

If I ever get funding I will buy Tascam's tape based DSD recorder. I would love to offer this program in 2-channel DSD if we could afford it. I just saw a $120 DVD/SACD/CD player from Sony. It may not be John Atkinson's component of the year, but certainly affordable by just about anyone. The future awaits.

Jim Tavegia