Solving sibilance, brightness problems in a high-end audio system

Koscso Ferenc
3 min readAug 20, 2021

I follow a Facebook post with great interest in solving “sibilance” problems in a high-end audio system.

Generally speaking, these problems can not be solved purely with random component changes or by social media interactions. Most of the modern recordings have sibilance as the masters are compressed like hell. It does not matter if it is digital or “analogue” (analogue has been digitally mastered any way since the early nineties).

So if you hear sibilance, brightness, shouting, there is a very good chance it is how the recordings are made.

If the recording is correct and you hear sibilance, problems can result from room acoustics or a phase error and a speaker/stand mismatch first and only then can be caused by the electronics. So the most important to get rid of it from your present system is to understand the likeliest source of it in your system (most likely order):

  • the recordings,
  • the speaker-room-listening position mismatch,
  • electronics,
  • cables
  • digital clipping somewhere in the chain
  • gain structure
  • or all in a kind of combination.

There is a perfect chance that social media will not solve your problem.

You will.

It will take time and effort if you want to find a long term solution.

My suggestions to solve your problem:

  1. Find tracks from more than one genre that has no sibilance and mastered in a way that does not force shouting or was not mastered at all.
  2. Go to friends, dealers with those, not sibilant tracks, take some of your favourites but sibilant tracks too and listen to them in different places and systems.
  3. Try to learn and understand how they sound there.
  4. Try to borrow the speaker (not the complete system!) that you liked most.
  5. Listen to it closer than usual, in a kind near-field position. This way, you can minimise the room effect.
  6. Check the distance of both speakers from your listening position as precise as you can. Check the symmetry of the speakers to the listening position.
  7. Move the speakers in all directions, in cm steps.
  8. Turn them in a small degree until you find where sounds best.
  9. Try different levels from the late-night quiet to a live concert level, if you can. Loudness can make a huge difference. What can work on a mild level will not work much quieter or much louder.
  10. When you found the best combination of speaker distance and balance in this near-field listening setup, try to move your listening position backwards while moving the speakers wider and opening them a bit, turning them more expansive too.
  11. You may find a position where you quickly realise when the room effects kick in.
  12. Then you can try to understand how imaging will work in this position.
  13. Try to use this speaker and listening position to find the right electronics, accessories.

You need to understand your room, your speakers and how they influence each other. After that, the rest of the system is much easier to set up and have much less effect.

If you can not build your men’s (or girl’s) cave for music listening, the most important step for long term music enjoyment is to find the best speaker-room-listening position solution first.

A Dirac Live-based DSP room correction system can be beneficial in a challenging room, but one needs to learn how to use it for the best effects. It will not happen overnight. It takes time to master it.

I will write an article about it in the future, as it can solve many problems if one does not want to change speakers, can not treat the room acoustically and can not experiment with the listening positions.

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Koscso Ferenc

Solutions for Broadcast and Streaming System Integration, VR/AR/AI, Pro AV, High-End Audio, Inventor of My Reel Club Project