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Old 9th October 2003, 11:48 AM   #1
EE is offline EE  Germany
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Angry Annoying solid state sound... what to do?

Hi everyone, this is my first post... Hope to find help here!

My questions are related to why almost every audio system over-emphasizes every "s" and "t" and similar "sounds" when listening to voices... I find this quite annoying! For example someone sings "...what's this all about..." and it sounds like "...whatZZZ thiZZZ all about". "p and "t" sometimes sound strange, too. I've heard ONE single system which didn't do this and so I cannot blame it on my records.

1. Is there a special kind of distortion / lack of resolution that is responsible for this annoying sound? Has someone done research into this and can explain how it happens?

2. Is there a correct technical term to better describe what I hear (cold / harsh / sharp / ?)

3. How must an amplifier be designed to get rid of this problem?

Thank you very much!
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Old 9th October 2003, 03:40 PM   #2
OliverD is offline OliverD  Germany
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Hi EE, welcome.

I think the problem comes mostly from the recording, especially cheap microphones and singers that don't know how to handle them. Doesn't answer your questions, though.

I know exactly what you mean and find it very annoying, too. Don't know the english terms for it. Usually you hear these artifacts on lo-fi systems only. A high quality tweeter will improve the situation. As for amplifiers, I found tubes and the Pass Labs Cass-A designs are the best in that respect.
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Old 9th October 2003, 03:47 PM   #3
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I agree with AMT...
Recordings often over-emphasize sibilants. This is often due to the fact that they are heavily compressed. There is a process used in the studio called "de-essing" that is supposed to take care of this. I find a lot of recordings that still have this too.
Have you listened to an SACD? I find the sibilants and cymbal sounds to be much more realistic and musically accurate. CD often transforms these sounds into a "white noise" effect.
Other than that, I agree that the use of certain types of equipment will make this sound more musical. Whether you are getting an accurate presentation is something else entirely. Maybe musicality is better?
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Old 9th October 2003, 04:19 PM   #4
eLarson is offline eLarson  United States
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Sometimes you can ameliorate the effect by being very fastidious with speaker placement: toe in, equal distance from each speaker to listener, etc.

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Old 9th October 2003, 05:27 PM   #5
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This high frequency emphasis on some recordings is an effect that has become more prominent as the resolution of my hi-fi has increased. Whilst it never sounds harsh or unpleasant it is conspicuous on some of the brighter recordings.

Changing amps and/or speakers to try and cure the problem is an expensive and futile pursuit since the quality of recordings varies so much, many still sound perfectly ok.

Perhaps the solution is some kind of (dare I say) switchable tone control to cover the top-end.
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Old 9th October 2003, 10:19 PM   #6
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I've discovered that silk tweeters are much "smoother" than metal domes and switching to them can remove much of the sibilance during playback.

I also suspect that poor phase response in the high-pass filter of the speaker cross-over is partly to blame. My theory is that the changing delay over the HP bandwidth is causing an effect that is similar to noise. Since removing some of the harmonics can decrease this noise-like effect, I think that what is known as the "full" sound of tubes is actually the removal of sibilance with the loss of some harmonics.

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Old 10th October 2003, 04:50 AM   #7
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My impression is that there's a trend among singers, in particular female for some reason, to actually sing "schinging".
Possible reasons:
  • It's a singing style trend, intented to signal "nearness"
  • It's an artefact produced by the de-essers
  • It's something singers do to defeat the de-essers, as they sound muffled otherwise
  • It's CD-s mixed/mastered into digital clipping somewhere
Being a hobby singer myself, it annoys me no end. I can hear it in ear phones too, so the cross-over network is not the single source, at least.

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Old 10th October 2003, 05:37 AM   #8
mcp is offline mcp  United States
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Sometimes it's bad recording. But this could also be deliberate.

Certain recordings, especially female vocals, have their sibilance boosted during mastering so that they sound better in low-fi systems in the mass market.

Unfortunately, in better systems, these excessiveness are highlighted to the point of being unbearable at times. I often wonder why recording companies fail to issue audiophile versions where the mastering is not targetted to the mass, but true music lovers.
Michael Chua
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Old 10th October 2003, 06:30 AM   #9
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Don't forget to post those shi*bilant recordings here for all to be wary of.

What's the worst audio you heard recently?

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Old 10th October 2003, 06:35 AM   #10
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Well as already mentioned there could be different reasons:

- TIM generated by the amp.
- Overdriven mic preamps (thats where tube preamps really excel !)
- Bad choice/use of mic
- Singers with bad articulation or ones who lisp (like Celine Dion).


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