Clarifying and troubleshooting “sibilance”


Q: In your review of the Kensington Digital FM Transmitter/Auto Charger, you mentioned the sibilance that is noticeable as exaggerated “s” sounds during playback. I notice it on some songs, not on others. Is this a function of the way the music was recorded, the device itself, or both? Also, can it be corrected? Thanks.

– Gary

A: Generally speaking, sibilance can come from anywhere. Logically ordered, “anywhere” includes all of the following: the final output devices (speakers, headphones), cables, the amplifier used (internal or external), the devices’ digital-to-analog converter, the encoding scheme used to compress the music, the hardware involved in the original recording, or even the artist’s voice… some artists simply exaggerate “s” sounds more than others. Volume can also play a part in enhancing the effect with some hardware.
When we’re evaluating a product for its sibilance properties, we always are sure to conduct multiple tests, comparing the sound quality to a number of combinations of recordings and hardware that we know to be great, so we can isolate and be sure of the true cause of the problem. We’d recommend you do the same – before questioning your hardware’s sound reproduction, be sure that whatever combination you’re comparing it to makes it a fair analysis. Once you’ve narrowed down the problem, fixing it should be fairly trivial – try a new set of headphones, use a different encoding format, etc.

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Jerrod H.

Jerrod was a contributing editor at iLounge. He mostly wrote articles about iTunes and iPod accessories. He was known for his in-depth knowledge of both topics and was often able to provide readers with unique insights into the world of Apple products.