Sibilance and bad hifi performance

Good evening, guys.
I have a problem which is driving me mad many weeks now.
Unfortunately, as I use a Naim Mu-so Qb as wireless speakers, I had to rely to a different solution to listen to my favourite music via headphones.
As of now I have:

  • Bluesound Node 2021 (network streamer and DAC)
  • Rega Ear Mkii (headphone amplifier)
  • Synology DS214play (NAS server where all files are being stored)
  • Grado SR60 and Sennheiser HD660 S as headphones.

99% of the music I listen to come from Qobuz and Tidal and 90% of them are flac files that I’ve downloaded from these two services during the years.

Well, what I notice is a constant sibilance in the vocal parts while the instrumentation plays absolutely fine.
I’ve tried to isolate the problem, disconnecting the DAC and the amplifier in order to play my musical library through my MacBook Pro via Audirvana and Roon but the problem persists.
I’ve even played my songs from my iPhone via Roon but I don’t notice any relevant improvement at all.
The strangest thing is that if I try to play albums directly from Qobuz, bypassing the NAS, the quality is awful.
A few minutes ago I was playing “Bachelorette” by Björk and Rumours by Fleetwood Mac and the outcome was disappointing.
Quite frankly speaking, I was thinking about throwing my hifi setup in the bin and start from scratch with an Arcam ST60 but I don’t think that what I’ve been using so far here at home is that bad.
Any ideas?
Thank you very much…

Hi, before spending hundreds and going nuts……get your ears cleaned! Also, how old are you. HF hearing loss takes on many forms….Have you had COVID? This can do some strange things to (particularly HF) hearing and just needs time to clear.

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Hi, as I am sure you are aware sibilance is a natural part of speech… but it is a burst of high frequency noise caused by us forcing air between our tongue and our mouth/teeth in the range that our ears are sensitive too. Our ears can determine really easily if it is too loud compared to the rest of speech… resulting in it sounding unnatural.

The problem is exacerbated with modern styles of recording vocals, with super high compression and microphone very close to the mouth.
In production de essing and/or eq can be applied to reduce the energy of the sibilance… but usually it is still in the recording… without it speech can loose intelligibility.

Now to audio replay, if your system becomes excitable or causes room resonance and reflections around 6k to 8k there is a risk of distractingly noticeable sibilance.

The answer can be use more soft furnishings to increase room damping and reduce room reverb, use slightly filtering interconnects, use tone controls, re position speakers/change toe in of speakers, use speakers/headphones that follow more the Harman curve… usually more appropriate for headphones rather than speakers.


What changed? I assume that it was all fine at some point. Was it gradual or all at once?

Not sure about the HD660 but Grado’s are notorious for sibilance - perhaps it’s just the head phones ?

Thanks, guys, for all your replies. Well, I don’t think I suffer from hypoacusia or anything related to Covid even because I’ve been working in vaccination centres for more than 18 months now, so I’m quite under control. lol
I’ve tested several set-ups with my headphones, even bypassing the headphone amplifier and connecting one of them (Sennheiser Momentum 2018) to the network streamer and the outcome, more or less, has always been the same.
The problem is that, once you discover sibilance, you tend to recognize it everywhere; last night I was at the premiere of George Benson here in Scotland and, quite honestly speaking, the resonance coming from the mic was clear for all to hear.
Let’s say I have to get used to it; I’ve been probably listening to music on cheap devices for too many years so these “phenomena” are basically new to me.
Luckily, Roon DSP works wonders and this is probably the only reason I use it. lol

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