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What does Sibilant mean?

by Stuart Charles Black
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This is part of a FAQ series! Please share and comment if you found any of these articles helpful!

  1. What is Soundstage?
  2. What is Latency?
  3. What is Timbre?
  4. What is MIDI?
  5. What is XLR?
  6. What is SPL?
  7. What does Sibilant mean? (You are here)
  8. What is the Sennheiser Veil?
  9. Do Headphones Need to be Burned In?
  10. How Do Noise Cancelling Headphones Work?

Hey friend!

Today I’m going to be telling you about the word sibilant, a term used a lot in regard to headphones.

This will be a relatively short and sweet article .. but sit back and relax anyway…

You’ve come to the right place!

Image Credit: Headroom

What does sibilant mean?

Webster’s dictionary defines the word sibilant as having, containing, or producing the sound of or a sound resembling that of the s or the sh in sash <a sibilant affricate> <a sibilant snake>

What does this mean in terms of musical sound?

In your research, you will probably come across reviewers who use the term sibilant in a negative context.

This is understandable, as some headphones and microphones, unfortunately, have this bad quality about them.

In a nutshell, it means that the sound is harsh, tinny, and overly bright, causing fatigue to your ears in a relatively short amount of time.

Many headphones conducive to mixing may have these qualities.

Often times we excuse it because they are otherwise a good set.

Some people claim headphones need what is called “burn-in time”, where the sound has a chance to settle in after a specific amount of hours (varies with each headphone).


Likewise, microphones can also be sibilant when you speak or sing into them. When you playback what you just recorded, you may find also that the sound is sibilant, or overly harsh.

Sometimes, a bit of EQ and compression will clean up the recording and make it sound more professional.

Other times, the raw recording sounds fine.

It all depends on which mic or set of headphones you end up going with.

Some don’t have this problem, but there are many different factors that can contribute to a sound being sibilant:

  1. The compression in an mp3 file could cause it.
  2. The unstable electrical current in a setup, or the wrong voltage.
  3. The electricity needs to be grounded.
  4. Better cables and connectors reduce sibilance.
  5. Some headphones are so good that they detect bad recordings. This can lead to your music sounding sibilant.
  6. Sometimes, a good amp can fix the problem.
  7. Standing too close to the mic may cause the issue.
  8. A DeEsser is known to reduce sibilance.

There are many different factors that could come into play, and it may not always be simply your mic or headphones!


I know this wasn’t one of my typically long-winded articles, but I hope your question was answered! If you have any other questions, please leave them down below in the box or Contact me! I very much look forward to hearing from you.

All the best and God bless,





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Ernie March 14, 2021 - 10:45 am

Good information here.
Thanks man I appreciate it.
God Bless you too!

Stuart Charles Black March 14, 2021 - 3:54 pm

Thanks, man! Reach out any time! Glad this helped you 🙂


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