This is part 12 in a series on Headphone Specs, Drivers, DACs, Sound, and how all of them relate to each other. There’s a wealth of knowledge in these so don’t hesitate to open some more tabs, bookmark, and share!!
Today I’m going to be telling you about the word sibilant, a term used a lot in regards to headphones. This will be a relatively short and sweet article .. but sit back and relax anyway ..
You’ve come to the right place!
What does sibilant mean?
Websters 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. In some cases, the cans may 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 play back 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:
The compression in an mp3 file could cause it.
Unstable electrical current in a setup, or the wrong voltage.
The electricity needs to be grounded.
Better cables and connectors reduce sibilance.
Some headphones are so good that they detect bad recordings. This can lead to your music sounding sibilant.
Sometimes, a good amp can fix the problem.
Standing too close to the mic may cause the issue.
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.
Stu is determined to provide the truth about all things audio, and strives to deliver excellent content to you the reader! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, attend church, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His attention to detail and perfectionist attitude are what allow him to excel, but it can be both a blessing and a hindrance at times.