My 'final' conclusions on the sibilance issue should probably start with a sum of what i did. Actually it was both myself and a friend so really there were 2 ppl listening to this situation.
The cds you sent to me were auditioned on 3 speaker sets: Axiom M60s, M40s and my other Tannoy Definition D700s. The audition room was setup per the previous picture links. The auditions also took place in another room for further comparisons.
An A/B switchbox and blind testing was used when comparing 2 speaker models. The efficiences of the Tannoys and M60s were close enough that no line leveling was required. The M40s were slightly more quiet than the other 2 models but barely registered a 2dB drop with the Radio Shack meter so we decided to disregard it. Future comparisons will hopefully be done with a volume independent switcher and the present unit i have borrowed is apparently going to be modified so it will have an oscilloscope for more exact line signal leveling.
The overall idea of the tests was to evaluate if:
- the cds were mastered poorly or mastered hot with the treble range increased during mixing (Note we did not review every disc)
- the cds had sibilance
- the sibilance was decreased when playing the songs on the M40s compared to the M60s
- the Axiom speakers enhanced the sibilance if present in comparsion to another speaker brand. Of course, the Tannoy speakers acted as a control of sorts in this regard. If the songs were sibilant on the Axioms then theoretically they should also be sibilant on other quality speakers.
I eagerly tore open the squished mail package when it arrived on Thursday and popped in Breaking Benjamin which was the cd that was mentioned as having the most common sibilance throughout. I actually recognized the first song or two, but really, it is not one of my preferred genres. Nonetheless, after about 3 turns on the first two songs i was wondering if i was coming around to listening to more of this music.
To keep the post concise and to the point, i will answer the questions posed in order:
- Was the cd were mastered poorly or mastered hot with the treble range increased during mixing?
No, not that we could tell. The noise floor was low, the upper frequencies were not piercing or fatiguing in any way at 70-75dB during testing. There were no indications that this disc might be mixed with a hugely boosted treble range. If it was recorded hot, then it was more like 'luke warm'. I've heard MUCH MUCH worse.
- Did the cd have sibilance?
Absolutely, yes. Breaking Benjamin sounded like that snake from the Jungle Book movie. I swear at times the lead singer was spitting into the mic or grinding his front teeth up against it. Lots of ssss's. It can be distracting for sure.
- Was the sibilance decreased when playing the songs on the M40s compared to the M60s?
No, not at all. The clarity of the midrange in the M60s made this a hard decision though since the difference in sound character was so distinctive. If anyone calls the difference b/w the M40 and M60 subtle, they really need to listen again. Bass is good on both and to me the tweeter did not change much, but that dedicated M60 midrange driver just opened the music up in a big way.
- Did the Axiom speakers enhance the sibilance in comparsion to another speaker brand?
No. In fact, a surprising conclusion came out of our speaker tests. Until now, i have not had the chance to A/B my Tannoys with the M60s. I kept picking out the speakers that i thought were the "most clear" and each time i swore it was the M60s. I had known them to be bright or forward in their presentation so i had natually expected them to be brighter than my Tannoys, BUT i had never heard them in A/B with my Tannoys so this is a perfect example of a bias that A/B blind switching can remove.
The speaker that both of us reviewers kept picking out as being most clear was the Tannoys. I actually did not believe the switching guy so i had to go and check for myself which units were playing once i figured the preferred speaker. The soundstage was so good for both speaker sets that sitting 10 feet back, you could not tell which indvidual speakers were playing so it really made this blind determination a good one which was really reflected by the speaker characters.
My opinion that the Axiom speaker provides an amazing value will not change, but in this case, the 'better' speaker for me (and the other reviewer) was the Tannoy Definition.
Bottom line on the sibilance issue, Axioms are NOT sibilant, the recordings are. Sibilance does not equate to a hot or poorly mastered recording necessarily, but could perhaps be due to the selection of recording equipment.
I'm sure Alan and Bren could comment alot more about that aspect of recording studios.