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Listening fatigue - is it me over-analysing, or is it my equipment?

samwell7

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First up a bit of background.
I have only starting near field listening again, for the last 7 or so years I've just been using headphones (Sony MDR-7520, Audiotechnica ATH M50 or Etymotic MC5s) without issue while working (office environment).
Because I've been working from home I've got back into loudspeakers and it's enjoyable listening without something on my head.

I'm 29 and my hearing is fairly sensitive, loud sounds (especially treble) hurt, I'm usually asking my wife to turn stuff down, to her annoyance. The last time I checked (was testing a speaker, so it may be higher) I could hear to around 17kHz.

When I was listening years ago I enjoyed accurate and detailed mids and treble, my old speakers were Yamaha MSP5's and they were excellent, I don't recall ever having listening fatigue with them, even when listening loud (mixing/mastering).

Fast forward to 2020, I'm listening fairly quietly at my desk - my microphones aren't calibrated but sound meter apps on my Pixel 4 and work iPhone both gave the same reading of a max of around 60dB during regular listening (usually around 55dB or less).

I purchased a set of Edifier R1700BT speakers after seeing how well the R1280s respond to EQ in their review, after around 30 or so minutes of listening my ears would feel irritated, almost like I'd just got out of a hot shower. I reduced the treble on the back of the unit but it didn't really help so I returned them.

I then purchased a set of Edifier S1000Mk2s, while the ear irritation is much better it still pops up a bit, with my ears almost feeling 'constricted' or stuffy after a little while. The S1000mk2's aren't overly bright however they do sound fairly detailed.

I'm listening either via Bluetooth or through an Apple USB C to 3.5mm adaptor with Spotify premium with volume normalisation turned off.

Could the 'fatigue' be because of the fact that I'm listening critically (trying to assess the speakers) while I'm listening fairly quietly (while working) so my brain is working too hard? I'm thinking this may be the case because I haven't had any 'ouch' moments (harsh or sibilant treble will usually hurt me pretty well straight away).

My other thoughts were there being potentially too much treble or distortion due to driver material; before I got the Edifiers I was using a Sony microsystem (cmt-sbt40d) without issue, the system had a 37mm soft-dome tweeter and was generally less detailed, the Edifiers have titanium tweeters and aluminium midwoofers which I've heard can ring or have harsher distortion outside of the audible range which can still have impacts on listeners.

Any thoughts? Or advice on how I can stop listening to the equipment and start listening to the music to see if this is actually an issue?

I'm not sure if it's a shelf filter but I've turned the treble to -6dB on the S1000mk2's today and it wasn't really any different.
 
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samwell7

samwell7

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Just adding to the above, this is the only image I was able to find of the S1000mk2 frequency response, from this video
Not sure how accurate it is given that the low frequencies look identical between the two speakers.
 

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Wombat

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You may have a form of hyperacusis, cannot multitask(split concentration) for long or take listening too seriously for all occasions.

When I need to concentrate on tasks, I turn the music off or have unobtrusive music playing at a low background level to mask external sounds.
 
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samwell7

samwell7

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You may have a form of hyperacusis, cannot multitask(split concentration) for long or take listening too seriously for all occasions.

When I need to concentrate on tasks, I turn the music off or have unobtrusive music playing at a low background level to mask external sounds.
Hey thank you for your response, and also for linking a good article! (I'm from Victoria). The hyperacusis article was a bit confronting because it was striking a few chords.
I've got tinnitus and gone to too many gigs that were way too loud and been too close to guns going off before I had a chance to put my earmuffs on.
I think I need to get another hearing test to see where it's at.
The split concentration thing is interesting, I typically need music to work (it's almost like instrumental stuff distracts my brain and allows me to work) but if I really need to focus (not often) I find it better with the music off.


Edit: thinking more about the hyperacusis I'm just not sure, I don't get the same problem listening to my headphones, my kitchen system (Sony SS-CS5s) or my home theatre system, and I'm usually listening louder from these sources
 
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ctrl

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Listening fatigue - is it me over-analysing, or is it my equipment?
That's easy to answer! ;)
What if you use headphones again? If there are still no problems with headphones, but listening fatigue occurs when listening through speakers, it is due to the speaker and/or your listening environment (reflections, uneven absorption,...).
 
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samwell7

samwell7

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That's easy to answer! ;)
What if you use headphones again? If there are still no problems with headphones, but listening fatigue occurs when listening through speakers, it is due to the speaker and/or your listening environment (reflections, uneven absorption,...).

Hey thanks for that! I added an extra comment to my previous post, I haven't noticed it with my headphones or any of my other systems, but with that being said I haven't been listening as critically to these other speakers/headphones though, and typically listening at a higher volume.
 

Wombat

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That's easy to answer! ;)
What if you use headphones again? If there are still no problems with headphones, but listening fatigue occurs when listening through speakers, it is due to the speaker and/or your listening environment (reflections, uneven absorption,...).

I get listening fatigue with headphones. Claustrophobic feeling due to unnatural spacial presentation, weight on head and clamping pressure. If a cord is involved, movement restriction.

To me it is a compromise vs loudspeakers in a room.
 

Vini darko

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It might just be your ears dont get along with edifier for some reason. Possibly have have harmonic distortion that's resonating with your ear shape.
Although they aren't active Warfedales current diamond line speakers may better suit your ears taste.
 
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samwell7

samwell7

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It might just be your ears dont get along with edifier for some reason. Possibly have have harmonic distortion that's resonating with your ear shape.
Although they aren't active Warfedales current diamond line speakers may better suit your ears taste.
Thanks, I was interested in the new Wharfedale Diamonds, I didn't know they did an active speaker though I'll need to check it out.
 

MakeMineVinyl

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Some people develop high sensitivity to sound, usually as they age or have been subjected to loud noises over a period of time. I'm surprised you have to tell your wife to turn it down - usually its the other way around. :D
 
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samwell7

samwell7

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Some people develop high sensitivity to sound, usually as they age or have been subjected to loud noises over a period of time. I'm surprised you have to tell your wife to turn it down - usually its the other way around. :D
I saw an image from one of the Harman studies in the HD800S review thread and it showed that I should prefer less treble than I did the last time I could really listen properly and had my good setup.
Ha! Yeah she used to ask me to turn it down but it's the other way around now, I think I need to get an SPL meter to see if she's the one with hearing damage or me!
 

andreasmaaan

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Could the 'fatigue' be because of the fact that I'm listening critically (trying to assess the speakers) while I'm listening fairly quietly (while working) so my brain is working too hard? I'm thinking this may be the case because I haven't had any 'ouch' moments (harsh or sibilant treble will usually hurt me pretty well straight away).

My other thoughts were there being potentially too much treble or distortion due to driver material; before I got the Edifiers I was using a Sony microsystem (cmt-sbt40d) without issue, the system had a 37mm soft-dome tweeter and was generally less detailed, the Edifiers have titanium tweeters and aluminium midwoofers which I've heard can ring or have harsher distortion outside of the audible range which can still have impacts on listeners.

Both of these are possible, I think.

I agree with @ctrl that, if you experience nothing similar with your headphones, the speakers and/or listening environment are likely suspects.

However, I would also think about your general health and tiredness/stress/tension levels. I find that my sensitivity to noise changes drastically depending on my state of health, restedness, and mood, etc.

One thing you could try is taking the speakers and putting them in another more relaxed room (e.g. living room) and then listening to them casually while doing other things on and off for a few days there.

Having said that, I wouldn't be so surprised if the speakers themselves are a bit harsh. They certainly seem to have significantly more upper-mid/low-treble energy than the Klipsch speakers they're compared to, and Klipsch is not well-known for making warm, gentle-sounding speakers. Distortion may also be part of the issue, but it's impossible to tell.
 
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samwell7

samwell7

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I get listening fatigue with headphones. Claustrophobic feeling due to unnatural spacial presentation, weight on head and clamping pressure. If a cord is involved, movement restriction.

To me it is a compromise vs loudspeakers in a room.
Interesting, I don't get fatigue in the same sense as I'm feeling now but I do get sick of having something on my head and feeling disconnected from the room.
I used to listen a lot to open backed headphones years ago and quite enjoyed a set of AKG K702's.
Have you tried open back headphones and using a crossfeed plugin to help emulate a 'room'?
 

MakeMineVinyl

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It depends a lot on the recordings you listen to - some are extremely aggressive in their use of compression and limiting so that the dynamic range is only a few dB. Add that in with a recording which has a tipped-up high end and its no wonder listening fatigue sets in.
 
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samwell7

samwell7

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Both of these are possible, I think.

I agree with @ctrl that, if you experience nothing similar with your headphones, the speakers and/or listening environment are likely suspects.

However, I would also think about your general health and tiredness/stress/tension levels. I find that my sensitivity to noise changes drastically depending on my state of health, restedness, and mood, etc.

One thing you could try is taking the speakers and putting them in another more relaxed room (e.g. living room) and then listening to them casually while doing other things on and off for a few days there.

Having said that, I wouldn't be so surprised if the speakers themselves are a bit harsh. They certainly seem to have significantly more upper-mid/low-treble energy than the Klipsch speakers they're compared to, and Klipsch is not well-known for making warm, gentle-sounding speakers. Distortion may also be part of the issue, but it's impossible to tell.
Thanks! I was thinking about general factors, we've got fairly young twins so sleep is almost non-existent at this stage and I have a fairly high-pressure job so that could definitely be a (large) factor because I'm only ever in that space to work.

I've got an audyssey calibration mic on hand, I might try and run REW and see what the FR looks like and what the EQ knobs do to the output, I listened yesterday for a while with the treble at -6 and it didn't sound too unnatural
 
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samwell7

samwell7

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It depends a lot on the recordings you listen to - some are extremely aggressive in their use of compression and limiting so that the dynamic range is only a few dB. Add that in with a recording which has a tipped-up high end and its no wonder listening fatigue sets in.
Definitely! I've found big differences in some modern recordings and some slightly older stuff, with the more 'laidback' recordings are definitely easier on the ear.
 

andreasmaaan

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Thanks! I was thinking about general factors, we've got fairly young twins so sleep is almost non-existent at this stage and I have a fairly high-pressure job so that could definitely be a (large) factor because I'm only ever in that space to work.

I've got an audyssey calibration mic on hand, I might try and run REW and see what the FR looks like and what the EQ knobs do to the output, I listened yesterday for a while with the treble at -6 and it didn't sound too unnatural

Sounds good.

FYI, generally speaking, the quickest EQ measure to tame harshness (and if pushed too far, induce dullness) is to bring down the 2-5kHz range (this is where our hearing is most sensitive).
 

MakeMineVinyl

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Definitely! I've found big differences in some modern recordings and some slightly older stuff, with the more 'laidback' recordings are definitely easier on the ear.
One thing you might be able to try is to boost the bass on recordings which are overly harsh and tipped-up in the high end. That tends to make them more tolerable in my experience.
 
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samwell7

samwell7

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Sounds good.

FYI, generally speaking, the quickest EQ measure to tame harshness (and if pushed too far, induce dullness) is to bring down the 2-5kHz range (this is where our hearing is most sensitive).
Thanks - looking at that FR graph from the YouTube video the S1000Mk2's seem to have a lot of energy in the 2-5kHz range
 
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samwell7

samwell7

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One thing you might be able to try is to boost the bass on recordings which are overly harsh and tipped-up in the high end. That tends to make them more tolerable in my experience.
Thanks for the tip, I was cutting the highs rather than boosting the bass but I'll try both next time
 
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