Listener or speaker fatigue

September 30, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

12 comments on “Listener or speaker fatigue”

  1. I know about listener fatigue with the recording. I have heard recordings where the engineer had everything in your face. The guitar was so overdriven that you would have thought the amp was broken. One example is the latest Journey album Freedom. I bought it on cd when it first came out. The guitar is as I described and everything is cluttered. I thought about getting the vinyl version of it, but I wouldn't want to do that without an assurance that the sound is better lest I wind up wasting my money.

  2. In 45 years of home-audio, listener fatigue for me only occurred more recently, when I owned a pair of Klipsch - 'RP-160M' standmounts.
    I very much suspect that it was because of the titanium/aluminium horn tweeter.
    It was a damn shame really because I loved their detail & punch...after 8 months I had to sell them.

    1. Similar with me, FR. I never experienced listener fatigue with my analog stereo systems independent of the - carefully selected - loudspeakers involved. And never any fatigue with the former mono systems, of course. However I experienced a lot of CDs which forced me to push the STOP-button even after several seconds. I rather believe that listening to stereo - meaning two sound-sources (loudspeakers with multiple drivers) which are claimed to produce a phantom image and a clear center image (for the latter the pioneers of stereo favored a dedicated center channel based on a 3-channel recording) - is a huge stress-factor for our ear-brain system being forced to do a lot of processing in order to create these phantom images based on aural illusions/brain-fooling. The more drivers involved not being absolutely identical the more stress for our brain! When I started to optimize my stereo system for XTC (cross-talk cancellation) requiring near perfectly identical channels I noticed that I could relax much better listening to music when XTC was activated although the majority of tracks weren’t recorded based on ambiophonic concepts.

      1. ps,
        I believe that the brain can be trained & I have been listening to 2 channel home-audio since I was around seven years old, mono before that.
        The Ditton 66 floorstanders that I owned for nearly 38 years improved in sound, clarity, detail & punch, going from vinyl to CD in 1985 - 1987 & finally, in 2009, improved in SQ again when being driven by an early, quality 'D' class amplifier with two big power supply transformers.
        There was something inherently smooth yet still incredibly detailed in Celestion's design of their HF 2000 & the MD-500 (dome midrange) that never allowed them to sound harsh or fatiguing under any circumstances.
        Currently, with my DeVore - 'Orangutan O/93' floorstanders I have to be careful what source I'm using, as to whether they become fatiguing to my ears or not.
        I would say that currently I'm just under the limit using my Marantz - 'CD6006' CD player, however, if I switch it up to my Marantz - 'SA12 SE' SACD player, which converts everything to DSD, then I've gone just over the limit & some CDs, not all, that I play in said 'SA12 SE' do sound etchy & thus can become a bit fatiguing to listen to CDs through.
        The thing that became fatiguing for me back in the vinyl days were the pops & clicks & general surface noise of the substandard Australian pressings...of course that was a different type of fatiguing 😉
        I have worked in Hi-Fi retail long enough to understand that no home-audio set-up is ever going to be PM sometimes likes to say that "There are no free lunches"...& so realistically I've always been ab advocate for some compromise

        1. Indeed, the brain is permanently trained and acts - based on trained and learned patterns recognition - as a prediction device - thus aural and visual illusions can happen. I started my stereo journey in the 80th with a pair of a more modest design: Spendor BC2 after a very long search. A pair of Magnepans was scored top but they required to much “room” and a special amp in those days. I never experienced listener fatigue with these Spendors. They still do their job and they got new caps for the crossover installed by the most engaged and retired importer.

          1. I've been looking at a pair of Spendor - 'Classic100', very large standmounters, however they are nearly double the price of the
            DeVore's that I currently own.
            I believe that the Spendor's would 'tame' the combined signal of
            my SA12 SE & my M6si500, but unless AU$10k magically drops
            in my lap, I guess that I'll never know.

  3. I picked up a CD of Steve Winwood’s “About Time”…

    Great production, awesome music. And most of the tracks are so good, I hate to be the critic.

    On a few tracks, the mic’ing and/or mixing spoil it so badly that one wonders if Steve insists on over-amping the Leslie on his organ, or is the engineer was too high or had hearing loss.

    When the Leslie kicks in it hurts my ears and brain.

    Too bad - one of his best releases.

    I have a remote with a tone on/off, and have just set the treble to reduce the irritation some.

  4. I had a pair of British made speakers which I thought were really good while I owned them. At times I just got tired of listening, this could happen after just a few minutes of listening then sometimes I could listen for hours. The whole time I had them I suspected that they were causing some fatigue with certain music but listened to them anyway because that is all I had. I bought a pair of really good speakers 2 years ago and have not had that feeling of fatigue sense they took up residence in my room. The only thing I wish is that I could have held out for a pair of the FR30's, OH well I will just have to listen to these for the foreseeable future.

  5. I have heard that in B&W speakers myself on certain models Paul and that can be tamed through many different methods. But part of that problem is they are ruthlessly revealing speakers that require the very best in associated equipment and source material. Part of it is the design of that model. I have also heard B&W speakers that are warm and sweet without losing detail and transparency. The way they design their speakers to be very transparent and revealing they need to be careful of what's going on in the crossovers in regards to the frequency range that you're talking about and they get it right on most of their speakers but wrong of some others. Their extraordinary transparency can be their own enemy sometimes. Lets not pick on one great company though, there are speakers out there that have no forward sounding frequency response problem that are harsh or have listening fatique and are not transparent.

    1. This is just my 2sents, for what it's worth.
      Some fokes may lash out at me for what I'm about to say, but that's ok.
      But I think a lot of you, are looking in the wrong places.
      I spoke of this before, but nobody paid any attention to it.
      Some people, just put it down as trash.
      But if you do a scientific studdy on it, then you'll see that I'm right about it.
      There are in deed, 2 types of distortion.
      Those are, odd order, and even order.
      The odd order of distortion, will throw you in to a state of listener fatigue.
      The even order distortion won't do that to you.
      This is the mane reason why I'm a lover of tube amps.
      They don't have any odd order distortion because, there are transformers between the amps and loud speakers.
      Amps that don't use transformers to drive the loud speakers, will be very fatiguing.
      This is because, #1. They don't put the audio signel threw transformers to drive the loud speakers.
      This is why by difault, they produce odd order distortion.
      Paul, I know that, you don't like output tubes and output transformers.
      But if you really stop to think about it, they're much easier to listen to, then most transistor and or class D amplifiers that are out on the market today.
      And #2. traditional built tube amps, will never give you listener fatigue.
      This is because, they produce even order distortion.
      It's not on the recordings.
      And it's not in the speakers either.
      It's the type of amplifiers that are driving the speakers that's cozzing the fatigueness.

      1. Whatever works for you John. I don't have any tubes in my system and I hear no distortion or listener fatigue. Mainly due to a well designed Creek integrated MOSFET amplifier with passive preamplifier and superb NHT 2.9 speakers that are linear, detailed, transparent without a hint of sounding hard or forward. Completely neutral and organic.

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