What causes listener fatigue?

July 17, 2019
 by Paul McGowan

2 comments on “What causes listener fatigue?”

  1. I have nothing to back this up, but here's a hypothesis: Human brains are very good at filtering out unwanted information. Also, very adaptable. A poor quality system can introduce non-linear distortion, or tilt the frequency response so we end up with lumpy bass or harsh treble. Our brains adapt to that, and at least allow us to continue listening. However, that additional filtering comes at a cost, and eventually fatigue sets in. A better system with musical detail accurately revealed and a natural sound doesn't require the same level of mental effort, and we get hours of fatigue-free listening pleasure. Just a theory.

  2. Besides very loud music, my take is that listener fatigue is caused by higher frequencies that don’t make sense to the brain due to distortion. The brain either has to try hard to interpret the noise or attempt to ignore it and both require active “filtering” by the brain until the brain says “I’m tired of this crap, turn it off.” The distortion can come from anywhere really - a poor source, subpar preamp, interconnects, power cables, the room, etc. As I have upgraded power cables, power outlets (PS Audio PowerPorts), interconnects, speaker’s cables and even added sound treatment to my room and added felt around the tweeters (which helps with baffle edge diffraction), I have found that I can really turn up the volume and have no listener fatigue. My dad, who often complains about the way modern music sounds, commented on my system after hearing it for the first time: “The highs aren’t offensive to my ears.”

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