Listening fatigue

FootHealer

Active Member
Hi everyone,

So, I have an ongoing issue that has began to cause me a little concern. The issue is that when I listen to CDs on my main system downstairs in the lounge, I cannot do so for more than about 15 minutes without the sense that "I've had enough...I just want to turn it off now". This doesn't happen on a small system I have upstairs, nor when I listen to vinyl. It was also worse when I had the Dali Oberon 5 speakers, but better with the Wharfedale 12.3s. Having recently bought the Silver 200s, which sound amazing, it has sadly returned to its previous level.

My downstairs system includes a Rotel A11 Tribute, CD11 Tribute, Monitor Silver 200s and a Project Xpression Carbon turntable and Goldring E3 Cartridge. The room is about 6mx3.5m. It is about 50% bare walls, carpet, sofa, lots of furniture, and a modicum of room treatment. I listen in an 2m equilateral triangle with the speakers only slightly toed in, maybe 5 degrees. Speakers are about 1.5ft away from the front wall. I have the system set up along the long wall, as my wife wouldn't allow me to take over the entire room for the sake of HiFi :(

Upstairs I have a NAD D3020 v2 with Q Acoustics Concept 20 speakers (which are out of this world, by the way), connected to a laptop via a Topping D10s DAC via coaxial to the D3020s DAC (using the D10s as a bridge). I listen in a 1.1m equilateral triangle with the speakers toed in about 5 degrees and only 10cm from the back wall. This room has lots of bare wall, but carpet and a bed and a few furniture items. It is 2.5mx4m. I use Amazon Music HD or ripped FLAC files in CD quality or above.

I use Audioquest Rocket 11 cables and Van Damme interconnects downstairs, and QED XT25 cables and Van Damme interconnects upstairs...not convinced cables make a massive difference, only a little.

I have a bit of sensitivity to loudness and brightness, so I listen at moderate levels only. I don't feel my equipment is especially bright...I personally use the sound of the Grado Sr80e headphones as a marker of brightness, as these are about the brightest item I ever owned. None of my gear sounds like that. Yet, if I listen to music on the upstairs system, I still get a nice soundstage and good imaging, but no fatigue. If I listen to vinyl downstairs, also no fatigue. Its only when playing CDs. And not just badly recorded ones, even great recordings.

I am tempted to bring the A11 and CD11 upstairs and plug them into the Concept 20s and see if this still happens. Or take the Concept 20s downstairs and see if it continues. But before I start lugging all this stuff around, I thought I'd ask for some opinions...what do you think is going on?
 
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Yorkshire AV

Active Member
AVForums Sponsor
Hey

Listening fatigue can be common - so fear not!
Some of the time, it can be the room that's the biggest culprit. I have never heard anyone call the Oberon series bright/fatiguing - but I have a theory :)

Can you post a pic of your listening position? What's in the room as far as floor, curtains, sofas etc - and where are the speakers positioned?
 
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gibbsy

Moderator
A photograph of the room would be a great help. Listening fatigue is a problem that a lot of people suffer. My better half cannot stand to listen to poor recordings that push the highs to clipping levels although I don't find that too much of a problem. Given good recordings the weekends usually have us listening to music at a moderate level for four to five hours.

Poor rooms will reinforce the failings of some recordings and make fatigue come on even quicker.
 

FootHealer

Active Member
Hey

Listening fatigue can be common - so fear not!
Some of the time, it can be the room that's the biggest culprit. I have heard anyone call the Oberon series bright/fatiguing - but I have a theory :)

Can you post a pic of your listening position? What's in the room as far as floor, curtains, sofas etc - and where are the speakers positioned?
Hi,

Yes, I also strongly suspect the room. Here is about the best angle I could take a photo from.

As you can see, I have plenty of wall space for room treatment, if that will help. I made a few small A4 acoustics panels myself, plus two bigger ones behind the speakers. I have considered moving these to behind the sofa.
...
 

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gibbsy

Moderator
Your firing at the shortest distance across the room. There are photographs or prints behind your sofa which is highly reflective and your head will be very close to that wall. If at all possible can you put a duvet across the wall behind the sofa and then listen for an hour or so.

If nothing else then move those pictures.
 

Yorkshire AV

Active Member
AVForums Sponsor
Thanks!

I strongly suspect that 2 elements are causing you fatigue:

  1. your listening position is against a rear wall. The reflections at mid-high frequency are super close to your listening position so you're getting direct and in-direct sources, very closely timed.
  2. The pillar (fireplace?) is leaving you with a secondary hole which is throwing out balance

The first problem is one that's easier to fix. Acoustic panels (diffusers/absorbers) behind the sofa for example would play a big part in improving your experience. They'd likely want to hang just below the sofa to about 600mm above it, and at least directionally aligned to your speakers.

The pillar is a harder one - as it's a "cause and effect" issue. You'd need to see how the initial direct reflection impacted the pillar. Absorbers in the corners there would likely help but you'd need to work out which frequencies via REW are peaking in the room/

You likely aren't getting the first point of reflection from the side walls so that wouldn't need treating :)
 

FootHealer

Active Member
Your firing at the shortest distance across the room. There are photographs or prints behind your sofa which is highly reflective and your head will be very close to that wall. If at all possible can you put a duvet across the wall behind the sofa and then listen for an hour or so.

If nothing else then move those pictures.
Hi,

I actually have a large acoustic panel that I place across the back of the sofa when listening, at least most of the time. It covers most of the back wall including the pictures. I keep it behind the sofa (it just fits) as my wife was not impressed wit the idea of hanging it on the wall.

The pictures themselves a deceptive, as they have no glass or plastic and are tie-dyed fabric prints my wife made with 4mm of felt underneath...so maybe still a little reflective. Either way, having the panel behind me doesn't help.

I tend to sit on the end of the sofa, not lying back, as I like to keep a good posture following back troubles. So, perhaps a metre or so away from the wall.
 
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FootHealer

Active Member
Thanks!

I strongly suspect that 2 elements are causing you fatigue:

  1. your listening position is against a rear wall. The reflections at mid-high frequency are super close to your listening position so you're getting direct and in-direct sources, very closely timed.
  2. The pillar (fireplace?) is leaving you with a secondary hole which is throwing out balance

The first problem is one that's easier to fix. Acoustic panels (diffusers/absorbers) behind the sofa for example would play a big part in improving your experience. They'd likely want to hang just below the sofa to about 600mm above it, and at least directionally aligned to your speakers.

The pillar is a harder one - as it's a "cause and effect" issue. You'd need to see how the initial direct reflection impacted the pillar. Absorbers in the corners there would likely help but you'd need to work out which frequencies via REW are peaking in the room/

You likely aren't getting the first point of reflection from the side walls so that wouldn't need treating :)
Yeah, that "pillar" is an old fireplace that has been covered up. Sadly, after significant and heated negotiation with the powers-that-be (aka, my wife), this is the area of the house allocated to my HiFi.

I can, as Gibbsy also pointed out, put some treatment on the back wall. But that fireplace cannot be changed :(
 

FootHealer

Active Member
Would listening in a nearfield setup help? Pulling the speakers and sofa further into the room and reducing the distance between them to make an equilateral triangle? Perhaps I should have gone for standmounted speakers and a subwoofer?
 
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Ugg10

Distinguished Member
Just a thought, you have the speakers slightly toed in, have you experimented with keeping then pointing straight out into the room. Typically the further you go off axis the less treble you get.
 

FootHealer

Active Member
Just a thought, you have the speakers slightly toed in, have you experimented with keeping then pointing straight out into the room. Typically the further you go off axis the less treble you get.
Hi,

I haven't tried that with these speakers, but can give it a go. To be honest, they don't seem that bright, even with a steeper toe-in. I think there is something else going on. I went downstairs earlier and tried the "clap test". I can clearly heard a ringing for half a second following the clap. I think Gibbsy and Yorkshire AV may be correct, that it is a room issue. Plus that fireplace may be causing issues. The setup is not ideal, but it is the best I can arrange given the circumstances. I will try pointing them directly into the room and see if this makes a difference. However, I am considering trying my stand mounts downstairs for a few days to see if this helps, and if so, selling the floor standers and getting stands instead. This would be a shame, because the Silver 200s sound absolutely amazing.
 

nomorelandings

Active Member
I have only suffered from listening fatigue decades ago when I had a 1987 Cyrus system. Not easy to pin down the cause - mine was the Cyrus 2 cd not the amp. starting with an easy one, perhaps reduce your toe in.

edit. Post crossed, Ugg 10!
 

FootHealer

Active Member
One other thing that just came to mind is the vertical off-axis response of the speaker. I don't know what this is (may check to see if there are measurements). Generally, the tweeter is a few inches below my ears when I am listening. The only way to get the tweeter level with my ears is to slouch back on the chair or sit on a cushion on the floor. On my upstairs system, the tweeter is exactly level with my ears. Could this be significant enough to cause issues? I could experiment with raising the speakers or sitting so my ears are level and see if this helps.

EDIT: Stereophile did measurements of the Silver 300 and its vertical off-axis response was maintained within a 10 degree range. So, this may not be the issue.
 

Khazul

Well-known Member
Usual causes for me:
  • Reflective surfaces, especially windows and to lesser extent plaster wall causing upper/mid range harshness. Also can be made worst by wall proximity of listening position.
  • Overly compressed/limited music that have sufficiently prominent upper/mid range for that to end up being sightly clipped, especially when combined with...
  • DACs (standalone or for eg in a CD player in anything) that that have insufficient headroom in the digital to analog conversion stage to handle inter-sample peaks properly (resulting in more clipping especially if digital material is slightly clipped by aggressive limiting in production). Sometimes this isnt just the DAC, but a consequence of the DAC and the next analog device in the chain also not having sufficient input headroom. Sometimes fixable with inline attenuators (only needs 3-6dB) or reducing DAC output level.

Agree with several others who have suggested a part of the problem may be proximity of listening position to rear wall, however you mention that the real issue is when listening to CDs, so I would look more closely at the digital to analog and onwards signal chain. Substitute DAC, pre-amp etc if possible to isolate cause.
 

FootHealer

Active Member
Usual causes for me:
  • Reflective surfaces, especially windows and to lesser extent plaster wall causing upper/mid range harshness. Also can be made worst by wall proximity of listening position.
  • Overly compressed/limited music that have sufficiently prominent upper/mid range for that to end up being sightly clipped, especially when combined with...
  • DACs (standalone or for eg in a CD player in anything) that that have insufficient headroom in the digital to analog conversion stage to handle inter-sample peaks properly (resulting in more clipping especially if digital material is slightly clipped by aggressive limiting in production). Sometimes this isnt just the DAC, but a consequence of the DAC and the next analog device in the chain also not having sufficient input headroom.

Agree with several others who have suggested a part of the problem may be proximity of listening position to rear wall, however you mention that the real issue is when listening to CDs, so I would look more closely at the digital to analog and onwards signal chain. Substitute DAC, pre-amp etc if possible to isolate cause.
Hi,

Thanks for the advice. The Rotel A11 and CD11 were designed to work as a pair and are fairly well reviewed. I really hope that this isn't the issue, but have considered that. I have another amp with a built in DAC that has enough power to drive the Silver 200s. I can switch the amps and use a coax cable to bypass the DAC in the CD player to see if this makes a difference.
 

FootHealer

Active Member
So, the first step I've decided to take based on the advise you guys have given me is this:

1. Pull the sofa further into the room. My sitting position is now about a bit more than 1m from the wall. I have moved the speakers a little closer together to compensate.
2. Putting up a large acoustic panel behind the sofa (120cm x 60cm).
3. Removing any speaker toe-in and firing them directly forward into the room.

I will give this a go for a few days and report back on the results. Thanks again...
 

Helix Hifi

Well-known Member
I simply believe the MA speakers need more break in. It could be the Rotel kit. Always heard they can be “bright”. Try also place the speakers further apart from each other.

Also listen with curtains closed over the windows. Try and buy thick carpet of some kind. Perhaps make some book shelves and place them with books and place them back the speakers around the room.

Regarding treble in the exact ear height, it should be exact in the ear height. Still this is not always important as many speakers designers design the speakers differently. Some need to be in exact ear height, some little below the treble, just over the midrange.

Pulling the speakers in near field setup is pure bliss. Try it! Ps, aren’t the MA speakers brand new? Can’t you return them?
 
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FootHealer

Active Member
So, I tried creating a more nearfield setup (1.75m from speakers) and it worked brilliantly. Moving the listening position further from the back wall, and the speakers further into the room, but closer together to produce and equilateral triangle helped. Firing the speakers directly into the room with no toe-in sounded poor (weak centre image) so I went the opposite way and toed them so they were pointing just outside of my shoulders. Put the acoustic panel up behind me and its great. Its a bit less fatiguing now. Maybe room reflections were the main issue. Thanks for the advice everyone.
 
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FootHealer

Active Member
I simply believe the MA speakers need more break in. It could be the Rotel kit. Always heard they can be “bright”. Try also place the speakers further apart from each other.

Also listen with curtains closed over the windows. Try and buy thick carpet of some kind. Perhaps make some book shelves and place them with books and place them back the speakers around the room.

Regarding treble in the exact ear height, it should be exact in the ear height. Still this is not always important as many speakers designers design the speakers differently. Some need to be in exact ear height, some little below the treble, just over the midrange.

Pulling the speakers in near field setup is pure bliss. Try it! Ps, aren’t the MA speakers brand new? Can’t you return them?
Yes, they only have about 20 hours use so far. They may need more time to improve, but to be fair, they sound amazing straight out the box. I think the room was the issue. Seems better now.
 

Helix Hifi

Well-known Member
So, I tried creating a more nearfield setup (1.75m from speakers) and it worked brilliantly. Moving the listening position further from the back wall, and the speakers further into the room, but closer together to produce and equilateral triangle helped. Firing the speakers directly into the room with no toe-in sounded poor (weak centre image) so I went the opposite way and toed them so they were pointing just outside of my shoulders. Put the acoustic panel up behind me and its great. No issues. Maybe room reflections were the main issue. Thanks for the advice everyone.
Less reflection from the walls if you move the speakers further away from the walls. Epically if you listen in near field setup.
 

nomorelandings

Active Member
Agree with Helix that it might well be the combination not quite gelling. My Cyrus was paired with MA952s - Mo Iqbal’s latest back in 87. Sounded wonderful in a heavily damped demo room and learned that it was also a mistake to only use your best recordings. 8 years later, I bought some KEF refs model 3. Same demo room! Fab on demo, but overpowering at home. Swapped for MA studio 20s and happy for 20 years. Sincerely hope your room adjustments do the trick.
 
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FootHealer

Active Member
Agree with Helix that it might well be the combination not quite gelling. My Cyrus was paired with MA952s - Mo Iqbal’s latest back in 87. Sounded wonderful in a heavily damped demo room and learned that it was also a mistake to only use your best recordings. 8 years later, I bought some KEF refs model 3. Same demo room! Fab on demo, but overpowering at home. Swapped for MA studio 20s and happy for 20 years. Sincerely hope your room adjustments do the trick.
Well, its not an ideal living room arrangement, to be honest, but I'll stick with it for now, and see how it goes. I have certainly seen odder setups ;) If it is a system mismatch, then I have plans to move the Rotels upstairs with the Concept 20s, and maybe treat myself to Rega amp. Will have to wait a few months. Time to save...
 

Nico72

Active Member
In my experience, Monitor audio are great speakers but have a forward presentation especially with voices, which can be fatiguing when listening for a long time.
When I switched from MA RS1 to ProAc Studio 130 in the same room with the same kit, the sound stage moved further back and the fatigue was gone. Also I could listen at higher volume.
The Neat Iotas that I am using now as near field monitors in the bedroom are also fatigue-free. I read ribbon tweeters are sweeter than aluminium domes.
Hopefully rearranging the layout will work in your room.
 

FootHealer

Active Member
Another development: out of curiosity, morbid or otherwise, I decided to put everything in the lounge back as it was (except for the acoustic panel) and to replace the Silver 200s with the Q Acoustics Concept 20s I use upstairs. While there is a significant reduction in bass, and perhaps in imaging, dynamics and separation, the listening fatigue is completely gone. Like 100% completely. I just did a 1 hour session and could have carried on for longer, whereas before I was lucky to get to 15-20 minutes.

I am now at an impasse...if the Rotel A11 Tribute and the Monitor Silver 200s are a poor combination, then which should I replace. Sadly, I can return neither. I did consider putting the Rotels upstairs with the Q Acoustics Concept 20s, but on second thought, this wouldn't work for me.
 
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