Listening fatigue

FootHealer

Active Member
A lot of research is behind paywalls unfortunately.

A good place to start - with the man who revolutionized the thinking around sound reproduction.




This is Amir's summary which pulls in a few more sources




And some links that he references in his video if you want to do some reading first.

Research papers - paywalled unfortunately:

AES E-Library » A Survey Study of In-Situ Stereo and Multi-Channel Monitoring Conditions

AES E-Library » Differences in Performance and Preference of Trained versus Untrained Listeners in Loudspeaker Tests: A Case Study
Well, that was an eye-opener. Objective measurements do correlate with user enjoyment. And very surprisingly, audio reviewers (guessing both "pro" and amateur) are some of the most unreliable people to take advice on HiFi from. Thanks for sharing this. It was incredibly helpful.
 

Onlythesound

Active Member
I remember reading one of the original reviews on the Concept 20s which said they sound even better when paired with more expensive/competent amplification - probably true with many different speakers but the extent to which the C 20s are NOT rattled by e.g. more muscle, is noteworthy.
 

Onlythesound

Active Member
I remember reading one of the original reviews on the Concept 20s which said they sound even better when paired with more expensive/competent amplification - probably true with many different speakers but the extent to which the C 20s are NOT rattled by e.g. more muscle, is noteworthy.
This wasn’t the one I remember - it’s an extract fro Tech hive - but it illustrates the point:

« I also evaluated the speakers with a Naim Audio Uniti Atom. The Atom is a high-end network music player with an onboard 40-watt-per-channel stereo amplifier. The Concept 20 really opened up with the Atom, so I conducted most of my review with that unit driving the speakers. I’ll have a full review of the Atom soon. »
 

gava

Active Member
Well, that was an eye-opener. Objective measurements do correlate with user enjoyment. And very surprisingly, audio reviewers (guessing both "pro" and amateur) are some of the most unreliable people to take advice on HiFi from. Thanks for sharing this. It was incredibly helpful.

I still very much enjoy reviews in magazines, websites and from the subjective reviewers on Youtube, but it's important to take the data ^^ into account too.
 

FootHealer

Active Member
Update: I've had the QA Concept 40s for a couple of days and it has resolved my issue completely, in combination with an acoustic panel on the back wall and a little bit more toe-in than I am used to. The Concept 40s don't have the same airy, detailed quality of Silver 200s, which I kind of enjoy, but obviously only in small doses. They also have slightly less bass, but its a small trade-off for actually being able to listen to more than 5 songs without fatigue. Don't get me wrong, they sound great, very emotional and engaging. I find myself analysing the music less and simply getting caught in the mood of it instead.

I think I'll hang onto the Silver 200s though, as they are fine when I play vinyl. May make a dedicated vinyl setup in the future.
 

Ascotbilly

Active Member
Good result, so what are you systems now then ??
 

FootHealer

Active Member
Good result, so what are you systems now then ??
Thanks.

Downstairs in the lounge: Rotel A11 Tribute, CD11 Tribute, Project Xpression Carbon Turntable with Goldring E3 cartridge, and Q Acoustics Concept 40s.

Upstairs: NAD D3020v2, Topping D10s DAC, laptop, and QA Concept 20s.

I had some other items set up on the desktop PC, but I've decided to sell them on as I have way to much HiFi equipment in the house at the moment. Will stick with the ZenDac and AKG headphones for working.

I still have the MA Silver 200s. I really like them, but feel they are only suitable for vinyl in my situation. May get a Rega amp in the future for a dedicated vinyl setup. I tried an older budget Cambridge Audio amp, which is quite warm, but the Silver 200s exposed it for the budget amp it is...it sounded terrible. The Concepts are not quite as airy or revealing, but have a sweeter, smoother sound which my brain, nerves, and perhaps even my rooms seem to favour. Not keen on the looks, but the newer Concept models are way outside of my budget. It's a small concession to make. Am happy overall.
 

gava

Active Member
Update: I've had the QA Concept 40s for a couple of days and it has resolved my issue completely, in combination with an acoustic panel on the back wall and a little bit more toe-in than I am used to. The Concept 40s don't have the same airy, detailed quality of Silver 200s, which I kind of enjoy, but obviously only in small doses. They also have slightly less bass, but its a small trade-off for actually being able to listen to more than 5 songs without fatigue. Don't get me wrong, they sound great, very emotional and engaging. I find myself analysing the music less and simply getting caught in the mood of it instead.

I think I'll hang onto the Silver 200s though, as they are fine when I play vinyl. May make a dedicated vinyl setup in the future.

I love my concept 300s. They are not quite as exciting as my LS50s for 5 songs, but you can listen for hours and simply become absorbed into the music with a simply astonishing sound stage.
 

Helix Hifi

Well-known Member
Can you take picture of setup? I am perhaps considering QAcoustics myself, don’t get wrong the Dali’s are great but as always it’s fun to experiment with new speakers.

Can the QAcoustics speakers be placed close to the walls also? Thanks.

Happy listing.
 

FootHealer

Active Member
Can you take picture of setup? I am perhaps considering QAcoustics myself, don’t get wrong the Dali’s are great but as always it’s fun to experiment with new speakers.

Can the QAcoustics speakers be placed close to the walls also? Thanks.

Happy listing.
The Concept 20s can be placed very close to wall without any boom or muddiness. I have not tried the 40s in this position, so I cannot say. They have not got a big bass output, but do have a single, large rear port. May be hit or miss. I have them placed around 50cm from the back wall as I prioritise soundstage and imaging over bass. The Concept 20s have almost no bass under 60Hz, and in my room start to roll off quite high, around 80Hz maybe. The 40s start to roll of around 65Hz and there is not much bass below about 45Hz. The bass response on the 40s is very lumpy, with big swings in decibels, sometimes as much as 6db, especially around 50Hz, where I have an increase by about 4 to 6db and somewhere in the 80Hz range there is a big dip where the bass goes down by about 5db. I think this is an issue with my room, not the speaker, as this happened with the Silver 200s also. When listening to music, I do not really notice this, other than the bass is a bit on the quiet side.

I am selling a few items at the moment and plan to use some of the money to buy a BK XLS200 subwoofer. I will see if I can place it well and cross it over by ear in both systems. If I am successful, I may get another, one for each system. I am not looking for trouser flapping bass...just a nice gentle roll off to around 30Hz. I would be happy with that.
 
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Helix Hifi

Well-known Member
The Concept 20s can be placed very close to wall without any boom or muddiness. I have not tried the 40s in this position, so I cannot say. They have not got a big bass output, but do have a single, large rear port. May be hit or miss. I have them placed around 50cm from the back wall as I prioritise soundstage and imaging over bass. The Concept 20s have almost no bass under 60Hz, and in my room start to roll off quite high, around 80Hz maybe. The 40s start to roll of around 65Hz and there is not much bass below about 45Hz. The bass response on the 40s is very lumpy, with big swings in decibels, sometimes as much as 6db, especially around 50Hz, where I have an increase by about 4 to 6db and somewhere in the 80Hz range there is a big dip where the bass goes down by about 5db. I think this is an issue with my room, not the speaker, as this happened with the Silver 200s also. When listening to music, I do not really notice this, other than the bass is a bit on the quiet side.

I am selling a few items at the moment and plan to use some of the money to buy a BK XLS200 subwoofer. I will see if I can place it well and cross it over by ear in both systems. If I am successful, I may get another, one for each system. I am not looking for trouser flapping bass...just a nice gentle roll off to around 30Hz. I would be happy with that.
Which software do you use to measure how low the deep bass goes. Rew?
 

RBZ5416

Distinguished Member
Yes. I used Room EQ Wizard.
You really need to be using a calibrated mic as well, but +/- 6dB isn't too bad if accurate. Speakers are usually spec'd to +/- 3dB & sometimes 6dB. I think your MAs were spec'd at +/-6dB. The QAs are only spec'd down to 53Hz at +/- 3dB, which is rather high for a floorstander.
 

FootHealer

Active Member
You really need to be using a calibrated mic as well, but +/- 6dB isn't too bad if accurate. Speakers are usually spec'd to +/- 3dB & sometimes 6dB. I think your MAs were spec'd at +/-6dB. The QAs are only spec'd down to 53Hz at +/- 3dB, which is rather high for a floorstander.
Yeah, I did the best I could with what I have. The Concept 40s do roll off rather high, but the bass they produce is good. I am considering getting a subwoofer. Sadly, black gloss tends to come at a premium.
 

pcaddy

Well-known Member
I would think that if the music sounds good and not fatiguing on vinyl but fatiguing with CDs the problem must lie in the electronics, the speakers haven't changed just the input to the amp, if the speakers sound good with your vinyl then the speakers are fine and you need to look into another area of the system to sort out the issue. ie Amp and CD player
 

karlsushi

Active Member
I would think that if the music sounds good and not fatiguing on vinyl but fatiguing with CDs the problem must lie in the electronics
I have just spent the best part of an hour going through this thread and I have to say, I drew precisely the same conclusions as you @pcaddy

Your vinyl rig sounded fine through the MA 200s, yet you concluded that it was the speakers that were the issue.

But there are obviously going to be any number of ways to tweak the system to your liking.

A little thought on transparency/colouration:

It is a paradox of going up the budget scale with hi-fi components that you start with a chase for ultimate clarity and transparency, because that is what everyone tells you is a sign of the ultimate system. But then you start to realise that while you can hear all those incredible details, it dawns on you that music is just that bit more enjoyable to listen to with a bit of colouration.

Also, I can't believe there have been this many posts attempting to resolve a fatiguing system and no-one has yet suggested trying valve amplification!

There are many ways to skin a cat in this game and I'm sure many of the suggestions made thus far will get you to a point of enjoying your music more and I'm pleased that changing the speakers has helped...for the time being.

But you know that won't be the end of it ;)

Enjoy the journey...(even if your wallet won't)
 

FootHealer

Active Member
I have just spent the best part of an hour going through this thread and I have to say, I drew precisely the same conclusions as you @pcaddy

Your vinyl rig sounded fine through the MA 200s, yet you concluded that it was the speakers that were the issue.

But there are obviously going to be any number of ways to tweak the system to your liking.

A little thought on transparency/colouration:

It is a paradox of going up the budget scale with hi-fi components that you start with a chase for ultimate clarity and transparency, because that is what everyone tells you is a sign of the ultimate system. But then you start to realise that while you can hear all those incredible details, it dawns on you that music is just that bit more enjoyable to listen to with a bit of colouration.

Also, I can't believe there have been this many posts attempting to resolve a fatiguing system and no-one has yet suggested trying valve amplification!

There are many ways to skin a cat in this game and I'm sure many of the suggestions made thus far will get you to a point of enjoying your music more and I'm pleased that changing the speakers has helped...for the time being.

But you know that won't be the end of it ;)

Enjoy the journey...(even if your wallet won't)
Hi...you are quite correct. I have considered getting a tube amp, and am looking at my options. Sadly, they tend to be quite pricey and since I have zero experience with tubes, I have put this off for fear of wasting large sums of money, which, ironically, I did anyway.

I did realise that the speakers were not necessarily the issue, because with a modest vinyl setup, I can listen happily without fatigue. Sadly, as a person who was a teenager in the 90s, most of my favourite music is not on vinyl, but on CD. I guess I have been trying to find a way to make my CDs sound more like vinyl (without the pops and static, of course). The Silver 200s provide the detail I enjoy and with analogue music, sound great. No fatigue. But with the digital sources, both CD and streaming, I think it is just too much detail. I considered my options, changing speakers or changing electronics, and perhaps mistakenly I latched on to the idea speakers were the issue. Sure, the Concept 40s and the Rotel being me closer to that vinyl sound when playing CDs, but with a slight loss of additional detail given by the Silver 200s. For example, last night I was listening to a track on CD on which the Silvers allowed me to clearly hear the sound of the electric guitar throught the pedals and amp, but also the actual sound of the strings vibrating, even the sound of the plectrum. On the Concept 40s, its still there, but only just, easily missed or lost in the overall woosh of the music. The tradeoff however was that I could listen for longer and with more ease. Finding that illusive "sweet spot" may be further, or closer, than I imagine, but as it stands I feel it may be better to accept a little less detail in exchange for a more relaxing listen. I've been toying with ideas about what to do with the Silvers, other than to sell them, but might as well keep and swap them back and forth with the Concepts depending on my tastes.
 

RBZ5416

Distinguished Member
I’d suggest putting the MAs upstairs & running them in fully, using the method I previously posted.
 

karlsushi

Active Member
I have considered getting a tube amp, and am looking at my options. Sadly, they tend to be quite pricey and since I have zero experience with tubes, I have put this off for fear of wasting large sums of money, which, ironically, I did anyway.
True regarding price. To get good quality valve amplification isn't cheap and even at the higher end of the spectrum, many will revert back to solid state because of the additional control/power.

Personally, I find the best place for tubes is in a preamp, so you can still let SS do the donkey work on your speakers.

If you want to dip your toe in without spending too much, I can thoroughly recommend a tube buffer. These are unity gain devices (i.e. same input and output voltage so won't affect volume) which you simply connect between your source and amp (in this case, you'd connect it after your CD player and then into your amp input) and they give you a bit of a taste of the valve thing, without going crazy.

The Musical Fidelity X-10D can be found regularly on ebay for around the £100-£150 mark. They are pretty old units now though and due to cult status are a bit over-priced for what they are. There are plenty of 'modded' examples out there too, with upgraded capacitors and the like.

The great thing about the X-10D though is that they use the 6922 family of valves, which gives you loads of opportunity for tube rolling (any 6922, 6DJ8, ECC88 or E88CC valves will do).

A popular chi-fi alternative would be the Yaqin SD-CD3 buffer:


Granted, buffers aren't the same thing as a proper valve amp, but if you like that warm vinyl sound, you may be very pleasantly surprised at what one can do in your system and it is a fun way to try them out without breaking the bank. Who knows, you may even get your MA speakers back sounding non-fatiguing.

It's all in the even order harmonics so they say.

In fact, if you live in the East Midlands area, I might even be willing to bring one over for you to try!?

But be warned, valves are a slippery slope and as you correctly pointed out, decent valve amplification doesn't come cheap if that is where you end up heading.
 

FootHealer

Active Member
True regarding price. To get good quality valve amplification isn't cheap and even at the higher end of the spectrum, many will revert back to solid state because of the additional control/power.

Personally, I find the best place for tubes is in a preamp, so you can still let SS do the donkey work on your speakers.

If you want to dip your toe in without spending too much, I can thoroughly recommend a tube buffer. These are unity gain devices (i.e. same input and output voltage so won't affect volume) which you simply connect between your source and amp (in this case, you'd connect it after your CD player and then into your amp input) and they give you a bit of a taste of the valve thing, without going crazy.

The Musical Fidelity X-10D can be found regularly on ebay for around the £100-£150 mark. They are pretty old units now though and due to cult status are a bit over-priced for what they are. There are plenty of 'modded' examples out there too, with upgraded capacitors and the like.

The great thing about the X-10D though is that they use the 6922 family of valves, which gives you loads of opportunity for tube rolling (any 6922, 6DJ8, ECC88 or E88CC valves will do).

A popular chi-fi alternative would be the Yaqin SD-CD3 buffer:


Granted, buffers aren't the same thing as a proper valve amp, but if you like that warm vinyl sound, you may be very pleasantly surprised at what one can do in your system and it is a fun way to try them out without breaking the bank. Who knows, you may even get your MA speakers back sounding non-fatiguing.

It's all in the even order harmonics so they say.

In fact, if you live in the East Midlands area, I might even be willing to bring one over for you to try!?

But be warned, valves are a slippery slope and as you correctly pointed out, decent valve amplification doesn't come cheap if that is where you end up heading.
Wow...that was something I never considered, frankly, because I didn't know it existed. Thanks. I had actually thought to myself if there was something I could add between the CD player and the amp that would make the CD sound a little more like my turntable. Perhaps this is it?

Sadly, I live a little too far from the East Midlands to make meeting up possible...but thank you for your kind offer. The price of a used X10D and the Shenzhen unit are pretty similar. Which would you go for? Can the tubes in the Shenzhen unit be upgraded?

I am aware that getting into tubes, and HiFi in general, is a slippery and expensive slope. I have no plans to end up sending 5 or 6 figure sums on HiFi. 4 figures is enough ;) But for some reason digital sources tend to play me up. If paired with the right amp or speakers, this seems to be okay. Trial and error has proved this to me. All the items I enjoyed and kept for more than a few weeks all had the same overall qualities: smooth, slightly warm, easy to listen to, with just enough detail to satisfy but without going full on "studio monitor". I like the Rotel A11 and Silver 200 combination with vinyl, but again, with CD or streaming...it doesn't work for me, ending up with listening fatigue. A tube buffer sounds like a great way to temper the digital input and make it more "vinyl-like".

As other members have suggested, I will spend some time ths week breaking in the Silver 200s a bit more, getting them up to 100 hours. I am not convinced about speaker break-in, but am open to the idea. The tube buffer is definitely going into my system. Just need to decide which one.
 

karlsushi

Active Member
Both buffers allow for plenty of tube-rolling experimentation. The Yaqin uses 6N8P valves which are the same family as the very well regarded 6SN7, used in many high-end preamps.

I can recommend the X10-D as I have one in my current system, but as I say, there is some degree of risk with such an old unit (I think it was originally released back in the early 2000's). If you are a capable DIY-er though, or know someone who is, there are whole forums about modding these with upgraded caps/power supplies etc which s far as DIY goes I understand is pretty basic (easy for me to say because I got someone to mod mine for me!!).

I haven't heard the Yaqin myself so can't comment specifically, but at least you have some degree of security/warrantee on a new unit (notwithstanding how difficult china is to deal with in case of issues!). You can pick them up on Amazon though I think.

A third option would be one of these: micro iTube2 by iFi audio - Vacuum Tube Buffer and Line Stage Preamplifier but I'm not actually sure if these are still in production. If they are, they're probably a safer bet from a UK supplier.

Schiit Audio also do a passive preamp which includes a tube buffer for even greater experimentation: Schiit Audio: Audio Products Designed and Built in California . But this one is a preamp, so you will be passing your signal through two volume pots which isn't ideal and is designed for use with a power amp really. Could be good if your amp has power amp inputs? But a little on the pricier side.

The other option of course is to replace your CD player with one which uses a tube output (there are a few out there) or alternatively, get a DAC which uses a tube buffered output. But these will be more expensive options and perhaps saved for the situation where you have decided that valves are definitely what you're after.

Like I say, lots of ways to skin a cat...
 

musicphil

Active Member
If you want to go down the tube route you need to try out a Willsenton R8 it's possibly the best under £3000.
It might blown your mind how good a system can sound. 😉
 

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