listening fatigue

music soothes the savage beast
Joined 2004
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On a more serious note...
I once had a terribly boring sounding receiver. No need for name. Listening fatigue in 20 min guarantied.
I looked inside, the power output section looked great, big trafo, big smoothing caps, all big sanken outputs, genuine for sure. Why such boring sound.
As a receiver, all preamp was remote controlled. Volume, bass, treble, eq, all remote controlled chips. I bypassed that section, put just regular pot after the remote controlled signal selector. Great sound! Juicy, powerful, enjoyable.
I hacked many receivers since than, and enjoyed great SuperA sound.
The reason for listening fatigue was discombobulated pre section. Too much line level signal deterioration.
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Hi everyone .
What causes listening fatigue other than poor EQ and power amp clipping? .
Hard surfaces if there are enough to muddy image, this is one contributor.

I gaurd my hearing the best I can short of wearing these.

Ear damage however slight because its so slight that your unaware when its evem occuring. Every object accidentally falling, being blown up, very high pitched dog barking, or broken car exhaust and otherwise contributes. Then I believe in turn that can also add to fatigue, or induce it in shorter time period.

However I am not a doctor.

And we have to be realistic. I avoid loud noise if it causes discomfort. Im not reached the point of wearing these around yet.


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What causes listening fatigue other than poor EQ and power amp clipping?
In approximate order of contribution:

1. Boosted 1-7 kHz in mastered recordings:

Here's a reverse engineered mastering EQ curve from a Smashing Pumpkins album (track: Siamese Dream):

Cherub Rock EQ curve.GIF

(Can you imagine listening to this sort of thing for 40+ minutes for an entire album?)

2. Modulation distortion (which sounds harsh and opaque) of recordings...and of loudspeakers (at high SPLs):

Modulation distortion levels of a a large vented box vs. a MWM horn at 115 dB:

Mod Distortion Sideband Levels Horn vs Port.JPG

3. Phase and group delay distortion of loudspeakers (due mostly to phase growth through crossover filters employed)


In my experience, phase distortions of greater than 60-90 degrees through the crossover regions are audible (i.e., higher frequencies arrive before lower frequencies) and produce harsh, fatiguing sound quality--and timbre shifts.

4. Deliberate clipping (limiting) of mastered tracks:

This varies considerably among commercially released music tracks, but in my experience the amount of clipping of average music peaks (every cycle) is something between 0.5 and 4 dB. I've seen more than 60% of the music waveform clipped off, much more typically when talking about popular (i.e., rock derivative genres) music tracks, much less common when talking about classical or jazz genres.

In one instance, I had to tilt the resulting de-clipped multichannel music album tracks (~3 dB of clipping on average) upward by 2 dB/decade to regain a proper balance of high to low frequencies (Fear of a Blank Planet - Porcupine Tree 5.1 surround sound recording) after using Clip Fix and then Normalize using Audacity to repair the damaged tracks. [The mastering guys obviously had clipped the tracks so much during mastering that they also had to tilt the resulting track spectra downwards by at least ~2 dB/decade because they were so harsh sounding that no one could listen to them.] That certainly isn't the most extreme example of mastering clipping that I've seen. After Clip FIx/Normalize, then tilting the spectra back to compensate, the tracks became a pleasure to listen to.

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If you are nit-picking the second plot, above in my post, that is merely an example of a modulation distortion measurement made by a very large loudspeaker manufacturing company for two cinema loudspeaker systems (using the bass bins used in the largest commercial cinema auditoria of over 500 seats). Perhaps you can read the following: frequency modulation distortion in loudspeakers (most prevalent at higher frequencies) as a major factor in the perception of harsh sound (starting at the bottom of page 9)--


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Room reflexions and echoes also contribute to listening fatigue. Some reflexions make the sound alive, though. Probably the frequency balance of the reflected sound amplitude and delay is also important.

I observed that there is no listening fatigue if you can talk to another person 1 or 2 meter apart, while you are listening to loud music. I experience this on a Dire Straits live concert, which was really loud but super clean, and we could chat to each other easily. I don't know what was their secret.
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A HiFi ia n information processing system where you want to lose as little information as possible.

The human ear/brain system will work to fill in anything that is missing/lost. If your system is poor your brain gets fatigued filling in the pieces that are missing.


Hard to tell how exactly this fits with the presence or absence of listening fatigue.

We had a large German radio when i was small. SET into a full range alnico driver. Even playing AM, with its ludicrously curtailed frequency response, it was never fatiguing. A great violin tone too. No doubt plenty of information was lost but my brain was not struggling with the missing pieces.

Later, ss a teenager i had a decent Jap separates system, MC cart, big Technics receiver, Pioneer HPM60 speakers. It had power and bass and plenty of detail, but as far as listening fatigue went it just could not compare to the old radio.

It was perhaps this time of experience that led to the revival of SETs and wide rangers in the 90s.
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Not sure what causes it, but I get less (or none at all) after I managed to lower distortion in my speaker system below 0.1% at any listening level. Absence of early reflections, smooth frequency response and a very short and diffuse room decay also helps I guess.