What causes listening "fatigue"?

If I go to an audio store that carries mostly $1,000+ per pair speakers I would expect most to at least be fairly pleasant to listen to. But, at least 9 out of 10 of these (and other) speakers I've heard do not draw me into the music, do not soothe me when I hear them, and, more often than not, are so poor sounding to me that I usually want to turn them off in a mater of minutes.

I don't know if something in me has changed now that I'm old compared to when I was 20-something and before, I loved listening to all kinds of music even on my cheap-o bookshelf speakers. Now, each time I try, it's not pleasant, I end up giving up quickly and turning it off. :bawling:

I still enjoy the sound of live instruments though, and I like watching movies (and listening to the soundtracks while I watch them). I love the sound of a good home theater audio setup and am consistantly impressed by good DTS (or DD) 5.1 sound tracks playbed back through my Onkyo TX-DS787 reciever - it's simply awesome for DVD playback. But, other than being able to play loud and clear, I always feel like something is missing (besides my hearing) when listening to music using it.

Surely, some of the displeasure is because my hearing isn't as good as it used to be, but that's not the only thing.

What do you guys think usually causes "listening fatigue"? :dead: This is a term that I never heard being used 20 years ago, but, I think I've seen it tossed about frequently for the past several years. It seems that speakers have become more fatiguing over recent years, perhaps? Almost as if a flat FR doesn't make our ears happy, it seems, however senseless that may sound...

I just want to say AHHHH..., sit down, relax, and be drawn into music again, for it to be soothing, and pleasant. Will I have to get a crappy pair of two-way paper cone bookshelf speakers and rumage around garage sales to find another old 2 channel tube amp before my ears can be at peace again?

On this and other forums, I read all kinds of gushing and praising of this and that (DIY) speaker - I have got to go to some DIY-fest type event and hear some of these speakers for myself... :xeye:
 
Hi critofur

Not having the answers to your questions, I must admit that I feel the same as you do.....

It has always been my opnion that "sound" is very individual, and that changes over the years. The same does your hearing.....

Also if we listen to the same audio setup at home every day, I think our hearing sense adjusts to that sound. Listening to a new speaker (with different crossover frequencies and anothter spl for the different units in the speaker) will deviate from what we are used to, and maybe therefore cause us to dislike these?

Also our ears chages over the years. I know my ears have got some drops on certain frequencies, and maybe this also plays a role.......

Also there are personal preferences.....
I like clean but dynamic sound. I like when my gear is like a sportscar, just ask for me to turn up (pedal to the metal in the sportscar) ;)

Why does most people like the sound of tube amps, when they got >1% distortion ? In a tube amp the distortion is mostly 2nd harmonic, and this does not provoke our senses.......
So zero distortion is not the goal. The goal must be to create something that is pleasant to listening to, and let the measurement come in second.
 
"It seems that speakers have become more fatiguing over recent years, perhaps? " - I don't think so, more likely that more people have become more aware of what they're listening to.
To my mind, listening fatigue is caused by stressing the ears with distortion, usually the result of excessive volume, and/or components that are badly designed...
 
I believe listening fatique in this context to be just another salesman invention to sell highend gear. It is normal that one needs to turn his speakers down after some time. This is the same with every speaker. BUT, taste is subjective - so a good speaker from a designers point of view must not be a good speaker for you or me. So it boils down to listen to different speakers and get the one you like, ignoring what critics say about it.
 
Being a student a don't have tons of money to buy buy speakers and amps etc. but i have a decent set of speakers in my room and a decent sound system in my car.

thing is they sound completely different - not better or worse, just completely different - so after listening to my room speakers and i start hearing the frequencies that it lacks - i jump in my car and that sounds awesome!!! then i hear the imperfections of that system, so i start listening in my room again and i am amazed at how good my room speakers sound again.

So go buy a hi fi that says "PMPO" on it somewhere and force yourself to listen to that - then go back to your old system;)
 
What causes listener fatigue? The answer to that is primarily "Distorsion". The ear and brain are very sensitive and cleaver instruments, so much so that when the Brain decides that the sound is not realistic and not pleasant to listen to, it creates and uncomfortable zone. For example, when bodybuilding, one can only do so many repetitions of a weight before lactic acid takes effect. The lactic acid tells the the brain and then the muscles that you can no longer proceed. Same with sound.
As for speakers being $1000, I would also hint kindly at the suggestion that these speakers would contribute enormously to the "distorsion" that is received, however the all the parts in an audio system all act as one.

Hope I have been helpful
 
Having gotten more and more prone to listening fatigue throughout the years I tried an stereo dipole as per ambiophonics: speakers close to each other and a barrier in between extending to the listener´s position.

After a couple of years I can no longer stand the ominous sight of the huge barrier dividing the room and taking so much space.
I have traded listening fatigue for claustrophobia.

Return to the old traditional stereo, you say? No way, this is the only way I can listen to music for hours and get that enjoyable, soothing effect somebody mentioned before.

So I am currently working on installing a crosstalk canceller digital chip between cd player and amp that will give me both the good sound and a room to live in.
 
poldus said:
Having gotten more and more prone to listening fatigue throughout the years I tried an stereo dipole as per ambiophonics: speakers close to each other and a barrier in between extending to the listener´s position.

After a couple of years I can no longer stand the ominous sight of the huge barrier dividing the room and taking so much space.
I have traded listening fatigue for claustrophobia.

Return to the old traditional stereo, you say? No way, this is the only way I can listen to music for hours and get that enjoyable, soothing effect somebody mentioned before.

So I am currently working on installing a crosstalk canceller digital chip between cd player and amp that will give me both the good sound and a room to live in.

Jeez. Ever considered headphones? ;)

Or.. Carver C-9 Sonic Hologram Generator. :D

edit: Actually, I'm quite interested in that 'chip' u mention, for doing it digitally rather than analog. Have a link or something?
 
Listening fatigue is mostly found when the 1k-4kHz sound is more pronounced.

You will probably find that a lot of the speakers you may have listened to have a metal or Kevlar cone, with no appropriate filter to remove the break-up nodes of that cone. This will cause excessive listening fatigue even if the boost is relatively minimal (and most people will attribute it to a bad tweeter also).

Probably the crossover is also "minimalist" (1st order, one cap + one inductor).
 
Some possible causes

critofur said:

What do you guys think usually causes "listening fatigue"?

My guesses:

Amplifier
  • High order harmonics
  • Transient Intermodulation Distortion
  • Crossover distortion (of push-pull amplifiers)
  • Noise
  • Intermodulation distortion between power supply and signal
  • Modulation of noise in some strange way
  • Principally inaudible frequencies that somehow reach our subconscious
  • Modern electromagnetic noise (from cell phones, computers etc.)
Loudspeakers
  • Enclosure resonances
  • Somehow bumpy response in audible frequencies
  • Some distortions of phase response usually caused by passive crossover networks (inductances)
  • Comb filter effects in mid frequencies caused by distant speaker drivers
  • Baffle diffractions
  • Early reflections from floor or walls caused by lack of directivity
  • Resonant networks, filters or other structures that momentarily store energy release energy thus spreading transients
Recordings
  • Compressed CD
  • Otherwise ill re-mastered CD
  • Worn out vinyl records
  • Old CD player with jitter
  • Some strange filters in CD players
  • Worn out needle of the turntable
 
critofur said:
If I go to an audio store that carries mostly $1,000+ per pair speakers I would expect most to at least be fairly pleasant to listen to. But, at least 9 out of 10 of these (and other) speakers I've heard do not draw me into the music, do not soothe me when I hear them, and, more often than not, are so poor sounding to me that I usually want to turn them off in a mater of minutes.

I don't know if something in me has changed now that I'm old compared to when I was 20-something and before, I loved listening to all kinds of music even on my cheap-o bookshelf speakers. Now, each time I try, it's not pleasant, I end up giving up quickly and turning it off. :bawling:

I still enjoy the sound of live instruments though, and I like watching movies (and listening to the soundtracks while I watch them). I love the sound of a good home theater audio setup and am consistantly impressed by good DTS (or DD) 5.1 sound tracks playbed back through my Onkyo TX-DS787 reciever - it's simply awesome for DVD playback. But, other than being able to play loud and clear, I always feel like something is missing (besides my hearing) when listening to music using it.

Surely, some of the displeasure is because my hearing isn't as good as it used to be, but that's not the only thing.

What do you guys think usually causes "listening fatigue"? :dead: This is a term that I never heard being used 20 years ago, but, I think I've seen it tossed about frequently for the past several years. It seems that speakers have become more fatiguing over recent years, perhaps? Almost as if a flat FR doesn't make our ears happy, it seems, however senseless that may sound...

I just want to say AHHHH..., sit down, relax, and be drawn into music again, for it to be soothing, and pleasant. Will I have to get a crappy pair of two-way paper cone bookshelf speakers and rumage around garage sales to find another old 2 channel tube amp before my ears can be at peace again?

On this and other forums, I read all kinds of gushing and praising of this and that (DIY) speaker - I have got to go to some DIY-fest type event and hear some of these speakers for myself... :xeye:
Aftertones of the driver remains too long, some cone breakup mode exists, non-transient perfect XO design, peaky impedance curves, etc. could be anything.
 
Nikolas Ojala said:

Some other guesses:
  • Noisy environment
  • Hectic life and nervousness

Hmm, I needed music more back then when my life was more stressful, it was like therapy. Now, it's something I miss and long for, a distant memory.

soongsc said:

Aftertones of the driver remains too long, some cone breakup mode exists, non-transient perfect XO design, peaky impedance curves, etc. could be anything.

What are the odds that a cheap simple two way system with a 1st order crosover would be transient perfect?

pinkmouse said:
Don't forget the most important factor, your preference. Some people swear by drivers like Lowthers, I personally swear at them. ;)

I used to like most good systems that I heard years ago (anything that wasn't the super-cheap one way 5 watt K-mart special P.O.S. speaker, basically - do you know, the ones with the FAKE tweeters? :p )

The only recent (well, maybe not recent anymore) speakers I liked much were the Madrigal Revel Salon Ultimas. I have to go audition a bunch of new speakers again, it's been several years... I thought those B&O Beolab fancy flying saucer looking speakers were going to be great, I left the store very disapointed.

-----------------

I'm a skeptic, I can't stand hearing BS about expensive cables, "high end" capacitors, indcutors, etc... Maybe where I am not being objective is this notion I have that it must be complex crossovers that ruin everything, that, a "good design" is one where the crossover has no more than a few components. I also suspect that if a speaker can't reproduce a square wave, then, our brain must be going nuts trying to process the unatural mutation of sound coming out of speakers where the music has been twisted into some kind of alien sounds that sound just about right, but are yet somehow "not right" as the inductors mutilate the phase.

CDs more clearly capture flaws, CDs can more easily have too much treble mixed in compared to vinyl or cassette tapes.

When I used a cheap pair of two way rectangular box medium size "bookshelf" (I put them on a shelf most of the time, anyway) speakers which had one 8 inch paper cone and one paper cone/aluminum dustcap tweeter with no more than a few parts in the crossover (might have been only two, I can't remember exactly) I NEVER felt like my ears were tired, I never had need of this phrase "listening fatigue".

If someone had said "listening fatigue" to me back then, I would have answered "huh, is that some kind of strange military uniform you wear when you listen to music" -or- "do you mean you're tired of hearing your wife nagging" BUT, I would not have associated that idea with listening to music on a stereo because it wouldn't have made sense to me based on my experiences listening to stereos.

I would have to guess that my speakers had distortion, that the freq. response was not particularly flat. Whether played loud or soft, the music was fun. It didn't fool me into believing that the instruments were actually right there in the room. I didn't care about "imaging" and the notion of a "sweet spot" never occured to me. Didn't matter at all where I was in the room, sounded good (by good, I mean fun and pleasing to hear, accurate enough that I never felt like saying "this sounds like ****" as I do when I hear rumbling ghetto blaster SUVs roll down the road)

I seems like there are a few factors here: the source material - vinyl records and cassette tapes, the amp - a 2 channel Dyna tube amp, and the speakers - simple two way paper driver boxes.

But another thing to consider is, most of the systems I listened to in those years were pleasing to hear - my dad's Magnapan Tympany 1D, my neighbor's Onkyo Integra setup, etc... There were lots of stereo systems back then that didn't give one the feeling of tiredness or irritation from listening for more than just a few minutes. :angel:

Even a cheap record player playing records that weren't in the best shape could still bring me music that brought pleasure, made me smile and close my eyes to enjoy the music. Todays systems mostly make me: sit up, frown, open my eyes, and wonder "is there something wrong with me? because this just isn't pleasant to hear and the salesman would have you believe these speakers belong on Gold pedestals with diamonds, and that the cables feeding them should be 3 inches thick with special secret "black boxes" on either end... :rolleyes: power filtering line conditioners, amps designed by an ex-military high freq. radar electronics engineer, etc... But still, the sound, mediocre... :whazzat:
 
Unless there is something obviously wrong with the system, ie gross distprtions or anomolies of some kind, I believe listener fatigue is simply the result of the individual's brain chemistry at the time, and whatever external factors are causing it. That and silly audiophile preoccupation* with the sound more than the music.

* to me, there are two different hobbies here: I'm a nerd who likes to design and build audio gear. That is completely different to enjoying the music itself, which I can do equally well on a boombox or average car stereo with no fatigue if it's not cranked into distortion.