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Chris M.'s Avatar Chris M.
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Alright so can someone explain listening fatigue, and what causes it. Is this due to high volume levels, speaker tone or is it due to subwoofer frequency or what. Is there a particular type or brand of speakers that are known to cause ear fatigue.

Thanks
Chris
joey_truelove's Avatar joey_truelove
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Usually a sound that is heavy on the bass or trebles, or is generally peaky (espec. at the 'hard frequencies', like 2kHz, 8kHz) or perceived as overly aggressive is likely to give you listening fatigue.
the Son's Avatar the Son
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Yeah, I'd say it can be caused by many things, but what does it for me is when there's a frequency that really sticks out and is louder than the rest of the mix. It can be low, mid, or high frequencies.
Most particularly, those right around my girlfriend's voice range.

Usually I just feel like I'm getting drained and don't want to hear anymore. And my head feels not really like a headache, but maybe pressurized? Kinda hard to explain.
Espo77's Avatar Espo77
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...you know you have it when you keep reaching for the remote, so that you can turn it down.
Chris M.'s Avatar Chris M.
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So then it is not necessarily a design factor of the speakers, but more of the audio you are listening to? Could it be that some speakers are overly bright, which could cause ear fatigue?

How does all of this figure in when shopping and auditioning speakers?

Chris
Espo77's Avatar Espo77
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris M. View Post

So then it is not necessarily a design factor of the speakers, but more of the audio you are listening to? Could it be that some speakers are overly bright, which could cause ear fatigue?

How does all of this figure in when shopping and auditioning speakers?

Chris

You have to listen to them in YOUR home, in YOUR space, which often is the cause of the listening fatigue.
jima4a's Avatar jima4a
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I was recently told it often comes from a peak in the upper midrange, not usually from the highs which is what many believe. Would love to hear more on the topic from those more knowledgeable.
buzzy_'s Avatar buzzy_
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IMO people mistakenly blame the speakers. Really, do you think the speakers were that badly designed? Any hobbyist designing speakers can avoid that problem.

I'd be willing to be that the vast majority of the time, it's the room and/or the placement. Those can have a huge effect on throwing the frequency response off.
Secret Squirrel's Avatar Secret Squirrel
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One key factor that causes ear fatigue is the lack of amplifier headroom once you get to a certain volume level. When an audio system is played above its limits the sound becomes harsh. Here is an example almost anyone that has been to a rock concert can relate to. Have you ever noticed that the opening band almost always sounds harsh causing ear fatigue? That's because they usually have minimal amounts of equipment and are playing it at volumes above its comfortable limits to try and fill a space larger than they're used to playing in. When the main act finally comes on the sound is still loud but not harsh. The bass is fuller and the mid bass slam hits you in the chest. The electric guitars aren't ear piercing but still loud. This is because they're using a lot more equipment with a lot more head room in the amplification they're using. This applies to sound in our homes to.
gregzoll's Avatar gregzoll
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Speakers heat up, equipment heats up. Ever felt the box on a speaker after a concert or at a nightclub? You can fry an egg on them. That is one reason why after a few years, speaker sound worst due to how hard they are pushed. What speakers that can last, without fatigue affecting them in a few years, look at spending some money. Same with the av equipment and amps.
Espo77's Avatar Espo77
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gregzoll View Post

Speakers heat up, equipment heats up. Ever felt the box on a speaker after a concert or at a nightclub? You can fry an egg on them. That is one reason why after a few years, speaker sound worst due to how hard they are pushed. What speakers that can last, without fatigue affecting them in a few years, look at spending some money. Same with the av equipment and amps.

HUH...what?
gregzoll's Avatar gregzoll
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Espo77 View Post

HUH...what?

There is no such thing as ear fatigue so to speak. In reality, it is the inner ear congesting and the tympanic membrane, along with the assorted bones overall causing nerve problems, which is caused by long term exposure to loud sounds.

Listening fatigue is a term penned by those in the audio engineering field that deal with concerts, by stating that they lose their loss of being able to properly key in on certain notes to make the proper adjustments on the board.
jaeelarr's Avatar jaeelarr
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gregzoll View Post

There is no such thing as ear fatigue so to speak. In reality, it is the inner ear congesting and the tympanic membrane, along with the assorted bones overall causing nerve problems, which is caused by long term exposure to loud sounds.

Listening fatigue is a term penned by those in the audio engineering field that deal with concerts, by stating that they lose their loss of being able to properly key in on certain notes to make the proper adjustments on the board.

Bingo.
Tweaked05's Avatar Tweaked05
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I would also say that ear fatigue could also be a result of listening to music on equipment being pushed well beyond its means. As we all know, sound travels in waves like a sine wave with varying frequencies and amplitudes. The components of our ears duplicate these sine waves. When audio equipment is pushed beyond its limits it enters a state known as "Clipping". Clipping is when the amplitude (volume) of the sound exceeds the minimum and maximum capabilities of the equipment. As a result the top and bottom of the sound wave is "Clipped" or cut off resulting in distortion. When speakers turn this clipped signal into audio, it will no longer be smooth in and out motion, but as the speaker extends in and out it will suddenly stop for a brief moment or suddenly reverse direction. Our ears in turn do the same. When listening to cheap audio equipement, what most people perceive to be an increase in volume usually ends up being distortion.

I hope that all makes sense.
astrallite's Avatar astrallite
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It's probably just a misnomer for "mental fatigue."
commsysman's Avatar commsysman
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Listening fatigue is one of the main reasons that speaker manufacturers keep designing and redesigning tweeters. They can cause it, but there is certainly a contribution from the amplifier too. Everything in the chain of reproduction from the microphone in the studio or auditorium to the recording of the disc to the CD player or cartridge and the amplifier and the speaker ALL PRODUCE SOME DISTORTION, and it is layer upon layer of compounded distortion by the time it reaches your ears.

Some tweeters are very accurate sound reproducing devices, but they will reveal every tiny bit of distortion coming from your CD player, turntable, or amplifier, all of which contribute a share. Some cheaper tweeters simply PRODUCE distortion when driven vary hard. ANY tweeter will produce distortion if driven TOO HARD.

Speaker designers only use the best tweeters in very expensive speakers. This is partly because the tweeter itself is more expensive, but a more compelling reason is that they know from listening tests that if you listen to that tweeter with a typical receiver or amplifier it will definitely produce listener fatigue due to the significant distortion levels present in such an amplifier, because the good tweeter will faithfully reproduce the distortion. Sometimes it is best to take the edge off of the truth.

When Home Theater magazine tests a receiver, they do a 5-channel test which determines how much power they put out with 5 channels fully driven, and they determine the rating at the point where distortion reaches 1%. For a typical receiver with a 100 watt per channel rating with 2 channels driven, the test will find that the receiver puts out about 65 to 80 watts with 5 channels driven at 1% distortion. This is ONLY the amplifier distortion, which does not take into account all the other distortion in the chain.

In any case, HT receivers typically have a lot less power and a lot more distortion than the typical consumer is aware of, and if you get high quality speakers and hook them to such a receiver, the speakers will be excellent reproducers of the amplifier distortion. Sometimes a more forgiving tweeter with a little less accuracy is better with cheap amplifiers.

When you get amplifiers with very high accuracy and very low distortion, which unfortunately tend to cost thousands of dollars to design, build,and bring to market, then of course you want better and more accurate speakers, which also will cost a lot more money because of more rigid expensive cabinet designs and more expensive driver designs, more precise crossover components, etc. etc.

The bottom line, though, is that listener fatigue is simply the ears and brain telling you that they don't like what is being fed to them; distortion. It is there, even if it is too subtle to hit you in the face all of the time.



Quote:
Originally Posted by buzzy_ View Post

IMO people mistakenly blame the speakers. Really, do you think the speakers were that badly designed? Any hobbyist designing speakers can avoid that problem.

I'd be willing to be that the vast majority of the time, it's the room and/or the placement. Those can have a huge effect on throwing the frequency response off.


commsysman's Avatar commsysman
04:58 PM Liked: 257
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Amplifiers rarely clip in use except when unattended; this produces GROSS distortion which will typically instantly be 40% to 80% and sounds so terrible that only the brain-dead will fail to correct it immediately by turning down the gain of the amplifier. It would be extremely difficult to set the volume control so that clipping was occurring but only a little bit.

The exception is the idiot who turns it way up and then goes outside to the pool or another part of the house while the amplifier cooks and the speakers melt. Damage will soon result to one or the other.

Listener fatigue has nothing to do with clipping. Listener fatigue is caused by much lower levels of distortion which are not easily noticed except in careful attentive listening. The fatigue occurs precisely because the distortion is constantly there but not so bad as to immediately annoy the listener.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Tweaked05 View Post

I would also say that ear fatigue could also be a result of listening to music on equipment being pushed well beyond its means. As we all know, sound travels in waves like a sine wave with varying frequencies and amplitudes. The components of our ears duplicate these sine waves. When audio equipment is pushed beyond its limits it enters a state known as "Clipping". Clipping is when the amplitude (volume) of the sound exceeds the minimum and maximum capabilities of the equipment. As a result the top and bottom of the sound wave is "Clipped" or cut off resulting in distortion. When speakers turn this clipped signal into audio, it will no longer be smooth in and out motion, but as the speaker extends in and out it will suddenly stop for a brief moment or suddenly reverse direction. Our ears in turn do the same. When listening to cheap audio equipement, what most people perceive to be an increase in volume usually ends up being distortion.

I hope that all makes sense.


Tweaked05's Avatar Tweaked05
05:13 PM Liked: 25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

Amplifiers rarely clip in use except when unattended; this produces GROSS distortion which will typically instantly be 40% to 80% and sounds so terrible that only the brain-dead will fail to correct it immediately by turning down the gain of the amplifier.

The exception is the idiot who turns it way up and then goes outside to the pool or another part of the house while the amplifier cooks and the speakers melt. Damage will soon result to one or the other.

Listener fatigue has nothing to do with clipping. Listener fatigue is caused by much lower levels of distortion which are not easily noticed except in careful attentive listening. The fatigue occurs precisely because the distortion is constantly there but not so bad as to immediately annoy the listener.

I agree with most of what you have said, however I respectfully disagree with the highlighted portion.
commsysman's Avatar commsysman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tweaked05 View Post

I agree with most of what you have said, however I respectfully disagree with the highlighted portion.

A fact is still a fact, whether you or anyone else agrees with it or not.

I can demonstrate this to you with an oscilloscope monitoring the amplifier output. It is extremely hard to set the volume control to induce ANY clipping without producing severe clearly audible distortion. People do NOT sit and listen to this for more than a few seconds, so this kind of situation is not going to be associated with typical listener fatigue.

Furthermore, another thing that makes your theory completely wrong is that in 99% of all systems the level that would produce clipping, which you say is associated with listener fatigue, is a volume level that is so loud that no one would ever be able to stand listening to it! How are they going to get listener fatigue when they have been driven out of the room??

If you don't believe that, hook an oscilloscope across a speaker and turn up the volume until you see the waveform start to clip. I will bet that you can't even stand to be in the room before it gets that loud!

The only exception to this would be a tiny amplifier hooked to a low sensitivity speaker; a VERY rare situation.

What you are not aware of is that most amplifier distortion is caused by one of two things:

1) capacitors in the signal path that cause the waveform to be passed in a non-linear fashion, slightly distorting the sine wave. This is one reason that high-quality amplifiers and preamps are so expensive; special capacitors that minimize this are extremely expensive.

2) when an amplifier interacts with the large amounts of capacitive reactance and inductive reactance in the speaker system, the waveform is distorted because the amplifier power supply cannot supply enough peak current to completely overcome the distorting tendency of these reactances. Again, this is why expensive amplifiers get very expensive in a hurry. Very large expensive transformers and capacitors are needed in the power supply to minimize this distortion problem, making the amplifier much larger, heavier, and more expensive.

You are mistaken.
Timothy91's Avatar Timothy91
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Most recorded music in the last 14-15 years has been heavily compressed and distorted to begin with, so even if you have a completely clean, high-output system with plenty of headroom, you will STILL have issues with clipping and limiting from the SOURCE recording.

Listening fatigue from my experience is simply having become mentally BORED with something and the continuation of listening to it is annoying you now. It all has to do with the brain and how much of certain key chemicals are remaining so that you can enjoy yourself. Once you've exhausted those endorphines/chemicals/whatever, then you're bored and it's "annoying".

Most equipment doesn't really cause listening fatigue for me. I either like how it sounds or I don't. There are varying degrees of good to great sound and even bad to worse. Years of trying to appreciate speakers and the sound they make has left me with a more refined opinion of things. Something doesn't have to be extremely good for me to say it's "good", but it used to be that way for me. Now I'm able to catagorize my experiences and know the proper context to put a listening experience in.
Darth Bawl's Avatar Darth Bawl
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Ha. I think a lot of people want their music so loud that it makes their hair stand up, but then they blame the speakers for causing listener fatigue!
dpc716's Avatar dpc716
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I don't believe "listening fatigue" has ever been defined precisely so what you'll get are a bunch of opinions. Here's mine.

Your organs are designed to operate within certain tolerances. Operating outside those tolerances eventually will result in some loss of function. Anyone who has operated a boat or skiied in the presence of glare over an extended period can attest to the loss of visual acuity that results. I would not be surprised if the same could be said for hearing after listening to moderately loud to loud sounds over a period of time, independent of distortion or a peaky response speaker profile.
Tweaked05's Avatar Tweaked05
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01-07-2012 | Posts: 484
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Quote:
Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

A fact is still a fact, whether you or anyone else agrees with it or not.

I can demonstrate this to you with an oscilloscope monitoring the amplifier output. It is extremely hard to set the volume control to induce ANY clipping without producing severe clearly audible distortion. People do NOT sit and listen to this for more than a few seconds, so this kind of situation is not going to be associated with typical listener fatigue.

Furthermore, another thing that makes your theory completely wrong is that in 99% of all systems the level that would produce clipping, which you say is associated with listener fatigue, is a volume level that is so loud that no one would ever be able to stand listening to it! How are they going to get listener fatigue when they have been driven out of the room??

If you don't believe that, hook an oscilloscope across a speaker and turn up the volume until you see the waveform start to clip. I will bet that you can't even stand to be in the room before it gets that loud!

The only exception to this would be a tiny amplifier hooked to a low sensitivity speaker; a VERY rare situation.

What you are not aware of is that most amplifier distortion is caused by one of two things:

1) capacitors in the signal path that cause the waveform to be passed in a non-linear fashion, slightly distorting the sine wave. This is one reason that high-quality amplifiers and preamps are so expensive; special capacitors that minimize this are extremely expensive.

2) when an amplifier interacts with the large amounts of capacitive reactance and inductive reactance in the speaker system, the waveform is distorted because the amplifier power supply cannot supply enough peak current to completely overcome the distorting tendency of these reactances. Again, this is why expensive amplifiers get very expensive in a hurry. Very large expensive transformers and capacitors are needed in the power supply to minimize this distortion problem, making the amplifier much larger, heavier, and more expensive.

You are mistaken.

Dude, you need to take it easy. No need to get hostile. All I said was I disagree with you. Perhaps I'm wrong, but to say my theory is "Completely Wrong" is a bit harsh. Here you are throwing out percentages as fact when you have no way to back it up. How can you say 99% of all systems when no study has been done and no quantifiable data is available? Furthermore, you discount kids and how they listen to music. As a kid, teenager, and even young adult, what I thought sounded good was damaging my ears. And you can in fact cause clipping in an amp without pushing that amp to ear bleeding levels. This can be done by taking the headphone output of any ipod, or even a portable cassette player for us older members, and over drive the input stage to an amplifier causing the signal to be clipped resulting in distortion at lower volumes.

I wasn't trying to argue with anyone here, I was merely offering my understanding of "listening fatigue". Now, I'll be happy to admit I'm wrong, but there is no need to try to make me look like a fool while telling me I'm wrong.
Dennis Erskine's Avatar Dennis Erskine
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"Listener" or "Listening Fatigue" is within the realm of Psychoacoustics. It can be caused by *any* form of distortion artifacts where the cause is in the equipment chain, speakers, or (more commonly), poor room acoustics. Indeed, listener fatigue can be demonstrated in meeting rooms, lecture halls (aka University lecture rooms), or even overly reverberant "lofts", or other spaces.

The simplified answer is found in the fact that we humans have a very vast experience with respect to (1) how things should really sound; and, (2) listening to the human voice. In case one, our listening mechanisms (brain) will work overtime to filter out distortions from our experience base and allow us to perceive a distorted sound as not being distorted. In case two, we are doing whatever we can to understand speech and dialog. In a poor audio reproduction environment, poorly designed meeting room, or even in a "too loud" restaurant those hearing mechanisms will do their best such that we can understand the dialog. It is these events which lead to listener fatigue (and students falling asleep in lectures ).

Comment on overly bright speakers. I will grant some speakers are horribly designed; however, in the vast majority of cases where a speaker is described as overly bright (room environment not withstanding), the fault does not lie with the speaker ... it is found in the inappropriate use of that speaker. Since high frequencies will roll off much faster in air, speaker designers will increase HF output of the speaker based upon what the designer (or marketing department) determines will be the average distance between the speaker and the listener. If that is a longer distance and listener is sitting closer to the speaker than the design distance, that speaker will be said to be overly bright. It is only overly bright within that specific environment and the real problem the speaker is being used within a context for which the speaker was not designed to accommodate.
Will2007's Avatar Will2007
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^^^^^^^Thanks for an excellent explanation, Dennis.
pronghorn/az's Avatar pronghorn/az
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I had a pair of Klispch Forte II's back in the day and while they were an excellent speaker and really rocked, it was easy to get listening fatigue. NEVER had that problem with my Paradigm Monitor 9's.

Jeff
zoetmb's Avatar zoetmb
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothy91 View Post

Most recorded music in the last 14-15 years has been heavily compressed and distorted to begin with, so even if you have a completely clean, high-output system with plenty of headroom, you will STILL have issues with clipping and limiting from the SOURCE recording.

Listening fatigue from my experience is simply having become mentally BORED with something and the continuation of listening to it is annoying you now. It all has to do with the brain and how much of certain key chemicals are remaining so that you can enjoy yourself. Once you've exhausted those endorphines/chemicals/whatever, then you're bored and it's "annoying".

.

This is correct. I was at the Audio Engineering Society convention a few years ago around the time that the "Beatles #1" CD was released, in which the songs are much more compressed than the original mixes. I was at a producer's panel and the issue was raised as to whether the Beatles would have been as successful as they were had their original recordings been released as compressed as recordings are today. Some of the producers maintained that they wouldn't have been because of fatique is listening to such compressed material, although songs get compressed over the radio anyway.

However, in addition, there is also ear fatigue This happens when the nerve endings in the ear have been so overwhelmed by loud sounds that they can no longer respond properly to the frequencies received.

Either "mental fatigue" or "ear fatiguge" should not be confused with a simply annoying sound system, whether caused by the original recording, the mix, the mastering or the playback system. Even aside from distortion factors (there are actually some times of distortion that our brains "like" - more on that below), if a system is very "peaky" in the 2-4KHz range, that can be very annoying. And sometimes a very unbalanced system, one that drops out the entire midrange, can sound quite pleasant.

Distortion: there are several types of distortion and different types of systems behave differently. Our brains actually like odd-harmonic distortion, which is the kind of disortion you hear via a fuzz guitar and the kind of distortion you hear when a system "tops out", especially with tube-based amplifiers. This is easy to conceive: draw a complex waveform about 6" high and at 5" high draw a horizontal line through it. Waves that were formerly rounded or triangular have their tops removed and are now more square in shape.

Similarly, in analog tape recording, when recording levels get to the point where the oxide particles on the tape simply won't respond any more, you get what's called "tape saturation". Many mixers and producers liked the sound of tape saturation and would purposely overdrive the level on the tape. They would do this by aligning the tape deck to record a higher level: 250nanowebers and higher (sometimes much higher) instead of the former standard of 185nwb.

Even in musical instruments, musicians will frequently overdrive the signal from a Hammond B3 into a Leslie Tone Cabinet or purposely overdrive the guitar pickup level into an amp, although these days, it's more often done through the use of pedal accessories. This is all because they like the distortion.
tommyt56's Avatar tommyt56
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I know this is an old thread but it comes up high in search engines.

In the past, I used to listen to very loud music and my ears got tired after hours of listening. Even being a guitar player that loves (tube) distortion I could take hours of that.. that was years ago.

Today I'm a Broadcast Engineer and I'm always around a TV set/monitor. At home, my wife watches a lot of TV. I listen to a lot of Pandora radio, YouTube and internet radio in general. I mean at low volumes too, like average 50-70dB, not concert volumes.

That being said, today my ears get real tired as do I after a few minutes of anything except old records, cassettes and WAV files. Even my guitar amps at volume don't tire me.

I've simply discovered that it's all the compression and the digital conversion of today's equipment. Very compressed/low bandwidth sources such as TV audio (now digital, no longer analog) and the tinny little speakers on new TV's are responsible.. Wiki even states that it's all the noise and artifacts that tire the ear. That's all hi-frequency stuff! Even good quality 320K MP3's are OK, it's the lower quality stuff like that on most TV channels and online stuff.

So, it's not always volume, it's all the artifacting going on, that's it for me. It's the swirling messy muck in the hi freq's. I think that's why tube amps and analog recordings are not so tiring. On vinyl, there's not all this messing about with sampling rates and such, there simply is no sampling going on, except for perhaps the (transistor) amp pushing the speakers.

It's no fun getting older (50+) as i do have to turn down the volume. But i feel really bad for the young ones who have to listen to all this (relatively) new compressed-like-hell music. By the time your 40 or even possibly 30 something you'll be tired of any audio!

My old buddy tinnitus doesn't help either! He doesn't get too ruffled at low volume though.....


tt
Saturn94's Avatar Saturn94
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02-25-2013 | Posts: 4,213
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post


....


Distortion: there are several types of distortion and different types of systems behave differently. Our brains actually like odd-harmonic distortion, which is the kind of disortion you hear via a fuzz guitar and the kind of distortion you hear when a system "tops out", especially with tube-based amplifiers. This is easy to conceive: draw a complex waveform about 6" high and at 5" high draw a horizontal line through it. Waves that were formerly rounded or triangular have their tops removed and are now more square in shape.


.......

I thought I've always read that our brains like even order distortion, not odd order distortion?confused.gif
Bill Fitzmaurice's Avatar Bill Fitzmaurice
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02-25-2013 | Posts: 10,129
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturn94 View Post

I thought I've always read that our brains like even order distortion, not odd order distortion?confused.gif
That's a matter of debate, but where distortion in our systems are concerned, it's moot. What does matter is that high levels of THD increase the harmonic content of what we hear to unnatural levels, and that's very often a cause of listening fatigue. One source of high levels of THD is excess compression.
Quote:
I was at a producer's panel and the issue was raised as to whether the Beatles would have been as successful as they were had their original recordings been released as compressed as recordings are today.
George Martin was sent to the US in the 60s to tour studios in search of the 'secret weapon' that made our recordings so much better than theirs. It was the Fairchild compressor.
It's true that many of todays recordings are over-compressed. That's not the technologies fault, but that of the producer.
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