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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all, I've got a re-occurring problem where vocals tend to sound harsh at louder volumes. There seems to be background static to them or distortion. I feel the issue is happening with most higher pitched frequencies but that the vocals tend to reveal it more often. I can hear this at lower volumes too, but it really shines at close to reference listening levels or if I put my ear closer to my tweeters. The problem occurs on all 5 of my speakers.

The rest of the audio sounds great, deep punchy bass and solid mid range.

I've had the speakers for a few years now and never noticed this. I bought a new subwoofer about a month ago and had amazing listening sessions for two weeks before I started to notice the distortion.

I feel that I noticed it right after trying to do some cable management behind my TV stand. This leads me to believe that the issue is power related. I've since moved the speaker wire around to try to avoid power cables to no avail.

The problem seems to come and go. Weather that is related to specific audio tracks I'm not sure. It is most pronounced playing back music from my computer, both MP3 and lossless audio tracks show this problem. I feel I've also noticed it with my turntable, but it is less noticeable.

I also watch some movies and TV and I've tended to notice the distortion less there. I would say even at its worst, the distortion is still subtle. I think my ear is just so trained to my speakers that I notice this problem happening and then can't focus on anything else!

So I've got a few other theories to what might be happening:

1) Bad electricity, is it happening when a certain appliance starts up or shuts down? I don't think it's the HVAC but I haven't gotten a chance to prove its not the fridge. The lights in my living room DO dim when the heating and refrigerator turn on I know that for a fact. Also, my subwoofer pops when I turn on the electric blanket. Speaking of the subwoofer maybe that is just pushing the electrical to its limit? I'd only had it for a few weeks when I noticed the issue.

2) Amp going bad? I don't ever notice the harsh vocals right away, when the amp is still cool. Could it be heating up and having a component not work right? I've played with amp settings like turning off all processing (pure direct mode) and turning Audessey calibration on/off. I don't think it is that.

3) Bad speakers? Could I have partially blown out the tweeters on all my speakers? I bought some of them used but have had them for over a year.

4) My ears? I've definitely listened to my fair share of very loud music at home and at concerts. I've also done a fair amount of metalworking without ear plugs which tends to lead to loud extended volume (Grinding.)

5) Am I just noticing the limitations of my system? Is my hearing actually getting better in a sense? Would a speaker upgrade then be the only solution?

Because the problem seems to be intermittent I'm having a difficult time narrowing down possibilities.

Most of my AV equipment is plugged into power strips/surge protectors (The cheap generic kind) except the sub is plugged straight into the wall. About the only thing I can think of is buying a nice power filter/conditioner/UPS.



The APC is just a power filter/conditioner but it seems to have better ratings and I don't feel the need for the battery backup. My only connected computer is a HTPC front end with no data stored on it.

I would greatly appreciate anyone's advice and input on my situation.

My equipment:

Epik Empire Subwoofer

Ascend Acoustic 340SE L R speakers

Ascend Acoustic 340 C

Ascend Acoustic 170 SR

Denon 789 AVR

Westinghouse 42" LCD TV


HTPC (of the smaller lower powered variety)

Pioneer turntable and pre-amp

13,125 Posts
If it is the AVR or speakers distorting it should be consistent and a CD should show it. It is possible the computer is generating the noise (e.g. short dropouts/skips, or could even be RFI -- RF interference). I would first try to narrow down the source by finding a consistent way to recreate the noise. Then, use headphones and see where in the chain the noise appears (computer output, disc player, AVR, etc.) Divide and conquer...

HTH - Don
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