Confused Musical Presentation


Disclaimer!.... I have neurological auditory damage from exposure to military ordinance without hearing protection and therefore wear hearing aids. I have suffered a considerable amount of hearing loss above 3000Hz. The effect is similar to a treble tone control turned all the way down! However, I've been a music lover and audiophile since the early 80s and have enjoyed a lot of different systems over those years. My present system consists of Wilson Sophia 1, Quicksilver V4 (KT150), BAT 32SE, Cary DMC 600SE, and analog front end is driven by AVID Pulsus and ZYX 4D. Cables are Analysis Plus all around. I have minimal room treatment in 17 x 28 dedicated listening room. 

My  Problem: Listening to small group jazz (90%), typical audiophile fare, and solo instrumental and vocal music is simply breathtaking even at higher volume levels.  (My max on the volume is 80 out of 140 on BAT) No issues at all. However, when the music gets complicated/complex everything goes to crap! Soundstage collapses, music is jumbled together. There is the same effect even at moderate listening levels. Any suggestions to remedy this would be greatly appreciated.

Mike
communique1
FWIW your problem might be solved with an equalizer. Not to increase the highs so much as to reduce the lower ranges to bring your sound back into balance. 
Thanks newbee. My hearing aids are the best current technology is capable of. (The VA does not skimp1) I can hear music pretty well, its the confusion that's the issue. 
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Hi Mike,

Room acoustics are often the answer to this, I was writing about this in a thread about Class D amps, especially with hearing loss.

Contact GIK acoustics for help.
Best to just enjoy the music.

What system can do EVERYTHING with every recording, including the not so good ones at ANY volume level? Even the best show systems are still make believe.

Tuning up your room acoustics(don't forget the ceiling) and speaker placement can always keep you busy. 

Why increase audio nervosa? 
Agree with room treatment. I’m using Primacoustic panels purchased from Sweetwater Sound. No affiliation, just a happy customer.
Are you talking about a 19-piece jazz ensemble or an 80-strong classical orchestra?  Or just complex music played by a small group?  Generally speaking, the larger the forces involved, the more difficulty any stereo system has in creating a verisimilitudinous representation of it.  Just try Mahler's so-called "Symphony of a 1000" (symphony #8)!!
twoleftears, 
Its complex music regardless of size. For example, the selection The Lady In My Life from Christian McBride's Live at the Villiand Vanguard (I saw this exact band live) the music puts you at the venue...until they cut loose and I want to run for cover! (LP, CD, or Tidal Steam) I would chalk this up to the recording, but other similarly constructed tunes sound wonderful until the group cuts loose. Its as if the system gets confused/falls apart. I'm perplexed. 
I'll also look into Room treatment which was actually my next solution to explore. But this too appears as complicated as gear selection. Really don't want to spend over 2-3K on a solution. 
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Everyone is going after the system even after being clearly told there are hearing aids and damaged hearing. Situation normal.

As state of the art as your hearing aids may well be one of the hardest things for any system is when the tapestry gets dense to keep all the threads clear and distinct. And look, this is with plenty of AC power, overbuilt power supplies, and plenty of physical space to work with. Even something as big as a phone or iPod, when you want better all your choices are bigger. Also with audiophile gear what’s the worst component? The all-in-one. The home theater receiver.

No home theater receiver ever made ever made anything but crap sound. Even with all that power and space to work with. Of course your hearing aids are the problem. Always have been. Always will be.

There’s a simple test that will rule out the system and confirm its the hearing aids: when in a big room full of conversation (restaurant, stadium, etc) are you able to easily hear and make out lots of different voices and conversations? Or let’s say its raining, or you’re in the shower, or driving the car with the window down. Can you still distinctly hear isolated sounds within all that background noise? That’s the acid test. If you can do that with natural sounds but not with your system then its the system. Otherwise its the hearing aids.

Or you. Can’t rule that out. But if so then sadly that one is beyond even me. For now anyway.

Okay so going to assume its the hearing aids. Because it is. Nothing else (that we can deal with) makes any sense at all.

Any suggestions to remedy this would be greatly appreciated.


Well you’re not gonna like it but it is a solution so here goes.

Hearing aids are comprised of microphone, amplifier, and speaker. We know its possible to cram really good speakers into the ear canal, because lots of people have them. So true audiophile sound with hearing aids is possible, and the problem is not the speakers.

Its the mic, and amp.

So what you do, get yourself a really good set of IECs. Inner Ear Canal phones. Shure SE535, something like that. Then shop around for some iPod sized amp to plug them into. Finally once you have that you will be ready to audition microphones. One or two, your call, depends on how unobtrusive you want to go I guess.

As much as I’d like to take credit for this brilliant solution I have to admit this was done long before me by Fosgate who built one based on headphones. Worked great. Nowadays, quality IEC, iPod size amp, one good stereo mic clipped on the collar, hardly even know its there.

Considering the rest of your system this would be the single biggest upgrade you could make. So there you go.

Oh and, I know the services are messed up and all, but thanks for serving.
I doubt this is a case of hyperacusis. As a longtime sufferer, the symptoms are sensitivity to sound pressure levels resulting in pain. The OP, and myself, would not be able to continue listening to music once this condition kicks in.
With hyperacusis, the pain occurs when presented with loudness or high frequency spikes or transients. Due to the OP’s upper frequency hearing loss, now corrected by the use of hearing aids, this condition would be immediately apparent.

I suspect the room needs to be further treated to increase the focus in the midrange and improve the imaging. This is assuming the OP can hear this frequency range clearly.
And communique1...
Thank you for your service.


One thing is absolutely true is that I CANNOT discern audible ques in a crowded environment! Which leads me to believe that I'm still in denial of the fact that no matter the quality of the hearing aids they WILL NEVER replace or be equal to natural hearing. I work very closely with my audiologist to tune my hearing aids to reproduce voices as naturally as possible. I also believe that I use some aural memory of how I remember reproduced music sounding prior to my hearing loss situation. In either case, its most likely a combination of the two. Considering that my hearing aids, if purchased by me at retail would be @ 10K for the pair, so they do a pretty good job taking everything into consideration.

By the way, I'm listening to some Anne Bissom and it's like she's in the room.  I'll keep trying to solve the problem. I'm due to get the next generation of hearing aids in December. I will say that with each generation, heaing does get better. 

And I was proud to serve...20 years...Go Airforce!
You need an equalizer or comparable modern digital sound processor to compensate for the hearing issues.

All the old guys with old ears like me could probably benefit from one as well to be brutally honest. 🙄
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Elizabeth, FYI higher end ear aids usually can have multiple programs to match your hearing. So they say. You can have a program for speach and for, say, live music.  But IMHO under the best of circumstances they are not going to give you audio nearly as good as you get from your home system. If I had the need I would use an equalizer to create a curve to match my hearing loss, but contrary to what you might think, I think it would be better to reduce  the bass/mid/upper mid's to match the natural loss of high(er) frequencies. I hate the thought of amplifying your system's sound using any equalizer (except some of those mega expensive ones). 
While Miller’s post may have been a little harsh and brutal it is likely the simple truth.

No hearing aid built yet no matter at what cost can replicate the immense complexity and workings of the inner ear and it’s relationship with the brain.

So many simple nuances and discernment is lost and just cannot be regained.

I have worked in heavy industries most of my life and been gratefull I was forced to wear hearing protection at an early age even when I thought it was nonsense.

My last test showed I still detected up to 14khz which I consider pretty darn good for this 59 year young guy considering 40 years in industrial environments.

Sorry for your loss but that is exactly just what it is and you are making the best of it and still enjoying the music( mostly).
I suppose you've tried some reasonably good head phones as apposed to your speakers.
As Elizabeth stated so eloquently, I believe it might be a problem associated with your hearing loss. I’m a 35yr carpenter and I suffer from high frequency hearing loss.  It gets messy. In crowded areas I can’t always tell what’s being said. I’m not at the point of a hearing aid but will be within 5 yrs.. I wish a had a solution to share with you but I can definitely say you have a real nice system. 
first ide try to eliminate the system by asking someone else without a hearing problem to listen .the effect you describe is quite dramatic and noticeable. even though to me it makes sense that the small mic\speaker in the hearing aid are overloaded. 
in my system (nuforce icon hd arcam delta 120 b&w dm 580)i used to enjoy 70's ecm  albums (early metheny jan garbarek ralph towner)but could't enjoy led zeppelin everything collapsed like you describe so this helped with clarity
swap all the tubes to nos ge jan tubes
get a loki or some transpenant mild eq
get the ifi itube (it has a ge tube it's adding to the preamp) use it with zero gain as a buffer before or after the preamp
get really nice open headphones and amp i'm happy with hd700 and the icon hd but according to your system you have a finer taste than me so try and see what you like maybe staxx
One thing is absolutely true is that I CANNOT discern audible ques in a crowded environment!
What I was afraid of. If this happens even without hearing aids then sorry to say its not them its you. Oh well. Natural process, happens to us all, just in your case you got a lot of help and a big head start. 

So your trauma has resulted in a condition of not only loss but also inability to distinguish individual sources in, as you say, a complex environment. You are not alone in this. Lots of us experience this to one degree or another, and it only gets worse with age. Its so common almost everyone with hearing aids has this problem. 

So yeah harsh and brutal but I think if you face reality its painful but at least then you stand a fighting chance. No amount of delusional room treatment etc ever gonna get you anywhere. 

Since you are not the only one however then I have to think there are those who have studied this. I would begin as always with the interweb. But search, don't just ask random people, you hit pay dirt with me yes but to continue the mining metaphor that vein is played out you're down to a gram per ton if that.

Your audiologist might be able to help so ask him. What you're looking for is research or info on exercises to rehab your hearing. It could be physical but there could be a psychological component as well. Basically you have been traumatized repeatedly and now your brain is interpreting any complex sound at any volume as noise.

Not saying this is what happened, but if it was me I'd want nothing more than to curl up in a ball and shut out the world. If I couldn't do that physically I bet you my brain sure would as a protective mechanism if nothing else. Which unfortunately goes with you when you leave the battlefield.

Probably a lot of this is physical, similar to the hearing loss. But to whatever extent it is psychological, which I'm sure there's plenty going on there too, well then that would be good as at least there you stand a chance. 

Meantime, just a hunch but if it was me I'd be doing all I could to play and enjoy whatever music I'm able, and assiduously avoid whatever triggers this auditory confusion. Not just in music, but everywhere, to the extent that is possible I mean.

A side benefit, you may gradually come to gain an appreciation, or maybe recognition is a better word, for what is going on. Like, you already know its complexity not volume, and complexity of environment not just music.

One of the best psychologists I know said something to the effect that even if something is out of your control, to the extent you understand and recognize it, that alone is enough to bring a sense of relief. Might sound crazy but in my experience its one of the most sensible insights ever.

So you're a smart guy. And military, so you know perseverance. You'll figure it out. Let me know. Way I see it, probably be needing it myself some day.
+1 GIK Acoustics, i have just installed 2 x 244 full range Bass panels behind my Soundlab Majestic 545's and the improvements are remarkable. Also i just changed signal cables from JPS Labs Aluminata to Townshend F1 Fractal, again the improvements are magical, i was left with a few 1000 £'s as well. From my experience the GIK panels and F1 Fractal cables are a must for any system.
Thanks to everyone for your input. I'll take all into consideration and report back later.
Mike