Ears hurt when listening after changing speakers

For years I had multiple models of Maggies and Martin Logan speakers. I could play them very loud with no problems with my ears. A few months ago I purchased the Rockport Aviors and now when I listen at moderate to high levels my ears start to hurt.  Anyone one else experience this when changing speakers and would like thoughts on how to resolve other than turning the volume down.  I do love the Rockport.
Interesting problem. My guess is you are actually playing the Rockport louder for some reason probably a psycho acoustic issue. You would have to look at the frequency response vs the other speakers and compare actual sound pressure levels which is useless advise because you can't do it without the other speakers and measuring equipment. 
But, ears hurting is not a good thing and you have to avoid that if you want your hearing to last. 
You can play around with positioning and room treatment or get a room control system that will allow you to play around with the frequency response. You might find that a notch filter at 3000 Hz helps.

I'm wondering if the problem may be caused by ultrasonic frequencies the Avior is able to reproduce but the other speakers were not able to reproduce.  The Avior's frequency response is spec'd at 25 Hz to 30 kHz (-3 db), and Stereophile measured the similarly spec'd Avior 2 as actually having a small peak at 30 kHz, that being the highest frequency for which they measured frequency response.

What electronics are you using?  Perhaps the amp is not happy with the low impedance of the speaker at ultrasonic frequencies.  For the Avior 2 Stereophile measured an impedance of about 3 ohms between 20 kHz and 30 kHz, and about 3.5 ohms at 50 kHz, although impedance phase angles were benign in those regions.

-- Al

I would observe in general switching from planar or electrostat speakers like Magnepan and ML (very easy on the ear) to large dynamic speakers like Rockport alone is a big difference that one’s ear’s may not be used to and find somewhat fatiguing...definitely much different which may be good or bad depending on the listener.

Not uncommon that a major change in speakers causes a ripple effect leading to changes with gear back upstream to get things right again.

It could be that other tweaks/changes might be needed to get a more relaxed sound out of the new combo. Tone controls might be handy.

Are the tweeters pointing directly at your listening position? If so changing that might help.

If grills are off try putting them on.

Like mentioned above, it could be that the new dynamics are not for your ears in which case either listen at lower volume or maybe consider adding a dynamic range processing device to allow you to go louder without hitting uncomfortable peaks. dbx devices used to accomplish this, there are probably good quality digital processors available today that can do it much better.

Power conditioning might help and would be worth a try if not in place currently I would say.

Are your wires shielded? That is a good safeguard to avoid possibly picking up noise that adds to fatigue.

Just some ideas....

Also possible your ears will just adjust.... give it some time before doing anything drastic.

Are the Rockports new? You love the Rockports but they hurt your ears?
reduction in spl vs seating distance is almost perfectly linear with panel speakers and is almost exponential with point source speakers. Dispersion in the room is also different.

What I’m talking about is the idea of setting listening levels with a standard volume pot while standing and then moving to the listening position, vs adjusting while in the listening seat.

The experience of changes in sound levels while moving around the room is notably different in the two driver technology types.
Are you talking about listener fatigue (can't/don't want to listen for very long) or actual physical pain?
Thanks to all. I was using Paavo XA 160 amp with Audio Research LS27 preamp. Switched amps to VTL S-200
Don’t know anything about a Paavo amp??? but having the option of switching amps, especially to a good quality soft-clipping tube amp, should help troubleshoot at minimum with those speakers I suspect. Those speakers are speced at 4 ohms though so that could make them a somewhat challenging load for many amps.
Uh, the plot thickens. 😬
The Rockport loudspeakers have a much greater top end extension than the Martin Logan's Martin Logans like most electrostatic loudspeakers have a polite top end with a much greater fullness in the midrange.

A warmer dac or changing cables might help, the Rockports are a very revealing loudspeaker.

What is the rest of your system?

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
Room acoustics.

The maggies probably had more controlled dispersion. The new speakers have a wider dispersion.

Try throwing some blankets and pillows on the floor, between and behind and to the sides of your new speakers. If this makes things better, it's a good clue where to go next.
reduction in spl vs seating distance is almost perfectly linear with panel speakers and is almost exponential with point source speakers.
Huh? How can that possibly be? Have you actually measured this? Also, there are panel speakers that are also point sources, so how does that factor into your equation?

" The new speakers have a wider dispersion. "

Imo there may well be a correlation between WHERE the dispersion is wide and WHAT lourdes is hearing.

According to Stereophile's measurements, the Rockports are dead flat on-axis.  This means they inevitably have excess off-axis energy at the bottom end of the tweeter's range, and sure enough, we see an off-axis energy flare around 3 kHz, accompanied by a corresponding bump in the in-room response in that region.  


Teo wrote: "reduction in spl vs seating distance is almost perfectly linear with panel speakers and is almost exponential with point source speakers."

Cleeds asked: "Huh? How can that possibly be? Have you actually measured this?"

Intensity (in this case sound pressure level) falls off by 6 dB for each doubling of distance from a point source, and by 3 dB for each doubling of distance from a line source. I’ve measured it, but that was many years ago and I don’t have those measurements in front of me.

(In fact, one of the challenges with a hybrid system like the Martin Logans arises from the fact that the panel is approximating a line source while the woofer is approximating a point source, so the spectral balance changes with distance.  Room reflections mitigate the discrepancy somewhat, but in my experience it is still measurable and audible.)

That being said, I doubt this is a significant factor in what lourdes is describing.


Intensity (in this case sound pressure level) falls off by 6 dB for each doubling of distance from a point source, and by 3 dB for each doubling of distance from a line source.


Yep, this is one of the main engineering arguments people have for why hybrid speakers don’t integrate well. An argument I usually find is dispelled with bass traps and proper EQ. :)

I mean, yes, ultimately this makes the speakers 1 distance speakers, but if you are all at a couch, for instance, integration works.


I am considering Rockport Atria IIs. I am having a similar problem. My system is posted. 

I was a Spectral / Avalon guy until recently. For 20 years with Spectral, this November my Avalons will be 14 years old. In 2016, I switched to Pass Lab. I had a problem with the Avalons becoming bright and edgy, Additional room treatment tamed everything.

This will be my final system. Since 2016, I switched from Spectral to Pass Lab. Bought (2) new TTs,arms, cartridges. Kept the MIT cables. 

Went to an Ear Specialist on Monday 8/26/19. He also happens to be a 'phile. My ears were not very dirty, but he cleaned what little was there. Skin infection of ny ears and in canal. Also prescribed oily ear drops with steriods.  Set me up for a hearing test on 9/11/19. He said that he wanted me to like him as much as I like my foot doctor and that he was going to help.

During the last 4-5 months. I have been auditioning speakers. Rockport Atria Is,  Wilson, Sabrinas, Y'vettes, Sasha 2s,  Paradigm (don't remember) Focal Sopra 2&3s. The Rockport dealer, has given me a 3 week home audition and did initial setup and came back 5 or 6 days latter to tame brightness / edgyness that I was unhappy with. Moved them about 5" back and 2" closer together, with almost no toe-in. Much Better. 

Today is day 5, of the ear drops. My ears have stopped itching and hearing is a bit better Still have my Avalons and they sound better too.

Was diagnosed with MS in Sept 2016  Thought that music would be the last thing that the disease would allow me to enjoy. It has taken so many other things already. Hope my hearing is not another one.                      
Hi @nkonor

Sorry about your diagnosis.

Two things which may help you is listening with cans and really good room acousutics. For reasons too long to post, both can reduce mental fatigue a great deal, your brain no longer attempts to spend energy separating out the music from the room, which can be a heavy burden.

Best of luck to you,

FWIW I have found MIT cables good as cables go at taking the edge off the sound if needed, but better to not need to in the first place.

Fro what I've heard at shows, Rockport speakers can be brutally revealing.

Whatcha hearing with the new (VTL) amps.   BEtter?
Sorry I just kind of zipped through the answers to your post rather quickly, and not sure if this has been mentioned or not. You said you listen at moderate to loud levels? Have you ever checked the dB loudness level that you are listening? I only ask because I have tinnitus from multiple reasons such as loud music, loud tools, hunting, Etc. And I wouldn't wish this condition on anyone. So you might want to check your listening level either with the dB meter, or there are apps you can get for your phone, however I question their accuracy. But it may give you an idea if you're listening at a safe level.
Same deal for different reasons. Decades of salt water immersion whilst surfing has rendered me afflicted with Surfers Ear and Tinnitus, which presents as a high whistle but not that loud just always present. With my hi-fi I have successfully experimented with lower volumes, allowing time for my ears to adjust and pick out the detail. Shame really as I am unrestricted on volume being on a farm in New Zealand.
I’ve had the same issue before . The sound is so good , that you do not notice how actually loud you are using them. After ten minutes you hit mute and you get that split second of soap bubbles in your ears sound. Ear fatigue is a little more like your ears hating the sound enough to end playback. 

Cables ... lol 
I’m wondering if its because the system is so dynamic and he is listening too loud.

Try a few Gik 244 panels at first reflection points and turning the volume down!  You may just be listening to loud.

How many hours are on your system?  It may settle down...
@lourdes I went thru a similar experience recently changing from Martin Logans which I had used for 20 years to Vivid B1's, a very different type of speaker and an entirely different presentation. My ears would hurt. I even went to an Ear doc as I was worried. All is fine now. I do believe it was just an adjustment period needed. The doc recommended a nasal spray to help clear the passage and that helped too. Hope you experience the same "breaking-in" period for your ears and all returns to normal. 
I get the same ear pain/ringing if I play my Quad ESL57s too loud. I can play my Spendors louder with no ill effect.

You have switched to a speaker that is too forward for your ears.
Tweaking with cables may help but my guess is you will dump
the Rockys in favor of a more polite sound. Nothing wrong with that.
Hypercusis, Tinnitus and other issues may be contributing factors but in the end you can still enjoy music with the right speakers at the right volume for your ears. 
Aim the speakers straight with no toe in. 

I wonder if others have also experienced this.

Over the years, as I progressively improved my system, it seems I progressively listened at lower volumes. I still play WAR, RARE EARTH, ... loud, but not 'generally' as loud.

Perhaps these speakers are a step back, and slightly louder volumes are needed to hear the mids/imaging as prior speakers produced them, IOW something subtly different.
reduction in spl vs seating distance is almost perfectly linear with panel speakers and is almost exponential with point source speakers.
Huh? How can that possibly be? Have you actually measured this? Also, there are panel speakers that are also point sources, so how does that factor into your equation?
I think he's referring to power response.  And for LS vs PS yep, its very different.  Neither ought to be linear however
Hard to pin down as many have posted.  Since your ROOM is the most important element of any listening situation, maybe get it measured for frequency response vs all those speakers.  Maggies typically do not cause any listening fatigue unless you are using poor electronics, which it does not seem you are, so that is what I would suggest to any customer.

Also, I would wonder why they switched out of Maggies.  Maybe bigger Maggies or a subwoofer or two if you are missing the pounding bass from either modern or orchestral music?  Just a thought.  Seems like you have a good dealer, so keep at it and you will figure it out. 

Personally, I see little gain in ANY variable from switching out of Maggies, but that is just me, I guess--and the other people who keep them forever like I do.  Just can' find anything better IN MY ROOM, of course!

Thanks to all for your suggestions and thoughts.  For nkonor I am so sorry to hear of your situation. Some of you had questions for me so will try to answer.  

- I had a Pass Labs amp (was a typo in my earlier description)
- I do love the Aviors even with this issue. There are revealing, I can hear each instrument, female vocals are so inviting, and basically the music is more exciting 
- the VTL did help
Update: Today is day 7 of using steriod ear drops, Itching has completely stopped and Hearing is significantly improved ! I am so grateful that the one last enjoyment in life is not being taken from me. For those with hearing problems, I suggest finding an Ear Specialist. Your primary care or others are not Ear Specialist. Worth finding a good one.

Thanks @ erik_squires, @mapman and @lourdes for the thoughts. erik, as you, I have long been a proponent of room treatment and use ASC tube traps, GIK, Auralex, and Vicoustic diffusers. Question for erik, I have treated all four walls and corners. I am thinking that the Vicoustic multifusers on the ceiling might be the final tweak needed. Any thoughts?  mapman, the Rockport dealer did check the adjustments on the MIT Oracle cables and turned down the articulation on the network boxes and that did help. Any other thoughts are appreciated on other cable changes ?

Since this will be my final system, I am doing an all out assault. When I switched from Spectral to Pass Lab, I had the Spectral 30SV for 1 week of absolute amazing preamp and sound before mayhem jumped into the mix. My mind will not let go of the Spectral 30SV linestage. I think that I would like to try it with the Pass XA 160.8s that I now have. Any of you technical guys see any issues with pairing the Spectral pre with the Pass amps ?

Appreciate everyones thoughts and help.

Best to All on this Journey
Nkonor 9-1-2019
Any of you technical guys see any issues with pairing the Spectral pre with the Pass amps ?

First, let me add my sincere best wishes to the thoughts others have expressed about the challenges you are facing.

After looking at the specs and descriptions of the Spectral 30SV, and being familiar with the Pass XA amps, I don’t see any technical concerns that pairing would raise. Also, see the writeup on Spectral near the bottom of this page:


As you’ll see, the note therein begins with a statement that:

Whereas other Spectral Audio components (i.e. their preamplifiers and digital source components) may be used with any other brand of equipment, Spectral mandates that their non-Universal amplifiers be driven by a Spectral preamplifier to ensure reliable operation.

(My thanks to member @David_Ten for calling attention to this writeup in another recent thread).

It is possible, of course, that the ultra-wide bandwidth of the 30SV could result in RF energy being introduced into the Pass amp that might adversely affect the amp’s sonics to some degree. That would depend in part on the source components, and perhaps also on the RFI environment at your location. But if the combination sounds good in your particular setup it is good :-)

Lourdes 8-31-2019
I do love the Aviors even with this issue. There are revealing, I can hear each instrument, female vocals are so inviting, and basically the music is more exciting.

The reason I raised the possibility in my earlier post that the issue might be due to the Aviors having greater frequency extension in the ultrasonic region than the previous speakers (which they do) is that you like the sonics the Aviors are providing. Which suggests the possibility that high volume levels are causing your ears to hurt as a result of frequencies that are too high to be directly perceivable. Not sure what to suggest to test that hypothesis, though. As one of the others suggested earlier try pointing them straight ahead if they are presently toed in. Or perhaps as an experiment temporarily point them a bit toward the side-walls, away from the listening position, which at the listening position should result in high frequencies being attenuated more than low and mid-range frequencies.  Although I realize that the weight of the speakers will likely make those experiments problematical. 

-- Al

@geoffkait ...No kidding....

Those pesky quantum states again....;)
Psychoacoustics based in a real physical situation; there's been a side note about women preferring listening to ribbons and planars over other driver types.
I've gone to wearing 'roadie' earplugs at concerts.  It's not the music being loud....it's the audience yowling at the end of a set or end of a solo.  The 'not-so-white noise' we create as a crowd screws my hearing up.  It may take a day or 2 to get back to 'normal'...or what's left. *g*
I can appreciate some  claiming symptoms of an audio nature.  It's the 'why & how' that either can be discerned or remain a mystery.
Takes a lot of ears to fill the venue. ;)
I liked the suggestion that the different way a panel speaker loads a room vs a conventional box speaker has the owner listening at higher spl.
@asvjerry No kidding. The worst thing an audience member can do for me is that dang whistle. As well as being deafening, there are catelogs of ruined live recordings sometimes all due to one guy who won't shut up.
I am afraid you need to play with speakers positions, if you put them in same place as the others ? Remember every speaker sounds different, I’ll  also try to set them straight not point to you listening position, good luck 
It might sound silly to someone, but I have a reason to believe that I developed my tinnitus (ringing in the ear) shortly after I purchased my B&W 685 a few years ago.
I found that they had dip at around 3 kHz and I was listening to them with too much attention. Closer, fartehr away, toed-in, quite revealing `and strangely accentuating beats, cracking sounds, choire singing I used to listen, despite at low volume, too close trying to understand if that is comming from the tweeter, the midbass or the port.

After a while and night of sore throat and nose I woke up with a ringing in my ear that never stopped. The audiogram shows -10 db sensitivity drop at ~3kHz. My ears were trying to compensate for the dip probably.
It’s just my theory, I might be dead wrong, but I’m suspicious as my previous speakers used to have much more prominent upper mids. I used to have them for 30 years :)

Anyone else noticed something similar?
Not hearing what source components you are using? 

Sometimes changing your dac can be just the right move in retuning a system and gainging musicality.

A very fluid dac like the Aqua Formula XHD with a really good streamer might be just the ticket.

In the case of a turntable you may need to swtich cart or phono stage.

Other things which affect a system to remove grunge obviously power conditoning and power cables, Do you run your Pass amps into the wall or into a conditioner?

The NCF boosters add a beautiful warmth to a system as well.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ

While auditioning several very good speakers a couple years back, I found that the more dynamic and revealing speakers, although impressive and gratifying at first, after a short time, did not set well with my ears.
As much as I thought I would like a beautiful set of small, quite expensive Raidhos, I soon came to the conclusion there was a reason I prefer ribbons and stats and listening at moderate volume levels.

@audiotroy  I doubt that grunge has anything to do with his problem.......Jim
Your room is getting over pressurized and  bass loaded. You can move them out into the room, or you can purchase a ton of bass busters. 
While auditioning several very good speakers a couple years back, I found that the more dynamic and revealing speakers, although impressive and gratifying at first, after a short time, did not set well with my ears.

This is a pet peeve of mine. There’s lots of ways to tweak or juice a speaker system, in the bass and the treble, which may make you feel like your ears are 20 years younger, but long term are tiring.

In some cases this is fine if you listen at low volume, but several designs rely on peaks and valleys in the tweeters to give this exaggerated treble.

It’s important to evaluate for a long time, and at the actual listening levels you listen at. If you are going to drive your Ferrari to/from the supermarket, that’s really the speed you test drive it at.

I feel some of the smaller Magico's tend to be more cool, but smooth. Dali has a big jump in tweeter level they use, and then I see B&W along with some GE designs use the tweeter peak and valley method.
Very good point Eric. With speakers, as well as everything else, one size doesn't fit all. 
As much as I would love a Ferrari, or even my old 67 muscle car Camaro, where I live now (notoriously bad roads and an abundance of dirt roads and primitive back roads) my 4x4 Chev. truck is much better suited.
While, for many years, I did attend about every genre of live performances - rock concerts, folk and country concerts, full orchestra and small venue jazz and blues performances - now, I'm quite content to set back in a quiet room with a cold brew and enjoy a long secession with my favorite tunes at somewhat more relaxed environment at a much lower volume. For that, for me, my little Maggies work incredibly well, but certainly not everyone's cup of tea.
As always - appreciate your knowledge and input....Jim  
I would add one more thing. The kind of fatigue you describe could also be caused by bad or shorted interconnects up stream, causing a real low hum. 

That beryllium dome could be making you a little jumpy. I had been a dealer for Merlin's until I realized that the Esotar tweeter was so bright I couldn't stand to listen.  Sold the demo's and discontinued the line. I never want to let a customer suffer through that or myself. 

Hmm. You think Dynaudio Esotar tweeters are bright? Never heard that before. 

I attribute that to my excellent hearing.........lol
Brighness is a matter of balance, so involves the entire system, not just the tweeter.

I haven't heard those speakers, but I am sure I can make speakers with any drivers sound bright. 😀

I can't suggest a reason, but I had a similar experience with a pair of Golden Ear 2s.  I finally had to give up on them.  I have owned many brands and sizes of speakers and played all volumes and kinds of music, but only the Golden Ears had this effect.  It seemed to be some high-frequency causing it, but similar ribbon tweeters in Martin Logans don't produce that effect. 
Today is day 5, of the ear drops. My ears have stopped itching and hearing is a bit better Still have my Avalons and they sound better too.

Was diagnosed with MS in Sept 2016 Thought that music would be the last thing that the disease would allow me to enjoy. It has taken so many other things already. Hope my hearing is not another one.
CBD oil for the skin, possible infection AND the MS.
our body has a endocannabinoid system (ECS). (wiki link)

It turns out that the CBD, is a good fit, depending on the given specific oil or plant cannibiniod mix. Each is different. try different ones to find the best fit for the individual issues.

Importantly, the ECS is involved in our homeostasis, the part that runs it and services it, it seems to be turning out.

When we take CBD oil, the CBD goes right to the area it is needed and no where else. It targets the place that needs it. It creates, augments, or steers (depending on your interpretation) the function in the body of repair and restoration, it brought is back into physical alignment or proper stasis.

Thus cysts, bumps, growths, skin issues, all of that tends to clear up, besides the getting rid of cancer, causing the cells to be properly found as wrong.... and made to die off. Seriously.

This is the part that big pharma does not want you to know. The dang stuff works. It seems to work on a list of about 2000 ailments. the homeostasis part can be seen as the precursor or the idea behind fighting or dealing with some ability to correct or repair in those 2000 plus ailments. Our bodies fight cancer naturally (all the time, this is going on) and a out of balance modern body is in no shape to fight cancer. Two thousand plus ailments and counting? Whoa. No wonder big pharma wants it dead dead dead.... That’s a lot of revenue. Most of it, actually (or likely).

But the addition of CBD and then the correction into proper homeostasis.. then goes on about the fight against cancer.. and .. then it happens. slowly, it happens. Same for MS and the like, re the reduction of symptoms. the results are not in yet and big pharma will fight it all the way with trillions of dollars of design, desire, and might.

I’m not in bad health, but do have the usual skin and body issues that a person begins to develop in older age (55). So little skin bumps, etc,and working toward the creation of the problems of older skin. I can see it trying to begin.

So I tried CBD oil, which I can get it by the ton in Canada. As our government was smart enough to kick the US industrial/military complex and big pharma in the balls as hard as possible, and get this legalized and in situ, before it could be stopped.

eg, via big pharma’s own covered up and hidden testing,. the lowest incidence of cancer in people, is in heavy weed smokers.

The CBD and THC are so effective, they overcome the tar and complex clemicals in the weed smoke, by far, and move it past damage... into repair and healing. To become the lowest case of cancers, even among the non smoking health conscious part of the population. You read that right. Zero jokes, zero exaggerations... just big pharmas own testing, which they covered up. And this scenario of a cover up...this burying of the tests and evidence.. is only now being found out...

It is now embedded so deep in Canada, already, that it will be hopefully impossible to stop (canadian federal election is looming),and hopefully roll over the US system of control like a freight train. One can only hope.

As the CBD oil is clearing up my body to a perfected system and in proper homeostasis..like they said it would. things like bumps, growths, cysts, skin flaps are all ’imperfections’. And the body is now eliminating them. Naturally. I’m taking very low levels and changing nothing else in my living and diet (single cause analysis), and it is already happening, visibly, all over my body. Makes me wonder what it is doing internally.

So CBD seems to be a general salve for aging itself, as we grow out of balance, as we age. As all of us do.

So, again, dig into it, and consider CBD oil. It’s all about the endocannibinoid system of the human body, and how it needs buffering and corrections as we age, or encounter issues.

The most recent up to date documentary, is "The God Plant", a quality British production from yr 2018. It can be found on the web. See it for the most recent scientific data..