Listening Fatigue & Speakers in Small Room

The main components of my system are B&W N804s, a MF A300cr power amp (225 wpc), a BAT VK-3i, and a MF Nu Vista CD. All cabling is Cardas Golden Reference. I had this set up in my old, 20x24 condo dining room/living room with no problems. Now, I have a house with a dedicated listening room of approximately 10x10x8, and am experiencing listening fatigue. After a little while, the outside of my ears start to hurt. Recently, I have treated the room with GIK bass traps and spot panels which have made the quality of the sound much, much better, but my ears continue to hurt. I'm thinking that maybe the B&Ws are just too big for the room, and that I may need to go to monitors with a sub. Am I on the right track, or could another component may be the culprit? Thanks for your help.
Replacing speaker is the right approach in this case. N804 aren't that big even for your small listening room, so you may search for similar but with less fatigue.
My thoughts would be towards Vandersteen 3A-sig or Aerial 7T
IMHO your problems stem from the fact that B&W speakers are not time-coherent (this is a huge discussion & there are Audiogon members who are dedicated to both sides of the fence. Search the archives here if you want to learn more) & it's a well-known fact that non time-coherent speakers create a lot of distortion that leads to many ill-effects, one of them being listening fatigue. No surprise here. You were lucky, I think, that you didn't experience this before. I used to own a DM604S2 long time back but my room is bigger. The N804s ar not much bigger than the DM604S2.
Yeah, the N804s might be too big for your room but before you run out & buy another different pair maybe you can experiment a little to see if you can alleviate your pain.

* Have you played with toe-in? Try zero toe-in where the speakers are pointing straight. Try toe-in such that the speakers fire at your directly i.e. remove reflected sound as much as you can.

* I see that you have treated the room which is very good. Maybe some more treatment is need? Maybe some on the ceiling to attenuate the reflected sound? Make sure that you have "spot panels" at the 1st reflection off the side walls.

* Make sure that you are sitting with your ears just below the tweeter & above the midrange. Atleast this was the best position for me when I had my DM604S2. You might want to start at this point & move up/down to see which is best for you. You might have to up/down your chair OR raise the speaker. I'm saying this because it very much looks to me that you are receiving a lot of high freq info & very little bass freq. So, the music is 'tipped up' which is worsening your listening fatigue. Changing your height will allow the drivers to integrate at your ear so your hear the whole audio spectrum.

* related to the above is to change your distance from the speaker. Maybe you are too close such that the drivers are not integrating at your ear so you are not hearing a cohesive sound - you might be hearing the tweeter & mid (as they do arrive before the bass) & very little/zero from the bass driver.
Actually, I thought to retube my preamp since the tubes had
been in use for several, and I mean SEVERAL years. I figured
that maybe they were weakening and causing more amplified
distortion from having to work harder than necessary. Well, it
appears to have worked. I listened for a couple of hours with
no fatigue at all. I will continue to monitor the situation,
but it seems like I will need to change out the tubes more
frequently, regardless. The quality of the sound is great with
new tubes, I just hope this has solved the fatigue problem.
Not to rain on your parade, but usually when small tubes grow old they loose some highs and become dullish. Usually.

On the other hand some new tubes are often dullish and take some hours to open up in the highs. So what you hear initially is not necessarily where you will end up after 24 hours.

I think Bombaywalla's comments are quite good and could be very helpful, especially those in the first and last recommendations. It is possible that if you are listening in the near field these speakers may not be appropriate, at least for the best results. Re toe in, don't omit trying some severe toe in where the speakers axis crosses well in front of your listening position. This can solve all kinds of issues including 1st reflection issues off the side walls and ceilings as well.

Lastly, tonally speaking, tube brands can make a very big difference.
I have experimented with toe in, and currently have them
firing straight ahead. However, I never tried extreme toe
in, so perhaps that's next. Also, there's no more room
behind me to sit, so I am maxed out in that regard.
10x10x8? Monitors and a sub. That will be the ticket. The cubic feet of the room is very small and should be perfect for some monitors on stands and a small sub. You should get phenomenal sound with that. Agree with the above comments on B&W and time coherency. I ultimately think you will head down the new speaker direction.
Bombaywalla ... I tried your suggestion about toeing in the
speakers so they are pointing directly at me. WHAT a
difference! I have a Monster Bass Trap on the rear wall
directly behind my listening chair, so it appears that certain
sounds are being absorbed by it. Also, I notice a decided
reduction in room energy, which is likely the elimination of
certain reflections; although the room is treated, not every
portion of it can be. So that huge change, coupled with the
new tubes, seems to have made the situation a whole lot
better. Thanks so much to you and everyone else for the
suggestions. BTW, if it turns out that I do need new speakers,
do you folks have recommendations for really good monitors?
Thanks, again.
BTW, if it turns out that I do need new speakers,
do you folks have recommendations for really good monitors?
Thanks, again.
you know, I'm a time-coherent speaker kind-of-guy. So, I'm going to recommend Green Mountain Audio speakers (they are based in Colorado Springs, CO) such as the entry-level Rio & the next level up Eos. Visit their website & pick up the phone & talk to the owner/designer. He's a very nice person to talk to - give him the details of your room, distance of your chair from the speakers & any other limitations you have to see if Green Mtn Audio speakers will fit your application.
No affiliation to this company, just a satisfied ex-customer & a time-coherent speaker enthusiast.
Rlb61, my room is very similar in size to yours except that the wall behind the listening position is only 3" tall. Behind that is my family room and kitchen. I use monitors and will adding a sub soon. I am in the process of treating my room. So far I added Vicoustic absorption panels on the front wall between my speakers. My next move is to add RealTraps Mondo Traps in the corners for bass trapping. My last move will be to add panels on side walls and ceiling to deal with 1st reflection points.

When I had fatigue it was definitely due to reflections. For me toeing in helped to tame the 1st reflections.

As for what monitor you will get a ton of advice. What's your budget and what kind of sound do you like and what kind of music do you listen to?
Tboooe ... As a trained musician, I have eclectic musical
tastes. Everything from classical, metal, reggae, punk, jazz,
folk, r&b, southern rock, and all things in between. Not easy,
I know. If I were to get new speakers, I would sell the N804s
and put that dough toward the purchase price. My budget is
somewhere between $3,500 and $5,000; so, with the offset in
the purchase price from the N804s, the net layout becomes
less. I think I would be best off with a speaker having a
ribbon or soft dome tweeter.
Best monitors I have heard for the price are the Evolution Acoustics MMMicro Ones. I think they retail for around $4500 with stands. They have ribbon tweets. I don't have any affiliation with Evolution, and don't even own their other speakers, just a fan of those monitors.
I also suspect the speakers, but I'd try some tube rolling first. Maybe some current stock Gold Lion 6922s. For the 6V6, maybe some Pope NOS or the current stock Tung Sols.
Currently using Platinum Grade Russian 6H23s (the BAT LOVES these) and Visseaux 6v6GT. Ordered some Pope 6v6GTs from Upscale.
It could be a lot of things since you are in an all new place, power quality, room acoustics, hooked up differently, etc. Personally, this is how B&W sounds to me each time I have heard them so I was not surprised to see would try to audition some different speakers in the same room.
I'm not familiar with the 6H23 (I use EH 6922s, which are what my 3iX came with, but I don't think they are the thing if you have "hot" tweeters). You might want to talk to Kevin Deal about mellower tubes in the 6922 family. The Genelex Gold Lions were actually a bit too stuffy in my system, but otherwise had a very nice tone and dimensionality.

Also you simply may need to damp the room even more.
I think the 6h23 type tube may be the cause of the listener fatigue. I had a budget tube preamp where it incorporated 4 rocket logo 6h23P preamp tubes and 4 6922 preamp tubes and I swear no matter the 6922 tubes I put there was too much emphasis on the mid range and treble. Practically no bass at all. I couldn't get the preamp to work in my system which is in a small room similar in dimension to Rlb61's room.
If changing tube to warm up the tone is your goal, I have had a lot of success using JJ ECC88s. The are low noise tubes and I've used them in a BAT VK D5 successfully (as well as a Woo headphone amp. And they are cheap too.

But if you are contemplating a speaker change I would wait - what works now might not work then.

Re small speakers, Spendors, Harbeths, or on the cheap (or not so cheap) Silverlines come to mind.

Did you try crossing the axis of your speakers in front of you? How did that work?
Newbee ... crossing the axis of the speakers just slightly
in front of me, coupled with reducing the volume to the 60-
68 db range has made a world of difference. The more I play
around with this, the more it appears that room reflection
is the culprit. When the speakers were firing forward, they
were hitting untreated surfaces. When I toed them in just
in front of me, imaging snapped into place and room
excitement was reduced substantially, so the outside of my
ears are not throbbing anymore. Also, I have ordered a
couple of 244s from GIK Acoustics for the front wall behind
the speakers, which should take care of certain reflections
as well. Hopefully, those will be the icing on the cake.
I would suggest that you look at the Larsen speakers from Sweden. They feature an ortho-aoustic design that allows the speakers to work WITH virtually any room, not against it. The smallest Larsen speaker, the Model 4, will provide excellent sound in your 10x10x8 room and is very reasonably priced.

If you are interested, read this: Positive Feedback - Larsen Model 8

*Disclaimer* I am a Larsen dealer in Southern California
If you end up deciding to get new speakers, I would recommend you listen to the KEF LS-50s and the Gallo Stradas. Both of these are exceptionally good monitors and are time coherent. The Gallos also offer the benefit of being a crossover-less design, which makes them phase coherent as well.

Either of these speakers mated to a good sub with DSP control, like a Velodyne DD-10, would provide for an awesome listening experience in that room...
Thermal compression caused by overly small transducers and massive power amp bet fatigue sets in after 30-40 mins of listening. You're sitting closer to loudspeaker thus hearing the compression more. 225 watts will easily heat a VC to near glowing even at moderate SPL all sorts of issues are caused by TC. If loudspeaker requires massive power or transducers are undersized TC is going to be the result.