What is your current set-up?
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Yes, generally its grain, grittiness, forward high frequencies, as you say. But personally I also find, that anything in your setup, which keeps you from being drawn into the music, so that you are consciously or unconsciously forced to listen to your system instead of the music is eventually very fatiguing.
As far as speakers are concerned, I think we should know your setup and which kind of music you prefer.
my set up: adcom amp, preamp, and cd player from the early 90s (535 amp etc) and definitive tech bp2004 (don't laugh). The system doesn't give me drilling highs, but I can't seem to relax and listen to the music. I am planning to keep the current system for HT and start over for music. I've listened to proac 1.5 and sonus faber gp. I liked them but I want to hear tube stuff first
I find that most metal or inverted dome tweeters cause me listening fatique. Of course, there are exceptions. But, I haven't come across a lot of soft dome tweeters that irritate me. I find that I am becoming increasingly prone to the ill effects of a harsh system(headache, dizzyness, ringing, etc) as time goes by. Not sure if the reason is age, or being around systems that are tube/soft dome tweeter based. The cure is usually available. Either a speaker that features this type of tweeter, or retrofitting your speakers with a good soft dome(have done this). I don't believe that a lower priced speaker has to cause listener fatique. A great example would be the Coincident Triumph. A $1000 speaker featuring the fabulous Vifa D26 silk dome(my FAVORITE cheap tweeter). I have listened to this speaker in a system using an NAD integrated(with the treble set at +6 db), all StraightWire cabling, and budget CD players(Marantz, Pioneer, Sony), and it was still listenable(I didn't say good - but it didn't send me running, which I often do from a bright system) after an extended period.
Ok, I have to disagree with Trelja here. First, we agree that a bad or hot tweeter can certainly irritate. But I find that beamy soft dome tweeters are also irritating. The speaker recommended by Trelja may be fine, there are lots of good soft domes out there, but there are also a lot of good metal domes. My Harbeth Compact 7's have metal domes and I can listen to them forever.
If caused by the speaker, I think listener fatigue often comes from a bright upper-mid lower treble region, where the larger driver is working outside of its optimum range. I can think of a speaker with an 8 inch woofer a 3/4 inch tweeter and too high a crossover that tires me.
I've found a few things that outright bother me:
1) Cheap/older CD players have a digital brittleness to them.
2) Mass market solid state electronics played through powerful systems. I find that cheap little boomboxes are not as annoying by comparison.
3) High definition systems with a weak link. For example my audio physic system sounds wonderful, but if I put in a low quality component, you really hear it.
4) Gigantic, cheap mass market speakers. Hate them. I think those are the biggest ripoff in the world. You can buy a great sounding set of $200-300 monitor speakers and get much better sound.
5) CD's that are overprocessed. An example is the emmylou harris 'red dirt girl'. I think the performance would have been better if it had been left in a little more natural form. It sounds like it's been put through a digital blender then poured into an empty spam can (with a little extra gelatin).
6) Pop recordings from the 80's. Those were the days of big-@ solid state guitar amps played through fuzzed out, toneless plasti-kote guitars with a few infantile synthesizer backbeats for good measure. Go into a guitar store, and listen to a $400 ibanez with a line 6 processing amp against to a fender relic guitar played through a fender hot-rod tube amp, and you'll get the idea. What were they thinking? Ugghh.
I have to agree with Trelja on this one. Historically, metallic type tweeters have been prone to razor sharp detail,but also to a substantial amount of brightness. At first you say "I've uncovered a wealth of new detail", but then the reality that your not enjoying yourself as much sets in. Metal drivers seem to do it in every application I have heard. Some examples include, Dick Sequerra" ribbon tweeters, Apogee, ATC, Platinum and most Infinity designs. There are always exceptions, but brightness in tweeters is generally the worst offender in listener fatigue.
my curent speakers - meret re's - use focal's titanium inwerted-dome tweeters. no listener-fatigue due to harsh treble here. only cd gave me this - and, i had it w/the soft-dome thiel 3.5's that were in my main rig before the merets. turntable & tuna were always yust fine. a melos toobed preamp cured the harshness from the cd, btw. before that, i used a z-man ase toobed buffer-stage for my digital, w/solid-state preamps. don't need it anymore, w/the melos. the tuna & 'table also sound great w/the melos toobed pre! ;~)
ps - there's currrently a pair of merets f/s on a-gon for $800 - hard to touch the sound-quality for anything close to that price, imho...
I guess we all have different interpretations on things. I am glad you like the Focal Ti tweeters, Sedond. While I simply love the woofers/midwoofers/midranges from Focal, I absolutely abhor their tweeters. Be they Ti, TiO2, or Kevlar. The Ti in particular are the worst sounding tweeters I have ever come across. Perhaps in your speaker, the designer was able to make them listenable ala the crossover design or whatever. I have not encountered any listening fatigue in drivers operating above their ideal frequency range OTHER than metal coned drivers. The metal drivers are quite succeptible to audible, irritating ringing.
As mentioned above, I agree that there are many different things that can cause listener fatigue, and I've found it's usually electronics, wires etc. too. John_1 has a good list, But one more: as the tubes in my pre-amp reach the end of their useful life, they produce brighter, harder upper mids and low treble that give me headaches. Of course putting in new tubes takes care of the problem-- it took me awhile to figure this out though. Non-fatiguing speakers between $2000 & $4000?-- I'd nominate Vandersteen 3Asigs. at $3500., or std. 3As at $2800. Good Luck. Craig.
I think vandersteen's have metal dome tweeters do they not ?
I know the five's main forward tweeter is metal & I think this is the same one used in the 3aSignaure. (the fives rear tweeter is a silk-domed vifa). I do completely agree that the entire vandersteen line is non-fatiguing. The audio physic virgo is also a metal domed tweeter speaker. It is non-fatiguing with good source components.
Hi, I have also battled this problem since I started this hobby. I have come to the conclusion that it is the "balance" of the sound that affects the musicality/long term listenability of the system. The non-fatiquing systems will force you to turn the volume up higher and higher while the fatiquing systems force you to turn the volume down. So, if the high's are too aggressive compared to a missing bottom end, or midrange, it will be off balance and hence...fatique.
It is very easy for a listener to get fooled by the deep bass, or airy highs.... I have found a balanced non fatiquing sound with my vandersteen 3asig/audio research tube/Linn combination. Yes, one can argue that it is not as "airy" or punchy..etc. But, at the end of the day, I am listening to music more ! I used to have fast, punch sound...guess what, I only used it to impress people and never sat down to listen myself !! good luck.
Oh the joy of staying home from work when you finally found a system that gives you smooth extended highs that you can listen to all day. We are all different! Between working on jet aircraft in the A.F. or tuning many a bracket car with open headers, my hearing has been modified. So I am sure that my final selection is different from many others. That is why Audiogon has been so great. I have had to run over a lot of whoop-de-dooes to get that wonderfully relaxing smooth but extended high end. And there are many ways to get there.
There has been much talk about listener 'fatigue' being caused by, among other things - many of which have been pointed out above, excessive RFI/EMI interference riding on top of the music. I'm not an expert on the topic, but I understand that CD players are especially problematic in this area and can be tweaked and modified to good effect. Power line conditioning that is synergistic with your system and listening tastes may be a point to consider as well. I have personally been rather intrigued by this topic and have just been getting around to tweaking on this level. I have picked up a pair of Walker High Definition Links which are specifically aimed at RFI reduction and they have had a very interesting effect on my system; a subtle yet pervasive enhancement that has me thinking about what to do next.