Why do my ears ring with my new amplifier?



I just changed integrated amplifiers on January 2, 2015. I went from an Audio Research DSi200 to a Simaudio 600i. I'm running a Lumin A1 Network Streamer and Dynaudio C1 speakers. Those haven't changed. I'm also in the same 10' x 12' room.

My setup sounds great when I'm outside of my room. When I walk in and sit down, my ears start ringing.

I don't think that the high frequencies are the problem. Is this too much bass energy in the room, too much sound pressure, or what do you think?

Does anyone have a suggestion on what's needed to correct this problem?

Thanks,
Chuck
illuminator
I think you might be practicing medicine without a license to answer this question.
Assuming your new amp is broken in, moving to the SS amp may be revealing more detail in the upper frequencies. Try moving the speakers around and experiment with different tow in settings. Also, check to make sure your speakers are wired in phase, its an easy mistake to make. Just play a CD you know well and that has a strong centre vocal image. Make sure the voice is still in the centre between the speakers.

Thanks Schubert, at least your comment gives validation to your negative feedback.

To everyone else, I'd really like your experience and thoughts.

I have three 2' x 4' x 4" absorption panels on each sidewall. I also have two 2' x 4' x 6" absorption panels behind me, with two 2' x 4' x 4" absorption panels behind the 6" panels, effectively giving me 10" thick panels behind me.

I know that's a lot of absorption, but the sound is crystal clear. Now if I can tame whatever's causing the ringing when I sitting in the room.

Thanks,
Chuck

Zd542,

The amp is still breaking in, the dealer said that it will take closer to three months rather than the 400 hours Simaudio states.

The Audio Research DSi200 is not one of their tube amps, it's a SS preamp and a Class D amp. You're right, the upper frequencies are a lot more revealing and natural now. But I don't notice them being overly bright. That's why I don't think that's the problem, although repositioning the toe-in of the speakers sounds logical with the change.

Thanks,
Chuck

Zd542,

The speakers are wired in phase. I have vocals that are dead set in the center of the soundstage. All instruments are well defined throughout the soundstage as well, much better than before.

Chuck
Use an SPL meter to read absolute volume. The new amp may have a different spectral balance, be smoother, etc. which may encourage you to increase the volume.
This could cause ringing if too loud.

Dweller,

You are right in that I'm increasing the volume with this new amp.

The amp is so dynamic that I'm turning it up to hear the quieter parts in the background which really builds up the stronger parts. And, as I turn it up, my ears ring even worse.

That's why I'm wondering if it's the increased bass energy or sound pressure, and if it is, how do I tame it?

Thanks,
Chuck
Do your ears ring when no music is playing but the equipment is on?

I've never heard of this problem. It may be a high frequency oscillation in the amp/system combination or the amp may have a fault.

Unplug everything except the amp and speakers and turn the amp on. Ringing? yes, there is a problem with the amp. No ringing? Plug a cd player (any cd player) into the integrated amp. Ringing? yes, amp/system oscillation problem. Again, problem with the amp. No ringing? may be your streamer.

test each component connected separately.

Also, it may be a time of the day issue where you are getting noise injected into your system through your electrical system that may have been blocked by the previous component, but not by this one.

One thing at a time
"My setup sounds great when I'm outside of my room. When I walk in and sit down, my ears start ringing."

This shouldn't be too much trouble since you have small speakers. Move your system to another room and try it there. You don't have to invest a lot of time in setup, you just want to see if the ringing will go away in different environment. Along with some of the others, I'm not too sure what the problem is here. Given that your room is fairly small, its going to be essential that you figure if the problem is equipment related, or possibly the room.

If it turns out that you still get the ringing, I think you should look at your source. I'm not too familiar with your Lumin, but with computer audio related components, there's usually a lot of adjustments and choices. Since you are plugging it into a new preamp, you could have a gain related issue, or something similar. It may need to be reconfigured to work better with your new integrated.
Tape some tissue paper over your tweeters just to make sure it's not excessive energy in the 2-10 khz region.
Listen at lower volumes for two days. If your ears don't ring, then you have been playing it too loud, like being at a rock concert or any loud venue and coming out with ringing. This is part of incurring noise-induced hearing loss, by the way. Tinnitus can become permanent with continued exposure to loud noise.
What Jafreeman says is absolutely true. I had a similiar situation a year or so back with my left ear only. When I sat in the room with music playing, my ear would begin a low buzzing sound. It sounded kind of like FM interstation noise.
I would leave the room and it immediately disappeared. Slowly but surely over the next month or so, it became a friend that didn't stop. Tinnitus had set in. BTW, tinnitus is a funny thing, you don't have to have hearing loss to develop it. Most times you do however. My left ear has a roll off (very sharp) above 8500hz. It doesn't really affect my hearing that much because my right ear is good on out to 15K or so.
I don't know how old you are but I would heed Jafreeman's advice. We all probably listen too loud and it doesn't affect you until one day you have a new best friend. Mine, as the ENT told me, would not be a real factor once I lived with it a while and quit listening for it. Sure enough, I only notice it when I listen for it.
The spl meter idea is a good one. If things are going well you might not realize how loud things are.
+1 Jafreeman,
Your listening levels are likely too high.
I think I may have figured out what your problem is. Your room is very small. Because of this, you probably have your listening chair very close to the rear wall, or maybe even right up against it. When you are too close to the rear wall, its like cupping your hands when you're having trouble hearing something. I don't think you have tinnitus because it looks like you're only having a problem with your system, and nothing else. If you do have tinnitus, you should hear the ringing under other circumstances as well.
My guess is you're turning it up subconsciously because it lacks bass, and the ringing is due to odd-order harmonic distortion. Once the amp has broken in properly it might get a bit better, but 100 hours is usually enough to know if it's going to be an ongoing issue.
One end of your room needs to be dead. You may trying covering the wall behind your listening chair with some sound absorbing material after adjusting the rake angle of the speaker. One position is not ideal for all amp/speaker combinations. Try raising the front up a bit and see if the music changes.....better or worse....dial close, then room treat. PT
I have tinnitus and in the beginning, it would happen at random times and in different ears. Now that I'm older it's permanent, but rarely interferes with a listening session.
I think you need to use sound absorption and deadening the rear wall is a good experiment.
Thanks everyone!

I'll start with spreading out my absorption panels behind my chair to have a wall of 6" panels.

I'll also check out the speaker toe-in and rake.

I'll also see if I can listen at lower volumes and pick out the quiet passages easier.

Chuck
I wonder if using headphones would work as a troubleshooting tool ? It could rule out any components.
"02-04-15: Lowrider57
I wonder if using headphones would work as a troubleshooting tool ? It could rule out any components."

It's a very good idea, but I don't think it would be too reliable. There would be no way to tell if the ringing is caused by the room or the system.
But it would tell you if the OP's ears are bad...
"02-04-15: Swampwalker
But it would tell you if the OP's ears are bad.."

I don't see why you would need headphones diag the OP's ears.
If he has tinnitus, he should hear the ringing all the time. And the more quiet the environment, the the worse the ringing gets.
By all accounts, he doesn't have tinnitus. That's correct, he would hear it in other locations either all the time or intermittently.
I was grasping at straws to see if the system sounded better/worse with headphones; maybe more neutral by eliminating the room. A separate issue from the ringing I guess.
I've noticed HF ringing in my ears during speaker break-in in at least one case in the past, but can't recall ever noticing that with any amps I've used. But, EMI/RFI in the room may be playing a role, too, possibly...making the break-in effect of the amp more noticeable?? If this does not begin to clear up toward the end of the break-in period, then there is most likely another cause...assuming you haven't found it by then.
"I was grasping at straws to see if the system sounded better/worse with headphones; maybe more neutral by eliminating the room. A separate issue from the ringing I guess."

Its certainly worth a try just to see what happens, but not only would you be eliminating the room with headphones, but the amp, speakers, some of the cables, and possibly the preamp depending on where the headphone amp is.
"I don't think that the high frequencies are the problem."

You may not think HF's are the problem but I think you might be mistaken. A funny thing happened to me a while back when I listened to a DIY Class D amp. Initially, the first 5 minutes it sounded all right but certainly not perfect, transparency was amazing but.....after about 15 minutes I started getting a headache. I'm not being sarcastic, this really happened. The problem immediately went away when I replaced the amp. The REAL dilemna was I never could figure out what was causing the headache. The same amp in the owner's system didn't do this.

If you're not listening too loud, which could certainly cause ringing, you most certainly have an issue with the upper frequencies. The cause is less clear but it could include the amp/speaker interface, most likely IMHO. Room treatments and speaker placement may help ameliorate the issue. It's tough to tell without knowing everything. Do you have any audio buddies or a wife that could chime in with their opinion? It might help narrow things down a bit.
I've face this problem a few times, I think because of listening too loud, some amp is too detailed and transparent ,there are too much detail in the front row , you have to turn up the volume to try to hear the dept in the back row and also to distinguish the singer. The bass energy surge when volume is up , I've to see doctor twice, I think this amp doesn't suit you, you dial up the volume because you donot find it involving , just my thought.
It's a sign from God to buy better equipment
Its time for an upgrade.
The flatter the frequency response, the less fatiguing the amp will be. It's just that simple. Whatever other attributes/detriments it has will be irrelevant. Just because you spent huge money on somebody's 'recipe' doesn't necessarily make it soa. It's been flavor of the month as far as amps go. The best ones are both unremarkable and spectacular at the same time. If you can't say that about yours, then I'd be curious of the shape of it's response on a foot long tape. The best is also the amp you can crank to levels that surprise your ability to tolerate. The others you have to be 'careful' with.
"02-06-15: Csontos
The flatter the frequency response, the less fatiguing the amp will be. It's just that simple. Whatever other attributes/detriments it has will be irrelevant."

How could you come up with something like that. The fact that a piece of audio equipment will be less fatiguing to listen to just because it has a flat response, doesn't even make sense. And before you come back and start arguing with me, can you back that statement up with something real?
Noom, it is my experience that if you have to turn up the volume to hear one thing at the expense of something else, in your case to hear instruments in the background the problem isn't necessarily too much detail as a general lack of overall resolution of the system. As to what is the specific cause, it could be anything and not necessarily the amplifier.

A very good system should be flat and smooth enough to allow the listener to hear everything on the recording even at moderate levels. If you have to turn up the volume to an uncomfortable level this would indicate to me a balance and/or lack of resolution issue somewhere in the chain. Rooting out the problem can be a tough call and could be a multitude of issues. At a basic level it is most important for the amp and speaker to be electrically compatible with each other. Of course a good source component and preamp are most important for fully realizing the potential. It is difficult for me to separate out one thing over another in these matters as everything, including room, placement, components and last but not least cabling are all important for realizing satisfying music in the room at reasonable levels. The devil is in paying attention to all the details.
Wise words Tubegroover .
I find that some speakers do well at low volume, most don't.
I'm not interested in arguing with anybody. But just for argument's sake, how does it not make sense to you that a flat FR will be less fatiguing? The op's confirmation that the high frequencies are not the problem are a testament to this premise. Whether induced by the room or a component is irrelevant. I just happened to focus on the amp since it was his focus also. The fact is you can't add something without taking something away. It's that 'added' part that ends up like a spike being driven through your head which may be what's fooling you at low/moderate levels. Speakers have their own general limitations that smart ass amp designers think they can circumvent with their hair brained ideas on how to reinvent the wheel. "I know, lets put a nice bump in the bottom end to take care of that age old extension problem,if the guy gets a head ache, let him not listen so long". Or,"Hey, I think I'll just boost the mid range a bit, give it some added 'presence', if the guy starts feeling spikes shooting into his head, let him turn it down". The way I described an amp with a truly flat frequency response is correct. Unremarkable with like material and spectacular with like material, both of these extremes exceeding amps with less than flat response, all other things being reasonably equal of course. I find it utterly ridiculous when the tube guys declare 'excessively low distortion'. Laughable.
"I'm not interested in arguing with anybody. But just for argument's sake, how does it not make sense to you that a flat FR will be less fatiguing?"

Some people roll off the high frequencies either directly with some type of EQ or tone controls, or indirectly using system matching to deal with problem frequencies. Altering frequency response, even if its to flatten it, will make the system sound worse (to the person who set it up, not necessarily to everyone.).

"The flatter the frequency response, the less fatiguing the amp will be. It's just that simple. Whatever other attributes/detriments it has will be irrelevant."

There's so many other factors that can contribute to an amps listening fatigue, besides a flat response, a book could be written on the subject. Timbre, distortion, material components, power output, phase, feedback, are all qualities I don't see as being irrelevant. You can if you want to. That's you're subjective view on the matter. Not everyone would agree with you.
Yours is also your subjective view. I'm well aware there's more than one kind of fatigue and the one in question is the painful kind. I would say pain is the most relevant.
"Yours is also your subjective view.

Of course it is. How could it not be?

"The flatter the frequency response, the less fatiguing the amp will be. It's just that simple. Whatever other attributes/detriments it has will be irrelevant."

I don't see how you can go from that to this.

"I'm well aware there's more than one kind of fatigue and the one in question is the painful kind."

Maybe you should pick one. Either you have one factor and everything else is irrelevant, or there's several factors that are relevant.

"I would say pain is the most relevant."

Maybe that's your view but another person may say different. Everyone makes their own choices. That said, I think most people would choose pain as the number one cause of listening fatigue, like you. And that's exactly why so many use EQ's and tone controls to roll off the top end. In doing so, they're moving frequency response away from flat on purpose to make the system more listenable.
I think you're arguing with yourself. Carry on.
"02-08-15: Csontos
I think you're arguing with yourself. Carry on."

Sorry, but their you're posts. You just don't want to be wrong.

"And before you come back and start arguing with me, can you back that statement up with something real?"

If you had an answer to that statement, something tells me you would find the will to argue.
Well both of us can't be right, right? So you may as well be wrong! WRONG I SAY!! WROOONG! I'm right... yep, right. But you... you're wrong, again.
"02-08-15: Csontos
Well both of us can't be right, right? So you may as well be wrong! WRONG I SAY!! WROOONG! I'm right... yep, right. But you... you're wrong, again."

Well, I guess I'll just have to take your word for it. You seem to know what you are talking about. But just try to calm down and not get too excited. And if there's anyone else in the house, you may want to ask them to hide the remote, and the razors. If they ask why, just have them read this post.
That's right! And don't you forget it! That'll be 'Mr.' Csontos for you from now on.

Btw, that sure didn't take you long. Is there anything else you do during the day? Just curious.
"Btw, that sure didn't take you long. Is there anything else you do during the day? Just curious."

Nope. Its Sunday. I'm in church using my new wifi enabled tablet. Just don't tell Schubert or he'll flip.
What about the pastor?
Hi all, thanks for your replies,

I talked to John Pharo, my buddy at The Cable Company, right after I posted this thread. He also suspected the odd harmonics, as Uberdine mentioned.

I think the problem was that the 600i hadn't broken in fully yet, and as John said too, that causes the odd harmonics to be accentuated.

It now seems to have settled in. My ears aren't ringing and it's sounding great. At the same time, I think that the 6" absorption panels all the way across the wall behind me may also be helping.

Thanks to everyone who helped with their suggestions. At some point I'll play with the toe-in to see if this new system needs the adjustments.

Chuck
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What's so good about northern fried chicken? You got a problem with the south?
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Cuff Links go better with amplifiers.