Aggrivated tinnitus from speakers?


I'm new to the forum and was looking for some advice. I recently put together a system comprised of a McIntosh MA6900 + a pair of KEF R7s.

I've always had hearing sensitive to high frequencies, and have a very high frequency tinnitus at 18,000k. That's why I went with the Mac, as everyone talks about how smooth and musical it is. When I was shopping for speakers, I was doing a lot of research but then the KEF R7's went on crazy sale and I was able to pick up a pair for under 2k. It seemed like too much of a deal to pass up, especially with all of the glowing reviews, but maybe that was a mistake on my part...

I'm noticing when I listen to the system, my tinnitus activates at a lower frequency for several hours afterwards. I notice this most on FLAC / MQA - quality tracks on Tidal (via WIIM w/ integrated DAC, at very reasonable volumes - <85db ) It seems to happen less when I listen to vinyl or CD-Quality tracks, but it still happens.

It's driving me crazy and I'm so disappointed as I thought this was going to be my ultimate setup and I dropped a lot of $. The Mac has just been to an auth service center for new lamps and was bench tested and given a perfect bill of health after a small bias adjustment, so I don't think it's the problem.

I decided to use some headphones to see if I experienced the same thing... Senn. HD650's let me listen for long periods without problems. HD660S2s seem to give me maybe a little sensitivity after awhile, but the sensitivity I get from the KEF's is totally different.

I realize I should have demoed the speakers, but I just jumped on the deal - partially on their reputation and also because their narrow, tall size was ideal for the room layout.

Any advice on how to get to the bottom of this? Do I need to test different speakers or do I need to treat the room? I'd hate to give up the Master level recordings because I mentally swim in the detail and love it. I just hate the thought of not being able to enjoy the system properly, but I'm not sure where to start on making  it work for me.




Have you tried using quality sound filtering earplugs.  I have used Alpine Cleartone ear protection plugs when attending concerts etc. takes the edge off.  Available on amazon. 

Your speakers are bright. a pair of Harbeth die at 15k get them…

beside your speakers are not that good anyway, they won’t be missed

I’ll be blunt - WIIM is a POS and the McIntosh integrated DAC is as well (it’s harsh sounding). Add to this the KEFs and you’re drilling holes in your ear drums.
Since you will definitely benefit from a DAC upgrade, I’d start there. Try a warm sounding DAC. Go used. Denafrips, Lab12, even a Chord Qutest with the warm filter engaged will be more pleasant. Then upgrade your streamer. Get whatever room treatments you can deal with, especially for the first reflection points and tame the bouncing high frequencies. Play with speaker toe in as well - more direct toe in gives you sharper image but might reduce wall reflections especially at lower volumes and sound less irritating. You never know until you try. Good luck.

@OP 85dB is quite loud so listening at a lower volume level will help. However, improvements to room acoustics and probably a more refined speaker will too. However, I would still be careful with the volume levels. You may be tempted to play louder with a more refined speaker which, in the long term, is not good for your tinnitus.

I also have tinnitus, here's my path...I do listen to one or more of my systems most of my non at work life. First thing was adjusting my expectations regarding "perfection" and I recalibrated my Enjoyment Meter (too many of us think a thing is the end of the world, when it really is the beginning of a new era). I relocate and position my speakers in the main system more often than most folks, a pair of KRIX Euphonix (change seems to be a benefit in my case). I experiment with room treatment in my old house with very high ceilings, I use mostly tapestry and fabrics. I am using an SAE pre and equalizer system (not only because of tinnitus, but to compensate for years of ear abuse). I limit my high volume exposure (I never thought I'd say that out loud!!!). Hearing aids help with my tinnitus out in the world, but I seldom wear them while listening. I don't do much streaming, mostly as audition and background, (no television in my house) as I am a record/music collector first and an "audiophile" second. I watch my salt intake (something that I noticed for myself). When I do add to my systems I now tend to the British Sound, or more mids, and "softer".And finally, I enjoy the blessed days when the tinnitus recedes back into the background.