Listening Fatique- componet or speaker issue.

Hello everyone. I've been posting various questions in other topics trying to solve a problem that couldn't discribe until now. I jumped into the audiophile hobby these last few months full head-on. I got the best that I could for about 1200 and finally ended up with as my first set-up.

Totem Rainmakers (straightwire octava II)
Nad c320bee
Source (pc m-audio,foobar) will be (modded squeezebox2)

In the begining (sounds like the bible I know) after I hooked it all up I was estatic. I've never listen or owned any quality audio eq and this was a huge leap for me. The sound was or so detailed, huge, realistic and plain great. This only brief sessions. Now that all the newness factor is gone and I actually live with these I seem to be in a delima.
Normally I play my music at low levels simply because during the week days I come home late and I live in a tenant building (rules are rules). At lower levels I can listen to the music for a fair amount of time no problem. No real hint of fatigue.
Now my fatigue seems to occur at normal or slightly higher than normal listening level. I don't get seem to get headache as most other people. My ear mostly feel "tired" and occasionally I do get a ring. The sound coming out also sounds compressed and boxy.
I don't know if it's a speaker componet (source, amp, or room) but it's really getting me bumbed out. I brought my new setup so I can listen to more music and make it a more consistant part of my life as a musician (gotta study the greats) not so my ears ache and feel tired.
When I changed the source from my dvd to my computer (m-audio foobar) it became better but it's still there. I posted a thread about my amp changing but know now that I didn't ask the right question.
Now my Rainmakers are rated at min 50w at 4 ohms and maximum is 100w I think. I decided on the nad mainly on suggestion on this and other threads and read that a couple rainmaker owners match them. I like the amp quite a bit its warm and quite detailed but can this fatigue I am experiencing also be occuring because of the amp. Could this fatigue be just the normal distortion created by my speakers not being driven well at higher levels?
Or are the rainmakers just naturally fatiguing and harsh when pushed? I need advice from the higher ups.
Most likely it's the room. You probably don't have much in the way of room treatment and have long reverberation times. This is usually less of an issue at low volumes, but you quickly get to the point where you are hearing all of that sound bouncing around. At higher volumes it gets fatiguing very quickly.

You can learn more about acoustical issues at this Basic tutorial on Room Acoustics.

Disclaimer: We are an acoustical engineering group and design listening and home theater rooms. However, you can read some of our resource pages and easily get some of the basics done yourself very inexpensively.
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I agree with Elizabeth's suggestion. It sounds like your source is probably too harsh (not uncommon with digital front ends). Try going through a good used, but cheap, DAC, or possibly MF's tube buffer stage and see if it makes a difference.
I would take a good long look at your room also. It sounds like you may be getting some pretty good echo, like no carpet and hard walls no drapes. Just guessing here.

If you think your room is in fairly good shape take a look at your intergated amp.

From what I can tell. Your problem could be the combination of several things going on at once. That speaker is peaky by nature of its design Totem Rainmaker measurements. There's a peak from around 5khz beyond 10khz. This could be one of the factors causing fatigue. Also the speaker is a tough load and may cause the amplifier to run out of steam at higher volumes. The source of any system is important...too much of a bad thing(badly compressed music)can cause major fatigue. I agree a good Dac will also help with the fatigue.

You can play with the room treaments but that's not going to change the design of the speaker. Hopefully your listening room isn't bare.If I were in this situation, I would most likely dump the speakers first for something less peaky. Next would be to add a decent Dac.

If you really like the speakers.You could try to bandaid the problem with a digital equalizer. One more thing could add a sealed subwoofer to balance out the sound a bit as the speakers start to roll off at 100 Hz. Allow the sub to do all the work..say below 80Hz..relieving the speakers of the lower bass duty. You may find yourself listening at lower volumes with better tonal balance in the music.
I didn't know a room can have that big of an effect. It's my bedroom/listening room (no choice). I had no carpets, just finish renovating (taking out plaster putting shetrock) and does have quite a bit of echo. I guess I've learned to live with it. Come to think with this whole apartment has alot of echo.

As for the source the squeezebox is not wired into the computer but streams Flac files wirelessly to my setup. Sound a hell of alot better than my last sorce (thosiba dvd. The squeezebox has it's own dc and can also be hooked up to an outboard one. Sending it out for modding to hope address this issue (harsh).

Gmood- you mean they color the sound a bit?

I'll try room treatment. I guess amp o.k then. If it's still hars after then speakers gotta go.
Yes in way of speaking they do colour the sound. The speakers are designed to fool you into believing there's more bass output than actually exist. The treble is bumped up well over the lower midrange to give the impression. If your room is bare it may just aggravate the situation. It will not change what the speaker was designed to do from the start. I'm just trying to save you the the disappointment of buying cables ..etc to fix a problem with the speaker itself. If the room is bare... room treaments, carpet and furnishings will help with the next pair of speakers. I'm taking a wild guess, but I think Green Mountain Audio Europas could be more your speed in a monitor.
I agree improve the source. A mellow cd player like a used Rega Planet might do wonders for you. If you buy one used, a steal right now for around $350, you can just flip it for what you paid if you don't like it. However I bet you love it. Barring that, get a cheap tube integrated to replace the NAD, lots of good deals in that area as well. Happy listening!
Try to demo a tube amp or tube integrated like Jond suggests, I think it could make a big difference in your listening fatigue.
You should be careful of first impressions. Generally systems that impress right off the bat can sometimes be difficult to live with in the long haul. I prefer products that gradually impress & start showing their stuff off as time goes on.
Phd makes a very good point.Something I was thinking but didn't type. Some speakers are designed to WoW you from the start. It isn't till later when you discover it was all a facade. I have discovered as he the ones that grow on you over time are the real keepers.

Good luck
Yes, Phd does makes a very good point and i agree but isn't odd the live music wow's me at the start also but does not fatigue like that.
I didn't know a room can have that big of an effect. It's my bedroom/listening room (no choice). I had no carpets, just finish renovating (taking out plaster putting shetrock) and does have quite a bit of echo. I guess I've learned to live with it. Come to think with this whole apartment has alot of echo.

As for the source the squeezebox is not wired into the computer but streams Flac files wirelessly to my setup. Sound a hell of alot better than my last sorce (thosiba dvd. The squeezebox has it's own dc and can also be hooked up to an outboard one. Sending it out for modding to hope address this issue (harsh).

Gmood- you mean they color the sound a bit?

I'll try room treatment. I guess amp o.k then. If it's still hars after then speakers gotta go.
My experience has taught me that every piece of the audio chain should be addressed before making assessments regarding the equipment. Acoustics have already been identified, however you haven't mentioned cables or power conditioning. What are you using for cables and are you using a power conditioner?
Replace the solid metal jumpers on the back of the NAD C320BEE that connects the Preamp OUT to Power Amp IN jacks with the Tara Labs The Missing Link or RSC Link. They are a pair of 6 inches long interconnects that costs about $35 new. They will smooth out the high frequencies, bring out more harmonics, air and ambience, take away some of the hardness overall and soften the midrange. An economic upgrade that is worthwhile.

As other have said, the biggest improvement will come from a new CD player like the Rega Planet and a good pair of interconnects.
Daimbert, there are some audiophiles that may treat the room to get the desired sound and that is fine & dandy if you know what your doing. Personally I select gear, interconnects, power cords etc. that will work within the existing room acoustics & get the desired sound. Another thing to try is to reposition the speakers to attempt the change.
Try to isolate the problem by borrowing and substituting, until you find the right one. That's cheaper than replacing the wrong component. I doubt that the NAD unit is the problem; and I do agree that the room is very likely. You may have more than one contributor to the fatigue. As a temporary solution, turn down the tweeter or treble if you have the capability, otherwise put some thin cloth over the tweeter or point the speakers away from you. I liked the Rega suggestion above; see if you can borrow one or buy on a trial basis. You might also clean the connectors; they may be a second level contributor.
Your source and speakers are the most likely cause of listener fatigue. Check out any B&W for more than an hour and you'll understand speaker fatigue.
I have used most of the suggestions mentioned above in a small bedroom that I use as a listening room.

I contacted the people at 'Eighth Nerve' for room treatments. I faxed a drawing of my room, furniture and components to them. They sent me a suggested placement for these items as well as suggestions for their room treatment products and their placement . It was quite easy and made an improvement. Price was under $500

I then tried cabling. A friend of mine has experience with the same components that I have and he suggested IC's and power chords that worked for him . They also made an improvement . Thanks Boa2. Price was under $200.

However the biggest improvements came when I changed to a tubed CDP and speakers with soft domed tweeters instead of metal ones . Each of these changes were about an equal improvement and greater than the previous ones. I can now listen for hours without any listener fatigue. Again Thanks Boa2.

I would suggest first to read the Rives primer on room accoustics and then introduce tubes into your system .
A couple of throw rugs, coats hanging on the walls and an inexpesive tubed DAC will probably be the easiest and least expensive way to start .

Good luck.
My speaker cable are straightwire octava II bi-wireable. My interconnects are from my source to amp are analysis ovals (1 meter). I actually did change the amp/preamp jumpers with a spare straightwire my friend had lying aroung (it's 1 meter though).

As for power coditioning I am planning to do that in the future and I agree could be adding alot of junk in my sound. My tenant extremly old. I also know I need to get a unit that filters because this building does have a common ground. Due to my room constraints my speakers are in my bedroom with my computer. So on one wall I have my computer then speakers then t.v. then speaker. Not the best set-up but can't get around until I move out.

I think echo is a big part and I need to address that. Also think the my bedroom being my listening and computer room is not helping matters. My room has a huge amount of echo actually that I've learned to live and ignore. By the way my room about 12x18x10.
LOL ..Line..yeah live unamplified music isn't purposely hyped in the treble by 6dB either.That's not counting the difference in dbs above the midrange. This would put the treble closer to 10 dB above it. This is why you can be wowed without having your ears bleed. ;-)
daimbert, you never did mention what your 'higher than normal' sound level was. Your symptoms sound (pun intended) like you are playing at too high a volume and your ears are simply shutting down, causing the fatigue and the 'boxy' sound. Nothing but lowering the volume will help if that is the case. Take some sound readings, you might be surprised at the volumes that you are experiencing.
Bob P.
I agree with Gmood1. Your speaker's peak into the 5-10K area can (1) be irritating in its own right, (2) will accentuate harshness in your source or amp (NAD is low powered and could get harsh if pushed), (3) be aggravated by room reflections.
Other than EQ you will NEVER fix that peak with any reasonable solution. Sorry to say, but ditch the speakers. I'd suggest some Epos but they will quickly show the shortcomings of your NAD. Then you'll have to fix the amp and then the source and on and on and on . . . . .
Totems are not bright speakers. Silk dome tweeters. Try another source.


PS I had the Forest and they were not forward.
I'm thinking your NAD might be some of the problem. I know - I've read all the reviews about that 320 BEE. That's why I bought one for a small office system I started. I thought the 320BEE sounded harsh and congested. So, I traded it in, for not much more money, on a hybrid integrated amp. It has a tubed preamp section and a SS amplifier. I'm ashamed to admit it a Jolida 1501 (non remote model) 100 wpc. The sound is much better now. Just a thought.

good luck
Tim with all due respect, Even though the speakers come from the same company. They don't necessarily use the same crossovers or design. From looking at the latest specs on the Forest, it shouldn't sound forward or bright.The Forest should sound fairly balanced. The Forest is also an easier load than the Rainmakers. These two speakers shouldn't sound a like.Check the latest Totem Forest measurements here. Why is it so hard for some to understand that the FR measurements correlate with what you hear and do have an impact? I call it denial.

Take both FR graphs I supplied and compare them to one another. It is as clear as day which speaker will be forward and which one will not regardless of what the tweeter is constructed of.
Tim, I used to agree with you about material. But now decided bright is bright, and soft vs. hard materials will not change that IMHO.
Although metal may add additional ringing and hardness, soft dome with rising response will still be bright.
I stand corrected. The Forests did have metal dome tweeters. I have never heard any of the totem line described a bright or forward before. This is the first time.
Again,daimbert, what is the SPL level of your higher than normal listeniing? Since we don't know what 'comfortable speech' level is, we don't know what higher than normal is. Perhaps comfortable speech level is quite high because your hearing is impaired and when you want to listen at higher than normal, those same 'desensitized' ears start to exhibit your sysmtoms. I hope not!
Bob P.
PS. Do you experience the same symptoms using earphones?
Nope...I don't know how to gauge spl level. To me on my Nad comfortable speech level would be about a little over a 3/8 of the way. Not half way quite a bit below. Hope that helps it's the best I can describe.

BTW...I never experience the same effect on headphones. Since I mostly use ear canal headphones (Etymotics, Shures) I normally don't need to crank it up. Also I am quite sure I may have some but very very little hearing lost...I am a brass player :)
First: Rugs, curtains, etc. for the bright, echoing room.
Second: Borrow a good source from someone or upgrade yours.
Third: You may have a component mis-match. The Totem reputation is that they require a lot of power to sound good. The Absolute Sound had some recommended systems about a year ago and they bumped the Arros out out the low end system specifically because of this.