Midrange Increasingly Harsh

Lately I've noticed some harshness in the mid-range, especially with violins, clarinets and female voice.  I recently bought a CD of female plainchant, and she hits the un-sweet spot so frequently I can't listen to it.  I don't listen at high volumes, rarely over nine o'clock on the volume knob.  The sound is not anything unnatural, just a less musical presentation and an unpleasant harshness.


I have twenty year old Forest Totems with their original cones, a Prima Luna Dialogue One amp which got new tubes about five years ago and an Arcam CD-73 which got a factory rebuild about three years ago.  I have neither the money nor inclination to just start arbitrarily replacing parts, but would appreciate some insight and guidance on likely culprits. 


John Cotner

New Ulm, MN


With tubes it all depends on how many hours you have on them ,if used often it may be well overdo for tubes to be replaced , and if you have these new modern tube even more so ,I buy only NOS tubes night and day better quality on many levels ,and the small input tubes you can even voice your tone .

speakers that old the capacitors on Anything are drying out gor sure 

I have been modding o for over 20 years and capacitor technologies has greatly advanced. I still see people using electrolytic capacitors in speakers ,why for its cheap and sound like crap very gritty , I just rebuilt a so called crites upgrade 

A electrolytic on the bass $4  i I use poly caps ,or Foil  capacitor depending on budget ,if you have to go cheap and use a electrolytic cap at least put in a 2uf poly or mylar cap on a 100 uf bass cap to filter the highs ,electrolytics belong in power supplies,even they filter with a poly cap if done right , most mfg under $10 k use cheap Xover parts Solen good enough and cheaper ceramic resistors . I refuse to go to their standards ,it’s a petpeave with me , you get what you pay for .



Good luck, JR.  Some good advice here ... definitely let us know what you find!!


As others have said, tubes are consumable.  So there’s that and also different tubes have different sounds.  After five years,  I’d replace at least the output tubes and if you liked the tubes five years ago, then buy more of the same.  But if you didn’t, try another company.  And don’t go cheap!  You get what you pay for.

Another thought.  What time of day do you listen?  I have had the exact same problem later in the evening, but not in the morning. Electric guitars, saxophone’s and women’s voices would hurt!

All the best.


jrcotner OP

First: Switch equipment: Isolate the Problem: preamp?/amp?/speakers?

Don't jump around changing tubes before you know if it is the speakers themselves or your amp or your preamp.

go from there

You might have tinnitus!

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus (pronounced tih-NITE-us or TIN-uh-tus) is the perception of sound that does not have an external source, so other people cannot hear it.

Tinnitus is commonly described as a ringing sound, but some people hear other types of sounds, such as roaring or buzzing. Tinnitus is common, with surveys estimating that 10 to 25% of adults have it. Children can also have tinnitus. For children and adults, tinnitus may improve or even go away over time, but in some cases, it worsens with time. When tinnitus lasts for three months or longer, it is considered chronic.

The causes of tinnitus are unclear, but most people who have it have some degree of hearing loss. Tinnitus is only rarely associated with a serious medical problem and is usually not severe enough to interfere with daily life. However, some people find that it affects their mood and their ability to sleep or concentrate. In severe cases, tinnitus can lead to anxiety or depression.

Currently, there is no cure for tinnitus, but there are ways to reduce symptoms. Common approaches include the use of sound therapy devices (including hearing aids), behavioral therapies, and medications.

What are the symptoms of tinnitus?

The symptoms of tinnitus can vary significantly from person to person. You may hear phantom sounds in one ear, in both ears, and in your head. The phantom sound may ring, buzz, roar, whistle, hum, click, hiss, or squeal. The sound may be soft or loud and may be low or high pitched. It may come and go or be present all the time. Sometimes, moving your head, neck, or eyes, or touching certain parts of your body may produce tinnitus symptoms or temporarily change the quality of the perceived sound. This is called somatosensory (pronounced so-ma-toe-SENSE-uh-ree) tinnitus.

Most cases of tinnitus are subjective, meaning that only you can hear the sounds. In rare cases, the sound pulsates rhythmically, often in time to your heartbeat. In these cases, a doctor may be able to hear the sounds with a stethoscope and, if so, it is considered to be objective tinnitus. Often, objective tinnitus has an identifiable cause and is treatable.