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Lets Talk About Fatigue

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

Fatigue is often mentioned on this forum, but rarely discussed. When searching the site for existing discussions i found some, but they were from 2000 - 2004. In this thread, if people participate, i hope to better understand what fatigue is, and how to avoid it, as its plaguing my enjoyment of music, and causing me a great deal of annoyance. I should also point out that this is primarily for headphone listeners, as i am one myself, and i think that listening with speakers usually wont cause too much fatiguing anyway.

So what is "fatigue"? Lets first start out with what it isnt. ie, what im not talking about.

 

1 - Listener fatigue: (from wikipedia)

"Listener fatigue can occur when listening for extended periods of time to certain material. The exact cause has been the subject of debate, but it is generally accepted that it can be caused by the introduction of artifacts in the program material.

This is an extension of the quantifiable psychological perception of sound, adding time-variance effects.

If listeners get fatigued when listening to a radio station they may tune out, and either consciously or unconsciously they may come to avoid listening to that station.


Data-reduction systems are another possible reason why listener fatigue can creep in. The constant quest for greater loudness, an obsession with pushing levels to the maximum, and a lack of understanding of the ways in which digital equipment can generate distortion all seem to lead to an increase in listener fatigue.[citation needed] However, the understanding of what causes fatigue is still relatively limited."

 

I admit, i dont entirely understand this, but what i got from the underlined bit, this is when you listen to something too often and consequently get bored with it. If you listen to a specific cd on replay for long enough - you wont want to listen to it anymore.

 

2 - Auditory fatigue: (from wikipedia)

"Auditory fatigue is defined as a temporary loss of hearing after exposure to sound. This results in a temporary shift of the auditory threshold known as a temporary threshold shift (TTS). The damage can become permanent (permanent threshold shift, PTS) if sufficient recovery time is not allowed for before contind sound exposure. When the hearing loss is rooted from a traumatic occurrence, it may be classified as noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL.

There are two main types of auditory fatigue, short-term and long-term.[1] These are distinguished from each other by several characteristics listed individually below.

Short-term fatigue
full recovery from TTS can be achieved in approximately two minutes
the TTS is relatively independent of exposure duration[1][2]
TTS is maximal at the exposure frequency of the sound

Long-term fatigue
recovery requires a minimum of several minutes but can take up to days
dependent on exposure duration and noise level
"

 

As i understand it, this is what can often happen after a concert or party when the music is really loud. Im sure alot of people have encountered this, after you leave a party, all the environmental sounds seem muted, and you and your friends have to shout amongst yourselves in order to hear one another.

 

What I am talking about

What i mean when i say fatigue - to me, its like a dull, numb kind of pain from inside my ear. not actual, cutting pain, more like a feeling of persistent pressure from inside. if you stick a finger in your ear, all that your finger is touching is the area where i often feel this odd pressure sensation, the "walls" of your ear canal, so to speak. I have already been to the ear doctor. She said (and i swear to god this is an exact quote) "your ears are beautiful - theres nothing wrong with them". I insisted, so she sent me to a hearing test which also checked out. So physically im fine. I should also point out that im 23 years old and ther really shouldnt be anything wrong with my hearing physically.

 

What causes fatigue?

Upon searching google i actually didnt find much of interest, most the possible causes for fatigue i found here in old threads. Heres the list i put together of possible causes, together with my opinion of each:

 

Clamping force - I doubt very much this is the case, i use dt770s who are pretty well known for being very comfortable, and i dont think they clamp very hard at all.

 

Spl - This is of course relevant. If you listen to music at high volumes you wont only fatigue your ears but ultimately damage them too. Different volumes will be safe or unsafe according to the length of exposure. I dont feel like the volumes i listen at are excessive, and the spl meter i bought is cheap and really s***y so i cant really make a proper estimate, but i found that even when lowering the volume i listen at, even to very low levels, after an hour or two i still get fatigued.

 

Too much treble - This may also be relevant. In general, i think high frequencies are more dangerous to your hearing, so maybe if the treble is too high it may be a cause for fatigue?
 
Too much bass - I dont know about this one. Supposedly low frequencies arent as harmful. However, as a basshead, im no stranger to excessive bass. maybe i go too far with the subbass?
 
File Format - This seems foolish to me. In no way do i intend on opening up another flac vs mp3 argument. I just dont see how this should make a difference. The common criticism of mp3 files is that theyr poorer quality (which is of course arguable, but lets not do that), not that they are fatiguing. I doubt very much this has anything to do with it. Moreover, i read somewhere that digital listening in general can cause fatigue, and that cd/ vinal will not. Honestly, I dont think so... 
 
Physical exertion - If your physically depleted, your hearing may fatigue sooner, according to someone writing in this forum from like, 2003 or something. Still, this isnt a cause i dont think. 
 
 
So how do we avoid fatigue?
Same deal here, these suggestions are taken from old threads, as google didnt have much to offer, heres the list:
 
Equalization - From the many equalization threads iv read, most (all?) headphones have peaks in the treble area, finding them, and equalizing them away should cause a less fatiguing listening experience. I am going to do this, but its a process that takes months, so im hoping someone may chime in and give theyr opinion on this particular issue.
 
Crossfeed - This is intersting. Several people have suggested that tweaking your headphone's crossfeed will make them less fatiguing. I know there are hardware solutions to this, with amps or dacs that allow you to do this. I also know alot of them give negative results such as a mudyer sound, or just a general loss of sq. Id be very interested to know if anyone has tried this, and if there is any software available for it, especially if its compatible with foobar. Or maybe just a cheap gizmo that connects somewhere in my rig?
 
Well thats about it.
I hope other members of the forum will play along and share theyr input, and that together we can nail down the cause, and offer up a good cure, or atleast some preventative measures that can be taken to avoid fatiguing ones enjoyment of this hobby. I realize this may not be a terrible epidemic, but its affecting me, and im sure im not the only one.
Please share your experiences, thoughts, and opinions. I hope im not the only one whos taken an interest in this.
post #2 of 14

Personally I don't get fatigue (guess I'm lucky) but as far as a software crossfeed goes, there are several plugins for foobar. The thing I like about them compared to hardware crossfeeds is that you can tweak them. I agree that a crossfeed can reduce SQ, especially in the bass region, but if I tweak the settings its perfectly fine. Not sure if it will help with fatigue, but I've heard it does so its worth a shot; especially when its a free plugin biggrin.gif

post #3 of 14

I'm generalizing (of course), but fatigue as I understand it talked about on Head-Fi is usually a result of a particular element or overall presentation of the sonic signature of an earphone. You can have peaky treble, which accentuates sibilance, which can be fatiguing (and physically painful, requiring painkillers). You can have a bump in the upper midrange, which creates forward, "shouty" vocals and instruments, which can be unpleasant to listen to for extended periods and which encourages lower volume listening. And, apparently, you can have extremely impactful and present bass, which can cause fatigue and headaches (ljokerl has mentioned bass headaches multiple times). I've never experienced this last one, but that's mostly because I don't own any bass-heavy equipment.

 

As to what it actually is, though. Hmm. I'd say it's another case of audio people appropriating the closest descriptor they can find in the language to something that doesn't really have a proper word. If you find something about a headphone's presentation fatiguing, you'll be encouraged to listen for shorter bursts. This is like sprinting, I guess, or engaging in grueling exercise. After a short, intense stretch, you're tired out. Thus, listener fatigue.

 

It's a nebulous term, and it's entirely possible different people mean different things by it.

post #4 of 14

I personally tend to get fatigued very easily from treble peaks and driver ringing.

 

Take for instance, the LCD-2 rev1, they have a neutralish/darker overall balance, but they were still quite unpleasant to listen to for any moderate length of time. I think it's because of the driver ringing near the sibilance range. Audeze had retarded QC at the time, so I may have been listening to a really bad pair when I had them for a few days.

 

On the other hand, the SR-007 has a very similar overall frequency response, but they have no trouble spots, so I can listen to them all day without a hint of fatigue.

 

I think the brain has a lot to do with it as well, because going back to my first decent headphone, the AT AD700, I can't stand them for five minutes now, whereas I used to use them for hours upon hours every day (probably because I thought sharp and piercing treble was 'normal'). tongue.gif

post #5 of 14

Treble gets me, too, though upper midrange can be pretty bad as well. This is doubly annoying because I like present and well-extended treble (though not the shimmery, overly hyped kind), which basically sets up a minefield for any headphone that hopes to satisfy me. Present, well-extended treble often equals peaky treble, and that's a big no-no. I'm very sensitive to heightened sibilance, and without EQ I'd probably find most of the headphones of my preferred sonic signature to be unlistenable for any long duration.

 

I forgot about ringing. There be pirates sailin' the high seas combattin' that effin' ringin'. This probably explains why some headphones are EQ'able, and other ones, even though you've managed to damp down the peak, still manage to cause fatigue.

post #6 of 14

Fuaaaar I hate sibilance and really sreechy trebs. Makes me cringe. Maybe fatigue could be the overuse of the eardrum or something from certain frequencies whether it be bass, mids or trebs just like how your muscles fatigue after a long workout or after doing the same thing over and over again, or just overexposure to the same frequency and maybe that's how you get fatigued if you're listening to something with a big ass spike somewhere along the frequency range.

post #7 of 14

In my experience, fatigue comes from distortion.

I can listen loud with my Stax earspeakers for hours because they have a natural sound.

Instead there are other models that I have to play at low volume for not hearing too much of sound distortion.

post #8 of 14

You definitely have to add distortion to the list, particularly high-order and odd-order harmonic distortion. This is not something you can EQ away.

post #9 of 14

Interesting point OP makes, referencing physical fatigue. I >do< feel like I get to my fatigue level much faster after coming home from a long day at work - as opposed to tossing on some tunes in the middle of a day off.

post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by skinnygamer12 View Post

Personally I don't get fatigue (guess I'm lucky) but as far as a software crossfeed goes, there are several plugins for foobar. The thing I like about them compared to hardware crossfeeds is that you can tweak them. I agree that a crossfeed can reduce SQ, especially in the bass region, but if I tweak the settings its perfectly fine. Not sure if it will help with fatigue, but I've heard it does so its worth a shot; especially when its a free plugin biggrin.gif

 

ill look for this plugin tomorrow, sounds interesting. do you remember what its called? what "tweaking" do you do? why would crossfeed make a difference to the sq? i thought all it does was make your headphones mono (so to speak), making them play the same sound at the same time, without a so called (because it isnt really) "seround sound"?

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Argyris View Post

I'm generalizing (of course), but fatigue as I understand it talked about on Head-Fi is usually a result of a particular element or overall presentation of the sonic signature of an earphone. You can have peaky treble, which accentuates sibilance, which can be fatiguing (and physically painful, requiring painkillers). You can have a bump in the upper midrange, which creates forward, "shouty" vocals and instruments, which can be unpleasant to listen to for extended periods and which encourages lower volume listening. And, apparently, you can have extremely impactful and present bass, which can cause fatigue and headaches (ljokerl has mentioned bass headaches multiple times). I've never experienced this last one, but that's mostly because I don't own any bass-heavy equipment.

 

As to what it actually is, though. Hmm. I'd say it's another case of audio people appropriating the closest descriptor they can find in the language to something that doesn't really have a proper word. If you find something about a headphone's presentation fatiguing, you'll be encouraged to listen for shorter bursts. This is like sprinting, I guess, or engaging in grueling exercise. After a short, intense stretch, you're tired out. Thus, listener fatigue.

 

It's a nebulous term, and it's entirely possible different people mean different things by it.

 

so you also think its to do with peaks? i know i can be a little sensitive to treble myself. you say you havnt experienced "bass headaches". does this mean you have experienced the others mentioned? because your first post said you dont get fatigue, so im curious, if you have, what did you do to get rid of it?

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Argyris View Post

Treble gets me, too, though upper midrange can be pretty bad as well. This is doubly annoying because I like present and well-extended treble (though not the shimmery, overly hyped kind), which basically sets up a minefield for any headphone that hopes to satisfy me. Present, well-extended treble often equals peaky treble, and that's a big no-no. I'm very sensitive to heightened sibilance, and without EQ I'd probably find most of the headphones of my preferred sonic signature to be unlistenable for any long duration.

 

I forgot about ringing. There be pirates sailin' the high seas combattin' that effin' ringin'. This probably explains why some headphones are EQ'able, and other ones, even though you've managed to damp down the peak, still manage to cause fatigue.

 

whats this ringing your talking about? i cant say iv heard of this.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 234537 View Post

In my experience, fatigue comes from distortion.

I can listen loud with my Stax earspeakers for hours because they have a natural sound.

Instead there are other models that I have to play at low volume for not hearing too much of sound distortion.

 

i understand from the glossary of terms that distortion is kind of an edgy subject, none the less, what do you mean when you say distortion? what measures would you take to stay away from it? is it gear specific?

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MoonUnit View Post

You definitely have to add distortion to the list, particularly high-order and odd-order harmonic distortion. This is not something you can EQ away.

 

could i have that in laymans term? didnt quite get that

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by The.Yield View Post

Interesting point OP makes, referencing physical fatigue. I >do< feel like I get to my fatigue level much faster after coming home from a long day at work - as opposed to tossing on some tunes in the middle of a day off.

 

its a point taken from old posts on the forum, i cant take credit for it : p

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by redvanilla View Post

Fuaaaar I hate sibilance and really sreechy trebs. Makes me cringe. Maybe fatigue could be the overuse of the eardrum or something from certain frequencies whether it be bass, mids or trebs just like how your muscles fatigue after a long workout or after doing the same thing over and over again, or just overexposure to the same frequency and maybe that's how you get fatigued if you're listening to something with a big ass spike somewhere along the frequency range.

im wondering though if its ANY spike, or if its only treble/mids/bass...

post #11 of 14

The poster above my first post said they don't get fatigue, not me. I do experience it when I listen to a headphone that's peaky in the treble, or somebody talking through a really poor microphone (sibilance and harshness). There isn't really much you can do to "get rid" of it once it comes about, short of painkillers (if it gives you a headache) or turning down the volume or taking a break. Actually, taking an occasional break from listening is good advice in general, since fatigue can occur cumulatively over time.

 

As far as ringing goes, it's basically a phenomenon whereby the driver continues vibrating in certain frequency bands after the transient is over. In other words, when the driver is supposed to stop moving, most frequencies stop sounding, but certain frequency ranges continue after the others have stopped (sometimes for many milliseconds). This often corresponds to treble peaks but can also appear from a seemingly flat area of the response. Ringing can be detected using cumulative spectrum decay (CSD) graphs, also known as waterfall plots. Basically, these measure the frequency response over time, setting up a transient with equal energy across all frequency bands, then measuring the nature of the decay after the transient is stopped. Ringing usually appears as long, thin trails clearly emerging from the gentle downward sloping wall of the surrounding frequencies. Generally, the longer and sharper the trail, the worse (more audible) the effect.

 

Study of this stuff in headphones is still in its infancy, but it's believed (and a lot of subjective accounts suggest) that headphones with lots of ringing in the treble tend to cause fatigue over time, even when compared to headphones with a similar balance and similar treble peaks but which do not exhibit significant ringing. The DT880, despite its bright treble, doesn't ring significantly, so EQ works wonders on it. The SRH440, on the other hand, probably rings at least around its treble spike ~9kHz (I haven't seen a CSD chart for the SRH440, but the SRH840 has some ringing, so I'm extrapolating from that), and, consequently, on rare occasions still causes fatigue despite my EQ curve.


Edited by Argyris - 12/14/12 at 3:58am
post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Argyris View Post

The poster above my first post said they don't get fatigue, not me. I do experience it when I listen to a headphone that's peaky in the treble, or somebody talking through a really poor microphone (sibilance and harshness). There isn't really much you can do to "get rid" of it once it comes about, short of painkillers (if it gives you a headache) or turning down the volume or taking a break. Actually, taking an occasional break from listening is good advice in general, since fatigue can occur cumulatively over time.

 

As far as ringing goes, it's basically a phenomenon whereby the driver continues vibrating in certain frequency bands after the transient is over. In other words, when the driver is supposed to stop moving, most frequencies stop sounding, but certain frequency ranges continue after the others have stopped (sometimes for many milliseconds). This often corresponds to treble peaks but can also appear from a seemingly flat area of the response. Ringing can be detected using cumulative spectrum decay (CSD) graphs, also known as waterfall plots. Basically, these measure the frequency response over time, setting up a transient with equal energy across all frequency bands, then measuring the nature of the decay after the transient is stopped. Ringing usually appears as long, thin trails clearly emerging from the gentle downward sloping wall of the surrounding frequencies. Generally, the longer and sharper the trail, the worse (more audible) the effect.

 

Study of this stuff in headphones is still in its infancy, but it's believed (and a lot of subjective accounts suggest) that headphones with lots of ringing in the treble tend to cause fatigue over time, even when compared to headphones with a similar balance and similar treble peaks but which do not exhibit significant ringing. The DT880, despite its bright treble, doesn't ring significantly, so EQ works wonders on it. The SRH440, on the other hand, probably rings at least around its treble spike ~9kHz (I haven't seen a CSD chart for the SRH440, but the SRH840 has some ringing, so I'm extrapolating from that), and, consequently, on rare occasions still causes fatigue despite my EQ curve.


thank you for explaining ringing and waterfall plots, it was a good explenation.

 

apologize for the mixup in identification, just got confuzed... so your saying, to avoid fatigue you just take breaks here and there?

post #13 of 14

Certain headphones make me feel more fatigue than the others. HD650, for example, never makes me feel fatigue. 

post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GrowthValue View Post

Certain headphones make me feel more fatigue than the others. HD650, for example, never makes me feel fatigue. 


urm, thank you for necroing my thread?

 

i have since found that my dt770s have a frequency spike at around 7khz. eqing this away, even now at the first stages of trial, has proven to eliminate the fatigue i was feeling completely.

 

theres an other thread about fatigue going on in the sound science forum if your interested

http://www.head-fi.org/t/643091/listening-fatigue/30#post_9051288

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