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Loss of Enjoyment, or Loss of Hearing?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

I'm curious to hear if my experience with music and hearing is different than most.

 

I used to listen to music with first generation mp3 players (~2001), and $5 earbuds, and enjoyed it immensely. I would listen to music every night as I fell asleep. It was purely active listening, and I loved every minute of it. I felt like I was surrounded by the music; a part of it.

 

I then obtained my first "nice" earphones, the Shure E2Cs. It was an incredible experience unlike any, and I will never forget it. It was like adding an entire new dimension to the music I had already grown to love. It's cliche, but I got to hear all of my music "for the first time" again! It was fantastic.

 

Since then, I've been trying to recreate that moment, with no success. The amount I spend on hifi equipment (HE-400, Schiit Magni/Modi, etc.) continues to rise, and yet I can't seem to hit that nirvana I experienced with the first listen through those now-defunct E2Cs. Keep in mind this is over the course of years, but I can't even fall into that feeling of being a part of the music anymore. I don't find active listening to be exciting, and engaging anymore, and it breaks my heart. I used to get chills all the time from music, and it never happens anymore.

 

Maybe it's just me getting older, and not enjoying the little things like I used to, or maybe it's hearing loss. I'm only 23, but I find that I am symptomatic of hearing loss. I'm seeing a doctor tomorrow and maybe he can enlighten me on whether or not I truly do have hearing loss. I have extreme difficulty understanding what people are saying if there is any background noise, or on the phone, etc.

 

So I guess my question is -- has anyone else had a similar experience? A "falling-out" with music? Any tips on what I can try, other than purchasing bigger and better gear?

 

Thanks for reading. smily_headphones1.gif

 

 

EDIT:

 

I got my hearing checked by my physician this morning, and he says there are no signs of hearing loss. So my loss of enjoyment must be a mental issue. Maybe it's the fact that I don't "actively" listen to music anymore, and use it as background noise while I work.


Edited by Phalangees - 8/27/13 at 11:35am
post #2 of 19

I can completely relate.  My first purchase after discovering head-fi was the Shure e2c's.  Like you said, they opened up a totally new world for me.  It was a combination of the isolation, the powerful bass (especially with the foam tips) and the beautiful mids that made vocals sound so good.

 

After about 6 months I got upgraditis and bought a pair of E4c's.  My first thought was how thin they sounded.  I'd read almost unanimous praise for them on head-fi, especially concerning how much of an upgrade they were over the E2c's, and yet most of my music simply sounded worse on them.  But I thought: all those people couldn't be wrong, it must be me.  So I stuck with them, sold the E2c's, and over time grew to appreciate the "thinner" sound as being hi-fi.  But I wasn't tapping my foot or getting up randomly to move around the room like with the E2c's.  

 

Over the years I've bought all sorts of stuff: built-to-order DIY DACs, SET tube amps, Grado HF1's, HD650's, Shure E5's, all trying to recapture the magic of the E2c's.  Nothing has really come close.  About 5 years ago, I grew tired of audiophilia, sold all my stuff, and just went back to iBuds.  

 

About a year ago, I bought a pair of Audioengine A2's that brought back that feeling of "wow!".  I think I simply prefer a "thicker" sound with "heft" and "weight" that rides against the popular definition of Hi-Fi.  I've found, while demo'ing setups costing thousands of dollars, that generally the more expensive a setup is, the "thinner" it sounds.  It seems for many people getting their music to sound as thin as possible is the ultimate goal.  Not trying to ruffle any feathers, you can call it soundstage if you want. :)

 

Anyway, the moral of the story is that last month I bought a pair of used E2c's and BAM it brought back all that good loving feeling.  So, no, you most likely don't have hearing loss.  Even if you did it wouldn't impact your ability to "enjoy" music.  Just go and get those E2c's again and hear what you've been missing!


Edited by dizzyorange - 8/27/13 at 3:54pm
post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your reply. It's encouraging to see that I'm not on my own with this. I'm not quite convinced that selling all of my gear is the best course of action yet, but I will pursue finding a pair of E2Cs again. I do have the newer Shure SE215s, which I enjoy. They obviously don't have the intense detail and resolution of some of my cans, but they are great to listen to all day with absolutely no listening fatigue. I also find them to be more comfortable than anything else I own. They are also more comfortable than the E2Cs ever where, which I find surprising.

 

I think you're on to something with your suggestions. Get back to my roots, so to speak and enjoy music the way I used to.

 

Thanks for your advice.

post #4 of 19

Maybe a break, listening to inferior equipment would be a good idea.

 

I think my ability to get sucked into the music is highly depend on my life situation, mood, etc., moreso than gear.


Edited by davidsh - 8/28/13 at 12:27pm
post #5 of 19

[depressing post ahead]

Interesting. I have this theory, though it only really applies to me, that my audio spending is secretly an attempt to compensate for the fact that I can't smoke marijuana anymore. It's hard to recreate the music I heard from my ESS AMT-1s (outstanding speakers) when I was 15 to 18 years old just chilling out in my bedroom. I've tried planar headphones (HE500) and $10K AMT speakers (Adam Column Mk3 Actives) and am considering Janszen zA2.1 electrostats. I probably won't bother with them though. Read on to find out why.

 

I'm 38 now. My two favorite times listening to music were the aforementioned 15 to 18 year old span with AMTs often with the music euphoria of marijuana helping things along, and 20 to 22 years old when I was dirt poor and living in a 200 sq ft roach-filled slum. In the second case, life sucked but I would just get lost in the music listening in the dark on a crummy mattress using Sony MDR-V6s straight out of my Sonly CDP. All I had, other than my friends, was time and the music, and it meant so much. I didn't have speakers. I didn't have a car, or restaurants, or videogames, or an HDTV and 180 channels, or the internet, or a cellphone (this was 1994 to 1996). It meant so much because it was all I had.

 

These days I don't have the time, and I have many more distractions and alternatives, not to mention an 80 hour a week career. And I don't have the marijuana either.

 

I really really liked the Adam Column Mk3s that I auditioned in my home. But I didn't love them. They just didn't provide that holy grail that I guess I was hoping for. I've been trying to figure out why. I've come up with these reasons:

1. I've lost some high-frequency hearing, and I've also developed a lot of physiological self-defense mechanisms where my ears tighten up to try and prevent sound from assaulting me. This means I will literally NEVER physically hear music the way I did at 16, with that open, airy sound that I remember. It's not the Adams' fault, they are astounding, sublime speakers. It's my flawed expectations, my history and physiological baggage (work, etc.), and just getting / being old. This was a revelation. A sad one.

 

2. I'll never smoke marijuana again. I haven't for many years. I never enjoyed the body load, the paranoia, and the ingestion process at all. But I loved the way it A) separated sounds, B) slowed things down and C) made things viscerally VISUAL. As I read a lot of reviews of audiophile speakers and equipment, many of the adverbs and adjectives and metaphors used could apply to the experience of listening to music under the influence. Yet I now believe spending money this way (on expensive equipment) is a waste of time and money. I will simply never have that level of enjoyment again -- it is, after all, ILLEGAL to use marijuana. I don't want to lose my job or commit a crime. This was also a revelation, a resigned one. It makes me unhappy to realize, but it should save me a lot of money chasing something I'll never find...

3. I'm ADD. Not clinically, not compared to most of my contemporaries, but the internet has forever destroyed my ability to relax, to concentrate on one thing for an extended period of time, to stay away from work for more than one waking hour, etc. My life is immeasurably better now than it was in the mid 90s, but in some ways I miss the time, the single-mindedness, the being able to have music consume my being because life, however sucky, was pretty simple. This is quite sad too. It seems you can't have it all. I wouldn't want to go back to the time where getting groceries meant a six mile round trip walk or where a restaurant outing was something I could only afford once, maybe twice a year or where hundreds of roaches walked freely on my walls and counters and the ceilings leaked from ten different spots during a rainstorm. But on the other hand I will never enjoy music like I did then ever again.


Edited by Nepenthe - 8/28/13 at 4:13pm
post #6 of 19

Move to a different state :)

post #7 of 19

Sad story indeed...

post #8 of 19

as a former Shure E2c owner I totally agree they are groovy to listen to. But there is music they don't work well with. For example, most classical music sounds flat and boring if you do not have cans able to separate and layer the different instruments and voices. Conversely there is a lot of great indie or classic rock music that is just unpleasant to listen to using "head-fi grade" cans, and sounds fantastic with a pair of entry-level speakers or your E2C.

I guess what I am trying to say is that you have to choose the hardware that works better with the music you want to listen to, or, conversely, explore new music till you find something you like listening to with your new hardware....

post #9 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by calaf View Post

as a former Shure E2c owner I totally agree they are groovy to listen to. But there is music they don't work well with. For example, most classical music sounds flat and boring if you do not have cans able to separate and layer the different instruments and voices. Conversely there is a lot of great indie or classic rock music that is just unpleasant to listen to using "head-fi grade" cans, and sounds fantastic with a pair of entry-level speakers or your E2C.

I guess what I am trying to say is that you have to choose the hardware that works better with the music you want to listen to, or, conversely, explore new music till you find something you like listening to with your new hardware....

I'd agree.  It's tough to find headphones or speakers that excel at both classical and rock n' roll.  The biggest difference, to me, is that the enjoyment of rock has more to do with tonal balance than soundstage.  And to get that nice thick tone for rock you naturally have to give up some soundstage or separation.

post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 

@Nepenthe -- Thanks for sharing your story. It is very interesting to hear. I think you have a good point with relativity. With music being the most consistent positive thing, it makes a world of difference.

 

I also know that I've lost a few khz in the top range, and can no longer hear above 17khz. I don't know if I'm convinced missing that range of noise is really affecting my perception of music overall. It'd be interesting to see some A/B studies with people that can hear that range and see if they perceive much of a difference in the "enjoyment" factor when everything above 17khz is rolled off. I realize that'd be fairly difficult to do in a non-subjective way.

 

For me, I'm experimenting with going back to listening to music in the way I used to enjoy it. I've switched to using my old Sansa Fuze with Rockbox instead of my smart phone, and I'm loving it. Having a dedicated device seems to make a difference, since all I associate the Fuze with is music. I also am just using my Shure SE215s. It's not the E2C, but the sound quality and resolution is similar, as is the frequency response. I'm also going to start using an equalizer again. I used to always EQ everything. I had presets for every system I listened on for what I thought sounded best. Then I started to hang out on Head-Fi too much (is that possible?) and learned how software EQs will destroy bits. So I stopped equalizing and stopped enjoying music as much. I'm just going to go with what sounds best for me, and forget about the bits.

 

Just a tangent, but I found listening to music on my smartphone to be such an annoying and painful process. Maybe that's part of the reason I stopped enjoying so much. I prefer quiet listening, and the lowest volume is just too loud on my phone. If I lower it with attenuation through apps and software, half of the noise coming through to my ears is static from the WiFi antenna. Getting music onto the phone was also such a pain. I use Linux, so transferring music via the MTP protocol instead of mass storage was so horrible, and rarely worked without errors.

 

Another thing I'm trying to boost my enjoyment is purging my library, and "retiring" music that I just skip over. Albums from years ago I never listen too, etc. That way I can play a random album, and know it's going to be something I like.

 

Maybe I'm changing too many variables at once, but so far I'm happy with it. It will take a while to see if it makes much of a difference.

post #11 of 19
How does eq destroy bits, etc. I have yet to hear a concrete argument against proper EQ, am really interested.
post #12 of 19

IMO, Music is a continual journey and if the journey stops, listening becomes a mechanical act, with no sense of communication and you become totally hi-fi obsessed rather than a music lover.

 

I never play music as a background. It amazes me that people have asked for headphones that they can go to sleep with!! What an insult to music that it.

 

What keeps it alive for me is the discovery of new music. I use a music service to search for albums and artists that I've picked up on from podcasts. One excellent podcast to use is the European Perspective hosted by Dave. The company that send his podcasts out send others too. I also use a podcast called Folkcast.

 

The guys that produce these programmes really know what they're talking about and they have introduced me to a lot of new music (for me) which I have then gone on and bought.

 

The discovery of new and unusual music has really kept my interest alive and the gear is just the means of improving on my musical experiences rather than just getting gear for the sake of it because it's been recommended.

 

The search for new music and new bands becomes really interesting and it can take you onto new paths if you also research the individual musicians in the bands.

post #13 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by davidsh View Post

How does eq destroy bits, etc. I have yet to hear a concrete argument against proper EQ, am really interested.

 

Maybe "destroy bits" was a bit harsh to say. A digital EQ is going to ultimately change the encoded PCM stream before it's turned into analog audio. Same with digital attenuation for volume changes. It's the impression I've received off of Head-Fi that changing bits is bad, and the purer to the original source you can get, the better.

 

Whether or not one can discern a difference between a digital equalization and an equivalent analog would be very interesting to see, but I'm sure I couldn't.

post #14 of 19

Dunno, believe what you want to, but I don't think digital EQ will make music less transparent...

post #15 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by davidsh View Post
 

Dunno, believe what you want to, but I don't think digital EQ will make music less transparent...

I believe that it's possible, but I have no idea if it does or not. I usually use a flat EQ with headphones, but I definitely do a custom EQ for all my speakers.

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