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Ear Pain from ESL's.

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hwoarang

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Hi all, I just bought new Martin Logan ESL's and ESLC in a home theater setup, or in stereo listening for music. My wife and I are experiencing severe ear pain even at low volume. I'm being told it could be the brightness of the speakers and may need to adjust the Audyseey settings.

My equipment is a new Marantz 6015, Outlaw 7000x amp, and monoprice CL2 14AWG wires and monolith RCA cables for preouts.
Im connected with the cable going straight into the terminals on the back of the speakers, and banana plugs on the amp side.
Everything is in phase and I never had any issues with these cables with my old speakers.
The amp and receiver are new however.
L/R are set to -2.5, and center channel is set to -1.5 with dialogue boost up to 5 on the Marantz.
Audyessy is set to Flat as the other settings just don't sound great. L/R bypass would be my next choice, but then the center channel does not sound balanced.

My misses and I's ears both hurt and feel inflamed and swollen from watching a movie on relatively low volume yesterday. I'm having to wear ear plugs throughout the day to give me ears a chance to rest. Would appreciate any guidance, especially from anyone whose had these issues. I have to believe theres a way to enjoy these speakers!
 

ttocs

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Try just the new speakers alone, see what happens differently, if anything, just to rule out interactions with the other speakers.

It might be what I experienced when I moved from a small apartment to a house with larger rooms, so, low volume took on a different meaning and I discovered that the amp I was using was fatiguing even at moderate volume. Different amp, no fatigue.

Listen to cymbals, listen for sibilance, any harshness however minor it may sound. Billy Cobham's Spectrum album is my go-to for exposing harshness, just listen to the cymbals. If you can't listen to the entire album without a break, something's wrong. It should be an album you want to replay after it ends.
 

hwoarang

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Try just the new speakers alone, see what happens differently, if anything, just to rule out interactions with the other speakers.

It might be what I experienced when I moved from a small apartment to a house with larger rooms, so, low volume took on a different meaning and I discovered that the amp I was using was fatiguing even at moderate volume. Different amp, no fatigue.

Listen to cymbals, listen for sibilance, any harshness however minor it may sound. Billy Cobham's Spectrum album is my go-to for exposing harshness, just listen to the cymbals. If you can't listen to the entire album without a break, something's wrong. It should be an album you want to replay after it ends.

Thank you. It all sounds quite clean, just heavy on the ears. Its difficult to describe, but ultimately makes our ears very sore and muffled for up to a couple days. The sales rep at Magnolia is saying its my cables and that I need a power conditioner. Sounds like upselling to me? Nobody else I spoken to has suggested that.
 

JonFo

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Electrostatics are very sensitive to room resonances, as they emit a lot of energy both to the front and rear, and that can result in fatiguing comb-filtering. Also, if the wall behind your ears is within 5' of your ears, you're getting a high dose of reflected, delayed sound. You would first try dampening the wall behind if closer than 5" and likewise, dampen the front wall behind the speakers.

I'll agree with ttocs that a better amp might help, but nothing beats dealing with room acoustics.
 

hwoarang

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These are the amps stats. I couldn't imagine its not enough power or straining to deliver. Perhaps that leaves room acoustics are my main culprit? Thoughts on the amp, which was recommended by someone on another ML group:

20Hz -20kHz +/- 0.5 dB at rated output (130W)

200 watts RMS x 7 into 4 ohms (from 20 Hz to 20 kHz with less than 0.06% total harmonic distortion, A-weighted filter)

130 watts RMS x 7 (all channels driven simultaneously into 8 ohms from 20 Hz to 20 kHz with less than 0.03% total harmonic distortion, A-weighted filter)
 

JonFo

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Focus on acoustics first, all else is usually secondary. Your gear is fine, it's the room.
Once the room is treated, then you can actually tell the improvements to the upstream gear.
 

hwoarang

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Focus on acoustics first, all else is usually secondary. Your gear is fine, it's the room.
Once the room is treated, then you can actually tell the improvements to the upstream gear.

Thank you. Any merit to the Magnolia sales specialists claim on having to replace all my cables to Audioquest and needing a power conditioner? He's claiming that ear fatigue is caused by distortion in the sound.
 

hwoarang

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Focus on acoustics first, all else is usually secondary. Your gear is fine, it's the room.
Once the room is treated, then you can actually tell the improvements to the upstream gear.
IMG_0477.jpg

When using the speakers, I move the two chairs on the left, and the small arm chair on the right out of the way, then pull the speakers forward a little. The center channel is now an ESLC. it hadn't been delivered at the time of this photo. Feel free to give notes....
 

JonFo

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Any merit to the Magnolia sales specialists claim on having to replace all my cables to Audioquest and needing a power conditioner? He's claiming that ear fatigue is caused by distortion in the sound.
He is right about distortion, completely wrong in that a cable or conditioner will fix that. Miles off the mark ...

The distortion is the reflected, delayed sound confusing the signals heard by your ears. They're given a technical term, 'ringing', that describes the phenomena of room resonances at certain mid to high frequencies. Those are incredibly fatiguing.
I know, I had that issue early on in my custom designed HT designed around my speakers, all walls are at least 5' away, and yet I had to deploy a literal ton of treatments. See this thread and follow links to part 1 for more background on acoustics for ESLs.
Been at this for several decades now, and documented a lot of the journey on this site.
 

hwoarang

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He is right about distortion, completely wrong in that a cable or conditioner will fix that. Miles off the mark ...

The distortion is the reflected, delayed sound confusing the signals heard by your ears. They're given a technical term, 'ringing', that describes the phenomena of room resonances at certain mid to high frequencies. Those are incredibly fatiguing.
I know, I had that issue early on in my custom designed HT designed around my speakers, all walls are at least 5' away, and yet I had to deploy a literal ton of treatments. See this thread and follow links to part 1 for more background on acoustics for ESLs.
Been at this for several decades now, and documented a lot of the journey on this site.
LOL. I was very glad to hear he was off the mark.

From the photo i posted, I don't have 5ft in every direction. My place is pretty large for LA, but doesn't give me a lot of room to play with. As a designer, I have to make the area look good too. Is the window, glass coffee table, and nearby furniture contributing, or is it that the speakers don't have the room they need, and is that causing the ear issues? If so, that's nuts! I never expected any of this.
 

ttocs

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Thank you. Any merit to the Magnolia sales specialists claim on having to replace all my cables to Audioquest and needing a power conditioner? He's claiming that ear fatigue is caused by distortion in the sound.
If that photo was your entire first post in this thread, I wouldn't have said anything about equipment. That photo helps a lot to understand what's going on. Reflections.

Listen to JonFo, all solid advice based on major experience.

Cables shmables, no. If you had a perfect room with perfect placement and you had some money you didn't want anymore, then you might consider making some sales person happy. The point being, cables, really expensive cables, are way down the list. Good cables however, appropriately sized and made, are definitely warranted. Please don't get the ones with batteries in them like a friend bought. He is convinced, I'm not.

The windows aren't a primary contributor per se. I've got the entire front wall of my house that's all glass that is closer to my speaker than what I see in your photo, and just treating the 3 feet from the corner behind the speaker does a world of good. I've got simple absorption from floor to 7 feet high and that got me most of the way there. I did end up with more absorption for the first few feet of window also, but that is almost entirely because the room calibration software was getting confused, and while this absorption is an improvement, it's maybe only 5%.

I love the glass table, but it's not helping the sound. I also love that wood bench/table!!!

Here's something to try. Throw a comforter on the glass table, and just place a couple blankets draped over the back of the speakers and see how that changes things. I'm pretty sure you'll be surprised. There are some very simple treatments you could hang on the wall behind the speakers which can be wrapped in nice fabric of your choice or even with printed fabric.

Toe In. ML recommends using a 1/3 flashlight reflection technique for initial toe-in. The light reflection should appear about 1/3 away from the inside of the stat panel. This worked well for me when I had 5'-6" behind the speaker. But when I decided to start from scratch and consider everything, I ended up with the light reflecting about 1/5 from the OUTSIDE edge of the stat panels. This made the front wall become way less important, except for the speaker in the corner which still needs that absorption behind it. But the other speaker needs nothing behind it, so in your case that would be your right speaker. If you had my setup, you wouldn't need to move the speakers. From the wall to the closer edge of the stat panel is 24. My speaker panels are bigger, so maybe try something less dramatic, like 1/4 light reflection from the edge of the panel. So, 24", 1/4 from the outside edge. Simple to try, and it's free.
 

JonFo

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From the photo i posted, I don't have 5ft in every direction. My place is pretty large for LA, but doesn't give me a lot of room to play with.
Thanks for that, I now see what's going on acoustically.
It seems quite resonant, with many hard surfaces, the left wall being windows is a challenge. Hopefully, you can deploy some soundproofing curtains along that wall that will both cut the light and provide dampening. See: Acousti-Curtain: Sound Absorbing Fabric Curtains | Acoustic Drapes
Good thread on the subject: Sound absorbing curtains

If the wall behind your seating position is closer than 5', then you want to put absorption there. 4" thick and offset from the wall by a couple of inches.
 

JonFo

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As a designer, I have to make the area look good too.
Then you can take on the challenge of making this stuff look nice ;)

So for the front wall, where I'd normally place a minitrap HF right behind each speaker, I'll suggest some DIY (or contract it out) to design and build a good looking treatment.
Given the nice clean aesthetic of your LR, I'll suggest finding a half round (or curved) wire-frame used in trade shows to mount printed stretch fabric (logos, ads, etc). But you will use it to mount a nice clean white stretch knit. Get one 5 to 6' tall. With as few support elements crossing the path of the sound emitted by the rear of the ESL panel

Then buy multiple Rockwool 4" thick panels, place inside the half-round, offset from the wall by 2". Optionally add some hue lightstrips to the front of the panels to back-light the transparent speakers, but you might need to add a felt diffuser in front to even out the dispersions (see my side-wall treatments for more on that).
That would make a huge difference.

For the center channel, if it is sitting in a similar place as shown in the picture, try it with the front of the speaker flush with the cabinet, otherwise, stack some felt and cover that with a docartive cloth in a strip that goes from the front of the cabinet to the rear and slightly wider than the ESLC speaker.
We want to void smearing from the reflections of the cabinet.

And that glass table, have a thick blanket/comforter to throw over that for any serious listening.
 

spkrdctr

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These guys are giving you great advice for the expensive fixes. But, I'm a cheap guy. Let's check things that are almost free first. From what you described you are getting too much volume/energy from the panels and/or center channel. If you have a db meter great, if you don't you can get one as they are cheap, usually under $75. Then you need a disc or file that is a slow frequency sweep from 20 hz to 20,000 hz. You would set your db volume so your db meter is reading around 70 db. Then watch the needle or digital reading on the meter as you play the sweep at your seated listening position. I believe you will see a large possibly 15db or more spike somewhere in the 3000 hz to 12,000 hz range. Once you know what frequency area that you have a large spike in, you can go into your settings and drop the volume for that frequency area. Like magic, your sore ears will be gone. You may have to drop a frequency area as much as your settings will allow. A 15 db spike is pretty big. Once you know what is going on in your room at your seated listening position, you can take corrective action. Since you said your room correction software wasn't working in your room (very common), you can just set it to your listening preferences. When room correction works it is great, but when it doesn't it can really mess things up. Good Luck on your troubleshooting and be sure to let us know what you find. :) I would say at this point it is not your equipment at all. It just needs to be tuned into your room.
 

BigGuy

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If we assume that the painful listening experience was absent with his previous system, I would try running the M-Ls with the original equipment and listen before taking the room apart. If the problem goes away, then it is an incompatibility with one or more of the new components.

If the issue still exists, then it may be the way the M-L's radiate sound in the room at which point I would then explore acoustically treating the room. I too have a highly reflective glass table between speakers and listening position but have covered it with a decorative area rug. The large expanse of glass is also an issue irrespective of what speakers are used. Since there looks to be a shade already, this might be replaced by an acoustic shade. If not, acoustic drapes would also extremely helpful as someone has recommended.
 

hwoarang

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My god. So much great advice and feedback. I really appreciate everyone's time. I'll respond specifically to everyone, but just wanted to say a quick thank you for all your time. I'm doing an ear test tomorrow and a follow up with a specialist Friday and will spend the weekend trying all these tips. I'm still letting my ears recover at the moment. More responses soon!
 

hwoarang

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FYI, all of this started from watching Tenet on 4K Bluray. It has a DTS-HD MA score and soundtrack. It is thunderous. However, the dialogue is notoriously low and characters are wearing gas masks which doesn't help. Christopher Nolan has been criticised for his choices, but stands by them.

I'd be really interested to hear from anyone that has watched this movie with properly setup acoustics and a well calibrated (unlike me) system. It's a real test of your equipment. Basic punches are a monsterous thump, vs the typical crack.
 

hillbilly

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I recently purchased and watched Tenet. I'll probably have to watch it a couple more times to get a grip, but that's another topic.

In my experience, movies with a lot of sub-sonic bass from explosions, etc. will definitely make my ears hurt unless I adjust the bass levels on my Summit Xs and subwoofers. Excess treble causes discomfort also, but in my case, any excess bass has lasting effects. Use of bass traps and absorbent panels has also helped.

It's really easy to adjust bass levels on my Marantz pre-pro to eliminate excess bass.
 
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