Ear Pain from ESL's.

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Chops

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All good points posted, but I think something here is being overlooked, and probably more than likely the cause...

You have a decent size room, and I would even say a bit on the large side. My room is a closet in comparison. Your furnishing are alright where they are (no need to move them for listening), but you should definitely address that giant glass coffee table in the middle of the room. As others said, throw a blanket or something over it temporarily while listening to your system. The window on the left wall may cause some of an issue, but I would think not a whole lot as I have the same issue in my room on the right wall. However, the nice thing about panel speakers is that they don't radiate a lot of energy off to the sides, so may not be as big of a concern as some think. My right Martin Logan SL3 is 2.5 feet away from the window and is actually right along side it, and I have zero issues with it being bright or unbalanced on that side of the room. The left SL3 is 2.5 feet along side the door going into the kitchen, which is open more times than not, and again, no imbalance issues. The side walls just aren't as critical when it comes to panel loudspeakers. At least in my experiences over the years of using Martin Logan's, Magnepan's, and various DIY open baffle designs.

If you don't have an SPL meter and don't want to buy one, just download an app for your phone. They may not be the most accurate, but they get you in the ballpark and give you an idea of what's going on.

Get that movie "Tenet" you were talking about, play it at the same exact volume you were when you and your wife experienced the discomfort, then open up the SPL app on your phone and see what it's reading. If you're seeing peaks in excess of 90 dB at your listening position, I'm willing to bet your amp is starting to run out of steam, meaning that amp is approaching clipping (if it isn't already), which would definitely cause listening fatigue.

130 watts (probably closer to 165 watts since your ESL's are 6 ohms) will only get you so far with electrostats, even ones rated at 91 dB. Stats soak up power quickly, and even a solid 200 watt amp will quickly run into clipping at moderate volume with stats.

So as much as others are talking about room acoustics and such, I'm willing to bet it's most likely the amp. Not that the Outlaw amp is bad or anything. It just doesn't have enough headroom to properly power your ESL's in that size room.

And as a side note, that salesman is a schmuck telling you your issues are cables and the lack of a power conditioner. He's just trying to make a quick buck off of you. With that being said, a power conditioner would be a good idea. Just don't plug your Outlaw amp into it. Plug the amp directly into the wall outlet.
 

BigGuy

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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.
Not sure if it would help with Tenet dialogue but using a esl center channel, e.g. Theater, Cinema, could help the situation.
 

spkrdctr

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I have tried a DB meter on my phone but I could not really get it to do what I needed. It never hurts to own a db meter. You have a boatload of advice. I would try mine first and then go right into room treatments and other speaker positioning etc. That's when the real work will start. I have to say that if you follow even half the advice you have received you will have a nice sounding system. Lots of good guys around here!
 

Chops

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Like I said, a phone app can get you into the ballpark at least. Naturally, a real SPL meter is always the best way to go. Tweaking EQ manually I always found to work best rather than having the DSP do it for you. It never turned out right (back in my HT days).

Though I still have to say, there's a very good possibility that his amp is running into clipping. Nothing is going to fix that other than playing the system quieter or getting a more powerful amp. Trying to EQ for something that really isn't there will just make things sound worse, and probably still have the clipping.
 

18000rpm

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That's really weird, in all my years of being into home theater/audio I've never heard of getting ear pain unless the audio is unbearably loud for long periods.

A few notes:
1. Cables are 100% not the problem, you can ignore that terrible advice. Funny, cables just happen to be the highest margin items for any A/V retailer.
2. Your preamp and amp are decent enough and unlikely to be the direct cause.
3. That big pane of glass on the coffee table between you and the speakers is probably not ideal. Try damping it with some heavy books (or comforter like others suggested).
4. Also try disabling your subwoofer to see if that eliminates the problem. If it does, play with its placement.
 

Robert D

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I always felt like it is the high frequency treble that causes pain and not the bass.

I've got tinnitus from loud music, mostly concerts.
 

Chops

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2. Your preamp and amp are decent enough and unlikely to be the direct cause.
Again, unless he's running that 130 watt amp into clipping, which is a very good case that he is. So it can be very likely that that is the direct cause.


I always felt like it is the high frequency treble that causes pain and not the bass.
Very true as well. Bass is very very unlikely the issue. In fact, I guarantee it isn't the issue at all. Maybe if he was sitting in one of those SPL drag race vans with 100,000 watts of power and twelve 18" subwoofers blasting just inches away into the back of his head, he'd be getting some ear pain, but definitely not in a home audio/home theater system.

I have yet to see any... ANY home system hit anything close to 167 dB. Heck, even live rock concerts barely ever see peaks of around 115 dB.

With that being said, say 90 - 95 dB of clipped/distorted high frequency information for an extended period of time will definitely give you listening fatigue.
 

Robert D

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Back in the 80s I had a really nice Alpine car stereo and would play music loud enough that my ears would ring the rest of the day. It didn't even have a subwoofer, so not huge bass. Most car systems back then just had 3 way full range speakers and no sub.

When you're just a kid you are invincible and don't think about long term damage.
 

Chops

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Back in the 80s I had a really nice Alpine car stereo and would play music loud enough that my ears would ring the rest of the day. It didn't even have a subwoofer, so not huge bass. Most car systems back then just had 3 way full range speakers and no sub.

When you're just a kid you are invincible and don't think about long term damage.
Yup. Been there, done that, and helped many friends do the same. LOL
 

Phil in Ocala

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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.
..................
Speakers need over time to be "burned in"....give it two weeks of use.
 

ttocs

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..................
Speakers need over time to be "burned in"....give it two weeks of use.
This is a great point! I didn't consider to ask how many hours are on the new speakers.

It took my 13A's over 120-130 hours to be done with any lingering "shrill" sounds which were very few and very specific to frequency and intensity, but it does take time to work those out. I can remember a very intensely piercing guitar note as being the last of the "shrieking" sounds that no longer exist.
 

jtucker

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It may just be the content and volume of the movie sound track. I quit going to movie theaters years ago as the sound was just way too loud. Same with concerts.
 

Lightloopy

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It may just be the content and volume of the movie sound track. I quit going to movie theaters years ago as the sound was just way too loud. Same with concerts.
So True! I started taking ear plugs to the movie theatre( back when we used to go to the movies)
Now if I only had those plugs after the Yes concerts way back when! I don't remember any warning signs at the door...
Interestingly, my son plays guitar in some local bands and those kids put a jar with ear plugs at the ticket desk. Brilliant!
 

BigGuy

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It may just be the content and volume of the movie sound track. I quit going to movie theaters years ago as the sound was just way too loud. Same with concerts.
If its a case of cranking the volume to improve understandability of dialogue, amplifier may be clipping and generating painful distortion.

FWIW, in my 35 years as a member of an audio society, I have never heard anyone complain about painful sound reproduction from electrostatic speakers. Will be most interested in how this shakes out.
 

Leporello

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So how did this story end?
It must have, since hwoarang's last post was 1/26/2021, nearly a year ago.

The idea there was a problem that changing cables or adding a power conditioner could fix is ludicrous, of course. "Hurt" is more extreme than "fatigue". Amp clipping that would cause "hurt" is not subtle, and would probably hurt something else, either itself or the speaker.

Note that while the big glass coffee table is problematic, it would be *less* so with ESL's, since they radiate largely in the forward direction, not downward to be reflected from the table. (Still I wouldn't have one in my listening room).

There had to be some extreme, glaring, problem, to cause pain independently in two sets of ears. Maybe the impression Audyessy was set to "flat" was incorrect. Or maybe some extreme standing wave resonance, as some were implying (probably not due to the big glass coffee table for the reason I gave, but I wouldn't rule it out). I would have suggested taking a Room Eq. Wizard plot and posting it. But whatever it was, it was apparently resolved one way or another. Break-in is a potential issue with ESL's, but not to the extent they would cause pain before settling on their optimum diaphragm tension.
 

MisterB

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It must have, since hwoarang's last post was 1/26/2021, nearly a year ago.

The idea there was a problem that changing cables or adding a power conditioner could fix is ludicrous, of course. "Hurt" is more extreme than "fatigue". Amp clipping that would cause "hurt" is not subtle, and would probably hurt something else, either itself or the speaker.

Note that while the big glass coffee table is problematic, it would be *less* so with ESL's, since they radiate largely in the forward direction, not downward to be reflected from the table. (Still I wouldn't have one in my listening room).

There had to be some extreme, glaring, problem, to cause pain independently in two sets of ears. Maybe the impression Audyessy was set to "flat" was incorrect. Or maybe some extreme standing wave resonance, as some were implying (probably not due to the big glass coffee table for the reason I gave, but I wouldn't rule it out). I would have suggested taking a Room Eq. Wizard plot and posting it. But whatever it was, it was apparently resolved one way or another. Break-in is a potential issue with ESL's, but not to the extent they would cause pain before settling on their optimum diaphragm tension.
My guess is that Audyssey may have been a big source of the issue. It is pretty well documented that nearly all room correction applications struggle to get dipole speakers right. They can't really handle the inherent reflections and phase differences. IME, the speakers end up being overly bright and fatiguing. For that reason, I stopped using any room correction above about 200 Hz several years ago.
 

ttocs

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I squelch any correction above the crossover of my L&R speakers, 300Hz. However, I let Dirac do what it wants for all the other channels for HT.
 

MisterB

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I squelch any correction above the crossover of my L&R speakers, 300Hz. However, I let Dirac do what it wants for all the other channels for HT.
I wonder if Dirac does a better job at limiting where it applies its corrections. I was using ARC with my Anthem AVM 60 and even if I lowered the max correction frequency, it still seemed to have an undesirable effect on overall dynamics. I would like to use ARC only on my surround channels, but there's no way to completely exclude the FL/FR channels, so there's always some amount of correction applied when ARC is engaged.
 
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