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Feels discomfort when listening to piano recordings

GustavAP

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Jan 15, 2016
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I have recently noticed how I feel discomfort when I listen, in my stereo setup, to recordings where the piano (and to some extent, the contrabass) is put in the centre of the mix of recordings. This goes mainly for jazz recordings (such as Esbjörn Svensson Trio records, some of Avishai Cohen records for example) of which I listen to a great extent. It becomes extremely tiring and gives me a great fatigue with a direct and to some extent continuous whistling sound in my ears even at very low levels. I should say that most of all other kinds of music sounds great and is non-fatiguing.

I haven’t isolated the problem but, what I know is that I don’t experience it when listen to my Grado’s. I expect that there is acoustic issue in my living room in combination with a prolonged otosalpingit that I seem to suffer from. Would it be reasonable to experiment with other speakers than my B&W 685’s that might have a more forgiving tweeter?

First of all I will go and properly see if there is anything that can be done about my ears haha. But as I love to listen to this kind of music, in what directions could I go? I will not be able to do any great acoustic intervention I’m afraid.
 

Al ears

Moderator
GustavAP said:
I have recently noticed how I feel discomfort when I listen, in my stereo setup, to recordings where the piano (and to some extent, the contrabass) is put in the centre of the mix of recordings. This goes mainly for jazz recordings (such as Esbjörn Svensson Trio records, some of Avishai Cohen records for example) of which I listen to a great extent. It becomes extremely tiring and gives me a great fatigue with a direct and to some extent continuous whistling sound in my ears even at very low levels. I should say that most of all other kinds of music sounds great and is non-fatiguing.

I haven’t isolated the problem but, what I know is that I don’t experience it when listen to my Grado’s. I expect that there is acoustic issue in my living room in combination with a prolonged otosalpingit that I seem to suffer from. Would it be reasonable to experiment with other speakers than my B&W 685’s that might have a more forgiving tweeter?

First of all I will go and properly see if there is anything that can be done about my ears haha. But as I love to listen to this kind of music, in what directions could I go? I will not be able to do any great acoustic intervention I’m afraid.
I too love the sound of a well played piano, whatever the genre, and have a lot of Otis Spann recordings. It's a good means of testing out a system.

When I had the original 685's I found them a little 'bright' even after playing with positioning so eventually got rid of them for some sealed-box EB2's. I would certainly look at borrowing, if possible, other speakers to try with your system.
 

davedotco

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Apr 24, 2013
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Find the B&W objectionable both in the bass and, in your case, the midrange. Personaly I am in agreement with this but others have a different view, hence their popularity.

To try and make sure where the issue lies, do try different speaker positions, sit closer to reduce the room influence, open/close curtains etc, (these changes do not need to be permenant, so try everything).

It could be a room issue but given the areas mentioned in your post, I suspect not. The speakers are an awkward load and some amplifiers deal with it better than others, it is this that is likely to be the problem, not the tweeter.
 

GustavAP

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Jan 15, 2016
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Thanks guys for the input. I have tried with my Dali Zensors Pico that I have on my desk, with great improvement in this regard. However, that they lack in most other departments.

What annoys me is that it really only concerns these kinds of music, which I however listen to quite extensively atm, but which I have only been able lto enjoy with my headphones.

davedotco said:
Find the B&W objectionable both in the bass and, in your case, the midrange. Personaly I am in agreement with this but others have a different view, hence their popularity.

To try and make sure where the issue lies, do try different speaker positions, sit closer to reduce the room influence, open/close curtains etc, (these changes do not need to be permenant, so try everything).

It could be a room issue but given the areas mentioned in your post, I suspect not. The speakers are an awkward load and some amplifiers deal with it better than others, it is this that is likely to be the problem, not the tweeter.
Yes Dave, it is of course the complex midrange that they can handle, with the great dynamics of emphaized piano and acoustic bass, not the highs, I was confused. But does it make sense when I describe the sonic effect that it is a strange resonance from the mids, almost metallic?

Where would you suggest I go looking in terms of replacements to try out?
 

davedotco

New member
Apr 24, 2013
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GustavAP said:
Thanks guys for the input. I have tried with my Dali Zensors Pico that I have on my desk, with great improvement in this regard. However, that they lack in most other departments.

What annoys me is that it really only concerns these kinds of music, which I however listen to quite extensively atm, but which I have only been able lto enjoy with my headphones.

davedotco said:
Find the B&W objectionable both in the bass and, in your case, the midrange. Personaly I am in agreement with this but others have a different view, hence their popularity.

To try and make sure where the issue lies, do try different speaker positions, sit closer to reduce the room influence, open/close curtains etc, (these changes do not need to be permenant, so try everything).

It could be a room issue but given the areas mentioned in your post, I suspect not. The speakers are an awkward load and some amplifiers deal with it better than others, it is this that is likely to be the problem, not the tweeter.
Yes Dave, it is of course the complex midrange that they can handle, with the great dynamics of emphaized piano and acoustic bass, not the highs, I was confused. But does it make sense when I describe the sonic effect that it is a strange resonance from the mids, almost metallic?

Where would you suggest I go looking in terms of replacements to try out?
And control is important, the ear is very sensitive in that area and the crossovers are pivotal. For a variety of reasons it is very easy to get this wrong and many speakers do exactly that.

The B&W 600 series, some Monitor Audio models among others get this very wrong, to reduce the impact of such design the midrange is deliberately depressed, relying on the 'resonance' to fill the gap.

The result can be initially impressive, but quickly becomes annoying, it is very obvious. just take some ogf the recording to a dealer and get him to play you a few speakers.
 

Leeps

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Dec 10, 2012
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davedotco said:
The B&W 600 series, some Monitor Audio models among others get this very wrong...
Interesting you mention Monitor Audio DDC. I found with my experience of their (recent) Gold dome tweeters (Radius, Apex, Silver ranges) to be the most convincing timbre playing piano of any speaker I've heard - really outstanding to my ear. And although my current Ruarks improve in almost every other respect, they don't quite hit the spot in the same way with piano as the MA's. However I understand early generations of this tweeter could be a little too forward, and IMO the more expensive Gold GX50's I owned (with the ribbon tweeter) couldn't get piano right for toffee.

But had you not said, I would have recommended the MA's (with that tweeter specifically) for piano listening.
 

TomSawyer

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Apr 17, 2016
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Leeps said:
...and IMO the more expensive Gold GX50's I owned (with the ribbon tweeter) couldn't get piano right for toffee.

But had you not said, I would have recommended the MA's (with that tweeter specifically) for piano listening.
Interesting. I don't really listen to much jazz but I would have expected the MA ribbons to be pretty good with piano. I've just listened to an hour of Otis Spann through a pair of Gold 300s and the piano sounds like it's in the room. I thought the difference may be it's because the crossover is different to the smaller 50s but the tweeter crossover is the same 2.3kHz for both.

I think MA speakers get a marmite reception because they can be too accurate rather than not accurate enough. Given a well balanced recording from a decent set of electronics, they can dazzle in my experience but they won't flatter a shrill recording. Unfortunately speakers don't have any intelligence, so those that do soften shrill recordings also soften everything else.

It's a good example of how spoilt we are for choice and how one man's meat's another's murder, but I'd always recommend listening to a set of MAs in any speaker audition if only to decide they're not for you.
 

bluedroog

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Mar 4, 2010
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Sorry to say but the frequency poles are often where cheapert speakers fall short on certain recordings, in the treble over longer listening sessions with piano is a classic. Once you pick up on it, it can be hard to ignore it.

How is your room, not too many large reflective areas? It may be worth investigating, soft furnishings can go a long way.

Personally I expect you need to rethink the speakers. There are differnenet ways you could go and would need to see which suit you.

Somethinglike Harbeth (Spendor may be a bit more affordable) are quite a midrange proud warmer presenattion which you may find more forgiving. But then something like the PMC 21 which has a lot more top end sparkle may give you more treble but of a much better quality.

What amp are you using? I tried older versions of the same speaker with lots of differnent amps. Arcam are quite warm and work well, I used an Alpha 8 and it is a great match. I also tried a tiny digital amp and loved many aspects but it did prove very fatiguing in the top end so I know it can make a big differnence from experince.

I later tried a Quad 909 power amp with Croft 25 valve pre-amp and they really sang. In fact I may sell the Croft now as it doesn't have the same synergy in my new set up.
 

davedotco

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Apr 24, 2013
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Leeps said:
davedotco said:
The B&W 600 series, some Monitor Audio models among others get this very wrong...
Interesting you mention Monitor Audio DDC. I found with my experience of their (recent) Gold dome tweeters (Radius, Apex, Silver ranges) to be the most convincing timbre playing piano of any speaker I've heard - really outstanding to my ear. And although my current Ruarks improve in almost every other respect, they don't quite hit the spot in the same way with piano as the MA's. However I understand early generations of this tweeter could be a little too forward, and IMO the more expensive Gold GX50's I owned (with the ribbon tweeter) couldn't get piano right for toffee.

But had you not said, I would have recommended the MA's (with that tweeter specifically) for piano listening.
I was thinking primarily of the budget (685 pricing) MAs, mostly from a couple or three years ago, Bronze, BX and RX models. I have not heard any of the modern Silver or Gold models.

The forward/brightness problem is rarely anything to do with the tweeter, it is mostly distortion products (cone breakup) from the metal cone bass mid drivers, it is very distinctive. There may well be crossover issues too, as the level of unpleasantness varies with the amplifier, possibly suggesting an awkward impedance at the crossover point.
 

GustavAP

New member
Jan 15, 2016
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bluedroog said:
Sorry to say but the frequency poles are often where cheapert speakers fall short on certain recordings, in the treble over longer listening sessions with piano is a classic. Once you pick up on it, it can be hard to ignore it.

How is your room, not too many large reflective areas? It may be worth investigating, soft furnishings can go a long way.

Personally I expect you need to rethink the speakers. There are differnenet ways you could go and would need to see which suit you.

Somethinglike Harbeth (Spendor may be a bit more affordable) are quite a midrange proud warmer presenattion which you may find more forgiving. But then something like the PMC 21 which has a lot more top end sparkle may give you more treble but of a much better quality.

What amp are you using? I tried older versions of the same speaker with lots of differnent amps. Arcam are quite warm and work well, I used an Alpha 8 and it is a great match. I also tried a tiny digital amp and loved many aspects but it did prove very fatiguing in the top end so I know it can make a big differnence from experince.

I later tried a Quad 909 power amp with Croft 25 valve pre-amp and they really sang. In fact I may sell the Croft now as it doesn't have the same synergy in my new set up.
The room probably has quite a lot of reflective and strange surfaces, and wooden floor. On an 'unrelated' note, I really experienced a quite better sound while we for a day during some repainting in a couple of larger wardrobes, and filled the room with lots of clothes. However, I don't have that much wiggle room to change much of the room accoustics, I will have to accept the very much imperfect room. Maybe some curtains and perhaps another carpet will be possible to work with.

I'm using a Primare i21 amp that I recently bought, I really like it with most music, I 'only' experience this issue with strange presenations in the midrange which sounds just off.

I will go to some of the dealers and listen to some of the songs that sounds worst in my living room setup but still good with my headphones.

The Harbeth, (and PMC's. but they are not sold where I live) is way over my budget, both new and second hand i'm afraid. I'm not sure what my budget for this would be.

Brands that I can listen to im my in the price range up to 1k Euro are: Monitor Audio, ATC, Audiovector, Focal, Quad, System Audio, Dali, B&W).
 

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