PCM listener fatigue. Fact or Fiction?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by ReggieW, Jun 30, 2002.

  1. ReggieW

    ReggieW Screenwriter

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    Well, I've heard this claim - mostly from the DSD/SACD camp. I can only speak from my own personal experience and say that I have listened to redbook cd's, dvd-a's, dad's, sacd's, and everything in between for hours on end and never experienced any so-called listener fatigue. I personally think this is nonsense imho. Have any of you specifically experienced this so-called fatigue with PCM recordings only? I must honestly say that I have grown fatigued when listening to music in the past, but why would I attribute it solely to PCM? I think the assertion is ridiculous, but I would appreciate some opinions on this if possible. I am curious because a poster over at the AA claimed a few weeks ago that he would not allow his kids to listen to PCM recordings because it made them sick/fatigued. I guess blaming PCM is easier than looking at your kids diet, lack of exercise, sleep, or other more real world causes. Though I find the claim trivial at best, I am open to possibilities.

    Reg
     
  2. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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    You can certainly get a 'fatiguing' sound from equipment, especially those which exaggerate the higher frequencies giving a 'harsh' kind of sound. And you can get recordings which - no matter what you play them on - always sound crap. But as for PCM itself causing the problem? Never heard that one.
     
  3. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    I have read that it's redbook CDs in particular that cause this fatigue, not PCM.
     
  4. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Rob,
    Spend some time on Audio Asylum, especially the Hi-Rez Highway board, and you will see regular discussion of listener fatigue tied to PCM.
    Reggie,
    Well, I certainly am not in the DSD/SACD camp ([​IMG]), but I feel 16-bit/44.1-kHz PCM can be fatiguing (edge or harshness in the upper frequencies), especially when derived from poor digital masters. SACD is much smoother, as is DVD-Audio. Whether DSD is inherently smoother in the upper frequencies than PCM is up for debate. I just feel that 16/44.1 PCM leave a lot to be desired in many instances. In the end, listener fatigue is a personal thing and can be tied to the equipment being used.
    I obviously restricted my position on PCM in relation to DSD only. I'm sure others will bring vinyl into the discussion. Actually, I guess I just did, more or less. [​IMG]
     
  5. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    Wait- are they now claiming audio causes PHYSICAL FATIGUE!?! The whole concept of fatigue, as long as I had done any readings on the topic, was auditory. At worst, the cause would be headaches. This would not be something you could parallel to lack of excercise or improper diet.

    "God, I'm so tired, must be from all that CD listening I've done!" Are you kidding me?

    In my estimateion, the majority of the fatigue came from the way the material is presented, not the format itself. The modern CD and the extreme limiting to achieve volume maximization causes listening fatigue-- and I think it would cause the same fatigue if presented on Cassette.

    How the brain expects to hear dynamics and how CD (modern mastered CD) presents them are two different things. As a result- some people find long term exposure to this type of material to have a faigue effect on their hearing (they get tired of hearing dynamically slaughtered material so they get a headache).

    There are some CDs which are significantly worse than others. I find that I cannot listen to L7's "Bricks are Heavy" for more than a few minutes before it gives me a headache. Almost every single album I've mixed gave my Fatigue- try listening to the same 4 minutes of music for 12 hours, listening critically for very tiny changes-- it will wear your ears out every time.
     
  6. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Yes, listening fatigue is well known and originated in th studio where engineers often listen to music for long periods of time. It results in a physical tired state.

    Many audiophiles and engineers started noticing that very digital high frequencies contribute excessively to reaching the point of fatigue. Early CDs with very grainy highs are notorious for this. As a result, PCM is felt to be the culprit to some extent due to the unnatural high frequency sound.

    The newer high resolution formats appear to greatly mitigate this effect, fortunately.
     
  7. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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  8. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  9. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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  10. andrew markworthy

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    I'm sure nobody will welcome me saying this, but listening to loud music for long periods of time is a bad idea anyway, unless you really do want to have adventitious deafness in later life. In other words, you should have stopped listening at volumes which can induce listener fatigue long before the onset of symptoms.

    Okay, lecture from nanny is over. The phenomenon of listener fatigue is real enough. It really comes in two varieties. One is a physical tiredness induced by listening to particular types of noise (yes, I know it sounds fanciful, but it's true). High frequencies (which are there in abundance in harsh sounding systems) are a prime culprit. The other variety is a more nebulous term for simply stopping to listen to the music being played with any great involvement. A system which screeches at you and blurs the distinctions between the different instruments on the recording is far more likely to do this.

    I suspect the reason so many people have such harsh-sounding systems is because when they bought them after a 20 minute try-out in their hi-fi store they sounded the most exciting. Probably in the long run, the more dull-sounding set-ups they rejected would have suited them more.
     
  11. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  12. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Lee wrote:
     
  13. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    It is curious, then, that this fatigue only happens to some and not to others. I listen to upwards of 8 hours of music a day, the vast majority of which is redbook CDs.

    NP: ELP, Brain Salad Surgery, DVD-A
     
  14. Paul D Young

    Paul D Young Second Unit

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    This THREAD is giving me fatigue!
    HA![​IMG]
     
  15. ReggieW

    ReggieW Screenwriter

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    Right on Keith.
    Everyone,
    I have never faced fatigue while listening to PCM based material exclusively as stated in my first post. Why PCM, and strictly PCM alone would cause this kind of fatigue leaves me suspect. I have felt fatigue after long listening sessions regardless if its PCM or DSD. Last Saturday I almost pulled a full 7 hour listening session and got a little tired. I did not attribute this to the format or codex, but probably to the fact that it was three in the morning and I probably needed a break or some sleep. Plain and simple. I doubt anyone doing anything for six hours straight would be immune to feeling some kind of fatigue. Take a walk, go to the bathroom, but pleasse don't blame poor old PCM[​IMG] .
    Reg
     
  16. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  17. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    But it is happening and does happen even when PCM material is not involved. I know I get fatigued listening to 8 hours from 24 track 2 inch analog tape (heck I've gotten serious headaches from listening to direct audio from a microphone to the speaker if exposed for long enough). The experience of listener fatigue in studios is known as an issue decades ago, before PCM digital audio was more than a theory.

    -Vince
     
  18. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Vince,

    This is true, however many feel digital high frequency notes make things worse.
     

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