Why can't I listen LOUD?

Small ears? Feedback networks in the brain? Autism?

My ears simply push back “counter-pressure” when it’s loud and there’s clipping in my ears.
Very distortion-free equipment - Electrocompaniet ECI-1, Audio Physic Tempo IV… It’s the distortion in my ears that is masking my music intake on higher volumes.

Small ears, maybe?

It is your body telling you not to be an idiot and to turn it down.


What Elk said. Protect your hearing.

I’d argue your ears are too big, not too small, and are brining in too much sound. Or perhaps you need some wax build up in your ear canal :slight_smile: to deaden the sounds.

I can’t play my music loud whenever my wife is inside at home—seems she has some sort of “automatic” control (complains even when my music is only hitting 60dB). She taught in a department of Speech Science and Audiology for 40 years, probably got religion there!

But she did let me get a new PerfectWave SACD Transport :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


But I wanna get dat 35Hz clean from my Audio Physics.
As has been the consensus, they like power.
My friend on the other hand, with no hearing loss, withstands the pressure at like 150W and over.

a “loudness” function, properly set up, might be your solution :slight_smile:

Through what contraptions?

Not sure how loud he listens…but if he pushes 90-100 dbs or over…he will permanently
damage his hearing…irrevocably…do not let your friend mislead you…
It is not ok…


Learn to enjoy 50db - 80dbs with 80 dbs as peak and preserve your ears into your
“golden years”…and thus continue to enjoy your “golden ears”

Best wishes…Be wise!!


It’s instructive to recognize that not everyone’s hearing is the same. I can’t speak to the question of the apparently broad-spectrum distortion the OP is hearing, but I know that my own ears, for as long as I can recall, have been sensitive to certain individual frequencies. They’re easily “excitable” at these one or two spots in the frequency spectrum (a simple frequency sweep recording will make the effect obvious). At reasonable volumes it gives the impression of a noticeable boost in amplitude in those places. At more than reasonable volumes it becomes downright unpleasant and borderline painful. I can’t say the sound is “distorting” exactly, since when it happens I try not to stick around long enough to analyze the effect. I’ll very quickly stop or turn down whatever’s producing the sound if I can, or leave its vicinity if I can’t. I’ve always just chalked it up to the combination of my head’s physical construction and its internal wiring.


I also get the distortion. Started at music venues that were clearly too loud. Sounds like clipping or crinkled cellophane. Later on I lost hearing in my right ear due to Meniere’s Disease. Now all I hear with that ear is distortion. Really annoying if the volume is loud enough for that ear to “kick in”.
Bottom line, keep the volume down where it’s comfortable.


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Distortion can come from the room, as @badbeef already noted.

What size is your room? What furniture is in it? What are the walls made of? Where do your speakers sit in relation to the walls? Any existing treatment?

normally as people’s systems and rooms get better they turn the volume down. Most turn the volume up trying to overpower problems. The goal should be to get more from the system at lower volumes and that has huge dependency on room.

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Distortion in your ears? Are you certain the distortion is not in the sound? Are you saying it’s painful to listen because the volume hurts, or that when you turn the volume up you hear distortion that makes the music unlistenable? You can argue that most high end equipment is lower on the distortion register, so it may not be the individual components. The distortion could be coming from another source. Positioning? Lack of synergy? The wrong cables, etc?

I do not know if the OP and I experience the same thing, but I find certain high frequencies played sufficiently loud (both live music and reproduced) will result in distortion which is experienced in my ears themselves - decidedly unpleasant.

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It’s not distorting - I hear the masking “counter-pressure” distortion inside the ear. It’s a high freq screeching, very similar actually to how a driver might sound in break up.
Cables, well, I guess based on what I’ve read that solid gold interconnects might solve the problem - 3k$ for 1m RCA pair. Not stupid expensive but definitely not affordable to me at this time.

What I mean by loud isn’t even NEAR 90-100dB, by the way!

My room has old thick log walls and ceiling - such an architecture lends itself to trapping bass in the room. (It’s not so much bass that distorts my ears, but loud upper mid / treble)
A fairly large room, 7m x 8m x 3m. Healthy amount of absorptive surfaces. Good diffusion because of the macro-scale texture of the log walls - changing surface gradient at every few inches of surface.
Speakers toed in like a few degrees at most, to alleviate surplus treble energy.

Some DACs do it, e.g. the rme adi2 DAC - and very effective (and configurable) it is.
I can also imagine an add on third party volume control to go in the tape loop of an integrated amp (or preamp) that “replaced” your built in volume that did “loudness” function properly in the analogue domain :slight_smile:
Nice gaff (house) by the way!

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Ohh, the problem is certainly not even so much system dependent, it happens with any sufficiently loud playback.
Have to admit, I’ve… Never… Heard an all-tube system. A warm and lush (YES I mean it, warm and lush) tube setup is an intriguing concept because it’d probably make for easier listening at higher volumes. Thus, hearing more, as I’ve said the ear distortion (should I coin that, or eardrum breakup mode maybe?) is primarily annoying because it has a strong masking effect for quite a wide bandgap.

Why not just listen with less volume? Because the presentation is bass-shy without sufficient power (now what was that famous curve again?) and I also feel that body-felt vibration is an important aspect of the hifi experience.

I have found that in my room (which has lots of bass trapping and high frequency damping) that there’s literally only one volume level that sounds ‘right’ (e.g. I can hear enough bass). Also, even though it is said you need little power to drive tweeters I’m convinced otherwise, i.e. I find that above a certain level it appears that the high frequency refuses to get louder, which I assume is a lack of power. Also, unfortunately, where things are placed in the room there’s a bass suckout at the listening position. The bass trapping works in that there’s no appreciable buildup of bass in the corners - the nicest bass is heard at the side of the room (I’d love to be able to hear that lovely bass where i actually sit!). I’ll make one other comment which is it’s surprisingly easy to run out of power given that a 3db increase requires a doubling of power. I think I’m doing a Steven here though as none of this probably has anything to do with Arenith’s problem ):-


As per Joma’s comments, FWIW my first external DAC sounded great, till I played back a loud volume/high energy cymbal/triangle passage. While comparing my CDP all-in-one DAC to the external DAC (a Schitt Modi 3+), discovered the Modi “clipping” (edgy, crackling, distorted) when trying to drive that high energy-high frequency signal (was smooth as silk through my CDP). My ears wanted to “close-up” due to that irritation…thus the Modi 3+ went back!!

Is your experience frequency, or just volume dependent?


I guess it depends on which kind of sound your speaker gives you.

I have a pair of Elac FS507 now and I can play INSANELY loud with them without even thinking of how loud I’m playing.
MUCH louder than any other speaker I ever had since 1986