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"Fatigue-free" listening

svart-hvitt, modified 6 Years ago.

"Fatigue-free" listening

Padawan Posts: 35 Join Date: 5/6/16 Recent Posts
In Genelec's press release on SAM monitors and technology from April 2016*, the company uses the term "fatigue-free". Listening fatigue is an interesting concept that I have tried to do some "research" on. My shallow digging into this theme indicates that "fatigue" is often used, by both pros and consumers. However, there seems to be no consensus on how to define "fatigue". In some cases consumers use the term to describe "harsh" sound, "digital" sound etc. However, do "harsh" and "digital" sound have a definition...? Some people claim that an analog setup has less listening fatigue than a digital setup playing the same tracks. And so on...

This reminds me of Goethe's words:

"Content without method leads to fantasy (Schwärmerei), method without content to empty sophistry".

It seems like "fatigue" is one of those concepts about which there are many opinions, but little facts. So I was intrigued when I discovered that Genelec used the concept to describe the listening experience of their SAM monitors. What does Genelec mean by "fatigue-free"?

The press release indicates what may be Genelec's definition of "fatigue":

"higher sound pressure level than their predecessors with high dynamic range, improved frequency response flatness and very low distortion. This means clean, neutral and fatigue-free audio reproduction at all volume".

In other words, a fatigue index by Genelec could be comprised of the following factors:

1) Dynamic range...
2) Frequence response flatness...
3) Distortion... different volume outputs.


Would such an index be able to identify "fatigue-free" monitors? How should the three factors be weighted in order to get a "fatigue index" :ugeek:


So I wondered if Genelec bases its view on fatigue on published or internal research? I.e. research which has identified factors that drive listening fatigue?

I would be very interested hearing why Genelec chose to use the word "fatigue free" in their text on SAM monitors.


ilkka-rissanen, modified 6 Years ago.

Re: "Fatigue-free" listening

Yoda Posts: 2564 Join Date: 3/23/09 Recent Posts
The term “fatigue-free” is similarly vague as “good-sounding” when it comes to monitoring loudspeakers. People tend to give it the meaning they find appropriate based on their personal experience. As you probably know most terms describing acoustics lack precise globally agreed technical definition. “Fatigue-free” is one of those terms. The literal meaning of the term is to imply that there is little or no fatigue. Fatigue is normally associated with a long period of listening to a loudspeaker. Most people associate the source of listening fatigue to be some characteristic in the sound that is overwhelmingly present and over time can becomes a hindrance to precise work with the loudspeaker. Fatigue is not an empty word or sophistication – listening fatigue is a very concrete experience of people using loudspeakers. Professionals will agree that certain products cause more fatigue than others. People working in the industry starkly disagree with your claim that there are no facts behind the term fatigue simply because most professionals have personal experience of listening fatigue.

Genelec has done many things throughout the history of the company to produce loudspeakers (and subwoofers) that sound neutral. Genelec products have been designed so that, as much as possible, they lack a characteristics or “sound” that they would impose on everything that is auditioned over the loudspeakers. What we have done includes highly linear drivers, controlled directivity of acoustic radiation, solid non-vibrating enclosures, linear low distortion bass reflex system enabling very clean reproduction of bass frequencies, enclosure shapes that do not diffract sound waves, power amplifiers connected directly to each driver and having high peak output to enable playback of peaks in audio without modification of the waveforms, signal processing that filters and equalizes the electroacoustic system to have flat uncolored response on and off the acoustical axis, and finally the automated self-calibration capability (GLM AutoCal) that measures the loudspeaker-room acoustic system individually and removes colorations that are created when the loudspeaker is placed in a certain position in the room, cleaning audio and improving the accuracy of stereo imaging. All of this reduces listening fatigue and, in many cases, enables fatigue-free listening.

Best regards,
Aki Mäkivirta
R&D Director
ilkka-rissanen, modified 6 Years ago.

Re: "Fatigue-free" listening

Yoda Posts: 2564 Join Date: 3/23/09 Recent Posts
By the way, excellent timing you have! There will be an AES session on this very subject at the 141st AES international convention in Los Angeles.
svart-hvitt, modified 6 Years ago.

Re: "Fatigue-free" listening

Padawan Posts: 35 Join Date: 5/6/16 Recent Posts

great answer! And thanks for the AES link! I guess the AES event isn't stream broadcast?

Of course, the words "fatigue-free" easily find their way into marketing material. So it's good to see that Genelec commands both the language of marketing communication and most importantly (!) are able to fill the words from your PR material with content. I think your way of answering this question explains your great following in audio circles, both among pros and increasingly among consumers.

Your answer also casts light on the immense task of building an audio setup, a system that reproduces sound at adequate quality at all output volumes and in different environments. It takes great effort to build a component, module based system that competes with an active, well-engineered system. I guess most readers in this forum share this view ;-)

Still, your answer still cannot elaborate on the whole "fatigue" discussion. A doctor's prescriptions will be more effective if he is able to diagnose, understand and treat the patients correctly. However, sometimes a "treatment" of a widespread ill can be based more on superstition or faulty research than facts. Just think of the gluten debate. Many people experiencing "eating fatigue" thought they were allergic to gluten. So they started buying gluten free food. To the extent that the food industry made gluten-free this and gluten-free that. In the end it was documented that gluten didn't have anything to do with most people's "eating fatigue"; there must be another culprit than gluten (but people with coeliac disease, which is very rare, have a real intolerance towards gluten).

"Fatigue" is still a term which cannot be easily defined (like the temperature of water, the speed of wind, i.e. inputs used to forecast next period's weather), to the extent that one cannot easily build a "fatigue index" which would forecast listening fatigue of an audio setup. Agree?

However, most have a grasp, i.e. a PERSONAL idea of what "fatigue" means. So research on this topic is much welcomed. I look forward to seeing what may come out of the AES panel discussion!

From the AES abstract ("Listener fatigue is directly related to the epidemic of hearing loss among both the producing and consuming population") I get the impression that people with impaired hearing - often due to long-term overconsumption of loud music or working at noisy work places - get more easily tired of (sounds like) music. Am I correct? So physiologically speaking, the same audio material on the same audio system can drive listening fatigue in person A while person B finds the audio enjoyable/comfortable? If so, this may explain why different people have differing experiences and views on listening fatigue?
svart-hvitt, modified 6 Years ago.

Re: "Fatigue-free" listening

Padawan Posts: 35 Join Date: 5/6/16 Recent Posts
My first shallow "research" on "fatigue" didn't catch the fact that Wikipedia has a dedicated page on the phenomenon.

So here it is: