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I quick test on my system with BHSE and 007mk2.9 says this is a problem with a component in your chain. With hard diving edm/pop at volumes that made me cringe I experience no distortion. 

 

Fwiw I ride motorcycles all the time and my wife thinks I'm deaf. My normal listening volume is determined by her yelling across the house at me.

 

Ymmv.

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It’s unlikely to be coupled to the gear, it’s more likely tied to how the music has been produced, i.e. mastered to compete in the ”loudness wars”. 

Archimago (among others) has a number of well written pieces on the subject (see links in post):

http://archimago.blogspot.se/2018/04/musings-on-dysphonic-sounds-and-mobys.html?m=1

 

 

Edited by MLA

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I would hope it's a component in my chain, but I've tested it and tried to isolate the problem over the past 2 months and can't seem to figure out the source lol.

It's frustrating to have "high end" equipment with little to no volume headroom. And I'm not even listening anywhere close to dance club volumes.

Ironically, I have some Porta Pros that don't have any distortion at higher volumes on some songs that I have issues with.

I've also gone through 3 pairs of 007s, 3 different DACs, and 3 amps in troubleshooting this. For most of that time, I thought it was my amp or DAC. For example, with an srm 1 mk2, the distortion was very obvious after 1-2pm. On the 007tA, after ~3-4pm. On my kgsshv, on some songs, it's obvious around 1pm, but it seems less prone to it, so maybe it can be improved with a "better" amp? Though, it seems at similar absolute volumes, the 007tA and kgsshv distortion similarly.

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4 hours ago, MLA said:

It’s unlikely to be coupled to the gear, it’s more likely tied to how the music has been produced, i.e. mastered to compete in the ”loudness wars”. 

Archimago (among others) has a number of well written pieces on the subject (see links in post):

http://archimago.blogspot.se/2018/04/musings-on-dysphonic-sounds-and-mobys.html?m=1

Thanks for that link. I do find that for older songs like Spin Doctor - Two Princes, which was mastered at a lower volume, I can crank it to 3-4pm on my kgsshv and barely hear any distortion.

What confuding factor in all of this is why my Porta Pros can sound fine on a song that my 007 struggles with lol

4 hours ago, MLA said:

 

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37 minutes ago, powertoold said:

What confuding factor in all of this is why my Porta Pros can sound fine on a song that my 007 struggles with lol

It’s the curse of high end gear; it’s actually capable of reproducing the recording in full. Less capable gear tend to be more ”forgiving” of poor recordings, since it does not resolve as well.

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So, there are a couple possibilities. The first is that you have reached the limits of the amp, and the second is that you've reached the limits of the headphones. If it is the second, then there is no solution to the problem other than changing to different headphones. If it is the first, it depends on whether you are hearing distortion due to the amp running out of voltage, or current. The KGSSHV uses +/-450 volt or +/-500 volt power supplies, so its voltage limits are higher than the BHSE (which uses +/-400 volt PS), and close to or the same as the DIY T2 - in fact, there is less than 1 dB difference between the max voltage output of the KGSSHV with 450 volt PS and the DIY T2. The alternative is that you are hearing distortion due to current limiting, which could be alleviated by increasing the standing current in the KGSSHV.

 

However, a more important point is, that if you are listening regularly at "deafening volumes", you are likely irreparably damaging your hearing. One sign of this is that if you hear ringing in your ears after a listening session, that is, as someone colorfully put it, "the scream of a dying acoustic nerve." You can replace headphones and amplifiers. You cannot replace your ears. Once your hearing is gone, it is gone.

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Thanks for your help. I'll definitely try to increase the output current from my kgsshv from 5mA to 7mA or so (it has a SumR and was made around 2011, and I've heard some issues with the SumRs around that time, so trying to be conservative).

It's not that I want to listen at deafening volumes, and I rarely listen to the point of ringing ears. I want to believe that my system is capable of deafening volumes, so I don't spend a lot of my time wondering if I'm hearing distortion or a part of the recording.

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Remember that increasing the output standing current means the output stage has to dissipate more power, which means more heat output. So you need to have enough heatsink in order to keep the output transistors and heatsink MOSFETs cool enough with the increased current. IIRC the onboard heatsink version KGSSHV is not designed for higher current but the off-board heatsink version can tolerate more current if the heatsinks are big enough.

Edited by JimL

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+1 to Jim's warning about preserving hearing. Hearing damage is permanent, and it may also not manifest immediately. If your ears are ringing, or feel like they're stuffed with cotton, then that's your ears telling you to stop. It's also a good idea to test your hearing (you can do that at home with a test tone generator) and see what your high frequency extension is, and if it's below the average for your age, you should also probably consider backing off the knob a bit.

I used the O2 Mk1 for years almost exclusively and didn't notice any serious distortion, but I also rarely listened at super high volumes.

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Thanks for the warnings. I don't think I listen very loud, and I usually only listen for about 30 minutes a day (I avoid music otherwise).

I did try to increase the current output on my kgsshv 500v off board, but the distortion is still there, and perhaps maybe even worse for some bassy songs? Maybe it's a limitation of the 007mk1 (and my LNS).

I don't think it's a matter of loud mastering. Even if a song is mastered loudly, I don't think it should cause distortion.

With the 007mk1, I had faith that the "perfect" sound (to me) was possible, but this distortion issue is making me feel hopeless about chasing perfection.

During the first few seconds of this song, at high volume, the bass distorts quite a bit. When I turn it down, it becomes controlled again. Granted I may be expecting too much, since when it isn't distorted, my 007mk1 rumbles with the subbass in a way I haven't heard with other headphones:

https://youtu.be/1otWWvzy7f8

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40 minutes ago, powertoold said:

don't think it's a matter of loud mastering. Even if a song is mastered loudly, I don't think it should cause distortion.

 

It’s not about the loud volume in itself, it’s the process of getting to a loud master, by adding lots of gain, compression and limiting, that can cause audible distortion. 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war

Anyway, I’ll have a listen tonight to your link and report how my gear behaves...

 

Edited by MLA
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3 hours ago, powertoold said:

Thanks for the warnings. I don't think I listen very loud, and I usually only listen for about 30 minutes a day (I avoid music otherwise).

I did try to increase the current output on my kgsshv 500v off board, but the distortion is still there, and perhaps maybe even worse for some bassy songs? Maybe it's a limitation of the 007mk1 (and my LNS).

I don't think it's a matter of loud mastering. Even if a song is mastered loudly, I don't think it should cause distortion.

With the 007mk1, I had faith that the "perfect" sound (to me) was possible, but this distortion issue is making me feel hopeless about chasing perfection.

During the first few seconds of this song, at high volume, the bass distorts quite a bit. When I turn it down, it becomes controlled again. Granted I may be expecting too much, since when it isn't distorted, my 007mk1 rumbles with the subbass in a way I haven't heard with other headphones:

https://youtu.be/1otWWvzy7f8

What's your source, what's its rated output voltage? 

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I'm using the 4vrms XLR output from a CEC DA53 balanced DAC from 2007.

I find that the distortion is volume dependent. For example, at around 12pm with the XLR output, I can hear the distortion, and with the 2vrms RCA output from a different DAC, I can also hear the distortion at around 3pm (similar volume as XLR at 12pm).

I've tested all sorts of variations over the past month (optical, USB, different amps, different sets of Stax, different cables, etc.). The only thing that I haven't tried is a different power/outlet environment.

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Pretty sure the only other person who listened loud enough to clip a 500V rail amp was pabbi1. That's not a good thing, btw. 

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Could there be something goofy with your playback software or DAC, or the combination of the two? For example, I found that the ODAC clips nastily with software playback volume is set to 100%, but could not reproduce the problem on other DACs.

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It would also be helpful if you can be more specific about what you meant by the "distortion" you are hearing especially on that particular Youtube piece you provided as an example and where the distortion occur (as how many seconds into the piece...). 

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I've tried it with several different DACs and input types.

I find it very odd that not more people have encountered this issue. I think the active Stax community isn't very large and perhaps not many listen loud (~70% of live volume).

With the YouTube video I posted, the distortion occurs within the first 10 seconds, and without the distortion, the bass sounds very smooth. When it's distorted, it has a bit of grain and bassy crackles, just like when a dynamic speaker can't handle the bass. The song is really smooth, so you can definitely listen to it loud.

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So, tried the youtube video songs on both 007 and 009 with both Carbon and GG, and I can't hear any sounds that do not seem to be meant to be part of the mix.

There's however a ton of bass content in the first song and even more so in the following OG Heartthrob. It's not many songs that make me want to eq down the bass substantially on the 009's; these definitely do. Can't run youtube stuff through the spectrum analyzer in any simple way, but to me it sound like there's more going on in the lower freqs than what's healthy for home listening systems. Maybe mixed for clubs?  

I've turned it up as loud as I'm comfortable with, so can't help further I'm afraid.

Steven Wilson's "To the bone" has a few massive bass tones during the intro. Would you mind having a listen and see if you hear the same type of distortion?

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Thanks for trying it out. "To the bone" doesn't pose any problems for my 007. "Gave your love away" has a lot more bass, to the point I feel that my 007's drivers can't handle it.

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You could be pushing the drivers to their limit excursion-wise. I'm not a Stax person, but I know I have done that to my orthos...  I'm sure Spritzer will correct me if I'm wrong :)

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Yea, with my Lambda Nova Signature, when there's too much bass, it starts to either rattle or sound flappy / flabby. My 007mk1 doesn't sound like that, but they have a totally different enclosure, so maybe the symptom presents itself differently.

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17 minutes ago, powertoold said:

Yea, with my Lambda Nova Signature, when there's too much bass, it starts to either rattle or sound flappy / flabby. My 007mk1 doesn't sound like that, but they have a totally different enclosure, so maybe the symptom presents itself differently.

I think this whole subject is being blown way out of proportion and is totally due to your deafening listening levels and pushing your gear way beyond its limits, as well as your hearing. 

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45 minutes ago, justreadingup said:

I think this whole subject is being blown way out of proportion and is totally due to your deafening listening levels and pushing your gear way beyond its limits, as well as your hearing. 

How about justshuttingup?

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