Very high orders of ear fatigue in my new digital setup, but not through a cheap SS amp

boltzmann

Member
Messages
66
Hey everyone,

I'm experiencing very high orders of ear fatigue in my new digital setup.

Let me just give some background and info. I started playing electric guitar 4 months ago and I really like this hobby. I want to keep learning. I also have a self-diagnosed tinnitus, a high frequency ringing in my head 24/7, and it's been with me for 15 years. I've learned to accept and just cope with it. It hasn't caused any trouble until very recently.

I've been learning to play on a small, cheaper solid state/modeler amp in my living room. Because of neighbors and a fear of damaging my hearing, I'm very cautious with the volume and I'm setting it as low as possible, no louder than watching tv.

I want to learn to play some metallica songs, and currently just working on the easier power chord based songs like fade to black/for whom the bell tolls and it's going fairly well. So I dial in a distorted setting, adding in some gain and I can practice for hours without any ear fatigue. The tone is far from awesome, but good enough and the gain is set high enough to identify when I'm not muting correctly etc. And most importantly it's very friendly to my ears.

But I wanted to get a better, more metallica like tone and I went with a digital setup, primarily because I can only play at low volumes and I just like the idea of having all these different options to test out and play with.

So I bought a scarlett 2i2 interface, yamaha H7 monitors and I've tried two amp sims. Bias fx 2 and Helix Native.

But whenever I add in gain/distortion, my ears are getting murdered and I cannot play for more than 5 minutes before having to walk away. It's like the whole spectrum of sound is covered with this piercing harshness that just cuts into my ears like icicles. I'm not cranking the gain up to max, I'm setting it as low as I possibly can (10 or 11 o'clock).

I've tried tons of different things like:
*Adding in very aggressive low/high pass filters.
*Cutting certain whistling frequencies in the 2-4k area with a PEQ.
*Tried tons of different IR cabs like Ownhammer.
*Tried two different guitars, one with active emg pickups, one with passive single coils.
*Updating drivers, reinstalling, setting up my own patches following guides etc.

None of this gets rid of the root problem: something is bothering the hell out of my ears. The sound also sounds really damn dark/muddy for some reason, like my monitors were covered by thick blanket, so there's very little clarity but still an insane amount of harsh noise that cuts through.

I'm not sure this is caused by tinnitus, because my solid state can play about the same tone just fine without the harshness. I can also listen to people on youtube playing their unedited samples and it sounds great through my monitors. I'm not bashing amp sims at all, other people clearly uses them with great success and makes very good tones with them.

I know my technique is poor still, but letting a power chord ring for two seconds is something even I can do properly.

Sorry for the dragged out post, but I'm very interested in hearing what you experienced guys have to say about all this. Right now I'm back to using my SS amp but I really want this digital setup to work.

Thank you very much.
 

Digital Igloo

Member
Messages
4,259
By far the biggest difference is how you now have two full-range studio monitors with 6.5" woofers and tweeters pointing at your face vs. a big wooden box with a 12" (?) guitar driver pointing somewhere that's not your face. Many of the frequencies you're now hearing may simply not have been present with your old system.

The experience of playing in front of a real amp (tube, solid state, hybrid, whatever) is really difficult to nail with studio monitors or headphones. The modeling isn't to blame.
 

Oldschool59

Member
Messages
1,803
Welcome to TGP, and sorry to hear you are having issues with your ears/setup.

A few things first, in no particular order:

1) Your setup: you have some very good equipment, and with it, you should have no issues whatsoever getting the sounds you seek in your head. Make sure you understand how to use your gear to its best abilities. From your post, you seem to know what you're doing, but it's one thing to check.
2) Playing technique: it can affect how your sound comes out. Even is your gear is set up properly, your picking, fingering, palm muting and many other dynamic factors can drive your sound to be fizzy or shrill or uneven.
3) Volume: make sure that what you understand to be low-volume is indeed not very oppressive on your hearing. If anything, make sure your guitar playing is not hurting your ears more that they have already been. And, while it needs not be said, and it really is none of my business, I would urge you to seek medical assistance for your self-diagnosed condition. Can't hurt ;-).
4) The best way to assess the characteristics of your current sound is to record it (you should have no issues whatsoever with your gear) and share it with us here. People will understand that you are a beginner, and will not judge your playing, but will rather comment on your tone. This will be the best way to make sure that what you are hearing is not affected by your hearing condition or psycho-acoustics. Actually, this is where I would start first, before anything else.

Good luck. Music is a great hobby, and starting on the right foot usually assures that one keeps going for the long haul. Let us know if we can help. Cheers.
 

stujomo

Member
Messages
205
Try some put some tissue paper or cotton wool over the tweeters of the Yamahas. Roll off the tone control on your guitars a little, it can warm up the sound. I don't use any of my guitars with the tone and volume controls maxed out at the same time. Roll off the highs on the CAB sim or IR.
 

Jarick

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,234
I can relate to you on a few things...I also have tinnitus and it sucks (played drums for too many years without proper hearing protection). And I also play at home largely at very low volumes.

My inclination would be to try and use the simplest signal path that causes the least headache. As you said, dialing in impulses and high/low cuts and EQ and tweaking settings is not fun.

What solid state device are you using at home? Are you able to monitor through that at all?

You have all the right gear; it's just a matter of getting it set up properly and tuning to your ears.

If you have the financial freedom, it would be a lot easier to simply get an amplified guitar speaker to use. Like a Line 6 powercab would be a good start. That takes a lot of trouble out of the equation.

Or another thing you could try would be a different modeler, like a Boss Katana or something like that. The sound quality won't be up with a Helix but it's a hell of a lot easier. And for learning to play guitar honestly I'd put more time towards playing and taking lessons and learning songs than trying to get it sounding awesome.
 

boltzmann

Member
Messages
66
By far the biggest difference is how you now have two full-range studio monitors with 6.5" woofers and tweeters pointing at your face vs. a big wooden box with a 12" (?) guitar driver pointing somewhere that's not your face. Many of the frequencies you're now hearing may simply not have been present with your old system.

The experience of playing in front of a real amp (tube, solid state, hybrid, whatever) is really difficult to nail with studio monitors or headphones. The modeling isn't to blame.
May very well be the case that the monitors are simply exposing too much. But when I listen to someone play a few power chords with their preset, it sounds great through my monitors, but when I actually loud up the exact same preset and plug in my guitar and play it, it's so damn harsh and ear numbing. Even lowering the gain and rolling off the pickups significantly doesn't change much. That I don't get.

The SS is even a 1x8" speaker in a tiny open back box so the step-up from that to studio monitors are gigantic.
 

Guitardave

Member
Messages
9,987
Hey everyone,

I'm experiencing very high orders of ear fatigue in my new digital setup.

Let me just give some background and info. I started playing electric guitar 4 months ago and I really like this hobby. I want to keep learning. I also have a self-diagnosed tinnitus, a high frequency ringing in my head 24/7, and it's been with me for 15 years. I've learned to accept and just cope with it. It hasn't caused any trouble until very recently.

I've been learning to play on a small, cheaper solid state/modeler amp in my living room. Because of neighbors and a fear of damaging my hearing, I'm very cautious with the volume and I'm setting it as low as possible, no louder than watching tv.

I want to learn to play some metallica songs, and currently just working on the easier power chord based songs like fade to black/for whom the bell tolls and it's going fairly well. So I dial in a distorted setting, adding in some gain and I can practice for hours without any ear fatigue. The tone is far from awesome, but good enough and the gain is set high enough to identify when I'm not muting correctly etc. And most importantly it's very friendly to my ears.

But I wanted to get a better, more metallica like tone and I went with a digital setup, primarily because I can only play at low volumes and I just like the idea of having all these different options to test out and play with.

So I bought a scarlett 2i2 interface, yamaha H7 monitors and I've tried two amp sims. Bias fx 2 and Helix Native.

But whenever I add in gain/distortion, my ears are getting murdered and I cannot play for more than 5 minutes before having to walk away. It's like the whole spectrum of sound is covered with this piercing harshness that just cuts into my ears like icicles. I'm not cranking the gain up to max, I'm setting it as low as I possibly can (10 or 11 o'clock).

I've tried tons of different things like:
*Adding in very aggressive low/high pass filters.
*Cutting certain whistling frequencies in the 2-4k area with a PEQ.
*Tried tons of different IR cabs like Ownhammer.
*Tried two different guitars, one with active emg pickups, one with passive single coils.
*Updating drivers, reinstalling, setting up my own patches following guides etc.

None of this gets rid of the root problem: something is bothering the hell out of my ears. The sound also sounds really damn dark/muddy for some reason, like my monitors were covered by thick blanket, so there's very little clarity but still an insane amount of harsh noise that cuts through.

I'm not sure this is caused by tinnitus, because my solid state can play about the same tone just fine without the harshness. I can also listen to people on youtube playing their unedited samples and it sounds great through my monitors. I'm not bashing amp sims at all, other people clearly uses them with great success and makes very good tones with them.

I know my technique is poor still, but letting a power chord ring for two seconds is something even I can do properly.

Sorry for the dragged out post, but I'm very interested in hearing what you experienced guys have to say about all this. Right now I'm back to using my SS amp but I really want this digital setup to work.

Thank you very much.
Yeah, a Boss Katana or Yamaha THR is a much better device for what you are trying to do.

Full range monitors just are unflattering to the electric guitar. If your solid-state amp has a headphone or line out try running that to your studio monitors and you'll probably have the same reactions.

There's one guy who just puts his studio monitors underneath his desk on a shelf. Another simple technique is just turn them around and bounce the sound off the wall first. Or put tape over the tweeters, a book in front of them, etc.
 

shredmiyagi

Member
Messages
1,211
So I feel like the trend has been for everybody to get ‘reference’ studio monitors, and don’t get me wrong, I’m there too for my bedroom music making.

However, it’s very important to remember the word ‘reference’ — they aim for a flat EQ, and an electric guitar amp sim occupies this particular range of EQ with particular spikes, which in real life through an amp/speaker might sound great and ‘softened’ by the air, the cab’s natural bass/room response, etc.

The models and IRs remove those aux sounds that make a great amp in a great room sound good. So what you’re getting are the straight EQ tendencies and spikes of a guitar tone.

Then you have reference speakers which ‘represent’ those low-mid/ice-treble spikes tendencies pretty fairly in the mix, whereas a guitar cab-speaker or even a home audio system might scoop those unpleasant EQs anyway and hype the bass and trebles. You might hear the guitar fine in the mix, but certainly playing with that type of mix, it’d be difficult to hear yourself.

Truth is the Yamaha hs7 are very good budget monitors, but there is a reason some monitoring systems cost around $12000. They make the mix sound like the room it was recorded in, somehow balance the ‘reference’ with the pleasant transients and details that mics picked up. Even then, the modeling amp will sound as good as the mic/IR, but you might get a better more accurate mic tone.

Which lastly, leads me to say... have you tried IRs that are more off-axis or backed away from the amp? Every sound engineer I’ve met always defaults to jamming the mic right up to the cone, or an inch away. I like the sound 6-12” away, with a ribbon mic. I ere on the warmer side of tone. These guys default to cliches they hear, of how a guitar is recorded with a sm57 on a blasted 4x12, and that’s like... not at all the sound I like to listen to, especially solo’d. It works in a hard rock mix, but if you’re practicing, you don’t want the sound of a speaker cone pointing at your ear.

So perhaps try some Royer based Cab IRs, with some distance.
 

dougb415

Member
Messages
9,824
May very well be the case that the monitors are simply exposing too much. But when I listen to someone play a few power chords with their preset, it sounds great through my monitors, but when I actually loud up the exact same preset and plug in my guitar and play it, it's so damn harsh and ear numbing. Even lowering the gain and rolling off the pickups significantly doesn't change much. That I don't get.

The SS is even a 1x8" speaker in a tiny open back box so the step-up from that to studio monitors are gigantic.
What guitar / pickups are you using?
 
Messages
1,309
Hey everyone,

I'm experiencing very high orders of ear fatigue in my new digital setup.

Let me just give some background and info. I started playing electric guitar 4 months ago and I really like this hobby. I want to keep learning. I also have a self-diagnosed tinnitus, a high frequency ringing in my head 24/7, and it's been with me for 15 years. I've learned to accept and just cope with it. It hasn't caused any trouble until very recently.

I've been learning to play on a small, cheaper solid state/modeler amp in my living room. Because of neighbors and a fear of damaging my hearing, I'm very cautious with the volume and I'm setting it as low as possible, no louder than watching tv.

I want to learn to play some metallica songs, and currently just working on the easier power chord based songs like fade to black/for whom the bell tolls and it's going fairly well. So I dial in a distorted setting, adding in some gain and I can practice for hours without any ear fatigue. The tone is far from awesome, but good enough and the gain is set high enough to identify when I'm not muting correctly etc. And most importantly it's very friendly to my ears.

But I wanted to get a better, more metallica like tone and I went with a digital setup, primarily because I can only play at low volumes and I just like the idea of having all these different options to test out and play with.

So I bought a scarlett 2i2 interface, yamaha H7 monitors and I've tried two amp sims. Bias fx 2 and Helix Native.

But whenever I add in gain/distortion, my ears are getting murdered and I cannot play for more than 5 minutes before having to walk away. It's like the whole spectrum of sound is covered with this piercing harshness that just cuts into my ears like icicles. I'm not cranking the gain up to max, I'm setting it as low as I possibly can (10 or 11 o'clock).

I've tried tons of different things like:
*Adding in very aggressive low/high pass filters.
*Cutting certain whistling frequencies in the 2-4k area with a PEQ.
*Tried tons of different IR cabs like Ownhammer.
*Tried two different guitars, one with active emg pickups, one with passive single coils.
*Updating drivers, reinstalling, setting up my own patches following guides etc.

None of this gets rid of the root problem: something is bothering the hell out of my ears. The sound also sounds really damn dark/muddy for some reason, like my monitors were covered by thick blanket, so there's very little clarity but still an insane amount of harsh noise that cuts through.

I'm not sure this is caused by tinnitus, because my solid state can play about the same tone just fine without the harshness. I can also listen to people on youtube playing their unedited samples and it sounds great through my monitors. I'm not bashing amp sims at all, other people clearly uses them with great success and makes very good tones with them.

I know my technique is poor still, but letting a power chord ring for two seconds is something even I can do properly.

Sorry for the dragged out post, but I'm very interested in hearing what you experienced guys have to say about all this. Right now I'm back to using my SS amp but I really want this digital setup to work.

Thank you very much.
I, like you, have pretty severe tinnitus. There's not a modeler or guitar software that didn't cause me fatigue issues at anything other than small discussion volume until I got the Headrush. Something about the low-mid frequency push I think. It's great sounding and doesn't affect me the same negative way when I want to push the volume up a bit.

I also have the Headrush FRFR 108 and play it in a monitor position off to the side so I'm not getting any direct speaker to ear sound pressure.
 

Slicklickz

Member
Messages
1,693
I get ear fatigue as well with anything digital after a while.I mostly use them when I can't make much noise,so I try to keep playing time well under an hour.Otherwise I use one of my 40 tube preamps or amps,which don't cause that problem,but extended playing time at very high volume without hearing protection is tiring as well.
 

Digital Igloo

Member
Messages
4,259
May very well be the case that the monitors are simply exposing too much. But when I listen to someone play a few power chords with their preset, it sounds great through my monitors, but when I actually loud up the exact same preset and plug in my guitar and play it, it's so damn harsh and ear numbing. Even lowering the gain and rolling off the pickups significantly doesn't change much. That I don't get.

The SS is even a 1x8" speaker in a tiny open back box so the step-up from that to studio monitors are gigantic.
It may not be your thing, but it's definitely a thing: When we listen to others play music, our brains automatically switch to "I'm listening to recorded music" mode. When many of us play music ourselves, our brains automatically switch to "I'm listening to an amp." There's often a disconnect.

Session studio guys generally have little to no issue with playing in front of studio monitors, but if you've spent years or decades playing in front of amps (even small ones), the difference can be jarring. Not insurmountable, but that's why modelers work equally well running into the front of amps (as effects pedalboards), into the amps' power amp inputs (as effects pedalboards and preamps), or in 4-Cable Method (best of both worlds).
 

MaxTwang

Member
Messages
3,338
The SS is even a 1x8" speaker in a tiny open back box so the step-up from that to studio monitors are gigantic.
What amp are you using and does it have an effects loop? Try running your modelling plug-ins w/o cab sim - no cab block in Helix Native or with Bias don't use a cab (IIRC there's an option in the cab drop down list) and run the plug-ins into the amp.

A 1x8" is great for low volume home use.
 

jaded1592

Member
Messages
83
Do you have your levels set correctly?

No experience with Bias, but Helix Native has a level indicator on the input that you want to make sure isn't too hot.
 

aleclee

TGP Tech Wrangler
Staff member
Messages
12,802
When I first started doing the modeler thing, I got terrible ear fatigue with my old M-Audio monitors. They had something going on in the high end that drove me batty. After I got something a bit less harsh-sounding, I was a happy man.
 

DickTracey

Member
Messages
51
Lots of great input from everyone here, to chime in you might want to spend some time practicing at like an acoustic guitar volume when working on cords, scales licks then after a bit of time like an hour or depending on how long you practice then crank it up a bit, make sure your tone is not harsh, try playing along with music and blending in if you can handle listing to a CD/mp4/3 then you should be able to do the same playing along with the music. Ive been playing since high school and Im pushing 60 I still love playing, my ears do get tired from time to time, try taking a day or two off then come back to it after not playing for a couple of days that has always helped me. oh and get your ears checked by a doctor make sure you dont have any medical condition.
Cheers
 
Messages
1,311
3) Volume: make sure that what you understand to be low-volume is indeed not very oppressive on your hearing. If anything, make sure your guitar playing is not hurting your ears more that they have already been. And, while it needs not be said, and it really is none of my business, I would urge you to seek medical assistance for your self-diagnosed condition. Can't hurt ;-).
I second this. Get a professional to have a look at your ears. I am deaf on one ear (not music related) and also suffer from tinnitus. You may not have to play that low volume in order to keep your ears safe. Also, I have had times where (guitar) sounds were very fatigueing to me but that has been related to clogged sinuses and an inability to even out the pressure inside my ears.

Did you know that the mind can make tinnitus worse? By focusing on the sound your mind can actually end up amplifying the tinnitus and make it worse. If you have a lot of tinnitus being in a silent environment can actually be detrimental to you as it allows you to hear the tinnitus clearly and thereby also make you focus more on it. Instead it is better to have some background noise that can mask the tinnitus.

Why am I saying this? Because things are not always the way it seems. Even something that seems logical to you and me might mean a totally different thing to an ear specialist. And yout tinnitus might not mean that you are stuck getting ear fatigue easily for the rest of your life. There is still hope!

When I practice with my band I don't even use ear plugs. My tinnitus is not getting any worse and my hearing on the good ear is still close to perfect. We are good at not playing too loud, though.
 

boltzmann

Member
Messages
66
Thanks for all the replies. You all seem like a good bunch of people and I appreciate all the help and concerns!

I booked an appointment with an audiologist next week and they will take a look at my tinnitus and hearing issues.

The little amp I've been using is a Fender champion 20, which is a $100 entry level amp which is pretty damn cool for what it is. I'm not sure if it's classified as a solid state or a modeler, or both. I have a Yamaha Pacifica 112, and a ESP LTD Snakebyte.

I tried to play around with Helix native again, and this time I used a Royer based cab IR, with a 7" mic placement, and blocked the tweeters on the monitors with some different things as suggested. Positioned myself and angled the monitors in different positions too. It got better for sure, but sadly it's still too harsh to use as a practice rig for me right now as I got fatigued fairly quickly.

Another thing I tried was to plug in a pair of Sony studio headphones into my Fender champion, and I got the exact same thing here as with the monitors: this harsh, unflattering sound.

I think for my situation, it's better to move away from studio monitors since they seem to be the problem makers and instead play through a guitar cab, would you all agree with this?

I also think that at this time, as Jarick mentioned, it's better to put my time and effort into actually practicing and not get too deep into tone-chasing adventures.

The Katana 50 and Yamaha THR10 seem to offer a lot of customization, and while they are heavily marketed, people seem to enjoy them and from what I can tell they are really solid products for situations like mine.

EDIT:

Please correct me if I got things wrong. I'm not dead set on getting any specific piece of gear. I forgot to talk about power cabs. They seem a bit pricey but as I see it, I should go for a small modeler and stop using amp sims, or get a powercab and use amp sims.
 
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