Ear protection - any thoughts? Sometimes my ears are ringing/stressed ...

  • Hi there,

    I love my Kemper, it brought me back to guitar playing after being into synths for quite some years.

    I play the Kemper with 2 Neuman KH 12a speakers, excellent studio monitors, also said very often, that they work very well with guitar sounds.

    The monitors are on a little stand on my desk, setup/positioned as you should studio monitors, means the guitar goes directly into my face ("in die Fresse" 8o), what I like, because I like defined high frequencies of the guitar.


    BUT: After long sessions, I realize my ears are stressed, even almost near to ringing =O

    Unfortunately I am already in the age, where I should care about this, knowing that my ears already got a bit worse.


    I was thinking about buying the Kemper cabinet, but then, I will annoy my neighbors much more I am afraid. And I like the minimalistic setup I have now.

    Are Neumann monitors a little too hard maybe, should I go for Adams rather? Or bigger monitors, with a bigger sweet spot?

    Are there any EQ settings you could recommend me?

    Any other tips?


    Maybe the people from Kemper could also think of an ear protection parameter in the master eq, that filters out the most dangerous frequencies ???

  • As a first thought I wouldn’t start from looking for another high end nearfields (the ones you have are known to be good ones), but consider ways of working and enviroment:


    • monitoring db levels
    • having enough breaks in long sessions

    • room acoustics (freq. buildups etc)

  • Sorry to tell you what you already know but.....


    Turn it down. You don’t actually need any more gear. Neumann are awesome. If you can’t trust yourself with volume at home using studio monitors, a cabinet will be a fun thing that will ultimately make your problem worse. Sorry to be ‘that guy’ but sometimes ‘that guy’ is needed :)


    Limiting any particular frequency will likely have little effect to hearing damage if you’re otherwise loud enough to cause ringing. Also, if you attenuate any particular frequency then your favourite tone will sound different and it’s unlikely to be a good different.... any particular tone only sounds the way it does (to you) because of the range of harmonics it has. This has to be the case otherwise a middle c on a piano would sound the same as a middle c on a distorted guitar. Affecting certain frequencies will change the tone from how you intended.


    Hearing protection always affects the quality of the sound too - it’s the best we can do at someone else’s concert (I have some of the metal things from Ultimate Ears for when I go to a gig and they’re brilliant in those environments) but, at home, they will always make things sound worse than simply turning down.


    You’ve identified that you like high frequencies. That might be because high frequency is typically the first thing to die in our hearing response as we age / expose our ears to extremes. If you are often exposing your ears to sounds that get to ringing, that’s damage each time you do it, and it starts with the high parts going. The result of this, as a musician? We crank the treble on everything so it sounds normal. To a teenager it sounds like nails down a blackboard because their hearing still works.

    Sorry to tell you what you didn’t want to hear but probably suspected :)

  • Maybe something else like orthopaedic / spinal problem or job-related stress .... contributes to the sensivity? You should check this first.


    But basically: Have some breaks and turn down the volume. But too quiet and always listening hard can also be exhausting. You have to find a balance.

  • Thanks guys, for your understanding and for all your great input :)


    Sure, I know lowering the volume is the first thing I should do!

    Not that I play loud, not at all ...


    But I was just thinking how you make music and what guitar players like when they play:


    I already liked to put my Marshall 4x12 on a chair when I was young, to hear more of the direct signal of the speakers.

    But other guitar players like their cabinets or combo's to stay on the floor, to give them more of a darker growl.

    You not only hear sound you also feel sound right? ;)

    Well, the "feel" thing needs a lot of volume and is hard to achieve in a home situation.

    But still, there is a difference between sitting in the sweet spot of studio monitors, or sitting next to a combo, that's on the floor and blasting on your knees rather than blasting into your face.


    There are differences in how you listen to sound also:

    When I mix music/tracks with my monitors I need low/moderate level only.

    I want to listen to all the details, I don't need to "feel" the music.


    But when I play guitar, I want to feel the sound a bit, play with feedback maybe even!

    And maybe good monitors are bad for that? Maybe "shit speakers", like guitar speakers (in terms of frequency range) are better for playing fun?

    Maybe an 8" speaker or a 8" Simulation of a speaker would be better for me?

    Okay, make a long story short, maybe I should try some smaller cabinet simulations first and not sit in the monitors sweet spot and give that a try

  • As a first thought I wouldn’t start from looking for another high end nearfields (the ones you have are known to be good ones), but consider ways of working and enviroment:


    • monitoring db levels
    • having enough breaks in long sessions

    • room acoustics (freq. buildups etc)

    How much db is recommended?

  • There isn't a single recommended level. Noise induced hearing loss is a result of the combination of sound level and exposure time. The higher the volume, the shorter the time to cause damage. I don't remember the relationships off hand, but there is lots of information if you Google. You will find tables that tell you recommended exposure time for different sound levels. This is well studied in the field of occupational health


    Hearing loss is also cumulative, by the time you realize you have it, it is too late to do anything about the damage you have sustained. All you can do is lower your exposure and take better care of you ears to reduce the amount of additional damage. The hearing you have today is the best it will ever be, sadly, it only gets worse as you age.

  • There is also a relation between total harmonic distortion and noise level perception. When the THD goes up, we perceive sound as less attractive, triggering the same subconscious mechanisms as just plain loud music. Loud music makes us dance because it triggers our subconscious fleeing behaviors... So in my experience you will turn up a quality speaker set to much higher dB levels without realizing you are blowing your eardrums (except when you have a level meter handy...)

    Using lesser quality speakers, or other mechanisms to raise THD has it's own disadvantages: certain spikes in the frequency response of lesser quality speakers can trigger hearing loss at those frequencies, while the overall decibel level is just fine (my ears do ring quicker from bad speakers....), and also, when you can't hear enough detail to for example transcribe a solo (which you will never will hear detailed enough with a lower quality speaker) you will raise sound levels to compensate.

    It's like the same balance with wedges and in-ears: in-ears potentially gives you a better mix with less THD (reflections and comb filtering!) which could functionally be used at lower volume than wedges, but because it is such a clear mix we don't have the dancing reflex as we do with wedges, so turn up until we blow our eardrums with in-ears....

    I still believe in quality monitoring (in-ears on stage, studio monitors in the studio), but if you tend to turn these up too high, use a level meter to control yourself... The other option (lesser quality speaker) will eventually limit you functionally (hearing detail), making turning up a necessity....