B&W 603 S2 Hurting Ears

W

WildArticuno

Audiophyte
Hello,

I bought a set of B&W 603 S2 Anniversary Edition floor standing speakers as my first set. I have them paired with the Denon x2700h. I am running it in a simple 2.0 setup.

I primarily watch movies via Apple TV 4K and listen to music via the Music app on the Apple TV.

The speakers themselves sound amazing, very clear, and they look great.

However, at listening to a movie or music at around 60+ dbs, my ears start to feel "plugged." Like I put something in there. And I got a subtle stinging pain that lingers for hours afterwards. This happens every time I listen to them.

The room is about 480 sq ft open and is carpeted.

I really would like to keep these speakers but am not sure if it is possible as I'm not able to enjoy them fully without being in pain.

Is there anything I can do in the receiver settings to help my ears? Or is my only real option returning them and finding something different?

I had the same thing happen to me when I bought the Klispch R-41PM bookshelf speakers for my computer desk. I sent them back due to the pain. Is it possible that my ears just cant handle decent speakers? I can listen to my headphones, airpods, and the TV sound with ease and without pain - for years.

Thank you for your help.
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
Hello,

I bought a set of B&W 603 S2 Anniversary Edition floor standing speakers as my first set. I have them paired with the Denon x2700h. I am running it in a simple 2.0 setup.

I primarily watch movies via Apple TV 4K and listen to music via the Music app on the Apple TV.

The speakers themselves sound amazing, very clear, and they look great.

However, at listening to a movie or music at around 60+ dbs, my ears start to feel "plugged." Like I put something in there. And I got a subtle stinging pain that lingers for hours afterwards. This happens every time I listen to them.

The room is about 480 sq ft open and is carpeted.

I really would like to keep these speakers but am not sure if it is possible as I'm not able to enjoy them fully without being in pain.

Is there anything I can do in the receiver settings to help my ears? Or is my only real option returning them and finding something different?

I had the same thing happen to me when I bought the Klispch R-41PM bookshelf speakers for my computer desk. I sent them back due to the pain. Is it possible that my ears just cant handle decent speakers? I can listen to my headphones, airpods, and the TV sound with ease and without pain - for years.

Thank you for your help.
It sounds to me as if you have them turned up far too loud. These are new speakers, and there are no third party measurements yet, but the HF may be a bit forward like the 600 series has been previously. I think you need to listen at a far lower listening level. Your symptoms are classic for listening at excessive sound pressure levels which will make you deaf.
 
L

Leemix

Audioholic Chief
Is it the same if you sit somewhere else, or move the speakers some?


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 
P

PENG

Audioholic Slumlord
Hello,

I bought a set of B&W 603 S2 Anniversary Edition floor standing speakers as my first set. I have them paired with the Denon x2700h. I am running it in a simple 2.0 setup.

I primarily watch movies via Apple TV 4K and listen to music via the Music app on the Apple TV.

The speakers themselves sound amazing, very clear, and they look great.

However, at listening to a movie or music at around 60+ dbs, my ears start to feel "plugged." Like I put something in there. And I got a subtle stinging pain that lingers for hours afterwards. This happens every time I listen to them.

The room is about 480 sq ft open and is carpeted.

I really would like to keep these speakers but am not sure if it is possible as I'm not able to enjoy them fully without being in pain.

Is there anything I can do in the receiver settings to help my ears? Or is my only real option returning them and finding something different?

I had the same thing happen to me when I bought the Klispch R-41PM bookshelf speakers for my computer desk. I sent them back due to the pain. Is it possible that my ears just cant handle decent speakers? I can listen to my headphones, airpods, and the TV sound with ease and without pain - for years.

Thank you for your help.
If the S2 anniversary edition's frequency response is anything like the 603, there are two things you can try:

1) Play with the toe-n angle, you may find the ears don't hurt as much if you listen to them off axis.

2) Run Audyssey, use the reference curve, definitely not the "flat curve", and turn DEQ "On".

I would also suggest you consult @shadyJ, he should be able to offer you good suggestions. Below is pasted from the Audioholics review on the 603, you can see why it may hurt your ears, let's hope the S2 anniversary version is not as bad.


The 603’s foremost flaw is, in my opinion, the elevated treble response around the on-axis angle. Listening on-axis could make some recordings sound quite harsh, especially rock or pop music. It also gives many vocals a sibilant sound where the T, S, and CH parts of speech were overly emphasized. This can be greatly alleviated by positioning the speakers to be facing straight ahead so that they have no toe-in angle toward the listening position. As I said before, my hunch is that this is how they were intended to be positioned, but that isn’t stated anywhere in B&W’s literature for these speakers. For the best sound, keep the listening position around a 30-degree angle with respect to the on-axis angle as that will provide the most neutral direct sound. Room correction equalization such as Audyssey cold probably tame the treble for those who want the speakers aimed at the listening position but without the hot treble sound.

If you are still within the return period, for about the same money, I highly recommend the BMR. In my opinion, at below $2,000, nothing beats those speakers in sound quality, as long as you stick with high quality recordings (not the likes of low quality music from Apple TV app), your ears will thank you.

 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Spartan
Over the years, B&W has used some confusing names for it's speakers. Do your 603 s2 speakers look like this?
1600526357614.png


Or this?
1600526551395.png


If they have those yellow Kevlar mid-range drivers, they are the cause of your ear distress. I thought B&W's new gray-colored replacement was intended to eliminate that problem. But James Larson's review and measurements indicate there still may be a problem with them.

See the broad peak around 3 kHz in the green trace below. That is caused by the mid-range driver going into break-up. To avoid that noise, B&W should make the mid-to-tweeter crossover frequency lower. But they didn't.

The best solution – and the most expensive – is to replace those speakers with something better behaved, such as the Philharmonic Audio BMR speakers that Peng mentioned above. As others above have suggested, the alternative is do not toe them in, keep them facing straight forward. Maybe that will improve things enough for you.
1600526801710.png
 
Gmoney

Gmoney

Audioholic Samurai
Over the years, B&W has used some confusing names for it's speakers. Do your 603 s2 speakers look like this?
View attachment 39964

Or this?
View attachment 39965

If they have those yellow Kevlar mid-range drivers, they are the cause of your ear distress. I thought B&W's new gray-colored replacement was intended to eliminate that problem. But James Larson's review and measurements indicate there still may be a problem with them.

See the broad peak around 3 kHz in the green trace below. That is caused by the mid-range driver going into break-up. To avoid that noise, B&W should make the mid-to-tweeter crossover frequency lower. But they didn't.

The best solution – and the most expensive – is to replace those speakers with something better behaved, such as the Philharmonic Audio BMR speakers that Peng mentioned above. As others above have suggested, the alternative is do not toe them in, keep them facing straight forward. Maybe that will improve things enough for you.
View attachment 39966
@Swerd I just did a look seen on the tower Wow! I've never see a speaker Measure that well. On Salks site

WTH man? I just tried to edit my post it shows the edit as I edit but when I click save the edit is gone. AH autocorrect sucks . I'm having to Proofread and edit all the time I'll type one thing and when I postup some of the words are replaced with Stupid crap! like just now, I typed "but" as soon as I clicked save AH change it to "back" . This is happening way to much!!
 
Last edited:
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
Over the years, B&W has used some confusing names for it's speakers. Do your 603 s2 speakers look like this?
View attachment 39964

Or this?
View attachment 39965

If they have those yellow Kevlar mid-range drivers, they are the cause of your ear distress. I thought B&W's new gray-colored replacement was intended to eliminate that problem. But James Larson's review and measurements indicate there still may be a problem with them.

See the broad peak around 3 kHz in the green trace below. That is caused by the mid-range driver going into break-up. To avoid that noise, B&W should make the mid-to-tweeter crossover frequency lower. But they didn't.

The best solution – and the most expensive – is to replace those speakers with something better behaved, such as the Philharmonic Audio BMR speakers that Peng mentioned above. As others above have suggested, the alternative is do not toe them in, keep them facing straight forward. Maybe that will improve things enough for you.
View attachment 39966
If it is the anniversary edition then they should look like the top picture. If so that is a very different mid range driver then the one James measured. I can not find measurements for the top speaker.

B & W feel correctly that crossovers should be avoided in the speech discrimination band. I agree with that completely. However you have to develop a driver that is capable of doing that, as you can't have an FR that is way out of line to achieve that end. There really are only two solutions to this problem. One is to develop drivers that really can cover the speech discrimination band. There are some but few. The other option, and probably the better one, is to abandon passive speakers, and go with active speakers and use DSP to correct the time anomalies. There is increasing evidence, especially in the era of AV that time anomalies are NOT innocuous. This is something that needs to be corrected, and it is one of the root causes of the complaint that the dialog can not be understood.
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Spartan
If it is the anniversary edition then they should look like the top picture. If so that is a very different mid range driver then the one James measured. I can not find measurements for the top speaker.

B & W feel correctly that crossovers should be avoided in the speech discrimination band. I agree with that completely. However you have to develop a driver that is capable of doing that, as you can't have an FR that is way out of line to achieve that end. There really are only two solutions to this problem. One is to develop drivers that really can cover the speech discrimination band. There are some but few. The other option, and probably the better one, is to abandon passive speakers, and go with active speakers and use DSP to correct the time anomalies. There is increasing evidence, especially in the era of AV that time anomalies are NOT innocuous. This is something that needs to be corrected, and it is one of the root causes of the complaint that the dialog can not be understood.
I cannot understand why B&W feels that it must push a mid-range driver to higher frequencies than it can handle, all to avoid stomping on the speech discrimination band. Yet, it deliberately designs their crossover network to create a deep & wide dip in response centered at 2 kHz. In my opinion that has a worse effect on speech discrimination.
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
I cannot understand why B&W feels that it must push a mid-range driver to higher frequencies than it can handle, all to avoid stomping on the speech discrimination band. Yet, it deliberately designs their crossover network to create a deep & wide dip in response centered at 2 kHz. In my opinion that has a worse effect on speech discrimination.
You do not have to have a response like that to avoid the speech discrimination band though.

Crossover at 400 Hz and 4KHz.



Speech clarity is really good and central image is well centered all over the room without a center speaker.
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Spartan
You do not have to have a response like that to avoid the speech discrimination band though.

Crossover at 400 Hz and 4KHz.
When I said crossover network, I did not mean the crossover filters themselves, but all the other equalization built into the crossover board,
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Spartan
Does it really matter? just the two I looked
OK, now I get it :). One of those graphs was of my speakers.

All of them were designed by Dennis Murphy. Now you see why he gets the High Esteem around here. He has designed most of the Salk speakers, and all of the Philharmonic Audio speakers.
 
Gmoney

Gmoney

Audioholic Samurai
OK, now I get it :). One of those graphs was of my speakers.

All of them were designed by Dennis Murphy. Now you see why he gets the High Esteem around here. He has designed most of the Salk speakers, and all of the Philharmonic Audio speakers.
Those are ungodly Test results! My god man, I looked at the higher end the test results where even better not that it matters. The reason I state that cause I've never seen results like that even from any other's at least not any i've researched.
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
When I said crossover network, I did not mean the crossover filters themselves, but all the other equalization built into the crossover board,
I understand that. However your options for equalization with passive crossovers are very limited indeed. You really can only equalize by tinkering with the slopes around crossover. A passive crossover can only cut, it can never boost. Active filters can cut and boost equally well, and can correct any part of the frequency spectrum. That is another major reason to move away from passive speakers.
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Spartan
I understand that. However your options for equalization with passive crossovers are very limited indeed. You really can only equalize by tinkering with the slopes around crossover. A passive crossover can only cut, it can never boost. Active filters can cut and boost equally well, and can correct any part of the frequency spectrum. That is another major reason to move away from passive speakers.
I'm talking about the prominent dip in the B&W 603 s2 centered at 2000 Hz. The dip is about 7.5 dB deep at 2000 Hz, and ranges from as low as ~1500 Hz to 3000 Hz. That's easily within the speech intelligibility frequency range.

If the two crossover frequencies are at 400 Hz and 4000 Hz, that dip would be well within the mid-range speaker's pass band and roughly half an octave below the mid-to-tweeter crossover frequency. A passive EQ circuit could create that dip. It seems to be a deliberate choice. I wonder if that driver naturally has that dip without any EQ or filter? I think I know why the dip exists, but I don't understand why it's considered desirable.
1600572591764.png
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
I'm talking about the prominent dip in the B&W 603 s2 centered at 2000 Hz. The dip is about 7.5 dB deep at 2000 Hz, and ranges from as low as ~1500 Hz to 3000 Hz. That's easily within the speech intelligibility frequency range.

If the two crossover frequencies are at 400 Hz and 4000 Hz, that dip would be well within the mid-range speaker's pass band and roughly half an octave below the mid-to-tweeter crossover frequency. A passive EQ circuit could create that dip. It seems to be a deliberate choice. I wonder if that driver naturally has that dip without any EQ or filter? I think I know why the dip exists, but I don't understand why it's considered desirable.
View attachment 39991
Well it is not desirable. I have no idea why B & W market such a speaker. One of my brothers has a set of those. I have always considered them a perfectly dreadful set of speakers. Speech clarity is indeed poor. Frequency response aberrations also cause their own phase/time anomalies. However the OP has a different set of speakers. I have no idea what the FR of the OP's speakers looks like. I do know that time disturbances in the speech discrimination band adversely affect speech intelligibility. My researches convinced me of that a long time ago. Now we are in the AV era, this is an issue that has not received attention and really needs to.

The FR I sited comes from my three way speakers in our family room. Speech intelligibility is really excellent. Now FR alone does not define a speaker. It certainly is possible to produce a speaker with a perfect FR, that was absolutely useless as an audio transducer and that would have totally unintelligible speech. The reason is that an FR tells you absolutely nothing about time.
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Spartan
However the OP has a different set of speakers. I have no idea what the FR of the OP's speakers looks like.
The FR curve I showed in my earlier post was from James Larson's review from June 2019 of B&W 603 speakers. He identified the speakers as B&W 603 Towers, not as 603 s2 Anniversary Edition speakers. I don't know if there's a difference, but these speakers do have the mid-range drivers with the gray woven cones. They certainly look like the online photos of the 603 s2 Anniversary Edition. Below is a photo from his review.
1600612118647.png

In his review, James said this about the 2 kHz dip:
Another complaint I would list is that there is a dip in the response centered around 2 kHz, however, this might only be an academic complaint since I didn’t hear anything missing in this upper midrange band during actual listening. This flaw may be audible if this speaker were directly compared to one that had a flat response in that range, but it didn’t bother me in practice. However, it would be a technically better speaker were that dip not there, and past a 40-degree angle, it becomes a very substantial gap. In my opinion, the idea of sequestering so much frequency range to this midrange driver was not worth the penalty in directivity control. This dip may be an unavoidable consequence of crossing over the midrange driver to the tweeter at such a high frequency.
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
The FR curve I showed in my earlier post was from James Larson's review from June 2019 of B&W 603 speakers. He identified the speakers as B&W 603 Towers, not as 603 s2 Anniversary Edition speakers. I don't know if there's a difference, but these speakers do have the mid-range drivers with the gray woven cones. They certainly look like the online photos of the 603 s2 Anniversary Edition. Below is a photo from his review.
View attachment 39996
In his review, James said this about the 2 kHz dip:
So yes, the speakers James reviewed have that same midrange driver. From my past work with drivers, I suspect that dip is from a cone edge termination causing a reflection resulting in that null around 2K. You can't eliminate that in the crossover design, and I doubt DSP would. My guess is that the bosses told the boffins they had spent enough of an R & D budget on that driver, and to cut it short, throw it in and bring it to market. That is probably at the bottom of it.

6" is a large cone for a midrange. I would expect that to be a huge climb to make a 6" wide band midrange driver. What probably should have happened is to develop a couple of 4" mids, and do an MTM arrangement. However then it would not have met the marketeers price points. I'm pretty sure I could accurately guess the conversations that took place.

Just another good reason to design your own speakers and get them right, and not have to put up with that sort of nonsense.
 

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