B&W 603 S2 Hurting Ears

Verdinut

Verdinut

Audioholic Ninja
An alternative to TLS Guy's suggestion for 4 inch mid-range drivers would also be 5¼ inch mid-bass transducers.

I have been using a pair of Peerless 830991drivers in each front speaker cabinet. They have a 5¼ inch diameter cone and deliver a rather smooth frequency response to at least 5 KHz.
In my three way enclosures, they operate between 200 Hz and 2,900 Hz without any null within the set range of operation. They are amazing mid-range drivers. Parts-Express are out of stock for them at least until December, but Solen.ca has 51 of them in stock. I don't hesitate to recommend them for any serious DIY speaker builder.

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WildArticuno

Audiophyte
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
They are the top ones with the silver mid range drivers. They just released this month.

Thanks for all the feedback everyone. I’ve tried a few things but ultimately I’ve decided I’m going to return the speakers. They literally destroy my ears, just too painful even listening for a few minutes. I’m going to probably pick up a pair of the Martin Logan Motion 40i that are in store locally. They aren’t setup to demo so I’m going to try them at home. They have the ribbon tweeter so I’m going to see if it’s a metal tweeter issue. Like I said in my other posts, I can listen to my car speakers, AirPods, tv speaker, Sonos Beam sound at any volume for hours without pain. I never knew speakers could cause ear pain (with the exception of playing music/movies too loud) before I bought these B&W speakers. I was excited for my first real set of speakers but I admit I’m a little less enthused now lol. My fear is that I may have some biological sensitivity to “premium” speakers (not sound bars, wireless speakers, etc) because of how they are made.
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Spartan
They are the top ones with the silver mid range drivers. They just released this month.

Thanks for all the feedback everyone. I’ve tried a few things but ultimately I’ve decided I’m going to return the speakers. They literally destroy my ears, just too painful even listening for a few minutes.
I'm glad you can return them. The older yellow Kevlar mid-range drivers that B&W sold for many years always had that ear fatigue problem. The new gray mid-range drivers were supposed to fix that. Based on your experience, I guess not.
I’m going to probably pick up a pair of the Martin Logan Motion 40i that are in store locally. They aren’t setup to demo so I’m going to try them at home.
I hope you like them better. I haven't heard the recent Martin Logans.
They have the ribbon tweeter so I’m going to see if it’s a metal tweeter issue. Like I said in my other posts, I can listen to my car speakers, AirPods, tv speaker, Sonos Beam sound at any volume for hours without pain. I never knew speakers could cause ear pain (with the exception of playing music/movies too loud) before I bought these B&W speakers. I was excited for my first real set of speakers but I admit I’m a little less enthused now lol. My fear is that I may have some biological sensitivity to “premium” speakers (not sound bars, wireless speakers, etc) because of how they are made.
You should be glad you heard that problem right away, when you could still return them. This is a problem that has plagued B&W for years. There are many other "premium" speakers that don't have that problem.

Trust me, it isn't a metal tweeter issue. It's that mid-range driver allowed to work at too high a frequency. I think B&W crosses them to the tweeter at 3,500 or 4,000 Hz. Instead, they should have crossed them at a lower frequency, such as 2,000 to 2,500 Hz.
 
ryanosaur

ryanosaur

Audioholic Spartan
I auditioned the ML Motions a couple years ago. While I do not believe the upgrade with the “I” designation is super significant, the difference between the 40 and 60 was. Comparatively the Monitor Audio Silver 300 and 500 could have almost been the same speaker. To this day, I know I could have been a happy MA owner. ;)
To me, the Martin Logan’s were good speakers, but the 60 was hands down the better speaker. For the cost, however, it leaves a little on the table. Also a common comment seems to be that the AMT has a very tight sweet spot; so long as you are in it the SQ is high, but out of it you quickly lose the high end.
Monitor Audio delivered everything I wanted to hear in speakers listing at $2000-$2500 per pair in those Silver 300 and 500s. They also offer a well regarded 3-way Center.
Well worth trying to find a place to audition them, IMO, or to gamble with the return fee from Crutchfield. ;)
 
highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Overlord
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.
Active filtering is great for boosting levels, but that is best done to bring the overall level up when cut is used to correct the response. Boosting at specific frequencies is a good way to kill a driver that may not be able to handle the power, if it requires an increase of more than 3dB.

IMO, any crossover or equalizer should come with a lower limit on the amount of boost (less than 10dB) and a way to prevent users accessing any more than that unless they're trained in using these and can pass a test.
 
highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Overlord
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.
6" is large for a mid, if the upper limit of its band is too high, but I would also like to see the phase response of the crossover- phase issues are the main reason I don't like many speakers and it's something I'm sensitive to, unfortunately and fortunately (only for the purpose of listening tests). It's as if my ears are stuffed with cotton when I hear it.

Money talks- the budget for research/design/testing isn't what it should be.
 
W

WildArticuno

Audiophyte
I'm glad you can return them. The older yellow Kevlar mid-range drivers that B&W sold for many years always had that ear fatigue problem. The new gray mid-range drivers were supposed to fix that. Based on your experience, I guess not.
I hope you like them better. I haven't heard the recent Martin Logans.
You should be glad you heard that problem right away, when you could still return them. This is a problem that has plagued B&W for years. There are many other "premium" speakers that don't have that problem.

Trust me, it isn't a metal tweeter issue. It's that mid-range driver allowed to work at too high a frequency. I think B&W crosses them to the tweeter at 3,500 or 4,000 Hz. Instead, they should have crossed them at a lower frequency, such as 2,000 to 2,500 Hz.
Any thoughts on the KEF Q750s? Would they have the same issue as the B&W? Thanks!
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Spartan
Any thoughts on the KEF Q750s? Would they have the same issue as the B&W? Thanks!
I haven't heard the Q750s, but I have heard other KEFs that share the UniQ coaxial driver. In general, I thought they were wide-range, balanced, and spacious sounding. I'm willing to guess that they don't suffer from the same issue as your former B&Ws had.

Be sure to listen to them yourself in a store or at home. Bring some music that you know could make your ears hurt on those B&W 603 s2 speakers. By now you should be able to quickly recognize that "ear bleed sound".

They seem to get good reviews, but you should take all published reviews with a large grain of salt.

https://www.soundstagehifi.com/index.php/reference-components/1146-recommended-reference-component-kef-q750-loudspeakers

 
ryanosaur

ryanosaur

Audioholic Spartan
Any thoughts on the KEF Q750s? Would they have the same issue as the B&W? Thanks!
I'm not saying this to scare you off. I liked the sound of the KEFs I auditioned, but I did get listening fatigue during that session. Swerd is right, I'd say about good dispersion, which was a comment I heard regarding the way my audition was staged. These are speakers you want perpendicular to the wall and not toed in. Their Off-Axis response should be solid, but direct on axis is how they were staged for my audition.
Another forum member here said in response to my comments about this that he just EQs his speakers. *shrugs Seems like a less than ideal way to deal with new speakers, to me. ;)
My audition was the old R900 and Q950 models.
You should audition them if you are interested. KEF gets a lot of love. (They also have a fair amount of fan(boy)s to boot!)
 

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