Ear Fatigue from Bookshelf Speaker on Computer Table

Hello, I bought an Acoustic Energy AE301 bookshelf speaker and it’s placed on my table. I sit about close to 1m away from either of the speaker driver/tweeter. I seem to be experiencing ear fatigue, or some kind of discomfort that came only from listening to these large speakers.

I have a question and it’s even better if you’re an audio health expert, does placing such a large speaker near to me disproportionately cause ear fatigue? Or it doesn’t matter the distance, but only how loud I’m hearing the sound from my ears?

I wanna know if this speaker makes me easily fatigue, or if it’s because I’m too close to the speaker which will be bad because I bought it specially for audiophile desktop listening experience.

Nearfield listening is quite different from “normal” listening. To start with, there are special speakers for nearfield.

Imho, you should be very careful concerning the volume you use. Nearfield listening requires much lower volumes because the acoustic pressure depends on the distance. Good speaker have low distortion, so you can be easily cheated and start listening at abnormally high levels, which will inevitably cause you fatigue. I advice you to lower significantly your listening level.

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Hello, thank you for replying me.

I really agreed with what you have said and especially about the low distortion as I did increase the volume tremendously high when I first got it. (It didn’t sound loud to me)

I will be lowering my listening level.

Do you happen to know the difference between a normal bookshelf speaker like mine, and a nearfield speaker?

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I am myself a nearfield listener so my advice is:
Use the speakers at the same volumes you would use headphones : Start very low (music barely listenable) and increase slightly the volyme until you have most (but not all) the details. :wink:

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Yes, nearfield speakers are designed to be used between 1 and 3 meter distance : the frequency response and dispersion of their speakers are aligned to be perfect at this distance.
Normal speakers are designed to have a good frequency response from 2 to 5 meters (or more).

(I use Tannoy GOLD 5 as a nearfield speaker)

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Nice, and got it. Thank you :slight_smile:

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I took a look at these speakers–they are designed to be used as standmounts, so placing them directly on a desk may be problematic. One particular concern is the front-firing port at the bottom, which may create unwanted reflections from the desktop surface. Placement with regard to any wall behind your desk should not be critical, as these do not have rear-facing ports. I would suggest isolating the speakers from your desk by placing foam isolations pads underneath, such as the ones from Auralex:


Better yet, you could try placing them on small stands, such as:


Ideal would be to tilt the speakers slightly upwards, and raise them until the tweeter is aimed at your ears. I use these stands with a pair of FOCAL CMS 40 monitors, and like them a lot. Before investing in any solution such as these, however, I’d probably play around with styrofoam blocks to see if isolating and/or repositioning the speaker actually helps. Good luck!!

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Thank you for your advice. I do agree with what you said too :slight_smile: and I was almost frightful you were gonna ask me to get a new speaker.

I have bought an isolation pad. :slight_smile: It’s brandless which I got for around 15 Canadian dollars (though I’m from Singapore).

I really wanted to get the latest ISO-155 stand but it was due to budget constraint. I was just out on Monday when I procured the speakers, isolation pads and Topping PA3 amplifier.

Another question I have is based on the recommendation on the Discontinued section of the AE website for the AE301, they recommend an amplifier wattage of between 25 watts to 150 watts. My PA3 amplifier is rated to be around 70 watts (or 80 watts for 4 ohm) for 8 ohm. Do you feel it’s running optimally? In terms of volume, I’m only using 1 quarter but I wonder if getting a different amp could add more punch to the sound.

Also, if you’ve heard of the PA3 before, what do you think about it? The guy at Buchardt Audio recommended the Topping TP60, and the PA3 is a similar specification amplifier of that TP60, so I got the PA3 instead as it’s smaller. I’m wondering if the amplifier is the one holding back my speaker from worthy sound quality gain.

I’m using an iFi iDSD Black Label Micro as my DAC to this amplifier.

The main thing is don’t let the volume get too loud so as to cause ear damage. That can result in tinnitus that in many cases never goes away. A constant high pitched ringing sound that you cannot get away from. It is miserable. Ask me how I know. Over 30 years of non-stop tinnitus in both ears.


Our hearing is a lot more delicate than we think. Your fatigue is telling you that something is not right, and could lead to permanent damage. Please check this interview, and for more detail read the excellent book that goes with it.


Thank you for warning me. I appreciate that. :slight_smile:

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Thanks for the resource! I will definitely check it out to get more details. :slight_smile:

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The advice about avoiding hearing damage is very important. One way to know what you are doing (as opposed to guessing) is to invest in an inexpensive sound meter to check the decibel level at your listening position. You can look up various internet sources for maximum safe listening levels and draw your own conclusion, based on your own listening habits. Personally, as I am old with shaky ears, I avoid listening to anything over 80-90 dBA for very long. :slight_smile:

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I see, that’s good to hear :slight_smile: Do you know some good sound meter brands? and the price range that I should be looking at for reasonable accuracy. 80 to 90dBA is just above the recommended threshold hahaaha.

I do measure, with the sound meter, at the area from where my head would be at right? Not directly in front of either playing speaker.

You can spend USD 20, or you can spend hundreds. Since you just want to check the safety of your listening setup, I would not spend a lot. Check the reviews on Amazon or other online sellers. Or, you can get an app for your smartphone that would probably be adequate, for very little money.

For example: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/spl-meter/id309206756#?platform=iphone

Yes, you would measure sound levels where you head would be.

Regarding “recommended thresholds”, remember that industrial standards (such as those published by OSHA in the USA) are based on continuous exposure in industrial settings. There, noise tends to be not very dynamic, but rather continuous (as in when you stand next to a large piece of industrial equipment). The OSHA limit for an 8-hour workday is 85 dBA. For audio, I believe you can safely tolerate transients higher than these recommended levels, but safety depends on volume and time. In any event, I personally would not go above 100 dBA. :slight_smile:

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Got it, thank you for the reply. :slight_smile:

Recording studio practice suggests around 73dBC in smaller rooms - unless they’re trying to impress the clients - which is likely to be applicable in most domestic rooms.

I have volume normalisation in Roon turned on at -14LUFS, and adjust the preamp level to give me about 73dB on a ‘phone app’ meter when playing a pink noise file. I almost never need to change the level.


Ah, that sounds like a good way to decide a volume!