HELP : Ears hurting with P9 & Ref 9 V3se ?!? even with no music playing !

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Hello. New Nuforce owner here !

I have a P9 pre-Amp and Ref 9 V3 SE Amps and whenever both the pre-amp and power amps are on (either playing music OR with no signal) i get a sharp pain in my ears ! Its almost like what happens on a plane when you go up and down with the air pressure.

Heres my system:-
Linn Akurate DS (digital streamer)
P9 Pre-Amp
Ref 9 V3se Power Amps
Monitor Audio PL200 Speakers
with Tellurium Q Ultra Black Speaker Cable / Interconnects. Russ Andrews Ultra Purifier & Russ Andrews Power Cords

I thought it might be something to do with the PL200 ribbon tweeters, but ive tried a pair of Proac D28's and it still happens.

Ive tried a different make of power cords, and tried using a different mains conditioner - an Isotek Substation.

But nothing gets rid of this ringing / pain in my ears - its becoming unbearable...
Its a real shame, as when music is playing, i love it - clarity, detail, seperation, slam etc.
I even dont know whether its coming from the pre-amp, power amps or the speakers !

Im going to try a different Speaker Cable & Interconnects and will report back.....

Any one heard of something like this before ?


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  • Posts: 3
Placing chord signature speaker cable instead of tellurium Q ultra black seems to have eliminated some or all of the ear problem.

To be honest I'm not sure that it hurts my ears when there is no signal (music) - I think it may just hurt my ears for a while after....    I've moved out of the  room and even after 4 hours my ears still hurt.   

It's like the air pressure and your ears popping when on the plane.

Can anyone explain what's happening here ?


  • Newbie
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Chord Signature doesnt stop the problem, but does make it less noticeable, but it still hurts after a while.

Its really unfortunate, ive never heard my hi-fi system sound so real, so clear, its amazing the sound quality - but i just cant live with my ears popping and hurting like this...

Id love to keep this pre & power combo if i can....

HELP !!    Surely this has happened to someone else ?


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Off hand, I would think that this is for one of the following reasons:

  • You have pretty sensitive ears.  Detail is nice, but a tipped up presentation will give the illusion of hyper realism and may also cause significant listener fatigue.  There are some systems out there that communicate hyper realism, but you know, real and live music does not actually sound this way.
  • Your room has too many reflections and this is causing significant listener fatigue.  You may want to treat your room.
  • The Monitor PL200 speakers are known to be slightly tipped up in its presentation.  As per this excerpt from the Stereophile review: [The PL200] offers a balanced performance from top to bottom, with perhaps a slight bias toward the upper end of the range—but not so much that it sounds "etched.".  But of course, one person's "it's not quite etched" is someone else's "it's really quite etched."
  • Finally (and I apologize for saying this in the NuForce circle), NuForce has not been frequently described as having a warm or romantic sound.  Very neutral or a bit cold of neutral is its most common description if I recall.  But having said that, one person's neutral is another person's bright.  And you might just have the wrong ears and the wrong rest of your system.

My recommendations:

If you love the sound, see if your room needs to have acoustical treatment.  Acoustic panels may make a world of difference here.  And some of them can be made to suit your room and decor quite well.

If your room is already well treated in this respect, then you're going to have to decide which one you like better, either the speakers or the amplifier or the preamplifier.  System synergy and personal preferences are important and no one person's ears and room and system are necessarily like any others.

I will also add that you should probably buy some Blue Jeans interconnects and speaker cables.  Use those as your baseline rather than $1000 cables which claim to offer unprecedented whatever-it-is-they-claim-to-do.  Not sure how all of these exotic cable manufacturers get what it is they're going for, but it may be by skewing toward the high frequencies.

Feel free to send me a PM if you want.


  • Industry Contributor
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Since this happens with no signal at all, try switching out the power amps and preamp one at a time with something else to see if it goes away.  It might be a problem with the preamp or power amps that is causing the issue. 

From the description it sounds like high frequency oscillation through the speakers that you are hearing.


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I was thinking the same thing, but he's backed away from that assertion.

To be honest I'm not sure that it hurts my ears when there is no signal (music) - I think it may just hurt my ears for a while after...


RustyZip, if you have an iPhone you can download an app called RTA Lite. This app allows you to take a rough measurement of the systems frequency response at the listening position. All you need is a source of pink noise, this can come from a test cd or file you have downloaded from the internet.
 If you have a lot of high frequency sound present in the room even when no music is playing the RTA Lite app will tell you.

Ericus Rex

Try to lessen your toe-in on the speakers.  In my system, when I tried the speakers with full toe-in (drivers pointed directly at me) I felt like my head is in a vice (vise?).  Turning the speakers to where I see the inside side of the speaker cabinet relieves that sensation for me.  There is no rule regarding toe-in, only recommendations, so feel free to adjust as you want.  It's also free!

If that doesn't work I'd recommend seeing a psychiatrist    :wink:


  • Full Member
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  • Typical reaction to the music I play
My ears must must have the same sensitivity as yours.  I've had the same issue of my ears ringing and hurting with the digital amps I've tried.  I've tried all the suggestions mentioned by the posts below (and more) and nothing fixed the issue.  I've never had Nuforce amps in my system but I've experienced this with Tripath and Hypex based amps.  My guess (and it's just a guess) is that somehow HF switching artifacts are pressurizing the ear causing the ringing and fatigue. 

My solution?  Tube monoblocks.

No intent to bash Nuforce or any other digital amp out there, but apparently there are a few of us whose ears are wired such that this amp topology doesn't work for us.


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I'm not quite as sensitive as Russtafarian.  But most highly resolved solid state amplifiers are fatiguing for me.  It isn't by choice, it just happens to be and that's unfortunate.

Unlike Russtafarian, tripath based amplifiers have been OK from the fatigue point of view, but they typically also have rolled off highs and a certain harmonic flatness.  NAD makes solid state amps which are not fatiguing, but they're also somewhat murky, congested and thick.

Even the very sweet and slightly warm (but highly resolved) First Watt J2 is somewhat fatiguing for me.  On the other hand, there has never been a tube amplifier, no matter how well resolved, which has been a problem for my ears.  It's why I've previously gone down the highly efficient speaker path, to have a suitable speaker that is easy to drive from low power tube amplifiers like SETs.

I'm currently using an LFD Zero LE MKIV integrated which is solid state, resolved, but not a trace of harshness, brightness, fatigue or edge.  It's a real rarity.

Nuforce gear is very good indeed, and I've previously owned one of their preamps, one of their integrateds, and their HT processor.  But the integrated just didn't work very well for me at the time.  They're very good but they may not be for everyone.  Always good to audition the gear at your dealer and preferably in your home.


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  • Home of the St. Louis Cardinals!
Have you been on some heavy meds?
Tinnitus and or ear infection?


So, if I understand you correctly this happens with no signal?  Weird.  It is possible for the threshold of pain to be reached before the threshold of audibility with high-frequency sensory hearing loss, but I've never heard of a home audio system emitting a loud-enough high-pitched sound to do that.  I would first suspect something unrelated to the stereo, a migraine maybe.  I suppose you could try finding a girl in middle school with normal hearing sensitivity to listen for any whistling when the signal is off.


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  • "That's what credit cards are for. . ."
I suppose you could try finding a girl in middle school with normal hearing sensitivity to listen for any whistling when the signal is off.

I think there are laws against that!


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After reading your comments i am going to make an observation.It sounds as if you have some temporary ear damage.From what you have said you should stay away from that equipment and all sounds above a whisper for about five days and let your ear,or ears heal.Quite frankly i would pay a visit to an ear doctor and explain your problem and have him give you a test (run some tones to see to what degree your hearing has been affected....or not) and get a professional's opinion.Your ears can be damaged by the air moving from the speaker and you might not realize it.Your room is no doubt bouncing all this sound at you,but before you run out and start buying room treatments you need to rehab those ears and consider having a physician assess your situation.
   How long has this been happening and did you recently acquire this gear?
Ear problems are the worst.Keep us posted on your situation..................


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So, if I understand you correctly this happens with no signal?

No, he was mistaken.  He listens to the stereo, it causes him pain, and then he shuts off the stereo but he still feels pain.  So he thought it even hurts when there is no music playing.  But he's backed away from that claim now.

Presumably he mistook "it still hurts from before" rather than "it hurts even when there's no signal".


I'm going to go ahead and say the stereo is not involved.  Make an appointment with an audiologist.