Can a CD damage your speakers?

Dear Naim forum users,

I recently bought a collection of 5 CDs called “Wayne Shorter - 5 original albums”.

I was happy at first, the recording seemed good and I was enjoying “Adam’s apple”. After that I changed to another album (maybe it was “The soothsayer”, I’m not entirely sure) and noticed that the quality was pretty poor, maybe the worst one I’ve listened to: I started hearing very unpleasant high frequency noises when Shorter was playing the saxophone. Therefore I stopped playing that album after few seconds (the volume wasn’t that high, between 9 and 9.30). However I’m convinced that, after this, I keep hearing some sort of hiss especially when cymbals (if I’m not mistaken) are played. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed that before. So could this CD have damaged my tweeters? Or am I just making it up? I wonder if anybody else had issues with Shorter’s CDs.

Thank you very much in advance for your answers!

A clipped signal from an amplifier that is pushed beyond its limits can potentially damage speakers.

Simply recording a clipped signal won’t immediately damage a speaker. The real danger arises when playing back that signal at high volumes for extended periods.

Is the hiss on other sources too or just CDs?

If you listen to jazz and saxophone it is easy to mix up distorsion with the reed on the sax that can sound very similar. I’ve mixed this up myself and thought my speakers were damaged.


Forgive me suggesting the obvious, but have you gone back to Adam’s Apple to see if it sounds the same as it did before you played the second CD? If it does, that suggests no tweeter damage, just that the second CD is duff in some way. If it doesn’t, there may be some damage - try listening to some older CDs you’re familiar with (and, as already suggested, other amp inputs) and see how they sound.

Ultimately, unless you’ve got proper test equipment available, it’s all down to your ears!


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The John Zorn album - Kristallnacht

Carried this warning and certainly put some pressure on my speakers.

Caution: “Never Again” contains high frequency extremes at the limits of human hearing & beyond, which may cause nausea, headache & ringing in the ears. Prolonged or repeated listening is not advisable as it may result in temporary or permament ear damage. - The Composer.


I’ve been getting more into jazz over the last few years, I recall a couple of things that I confused for hiss at the beginning, old recording tape hiss and brushes on the snare drums :roll_eyes: On some more recent jazz/electro type stuff, you sometimes hear distortion, and noise effects that have been added to the recording.

I’ll second this. I recently demoed an amp which arrived in a clearly defective state and had to be muted almost immediately because even when set to zero it played at a deafening and distorted level. For a week after I believed I could hear distortion on the speakers and was not convinced otherwise until someone else identified it as exactly that reedy noise and I simultaneously realised that my tinnitus was having a bad spell and I had a spot inside one ear.

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I had a terrible sounding CD copy of The Soothsayer. Like you, it was so bad I assumed a problem with my equipment, but switching to another CD everything was back to normal. I love Wayne Shorter’s music, but have never been able to unlock the beauty from that Soothsayer CD. Maybe I’ll try a download?

I was intrigued by this so am currently playing Soothsayer, which was ripped to my NS01 and subsequently imported to Core. To me it sounds a pretty fine recording. My copy is a single CD version (RVG remaster 2007) not from the box set. I’m not sure that helps!

Edit: actually it’s a damn good album!!

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I don’t think it went on for more than 30-60s.

@Neilb1906 I started hearing that hiss on other perfectly sounding CDs. I must say few days before I also disconnected an existing power strip in order to connect my streamer and amp directly to the mains: general noise dropped significantly, highs were crisper and soundstage had a great benefit. But the perfectly sounding CDs I have didn’t seem to have that hiss, at least at first.

@Blackbird thanks for sharing, I hope it’s just my mind making it up!

@Ebor sometimes it’s good to recall the obvious too, however I already played “Adam’s apple” and seemed to be generally “fine” (I didn’t test it again, the hiss should be there too). But I keep hearing that hiss almost everywhere, it’s subtle but present. Keep in mind I listened to that album only once, so I might not remember details correctly and also, as I said previously, I made a little change with my older power strip, so I feel a bit confused now. Also I have to say that my speakers tend to emphasize highs.

@AndyP Luckily I don’t have that album.

@Marq I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz over the last year, I bought some great sounding old recordings but they are not perfect. I do hear distortions at times but I can live with that and they have never affected my system. However the first time you hear them, you might be a bit worried for sure.

@mikehughescq ears can be deceiving sometimes!

@Monkey_Jim At least I know I’m not the only one complaining about that disc, I was shocked that they decided to sell such a recording, especially as its label is Blue Note. The album seems great as you said and I do like Shorter’s style, however I can’t enjoy it, such a pity. I should try it on Qobuz/Tidal and see how the quality is, it can’t be worse than that, really.

@Clive my collection has been released in 2016, they surely made a disaster with the recordings. I should try a single CD version like yours and see how it sounds. At this point I believe they must be very different. By the way I’m glad you enjoy the album, it seems to be a great one. I can only enjoy with the speakers from my PC, how sad.

What a tw*t! I could just about take ‘Spillaine’ but have just about all of his other recordings inaccessible. Looks like it’s a good thing that I don’t want to play his music through my system!

I’m not a jazz listener, but had a go at playing that track on Tidal, and certainly can’t hear any issues with it. In fact most instruments sound very clear, although Bass was a little quiet for my liking.

Determining partial damage in a tweeter is more challenging than identifying one that’s completely nonfunctional. Conduct a frequency sweep test and listen for abrupt volume changes or any distortion. However, be cautious, as sometimes our heightened awareness can lead us to perceive issues that aren’t actually present.

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@GadgetMan the album which has issues is called "The soothsayer”. “Adam’s apple” has almost no issues, it’s nice overall and both CDs sounded great on Qobuz from my experience. Unluckily the problem appeared with the 5 CDs collection I’ve bought. By the way I agree that bass is quiet compared to more modern recordings, you’d appreciate “Adam’s apple” for the clear soundstage and details on instruments. The album was recorded in the late 50s if I’m not mistaken.

@Wusplay I agree with you, I need more tests and time to get to a realistic conclusion. Indeed I hope it’s just my mind and not a real problem, I’m trying to be cautious as you rightly said.

@Clive I checked my album on Dynamic Range DB and found out this:

I was wondering if you have this disc instead, the only one I found (barcode: 077778444329):

Clearly the single edition is way better on paper.

I also noticed that “The soothsayer” is the worst in the 5 CD collection:

Just tried a few tracks from "The soothsayer”, and sounds OK to me on Tidal, so yes it is a mystery.

I would say it’s a different master

The barcode on mine is: 50999-5-14373-29.
It is the RVG remaster from 2007.

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What an interesting post! I just listened to the track ‘Soothsayer’ on the album of the same name on Tidal, as it’s not one that I have. I was using my NAIT 50 and my quite old B&W CM1 speakers that tend to emphasize the high frequencies. I could clearly hear the “hiss” that you are describing, but it is coming from the percussion, (I would be outside my zone of competence if I said what Tony Williams is doing) so blame it on him! Sometimes on a first listen, it is easy to miss things in the playing, and then not be able to not hear it subsequently. Of course if you can hear a distinction between the track on Tidal and the CD then it must be the CD.

(I’ll have to get this album. I really like Wayne Shorter).

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@Clive thank you, unluckily I couldn’t find anything about its dynamic range but I’m pretty sure that your version is closer to the 1990 one rather than mine.

@cephas the percussions do emphasize that hiss, however my concern started after hearing the high pitched distorted notes from the saxophone which may have caused problems to my tweeters (and I do hope it’s my mind making it up). That’s what I’m trying to understand. After playing that CD, I hear a sort of strange hiss with when I play other CDs I’m familiar with. I’m glad you are interested in “The soothsayer”, just don’t buy the version I have! Look for the one that @Clive has.