I’m particularly susceptible to two sources of fatigue that are, at times, bound up with each other. One of them happens with very punchy headphones, as with Focal’s open-back lineup, which are too dynamic when I’m tired. When well rested, they’re not a problem, and their slam is a quality I really like. The other is a wince-inducing reaction to certain drum sounds. Some percussion instruments, such as snare drums, can be too piercing, and I suspect this also has to do with my susceptibility to specific frequencies. This is especially (and unsurprisingly) a problem with some headphones, such as my Focal Clear and HD 800 (I realize I’m stating the obvious here). What’s more interesting, though, is that some warmer headphones like my LDC2-C can still present a few of these sounds in an excessively piercing way, which makes me suspect that the problem has to do with certain specific frequencies that aren’t recessed on the LCD2-C. I’d be interested in trying to figure out where those frequencies are.
All this means that I have to subject headphones to certain stress tests when auditioning them. Mogwai’s Superheroes of BMX (on the Government Commissions BBC recording), is good for identifying too much punchiness, especially with kick drum in the middle of the song. Its distorted, screaming, feedback-blaring guitars will probably trigger immediate fatigue for many reading this thread. For bright, piercing drums, pretty much every song on Doolittle by the Pixies is a stress test (and this one the worst).
The perfect headphone for fatigue-free listening when tired? The good, old faithful HD 6XX.