Can your ears always be trusted?

Stereophile's picture
One of the most-frequently given answers to last week's Vote! was a variation on "trust your ears." But can your ears always be trusted?
Can your ears <i>always</i> be trusted?
Yes, all the time
24% (50 votes)
Most of the time
43% (90 votes)
Some of the time
27% (55 votes)
I don't trust my ears
6% (12 votes)
Total votes: 207
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Comments
Glenn Bennett's picture

You can't trust your ears unless you have had a recent hearing test and know exactly what range of frequencies you hear. If you are getting older and your hearing cuts out at 5k or so, how can you judge different speakers? You would probably like one that has excessive highs.

J.  M.'s picture

I'd say yes, assuming you don't have a head cold or anything similar.

Doug Bowker's picture

Most of the time, at least sans too much chemicals like alcohol or coffee. But really, trusted by whom? I trust them, and since I'm the only one who is doing the hearing, it works. Most of my friends trust my opinion though, but as a second opinion.

Jay Ma's picture

After all, one has to use his own ears to experience the sound system. I would rather buy from dealers that allow me to borrow equipments for a short in-house audition

Cihangir Güzey's picture

Yes, if your eardrums (or your senses) have not been polished by excessive snake oil! Blind-testing reveals the truth (if your hearing is fine, of course).

Akimo's picture

I notice that my mood strongly impacts my initial reaction to sound. It takes a while for me to clear away momentary bias and listen clearly.

Joe Hartmann's picture

The problem today is being able to hear the equipment. With phono cartridges, you are lucky if the one of interest to you is available in your area, never mind on display for an audition. That means your best judge, your ears, can't be utilized—will this be the end of high-end audio equipment?

Doug Mencoff's picture

Your ears can only be trusted when listening to recordings that you are extremely familiar with and have heard on a large variety of systems.

fabio's picture

if your ears can't hear it, why would it matter?

Desi's picture

My ears are far from trained—they only know what sounds good to them, but not what is tonally correct.

B.Parker's picture

We don't always hear the same thing, since our minds interpret music differently. That's why some like it fast and bright, others warm and soft. It should be based on enjoyment—do that and you're trusting your ears.

jmsent's picture

It's a loaded question. Your ears are relatively stable in the short term, although hearing certainly changes dramatically in the long term. But the question should really be, "can you trust the processor connected to your ears (your brain)"? And in this case, our brains are far from reliable, objectively speaking. We perceive differences that aren't there, or miss subtle cues that are. We interpret sounds differently, depending on mood, time of day, even changes in lighting. We are, in fact, very subjective in our hearing. I trust in what I like or don't like in sound, but I don't dare claim that I can actually pinpoint with just my ears what an audio system is doing on an objective basis.

Louis P.'s picture

I trust my ears, but I don't always know why I am hearing something. For example, at the 2007 New York show, the Wilson Audion Watt/Puppy 8s had a gorgeous sound with plenty of natural detail, when driven by all-tube BAT electronics. But at the Innovative Audio open house shortly after the show, the sound was more like incisive, with NAIM electronics. Was it the room, the electronics, or both? I don't know (although the store presumably does). So it is always important to have context before you can trust what you have heard.

Wouter V.'s picture

There's no one easier to deceive than yourself. If you want it to sound better, it probably will, as has numerous times been proven by ABX tests.

Nathan Jones's picture

If you cannot hear the difference then there is no point paying for the upgrade.

Your Name's picture

I don't trust my ears, but I sometimes trust my brain. However, I obey the thing below the belt.

Al Clarke (Ergonaut in forum)'s picture

I'm a designer of amplifiers—the human body is a piece of test gear under siege: colds, viruses, thermal changes that can alter perception, especially in hearing. So I don't go on my view, I widen the sample to many more listeners and test gear

NeoN's picture

It's very subjective. I can surely say if it sounds bad or good. But the mood, the source, or fatigue makes hard to really trust my ears for small variations in equipment.

Gordon Stanley's picture

When I concentrate.

Paul's picture

If you were prepared to read around the subject, the science and not the myths, you would find that you should not trust your ears if you desire accurate music reproduction.

Dennis's picture

$60,000 says I hope they can.

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Leszek J.  Fiutowski's picture

I only trust my ears after a thorough dewaxing with Debrox. I know they need to be washed if the stereo image has shifted of-center

soulful.terrain's picture
only if........

....you don't have a head cold and your ears aren't stopped up.

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