Are "Golden Ears" an innate talent or can you train yourself to be a critical listener?

Are audiophiles born or are they created? Are "Golden Ears" an innate talent (nature) or can you train yourself (nurture) to be a critical listener?

Are "Golden Ears" an innate talent or can you train yourself to be a critical listener?
Mostly nature
10% (16 votes)
Mostly nurture
46% (77 votes)
Equal parts nature & nurture
44% (74 votes)
Total votes: 167

Dismord's picture

You can train your ear/brain mechanism to hear or not to hear certain things, but if you aren't born with a "high-end" pair you'll be wasting your time pretending they're ever going to turn to gold. Which brings me to one of my favorite gripes about audioporn magazines & their so called "golden eared" reviewers. When was the last time we read an independent audiologists test results of any reviewers hearing abilities? Additionally, and very importantly for the marketers of ultra expensive audio gear, humans have a significant ability to delude themselves about what they're actually hearing when they have a vested interest in doing so.

Nate J's picture

As with all sociological nature v nurture topics, it boils down to both being equally present. Just as one can damage their hearing, one can train those little conk shells to hear what used to be indistinguishable. No one can squelch the presence of genetics either. We are all endowed with different genetic gifts, and one's might be "golden ears."

Chris's picture

It's just like wine or scotch tasting.

Jeremy's picture

I'd say one or the other. There are perceptual abilities that can be trained and those that can't. Either can be used to assess hi-fi but the key skill is to be able to describe accurately and repeatably what you are hearing— if only to yourself.

Cihangir Güzey's picture

If you have the ears to hear low and high frequencies properly and have good ability to follow specific parts of a record carefully, you would have golden ears with some training over years (musicians would be even better). However, I really have no idea by logic about how one records his memories (about a cable, an amplifier, a loudspeaker, or even a CD player) in his brain and make a comparison with another test product two years later. IMHO, a test comparison has to be made in such two ways to leave no space for sweet memories, which may be affected by many factors at the time of testing, such as:
) Comparing two or more products which are in the test bench, 2) Evaluating a product by making a comparison with a product which you use every day and accept as a benchmark (making simple way of benchmarking; if the product you use is not the best one available in the market). Otherwise, you would be misguided. Just pick 10 golden ears from the industry and make a blind cable (or amplifier, loudspeaker, etc.) testing. You would be amazed by the results. They wouldn’t be guilty for any result. We are human beings, not audio spectrum analyzers.

Bob D's picture

Yeah, I guess it's 50/50—although I think critical listening is a form of obsessive behaviour.

Rob Gold's picture

After 30 years in the administrative side of the orchestra business, and thousands of concerts/rehearsals, I can definitely say that this can be learned. But the learning takes time, experience, and self-honesty.

EG's picture

A good set of ears is capable of discriminating very small differences in many variables in audible sound. What you need to be a critical listner is experience in comparing different pieces of equipment, identifying the differences and developing the vocabulary required to express the differences that you hear.

Max L's picture

You have to learn to listen but you've got to have natural gifts and inclination towards this as well

David Bosch's picture

We do not only hear, we listen, and good listening can only be achieved by training.

Trey's picture

We can train our abilities, but the neurology has to be there to train.

Glen Politano's picture

Listening is a learned process. All of us essentially hear the same sounds but how our brains interpret those sounds varies. It's no different than speaking to a group of people. You can make a very clear statement yet some people will draw very different conclusions.

mjs's picture

Nurture. Anyone with healthy ears can hear what we hear. We are just aurally observant through our passion for music. A dectective and a civilian can SEE the same crime scene, but the dectective will recognize the evidence.

Kurt's picture

Almost anyone can become a critical listener. Most people who claim to have "Golden Ears" are easily proven to be liars by simple blind listening tests.

S.  Chapman's picture

I find it interesting that the most truly musical people I know, the ones who perform classical music on stage or whose pitch is so acute that they can instantly hear when a note is slightly sharp or flat, have little interest in audiophile matters. At the other extreme, I've had an audio dealer, who seldom attends live concerts, get a pained expression on his face while listening to my system, and then announce solemnly that I needed to buy some expensive new cables (from him, of course) to correct some perceived flaw. If audiophiles could just drop all the pretense, I'd feel much more comfortable with this hobby.

craig's picture

Very early on I became aware that I could appreciate really good sound reproduction while most others around me including family members and most friends simply could not. I certainly did not any preparation or study to be so attuned to high quality sound reproduction. So for me, I think it was just part of my physical/phyological makeup. Others may be able to gain this appreciation through some sort of "training". I really don't know so I will vote nature.

daryl's picture

It takes time/experience to develop a "golden ear." Some may have a more natural ability to distinguish nuances but it is the training that is key to being a critical listener.

G.C.  Van Winkle's picture

Based on years of training audio salespeople, I'm convinced that most people can become critical listeners when properly instructed on how to listen and what to listen for. Many hours of single blind tests with these same subjects have shown me that only a rare few lack the natural ability to discern differences in the sound quality of components. What you cannot do is make people care about these differences. Some end up preferring LPs while others are satisfied with MP3.

Agnes Monica Bogel's picture

None of the above. There are no golden ears, just people who listen carefully. Similiar to "watching" and "seeing."

Nodaker's picture

I think you have to do a lot of listening before you can really hear small differences in sound, but anyone can tell the difference between high-end and low-end or even mid-fi.

Daft Punk's picture

Just like basketball: body & brains.

Steven Bell's picture

I have trained my ears to listen, but others are born with acute hearing: a gift.

ScottB's picture

Critical listening is a learned skill.

Charles Sprinkle's picture

I think it's been shown by Olive & Toole that listeners can be trained to be excellent critical listeners so long as they have normal hearing and the basic aptitude. Not all people do unfortunately.

Stephen Curling's picture

You can train yourself to listen for certain things but first your hearing biology must be keen. The knowledge won't mean anything if you can't actually hear it.'s picture

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