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

COMMENTS's picture

As one matures, one developes taste. Food, music, cars, sex, or art, it takes a while, before you get it. With audio equipment, it means you expose yourself to live, so you can evaluate the sound the equipment is giving you. The more equipment you listen to the better you can judge. It's the same with fine dining. If you just eat fast food, you can't tell, what's good.

KJ's picture

The golden ears I have met are too old and have participated in too many high-volume auditions to have fantastic bat-like hearing. But they are still incredibly fast and accurate with identifying sonic characteristics because they know what to look for. It's all in the training.

Lila's picture

Mostly nurture ,I think. It more depends on whether people care to listen to differences in sound.

D.A.B., Pacific Palisades, CA's picture

It's the old nature vs nurture debate from Psych 101. It is generally accepted that it's a combination of each—I must concur.

BeeJay DeeJay's picture

Acute hearing is something everyone is usually born with. You have to be lucky to preserve your hearing long enough while growing up and 'learn the ropes' to develop a critical ear. So from personal experience I believe that these things come together as one matures.

fabio's picture

No, but maybe nature makes you curious...

Jim M's picture

Unless you have a physical hearing problem, it is all nurture.

EP's picture

I think that anyone that has normal to almost normal hearing can train themselves to be a critical listener. Some people may have the ability to focus better than others, but I don't think that anyone is born with "Golden Ears." I guess those who have been deemed to have "Golden Ears" can answer this question for all of us based on their own experience.

tom collins's picture

unless there is some physiological reason, people should be able to train themselves in critical listening, some people to a greater extent, some lesser

Al Marcy's picture

We all hear too well. Sometimes we hear good music. If you don't like what you hear, you won't listen. Just pretend.

Ven's picture

Well, you have got to have both sides of it: A keen ear and the ability to use it.

Tim K's picture

Read The Listening Book by W. A. Mathieu to learn how anyone (including you) can learn to be a better listener.

ACF's picture

You have to care, to begin with. Then you must listen, listen carefully, and then listen some more. Then it helps to have someone help you listen better, and listen to different things, to know what sounds only different rather than better. And after all that wonderful music it becomes nature, we hope.

rD's picture

How far is this kind of train-spotting navel-gazing crap going to go? You're talking about something that is supposed to evoke an emotional response. Listen to some music people, stop reading this drivel and just do it. If you don’t enjoy it then do something else. For Godsake.

Rastanearian's picture

It's about patience. Everybody that I have encountered, who said they couldn't hear what I was hearing, just wasn't listening and I'm talking about basics like imaging and identifying instruments in a soundstage. You can lead a horse to water but ....

Jeroen's picture

If you have never heard a violin during a live performance, how would you be able to ascertain the sound of a violin playing on a perfect stereo system?

Tonko Papic's picture

I began the "music training" at home. My father was a concert piano. He has a "Marklin Duo Playmaster" record changer. Then he bought a Garrard RC-88 Then a new Garrard (Model 210. This was stereo. The last one he bought was a JVC VL-5 Quad. Each time, he compared the sound of the new record player with his own play in the Grotian piano that was (and is in home). Each time I can hear an "Upgrade" in the music reproduction. But, never the sound of the real piano. When I go to live in my own home, I will buy a Pioneer RT 2010L tape recorder/player. A few years later, I will buy a Pioneer PL-L1000 turntable with "tangencial arm". Each time that I will "upgrade" my equipment since then, I can hear the improvement. When I invited friends to hear my new equipment, many of them cannot hear any improvements. They have never gone to a live concert and usually they hear music in a "compact system." The most significant was when I bought a pair of QUAD ESL-63s. "Those speakers have no bass" said one of my friends. They not "shake" the windows, he says. The "ear" must be trained.

JoeL's picture

I don't believe I have golden ears, but I do know what sounds good to me.

A Dealer's picture

If your hearing is normal and you can recognize proper pitch (even if you cannot name it as such), then you are 90% of the way there. The rest is just a case of becoming aware of what you hear and learning what is right and wrong without being led off track through bad advice, too much media driven self-training (and self delusion!), or too much buyers pride ( self justification ).

David L.  Wyatt jr.'s picture

One has to begin with a love of music, and the ability to tell good from bad. But with that basic, everything else can be developed by repetitious exposure to actual music both recorded and live.

KBK's picture

Both! science and results show this to be true. One would have the innate talent or direction (desire) built into them—and then they can refine and actually build neural pathways. "Learn" is the operative word. But, I think you knew my answer already.

Jim Tavegia's picture

The most important component and one that you must care for most is carefully to even consider joining the club. Damaged hearing cannot ever be repaired. Protect your most important component, your hearing.

Joe S.'s picture

You can totally train that, we all have golden ears, just need to learn how to use them. The first time you tasted fine beer/wind did you pick out all the little subtle (or not so subtle) elements of flavor? No way!

J.P.'s picture

What is a critical listener? What I hear is the singer or the instrument, being flat or sharp. That is my view of a critical listener. I am also classicaly trained, so that is how I see it.

Alexander's picture

Both- if your ears are shot from work, war or age (or all three) it's going to be a problem. But like anything, it's mostly about knowing WHAT to listen for and taking the time to learn and refine.

Al Earz's picture

I think you must be able to recognize what it is you are listening for. But you must know how to listen for it. I have helped friends buying speakers and other equipment, identify the differences. They never really listened before and once they understaod that there is a difference, they realized that looks and price are secondary elements of the purchase.

Giovanni Mattia Porcelli's picture

May I suggest a (slight) modification to the original question? Fourth choice: Equal parts: nature, nurture, marketing. (Not necessarily in the same proportions.) This consideration can take origin in the surprisingly small number of recordings some golden ears take in account to produce "absolute" statements about mystic quality of audio gear.

Doggonit's picture

It's actually a sickness unique to audiophiles and mainly the preserve of those with too much money who forgot long ago that the soul of the music resides within us and not in a bunch of overpriced metal and cables.

Roland's picture

I'm not sure that it's always the same. It's like musical ability in general--some people have some ability and work their tails off, some people have lots of ability and just cruise on it, and some people have rare ability and then train themselves diligently as well. Very rarely are things always one or the other, or even just one or two things, for that matter..'s picture

I say equal parts. My "audiophileness" comes from a love of music. That's nature. That love of music was so strong that I could (unlike the masses) just sit and listen to music. When you are actively listening like that, you then expect better and better sound quality. Here I am.