How good are your listening skills?

How good are your listening skills?
I've got golden ears
16% (21 votes)
Close to perfection
19% (24 votes)
45% (58 votes)
12% (16 votes)
Not so good
5% (7 votes)
2% (3 votes)
Total votes: 129

Many audiophiles find that it takes months, if not years, to develop excellent listening skills. How good are your listening skills?

Paul J.  Stiles, Mtn.View, CA's picture

My listening skills are so highly developed I can hear things that don't exist!

Woody Battle's picture

I am a good judge of everything but soundstage depth.

Andrew Maher's picture

It became much easier when I had a vocabulary to describe what I was hearing and a few concepts to work from. Reading magazines such as Stereophile has helped, and listening to people who knew about sound recording and reproduction also helped. Martin Hibble, a one-time presenter on ABC Classic FM here in Australia did much to refine my skills in listening to classical music.

Ryan Watson's picture

Only became an audiophile about a year ago, when I bought a set of Wharfedale 8.2 Diamonds. Since then my listening skills have gotten much better, even on bad systems (like my car). I can hear more details than I could a year ago.

Dimitris Gogas's picture

My hearing is really good. I know it, but I've also got the measurements to prove it! That was the easy part. The hard part is realizing what exactly you are listening to. I believe to be on the right track there, too.

Al Earz's picture

How do you compare? It isn't like agreeing on a color or a flavor. I hear what I hear. Some say I have exceptional hearing and can pick out subtle differences in equipment, cables, recordings,etc. But how do I really know what someone else is hearing and how to compare that to myself? All I can say is I keep wanting a better result out of my system. Is that hearing or is it the desease of audiophilia nervosa?

JML's picture

What's that ya say, sonny? Speak up! You know I hate it when you mumble.

Stefano Lindiri's picture

I recognize what I like & I know what I don't like.

Rick Lee's picture

First and foremost comes timbre. After that it is a question of delivery in that everything must get out of the way of the recording and let it come through with highest satisfaction and most authentic individuality. That includes the look of the room and the set's ability to keep me in thrall listening to what is being communicated and why decisions were made to do it this way or that. I find a reason to celebrate the differences found on every "at bat" taken by talented recording artists who express things I wish I had found a way to say first. I have been tuning my listening skills for 50 plus years and hope they continue to grow until my ears finally fail and this thrilling hobby comes to an end.

Gerald Neily's picture

This question is exactly what I don't understand about the amateur audiophile mentality. Why in the world would I want to develop my listening skills to discern the many subtle deficiencies in recorded sound? I prefer to leave that up to the professional neurotics at Stereophile, while I listen to the music—not the sound. My ears are good enough. I can too easily tell the difference between recordings and real live music, so I know that audio technology has a long way to go. I rely on Stereophile to be at the vanguard to tell me when true breakthroughs have been made to bridge the vast audio reproduction gap.

Gordon's picture

The fridge running, the washer wooshing, the cars driving, the planes flying, the grass farting.... Does quiet exist in 2006? I'm going out of my friggin' mind! Thanks for the hobby—really.

olin in oregon's picture

Like learning to ride a bicycle, it takes practice over a variety of terrain to develop one's listening skills. Now that I have reached "a certain age," I find that flexibility in listening is key. In other words, I can bask in the golden sonorities of a well-recorded bad performance, or totally enjoy a crappily recorded excellent rendition. Without listening flexibility your ear-holes will ossify into curmudgeonly narrow parameters and you will find yourself grumbling and uttering "harumph" at an exponentially increasing rate. Viva la musica!

Robert's picture

24 Carat :-)

Al Marcy's picture

The music is too good for my ears.

Bob's picture

I'm still on the flat-ish part of the development learning curve, but I still pay more attention/try harder than 90% of the people I meet. But when I really need help with a critical difference, I bring my 25-year-old daughter with me, she really has the ears in the family.

Aden's picture

Close to perfection but not perfect! I am blessed with particularly good hearing, but more importantly, I am acutely aware of all my senses, not just hearing. While I might not hear that much more than anyone else, it is the awareness of what I do hear that makes me such an audiophile! This is a very mixed blessing as it can be downright annoying as well when I get annoyed by sounds in the distance or a light reflecting somewhere!

Homeslice's picture

The Radio Shack Mach I speaker is still the standard of comparison.'s picture

It's not the ears, it's what's between. Know what music is and what it isn't. If you can't tell, go to more concerts. If you still can't tell, find a new hobby.

Jared Gerlach's picture

I often scare myself into thinking that my hearing is going or that I don't have the same listening attention span I once did. That is, until I sit down next to the "average" listener. It's no wonder so many mediocre sound systems are sold these days—most people aren't really listeners at all. I think the dependence on video has a large amount to do with this phenomenon.

S.  Chapman's picture

My "listening" skills are fine, it's my "hearing" that I worry about. As an almost 60-year-old man, I know for a fact that I can no longer hear the higher frequencies that I once could.

Pete Gray's picture

Years of all sorts of high dB noise without protection has ruined my hearing. I like what I hear but know I'm missing a lot.

Doug McCall's picture

I can barely hear anything over 13kHz, plus I have tinnitus and mid-band hearing loss in my left ear, so maybe technically, my hearing isn't so good but my appreciation and enjoyment of music is better than ever. I think whatever I may lack in hearing acuity, I make up for with experience and enthusiasm.

Rob Gold's picture

I just lost 17kHz at age 52, not bad. Attended well over 1500 live concerts/rehearsals—mostly unamplified orchestral/classical in more than 300 different venues, including some of the world's great halls. Very good pitch acuity, but about a 1-2dB difference in sensitivity between ears. So, why just "good"? Still so much to learn!

chuck clarke's picture

It takes time and commitmentto improve, but it seems to be improving with time (and learning from others).

MIke Agee's picture

In the area of "hearable but not necessarily measurable," I think I am a little better than average; I can readily hear changes in my system, be they to wires, components, or supports, although I am unable to hear if cables are elevated off the floor or not. Besides that, I have an otherwise annoying sensitivity in the upper mids that makes my ears distort when encountering aggressive sound in that region. This sensitivity may have helped preserve my hearing as it compells me to wear protection when called for and I can now readily hear 16kHz in my 48th year. More than once the diminishment of that reaction has confirmed, for me at least, the existence of break-in. That said, I am unable to recognize many technical aspects of music-making that can make musician friends wince. Other than bad pitch and obvious timing errors, my appreciation of music is largely visceral.

Joe Evans's picture

That's kind of like asking "How good are your masturbation skills?". I think I'm pretty damn good at it. I always manage to please myself. The same goes with listening. I hear things many say can't be heard. Maybe I'm delusional but I know what I hear and don't hear! Long live the listeners.

David L.  Wyatt jr.'s picture

I thiink I have good ears, the equpment I buy sounds good to everyone who hears it and I'm aware of its flaws but not so much so that I feel the need to max out my credit cards. So my ears work. I know what I like. What I don't know is what exactly "golden ears" are. I suspect those are in the eyes of the beholder.

Jim Merrill's picture

I'm good, whatever that means. I ask myself questions like, would you believe there is a performing group in the next room and can you place the performers on a soundstage. My rig had already advanced some time ago to the point where I could not hear the effect of most single upgrades. Instead, I was still able to identify cumulative benefits from several upgrades, ie, I could hear a difference after upgrading both a CD player and a preamp, while being unable to hear a difference for either one independently. This helps motivate me to keep upgrading.

Mariusz Goralski's picture

Still young at 26 and limited music collection on budget system but growing up.

Ken's picture

Just as you become a better listener, an aging body takes away the fun.