Listening Skills Part Duex: What are you listening for?

Had a few experiences lately that together were a stark reminder of something known for a long time, because I lived it myself.  

In the beginning, or at any rate going back to about 1991, I was unable to hear any difference between different CD players and DACs. Even some amplifiers, they might not sound exactly the same but I was hard pressed to say why.   

This went on for a long time. Months. Many months. Like okay a year. Whatever. During which time I was driving around hitting all the Seattle/Portland area stores listening to everything I could find. About the only difference big enough to be sure of was receivers. They for sure are crap. But even there it was hard to say exactly in what way. Just the difference there was glaring enough it was obvious this is not the way to go. But that was about it.    

All during this time of course I was reading Stereophile and studying all the reviews and building up a vocabulary of audiophile terms. The problem, seen clearly as usual only in the rear view mirror, was not really being able to match up the terminology with what I was hearing. I had words, and sounds, but without meaning, having no real link or connection between them.   

One day after yet another frustrating trip to Definitive I came home and put on my XLO Test CD and was listening to the Michael Ruff track Poor Boy when it hit me, THIS IS THAT SOUND!!!  

What sound? Good question! The better high end gear is more full and round and liquid and less etched or grainy. Poor Boy is Sheffield, all tube, and so even though being played from CD through my grainy etched mid-fi the tubey magic came through enough to trigger the elusive connection. THIS is "that sound"!  

Once triggered, this realization grew and spread real fast. In no time at all it became easy to hear differences between all kinds of things. "No time at all" was probably months, but seemed like no time at all compared to how long I was going nowhere.  

What happened? There are a near infinite number of different sonic characteristics. Attack and decay, fundamental tone, harmonic, and timbre, those were a few of the early ones I was able to get a handle on- but the list goes on and on.   

Just to go by experience, reading reviews, and talking to other audiophiles it would seem most of us spend an awful lot of time concentrating real hard on our own little list of these terms. We have our personal audiophile checklist and dutifully run down the list. The list has its uses but no matter how extensive the list becomes it always remains a tiny little blip on the infinite list of all there is.   

So what brought this to mind is recently a couple guys, several in fact, heard some of the coolest most impressive stuff I know and said....meh. Not hearing it.   

This is not a case of they prefer something else. This is not hearing any difference whatsoever. At all. None. Nada. Zip. 

Like me, back in the day, with CD.  

These are not noobs either. We're talking serious, seasoned, experienced audiophiles here. 

I'm not even sure it comes down to what they are listening for. Like me in '91, hard to know what you're listening for until you know what you're listening for.   

Which comes first?
I believe that the primary thing to listen for is the proper tonality of instruments. That, of course, requires knowledge of what live instruments sound like.

A proper audio system will have enough resolution to enable the listener to discern between an oboe and a soprano sax, a violin and a viola, vibes and marimbas, and even drums heads equipped with animal skins vs acrylic.  

A proper audio system will be seamless in its presentation from top to bottom. It will have crystal clear highs that don't pierce the eardrums, a midrange that allows the human voice to sound natural, and a bass that is not boomy, but tonally correct. 

A proper audio system gives the listener a performance that is as close to real as possible, where one puts away the thought of the sound, and just gets absorbed in the music.

A proper audio system will recreate music in such a way that it will get the listener emotionally involved in an almost spiritual way. That, in my opinion, is what I would call the Holy Grail. 

My current system has all of the above ... in spades.

I'm sure it does Frank, because I know a lot of what you have going on. But that is a good example. The stuff you are using is the same stuff they can't hear!
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Tone and timbre...
Past that the quality of the recording has as much ado as the quality of the design in the circuits you choose. Over analizing anything music related defeats the purpose of listening to music. Your describing listening to equipment.
No one hears the same, or listens for the same pleasure cues ,in fact as individuals our hearing changes daily from chemical stresses and agitations and well being. Three seasoned audiophiles say meh... you say yay...why assume its them and not you thats not " hearing" what they are "hearing" at the time... maybe it's you thats missing something bigger than the individualistic focus... maybe...
These are all things people are familiar with. The question is how do you learn to recognize and hear characteristics you are UN familiar with?
If they are real and matter chances are greater more people will hear them and become familiar.  What they think about them at that point is another story often summarized as YMMV.  It’s that simple.
Have you ever considered outside your unfamiliarity, that these things are not Unfamiliar to Others at all...they just don't matter with the impact they seem to hold over you. Doesn't mean it makes us the unwashed and slightly dazed...
Yes mapman, YMMV... it is that simple... for those of us that grasp Yours meaning an individual singularity ..
but at least one of the great “ unwashed “ knows where the solid state “ gain restoration “ device is in the hallowed Sheffield chain….
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sure we get it. If you ever left self described Mecca you might discover the live vs. tape adventures at Bottlehead..just across the salty pond. Short of running a recording studio and a mobile recording rack, that experience is a phd.
My expectations as to reproduced sound have been heightened by improvements in various areas of equipment over the last 40 plus years, and my focus in listening has evolved in part due to that, as well as to exposure, experience and familiarity with the sound of actual instruments.
Although I have formal music training both with respect to composition/arrangement and with performance on certain instruments, very little of that training has a bearing on what I listen for from a reproduction system apart from the sound of real instruments (something one without training can experience simply as a regular listener in a club or venue).
I always started with the midrange-- it has to be clear and coherent- no grain or other artifacts of reproduction machinery. I started to learn how to listen to hi-fi more seriously when I got my first pair of Quads (aka the ’57’) in around 1973. But, I want it all and Quads simply cannot do that, despite providing an open window in the mids if you are positioned correctly. (yeah, I know).

Tone- sure. Timing, decay, etc.And I want to hear bass that sounds like the instruments, whether piano, double bass that sounds like a fleshed out instrument in three D space. I expect to hear whatever ambience is part of the recording.

Soundstage, which is often considered key to the listening experience should be a given-- either in recreating in scale, a portrait of the room where the recording took place, or bringing that guitar into your room.
I don’t listen loud but dynamics obviously count even at nominal volume.
A lot of the above takes us back to the source material.
But as I parse all of those audiophile attributes, I think something important is lost in the dissection. Some of this may be due to the nature of the music (I know, one shouldn’t build a system based on a preferred genre) and some may come down to the preferences or priorities of the user/listener/system designer.
There are so many ways to solve this, based on room, different equipment, type of source format and budget, that one wonders whether they are simply describing their preferred sound. And even if that isn’t the case, we are trying to describe in words something in a different dimension; one that is not only sensory, but brings with it an emotional charge if the listener is connecting with the music and the equipment isn’t getting in the way. (That may simply be a choice of music issue too).
I could probably enjoy listening to an ancient cello recording over a pre-war field coil driver and "get" an enormous amount from that presentation but that wouldn’t address the myriad other music that would require far more in the way of equipment, power handling and dynamics.
If we are engaging in this exercise, we should have an eye toward the availability and cost of the equipment and associated paraphernalia to implement it. I know when people ask for a gear recommendation a couple things happen: folks offer gear priced in the stratosphere without regard to the potential buyer’s budget; and further, folks tend to tout what they own and like. Neither is bad, it’s all information, but short of playing "guru" and essentially picking out a system for someone else, I think most of us learned through our own experimentation and access to others’ systems where we could hear things. A dealer showroom is not necessarily the best environment to listen, at least for evaluation purposes, and if solely for learning is usually not that meaningful.
Seat time is important, but not just in a room with a hi-fi; rather, in a room with instruments being played.
I realize despite however long I’ve been at this pursuit, I haven’t really churned equipment. Nor have I done a huge amount of "tweaking" other than isolation, bass traps, good power and becoming a very picky consumer of tubes. I have, however, become a passionate student of music that I never previously listened to and that brings me great joy. I am fascinated by the history, the technology of the period, the method of recording and all of the other things that give greater understanding to where the performance and players fit into some larger continuum.
Perhaps, with age, our priorities change too. I’m not quite at the whim of the nurse to play Slim Whitman, but I think as my high frequency sensitivity has diminished with age, my ability to assess the overall coherence of a reproduction system has remained, possibly as an element of judgment. I dunno.
I’ll say there is no "one way" and I avoid any sort of advice from on high- eschewing guruism; I’ve learned an enormous amount from folks that make few audiophile pretensions, but know their fields and can teach me something. Otherwise, we are all just passing through.
I’m relieved that it’s never been so hard for me to enjoy music regardless of the gear, my age, experience or listening "goals". Listening to music should simply be a joy...not something you have to train for. The ability for someone to hear something or not has no correlation whatsoever to the level of enjoyment they can derive from music.

btw - it's spelled deux....not duex
Lots of talk about all the same stuff as usual. For a bunch who acts so sure they get it the absence of anyone talking about how they learned to recognize new and unfamiliar sound characteristics is passing strange.

The last thread was closed when it went far off topic. Please try and stay on topic. You say you get it. Pony up.

How do you learn to recognize new characteristics?

Tell ya what. Let’s pretend there are none. Let’s pretend you are the all seeing all hearing guru. Okay. Were you always thus? Right out of the womb, was it? Or was there a learning process? If so, what was it?
I’ll admit that I said, time, experience and exposure, including exposure to the sound of real instruments informed me, as did the evolution of equipment and my ears. To some extent, we are dependent on the source material, as you appeared to acknowledge in the other thread.
What new and unfamiliar sound characteristics are you referring to? I’ve listened to everything from voodoo chants from Haiti to ancient big band cut to transcription, to some pretty serious modern vinyl 50-now. Is it "Oh, I heard a scraping noise in the background that I never heard before, therefore what?"
I’m not being facetious. I answered your question in good faith. And if my response is "same-same" and I’m not cutting any new ground, then I guess I have to ask you where you see the Promise Land? (words, of course, can’t do justice but since you seem adept at them, give it a go).

PS: I feel compelled to add that I don't pretend to "get" anything, let alone "it" but will share what experience I have. No guru status claimed. 
By simply listening to music for years and decades . Through those times from beginnings as gear evolved and it comes naturally. Its not forced or strained or fretted over. It's not some rare gift . Its memory like a reflex. Like anything it comes from experience like a good mechanic tuning a car. He knows the sound. Measurements only confirm his experience of auditory memory . If its such an importance to you to and you think there is some great skill set ... instead of passing your usual judgements, just stand and deliver it. Make your claim and expose yourself.
Most just listen with enjoyment in mind . The new characteristics expose themselves against an imbeded memory like a mothers voice. Something known to measure against.
We learn it in communicating the subtle changes in a voice
for joy and anger etc. So kind of out of the womb in way actually , yes. How much you wish to focus and interpret is purely an individual thing.

Now what about a gramophone.....
I am with @whart 

hint #1 Multi track studio stuff like Year of the Cat will just lead the cat to chase own tail….re  detail, “ wow I never heard that before “ path. Fake leading edge detail….very hi fi.

A steady diet of live unamplified music in reverberant space is the path i took. Field recordings of same. Microphone selection placement, etc. Of course i had mentors and sensei, again only the humble student can abide a teacher…

for multitrack Humble yourself to the greats. Alan Parsons used….wait for it… B and W monitors to craft DsotM…. 

Measure the room, use modern tools, the RT60 target for a control room is .60 ish. Try using your tape measure for that…

One of my sensei is stopping by this weekend w a Moog analog vintage synth…..we will see first hand in the exact same acoustic space how the reference system does…. i expect we shall find some flaws, grist for the improvement mill.

You can’t hit a target until you know where it is. In this case meaning you have to have heard “the sound” before you have any chance of reproducing it. To know that sound you seek means training the ear to recognize it when you hear it. Training the ear means listening to the things you seek to reproduce and stashing that image away in your mind so it is there for reference. Other than that the devil is in the details and YMMV. Choose your cliche. No two people ever focus on exactly the same thing ever in exactly the same way. Sound included. Maybe if a bomb goes off next to them they might. Also ears are instruments and no two are alike. So given all this variability and natural chaos no surprise the results are also highly variable when it comes to what things matter most to a listener and how. To expect similar results from people based on one persons absolute frame of reference is totally delusional. It will never happen.

So the only way really to know why those particular people did not respond as expected would be to have that discussion with them. Others cannot read their minds needless to say. Cheers!
OK MC I’ll spell it out. Sense no one gets it.. I understand a GOOD ear has to be able to hear a Tick Tick Tick with 100db of ambient noise but THAT Tick Tick Tick is at 75 db.

People didn’t get it because you didn’t make it clear what you were trying to explain.

You tell me if YOU can do that. I know I can.. Few except a mechanic training a mechanic can do that..

Mechanics that don’t have the EAR or EYE chops (and there are a lot), usually develop other skills and go grab the guy with the ears OR the eyes to figure something out...

FEELING deep anomalies in equipment is a skill to.. Some have it, most don’t.. I’ve worked around operators that knew when anyone touched their rigs.. much less changed anything..

Dave Engan one of the fastest foundational drillers in the world...

How many peoples depend on their hearing to trouble shoot anything?
AND get paid for it..

Musicians, and recording Techs. The artist in my mind, is guys like Brian Wilson from the BB that new what he had to do to make the sound he liked for YOU to hear.. That is an ear beginning to end..

Hearing skill are no way limited to audiophiles in spite of what the audiophile community may think. Making a living listening is not easy in a LOUD world.

In other words MC dummy it down for the old mechanic, I’m no friggin genius. :-) Big word are like BIG turds... To guys like me.. Romp.. :-)

And don’t get pissed. Like a guy from New Orlins’ use to say. You got mad in them pants, you can get glad in them pants.. :-) Justin Wilson!!!

What are we seeking?
The short answer is musical truth.
Do the instruments sound like they are supposed to? If classical, do the string quartets or orchestras or solo pianos sound like what you've heard live? If acoustic jazz, again, do the double bass, saxophones, trumpets, pianos, drums, etc all sound real?
With rock and electronic music the comparisons are a bit harder but still you can dial in the correct sounds within reason.
After all, music is the reason for all of these boxes and cables, isn't it? So if it's not musical, something's wrong.
Actually what we are seeking is an answer to how people learn to hear new things. Read the OP for a clear example. Then give us one of your own. Please.
Miller- did you think Mike Lavigne's system bettered yours? Forget the money for a minute. Just in terms of overall impressions. Be honest....
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I love this topic, OP. Well chosen and set up.

Here are a couple questions I'm especially interested in hearing your take on. These are earnest questions.

1. When you initially were trying to hear more, what was the reason? What motivated you to develop your listening acumen?

2. As you were initially listening around to try to hear more, you say you only heard differences between "receivers." But you were listening to different kinds of speakers -- did the big differences between speakers contribute to your eventual "aha" moment? (I'm wondering because sometimes there are multiple things at work in effectuating a change, and only later, in retrospect, do I realize the subordinate factors at work).

3. Around the time you developed your initial, stable checklist of audiophile terms to listen for, how did that affect your ability to listen for pleasure? Were you simply in critical listening mode all the time? Did you already possess an "off switch" for the critical way of listening or was that something you figured out later?

4. In the case of the seasoned audiophiles who couldn't hear a difference in what sounded to you like impressive gear, did you find out what in particular *they* listen for -- and could you hear it? Or was there no difference in that case for you?
A few comments about the above:

@whart -- love your answer. Especially the part about becoming a passionate student of music. The gear transported you to a new world of discovery. Job done!

There are so many ways to solve this, based on room, different equipment, type of source format and budget, that one wonders whether they are simply describing their preferred sound.

Compare with @oregon papa

I believe that the primary thing to listen for is the proper tonality of instruments. That, of course, requires knowledge of what live instruments sound like.

Comment: Why is it important for an oboe to sound exactly like an oboe? It’s a test for a system, but why is it important for musical experience? After all, I don’t care if the tree in a Monet painting looks a tree, do you? And when I eat a steak, do I know what real cow tastes like? No, I judge it based on other steaks I've eaten and not whether it traces back to the cow. We seek realism, but this term can be misleading; as @whart points out, there’s no secure way "back" to some singularly real original. But we can want it to sound "somewhat" like the instruments we've heard before -- I'd grant that. But then there are all those world instruments I've never heard in person, or electronica, etc. Like a good fantasy or science fiction story, I want to be enveloped in an experience -- but that's a wish for a kind of experience, not "a path back to the real."

@three easy and @reubent @has2be

Listening to music should simply be a joy...not something you have to train for. The ability for someone to hear something or not has no correlation whatsoever to the level of enjoyment they can derive from music.

"don’t worry, be happy"

By simply listening to music for years and decades . Through those times from beginnings as gear evolved and it comes naturally. Its not forced or strained or fretted over. It’s not some rare gift . Its memory like a reflex.

All three of these comments seem to be saying that a pleasure *should* be simple and that’s all it *needs* to be. This does not jibe with my experience.

I may enjoy something initially -- say, wine. Then someone says, "Notice how it tastes of feels at the end, as you swallow. That’s the ’finish.’" Then, I start attending to that. I notice it. It becomes part of my next tasting. I taste *for* it. I may even want it. What's happening? Experience thickens, pleasure thickens -- thanks to knowledge applied to perception.

Oh, and that’s not "worry" -- that *makes* me happy. Learning things which make experience richer makes me happy. Then again, I don’t associate thinking about something with being unhappy, and I don’t worry that creating complexity is necessarily a path to paralysis-by-analysis.
How and What:

1) Hearing live music. As an extension, being trained to play in an ensemble. Are either required? As @whart has written multiple, but the skills can be applied to listening to a home audio system.

2) Listening to a familiar recording across multiple systems, sometimes with the guidance of the system’s owners to be made aware of elements/aspects in a system’s sound. I hate hearing the same recordings over and over, but the fact is the process is extremely helpful when learning to listen to a system, then later when evaluating changes to a system...or evaluating an unfamiliar system.

3) Related to above - listening to tracks on test LPs or CDs: Stereophile, XLO,etc. Why is this helpful in learning how to listen? Each recording on a test disc is provided because it offers an example (or examples) of a particular quality: human voice, piano, venue cues, image depth/width. Liner notes usually explain what to listen for in each. Very, very helpful in the process of learning how to listen.

4) Someone to guide (or teach) during a listening session, preferably in one’s own system so the sound characteristics are familiar. I had a manufacturer once come to my home to demonstrate a component. Toward the end of the demo, he swapped in some footers he liked to use. We also compared to footers I owned. He offered some observations that were quite helpful, and provided a lesson in listening.

This is not a case of they prefer something else. This is not hearing any difference whatsoever. At all. None. Nada. Zip.
I think they were winding you up. There is no other explanation other than the equipment hasn't got the resolving ability or their brains have limited neural connectivity. 
“ I love this topic, OP. Well chosen and set up.“

Quick pass me that airline sick bag....

Man does that make sense.

I've read this thread 3 times. 

I should have just feed the damn chickens, then I'd be happier in spite of my simple self.. I guess that's my "pi equals MC squared", moment.

Does ESP (the P is optional) hearing make sense? It does to me..

Not ESD. Extrasensory Deception..

Comprehension is my weakness
deception is my enemy
perception is my salvation.

Good enough for me..

@hilde45 I guess my point is that there isn’t just one road to musical enjoyment and not everyone has the interest and even physical capability of improving their listening skills to the point of discerning minute details - and that we shouldn’t view that single piece of criteria as some definitive measure of whether they have arrived as a true audiophile, capable fully enjoying the system they created. I dislike seeing people’s opinions on music, gear and sound quashed with the familiar retort "Well obviously you can’t hear well and have poor listening skills."

With this said I do agree with MC that listening skills can be honed and that for some there is additional enjoyment that can be had - if a priority to the listener. Although I never deliberately set out to improve my listening skills over the years I did certainly recognize that with more experience I was able to discern musical and sonic aspects that many others didn’t. It came both naturally but also with sheer repetition.

You’ve probably heard of the 10,000 hour rule, which was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers.” He posited that it takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to achieve mastery of complex skills. I do believe that applies to listening skills but mine were developed passively (or subconsciously) as I certainly have engaged in many multiples of this 10,000 hr rule - I simply was enjoying myself listening to music, playing guitar in several bands, and taking in an enormous amount of live music. I was noting over the years that I was hearing elements of music and sound that none (or very few) of my buddies do. This is fun for some to develop, adding to the enjoyment of their listening and music experience, while for others completely unimportant - which was my point.
details I hadn’t heard before
bass that blends
a natural sound
ways to improve 

Miller- did you think Mike Lavigne’s system bettered yours? Forget the money for a minute. Just in terms of overall impressions. Be honest....

Off topic. But a good question. To quote Mike Lavigne himself talking about mine, "It does some things better than mine."
And now, unless we get some comments actually on topic the discussion will soon be closed.

Here. Let me get the ball rolling.

The very question whart raises is at the heart of the original topic. There’s things Mike, and myself, and everyone else, use to evaluate and decide for themselves what is "better".

My position is that among those many qualities might be things they are not even aware of. Just like I was unaware of any difference between CD players. Even though there is a difference, it took a lot of time and effort to learn to hear it. Just like the guys in the example above can’t hear any difference- even though it is there, they just haven’t yet learned to recognize it. Just like my Moab cabinet resonance bothers Rick so much he thinks there is nothing more important for me to fix, while I cannot hear it at all and Mike Lavigne himself listened and put his hand on it (and wasn’t that fun?!;) and found them impressively inert.

The examples are not the point. This is not a discussion about my system, my speakers, my anything. Just examples.

So different people clearly are attuned to different aspects of sound. That is not the question. More and more repetition of the same old same old is not the point of discussion. The topic is how do you go about learning to hear some new aspect of sound that you are UNfamiliar with?

It could be anything. Maybe you discovered things do change as they burn in. Or warm up. Or go late into the night. Maybe it was directionality. Anything you never heard before and then discovered learned to recognize it. How did that happen? you put your spin on what others " seem to be saying" but in your own words not ours thus making it your interpretation of our , us... as simple.
Hearing , or listening as is the case , is not a simplistic action. Its quite complex. The simple truth here, is your missing the point in projecting yourself into others thoughts and opinions that a state of calm with no pre determined or pre conceived reason or outcome other than listening  for enjoyment can't give the same learned results over time . You may focus all you want and pretend to be able to only hear those "critical" listening points...but like it or not your ears and brain are hearing it all and storing it away. Perhaps some of you need to over focus on less of whats going on because your unable to filter things out and retrieve them without doing so. whats being missed while focus is narrowed away from the broad picture and how those other things correlate.
Interesting how knowledge is brought up as if to remind us you have it and perception or rather assumption is perceived we don't. As far as the wine thing goes, so your easily influenced to what others think you should do for how  their own experience works. Someone else could tell you a wholly different focus ...someone else might "simply" be able to see the totality of the whole experience.  I'm not a wine drinker personally, so I can't comment myself 
See, its very easy to minimize others isn't it. We all have our own way , the fact some of us have no need to over analyze and singularly focus on fine details doesn't mean we don't hear or know them. Some here, (OP) think the terminology of words is king to knowledge to know what your looking for. To others, we 'simple' think you need to of heard it to know what  it is your looking for, or , what we have have heard for reference in our grey archives. 
I respectfully and emphatically agree to disagree...enjoyment is a simple thing that complicating it erodes its very nature and beauty .
Your conflating two separate experiences as if one because of a simplistic approach doesn't have the same  complex action behind it right there to retrieve. Maybe some of you just can't do it in a relaxed state without a conscious filter and hyper focus ... sounds difficult and flawed ... like studying for a test vs experience and fun learning.
One you use often the other usually not. Perhaps its the added pressure self applied that usually adds the need to  bring up knowledge and self worth... It's ridiculous to assume one knows what another should hear and interpret let alone thinking the singular path to get there is the only road to how everyone else  should interpret and interact to and in their own environment . Suggestions, some ignore needing their own way , some use it as a starting point, others follow it blindly nodding away , some use it as if being the authority on it. Good teachers always allow the learning a path or interest they connect and relate it to , not a rigid this way only I know attitude.

 Some, post a question already having their own answer not wanting anyones input at all unless it aligns with theirs for confirmation and ego...research it... it's been posted already. 

Regardless music is the simple reason this exists. Enjoyment and stress removal is the simple reason we stay engaged. Listening is the basic  requirement for it.
Learning through memory and observation is a bonus.
Thinking you can't do both at the same time is sad . Assuming what you label as a simple approach is less knowledgeable is flawed and arrogant in my view. You think we don't read and have subtle feelers going on in our conscious and subconscious while enjoying listening... 
Your experience is yours..not mine . I can except that without reducing it. In kind without agenda is also a simple approach to things is in kind as in the first thread. It got back what it had gotten through memory over time ..simple...yes...
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I remember many years ago I was determined to learn Travis picking on my guitar having been a flat picker exclusively for decades....Travis picking is essentially alternating bass with your thumb while playing a melody overtop.  Problem was I couldn't disconnect my thumb from my brain...the more I thought about what my thumb was doing the worse it was.  Then one day, without even trying or thinking I suddenly could do it.  It was like like a light switch was thrown on.  The neural connections were made, the muscle memory was ingrained and I was now off to the races being able to incorporate a whole new method into my playing which opened many doors.  Many people wouldn't have tolerated sounding like crap while trying to learn this style for months - but it was worth it for me.

I'm wondering if MC's account may have been somewhat analogous. 

This went on for a long time. Months. Many months. Like okay a year. Whatever.

One day after yet another frustrating trip to Definitive I came home and put on my XLO Test CD and was listening to the Michael Ruff track Poor Boy when it hit me, THIS IS THAT SOUND!!!  

Thank you danager, appreciate the help. Unfortunately until people learn manners I am going to have to close the discussion. Maybe more will learn and put pressure on these people to move along. three easy seems to be trying, and we can always hope for the others. Thanks again.
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Which came first?

First for me had to be the wonderment of the realization of a basic stereo image. There are two speakers yet the voice is coming out of the space between them. I had listened and came to love the music long l before I became aware all of the other elements presented by “Stereo”.

I now realize that there is a reason the engineer is listed in the credits of an album. All those nuisances that I’ve learned to listen for are added by someone with a huge board with a lot of volume controls to add just the right amount of left, right volume and ambiance around the element. The sax you hear four steps left and six steps behind was never there. He was actually in a little booth somewhere playing into either a microphone or a group of microphones and then placed at a specific location after the fact.

Unless live recordings are recorded using a single binaural microphone (or two monorail microphones place in a fake head) and the performers aren’t individually miked the sound you are hearing is manufactured. So as I become more aware of the tricks used to trick my brain into building a facsimile of being there or bringing them into my room I pick up more and more nuanced things like reverberation and delay.

So the factors of picking up a listening skill depends upon the factors you are listening for and the desire to care about it. I use my wife as an example a lot because while she listens to music constantly the engineering aspect of it is of no importance more than "I hear the bass" but she definitely enjoys music as much anyone.

Well for myself I don't know where I will go from here. My journey, while delayed for many years, started in an Army buddies room in the barracks in Erlangen Germany. He had bought a Yamaha amp and pre and a pair of Cerwin Vega D9 and I thought I was in heaven. 

My first questions on this forum were arranged around getting advice on a decent system in the 3k range. This wasn't too long ago. Now I am pushing the 8k range to the limits. The speakers I just bought and have yet taken time to set up properly are a revelation but it is such that I question how much better it can get. I know it can but I certainly haven't heard anything better in person and maybe it's time to take a long breather and enjoy what I have. 

MC certainly can make objectionable comments but I have learned some things from him as well. I will be investing in isolation at some point. 

Perhaps I can be happy where I'm at unless I have the unfortunate experience of being exposed to better!