When are people going to wake up and realize listening is a skill?

Thirty years ago I realized my lifelong dream of owning a 911. This is a fast car and so first thing I did was join PCA to get some track experience in order to be able to drive safely at speed. Of course I already knew how to drive. I was a "good driver" much better than most, etc, etc. 

PCA Driver Ed begins with several hours of classroom study. Track rules, safety, and some car control skills- braking, steering, throttle control. Yeah, yeah, whatever let's go!    

Then at the track they put you in your car with an instructor and you head out onto the track driving so freaking slow, actually normal freeway driving speed but it seems slow because, race track. So we play follow the leader with the instructor pointing out cones. Braking cones, turn-in cone, apex cone, track out cone. Each turn is numbered 1 thru 9, and there's turn worker stations, and they have flags, and you need to be watching and know what they mean, because you screw up and that is it your day is done. One full 20 min session, all the excitement of a tour bus.  

Bear with me. There's a connection here. Trust me. 

It goes on like this all day until finally we are signed off to drive solo but then there is an accident, flat bed, that's it for the day. 

Next time out I am so super confident instead of novice I sign up for Intermediate. Same cars, only the Intermediate drivers are supposed to somehow be better. Whatever.   

So out I go and Holy Crap everyone is passing me! I am driving as fast as I possibly can and being passed by everyone! Not only that, if you have ever driven as fast as you possibly can then you know this means braking as late as you possibly can, cornering as fast as you can, all of it. Which without fear of police is pretty damn fast! So fast I am not at all used to it, and so by the end of 20 min am literally sweating and exhausted!  

But I keep at it. Turns out all that classroom talk is about driving skills that are absolutely essential, not only to know but to be able to do. Threshold braking is braking right at the edge of lockup. Right at the very edge. Those cones are there for reference, to help you delay braking as long as possible. The turn-in cones are where you start turning, apex cone where you are right at the inside edge of the turn, track-out where you come out the other side. Do all this while at the very limit of traction and you are going very fast indeed. Without- and this is the essential part- without really trying to go fast.  

Learn the skills, practice the techniques until you are able to execute smoothly, efficiently, and consistently, and you will be fast. Without ever really trying to go fast.   

The connection here is, everyone thinks they hear just fine. Just like they think they drive just fine. In the classroom they talk about threshold braking, the late apex line, and controlling weight transfer with throttle. Just like here we talk about grain, glare, imaging and sound stage.   

I left one part out. All the track rats, they all start out talking about horsepower, springs and spoilers, thinking these are what makes the car fast. They are, sort of. But really it is the driver. By the time I was an instructor myself it was easy to go out with those same Intermediate drivers and it was like the commute to work it was so easy. My car was the same. Only my skills were greater.  

So when are people gonna wake up and realize listening is just like this? Nobody expects to become a really good golfer, tennis player or rock climber just by going out and doing it. Why are so many stuck talking watts? When are they gonna realize that is just like track rats talking hp?


Agree with the sentiment of every part of your post except this:

I wouldn’t have believed it, not cool.

Let's be honest, of course you believe it...how is this behavior unexpected?
Hey MC, 
I think the track analogy works rather well inasmuch as its a description of how anyone can get better at a skill.  Many years ago JA in Stereophile (I believe it was JA) posted a similar analogy using the learning curve of a radiologist reading x-rays.  Starts out as blobs of black and white and as the radiologists skill set increases it eventually turns into a definitive picture. 

I've always loved Corvettes.  A '68 427 vert was my first car, still have it 48 years later.  Took my '08 Z06 to a PCA track day along with my son and his Lotus Elise.  A Z06 is not a good car to do that with...way to twitchy. Although amazing brakes and fierce power, still the pucker factor is off the charts.  

Sold the '08 and bought a '16 Z51 coupe.  Took that to a PCA track day and had a much better fun time. Was there three days quite a few sessions, got "promoted" to intermediate and said no thanks.  Stayed novice because much fewer cars on track and the yahoos(?) who simply wanted to move up were driving like anal brains.  Fun stuff.

Glad your enjoying your speakers, I enjoy mine and they are old, amps are old, pre is old, cables are old...but none of it is shiitay!  Still kicks my butt. To me it is all about the music.


Post removed 
did the kid lap ya in the Lotus ?

My solo 2 buddy, national champion gave me my first taste of what a Lotus in capable hands can do….intoxicating….
Hey MC,
I think the track analogy works rather well inasmuch as its a description of how anyone can get better at a skill. Many years ago JA in Stereophile (I believe it was JA) posted a similar analogy using the learning curve of a radiologist reading x-rays. Starts out as blobs of black and white and as the radiologists skill set increases it eventually turns into a definitive picture.

Robert Harley uses this same x-ray metaphor in his The Complete Guide to High End Audio. Being an x-ray tech myself it definitely applies.  

An x-ray is a 2D image of 3D anatomy. At first it is nothing but shades of gray. Then you learn anatomy and physics and the shades take on meaning. Now hardly a day goes by I'm not explaining to some MD how to interpret, which calls for understanding not only the underlying anatomy but the physics of the imaging system including the x-ray beam itself.

This experience blows out of the water the claim that all you have to do is listen a lot. It does no good to practice, unless you know what it is you are practicing. It is the very nature of improvement to not know what it is that you need to know! Every single student I ever had not only did not know how to drive, they literally did not know what it was they were doing wrong, or how to do it right, or have even the slightest idea what it is they need to learn. When I say every single one, I mean every single one- including myself!

That is why it would be so nice if the haters would drop the act. But wish in one hand hope in the other.....
Millercarbon, great post, great analogy!
Lots of very diverse answers in the thread...
To enjoy the music, to gain instant gratification you do not need any special training. That's the same as being the PASSENGER in the car. The driver position in audio is for IMPROVING, steering your system. When you don't know how to listen, what to listen for - then your ride will be quite bumpy and expensive - flatbedding and stuck in the kiddie lane, and you will be making wrong and costly choices that end up in audio burn out.
Zero effort gets zero results. You want to step to next level in audio? Take up your audio-helmet and work on your hearing skills.

Sure, there are plenty of pretend guys. That's why we call them pretend guys to make the distinction from the REAL ones. If you are fixated on just the pretend guys... it's like seeking out the worst surgeons and then complaining that your surgery went all wrong.
You are heading where your compass is set. Choose your setting, and follow your path.

If, dear reader, you feel you have the capacity to improve, then you will surely do so and reach your goal!If your comfort zone is in whining and staying negative - no problemo. Buy the cheapest stereo gear, and presto - you have hacked the system!

Post removed 
@phasemonger, @cdamiller5 & fbgbill

I highly encourage you to go to the Porsche Driving School at Barber Motorsports Ranch. 
The word you were looking for realworldaudio is targeted.  Change that one word and, well said.
No he didn't lap me even though his Lotus is supercharged and has an LSD, upgraded wheels, brakes and tires. I had been to the Ron Fellows Corvette Driving school in Pahrump Nevada for their Advanced level class. Great fun to beat the snot of the school's cars (all sponsored by GM).  As with any high performance car its virtually impossible to even come close to its potential on the street as you well know. 

We were at High Plains Raceway which is east of Denver a bit. Great track, if I lived out there I'd certainly be a member.  Anyway they told me
that a good time for a decent driver who is a novice to the track is anything below 2:30.  My best lap was 2:11, so I was happy with that.

I passed everyone except one Porsche, I could hang with him but he would slowly widen the gap.  It was a GT3.  Not fair LOL!

My son did beat me at Hawley Drag Racing School in Gainsville FL.
We were driving pro comp dragsters 572 chevys.  I went 8.3 @ 161.52 and he went 8.3 @ 161.67 mph.  I can't let this stand! 


Hey folks, just a reminder that malignant narcissists, such as the OP, believe any attention is good, negative or positive. All of my friends who became psychiatrists admit that the affliction is frankly untreatable. One hundred percent of the conversations they start are self reverential and if you start the conversation they soon turn it into that. In real life they give you the options of fight, flight or submission. Whenever I beat them on the track or out diagnose them in practice they always have an excuse or blame something external. My silent knowing smile enrages them when that happens. I love it.
Thanks @streamerdude for your contributions towards restoring balance in the universe.  You continue to nail it with your spot-on characterizations.  With a sincere knowing smile ;-)
Short answer to the question posed - never, if you don't realize it's a "problem" in your listening habits, and I would contend that you will never, ever find someone (self proclaimed audiophile or not) who would call themselves "a lousy listener".  Now, onward.                                                                                                                                                               It's easy to spend money on equipment, get the most exotic cables made from unobtanium, niggle and pick over this spec/that spec and so forth, because it takes little effort and certainly no need for personal improvement.  I would, however, advise against trying to turn your listening prowess into some form of competition; if you feel that your hearing (or any other skill) needs improvement and you want to put toward the effort to make that happen, then by all means get after it.  Competition needs a standard by which to judge oneself against others, and in the OP's driving tale he shows exactly that with the comparison of speed, but listening has no such standard, and if even if there was, trying to compare your listening acuity to others denies the experience you are looking to achieve for yourself when enjoying music.  It is supposed to be an enjoyable hobby after all, and the OP has mentioned here and there about listening for one's own sake and not relying on what others to tell you what you are hearing.                                                                                                                                                                                                 I will add my own self-absorbed (but much shorter) similar tale.  I was active in mountain biking in my younger years, riding everywhere.  My neighbor saw me on my mountain bike and asked "So, you're into mountain biking?"  I say "Yes." - made sense.  He responded "So do you race?" I said no.  He came back with "Well then, what's the point?" which took me aback at the time, because racing was something I was aware of but not something I was interested in, and didn't consider it to be a part of my enjoyment that I was lacking.  The neighbor missed the entire point of why I liked to ride, and to be good at racing was never something that I was chasing.  Mountain bike racing "tracks" are semi-groomed and nothing like what you'd encounter on a rough, non-groomed path through the woods or over rocky terrain, and to turn my outings on my bike into training sessions would've sucked all of the enjoyment out of it for me.                                                                                                                          The OP initially admits that he thought of himself as a pretty good driver and was no doubt pleased at his own perceived skill before the classes, but then when shown that personal improvement could be made (by being shown the advanced prowess of others), there was a dissatisfaction of his own skills.  He could've gone three ways with this: to disparage the drivers more skilled than he (and not try for improvement), to recognize that he could indeed improve and pursue that for greater achievement, or to acknowledge that other drivers were more skilled than he but improvement was not something that he wanted to put effort into to be able to be a "better" driver. 

I am glad you are a mental health professional. I woke up this morning and did not "realize that listening is a skill." Only because of your oath of confidentiality, I will confess that I have in fact never awakened to realize it.

Does that make me a bad person? Does your office have music if I come for a "visit" to dicuss my problem?  If so, which speaker cables are you using?

@streamerdude-- in my experience (I'm not an MD, let alone a psychiatrist), I always thought shrinks were a little "nuts" themselves and perhaps that's what drew them into the field. Let's talk about "classic Ferraris" through private messaging. I don't want to divert from the thread topic. BTW, welcome to Audiogon.
Bill Hart
Everyone I have known that went into psychology or psychiatry did so in response to their own problems, everyone else seems to have been outward looking. I am very stable and well adjusted and in general attract lunatics and as such have known more than my fair share.
Since psychology has been brought into this discussion, I would point out how curious is the extent to which the tenor and style of the comments critical of the OP mirror the very things which they criticize. Perhaps because a nerve of insecurity has been struck? Since this is an audio forum, re the point of the post:

Of course listening is a skill! It is like any other endeavor in that respect. As philbarone points out our listening skills can be trained and fine tuned, and there are tools available to do this. The main problem for some is the unwillingness to accept that this “muscle” is not as strong and flexible naturally as it can be; and needs to be in order to be a good listener.
Even Olympic athletes need a coach… 

btw it’s perfect practice makes perfect, the best athletes can practice in the mind. I have shot many perfect tens in free pistol, solely within my mind

but I am humble enough to know I need a coach or Sensei. In the change business the saying is: even the change agent, needs a change agent.The mighty James Taylor has a vocal coach, John Hiatt uses an APP

@barts what a wonderful thing you have going with your son :-)))

the book Getting Better Sound by Jim Smith is an excellent source of ideas. 

+1 @frogman 

I also feel very stable and well adjusted and seem to attract lunacy.  Hard to put my finger on but I must be sending out some kinda vibes or inserting myself in situations/venues that are attractive to lunatics. USMC perhaps? BTW awesome system.

As far as having listening skills I (of course) think mine are good to very good. I say this because I have sung in acapella choirs for quite a few years. I am particularly sensitive to pace, timing and timbre.  That is not to say it transfers to all types of music, but what I am saying is I know what I like and know when it sounds "right".  Yes, I hear the difference in signal cables...but not in power cables or fuses.  

As a last thought, I try very hard to not criticize other posters, I may not have a lot to add to a discussion, but I certainly don't want to detract from it in a personal manner.  Life is too short.



I can’t believe that after haunting this website with about 10,500 posts all in a couple of years you didn’t think it would be the right thing to do to spend $65 bucks to sell your turntable here to pass on a few bucks to support your forum hosts.
Good point. I saw the ad on a different site. Perhaps MC hasn't got around to posting the ad here yet.
"I always thought shrinks were a little "nuts" themselves and perhaps that's what drew them into the field."


"Everyone I have known that went into psychology or psychiatry did so in response to their own problems."


"Since psychology has been brought into this discussion, I would point out how curious is the extent to which the tenor and style of the comments critical of the OP mirror the very things which they criticize."

+3    Projection 101

"Some of our participants are more or less confident/arrogant/opinionated than others...that is what you call "personality""

There is also something called "emotional maturity".  

Ideally, people with very different personalities can manage civil discourse if they have emotional maturity to draw upon, which requires, among other prerequisites, self-awareness. 

Post removed 
The best anyone can be is a healthy neurotic. To think otherwise is proof positive that they themselves need some type of counseling. 

All the best,