Golden ear

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For the mushroom, see Tremella aurantialba. For the bridge, see Golden Ears Bridge.

A golden ear is a term in audio circles referring to a person who is thought to possess special talents in hearing.[citation needed] Golden ears claim to be able to discern subtle differences in audio reproduction that most inexperienced and untrained listeners cannot, much like trained wine experts claim to discern differences among wines inexperienced tasters cannot.[citation needed]

The term has also been lent to titles of ear training CDs, which contain drills which teach the audiophile to identify different frequency boost and cuts, differing compression values, time delays, and reverb times.[citation needed] The Absolute Sound, a monthly publication of audio products and production techniques, gives out the "Golden Ear Award" for superior sounding audio equipment.[citation needed]

An ongoing blind loudspeaker listening program developed by Floyd E. Toole of Harman International has demonstrated that listeners can be trained to reliably discern relatively small frequency response differences among loudspeakers, whereas untrained listeners cannot. He showed that inexperienced listeners cannot reliably identify even large frequency response deviations.[1]

Toole's research also indicates that when participants can see what they are hearing, their preferences often change profoundly. If the listener and test administrator don't know which sound source is the favored-to-win candidate, the differences often disappear (or the favorite loses).[2]

Skilled listeners who claim to be able to hear differences among various pieces of audio gear assert that the ability to do so is no different from discerning picture quality differences among cameras, or discerning image quality differences among video display devices.[citation needed] However others argue that there are fundamental differences in the way audio and visual reproductions such as a photograph are compared, photographs can be compared side-by-side and simultaneously whereas audio must be compared sequentially.[3]

As echoic memory is known to fade within seconds.[4] The minimum audible change in sound pressure level is generally thought to be around 1 dB,[5] but less than 0.1 dB has been reported in blind listening tests.[6] When testing, the level difference between stimuli is therefore recommended to be calibrated to ±0.05 dB.

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