Golden ear

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A golden ear is a term used in professional audio circles to refer to a person who is thought to possess special talents in hearing. People described as having golden ears are said to be able to discern subtle differences in audio reproduction that most inexperienced and untrained listeners cannot.

Another meaning of the term is used by audiologists to describe aging test subjects who do not demonstrate the expected age-related loss in hearing acuity.

Music perception[edit]

A person said to have golden ears is one who can perceive more subtle changes in sound than others, either by training or by birth. The skill is rare.[1]

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.[2]

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).[3]

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.[4]

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

Age and hearing[edit]

The term golden ears has also been used by audiologists to describe mature adult test subjects who show a hearing acuity similar to that of youthful subjects. In this group, the normal, expected age-related decline in hearing acuity is not observed.[6][7][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Whitaker, Jerry (April 1986). "Editorial: From here to infinity" (PDF). Broadcast Engineering. In the world of professional audio, a Golden Ear is someone who is able to hear something that most people cannot. There are two categories of Golden Ears, indistinguishable by the lay public or by most broadcasters. The first type is the hallucinator. You often find this type writing for audio enthusiast magazines. Then there are people who, through training or birth, can hear things nobody else can. In any given aspect of sound, there might be 50 people in the world who have Golden Ears.
  2. ^ Kamlet, Rick (November 1, 2005). "Listening Evaluation". SVC Online. Archived from the original on June 14, 2010.
  3. ^ Blind Testing in the Audio Realm, by Dave Moulton
  4. ^ The Audio Critic, issue 26, page 3, letters to the editor, R. A. Greiner "Photographic results are much more definitive and easier to compare than are audio results. (...) In the first case a time-sequential comparison is made, and in the second the comparison can be and usually is simultaneous."
  5. ^ Ljudtekniska Sällskapet
  6. ^ The Oxford Handbook of Auditory Science: The Auditory Brain. OUP Oxford. 2010. p. 424. ISBN 9780199233281.
  7. ^ Berg, Abbey L.; Serpanos, Yula C. (2015). "Communication and Aging". In Linda S. Carozza (ed.). Communication and Aging: Creative Approaches to Improving the Quality of Life. Plural Publishing. p. 126. ISBN 9781597568852.
  8. ^ Frisina, S. T. (2009). "Aging Auditory System". In Thomas E. Finger (ed.). International Symposium on Olfaction and Taste. John Wiley & Sons. p. 711. ISBN 9781573317382.