When I first got involved in high-end audio I was not a good listener. Sure, I loved music and always have, but I struggled with discerning small differences in the reproduction of music—a skill I would have to acquire if I were to spend the rest of my adult life making stereo equipment that mattered.
We become better listeners with time and experience, but why bother? Is it important to the enjoyment of music to train our ears and senses to pick up on small details and differences in music’s reproduction? Perhaps if we had a bit less training we might not notice flaws and maybe that’s a good thing?
Developing skills and tastes works in two ways: we are more aware of flaws but, in exchange, we’re also better able to appreciate the small improvements as well. Think of food as an example. A developed palate can better appreciate small nuanced differences than an untrained one.
Another advantage of developing our listening skills is an enhanced ability to choose our own equipment, relying less on the opinions of others and more on satisfying our own tastes and biases. In my experience, this enhanced skill set serves us far better than just blindly following the advice of a third party who doesn’t know us as well as we might hope.
Becoming your own audio guide means not only greater freedom but I believe much greater enjoyment of what we all love, music.