Calling all trained listeners

I’ve only come across one professional classical musician who is an audiophile, to the extent that he also reviews audio equipment.

I’ve no doubt that professional classical musicians have an acute sense of hearing, and I recall that Arthur Rubenstein insisted that Steinway provided three pianos at the concert hall for him to choose from. But this is not necessarily a special gift. I’ve been to piano masterclasses and when the piano maestro points out to the student the smallest changes in how a few notes should be played, it is quite obvious to the amateur.

On my occasional interactions with professional musicians I don’t think I’ve ever had a single discussion that touches on audio equipment.

What is curious about the video posted above is that Paul, with almost 50 years in the business, does not refer to having discussed the issue with any classical musicians, he just speculates.

My personal view is domestic audio is largely irrelevant to to professional musicians because when you have constant access to performance, your own or others, why listen to recordings? Even then, you don’t need high end audio and care over cable choice to get to hear differences in performance on recordings.

I met the aforementioned musician/reviewer when he came to buy my Quad ESL63 for his son to use to listen critically to recordings. His son is a young professional pianist and conductor. Quad ESL63 were in his opinion the perfect speaker for the task of listening to orchestral music because they are so detailed and image so well. I sold them for £1,100, about $1,500, recently restored and in perfect condition. He told me they were going to be used with a fairly basic amplifier, the whole system costing about $3,000.

My issue is that this whole “trained listener” thing is just another audiophile myth along the premise that that if you can’t hear that one product is better than another, it’s down to your failings as a listener rather than the product. Consequently only “trained listeners” can properly evaluate products and untrained listeners should take their word for it.

Sure, some people spend more time listening, and others listen more intently, but I think @wijber summed the whole thing up succinctly.

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I agree with Paul for 3 reasons, assuming we mean the same thing (didn’t watch the video):

  1. playing music sounds better in a way that the attempt to replicate this with high end fails in principle and therefore is not worth the effort for many who do

  2. musicians with playing music have a much more satisfying connection to music than just listening to it. The latter therefore gets a lower importance (but is certainly practiced, if rather for the musical than the sound aspect)

  3. musicians spend a lot of time playing music, it is their job. As with all of us, what we do daily (even if we love to do it) mostly doesn’t get the priority aside of work time or is even avoided then for the sake of other interests. This also makes high end listening less important for this group of people imo.

And as musicians also usually don’t have the most cash on hand, it’s obvious that few would spend their money on a hobby that has less priority for them for those reasons.


I agree with you 100%. Another “Audiophile” craziness. And we wonder why most people could care less about this hobby. Next people will try to tell me what sounds good. Oh wait that is already the norm. :thinking: :nauseated_face:

So here we go:
Sean Olive from Harman’s Revel line of speakers…sadly Dr Floyd Toole who kicked off
Harman’s research into speaker design and listening tests is no longer mentioned.

Dr Toole was key in turning Harman’s speaker designing around from bad to successful.

Have fun reading

Floyd Toole - Sound reproduction – art and science/opinions and facts


You should watch his video before commenting on it, because that’s not what he said.

I have a good friend who is producer owning a nice studio. He regularly comes over to my place to listen to music recorded in his studio and to evaluate if its ready to release. We often finds some imperfections that lead him to fine tune the mix/master. Are we trained listeners?

Dunno and don’t care, but love these sessions!


Brilliant. At last.

Plus a reference to this paper

Is this unique to Harman? What is interesting is that trained listeners report consistently with untrained ones. The fact that it is limited to speakers is relevant because most speakers are clearly different, whereas many other components the differences are marginal to non-existent.

The good news is that you stay friends evaluating his recordings.


While “generally consistent across all categories of listeners,” the study concluded “The trained listeners were the most discriminating and reliable listeners.”

The study found this provides “evidence that the preferences of trained listeners can be safely extrapolated to a larger population.”

Nota bene, trained listeners were the most discriminating and reliable listeners with speakers, the most obviously different component. Extrapolating, the distinction between trained listeners and the general populace will be even greater when more subtle differences are at play, such as the differences between DACs.

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My experience is most musicians are not interested in high-end audio for the same reason the vast majority of the public are not; it simply is uninteresting. A basic system is sufficient for them, as it is with most people.


I knew all along …you just found out :innocent:

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Posted in wrong thread, so sorry. See what’s spinnin’.

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Just proves you are a genious…
For you see …
Einstein had to have others do the simple math
so he could concentrate on higher esoteric
relatives and their theories … :musical_score: :notes: :musical_note: :saxophone: :trumpet: :guitar:

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“Senior Moment” :dizzy_face:

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Never your too young for that!! :grinning:

I never noticed before that Floyd Toole’s work focused mainly on single speakers playing a mono signal. Did that mean that measurements and listener preferences for single mono speakers correlated perfectly with the sound quality of stereo speakers - or did Toole simply not concern himself with stereo imaging and soundstage reproduction?

My understanding Toole worked with multi channel and had a rather impressive multi-channel set-up. A Duck, Duck,… search should identify it: first hit I got:


When I first heard of Floyd Toole’s work with Harman…he worked
at training listeners and these then used the Harman spinorama
that would be preloaded with various pairs of speakers that would
be hidden behind an acoustically transparent curtain so the
evaluators did not know which pair they were evaluating.

Floyd Toole did not focus on mono only…but was more focused
stereo and multichannel oriented speaker set ups.

I read some of his whitepapers he included 2 and multi channel
diagrams with how to set up the Infinity rabos system…

Happy trails

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