An Audiophile Workout: Philips Golden Ears Training
Last year I had the pleasure of reporting on the work done at Philips Research Labs in Belgium. One of the cool things we got to see was a demonstration of Philips software used to train listeners in the organization. At the time, the program was available only to people involved with audio research within the company. I was told there would be a consumer version available sometime in the future. Well, the future is now!
Philips Golden Ears Training is a comprehensive on-line tool that allows you to work your way through 4 levels of listening acuity training: Basic; Bronze; Silver; and Gold. I sat down this morning to see how far I could get through it in a half day before writing a little introduction.
Each major level has 5 stages: Timbre; Details; Spaciousness; Bass; and Loudness. Prior to each test there is a learning stage where you can control and listen to various artifacts. For example, in the Basic stage timbre test, one of the challenges is to hear "coloration" on the test track. Here's a screen grab from that page.
Here, a number of changes to EQ are made to the sample track and as the test proceeds you select "A", "B", and "C" buttons to listen to various samples, one of which is the "colored" sample. Similar tests are executed for: spectral balance; noise detection; distortion; stereo width; bass level; and loudness matching. I had little trouble and it took me about a half hour to get through the Basic level.
I entered the Bronze level next, and it was only slightly harder. In the Timbre section of the Bronze level rather than testing for overall EQ tilt (Basic level), it tested for your ability to hear "Boominess"a hump in the bass centered around 200Hz.
The Bronze level had tests in: boominess; noise band identification; high-frequency extension; left/right balance; bass extension; and loudness change. This level took me about 45 minutes.
Rowan Williams told me I would probably breeze through the first two levels, but things would start to get tough in the Silver level. THe first two tests in the Timbre category were pretty simple: spectral balance and treble amplitude. The third test was Details and asked me to identify MP3 artifacts. I've often commented that 320kbs MP3s are very good and it's hard to tell the difference between it and 44.1/16 files. Well, let's just say I got totally stuck at this point in the test. I had been using the Ayre Acoustic QB-9 DAC, AURALiC TAURUS MKII amp with my Focal Spirit Professional, so I got out my HD 800, Audeze LCD-X, and NAD VISO HP50.
Maybe I'd just been at it too long this morning, but I gave up. I'll have to give it another go tomorrow...but I'm gonna do it. You know why? Because it's never too late to improve ones listening skills!
I encourage you to do the same. Go to the Philips Golden Ear Training site to brush up your listening skills. It really is easy and fun...until it gets tough and frustrating. And that's the point where you really start to improve your listening skills. Enjoy!!!