I would say read these forums, dig deep, search and find instead of repeated time and time again topics, people are so lazy these days it is scary.
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I'm hardly one that should be answering this post since I'm a beginner myself, maybe advanced beginner. But, here are some tips I would recommend:
1) Remember that your room is part of your system.
2) Experiment with speaker placement. Half the problems in audio are proper speaker placement and the room. Moving your speakers will help you understand your room better and also make you a better listener. You don't always need to audition or buy lots of equipment to develop a critical ear. Small changes in speaker placement can dramatically effect the sound; learning how to hear those things will help you with the room and analytical listening.
3)Read alot. Both professional literature and the forums. Most importantly, don't believe everything you read.
4) Listen to lots of different music for critical listening. Don't just play a couple of reference recordings. Play as many as you can. Genreally, the component that can show the most differences between different recordings will be the most accurate and the most enjoyable. This will also help you understand your room, speaker placement and become a better listener.
5) Listen to lots of music and have fun. That's why you got into audio in the first place--the music.
Those would be my beginner tips.
Hartwerger: For a beginner I'm impressed. Maybe it takes time for people to put what you have as number 1 to number 10. But your first two things are the most important. Unfortunately, many people spend huge dollars on equipment and ignore number 1: the Room. 50% of the sound is indirect, thus coming from the room. The speakers and the room form a tuned circuit, so both placement and room acoustics are critical to good sound. Obviously, we at Rives Audio have a strong bias here--it is what we do, but I do firmly believe it should be the #1 item on the list.
Here is a link to a great primer on room acoustics.
Rives Audio Listening Room 101
Another thing, observe what is in your room. Are there alot of things that will resonate and reflect and create multiple sound waves going all over the place. I found for myself it's best to make the room quiet use furniture that will obsorb sound waves rather than reflect them. I installed on my side wall acoustical ceiling tiles covered by fabric for visual effects to dampen the sound waves. My other side wall has records for sound obsorption. The wall behind the listener has books for the same reason. The ceiling has cotton batting for the same reason. The floor will be getting futons to keep the floor from resonating. My speakers have been suspended from the ceiling, speakers being mounted in a frame with large lumber attached to it to help the bass be sensed or heard. It's totally incredible, I never thought I would have a system this good. I have been to showrooms in n.y.c. and the only thing that whips my system are the mbl's at 100,000 or so. Well there are a few others but they cost alot more than mine.