In pursuit of the golden ear.

Just how do you train yourself to attain that golden ear? How do you tell if the highs are extended, mids are warm, base with authority, musical, colorations, etc, etc? In order for you to make a judgment call, you must have a base to compare to. Logic tells me that best gauge to use is live music, vocals or instruments. But I believe that most of us are not train musicians nor do we have time to attend concert halls. Whatever bases we have comes typically from our audio equipment evolutio or from other folks' setup.

Please enlighten me on your golden ear secrets; I would like to move up from my copper ear to that elusive golden ear. Thanks.
Well you have to take it in stages, you'll need to move up to silver ears first, then golden ears. :)

I don't look at it as golden ears so much as simply experience. There is no substitute for experience. Whether listening live, or to many different pieces of equipment. It just comes down to listening, pure and simple. Listen carefully, not critically, make sure you enjoy the music.
The real answer is just years of experience.
There are no secrets to replace 20-40 or more years of experience in this hobby. Sure, you could take a crash course and listen to 5 (or more) preamps (or whatever) a year for 10 years to hasten the learning curve.

In the end it simply boils down to experience, as this journey is a constant learning process. Those you refer to as 'golden ears', probably have just heard many more pieces of equipment than you have. So get out there and start experiencing it for yourself.

And remember, your own ears are your best resource. Not even the highest rated alledged 'golden ear' can tell you what sounds good to you. After much experience, you'll better understand your tastes and what you like. That's all that really matters, isn't it?

I don't really think of it as having a "Golden Ear." About two years ago my system, which I got in 1987, became less and less satisfying. I started a search for a system that "scratched my itch." Some of the first systems I listened to seemed dull and lifeless. Another system I listened to at a high end place in New York City had components in which the highs seemed somewhat strident and the lows were almost absent. I went to second place. They had a system that seemed the fulfillment of all my fantasies. From top to bottom the sound was there. Transients were crisp. The overall impression was of almost being there at the performance. (I say almost, because there is no system that can completely capture everything in a live orchestral performance). After listening to several CDs, my overall impression was that everything sounded "natural."

About a year ago I came across the question, "What is the best indicator of a great high end system?" The response: "There is lots of air around the performers and instruments."

From my experience, I would say forget about the "highs" and "lows." I would use the following tests: 1) Does the music sound natural? 2) Does the music sound alive? 3) Is there plenty of air around the performers? 4) Is there is sense of a wide and deep soundstage before you? (Not appropriate question if your're listening to soloists or a small ensemble) 5) As you listen, do you feel you are in audio Nirvana? If you can say "yes" a lot, then you are in the right neighborhood.
Get yourself a good piano or a guitar. Learn to play it. Also place it in a controlled enviroment like they would in a studio. If you know the instrument then you can ceratainly judge recordings and gear accordingly. That is how I do it... I play piano and guitar and know both instruments inside-out. I can immediatly tell you if there is the slightest flutter on i.e. a piano recording...

You have to know live music to judge equipment and albums...

Best of luck,
Dewald Visser
perception is reality. if an "expert" tells you the highs are extended, the bass is deep, the soundstage is wide, etc., he/she doesn't accompany you home when you listen to your stereo system. it is more important what you believe you hear than what an "expert" tells you he hears or what you should hear.

just enjoy the music.
Just as long as your ear isn't tin, you should be okay.

I used to ponder the same question.

It all boils down to what audio equipment you've heard, and your ability to accurately analyze what you're hearing.

This evelution can be a doubled edge sword.

For example, there have been many times when I felt my system sounded as good as it possibly could.

Then I acquire a new piece of equipment that ellevates things to a whole new level and I couldn't immagine listening ever again without that piece equipment.

It's very difficult to know what your missing and the weaknesses in your system until you hear something better.

Hence the double edge sword because this can get quite expensive.

Once you go down this road, having a fair amount of disposable income would problably help the situation.

It seams many audiophiles become bitter or go into denial, when they figure out just how much it usually takes to achieve the higher levels of audio playback available today.

Unfortunately, spending a tone of money doesn't alway get you there.

One recent example I experienced was with my headphones.

I had been using Sennheiser 650s which I thought sounded about as good as any headphone possibly could, and I really enjoyed listening to them.

Then along comes the new AKG 701s, which everyone is proclaiming as the new BEST headphone. So I get a pair and low and behold, they were right.

The 701s blow the 650s away in every catagory. After listening to the 701s I can't understand how I could have ever tolerated the 650s, they just sound terrible compaired to the 701s.

If you haven't had this kind of experience yet, once you do, you'll fully understand to answer to your question.
first of all you have to have a collection of very good recorded medias.
if it's not recorded good than don't listen even if ya realy like it...
Thanks for all the comments, there's alot of good practical suggestions here to apply and ponder on.
Listen. Really, really, just listen.