In Whose Ears Do You Trust Most?

Ok, so I've been an audiophile for 30 years or so, I've heard a lot of equipment, and I think I can analyze sounds and express what I hear in words pretty well, but still, when it comes down to it, I don't feel 100% about what I think I'm hearing till my non-audiophile, equipment agnostic, music loving significant other tells me what she hears, how it compares, etc. I'm always a tiny bit afraid that I hear what I think I will hear (I think Roger Modjeski called it the Heathrow Effect) - don't know if you had that feeling. I trust her her naive, indifferent assesment of equipment to keep me honest. You?
I agonized for months with speaker placement. I was fortunate that a friend of mine actually knows a designer/manufacture and within ten minutes he moved my speakers about four inches further apart and flattened the toe in about 3/8" and the difference was stunning.

I've been buying gear since the mid sixties but it was obvious I was four inches from being an audiophile. I was advised that the key is to have heard a familiar piece of music through a properly set up system and memorizing some of the staging cues.

I only trust my own ears. After all, I'm the one that has to listen to the sound my equipment makes, however flawed or corrupted that sound may be. What good is it to have a system that creates a 'picture perfect' sound if you don't like that sound?

I used to have the same approach as yourself but since a year or so I have changed. Now I have learnt to be as direct and merciless as my wife when critiquing my system. If there is one bit I don't like about my system I tell that to my AV consultant straight away. I don't get wowed by name or think I would come to like it over time etc etc.
Luckily my consultant is competent and is always able to deliver the sound I like just by tweaking the system.

Music to me is an affair of heart so if you don't like the sound of your system why bother having one in the first place :-)

you make a very good point I feel. I've been in this hobby even longer than you and I still feel the same as you describe it. My better half plays the violin, I the piano, we have musician friends and other afficionados. When I try out something new I call the "committee", as Mr. T has called it, for lenghty sessions full of lively discussions. Of course I tend to trust my own ears most, but now and again committee or better half will leave me convinced, that in first exitement about something my ears had lead me astray. In our hobby it is as with all things human, if you get too emotional about something, be it positive or negative, it is good to listen to others, who are not in the same state of arousal as you are and try to let sink in what they have to say. It is wisdom, but it ain't always easy to adhere to.
A Merlin owner who doesn't trust his ears?Whats the planet Earth coming to?Chocolate grasshoppers? 9 year old Olympic athletes?20M$ space rides?Whatever happened to the good old bad days fill in the blank...I need to know more about this Heathrow Effect you mention,excuse me,or as Mozart would say"I'll be Bach".....
We all seek validation it is a human trait. You could have the best sounding system in the world until one day someone tells you it sounds like crap, then you start second guessing your own ears until the next person validates your opinion.

It is like your wife asking if her ass looks fat in her new jeans, all she is looking for is validation and sometimes we tell a white lie to save her feelings. Trust your own ears, because your opinion is the only one that matters.
I trust my ears, but only to a point. We all must trust our own ears, yet it is far too easy to lose objectivity¬ówe need external validation from other disinterested ears, and from empirical measurements. Both are important to confirm or disconfirm what we believe we are hearing, and to help us learn the connections between what we hear, what we think, how other perceive it, and how it all correlates with the measurements.
Good thread! I often wondered if my approach was on the right track and not having anyone to critique my system one way or the other. My partner in a new business venture is actually a professional touring musician with the folk group
The Limeliters. We played their new CD on my system and he had the most uncanny response. He said he felt he was both on stage and in the audience at the same time. He thought the sound was the same as the recording session only better. It sured eased my mind!

I run all my changes by my wife for many reasons. I value and want her opinion ( by me constantly doing this she has seen that she is able to evaluate sound very well and now trusts herself!) Keeping her involved make it easier when I purchase more equipment( I just bought a CD3-MK2 at first she asked me why then when I played "The Rene Miller Band" CD she turned and said it sounded like we were back on the bridge in Paris where we listened to them playing live and bought the CD, then commented how much better this player was and why!!
She keep me honest, she can be merciless as she has no emotional investment.
My friends tend to be PC to not hurt my feelings or perhaps they don't trust themselves completely, offend my hearing or my equipment changes. All I want is a critique!!!
In the end Brf is correct but it's fun to learn how others perceive sound and what they listen to/for etc.....
"She keeps me honest, she can be merciless as she has no emotional investment." Precisely.

As for the Merlins, nothing has lead me to stray from them. Another solution for me has been to use two sets of electronics,Music Reference and Atma-sphere, as they sound different, yet both sound "right" (I know, not logical), and I can't pick one over the other. Though the significant other is very unhappy with the idea that I might ever switch the Atma-sphere.
I trust my ears, but only to a point. We all must trust our own ears, yet it is far too easy to lose objectivity¬ówe need external validation from other disinterested ears, and from empirical measurements.

Well said. Although, I find that disinterested ears don't notice things easily. For example, we were getting out of the car and heading to the wedding reception for a friend. I said to the wife, "how nice they have hired musicians to play at the reception". Since we were in the street, there was no visual way to know that there was live music versus recorded music from inside the recpetion. My wife could not tell from listening and she was curious how I could be sure of myself. I think you can learn these things just as sound engineers are trained - but disinterested ears are very likely to be untrained as these folks just don't bother to listen critically.
Yes, good point Shadorne. I should clarify "disinterested" as someone who has enough experience to make sound judgments, but with no vested interest in a particular system, and therefore able to be more objective in the evaluation.
anyone who grew up in the golden age of "mid-fi" should be pretty capable, providing they listen to a broad range of music (as in "beyond rock and roll") to understand what "balanced sound" is. whether it was JBL century speakers or Advents (for me it was ADS-L810's), a decent turntable and a receiver that didn't "feel cheap" (as in the "knobs") could take on steely dan AND jazz AND some classical as well. IMHO, the "Eventual Goal" early on was to get speakers that could "go down to 20" (20Hz). that meant going from bookshelfs to floorstanders. well Then you needed more watts, so eventually the music would be better served with an integrated amplifier. the next step up would be a high-current power amp with a preamp that wasn't just alot of knobs, although that would be tempting. anyway, at this point you would probably have taken up some considerable room in the house between your loudspeakers and your components. along comes monster cable and tells you that all those "Free Cables" you're using are terrible. OK, but then which monsters do you get- the $50 ones or the $200 "pretty" ones?
OMG! before you know it you're spending several hundred bucks and you don't really care if it makes a difference or not- if the packaging tells you about the sonic loss from cheap interconnects and speaker cables, and you can see how much nicer the pricey cables look, then that's all that matters. THEN along comes digital and completely confuses the issue of "good sound" with "cleaner sound". but you don't have any choice anyway, because all the newer stuff you want to add to your collection is going to be on cd's.
and so on and so forth, progressing to hdcd and finally sacd. but IF you go back to the primordial beginnings with the LP and FM radio, i think things sounded very very good back then. there was no discussion over soundstaging, but the rolling stones, mantovani, mancini, brubeck, and the philadelphia orchestra, all sounded pretty decent with the available technology. so if you even have to ask in 2008 if you "know" what sounds good or not, maybe you spent too much money and have to beat yourself up over it! i have spent WAY, WAY too much money on audio, but it STILL possesses that fundamental balance between bass, mids, and highs. only now i can hear really deeply into good recordings. and ALSO, thank goodness, i can still enjoy a really inspired performance of mozart on a cd that doen't sound all that great. that goes for alot of jazz that pat barber just wasn't born yet to play on. BUT as for rock and roll, i have to admit i play it in the bedroom through a nice pair of JBL's. the last time i listened to a re-mastered cd of CSN&Y on the big stereo i could not believe how sloppy and disjointed it sounded, with musicians coming in at the wrong time, either too loud or too soft, miked differently or sounding artificial, etc. same thing happened with my copy of JA's Surrealistic Pillow. or J.Taylor's S.B.James! this is the LAST thing i need to hear from groups that sits in my personal R&R hall of fame. i never heard all that crap back in the 60's and the 70's, at home or in the car (that's right, in the car!). oh my poor poor ears! now i can hear so good, and i'm such an "expert", i'm talking like those idiots that write for the "absolute sound". oh no, there's no going back now! there is only one cure- talk radio. ON AM. a good debate with 20% THD about who's sleeping with who. only THAT will cleanse your soul... that and a battery powered transistor radio (with an earphone for private listenting). ah, now i can relax again...!
you 'nailed it' french fries.
French fries, you reminded me of how little I thought about equipment, sound quality and simply enjoyed music with my KLH Model Twenty back in the day. Though I did what an auiophile was back then, I did imagine I had reach audio nirvana and would never "need" anything else.
I trust my own and completely dis-trust anyone with the title "salesman".
Bravo FF!Encore!
My own.

I think no matter how much convincingly you say 'my system' is perfect, but in your heart of hearts you always know where and how big or little faults are (as compared to live music)after you have acquired extesive experience.
There always will be.

French_fries, I was driven to tears on a regular basis while listening to my old Yamaha DSP system hooked up to Cervin Vega AT-15's (early 90'S)
I trust my body, not just my ears. If the feet are tapping, butt is shaking, and head is bobbing all is well. My ears alone are susceptible to sound effects and all sorts of musically irrelevant stuff that never fool the rest of me.
The music travels from YOUR EARS through a passage called
emotion to a place in your heart.
Trust your own ears to get you to that place
Thinking about this a bit more, I don't tend to doubt what I am hearing (for the most part) and describing it. I think I'm pretty good at that (my weakness is tweaks where for the most part I can't hear any differences). I feel less comfortable with the issue of proclaiming one piece of gear as "better" than another, assuming equipment of similar "quality" - I'm not talking about gross differences between mediocre and excellent gear. But when comparing the good stuff, I can hear differences, but find it hard to say which is better, as it always seems to be tradeoffs in one area of perfomance or another - and in no case does reproduce music sound like live, unamplified music - not very close IMHO. When asked to compare, I feel most comfortable saying two pieces of equipment (Music Reference versus Atma-sphere for example) are both very good, portray music differently and it is a matter of taste. I ask for other opinions of "disinterested" folks that know and love music since I feel I get a less analytical assessment (my own) and a more unbiased, natural reaction to the musical event coming through the gear.
Goldeneraguy- you nailed it, buddy. I listen not very analytically, but more holistically. It has to keep me interested. It has to move me. But it is very helpful to have someone with good analytical listening skills for something like speaker or TT set-up which is a different thing, IMO. And Shadorne- same thing happened to me at an outdoor cocktail party last year. We pulled up and I said to my wife, "Oh neat, they've hired live music." A jazz guitarist. My wife was stunned that I could tell (and of course did not believe me til she got out back and saw him).
Swampwalker ,You could listen analytically,holistically,upside down or inside out,you have ONE GREAT SYSTEM.I wish my ears were listening to it.
Thanks for the kind words. Now if someone could only figure out how to get my TT to track the new Norah Jones 180 gm Live in Austin Tx. I know she takes a beating here sometimes, but I am a big fan. Anyone that can integrate jazz, blues and country and sings duets with Dolly Parton is my kinda gal. And her band, IMO, is outstanding as well.