Improving your critical listening skills is what allows you to make Audio Progress.
Better quality audio allows you to collect better sounding records.
Since we play all kinds of records all day, practically every day, as part of our regular shootout regimen, tweaking and tuning are much easier for us to do than they would be for most audiophiles. As I have told many in this hobby over the years, if you don’t do the work, the only person who doesn’t get to hear better sound is you. I can come home to my good sounding stereo — I’ve put in the work — but you’re stuck listening to all the problems you haven’t solved, right?
There’s no problem with an untweaked stereo or an untreated room as long as you don’t mind mediocre sound. If you actually want good sound, you have to learn how to tweak your stereo and you have to learn how to treat your room. Neither one can be ignored. You have to learn how to do both.
And doing both is what teaches you how to listen, which is a skill that’s very hard to acquire any other way. This explains why so many audiophiles have such poor listening skills. They simply never developed them because they never needed them. Think about it: Listening to music for enjoyment requires the exercise of no skills whatsoever.
Such is obviously not the case with tweaking. Tweaking your system requires that you listen carefully and critically in order to make the fine judgments that are essential to making progress. Progress in audio from tweaking often occurs in small, almost imperceptible increments.
Being so subtle, these changes force you as a listener to concentrate, to focus your attention, to bring to bear all your critical listening skills.
Naturally, these skills, like any skills, having been exercised, start to improve, and continue to improve as you continue to exercise them.
Going About It
Everybody knows that practicing and challenging yourself will make you better at whatever you are trying to do. But where have you ever seen those concepts applied to bettering your own audio skills (other than on this web site)? Just how would you go about challenging yourself as an audiophile?
Tweaking and experimenting with room treatments is one sure way.
Playing ten copies of the same album back to back and making notes about the sound of each side is another.
Adjusting the turntable sixty six different ways and seeing what the effect is on scores of different records works too.
All these things taught me a lot.
No amount of reading or advice was remotely as helpful as just getting down and messing around with anything and everything in my listening room.
As Van Morrison said: “No guru, no method, no teacher.”