Philips: Golden Ears Training
A few months ago when Mike and I were at the Philips Research Lab in Belgium together with Tyll and Jude, Philips showed us their internal “Golden Ears” testing tool/program. I remember us all being very enthusiast about it, recommending them to make it available to the big public. And guess what? They did!
“We know that we are not alone in this obsession with sound, which is why we are inviting you to take our Golden Ears challenge”.
The Golden Ears website has been online for a few months now even though Philips hasn’t really been marketing it. That shows when you look at the number of finished tests on the website but I’m sure these numbers will increase quickly. So what is it exactly?
The golden Ears training program was designed to develop the listening skills of their audio engineers. Their expertise guarantees the creation of products of superior sound quality that highlight every musical detail. Graduates of the program can reliably detect subtle differences in sound based on 5 key attributes:
Timbre: Differences in tone or the frequency of content of music
Details: The lack of treble, distortion, or noise that can mask the fine details
Spatial Impression: The depth and spaciousness of the sound field
Bass: The quality of low frequencies
Loudness: The perception of sound power, from quiet to loud
This online training program contains elements of their internal program we tried at their facility. To be fair, I do think their internal program is harder to complete than this online training program, but that seems only normal. This online version has four big levels, with short challenges in each of the above mentioned categories: Basic Level – Bronze Ears – Silver Ears – Golden Ears
The thing I really liked about the training is that you get to experience a lot of the terms we use to describe sound in our reviews. In example, if you sometimes wonder what a small sound stage or treble cut off sounds like, this is the place to learn.
How long you will take to work your way to the end of the Golden Ears status is hard to predict but with an above average experience in sound like most of our readers have and a good dac/amp/headphone setup, you will (hopefully) go through it fairly quick. Don’t be mistaken however, there are some hard challenges in the Golden part for sure, especially the Timbre section.
Of course you have to start with the Basic level before you can go to the next level but you can do Loudness first and then go to Timbre and mix things up. If you answer any question incorrectly, you will need to go back one step. For your reference, there are 7 chapters in Basic Level; 6 chapters in Bronze Ears; 7 chapters in Silver Ears; 6 chapters and a quiz in the ultimate level – Golden Ears. After you’ve created a log in, the site will remember where exactly you were in the training so you can come back at any given time and continue where you quit. After completing a level you can share that with your friends on the social media. Who wouldn’t want to show off his Golden Ears status with his (audiophile) friends? My non audio friends of course now think of me as an even bigger freak , but what do they know, right?
I sincerely had fun doing all the tests using 2 different setups depending on my location: Cypher Labs Theorem DAC + Beyerdynamic A20 + Sennheiser HD650 and Meier Audio Corda Classic + Daccord + Hifiman HE-500. Philips recommends using the best headphones/setup you have available to complete the program.
You can go have a look at, or even better, participate in the training program right here:
Let us know if you have made it to the end and what you considered the hardest test was. To me the Timbre section in Gold was very tough. I hope you have as much fun as I had. Thank you Philips for making this available to the big crowd, for free! (A mobile version of the site is coming soon)