Trusting your senses

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Trust is a funny thing. We’d sooner trust a restaurant recommendation from a stranger or a Yelp review before a friend we suspect has an agenda—even if that person is a food expert.

Often, we have trouble trusting ourselves. “Did I make the right decision?” “Can I trust what I am hearing with this new piece of equipment?” “I thought I was right until I read a bad review”.

I often question the accuracy of what I hear or conclusions that I make and I can’t help feeling I am not alone in that insecurity.

What I have come to recognize over the years is our innate ability for accurately sussing out complex patterns in music with little or no effort or experience at the task. In fact, the harder I try to discern differences, the worse I am at it. Relaxing and trusting my senses makes it easier.

When I first started honing my listening skills I feared I wouldn’t be able to tell two units apart, yet the opposite happened. I often became overwhelmed—like when I first started comparing the sound of tubes and solid-state electronics. They were so far apart from each other that I had more trouble identifying similarities than differences, yet because I hadn’t developed an adequate vocabulary nor trusted my senses, I often just kept my thoughts to myself.

I see this same pattern in newcomers to high-end audio. Each conversation begins with a lack of trust in their hearing. “I am certain I can’t hear any differences, but I’ll give it a go.” Inevitably they turn out to be some of the best listeners.

It’s almost as if the more we do this the less we trust our senses—the same senses that worked so well in the beginning of our high-end journey.

For me, it’s a matter of relaxing: assuring myself I am a better listener through years of experience and earning the trust I know I should have but fear I do not.