Are you good enough?

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There's been a lot of debate as of late, stirred up by these posts, concerning our abilities to listen even if our hearing is compromised. My friend and high-end audio dealer, Galen Carol, sent me this great story about Paul Klipsch, the legendary loudspeaker designer of the Klipschorn speaker. "Great point about one not needing perfect ears to "hear" well. I often have older customers tell me they wouldn't be able to appreciate the quality of high-end audiobecause their high frequency hearing is diminished. WRONG! To illustrate the point I recount an experience I had early on in my audio career. At 18, and just out of high school, I went to work at the local high-end shop (we didn't use that term then, but we handled McIntosh, Klipsch, Marantz, etc., so I guess we'd fit that description today). The owner was a good friend of Paul Klipsch and Paul would visit the shop from time to time. Mr. Klipsch was a pilot and owned his owned a small private plane. Instead of headphones to listen to the radio he used the midrange horn (or, squawker as he called it) out of his Klipschorn. I can imagine how loud that must have been to hear the radio over the engine noise! Paul had zip for high frequency hearing. On one visit, Paul, and the rest of the crew at the shop were chatting and enjoying some tunes when Paul lept out of his chair shouting "Did you hear that? Play that part again!" We cued the cartridge back a bit and replayed the section, again with Paul exclaiming about what he'd heard - the rest of us struggling to perceive what he was hearing. After several plays I could pick up a small amount of distortion. Here I was with pristine 18 year old ears struggling to hear the minutia that an 68 year old man picked out in an instant. It was a great lesson and taught me me that "hearing" was more of a learned skill than an innate ability determined by physiological assets." Thanks for sharing Galen. As I have tried to make clear, it really isn't necessary to have anything close to perfect hearing to be a good listener.
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Paul McGowan

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