Golden Ears

Total Recording

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  Review of Golden Ears Volumes 1 & 2 in RECORDING Magazine 1994

  By Lorenz Rychner, courtesy of RECORDING Magazine:

Here's this writer's bold end-of-year statement: The 'Golden Ears' CDs belong on the wishlist of each and every reader of H&SR. I'm not saying this because Dave Moulton, the guy who's behind them, is a frequent writer for this magazine, nor because I hope to get a free copy for myself... Seriously, these  CDs are like Cramolin and duct tape - once you discover them, life in the studio and on stage isn't imaginable without them.

Regular readers know Dave Moulton as the guy who writes these incredibly deep articles on matters of sound and hearing, and on techniques that deal with the trickier things in audio life. His subjects always assume good and  knowledgeable hearing - unspoilt ears that work in tandem with good sound  memory. But how do you train your ears to that level of finesse to improve your  recording prowess, never mind to get the most from his articles?

Being  a pro engineer and producer, as well as a teacher of countless successful audio professionals (in fact, he was Chairman of the Music Production and Engineering  Dept. at Berklee College of Music and a professor at several other colleges),  Dave knows how to shortcut the learning process: by presenting real-life  examples of audio manipulations, in listening drills where you can test  yourself. And just as the Golden Gate Bridge is continuously being painted, you'll keep coming back to the CDs to keep your gilded ears in top  condition.

The  accompanying manual guides you through the preparations - calibration of  playback levels and a check of the frequency response of your system. These are  at the end of each CD, so you don't have to go through them every time. It also contains step-by-step instructions for the program, as well as a variety of supplemental material that makes worthwhile reading.

The  first two CDs (Vol. 1, CD 1&2) each have a series of 14 EQ drills, each drill consisting of ten short bursts of sound with EQ applied and cancelled as you listen. Dave gives you a warm-up for each drill, where he tells you what he  plays. Then comes the drill - if you're the sporting kind, you'll fill in your own test paper before checking the results on the supplied answer sheets. If you're in a hurry, or if you want to do a refresher course, Dave promises he won't send you to the principal's office if you peek at the solutions while you  listen.

So what are these EQ drills? For example, drill set 1/example 1 has ten seconds of  pink noise, and for a few seconds an octave band centered around 500Hz is  boosted by 12dB. Example 2 does the same thing to an octave centered around  63Hz. And so on, introducing the octaves of the human audio range from 31Hz to  16KHz in manageable ranges, until you've worked up to drills of all ten octaves in random order.

After  the pink noise drills Dave introduces the same applications of EQ done to musical excerpts, tracks from name artists like Don Grusin, Tom Coster, Alex Acuña, Kevyn Lettau, and others. Then he does the same thing with the octaves being cut instead of boosted. Now there's a challenge, believe me!

Vol. 2 also has two CDs, this time with all manner of signal processing applied to a  vast number of musical selections and styles. You can test and improve your  perception of things like amplitude changes, distortion, compression (including  recognizing slow and quick release times), some different examples of EQ,  stereo/mono/pseudo mono switching, time delays (including time differences over  a 1 - 50mS range), and reverbs.

Some are simple and subtle, like a 3dB amplitude boost during playback. Others are  like sledge hammers - clipping distortion, stereo-to-mono collapses, etc. Most are in between, and often downright tricky, like "left channel mids (1KHz)  boosted by 6dB while right channel highs (10KHz) cut by 6dB." All the exercises are designed to train you to hear what is going on in recordings, and to recognize problems in all these areas before, say, you run off 1000 bad  CDs.

By the time you master these two volumes, your hearing will have come an incredibly long way. But it's also possible to refine your ears to hear EQ cuts and boosts  within 1/3 octave ranges, and to hear multiple bands, and so on. Therefore, these are just the first of an anticipated series.

Anyway, you get the idea - the whole thing quickly becomes like a game (even though the training is quite serious and very important). I wouldn't be surprised if seconds during downtime and collaborators in home studios start  tossing their 'Trivial Pursuits™' in favor of 'Golden Ears', turning the drills  into a competition. Way cool, Dude, gotta have'em! <<END>>

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