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If you want to become a better sound engineer, ear training is a must.
But for the most part, engineers have been reliant on written resources as well as old school cassette tapes and CDs to get the training they needed, especially as applied to equalizers and frequencies.
That is until now. Because today, you can take advantage of tools like Train Your Ears to learn faster without all the hassle of relying on inconvenient and old media.
In this hands-on review, we look at Train Your Ears EQ Edition and consider whether it’s the ideal tool for training your ears.
What Is Train Your Ears?
Train Your Ears (or TrainYourEars) EQ Edition is an ear training application. It’s been designed to work on Mac and PC and offers training on equalizers and frequencies for sound engineers and virtually anyone who wants to better understand how EQ and frequencies work.
Within the application, you will be exposed to a variety of random EQ settings. You are then prompted to guess (“Guess Method”) what they are. If you get the answer wrong, Train Your Ears lets you know how much you were off by, and what the correct answer was.
The 2.0 version (the latest version) involves making corrections while you hear the result, instead of merely guessing (“Correct Method”).
Within Train Your ears, you will find quizzes that use bot the Guess and Correct methods.
Similar resources have been available for decades. But most teaching methods utilized cassette tapes and CDs. Now a simple desktop app takes their place, and it’s available in the form of Train Your Ears.
Although there are many techniques and methods to learn as a sound engineer, if you know how to EQ, it could be said that you have the keys to the kingdom. After all, if you know the ins and outs of frequencies, you can get every track sitting in its proper place in the mix. And you can even bring the best out of every voice and instrument.
The value proposition is obvious.
How Much Does Train Your Ears Cost?
Train Your Ears costs 49€. That’s roughly equal to $59.57 USD (as of this writing).
The Train Your Ears Experience – What To Expect
This is a hand-on review, so I basically went into this completely blind.
That way, the experience I document will be more authentic to the experience you’ll have if you purchase, download, and install Train Your Ears EQ Edition on your own machine.
Here’s what my experience was like using the program for the first time.
Download & Installation
Downloading and installing the software was quick and easy to do, and it only took a couple of minutes.
On the menu screen, you are given three options:
- Play some music
- Choose an exercise
- And start the training!
Naturally, we will be getting into each, but without any prior knowledge as to how this program works, it’s kind of mysterious.
Clicking on “play some music” brings you to the audio player. The audio player prompts you to drag and drop files or folders into the software. So, I did exactly that. And the audio player worked as expected. You can play, pause, stop, skip, or mute tracks.
I did a little digging, just to be sure I knew what was going on here, and I confirmed that this is here so that you can load in music to be used with the quizzes/training.
From the side bar, in addition to the audio player, I could also choose the noise player and live player. So, I started with the noise player.
Here, you can play pink noise and white noise, which you can also use as the sound source for the quizzes. Depending on the quiz, it’s best to start with noise as opposed to music.
The live player is a live input to route whatever sound source you want. Per Train Your Ears, this is for training with your iPod, radio, instrument, iTunes, Spotify, or otherwise. Microphones can be used too.
This is a rather convenient function, since you don’t need music stored on your hard drive to be able to use the program.
From general options, you can adjust your sound card settings, language, toggle waveforms, choose your keyboard shortcuts, choose how your total score is calculated (in quizzes), and VST/AU plugins (you can route the signal through any plugin).
From here, you can edit exercises and reset quizzes as well as your score.
The final option in the sidebar is to start your training. Clicking on the green button starts the quiz. Of course, you’ll want to choose a sound source first (using the audio, noise, or live player).
One of the easiest ways to get started is to load in some of your own music into audio player and toggle the “jump to a random song/time each time you start a new quiz” option. Then, simply hit “Start training!” and you can begin learning. Train Your Ears will randomly pick a song for each quiz.
This is the part of the experience that probably matters most.
With the “basic boost and cut with band filter” exercise, it’s simply a matter of guessing which frequencies have been boosted or cut. And the more you do it, the better you get at it.
Train Your Ears is great in that you can hear the original, the effected version (for which you are to provide an answer), and your answer (if different from the real answer). So, you can toggle between each, and easily hear where you went wrong (or where you went right).
I share a little bit more about each exercise available in the section that follows, but suffice it to say, I like how simple and fun each exercise is. While it’s never fun to get the answer wrong, it does help you learn quickly, and that’s what it’s all about.
Getting started with Train Your Ears is fast and easy.
But if you’re new to it, we can’t recommend getting started without watching the introductory video on the website. Because while it should be obvious as to how to use the software, I was honestly scratching my head when I first started diving into it.
The various players make it easy for you to play audio (or noise) from any source, so you can easily use whatever tracks you want for the training.
The quizzes are relatively easy to get into, and if you’re at least somewhat familiar with faders and filters, you should be able to get up and running quickly and easily.
How Much Training Is Available?
The following exercises/quizzes come with the software:
- Basic boost and cut with band filter (Guess). Train Your Ears applies a random band filter with a boost or cut at some frequency. It’s your job to guess which frequency.
- Basic boost and cut with band filter (Correct). Like the last exercise, except your job is to modify the EQ to make the audio source sound like the original.
- Learn octaves with a band pass filter. A quiz designed to help you identify what type of sound each instrument has in each octave.
- Find the opposite high and low shelf filter. Train Your Ears applies a high and low shelf filter to the signal. It’s your job to find the filters so that you can restore the audio to its original form.
- Live feedback simulation. This is a great one for live sound engineers. It’s your job to cut the frequencies that are feeding back as soon as possible.
- Narrow vs wide Q factors. Guess how many frequencies are being boosted around the center frequency.
- More Q factors (boost and cuts in Correct mode). Switch between the Q factors until the audio source sounds like the original.
- Find 2 bands in a 7 frequencies equalizer. Correct the two frequencies Train Your Ears changed.
- Low cut vs low shelf. Learn the difference between a low cut and low shelf filter.
- High cut vs high shelf. Learn the difference between a high cut and high shelf filter.
- Resonant high and low cut filters (like in synths). Guess the frequency of both filters as well as its Q factor.
- 4 bands graphic equalizer emulator. Find the opposite of each band.
- 7 bands graphic equalizer emulator. Find the opposite of each band.
That said, it is possible to modify existing exercises and even create your own (you can tweak frequencies, gains, Q factors, filter types, bands, and more).
Train Your Ears User Experience, Interface & Usability
When it comes to software, user experience, interface, and usability all affect your overall experience.
In this section, we look at several of these elements in more depth and consider them critically.
I’m a bit of a designer myself, so you could say that I’ve got an eye for design.
Train Your Ears has obviously been built with flat UI/flat design protocols. And it looks good.
Now, flat was all the rage about eight years ago, and it isn’t exactly anything new. We’ve certainly seen some new design trends emerge since.
That said, we like what Train Your Ears has done with it. And it lends well to a clean, simple, easy to use interface.
The Train Your Ears software crashed at least three times while I was using it, and I hadn’t done anything crazy or unusual to trigger the crashes. I wasn’t it using it for a long period of time either.
So, the software’s stability must be called into question. It’s not that it doesn’t work. Most of the time, it works as expected. But something as simple as navigating away from the program and then returning to it or clicking the “reset quiz” button seems to make it crash.
We can’t give Train Your Ears full marks in this category unless they correct this issue.
The navigation is where Train Your Ears excels. It’s clear and easy to understand, and there aren’t too many options to chose from on any screen. Clutter is minimal. Most things are clearly marked too.
We thought the “Jump to a random song/time each time you start a new quiz” option should be marked more clearly, as it’s a solid go-to option if you’re planning to use the audio player. I imagine the live player would be the preferred choice for many users though.
The quizzes take a little bit of getting used to, as suggested in an earlier section. Once you know how it works, you’ll be good to go, but it may take a couple of tries, a tutorial, or the introductory video to figure out how it works.
Train Your Ears Review, The Verdict
Train Your Ears is a great application for training your ears and getting better acquainted with equalizers and frequencies. Using their software, you should be able to pick up essential skills much faster. And if you can figure out how EQ works, you’ll be able to deal with live feedback situations, get your tracks sitting in your mix how you want them to, achieve the desired result with your masters, and more.
The outcomes you achieve will largely depend on how much time you spend on your training. So, don’t expect to get better at identifying frequencies without putting in the practice. You still need to do the work! That said, training with Train Your Ears is still miles ahead of cassette tapes and CD training.
The software features a modern, flat design that both looks good and is easy to use. Flat design is easy to do wrong, so Train Your Ears is worthy of some recognition here.
That said, Train Your Ears isn’t perfect. The navigation is good, but some of the options should be more obvious or visible. Further, the software seems to crash often without much prompting. We assume this is because it utilizes audio files (or routed audio signals), but this is something that needs to be tackled in future bug fixes.
The software in it's simplest form is an audio player with quiz and exercise functionality. So, is worth the 49€ price tag? Well it depends if you have a need for this functionality – if so then it's not too costly.
Train Your Ears may be a category creator of sorts, but there are other players in the category – something we will look at in a future guide. Altogether, Train Your Ears is a great tool for training in EQ and frequencies. It’s not without its flaws, but overall, it’s a simple, easy-to-use program with significant benefits.