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Ear training software is a relatively new development. Until recently, you had to purchase or borrow cassette tape and CD based programs that were kind of clunky and hard to use. Now we have apps that help you accomplish more in considerably less time!
Whether you’re a sound engineer or music producer, there’s great value in developing your ear to the point of achieving desired results in the studio faster and with more ease.
Train Your Ears and Soundgym are the main players in this category, and they’ve both got a lot to offer. In this guide, we compare the two and offer our thoughts on each.
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Train Your Ears vs. Soundgym Overview
Train Your Ears and Soundgym are ear training programs that have been developed with sound engineers and music producers in mind.
Improving your ear allows you to get the results you want with your mixing and mastering efforts faster. Whether it’s recognizing frequencies or learning how filters work, your workflow and efficiency is sure to improve with a better ear.
From frequency recognition to identifying the settings used with a specific effect like compression, if you can hear what’s going on, you can duplicate results you hear in your favorite tracks with greater ease.
Train Your Ears is a downloadable app that you can keep on your hard drive and access whenever you want.
Soundgym has been built on a highly stylized online platform so you can access it anywhere assuming you have an internet connection.
Both programs can help you improve your ear. But only one can come out on top in this hands-on review.
Train Your Ears costs €49 (one-time payment). That comes out to about $59.39 depending on the strength of the US dollar.
Soundgym is free to use up to a point, but if you want to unlock PRO, you’ll want to purchase one of their plans:
- Monthly: $24.95
- Yearly: $9.90/month billed annually ($119 total)
- Lifetime: $395 (one-time payment)
It is difficult to compare the two platforms based on price alone, as they vary significantly in terms of functionality (more on this in a moment). But Train Your Ears is a little cheaper in the long run.
Here we will look at the overall experience offered by Train Your Ears and Soundgym.
These are the topics covered here:
- Getting started
- Exercises and games
- Additional functionality
Let’s get into it.
Both programs assume some working knowledge of sound engineering in general. Although the learning curve isn’t steep, it can take a little trial and error and experimentation to get used to either. And I am saying that as an experienced sound engineer.
Once installed on your hard drive, Train Your Ears prompts you to select music, choose an exercise, and start training. It looks simple enough on the surface.
Having said that, it’s not entirely clear that you basically need to choose your own music before getting started. Fortunately, you can access music on your hard drive or from another source like Spotify easily.
For some reason, as we pointed out in the Train Your Ears review, one of the most useful features (“Jump to a random song/time each time you start a new quiz”) is kind of obscured within the interface. We recommend checking this option if this is your first time using the software.
The training within Train Your Ears is relatively straightforward, but again takes a little getting used to.
Soundgym, by contrast, is all online. There are some introductory statements, but again they are a little insufficient. It will plunge you right into the training, which is not a problem, except that you don’t know how the interface is supposed to work yet.
You start to get a better sense of how everything works once you’ve done two or three exercises, though.
Both platforms make a commendable attempt at getting you started fast. That said, they both lack some direction early on and are just a tad technical, a problem that would be easily solved with a quick-start tutorial or video (even an introductory paragraph would help).
Still, they are both user friendly enough that you shouldn’t struggle for long.
Exercises & Games
Train Your Ears tends to require more user input. You must choose what music you’d like to do the exercises with, as well as which exercises, you’d like to engage in.
That said, this also allows for more customization, and there is even an exercise designer that allows you to create your own.
Soundgym doesn’t require much user input beyond choosing which training you’d like to take. And the first three exercises are initiated before you even reach the dashboard where you can start choosing your own direction.
Soundgym has clearly designed their exercises to be fun and interactive with, and their cartoony designs reflects this fact. They also have a little more variety in terms of training offered (we’ll talk more about this later).
Train Your Ears has plenty of documentation and additional content on their website, as well as support and links to their social profiles.
This is where Soundgym has a bit of a leg up, because inside, you also get access to the community. Soundgym has, in effect, built their own social network where you can interact and learn from other sound engineers and music producers.
- There are contests you can participate in on Soundgym
- Gamification is built into the platform (it keeps track of your rank, Soundcoins, and learning points)
- You can take advantage of the Ear Doctor to determine the highest frequency you can hear
Train Your Ears has 13 exercises overall. That said, you can also create your own within the limitations of the software (frequencies, gain, Q factors, and filter types).
Soundgym has 15 games you can engage in.
Both platforms offer similar exercises and there isn’t much of a difference in terms of how much training is offered either. The interface is the biggest difference overall.
But where Train Your Ears focuses primarily on EQ and filters, Soundgym has a little more variety in terms of training with games focused on compression, panning, delay, reverb, and so on.
The games and exercises are engaging and fun on either platform, but we do find Soundgym is a little more engaging overall.
Interface, Design & Usability
In this section, we’ll look at each app’s interface, design, and usability.
- Ease of use
Let’s dive in.
Train Your Ears has a relatively simple, but industrial feeling interface, almost like you’re working with professional software.
There are limitations as to what you can do within Train Your Ears and the exercises you can create, and it has been built on three core sections (select music, choose an exercise, start training). So, you should never get lost.
Soundgym’s interface is simple and easy to follow. Once inside the dashboard, you will see that there is considerably more to see and access. But it isn’t overwhelming, and it certainly isn’t industrial feeling.
There is the slim chance you’ll get lost inside Soundgym, but their interface is intuitive enough that you should be able to find your way around without much hassle.
Perhaps this was intentional, maybe it was by mistake, but both Train Your Ears and Soundgym utilize a flat vector/flat art design. If you need a point of reference, both Windows 8 and Windows 10, use flat in various aspects of their design.
Both platforms have done a good job of implementing this. It’s easy to make bad flat graphics, so credit must be given where it’s due.
But there is one platform that outshines the other, and that is Soundgym. Soundgym’s graphics are more detailed, feature more colors, and are more attractive overall.
Soundgym has integrated flat into their interface from top to bottom, and the results are artistic to say the least.
Ease Of Use
As noted, both platforms have some issues as far as getting you up and running.
Train Your Ears assumes some knowledge you may not have (though they do offer tutorials where you might get stuck), and Soundgym has you diving right in without much of a warning.
This is not unwelcome, by any means. But it seems some forethought could have gone into this, as in both cases it would be easily corrected.
Train Your Ears is a little harder to use overall, but it also offers more customization. And that could be a selling point depending on the type of learner you are. Being able to use your own music (tracks you are familiar with) can be a significant upside.
Soundgym is certainly easier to use. It doesn’t mean you’ll have it all figured out off the bat, but you should get a better feel for it after the initial exercises.
There isn’t much customization to speak of within Soundgym, but that can be time saving. You don’t need to select music, as it’s already done for you.
Stability with both platforms is a bit of an issue.
Our experience with Train Your Ears is that it crashes periodically. And sometimes the software won't even start when we go to initiate it.
Soundgym is impeccable for the most part, but the Ear Doctor feature didn't work properly for us.
Soundgym Vs Train Your Ears, The Verdict
If you’ve made it this far, then you probably have a good sense of which app we lean towards.
Having said that, let’s review the differences between Train Your Ears and Soundgym one last time.
First is price. The argument could be made that each program is in its own category. One works on your computer. The other online. That could certainly factor into price, and it could be a matter of preference for some users.
But overall, Train Your Ears is a little easier on the wallet, at least in the long run.
Second is experience. Train Your Ears basically works the way you want it to. You can choose your music (or noise), select which exercises you want to take, and even customize or create your own exercise.
As noted earlier, customization is something that will undoubtedly appeal to a certain type of user.
Soundgym isn’t customizable to the same degree, but it offers more games overall (out of the box), a community you can engage with, and a built-in gamification system.
There is no clear basis for comparison here.
And finally, we have interface. Train Your Ears is necessarily more complex. It requires user input, and customization is possible.
Soundgym will have you diving right in. And with a bit of patience, you should begin to feel familiar with the platform.
Based on its thoroughly developed and beautiful design, however, points must be given to Soundgym.
Which you choose is still going to come down to personal preference, based on the factors just mentioned and those explained throughout this guide. And ultimately, they both help you improve your ear faster than you’d be able to with old cassette tape and CD programs, or even by creating your own exercises.
We feel Soundgym is the better offer overall, though it didn’t come out on top in every category. It’s still worth exploring both to figure out which is best for you!