Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Harman's "How to Listen" Listener Training Software Now Available as Beta

Well, it's been some time coming, but the listener training software Harman How to Listen is finally available for free download here. This beta software is available in both Mac OSX and Windows versions.

We are pleased to offer the software packaged with four high quality music samples, courtesy of Bravura Records. The 24-bit music tracks are provided in both 96 kHz and 48 kHz formats in order to be compatible with older PC sound cards. We hope you try the software, and find that it improves you critical listening skills. This is a work in progress, and we expect to add more features and training tasks to this public version of the software over time. Enjoy!


  1. Could you tell us what results achieve trained listeners? Or at least what results (skill level) are considered good?

  2. @ Vuki,

    Harman listeners must achieve a minimum skill level of 8 to be considered trained. I've gotten as high as level 15 on Band ID Peaks.


  3. Hello hello dear Sean,
    it would be nice to use your musical training program in an Roundffusor1's environment... :-)


  4. Congratulations on the launch!
    Do you accept bug reports?

  5. Nothing happens after clicking on either of the Windows software download buttons.

  6. Hi Toby
    You can file bug reports at HarmanHowtoListen@gmail.com.


  7. <>

    We were overloading the Dropbox servers so I moved the software to Google Docs. The links should work now.

  8. Sweet!

    I look forward to training myself and others.

  9. Well... a retry on downloading took me to the Google Docs page and a successful download. Thanks!

  10. Missing Program

    The Program Material TC_Stereo.wav was not found. Would you like to select a new audio file?

    How do I get this to play?

  11. Hi Sean,
    Good work as ever.
    I wanted to suggest it to our in Audio Production students but cannot download the software for Windows. Would there be an issue with the server?

    I appreciate if you could let me know.

    Also, quite interested to see how it affects results on an experiment we are setting up.

    Many thanks

  12. Boy, it gets really hard to distinguish peaks and dips down at band 1 of 5 or so when you have headphones that don't reproduce much down there anyway. There's little energy in the music at those frequencies, combined with mediocre headphones, combined with low sensitivity in your ears.

    Do you have standard headphones you use at Harman for the training? Or do you recommend training with loudspeakers?

    I find the highpass/lowpass to be pretty easy to get to level 8. (I got to 12 on the lowpass pretty quickly). Peaks are trickier, and dips are trickier still. It'll be some time before I get to all 8s down the line.

    Thanks for the app!

    When are the iPhone and Android versions going to be released? ;-)

  13. Hi

    have the same problem

    The Program Material TC_Stereo.wav was not found. Would you like to select a new audio file?

    cant find a file by that name anywhere??

  14. For windows users getting program errors:

    I believe this is related to a folder read/write permissions issue. Make sure the provided programs (track1.wav through 4, and track1-48.wav through 4) are copied into the Programs folder in the application folder.

  15. Caleb,
    Yes, when you get beyond 4-5 bands, hearing the lower bands gets challenging unless you have program with low frequency content and headphones/loudspeakers capable of reproducing it. In our Reference Room we have subwoofers that go down to 20 Hz. With headphones, the LF response is more problematic. We tend to standardize on AKG K701's but phone that goes down to 30 Hz or more should do.

    If I can't hear the effect, that tends to be a clue that it must be Band 1. Fortunately, I can still hear the higher bands so I don't often confuse the highest and lowest bands...

    If you know someone with free time and iPhone application skills we would welcome them to port this over to that platform :)

  16. Gareth,
    The missing program (TC_stereo.wav) is a bug since that program was not distributed with the software. This seems to be limited to the Windows version, and not in the Mac. We'll fix this in the next release.

    We only distributed 4 tracks (track1.. 4) from Bravura Records in both 96 and 48k sample rates.

  17. > If I can't hear the effect, that tends to be a clue that it must be Band 1.
    Yep, that's the same algorithm I've zeroed in on.

    >If you know someone with free time and iPhone application
    > skills we would welcome them to port this over to that platform :)

    Heh, I downloaded the iphone SDK this weekend and I'm goofing around with it.

  18. This is what I've been waiting for, but too bad it won't work with older mac versions (leopard and up). Now I'll have to get a new computer!
    A reference headphone would be mandatory to make use of this software. The majority of loudspeakers are all tonally flawed one way or another. But I'm concerned that as with loudspeakers, the reputation of a consumer headphone may not tally with how accurate it is. I use a Grado RS2. Should I be in the market for both a headphone and a computer? (The AKG K702 is on my amazon wish list)

  19. Hello,

    I've been trying to use the software on Windows 7, without any luck. The tracks 1-4 are on the "Programs" folder inside the "How to listen" folder. Everytime I select a track, I get an error regarding missing files. Here's the list:


  20. Javier,
    I'll be posting version 2.03 later today which will fix the problem for the Windows version you are describing.

  21. Excellent software! Did pretty well on my first round, but sad to say that it has been a few years since I regularly used an EQ (used to do front-of-house mixing) and felt a little rusty.

    We used to play similar training exercises as a team, just more informal. Someone would tweak the EQ, compressor, etc. and everyone would have to guess what they changed (if anything). Very hard!

    I'm glad there is finally software to really walk someone through that. While in my cynical moments I think it is a curse to have well practiced ears because you are forced into higher and higher quality gear, in the end, I've never regretted learning something new, or improving my skills in any area.

  22. Sam,
    Thanks for your comments. What you say it true: a trained critical ear could be dangerous to your enjoyment of reproduced sound, and your pocket book. Fortunately, achieving decent quality sound reproduction doesn't necessarily mean you have to spend a year's salary on audio equipment and acoustical treatment. Science and technological advancements have made good sound reproduction accessible to the masses. Unfortunately, the information required to make good purchase decisions is still not readily available. Hopefully, that will change in due course.


  23. Great software! I wouldn't be able to go further than 12 level in Band ID, but that was my first attempt, hoping to improve soon.

    I have a question, since it's significantly harder to identify dips than peaks, is it allowed to switch from EQ version to FLAT? If one recognizes dip, then listens to the EQ version for some time (for adaptation) and then switches to FLAT would be almost the same as identifying peak. Is it considered as "cheating" ?

    Best wishes,
    Greg Sikora

  24. Greg,
    Level 12 is very good for Band ID. I don't think your strategy for identifying the frequency band of the dip is "cheating" per se. If it works, then use it. The problem I see is that in real-world situations where you don't have the benefit to access a "reference" (Flat), will you still be able to identify the dip?

    In the peak+dip exercises, the dip is often mistaken as a peak in the next adjacent band above the dip. I suspect this can be explained as a release in upward masking. For example, removing bass is often heard as making things brighter.

  25. Sean,

    great tool!
    I installed version 2.03 on a Vista PC. The BandID test works fine.

    I get an error message "Error opening noise file" when trying the "hum" or "noise" test.
    The noise files are apparently there (in the "mix-ins" folder) and I am able to open and play them with the Windows Mediaplayer.

    Do you have any hints for me?


  26. I've tried four times now to install the program on my MacBook, but keep getting an Error! owl_settings_dat not found message.

    Any help?

  27. Anonymous,
    I would check the permissions on the folder that contains this file, and change them to read/write

    The path is root\Library\Application Support\Harman International\

    Control+click on the Harman International folder and adjust the "Sharing & Permissions" to read/write.

    Hopefully, that fixes the problem

  28. Hi Anonymous,

    "..I get an error message "Error opening noise file" when trying the "hum" or "noise" test.
    The noise files are apparently there (in the "mix-ins" folder) and I am able to open and play them with the Windows Mediaplayer."

    This is a known bug in version 2.03, and is fixed in 2.04 to be released April 3 or 4th.

  29. Hi - I'm getting this error starting the program on XP Pro SP3: "How To Listen.exe has encountered a problem and needs to close. We are sorry for the inconvenience."
    Debug info:
    AppVer, Offset 00014426.
    followed by blue screen of death :-(
    Anyone else encounter this?

  30. Whow,Very useful information for me..Can you say? what the software's available for learn the music? Are you providing this training through Online or Class based?


  31. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. Thanks!!

  32. Great software....I really appreciate you share it.

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  35. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  36. How should the settings be when using headphones? Atm I have chosen 180 degree front speakers.
    I am a new audiophile btw, and I am almost embarrassed for scoring below 8 so far with a Stax system.

    Cheers, David

  37. Replies
    1. Level 8 is the minimum level required to be a Harman listener. So you made it.
      For those who can't get to level 8 perhaps you have a future in audio marketing and sales :)

      See the graph in this link: http://seanolive.blogspot.com/2008/12/part-2-differences-in-performances-of.html

  38. Thank you very much for your kind words and appreciation!

  39. Sean-

    This is a great piece of software- thanks! I'm planning on using it in my sound design class next semester as an ear training exercise. I see that you can export results immediately after a session, but I can't see how to export after you've closed it and come back. I'm on OSX. Is there a way to do this?

    I want for the students to be able to come back to it if they run out of time or get frustrated, and still be able to send me their results. Also, is there any way to do a timed test in the software?


    Jeremy Lee