Audio blogger Mike Fremer has something to say about listening to music. And it goes a little something like this:

"The most awesomest, bestest component EVERRRR … is the one most of us can find on top of our spinal column."

Our first question: only most of us? What do the rest of us have on top of our spinal column? Grapefruit? Can of Valvoline? Peter Dinklage?

Let's move on, shall we?

Fremer believes that, though having awesome gear is awesome, having awesome ears and an awesome brain is of paramount importance when it comes to listening to your awesome music.

To assist with the verbal illustration of this notion, Mike brings to mind a set of processors found in that squishy grey matter betwixt our ears. For instance, the Whiteout Processor that saves us from hearing the things we can't stand. Or the Rainbow Processor, a virtual device that "helps makes things sound better than they ever could have possibly sounded".

"A lot of learning how to really listen has to do with learning how to turn these internal processors off - and just hear what is really happening," says Fremer.

He's got a point. We often hear what we want to hear, not necessarily what we're intended to hear. It's called categorical perception, something people like Luis Braida of MIT have been studying for years.

"Braida theorizes that people categorize sounds by estimating how far each is, acoustically, from what he calls 'perceptual anchors'—memorable stimuli located at the edges of a range of examples." said Karen Chenausky in her look at MIT research for Technology Review.

So does this mean you should lock yourself in the basement and never buy new gear again? Absolutely not. It means that the act of spending money does not get job done alone. There's a head-game to be mastered and, should you desire to reach a state of Zen in front of your tube amp and those speakers that cost more than most people make in a lifetime, you're going to have to master it.

Source: Audio Federation