This is a difficult subject to talk about without the danger of seeming to create elites. Some individuals are gifted in certain areas. This is no less true when it comes to the way designers and reviewers listen. The truth is that some are bound to have more musical sensitivity and ability than others.
I have found it invaluable to recognise those in the industry who are the equivalent of world champions in listening or design.
In athletics it’s obvious how physical attributes like huge feet give swimmers an edge.
In the world of Formula One racing, Jackie Stewart (3 times world champion) said of his hero Jim Clark (2 times world champion but life cut short) – “He was hypersensitive … he felt things other people would not feel”. Jim Clark was absolutely exceptional. Not many drivers have won the Indie 500 by 2 laps or in another race, come in 5 minutes ahead of the rest in torrential rain conditions.
Some pilots in the war are recorded as having something better than 20/20 vision in their ability to spot enemy fighters in the distance long before anyone else could see them. There are other notable instances of exceptional eyesight which proved life saving – like Mr X on the ill fated expedition led by Scott of the Antarctic where exceptional eyesight enabled him to spot seals in the distance (for food) which no-one else could see.
In the world of sailing, one of the best sailors I knew personally (long ago) used to operate the hydroplanes in submarines. This task was only given to those with an exceptional touch and feel, as instruments can only tell you so much and computer control did not exist.
In Hi Fi there are those with exceptional intuition when it comes to design. There are others with exceptional hearing. Both these qualities are important as the ability to detect quite minor shifts in musical playback on different designs which then sets direction. Good direction soon extends into big performance leads which are blatantly obvious to everyone.
Distributors and Designers who don’t have great hearing themselves often use or employ what are affectionately known in the industry as “Ears” (these are folk with reliable and exceptional hearing ability).