Casual listener - This person typically can listen to anything on any type of reproductive medium anywhere. They could care less about sitting in the listening chair and may or may not even know what an SACD is, nor could they care less. They listen to music as they cook and they could care less about whether the source is from the TV, computer, a rig or I-pod. They just enjoy the music no matter what and they couldn't be happier.
Image freak - This person has obviously furthered their audio journey a bit from just the casual listener. They have discovered somewhere along the road that speakers not only reproduce music but a reproductive quality that has eluded so many of the general public. Once they have discovered that a rig can actually produce something other than the left to right imaging, imaging becomes an obsessive goal that they strive to achieve, even at the expense of other attributes that a rig can bring. The gear they buy must image well or it's out the door quickly to find something else that can distinguish the passages in music he or she considers vital to perfect the imaging of.
This includes but is not limited to spacial locationality cues, the size of the venue, where every single instrument and singer is along with associated reflections within said venue, whether or not you can tell whether said singer is looking left while performing into the microphone or looking right while not even moving on stage. Maybe the singer is walking across the stage as they look left or right but this type of listener demands such detail with complete accuracy as they move across the stage. The image freak wants this in extreme detail with no fluctuations with regards to this type of reproduction. They want to know that the source of the sound within the image is laser pin-pointable on the sound stage. Not only that, it seems that they want to break out the measuring tape and tell you down to the inch how far away the source of the sound is coming from the listening position.
The depth, height, width and spatial location cues are more important to this type of listener than anything else and they will sacrifice some other outstanding attributes from the gear they swap in and out in order to get the perfect image. Yes, sound is important but no where near as important as the image to this type of listener.
Bass head - This is typically a person that is in the beginning of their audio journey but for some folks, the pursuit of bass is the most important part of the reproductive effort and this is where they tend to concentrate no matter where they are along their audio journey. It may stop at dual [or more] subs the size of a small Volkswagen along with room correction devices or even the rotary woofer or two but this is what is most important to this type of listener. The bass and mid bass regions are what they concentrate their efforts on, sometimes disregarding anything else within the reproductive arena.
Detail oriented listener - This type of listener concentrates on the utmost of details. The texture within voices, the impact of a drum strike and the natural decay of said strike. They concentrate on the roll off of chimes or a cymbal. They want to hear the lips smack and they want to hear and seemingly feel the wetness of the singers lips as they perform. They are not happy unless they extract every slide of the hand on a guitar and they yearn to hear as someone walks in on the back of the recording studio and accidentally steps on a pencil breaking it, not even knowing that it would be noticeable in the final cut. This type of listener will go to the extremes to seek out every last ounce of detail out of a recording whether or not it was intended, accidental or otherwise. They just need to hear it no matter what, good or bad.
Omitted listener - This type of listener may have given up on the reproduction of things they either can not reproductively get right or just flat out don't hear. They may consider a floor stander or full range speaker to be sub par to a bookie in terms of the reproductive qualities due to resonance issues, coherent abilities or transparency. Whatever the case may be, they tend to omit things that they deem less than stellar to enjoy what it is they consider audio bliss.
Loudness listener - This type of listener listens to audio reproduction as loud as they possibly can get it. They want the neighbors to know they are listening and they are typically not too concerned with overall reproductive qualities. They listen so loud that their is no hope for any kind of sound stage at all because it collapsed 30 or 40 Db's ago. So long as it's loud and the rig is pounding your chest and the state seismograph's are off the chart, that's all that matters.
Audiophile listener - Simply put, this person is a listener who is enthusiastic about the reproduction of an effect (as sound or an image) that is very faithful to the original sound reproduction.
Empirical listener - This person typically loves everything that measurement may deem great to sub par but due to empirical evidence, believes no matter what they listen to is all that just based upon empirical evidence. Sometimes more. Typically this type of listener has done hours or days of research on a particular upgrade and will yearn to hear all that has been written about said unit. They fail to actually enjoy the upgrade but tend to over evaluate said product to the point of losing track of why they got it in the first place. They tend to believe so much in what other folks are reporting about said product that they actually tend to believe what the expect to hear, regardless of whether they hear what they are expecting to or not. As much as they hate to admit it, they follow the crowd at chow time and never cook a meal for themselves. None the less, they are happy with their sound until experience shows them otherwise.
Music aficionado - Much like the casual listener, the source of the music may or may not matter. Sitting in the listening chair may or may not matter. The reproductive qualities of his rig or the live concert they attend mean little to nothing. What they care about is that they are one with the music. They typically can tell you things folks would never know in three lifetimes. Things like where Mic Fleetwood's hometown was and where he was discovered for the first time, along with what he was eating at the time he was discovered. Typically, this type of listener has more albums or has listened to more albums than folks couldn't catch up too if they tried listening for 14 hours a day for the rest of their lives. They just flat out love music and everything that brings it to them, history and all.
Tone listener - This type of listener usually has a bit of background revolving around music. They can pinpoint if a tone is off from a different room. Very quick to pick up on tonal qualities that are extremely important to them, whereas a vast majority of folks could either care less or just don't know what it is that they are supposed to be picking up on. To them, if the tone of a system is off, it becomes difficult to listen to the bigger picture because they have the hangup of an off tone reproductive quality of a rig that they might consider substandard. This is not to say that they can not enjoy the music but because of the tonal qualities not being up to snuff, it becomes somewhat of a personal struggle to fulfill the enjoyment of the listening experience in its entirety. Whether they admit it or not.
Accuracy listener - This person is extremely fanatic about the accuracy of the reproduction. No additives, no coloration, no distortion whatsoever. Everything about the aspect of reproduction must be as accurate as possible, damned the consequences. Things may not be musical to the point of where folks tap there toes to the music but the reproductive quality is so accurate, quiet and clean that it almost becomes cold or sterile but this provides the best reproductive quality for said person because it's accurate.
Gear head listener - This person has typically had so much gear throughout their audio journey that they forgot what even real music sounds like. They have it in their head that they know what they are looking for and they need more gear than anybody else to find it. This person usually has a list of gear owned, borrowed or auditioned in their rig that would purchase a castle in England but is still not satisfied with what gear they have had. If they had ever stopped to smell the roses with some of the gear they had, they might have discovered through a bit of tweaking that they had what they wanted many times but got so caught up in the latest and greatest that they never listened to the big picture and discovered what they had in the first place many times over. Gear heads are just that. Gear heads. It's a disease that may or may not be cured.
Judgmental listener - This person typically loves their system and typically will not accept criticism of any kind toward their own rig but at the same time, will throw out a multitude of deficiencies when listening to another system. They feel there system is complete and whether it's a money issue preventing them from moving along on their audio journey, a wife that may have restrictions on what this person can or can not do or some other unknown factor...they have basically shut the door to accept any other input while at the same token are more than willing to point out anything they can when listening to another rig that is judgmental. Sometimes they use their own rig as a reference point or maybe they might use a system they have heard in the past that they are using as reference. Regardless, this type of listener is very quick to judge another rig and internally dismiss it as inferior to his or his perceived version of what he considers audio bliss.
Volume listener - This type of listener is usually a well refined listener who wants the reproductive qualities to exactly match the performance. They listen to a concert at concert levels so long as the reproductive qualities match in their listening room what they would typically expect at said concert. They adjust the volume level to precision levels to achieve the perfect level of a string guitar solo, harpist, choir or quartet. Just a little bit too loud will ruin the entire performance for said listener. All reproductive qualities across the spectrum must match as close as possible to what you would expect not as if they were playing in your living room but what would match what would be as if you were there at the venue they were performing at to begin with, the live performance. To this listener, nothing else is acceptable or may be considered sub par regardless of whether or not it is admitted.
Frequency listener - This is a listener that has to absolutely reproduce every single frequency at whatever level they deem appropriate. This could be at normal listening levels or this could be at concert levels. Regardless, every single frequency must be reproduced with the utmost of precision, realism and authority. There can be no attenuation or accentuation of any frequency at the listening position whatsoever. This type of listener becomes obsessed with reproducing the entire spectrum of frequencies, from well beyond the threshold of human hearing at both ends of the extended frequency range to flat lining the entire frequency curve across the spectrum to achieve what to them is audio bliss.
Realistic listener - This person may or may not be completely fulfilled with his or other rigs. He understands that true realistic sonic perfection will not be realized within our lifetime. They understand this, accept this and achieve whatever sonic perfection that reproduced audio can offer them to date, no matter where they are along their audio journey. They realize that there is no way a real drum sitting in the living room where they reside can be perfectly duplicated and they accept that fact. They realize a cymbal or a set of chimes may come close in terms of reproductive qualities. In reality, this listener understands that in this lifetime, it ain't gonna happen. We can come close but the fat lady ain't singing any time in the near future.
Well folks, that's all I have for now. Feel free to add more types of listeners you have met along your own audio journey. That said, What kind of listener would you classify yourself as?
The best way to enjoy digital music reproduction is to never listen to a good analogue reproduction.