A Stereophile exclusive!
I was reading mrlowry's blog recently (great blog btw!), and saw a video of George Cardas in his listening room. After viewing it, I gave myself the challenge of doing the impossible. Improving the sound of George's listening room, without entering his listening room, without touching the video file in any way (no processing was done on these files, only copies were made. It would truly be impossible to attempt this experiment without making copies!). This was actually one of many on my list of audio experiments that I intended to try. But I've never really done anything quite like this, so I wasn't entirely sure if it was possible or not.
The file is an abstract thing (as opposed to a tangible object). So obviously, I could not treat the file itself. That would be too easy, anyway, and not a very interesting challenge for me. I thought about treating the "container" for the files, my hard drive, and seeing what that would yield. That's a bit more interesting, since I've never actually treated a hard drive before. (It too was on the list!). But then reading a recent discussion between May and Buddha about adding fluoride to plant water piqued my interest more. I've never experimented with plant water either (that too was on the list!). Mainly due to the difficulty of finding liquid fluoride in my area. But I have done other experiments with plants, so this interested me.
"What do my house plants have to do with George Cardas' listening room?" Bear with me, I was getting to that.... This is a file I am getting off of a website, not one I create myself. So, if I couldn't touch the file, I had to touch what was around the file. From my research in Beltism I already knew the environment (I'm not talking about the acoustic environment) can be recorded. Is, in fact, recorded. Throughout the history of recording. It's in the recordings of Bessie Smith, as it is in the recordings of John Paul Jones or Andrew Bird. But the question I had to ask is, would it be "recorded" in between a file download (mrlowry blog) and a file upload (MotionBox), and how could it be done? Previous experiments in Beltist research on improving the sound of music files led the way for me. I would change the environment, and hopefully, in a more beneficial way. (Because making a media file sound worse is probably not that difficult!). Then make a copy of the original file I downloaded. Which is, in a sense, a recording. Then I would upload the copy, and hope it would retain whatever benefits it might have gained, following the change to its environment.
So what change was made? I added a drop of liquid to my watering can (about 4l of water). The liquid was P.W.B. Electronic's "One Drop" product, to be precise. Then I watered the plants in another room. Then I made a copy of the original file I downloaded. All files are just 6mb in size. So it won't cost much in bandwidth if you are interested to check them out and compare the two to see if you can hear or see differences in quality between them. Plus you get to see George's turntable, and that already is worth the price of admission...
Embedded Video (can be viewed live):
Downloadable version (play on your own computer):
n.b. If WMP or your regular player can not play back FLV files, this free player for PC will.
The Cardas One Drop Listening Room Test FAQ (in 3rd person perspective):
Q. Was I successful in improving my sound via the plant water?
A. Wildly successful. For more details on that, see here.
Q. Was I successful in transferring these benefits from the copied file, to the upload of the file, to the subsequent download of the file?
A. Less so, so I would have to say both yes and no. In that yes, I can hear some of that improvement in the copied file (named: "myversion" or "after plants...") on my computer. Easily, I prefer my rendering of Lowry's video file. But suffice to say, the final outcome does not reflect very much of the improvement in sound I first heard directly on my computer system after watering the plants with the treated water. Even though I tried to be careful about retaining the original sound of both files, many things are lost (or in some cases gained), along the way. This would also be true if the experiment covered a conventional (direct) change to the file (ie. processing the sound). But perhaps, its the same thing in the end.
Q. Dilution of quality aside, is the difference great enough that anyone would be able to hear differences between the two files?
A. Yes, I think so. Sorry, I mean I hope so. Wait, I mean... you be the judge! Thing is, I haven't had the chance to test these files yet on anyone else, to be able to answer that with certainty. The differences in quality can be both heard and seen (in image quality), and they're obvious enough on my system, that I'm not confused as to which version I'm listening to.
Q. Are the embedded and downloadable files exactly the same?
Yes and no, again. Technically, they're the same, as they are all copies of the same file, originating from mrlowry's blog. From a Beltist angle, they're not. For the two sets of files were copied under two different environmental conditions. The downloadable files sound better (IMO) than the embedded ones. The embedded ones are for convenience, but while sounding worse than the other two, they're still a valid test since they are both copies of the same files and retain some of the initial differences. One reason for the drop in quality is that MotionBox converts the original FLV format to MP4, (for use on iPods). Believe me, I went to great lengths to try to avoid this, but could not find a freely available host that would accept FLV and retain the format and not impose restrictions on the content. For that reason, I made the FLV copies available for download, if anyone is keen on verifying them against their source (mrlowry blog). Other changes to the original copies would come by the fact that I burned all files to DVD-R, copied them from disc to a laptop in another location, and uploaded them from there (because I am currently away from my home, where these files were originally created).