Listening #112 Page 2

Dudley: And in an engineering endeavor that's not driven by empiricism, such a thing is really not going to be pursued . . .

Belt: Right.

Dudley: What do you make of something like the Acoustic Revive RR-77 [see Stereophile, November 2011, p.43]—which, by the way, is the one "anomalous" audio accessory of my experience that has made the biggest difference—

Belt: Yes!

Dudley: —what do you make of something like that? Do you suppose its effect is also purely on perception, or do you think a device such as that could have an effect on the hardware?

Belt: I don't think, myself, that it is affecting the hardware. If I can be outrageously simplistic, I think that [with] that device, and many other devices which are becoming quite controversial, I think those [designers] are all finding, discovering, a similar thing to what we have discovered. And that is, they are superimposing, in the environment, reassuring energy patterns of nature. But, being engineers, they struggle to find an engineering explanation. I know how engineers work [laughs], because I know how Peter works.

Dudley: That's understandable, given their background.

Belt: Yes. And what seems to fit in with that is that, whatever [the product] is—and we can name at least ten different devices—they all seemed to produce the same improvements, the same descriptions of improvements: "more spacious, better separation, more natural . . ." So I'm beginning to think that they're all doing something similar, and that they've found a new way of doing it.

Dudley: All right, so here's someone like me, who makes a living writing about hi-fi gear: There are just so many hours in my work day, there are just so many things, just so many combinations that I can try in an effort to be fair to a piece of gear that's in for review.

Belt: Right.

Dudley: So I have to limit myself in the way that I approach something. It's not that I don't believe that this or that can make a difference. But, sweet Mother of God, where does it end? Must we assume that everything makes a difference? Not to be glib, but have you and Peter ever discovered anything that doesn't make a difference?

Belt: Not that I can pinpoint and say, "X did not make a difference." But obviously, throughout the years, Peter has tried multiple things. And he is always looking to get something that works better than something else. So when things move on, and he does get something that works better than something else, then the other things . . . they're remembered as not so good, but we don't pinpoint them and say, "That doesn't have an effect." You're going on a path all the time, and so they get left behind—so you're going, constantly, for what will work, and what will work better.

The best way I can describe it: Because people often look at our things and say, "Well, that's only a . . . !" [laughs] I've always said, I wish something that was gold-plated and diamond-studded works, rather than common or garden plastic. [laughs] Unfortunately, if common or garden plastic takes our techniques better than anything, well, that's what we have to use. It's not that gold plating and diamond studding don't work; but when something doesn't work as well as we want, we abandon it.

Dudley: Your research is empirically directed . . . ?

Belt: Exactly.

Dudley: But how do you know where to begin? Or has it all been a single cumulative path since the days of Peter's first discovery, in the late 1970s?

Belt: It's cumulative from that. When we discovered the [stress-relieving] chemical that we found worked, then [Peter] tried his hands on everything he could get, every chemical. And then he found one that made it better. Then he worked from that. And so . . . you just progress. And you say, "Well, then, what else are we reacting to?" You just progress on, trying different things.

Dudley: Given Peter's own background as an engineer—his experience as a technician, as a designer of orthodynamic loudspeaker drivers and all—what things has he observed that really are strictly limited to the world of engineering, the hardware, as opposed to human perception? What about line filters, isolation transformers, devices such as those: Would he relegate their effects to the world of engineering?

Belt: It might be both! I'm not knocking what engineers do. They have to work with resistance, capacitance, inductance, RF interference—they have to work with all those things. Unfortunately, one doesn't know what's affecting what, until you can come along with something so obscure, [laughs] like a chemical, and smear it on something, and all of a sudden the sound gets better!

Dudley: Have you encountered situations where your chemical, your P.W.B. Cream, elicits a positive, stress-relieving response in one person yet adds tension to another? Or have you found that those things are pretty much universal, from person to person?

Belt: The effect has been universally positive for those who could hear it—who could hear any change. But some people have not heard any change at all. But I don't think there've been adverse [reactions].

People ask me this, and I try to give them this example: You're having a party, and you have music going on in the background, and you have guests arriving. And with each guest that arrives, you shake their hand and say, "Hello, how are you? It's nice to meet you. I'm pleased you were able to come."

If you give that nice, warm greeting to ten people, and the music gets better—because the atmosphere's becoming relaxed—and the eleventh person comes in and you do the exact same greeting, I don't think the sound can possibly get worse.

Dudley: Regardless of whether the eleventh person responds positively . . .

Belt: Exactly. It's the same greeting. The same reassurance. If you give ten people a hug and a kiss [laughs], it shouldn't make the sound worse for the eleventh person! It's the treatment.

Dudley: The audio enthusiast who is new to the world of what we might call, for lack of a better term, anomalous engineering, yet who is open-minded about the subject—where would you recommend that person begin, in trying to improve the sound of their music system? Which technique, or which P.W.B. product?

Belt: I would say the cream. You get a jar, it costs you ú20, and you can do a lot. You can just go 'round your equipment, 'round your room . . .

The problem, for those who wish to do experiments, is that once the cream is on, it's done its job. So you can't do before-and-after experiments. That's why we eventually found prismatic foil, or what we call Rainbow Foil. Early on, Peter was trying different sticky-back plastics: creaming the sticky-back plastic and attaching it to a piece of equipment of different things around the room, then listening, then taking it off. And he could hear the difference. So he thought, "My word, that's what I want! That's the technique I want, to be able to demonstrate my cream!"

And then, when he realized that the different colors of the sticky-back plastic also had an effect . . . well, then we found the prismatic foil, which actually has all the colors. That then became an all-around, general-purpose foil.

Dudley: So for the person who wants to expriment in that A/B manner . . .

Belt: That's why, since 1999, we have always sent a Rainbow Foil sample to anyone who requests one.

Dudley: While we're on the subject, may I request a sample, please?

Belt: Well, of course! I'll send you the cream.

Dudley: I'd be happy to pay . . .

Belt: Goodness me, £20! [laughs] It's hardly bribery, is it? [laughs]

Dudley: [laughs] 1Not yet. Say, may I have a bottle of Scotch to go with it?

Belt: [laughs]!

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COMMENTS
remlab's picture

If any of this had any truth to it (And out of respect for the Belt's, I'm not saying it  doesn't). It would call into question anything and everything that is subjective about the high end. The variables involved(And the interactions between those variables) would be infinitely complex. Audiophilia Nervosa? Insanity? This hobby is insane enough as it is! We don't need to go there!

John Atkinson's picture

Quote:
It would call into question anything and everything that is subjective about the high end. The variables involved(And the interactions between those variables) would be infinitely complex

This does appear to be the way things are. From my Richard Heyser Memorial Lecture that I gave at the 2011 Audio Engineering Society Convention:

"We can’t directly experience reality; instead, our brain uses the input of our senses to construct an internal model that reflects that external reality, to a greater or lesser degree. . . evolution has optimized the human brain to be an extremely efficient pattern-recognition engine that uses incomplete data to make internal acoustic models of the world. That same evolutionary development has major implications when it comes to the thorny subject of sound quality."

The brain is used to using incomplete data from which to create its internal models of reality, which in turn means that _everything_ we perceive, not just sound, contributes to our judgment of sound quality, which is what Mrs. Belt is suggesting.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

popluhv's picture

After reading the follow-up, I'm inclined to think that Art's 14 y/o daughter would make a better reviewer. 

dalethorn's picture

If a table with a stain on it - a table I'm not even consciously aware of - would have a significant impact on my music perceptions, then I wouldn't be as concerned about my gullibility as I would be about my susceptibility to substances and subtle aromas. Should I live in a sterile house, or allow my emotional state be held hostage to unseen and unsmelled chemicals hiding in the walls, the drapes, and countless other household things? People like Michael Jackson were afraid of germs and wore gloves. Could Michael have been tuned into a wavelength that others of us are blissfully unaware of unless we try a jar of Belt's magic cream? I think before I smear some creamy substance from a jar onto my prescious amps and music players that that cream is going to have to give me a better high than some of those substances I was acquainted with back in my college days.

Kal Rubinson's picture

It is interesting read of these things and the introspection of the Belts is appreciated but I cannot regard their work as anything more than entertainment in the absence of objective testing.  There are many approaches to the study of the mechanisms of perception that can be applied to these phenomena, given adequate motivation and funding.  I know the latter is always in short supply but, apparently, no one is sufficiently motivated.

Kal

remlab's picture

  This means that you could send the same piece of equipment out to ten reviewers, and all else being equal(HA!), will give a positive or negative review based on how they personally interact with the chemicals in their particular brand of deoderant... Or how the shampoo residue interacts with the deoderant residue after the reviewer gets a whiff of his wifes perfume residue, and then only when combined with the chemical interactions of the lemony fresh Pledge residue?  SHEESH!

soulful.terrain's picture

 

I usually just circumvent the all the tweak stuff and just channel Nikola Tesla's cosmic aura for improved audio results.

Waxxy's picture

I'm talking of course about Art's list.  I'm still a user/fanboy of roller blocks, tiptoes, and even a little squishy stuff once in a while. Best regards.

sudont's picture

I have no difficulty believing that chemical compounds can enhance the listening experience. My own tweak - let's call it chemical "c" - greatly enhances the emotional impact, sweetness, liquidity, and three-dimensionality of my system. Instead of rubbing it on components, or placing it near cables and power supplies, one simply smokes a small amount at the beginning of the session.

The improvement is immediate and undeniable. One becomes deeply engaged with the music, and the equipment "disappears." In other words, it's just you and the music. Thoughts of newer, more expensive equipment are replaced by a contented feeling of, "I can't believe how freaking awesome this sounds!" And, relatively speaking, it's an inexpensive tweak.

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