Music? Or Sound? JVS Elaborates

When I reread my February “As We See It,” Music? Or Sound?, my first thoughts about a piece I had written a while ago were: (1) I wish I’d devoted less space to telling the story and more to expanding upon my thesis; and (2) I’m afraid that my motivation will be misconstrued. Indeed, the flurry of furious comments makes clear that I failed to make the best case for my argument.

I regret that, to some, I came off as arrogant or condescending. It’s not that I have a golden ear; rather, I’ve had sufficient experience with the particular performers and compositions in the recordings used at the demo to have developed a set of expectations as to how those recordings should sound. The reason why others at our listening sessions weren’t immediately “able” to hear the imbalances I heard is that I had the advantage of hearing the recordings in widely varying contexts over years of blogging audio shows.

People tend to trust reviewers who have devoted considerable time to amassing a storehouse of listening experiences that enable them to make valuable critical calls about equipment and recordings. It’s not that these reviewers necessarily have superior judgment; it’s rather that they’ve established standards by which to evaluate the material at hand. They have learned how to both focus on specific elements, and to sit back and take in the big picture. IMHO, those reviewers who are equipped to assess how the entire listening experience makes them feel have an obligation to educated readers and elevate discourse by discussing how equipment can present music in ways that transcend the sum total of its parts.—Jason Victor Serinus

ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
poopfeast420's picture

If anyone on the planet can blindly discern 16 gauge copper wire from "audiophile" wire, let him come forward.

eugovector's picture

...but only by price tag.

audioclassic's picture

What, I thought we settled this 35 years ago. Of course, I can hear the difference between high performance audio cable and zipcord. And I'll bet most of the guys reading this can, too.

ppgr's picture

stop wasting your time with infidels (missing obvious giveaways of inferior sound) and start your own idolaters society of Norse God.

eugovector's picture

So, you knew which was the expensive cable.  Those who didn't couldn't tell the difference.  Have you ever considered the the only constant in all your failed relationships is you?

Ajani's picture

I agree with some of what is said in the earlier posts. I'm not some diehard DBT fan, but I think you really should consider the possibility that it's not everyone else in the room who couldn't hear the obvious inferiority of the cheaper cable. Maybe, it really is just a case of your own bias in favour of the Nordic God's Cable.

 

I will however agree that there maybe a problem in reviewing products by focusing solely on specific aspects of the sound, rather than the whole musical presentation. Having deeper bass, clearer treble, etc does not guarantee that the overall experience is better.

kevon27's picture

Buy what ever cable you like and can afford. If you can afford $3000 per inch speaker cables to connect to your $300000 a pair speakers and you believe it will bring you closer to the music.. More power to YA.. Your purchase will keep certain peoples employed.
The cable argument is boring and tired. I believe print and E-zines constantly bring up this topic to get people charged up and increase readership of a moment.

I can bet you there is a group of audiophiles out there that hate pre-recorded music. They believe music must be live and played on acoustic instruments only. Any electronics, amplification, wiring is bad thing.

kevon27's picture

"To my ears, the differences between how the cables interacted with the music and equipment were clear. Beyond the sound's being exceedingly airy and open with the expensive cable, with more refined highs, tighter bass, and exceptional transparency, it let me hear music more organically, in ways that touched me deeper"

 

You use some fancy audiophile terms to describe what you are hearing. Please explain what these terms mean.

Airy: What is Airy ness? How does a cable manufacturer design a cable to be airy? Where in the audio spectrum does the airy ness takes place? Can someone measure Airy ness? 

Open: ? What does open sound sound like? what about Closed sound? 

Tighter bass?  I know one can affect bass with electronics and EQ but how does a cable able to make the bass response tighter? What if a manufacture of cables want there cables to have loose sounded bass how would they do that?

Organically: what the hell is that? 

Can any of the terms you use to describe the sound you are hearing be measured? If so then how? If not then how does a manufacture have quality control on their products?

MVBC's picture

"exceedingly airy and open"

Indeed: I understand what "airy and open" means, but what is "exceedingly airy and open'? It is like washing your T-shirt whiter than white for detergent commercials...

mauidj's picture

Brilliant response. This article completely spotlights the crazy direction that Stereophile and most other audiophile publications are headed. No wonder the industry is getting nowhere in regard to enticing the man or woman in the street to test the high end waters.

Jack_Mlynek's picture

No, something more than cable envy was going on. Instead of blaming the listeners, I began to wonder if we who review equipment have unintentionally helped create a community of audiophiles who lack the ability to listen deeply.

Are you seriously contending that reviewers shape the ability of people, audiophiles at that, to listen to music deeply? I've seen arrogance before, but this takes the cake. Who the hell to you think you are? If the music is worth it, then one can enjoy it at any level and as deeply as one wishes. I can assure you that cables, whether megabucks for megalomaniacs or zip cord for those that can only afford that, have zero to do with music. 

I remember a system Stereophile detailed recently that totalled well over six figures. When I added up the cost of the cables, they were over half the total! 

dalethorn's picture

It would seem that the argument is not whether they sound different (everything sounds different), it's whether anyone can hear the difference, and following that, evaluate the difference. It would be good if everyone clarified that. I don't doubt that very short cables made properly would have little effect on the sound, but get beyond short to medium length or long and strange things begin to happen. Maybe some more information about where the cables were deployed and how long they were....

The Federalist's picture

With all due respect Jason... You've really stepped in it here.

The "honest" audiophile should be able to admit to himself that he is at least as much in love with the pieces of kit and gears involved in the hobby as the music itself (if not more!) I tend to believe most fall into the latter. But understand that you guys are crafting an illusion in order to move product.

You review cool new stuff and say its better than last years stuff because they implemented whatever boutique upgrade so people who have a DAC want to get another DAC or people who have a great set of speakers want to get more expensive speakers. 

But the truth is that you can only listen so deeply into a recording... Recording equipment, studio mixing, final mastering and production media, will always limit the actual music file (be it digital, LP, CD or tape) to containing a finite amount of information to experience, hear or reproduce. Not to mention our own ears are limited in the amount of information they can take in.

It is not some cosmic ocean of sonic information that you can plunge yourself ever more deeply into with better equipment and a bigger spend.  

But this doesn't stop most review sites from portraying it that way... because it makes for good copy.... and it moves units for the manufacturers. Deeper bass, more air, timbral authority... our ears and the media the track was laid down on max these out somewhere well short of the highest end.... and cables just can't impact it that much. A little (yes, maybe) but not $5,000 worth.... Gold plated copper interconnects do not create a warm and lush tone... but it makes for enticing copy doesn't it? 

Example: 'The Gold Tune oil filled caps and gold plated copper interconnects yielded a lush, warm tone with rich tonal colors and vibrant timbral finesse yet its discretely constructed output gave it a lithe and supple feel through the upper register creating a immersive and intoxicating experience'.... Oh I gotta get that!

Don't start believing your own illusion too much Jason.... we mostly (who are honest) know how much is music and how much is just good old fashion consumerism. But you start getting self righteous and incredulous and the hard line objective types will storm the gates. I am good with the game as long as no one on either side starts taking themselves too seriously.... be forewarned... you sound like you are. 

Paul Luscusk's picture

 is better.I found this out when friends from Ixos gav me some ultra high end rca's to replace my stock rca's that came with my Tandberg 440A . Long story short The stock Tandbergs blew the Ixos away for making high end recordings, wasn't even close.

handler's picture

Oh the audio belief system:

If YOU can't hear the difference (read: superiority) of component A over component B, then your ears are bad or your system isn't resolving enough.

I'm not gunna say there's zero difference between cables, but why can't we be more scientific about audio? At least have the identity of the two cables hidden.

Can you imagine if sighted testing was the norm for new drugs coming to market!??

Come on, sighted testing isn't even used for high school chili cook-off judging.

The mind will believe what it wants to believe and is easily deceived and confused!  

untangle's picture

I attended both BAAS sessions that JVS describes. As is usual with 20 audiophiles in a room, unanimity of opinion was not to be had. That's cool. We all bring different experiences and expectations to the table. Jason goes on to analyze this behavior, musing on the reasons for the "outlier" conclusions.

That analysis is wrapped in an editorial style that abrades some (many) readers. I get that. But if we strip off some of the attitude from the writing, we are left with some pretty clear assertions:

  • At a BAAS event, the sonic differences of two cables were apparent, and one of them was "truer" to the source
  • That truth is embodied in both the macro ("musical whole") and micro ("musical elements") performance of the cable.
  • Many listeners may be spending too much time on the elements.
  • Professional reviewers may be fostering this behavior.

With the exception of the first point (DBTs, physics, etc.), the other three seem straightforward to me.

So while the tone of the piece was a bit off (pun intended), I took no offense to the thesis. And I was there. But then again, I preferred the nordic wire....  ;-)

Bob Walters   President, BAAS

Ariel Bitran's picture

this is exactly what i took from the piece as well. thanks for your comment Bob.

MVBC's picture

"But when several BAAS members said they either couldn't hear a difference, or preferred the lower-priced cable, I realized that they were having a major problem in perceiving unfamiliar, complex music that contained multiple ideas, piquant harmonies, and emotional shifts."

Wow, what a condescending tone! Perhaps, these members had attended multiple live concerts and were able to make the difference between the real experience and the artificially enhanced recreation that the author fanes about? It is always funny to host some audiophile esthete who claims listening to the real sound through speakers that even with 2,000wrms could not reproduce a single flute's dynamics and is suddenly surprised at that very dynamic range that even the most efficient drivers can barely reproduce.

So I prefaced the second listening session with some tips:

LOL Hilarious! So when the result is not what the good doctor prescribed, a dose of psychobabble is supposed to influence the audience to seek certain qualities deemed by the master of ceremony as truer to the reality, something that the listening session did not reveal at first.

The problem with this is of course that he was not at the recording session and is likely to impose his own bias -like hyper detailed high frequencies- that could very well be an addition from the gear. Unless the comparison had occurred with a live show, this whole affair lacked the live reference, the base line that no contest can proceed without and demonstrates a severe case of hubris from its author...

As for Ariel's comment, well after the Silence of the Lamm loving piece, what else would be expected if not unconditional agreement?

And you guys wonder why High End is in trouble?

mauidj's picture

Oh please. This is wrong on so many levels. You work with the guy so you are not likely to say anything negative are you. Hey mr editor you really think your writers should be commenting on their coworkers articles. Lame.

Ariel Bitran's picture

(NT)

pwf2739's picture

I recently went to hear a local jazz group at a club where they regularly perform. I had never hear this group before and I enjoyed them so much I thought about their performance for several days. I can assure you that while there I was not thinking about bass response, openness and certainly not cables. The music touched me and I liked it. Simple as that. 

I think that is what recorded music should strive to accomplish. Leave the listener with a feeling of excitement. Leave them thinking about what they heard after the music stops. 

Just over a year ago, I had a very modest system. An inexpensive integrated amp, DAC and speakers. I streamed my music from my home computer. I think my original speaker cables cost about $200.00. And it sounded pretty good. But it didn't move me in any significant way. I wanted something better.

My current system has a power cord from the wall outlet to the conditioner and speaker cables that are of the extremely expensive Norse God variety. I can say without hesitation that after each of these two additions the quality of the music improved. Profoundly so. Just from a cable change.

I am not a reviewer and frankly, have a lot to learn about high end audio. I don't typically sit around and write myself a review after each song is played. I do, however, have a keen sense of what I like and what moves me. And I can say without reservation that my current system, which is yes quite expensive and has two (soon to be three) Odin cables, sounds closer to what I heard in that jazz club than anything I have ever had in my home. Regardless of what I was previously using. And I think about what I have heard long after the system has been turned off. Each time I listen to it. If that is the work of a cable then I'm in favor of that cable. 

I've been on both sides of this fence- the justification of an expensive system vs. an inexpensive system. Had my first system really had a lasting effect on me I would still be listening to it. But it did not and I wanted to make a change. An audio system should only be as nice or expensive as the listener wants it to be. At the point where one is happy and it moves them, then no more changes are really necessary. Should that occur for less than, say, $5000.00 then that is a wonderful thing. If it takes more than that, even substantially so, then to each their own. If they can afford it then so be it.  

In my view this article was not a debate about the cost of a cable. It is about which one sounded better and why the various participants chose the way they did. I'd like to believe that had I been there I'd have chosen the Norse cables myself. But who can say with certainty.

This much I can say without equivocation, in my system and in my home the better components with the Norse cables are without equal compared to any of the previous components I have owned. They make a difference, they move me, and they enable me to sit and enjoy the music. Just how it should be.  

noelberkowitz's picture

I think its also important to remember that there are no absolutes in our hobby. or at least not many. every review is an opinion-piece. every preference is that, a prefence. does one group like cable A? yaay for them. does another group like cable B: well yaay for them too. I really do not understand why people always have to make a bloodbath when someone simply has a different opinion or different taste. just chill out and enjoy the music. that would be the point of all of this.

deckeda's picture

JVS authors a piece that includes music listeners missing the forest for the trees only to have several commenters then miss the forest for the trees.

thecanman's picture

with this ridiculous post. How about...

1. The author displays breathtaking arrogance. "The unwashed masses didn't hear what I think I heard, so I tried imparting my exalted wisdom to no avail." Please.

2. The author knew which was the expensive cable. Hello! Does he have any concept whatsoever of the scientific method, the placebo effect, or expectation bias?

3. If the author wants to worship at the altar of consumerism and Norse gods, he is welcome to do so. If some of us are skeptical, that doesn't make us imperceptive dolts.

4. I would challenge the author to a test: have someone else set up 20 high-end, nearly identical systems in accoustically identical rooms, the only difference between the systems being that one system has a single inexpensive cable whereas all the rest of the cables in each system cost $1 million an inch. Then bet your house and one of your kidneys that you can instantly pick out the system with the less expensive cable, blindfolded, because it will be just so freakin' obvious. Have unbiased witnesses and post the results on this blog. This is too logistically difficult? Tough. You're a professional audio reviewer. Put your money where your mouth is and make it happen, or stop telling those of us who are cable skeptics that we're deaf and musically illiterate.

End of rant. Flame away.

Ladyfingers's picture

No scientific method was employed in this "test", so it's just nonsensical rambling.

If the writer is so convinced of his listening skills, there's a million dollar prize waiting for him at the Randi foundation.

James_Seeds's picture

Jason's piece certainly sounds a bit much to digest but I agree at times with his conclusions

I owned a modest system that is now 15 years old comprised of a solid state amp, preamp and floor standing speakers that cost then somewhere in the vicinity of 10k but now maybe if I'm lucky 1k never the less I replaced the tired 12 gauge cables with a set the cost $600.00 and I must say the difference was night and day, I should've done it sooner the boost in detail and clarity was a welcomed surprise.

Would I spend 5k on speaker cables, if I was made of money probably but for me $600.00 was money well spent 

eugovector's picture

Were the old speakers cables, presumedly copper, also 15 years old?  Did you try replacing them with new $20 cables (basic copper of an appropriate guage) to see if that also made a difference?

JL77's picture

"thecanman" gets it right: The author knew which was the expensive cable. Placebo effect and expectation bias are proven, objective effects. Any time a subtle listening test is non-blinded, it loses ALL objectivity.

Using trained audio listeners in a repeatable lab environment, we've learned about the diminishing ability to hear subtle audible differences over time. The only statistically-acceptable method to hear JNDs is via quickly switched A-B comparison. After a short period of time, discerning subtle audible differences (cable differences) becomes statistically improbable, and usually impossible.

VandyMan's picture

 began to wonder if we who review equipment have unintentionally helped create a community of audiophiles who lack the ability to listen deeply.

Wow, you are really full of yourself! To the vast majority of your readers, most audio writers, including you, are interchangable. Most of us skim your articles and simply not that deeply influenced by your writing. Get over yourself.

GeneZ's picture

What if some cable Z was technically perfect?  But speaker technology or amplifier capacity today is still lacking a certain factor in music reproduction yet to be discovered?  The perfect cable may sound not so good because of how speakers and amps are made, not the cable. 

.

 

IgAK's picture

What a lofty perch you survey peons from, Jason. But it seems you need it for such vauntedness. I do hope you can go back there again...

While I can't disagree with all your opinions - I listen to the whole of the music as a gestalt before analyzing the details - I can't disagree with those who pointed out the obvious problem of your price expectations, either. That disease does hit reviewers harder than most. Yes, I do this professionally as well. But I definitely have heard reasonable (but not, perhaps, cheap) cables outperform snobgear, too. I have not heard any two cables sound identical, though. The differences may be small or subtle, but they always exist. I don't expect everyone to hear the smaller differences, but most people don't have to if their living does not depend on it, so a certain amount of experiential training can't help but come into play. Unfortunately, the belief that a cable must be grossly expensive to be good seems to be most strongly entrenched among spoiled reviewers who generally never give a more reasonably priced cable half a chance.

But I'm not a reviewer, though I have in the past been invited to do that by one of the biggest names. It would have been a conflict, so I declined. But here's what I have noticed repeatedly about the "Norse God Cables" in many systems over many of their models. They are the darling of reviewers for being hyper-detailed. This does aid discerning differences so I can see why. But I can barely tolerate them for more than a half hour because they are gratingly hot on top, and unattractively amusical. I didn't say badly balanced, at least not in the last sentence ;>), though they tend to be hot at the top end. I said amusical. Spectacular, yes, but not soul soothingly satisfying.  They do not attract emotions without analysis. They are work to listen to, and I feel I should not have to work to enjoy the music. Of course, that's just my opinion...and that of many others whose ears I've found to be superior over years of comparison...that aren't reviewers.  So perhaps you have not taken into account that the viewpoint and desires of the non-professionals at this event may have been one of enjoyment and comfort, rather than the board-meeting hyper-stressfulness of these expensive Viking attack-dogs. Maybe a different expensive cable should have been compared?

Mind you, I'm not saying I expect I would have liked the cheap cables, either. Your description is voluble and says enough about the details that I probably would not have. But maybe you should have considered the overall feel and appeal of the different cables as they might be perceived by those preferring comfort over edginess. And been a bit more humble? This is a much bigger factor than you perhaps realize, being a reviewer. I deal with the customers and their rooms. No, I'm not a salesman, either, except reluctantly after I design the gear, which I prefer to do the selling for me. So I see how people react to what they are hearing while looking outward rather than inward.

IgAK

Volti's picture

I couldn't pass this up. 

Recently I went to a customers home to do an upgrade to his speakers, and I brought my own basic 30' long copper cables that I use around my shop to replace the fancy, expensive cables that I knew he had hooked up.  My thought was that these fancy cables could be changing the sound enough that it would prevent me from hearing the speakers the way i'm used to hearing them. 

So after making the upgrades to the speakers, we sat down to listen to some music.  First with my cables, and then with his fancy cables.  We both looked at each other and agreed that his cables definately sounded better.  I was a little suprised I guess.  I wondered to myself, that the materials used in these cables must really be making a difference in the sound quality of the system. 

Then it dawned on me that there was something else that was probably the real difference maker here.  His cables were 23 feet shorter than mine!  Hmmmm. 

Greg

GeneZ's picture

Volti... You said..  "Then it dawned on me that there was something else that was probably the real difference maker here.  His cables were 23 feet shorter than mine!  Hmmmm.

Find out if it was a litz configuration he had. Its the one type of cable that will eliminate certain distortions that all other stranded wire will produce. Raw litz is not that expensive.  In its raw state it does not look like much. And, its a bear to solder.  You'll need a solder pot to tin with. 

Litz eliminates the skin effect that stranded-non-litz wire always produces. It causes that tizzy effect we hear in the high end... what makes us realize we are listening to amplified music. 

dalethorn's picture

There's a suggestion here in these comments that subtle differences must be detected in quick A-B switch comparisons. I think if a subtle difference were one-dimensional, so you knew what artefact to listen for and everything about its qualities, that might work. But it almost never works for me. Partly because every difference is different, and partly because my ears and brain just don't switch that quickly.

JL77's picture

Fast A-B testing works well in a design lab, when a product is being developed, but is admittedly harder in a home playback system.

The point is that academic psychoacoustic testing has proven the inability to reliably detect subltle audio differences over periods of time longer than a few seconds. Unless the differences are significant, our "audible memory" is poor.

The power of suggestion is alive and well in audio. Once I remember turning up some HF EQ for a client, and we both nodded and agreed that it really helped the overall mix. Later I realized that the EQ was bypassed.

Frank.hardly's picture

Jason Victor, you make some good comments about listening. I'm an uneducated audiophile, but after years of playing classical music both as a listener and musician, I intuitively listen for some of the things you describe. What drives me crazy in chamber or orchesteral music (concertos) in particular is the energy or volume of instruments being recorded in disproportion to what they could realistically present in a concert or live setting. I've had to adjust my volume to account for the sudden thundering of a piano in an orchesteral settting that is unbelievable. I believe these issues are more due to the misintentioned efforts of people occupying mixing boards to boost certain elements they wish to highlight rather than trying to create a believable re-enactment of a live recording. I have a hard time understanding how a cable can correct this basic engineering decision. I also value the voicing of individual instruments, rather than a monotone of sound. The whole audio chain from recording to through to speaker has a part in presenting this separation of instruments. Maybe a great cable could help the overall presentation, but I have a hard time quantifying how much this improves such separation relative to the other parts of the chain. Is it 5% improvement?Will this help a muddied recording? I think not. If I spend 40% of my audio budget on a 5% improvement is this $'s well spent or could I get more bang for my buck to spend more on my amplifier or speakers? This is the sort of thing I look for from educated audiophiles such as yourself who are being paid to advise the uneducated and less experienced. I don't think there's much value in saying such and such is a great cable relative to another cable if the context of the whole isn't being considered and some quantification of benefit is being discussed. Airiness and energy are hard to get my objective mind around.

dalethorn's picture

This could be a legitimate question when planning the initial purchase of a system, but after making the best purchase possible within whatever the budget limits are, any tweaking after that wouldn't fall into the same category, i.e. balancing tweaks or cable costs against the system costs. Now, with system in place and no desire or budget to replace the entire system, I can look at cable costs as a separate issue. Then I can consider - is a subtle improvement really a one percent, or five percent improvement? Maybe it's a 100 percent improvement. Those kinds of percentages don't usually scale linearly.

169glazier's picture

I have a Belles 150A Hot Rod amp in one of my systems. I loved the way it sounded but there was a veil in the midrange like a light sheet in front of the speakers. When I switched out the belles amp out with a McCormack DNA 125 the veil was gone and it had more transparency. But I lost the warm tube like midrange that I really liked about the Belles amp. I bought a pair of Von Gaylord Legend 2 speaker wire and WOW the veil was gone the midrange was lush smooth and the transparency was even beter than the McCormack with the old speaker cable. Having the right speaker cable in the system makes all the difference. I love the sound so much I dont want to change back to the McCormack DNA 125 or use any of my other amps that I own.

System configuration

 

Belles 21A with Aurua Cap Up Grade  Pre-amp

Jolida CD 100A Player

Dynaudio Audence 82 Speakers

Von Gaylord Legend 2 8' Speaker Cable 8' Pair

Synergistic Research Quad Speaker Cable 8’ Pair

Shunyata Research Diamondback 5’ Power Cord for Pre-amp

Shunyata Research Diamondback 5’ Power Cord for Amp

Shunyata Research Diamondback 5’ Power Cord for CD Player

Von Gaylord Chinchilla 1M interconnects for Pre-amp to Amp

Kimber Kable Hero WBT 1M Interconnects for CD Player

ajcrock's picture

What is the range of hearing of the listeners?  Many people cannot hear well enough to hear the full spectrum.  For those people a cheaper cable and system is just fine.  Same with wine and champagne.

As for myself I have a group of people that include those who have known the difference in good equipment and cheap equipment and those who have not.  In all cases when I have replaced copper with .999 silver, not that plated crap, they have all said the music sounds brighter and more open what did you do, this was unprompted.   I have also used 24k gold and they thought the music sounded richer.  Again they did know a change had occurred.  I do have Nordost cables.  They are plated not .999 silver.

Half Full's picture

Dude!

Firstly, I appreciate your willingness to stick out your neck with some pretty damning opinions. To accuse virtualy the entire BAAS of being effectively tone deaf requires some big kahonas.  Secondly, to have enough confidence in your own ability to discern subtle differences that they could not and then taking credit for making them that way borders on arrogance.  But still, I love it!  Do we listen to it, or do we listen for it?  I've been chasing this gold ring since the 70's and frankly my enthusiasm for my audio habit had waned since we moved on the lake.  But awhile back, after digesting Jim Smith's book and spending a day checking plug polarity and wearing out a tape measure, I arrived at a level of satisfaction with my system that I never before enjoyed.  Know what?  I immediately sold the speakers, bought new amps, cabling, Oppo 95, bunches of Dupont 304, and completely changed my stuff.  I am now as happy, several thousands of dollars later, as I was before. Only now there is an Oppo 105 (damn!) and my 3.6's have been kicked to the curb by 3.7's. Just like cars, it will never end.  Back to the point, I appreciate your having found a way to derive an income by feeding my habit.  I only wish you were less abrasive toward those of us that feed you (literally).  I value your experience and expertise but you should be carefull when you choose to belittle mine.  It is quite possible possible the BAAS members were finely attuned to facets of that particular experience that you completely missed.  Can you see through a keyhole with both eyes at the same time?

Free cables's picture

I have inherited some of the best Nordost cables and I have spent lots of time evaluating them with the following observations. 

Firstly, these cables do sound good and highly resolved. I have had friends who are skeptical engineers and do not give a damn how much they cost, the prestige, nor what t hey are supposed to do, but they eagerly borrowed the cables for long term loans because they sounded clearly superior.  There are techical artifacts that might explain these differences that include "low dielectric absorption".  

They may make a system that is already too "defined and cold" sound worse.

In the case of interconnects, it is not about the transmission of sound, but more about how the cable loads your preamp output. I have done experiments blinded that strongly supports this assertion. Speaker cables are about amplifier loading and damping factor/series resistance and power transmission. 

The most expensive cables are only suited to someone who loves to burn cash, or who has already spent all they can on the rest of there equipment; that is to say exceeding $5000 for amps $5000 for preamps $5000 for dac and then say $20000 for speakers. Then go spend  $10000 to $30000 on cables.  Otherwise it is crazy to spend as much on cables as a new pair of speakers cost, because improving all non cable components will almost always result in a substantial improvement.  If your budget for a system is $20k, spend half on speakers, half on electronics, and several hundred to $1000 on wiring.  These are just suggestions.

Now, I have always wondered why so many audiophiles seem to spend more money on cables and wombley pucks that all electronics and speakers combined!  I finally have guessed what drives this phenomena.  It is called the "wife tolerance factor."  

It goes like this.  Some dude convinces his wife to agree to his purchasing the system he read about or auditioned at the audio store.  He sets it up and realizes at some point that it is not as good or satisfying as he hoped.  Well now he realizes that she will never agree to replacing it all, or some of it with really good equipment that cost more.  Further even if he can change the amp or speakers from his hidden cash cache, she will notice.  The solution, keep changing the cables.  Even if she notices, she will never suspect how much of the retirement fund had been dumped into power cords.

So,

i will never make fun of a reviewer who touts a great cable, nor will I mock someone on a budget for discovering that bed springs and coat hangers sound better than Trojans after a 2 year breakin period.  But my advice, do not upgrade via cables, buy real equipment.  The best stuff will still sound better with budget cables such as dh labs or even, gods forbid, monster cable from a spool.

Free cables's picture

Very few people have hearing that cannot distinguish between the real thing and reproduced sound. Old men with 3khz of hearing still manage to hear the effects of 20khz brick wall filters because the effects on phase are audible at 1/10 the frequency.  It is not about people's hearing,but how much they are into and interested in the music.  Also a really basic system may not resolve the fine differences between cables. 

Ronzu's picture

Let's assume that all of the listeners in the "test" group agreed that the expensive cables sounded better than the cheaper ones. Should we then assume that these same cables will sound better than cheaper cables in other systems, where the amplification and speakers are different? Maybe it just means that the more expensive cables work well with the particular electronics and speakers of the test system. A different system may sound better with the cheaper cables. I want to know what cables sound best with MY amplifiers and speakers. I don't need to know what tires perform best on a Ferrari, if I'm driving a Volkswagen.

Danny Fondren's picture

The article was very interesting as I've long wondered about the usefulness of high end cable(ing). If one went by the theoris of circuit design it would seem obvious that higer quality/ shorter cables would achieve a better sound. Its my personal opinion that that idea may have a lot to do with people thimking they can hear differances from thier speakers cause by cables (aside from outright faulty cables or connections). I have two arguments against any general recognizable ability to hear quantitive differances. "A" Related to physics- If one were to expect an audible improvement in sound reproduction quality being achieved by high grade cables, to know you had achieved the improvment ; elimination of other (spurious) efects need to be eliminated. ie examp. The qualit of conectors seems to be of extreme importance, as even very small diferances in cintact can make readibly measurable differances in current , load ect. likely larger differances to the signal integrity than cabling. In many electrial situation the basic remedy is solder all contacts (brings on the questin is one type solder beter accousically thn anotherwhich is marginally a silly idea). "B"  The psychological angle: to whit , there has been some discusion that in your listening test , "was blind testing utilised adequately" ? It does not sound - no pun intended HA- as if it were , and here is my strongest argument... While one can measure AV equipment quite well nowdays it is very much a dificult task to measure ones own hearing quality from day to day, possibly minute to minute even. Think of the environmental effects that may influance the quality of our hearing , many of these effects can be controled to a degree. More importantly are the often (very) subtle effects of physiology and pshycology (which interact with each other). Our senses qualityies are suseptible to a great many influances ; blood pressure , health , diet, stress , blood/brain chemistry at a given moment. I contend that these efects are as important as , or may be more important to a listeners ability to decern sound(s). Even people with perfect pitch ect. are very suceptable to physiological influences , and that does not even get into the relm of human suggestability which in itself has some varibles due to physology.    My point/arguement here is that " Many (thousands no doubt) of studies have proven , when it comes to critical and casual comparisons made by human beings using their perseptual judgements based on thier 5 senses , to be accurate as possible ; strengent use of "BLIND Testing " , and "SCIENTIFIC METHODE" must be used . Or we may find we didn't hear, smell taste ,feel ,what we thought we did.   Oh yeah,    Danny Fondren   Aspen/Twin Lakes , Coolorado

acuvox's picture

Hearing is highly adaptive and comparative on time scales from microseconds to a lifetime.  This means there are things we can hear that are beyond the ability of machines to measure, and things that are trivial to measure but nearly impossible to hear.  It also means that perception between individuals will vary widely, and even the perception of one individual will vary with recent auditory experience and state of mind.

Complicating this are the ubiquitous background din of the post-industrial world, the outlandish distortions of consumer audio and bad acoustics which have so buffeted the richest sensory pathway that it has been subsumed by inferior vision in society.

Audiologists like King and von Bekeszy working before the advent of radio obtained quite different results.  Everything from Fletcher-Munson forwards used subjects who learned to hear music from phonographs and dynamic loudspeakers, which is contaminated and therefore suspect.

To attempt the most basic "controlled experiment" in human hearing, one should start with test subjects who were raised acoustically, away from the synthetic sounds of motors, speakers, metal and glass; or at least, had acoustic sounds dominate their developmental auditioning like conservatory trained musicians.  

Scorpio69er's picture

Using only the highest grade ore mined from our private copper, gold and silver mine in Chile's Atacama Desert, then refining that ore in a proprietary process handed down through four generations and sheathing nature's purest metals in theta-rejecting baby llama skin, we have fashioned the ultimate in speaker cables and interconnects: The Scorpio Line.

Death Stalker: At only $2000/meter, this special 1000:1 blend of our purest copper and silver will yield the highest possible SPL when listening to heavy metal music, while maintaining a warm yet neutral character with your favorite bagpipe piece. The sonic equivalent of Angus Young in a kilt.

 

Black Spitting Thicktail: This 1111:11:1 blend of our purest copper, silver and gold has been hailed by reviewers as "a revelation". At $10000/meter, it will transport you to another sonic realm. Whether listening to powerful symphonic music or the soothing strains of Slim Whitman, your hair will turn white as you encounter the mystical. As they say, "you can't take it with you", so why worry about the cost?

 

Asian Forest: Specially designed to reproduce the whole range of natural sounds from an ant fight to an exploding supernova with equal realism, this 1313:13:3 blend of our purest copper, silver and gold throws a soundstage as big as all creation. At $50000/meter, like Yahweh himself, you can have the whole world in your hands. Just remember to put it back when you're finished.

wink

MVBC's picture

But don't you worry that at $50,000 a meter it might seem a bit cheap for such a great cable? But if it was per foot, then...surprise

Scorpio69er's picture

$50,000/meter might seem a bit cheap for such a great cable, but we also want to bring outstanding value to our customers. laugh

MVBC's picture

crying

Scorpio69er's picture

Unless and until double-blind ABX testing proves that there is an actual sonic difference between lamp zip cord and ridiculously priced pieces of wire, we must assume that any differences reported by any reviewer are figments of the reviewer's imagination.

Trust me, the electrons don't know the difference.

ChrisS's picture

If listener A hears a difference, but not listerner B, then what? If 49 listeners hear a difference, but 51 don't... And if I buy the cheap wire anyways, but then it makes my stereo sound awful, can I still get a full refund?

acuvox's picture

I haven't had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Serinus, but I can surmise from his selections that he knows what music sounds like and what it FEELS like.  

I had a similar experience to this the first time I heard SACD in direct comparison to the Redbook layer.  My reaction was "I thought it was going to be subtle", while the roomful of audio aficianados mostly had difficulty discerning any difference.  I found that the other enthusiastic listeners also attended live acoustic concerts as do I.

If you only listen to speakers, you forget what music sounds like, the more so depending on how far from reality your daily system and recording choices diverge.  I listen to acoustic music MORE than I listen to speakers, and I work with conservatory trained players who listened to acoustic music more than audio reproduction each day of their lives - and we hear differently than speaker people.

After you spend as much on concert tickets as you did on your speakers, you may start to hear the differences between cables - and you will have a human connection with musicians.

HammerSandwich's picture

"Trust your own ears") seems to apply here.  Too bad that the author doesn't show much respect for the other opinions he heard.

 

dalethorn wrote:

It would seem that the argument is not whether they sound different (everything sounds different), it's whether anyone can hear the difference, and following that, evaluate the difference.

I'd say that the bigger issue was raised by Ronzu:

Maybe it just means that the more expensive cables work well with the particular electronics and speakers of the test system. A different system may sound better with the cheaper cables.

Exactly right, Ronzu.  Cable performance is ALL about the interaction between the specific components & cables used.  It's folly to claim that a particular cable has an intrinsic sound that will be apparent in any setting.

IgAK's picture

Well, Scorpio, it's true the electrons don't know the difference, since they don't think or hear. They just go where the conductors route them, and do it as the cabling dictates.

We, OTOH, do think and those of us that can hear can tell the difference.

There are two emphatically insistent sides to self-induced audio phenomena, and a more open minded middle. One side may hear what is not there but price tells them should be. The other won't hear what is there because the price and/or their convictions, engineering limits or physical limitations tell them can't be. And there are those in the middle who will simply hear or not what is there or not because that's what's there without prejudice, price, or intellectual consideration, if their ears are good enough. No shame if the ears aren't up to it, but, then, that person should not insist it isn't there.

All these parties have been represented in this thread. I prefer to be open-minded, just not so open minded that my brains fall out. "Baby llama skin" dielectrics are amusing, but perhaps best used on babies. Anyway, everybody knows that Vicuna results in far smoother and more dulcet trombone transients.

wink

IgAK

Scorpio69er's picture

 

re: "those of us that can hear can tell the difference."

 

Prove it in double blind ABX testing. But you can't, so you won't. I can claim to hear all sorts of things you can't, but unless such claims can be verified under controlled conditions, they must be rejected. 

 

Furthermore, such claims of superior hearing by anyone should be accompanied by the results of their latest hearing test. Since it is a fact that in any given group of audiophiles the quality of their own listening instruments naturally varies, this parameter must be included in any testing matrix. Do people with claimed "super hearing" actually have better hearing? Do they actually prefer lamp zip cord in blind testing? Can they tell any difference at all? 

 

None of this has anything to do with being "open minded". If Stereophile is going to constantly gush over ridiculously priced pieces of wire, then it should be a simple matter with your eyes closed, so to speak, to differentiate between them. If you can't do that under controlled conditions -- which, to date, no one has -- then this is simply the biggest con job ever.

ChrisS's picture

So Scorpio69er,

Let's say in a "controlled" DBT comparing a $8000 set of speaker cables and a $7500 set,  listener #1 Wanda a 21 year concert pianist can hear a difference but prefers the $7500 set and in another "controlled" DBT, listener #2 Jake a 54 year old construction worker can't tell the difference between a $5000 and a $3000 set of speaker cables.

Which cable should I buy?

arve's picture

The point of an ABX is to test a hypothesis.   The hypothesis that needs to be tested is  "Is there an audible difference between two different  cables?"

 

To test that hypothesis, you aren't going to pit a $8000 against a  $7500 cable.  You are going to pit an $8000 cable against an $18 one. The only requirement for the cables is that they are both properly suited for the application, and are used similarily.  

This means that you can't use 50 ft of 24 AWG lamp cord hooked up to a 4 ohm pair of speakers, and 3 ft of the expensive cable - you simply use the same length for both, and settle on a gauge that doesn't have significant losses - 14 or 12 AWG should be sufficient for almost any setup ( as per suggested by the table at http://www.roger-russell.com/wire/wire.htm#wiretable )

ChrisS's picture

What point? Why not any two pieces of stereo equipment? What if there's a huge difference between the $8000 speaker cable and the $7500 set? How about a speaker cable that costs $299.99 a foot against one that costs $59.99?

In any case, what if one listener heard a difference, but another didn't? What if twelve guys between the ages of 38 and 54 years old who like 70's rock-and-roll couldn't tell the difference between the $8000 speaker cables and the $18 set, but the 21 year old young lady who's a concert pianist can?

arve's picture

The point - in clear text, this time - since you ignored or missed it:

To date, in about 40 years of cable history, there hasn't been one scientifically rigorous experiment published that has established that there are audible differences between two different cables.  

Hence, the hypothesis that needs to be tested first is "Is there an audible difference between two speaker wires?".    In order to maximize the chances of a positive result, you take two extremes from the "normal speaker wire" spectrum: A cheap wire with sufficient wire gauge for the application it is being used, and a high-end wire of some sort.

You then need to perform this experiment in such a way that the test subject (listener) is not affected by the experimenter. A good way to accomplish this is to perform what is called ABX testing.  In an ABX testing, you create a test run of a number of trials, where the test subject/listener can switch, as he pleases, between A (the cheap wire), B (the expensive wire) and X, which is randomly chosen for that test run.  This needs to be done in such a way that neither the examiner or the test subject knows what X is.

The objective for each test run is to determine whether "X" is the same as "A" or "B".   Now, since you can this completely by guessing, you need to run a sufficient number of trials to, as far as possible, eliminate guessing.  Typically, this means that for a test, you need to have ten or more test runs.   In a test of 10 runs, you would need to have identified X correctly in 9 of the runs.  In a test of 20 runs, you must identify the X correctly 15 out of 20 times.

If all you want from an ABX test is to establish that there is an audible difference, all it takes is one listener that can pass the test. It doesn't matter whether it's the world's most golden-eared audiophile or someone who barely has any hearing left.  

A final note, ABX testing can be performed over any period of time you wish - you can have a friend come to your house, and switch your cables to "A", "B" or "X" as you wish, and spend a minute, day, week, or a month with each.  The point is that you must never learn what "X" is.

Also note that ABX testing will say nothing in itself about which you prefer - it is merely a tool to establish whether there is a difference.  Only once you have passed the ABX test for the gear does any subjective description of it make any sense at all.

ChrisS's picture

Why do you think such a study has never been done? Please tell me how this hypothesis is proven valid, or not. In other words, what constitutes proof for this hypothesis?

Hmmm, what if a person hears no difference when first tested, but hears a difference when tested a year later? What if you have a friend who can hear a difference only 30% of the time and then there's your uncle who can hear a difference 70% of the time?

Really, one listener? That's all it takes?

Please take a course in research methodology. Offered at most colleges and all universities.

arve's picture

Why do you think such a study has never been done?

Because if it had, and it had the results the cable companies wanted, every cable company would endlessly refer to the study, and they don't.

ChrisS's picture

Arve,

Did you just say... a study like this has never been done before because a study like this has never been done before?

Please take that course on Research Methodology and another on Logic.

arve's picture

You need to read what I wrote again, and if you still fail to get it, you probably should take that class on basic logic you are trying to use as some lame ad hominem attack.  Again, here is what I said:

Such a study hasn't been done with an outcome the cable industry wants to see.  Had said study existed, then it would have been endlessly referenced by the cable companies as proof they aren't snake oil peddlers.

ChrisS's picture

We're talking properly done studies right? Not a bunch of guys in someone's basement fiddling behind bed sheets...  You still haven't said that a study of this has ever been done before. John Atkinson has written about tests he's participated in.

Arve, hint... Go back to your hypothesis.

John Atkinson's picture

Quote:
it's true the electrons don't know the difference, since they don't think or hear. They just go where the conductors route them, and do it as the cabling dictates.

Please note that the electrons in a cable don't carry the audio signal. Instead the signal is an alternating electrical field that travels close to the speed of light outside the conductor in the dielectric. The electrons actually travel at few cm/s.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

eugovector's picture

I knew it was in here somewhere...

Scorpio69er's picture

Let's settle this nonsense once and for all. You and the rest of the Stereophile staff show, in double-blind ABX testing under controlled conditions, that you can consistently pick out cables X, Y and Z vs. lamp zip cord. Or, vs. the nicely made and very cheap cables/interconnects I get from Monoprice that sound perfectly fine.

Unless and until you can show that without knowing the cables under test you can actually discern any difference, we must assume this whole business of esoteric cables is really just a lesson in marketing. 

P.S. Also publish the results of hearing tests administered to each of you. 

ChrisS's picture

Know anyone who shops for stereo components by doing double-blind ABX testing? Do you know of anyone at all who does double-blind testing for the purpose of reviewing any products?

Been coerced into buying a Ford truck lately?

Scorpio69er's picture

If someone is trying to tell me that a piece of esoteric wire costing hundreds of dollars ± per foot is in some magical way better than standard cable from Monoprice, he should easily be able to discern the differences while blindfolded and do so consistently in a controlled setting. If he cannot, that settles it. This isn't that difficult. When I go shopping for stereo equipment, I do not take cabling into account at all, since no one has ever shown that there is any actual difference by passing this simple test.

Now, if you are convinced that wire A is worth 100x the price of wire B, knock yourself out. 

ChrisS's picture

You don't shop and compare?

I have a 1998 Pathfinder that I'd like to sell. It only has 350,000 miles and just a spot or two of rust, but it runs great! Interested?

ChrisS's picture

My son shops like you Scorpio69er.... He buys two pairs of Sears brand jeans for the price of one pair of Levi's. He can't tell the difference either.

John Atkinson's picture

scorpio69er wrote:
You and the rest of the Stereophile staff show, in double-blind ABX testing under controlled conditions, that you can consistently pick out cables X, Y and Z vs. lamp zip cord.

Michael Fremer and I have done so, in a single-blind test administered by a mainstream reporter at a CES a few years back. In addition, Michael Fremer accepted the Amazing Randi's "Million Dollar" challenge regarding his ability to identify cables, but under the condition that the testing not be administered by Randi's associates but by independent experts from, IIRC, Scientific American magazine. Randi backed out.

Quote:
Unless and until you can show that without knowing the cables under test you can actually discern any difference, we must assume this whole business of esoteric cables is really just a lesson in marketing.

If you are so skeptical about what this magazine's writers say, then I have to ask why you subscribe to Stereophile in the first place?

Quote:
Also publish the results of hearing tests administered to each of you.

Kalman Rubinson and I have both done so in the past.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

arve's picture

If you are so skeptical about what this magazine's writers say, then I have to ask why you subscribe to Stereophile in the first place?

As opposed to most of the subjective audio press, you provide measurements for, which is usually what I click right through to in a review.  This is also the chief reason why I visit your SORC sibling Innerfidelity.   I don't come here for the subjective descriptions or anything else.

(On that note - have you considered publishing power cubes for amplifiers?  It's a pretty telling means of evaluating how an amplifier will behave in the real world)

Scorpio69er's picture

re: "in a single-blind test adminstered by a mainstream reporter at a CES a few years back..."

This, of course, hardly constitutes scientific proof of anything, as you well know.

What I am skeptical of, sir, are your claims regarding pieces of wire and the magical musical properties you assign to them. Now, it should be a simple matter to set up a scientifically controlled test of the type everyone here would like to see performed, taking into account all of the variables I and others have pointed out. Forget Randi and have an independent entity set up the tests with those whom you chose: "independent experts from, IIRC, Scientific American magazine". Just because Randi "backed out" doesn't mean you should or that this is somehow "proof" of your assertions regarding wires. 

I have been reading Stereophile since the glory days of JGH, long before esoteric wire became a religion. Somehow, JGH was yet able to make meaningful judgements about, particularly, loudspeakers (Bob Carver kinda fried you guys on amps), and somehow all of us were able to enjoy our stereos and the music. This wonderful hobby of ours must be taken with some sense of humor, as I recall Sam Tellig many years back urging us to Armor All our records, claiming sonic nirvana would result (which many also attested they heard), only to later retract his recommendation. Oops.

I enjoy learning about what's out there in stereoland, since I cannot attend CES or have manufacturers send me their wares for my own evaluation, but the fact is 99% of us who love music cannot afford such gear. I have no doubt your reference system sounds superb, but when you and others venture off into la-la-land about cables, I call bullshit, because that's what it is. 

ChrisS's picture

Just because you believe it so?

Paul Luscusk's picture

Just keeping the record stright.

Scorpio69er's picture

Yes, you are correct. Not nearly half as crazy as putting Armor All on vinyl. laugh

John Atkinson's picture

Scorpio69er wrote:
John Atkinson wrote:
in a single-blind test adminstered by a mainstream reporter at a CES a few years back...

This, of course, hardly constitutes scientific proof of anything, as you well know.

I am not impressed by your claim to be able to read my mind. I was offering that this test was performed and had a positive result in response to the claims that there had _never_ been any blind tests of cables that produced positive results and that Stsreophile's writers had never taken part in such tests. That you don't believe the result doesn't mean the Gomes test wasn't valid.

Quote:
Forget Randi and have an independent entity set up the tests with those whom you chose: "independent experts from, IIRC, Scientific American magazine". Just because Randi "backed out" doesn't mean you should or that this is somehow "proof" of your assertions regarding wires.

I mentioned this in response to the poster who said we could win Randi's Million Dollar challenge if we believed cables sounded different. When the opportunity did arise to take the challenge, it was Randi that backed out.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

audioclassic's picture

What? Didn't we settle this 35 years ago? OF COURSE, I CAN HEAR THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN JUST ABOUT EVERY CABLE IN THE WORLD AND I'll bet most of the guys reading this can, too.

Bill Leebens's picture

...and welcome to the world of the forums!

Any of y'all with Jason's level of musical knowledge and skills as a listener, feel free to comment on his writing. Most of what I see here, however, is the same old tired "anything beyond zipcord is a waste of money and only DBT tells the truth" bullshit.

If you really believe that, why are you here? Did mom banish you to the basement again?

Man. Good luck, my friend. You are far more patient than I !

Scorpio69er's picture

What is "bullshit", sir, is spending more than a few cents/ft for any piece of wire for dubious results. Of course, those who believe in magic want to believe in magic. If spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on wire makes you happy, feel free. For the rest of us who do not have money to burn, it makes a big difference as to whether spending more actually gets you more. Oh, the esoteric cables are certainly pretty, but the question is what spending more than a few bucks at Monoprice actually gets you. For someone to claim some musical magic from a cable is all well and good, but if I blindfold them and suddenly they cannot tell any difference between a $500 interconnect and a $5 one, there's a real problem.

ChrisS's picture

If you don't want to spend the money, don't. If you can't hear a difference, too bad.

Scorpio69er's picture

 

re: "If you can't hear a difference, too bad."

 

Don't feel bad for me! You're the one apparently willing to drop ridiculous amounts of $ on a product that no one on God's earth can prove sounds any different than the fine, inexpensive wire from Monoprice. Just because you believe you hear something doesn't make it real. But, hey, if it makes you feel better, go for it. 

ChrisS's picture

I have a great bricks and mortar stereo shop that I've been shopping at since my university days, and that was decades and decades ago.... This shop allows me and other customers to borrow various pieces of equipment to try out at home for several days at a time. The last "major" purchase I made was for a power cord- I tried out 3 different models of WireWorld power cords and settled on the mid-priced one for a whopping $160!

As I've asked in another post here, what constitutes proof for you? And why do you not trust yourself and your own ears?

When was the last time someone made you buy a Ford F-150 just because that person felt that it's the BEST TRUCK in the world? Would you do a DBT to know if it's true or not?

Scorpio69er's picture

re: "why do you not trust yourself and your own ears?"

Oh, but I do. It is precisely because I do that I know that, when blindfolded, nobody, including moican differentiate wires in a controlled setting. So when someone claims that they can, but refuses to "trust their own ears" by submitting to such a test, I call bullshit.

I'll spend 100x more on a piece of wire when it can be shown scientifically that it yields even a 10x improvement in sound quality. Until then, spending hundreds of $ on cables that would be much better spent on a better pair of loudspeakers is foolish.

ChrisS's picture

How do you know that?

You believe...therefore it must be so?

Scorpio69er's picture

Show me the tests that prove me wrong. They do not exist. Try it yourself, if you really want to prove it. Of course, that would take a bit of doing, since I am talking about controlled listening tests. But perhaps for your own amusement, have a friend randomly swap in some cheap cables into your own system over a period of a month (no peeking allowed!) and you keep a journal detailing what you think you hear on any given day. See if you can actually discern any differences with any degree of statistical significance in your own system.

In the mean time, check out this piece:

http://www.nousaine.com/pdfs/Wired%20Wisdom.pdf

Still not scientifically conclusive due to the lack of control, but interesting nonetheless.

ChrisS's picture

You're right- 3 different "tests" with 3 different listeners wtih 3 different systems does not constitute "science". Nor does opinion.

Scorpio69er's picture

You have shown nothing in any of your posts, except a dogged belief in magic. Good luck to you, sir, and may I recommend to you a few meters of my fabulous Asian Forest™ cable. It is a true bargain at only $50000/meter, as attested to by my dog, who actually has super hearing and impeccable taste in music.

 smiley

ChrisS's picture

You've shown us how you shop.

ChrisS's picture

My Pathfinder drove magically through two feet of snow! I did, however, encounter areas where there was only 1 foot or thereabouts. Was there a difference? Only slightly....

Bubbamike's picture

What this comes down to is that peasents had the nerve to disagree with Mr. Serinus's opinon. How dare they not hear what he thinks they should hear. After all he is a practiced listener and he has golden ears and these riff raff disagree and when he explains what they should hear they still don't hear it. My goodness, perhaps Jason should send them to block for their stupidity.

John Atkinson's picture

Bubbamike wrote:
What this comes down to is that peasents had the nerve to disagree with Mr. Serinus's opinon. How dare they not hear what he thinks they should hear.

Everyone appears to be forgetting about the role of mentoring in critical listening to audio. Jon Iverson wrote about this in June 2002 - see www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/588/index.html - and it is the case that until someone shows you what to listen for, you can be unaware of it. I wrote about this aspect of hearing and perception in my 2011 Richard Heyser Memorial Lecture that I presented to the Audio Engineering Society:

"I was auditioning an early orchestral CD with the late Raymond Cooke, founder of KEF. I remarked that the CD sounded pretty good to me—no surface noise or tracing distortion, the speed stability, the clarity of the low frequencies—when Raymond metaphorically shook me by the shoulders: "Can't you hear that quality of high frequencies? It sounds like grains of rice being dropped onto a taut paper sheet." And up to that point, no, I had not noticed anything amiss with the high frequencies."

So was I a "peasant" until the moment of shared listening with Raymond? Or was it simply that it took a more experienced listener to open my ears?

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

thecanman's picture

John,

You're missing the point here.  Two points, actually. (1) Many readers, including myself, found the original post to be extremely insulting. He basically said anyone who doesn't hear what he hears when it comes to cables is an unsophisticated, musically illiterate Neanderthal. (2) Despite your claims to the contrary, the Stereophile staff has not even come close to proving that they can hear the difference between cables in a properly constructed test. As I said in my earlier post, if cables make such a huge difference, you should be able to pick one system out of 20 or 30 where the only difference is a single cable--and do it immediately and consistently. Until you rise to that challenge, I stand by my opinion: hugely expensive cables are a scam.

John Atkinson's picture

thecanman wrote:
You're missing the point here.

I don't think so. It is inarguable that even though we all start out with the same hearing apparatus, people differ in their listening skills, as they do in every other skill. It is also inarguable that those skills can be improved by learning and mentoring. The anecdote I quoted was to illustrate that with the help of others, I am a better skilled, more perceptive listener than my younger self. And there is the fact that practicing something over a long period of time increases your skill at it - the "10,000 hours" theory.

Quote:
(1) Many readers, including myself, found the original post to be extremely insulting. He basically said anyone who doesn't hear what he hears when it comes to cables is an unsophisticated, musically illiterate Neanderthal.

He didn't say that, nor would he. And no insult was intended.

Quote:
(2) Despite your claims to the contrary, the Stereophile staff has not even come close to proving that they can hear the difference between cables in a properly constructed test.

In another comment today, I mentioned that Michael Fremer and I did just that. You are welcome to disagree with the results of that test, of course, but you can't pretend it didn't occur.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

eugovector's picture

A link to said test conditions and results?

John Atkinson's picture

eugovector wrote:
A link to said test conditions and results?

The test was designed and run by Lee Gomes in 2008, then of the Wall Street Journal, now of Forbes magazine. Lee doesn't give any detail of the test but he described the results at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120044692027492991.html?mod=hpp_us_inside_to:

"Using two identical CD players, I tested a $2,000, eight-foot pair of Sigma Retro Gold cables from Monster Cable, which are as thick as your thumb, against 14-gauge, hardware-store speaker cable. Many audiophiles say they are equally good. I couldn't hear a difference and was a wee bit suspicious that anyone else could. But of the 39 people who took this test, 61% said they preferred the expensive cable.

"That may not be much of a margin for two products with such drastically different prices, but I was struck by how the best-informed people at the show -- like John Atkinson and Michael Fremer of Stereophile Magazine -- easily picked the expensive cable."

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Scorpio69er's picture

 

This piece is interesting, although the tests, like the one you cite, are not as rigorous as would be needed to be scientifically conclusive:

 

http://www.nousaine.com/pdfs/Wired%20Wisdom.pdf

ChrisS's picture

Again, there's no science here.

John Atkinson's picture

Scorpio69er wrote:
This piece is interesting, although the tests, like the one you cite, are not as rigorous as would be needed to be scientifically conclusive:

http://www.nousaine.com/pdfs/Wired%20Wisdom.pdf

I am familiar with this decades-old article. "Not as rigorous" is the least of it. And Tom Nousaine and you both appear to have forgotten that in formal statistical analysis, null results as in these Canadian Sound & Vision tests cannot be taken as indicating that there was not a physicsl difference between the objects being tested. The correct formal conclusion was that if there were a real difference, it could not be detected under the specific conditions of the test. By contrast, a single verifiable positive result of a test does indeed suggest that a real difference exists.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Scorpio69er's picture

I do not claim to be an expert at these sorts of tests, so I cannot comment upon your remarks. Perhaps I can hunt up my old statistics professor and ask him. In the mean time, why not have an outside entity that is an expert set one up and subject you and the rest of the gang to it? Merely leveling criticism at one that I readily acknowledged was not rigorous proves nothing.

Or, better yet, make such tests an integral part of every single review published in Stereophile from now on. If the vast sonic differences you proclaim with any given piece of gear actually exist -- be it cables, DACs, amps, whatever -- it should be a piece of cake for you guys to prove it scientifically. Every time. 

Please understand, sir, that I like your publication, although I think you guys take yourselves way too seriously. But please also understand that when you're talking about spending hundreds of dollars on any piece of audio gear, for 99% of us hicks out here in Hooterville this gets serious, because we're going to have to scrimp and save to make the purchase. We need to be damn sure our audio $ are spent wisely, maximizing bang for the buck. I would wager that for the vast majority of us, finding a better pair of loudspeakers would make a bigger difference than spending the same $ on some piece of wire that one has to be "mentored" in order to discern any difference with Monoprice cables -- even assuming this is possible.

ChrisS's picture

You took Statistics, yet show no understanding of statistical significance in a testing situation...?

ChrisS's picture

If you test the reviewers, then who will test the tester? Consumer Reports?

Scorpio69er's picture

Your inane comments were initially amusing. Now, they're just boring.

ChrisS's picture

I often find the logic in the comments made by those who go on and on about how Stereophile should do blind testing to be rather interesting. The factual content of those comments is also quite scanty.... As are yours.

I take that back...There is no logic to your posts.

MVBC's picture

"and it is the case that until someone shows you what to listen for, you can be unaware of it."

Again, all this must have one reference, and that reference is the live performance. There is no such thing as "exceedingly airy", exceeding what? Airy? It is either airy or it is not. Gear can introduce pleasant, remarkable, mind boggling but ultimately false hyperdetails that would go well beyond what the real performance would sound like.

Thus in order to claim one cable is "truer" to the real world, the real world has to be heard first before making comparisons.

Finally an anecdote about who hears what: a certain Chinese pianist released a Rachmaninov recording with an Italian renowned maestro on the most prestigious label of classical music a couple years ago. It was trumpeted as a "live" recording. Many audiophile reviewers touted the great sound engineer's prowess... Except that my critical listening revealed interesting sound variations during the 2 pieces supposedly recorded during one single live concert: one mat sound versus one warmer, more haloed sound. And since applauses at the end of one piece had the latest sound character, one truly wondered how the same concert could sound differently...

Charting the switches revealed numerous changes, back and forth. In many classical violin recordings, it is customary to record the candenzas without orchestra musicians so no parasite noise, cracking chair etc... could interrupt the flow of the single sounding instrument. Usually the sound acoustical decay and reverb difference between a single occupant in the hall and a filled up place betrays the trick if one pays attention. Coming back to our pianist and maestro, the videos on the label website showed the usual rehearsals taking place before the concert. It is easy to figure that the mat sound was therefore linked to the more controlled environment of rehearsals. In consequence, the chart showed this "live" recording ended up being a 50/50 mix...

I have yet to read a recanted review by the audiophile crowd... try it yourself it's a fun game between friends, and you can hear the difference even with a 12 gauge copper!

Scorpio69er's picture

re: "all this must have one reference, and that reference is the live performance"

This brings up another interesting aspect in all of this. Most recordings we listen to are not live, and even if they are, they have been heavily tweaked as the recording is finalized, as you point out. There are really very few "pure" live recordings out there. I certainly don't listen to many of them. It gets even stickier when we try to figure out what is "accurate" when it comes to a studio recording. The only thing that could even begin to be construed as "accurate" in most recordings we listen to would be what the engineer heard on his studio monitors when the recording was finalized. 

There is also the problem that, if components can only be judged as "accurate" in terms of how well they reproduce a pure live recording (still a very subjective judgement), they may sound less than stellar with the other 99.9% of music we actually listen to. 

Maybe it's just me, but somehow in all of the obsessing about minute sonic differences between mega-expensive cables and multi-thousand dollar amps, it seems that we've lost sight of what this hobby is really all about -- enjoying the music. I think I had more fun back in the day with my ESS Heil AMT-1A speakers and NAD receiver than anything I've heard since. It was gear a working man could afford and actually enjoy, without worrying about whether his cables gave him as much "air" as the Ruy Lopez Golden Twists™ that cost $500/ft.

 

 

MVBC's picture

Many jazz studio recordings bring for instance a closely miked piano over a voice. There is no way in real life anyone will hear the voice from his seat and put his head inside the piano. Thus the ability to hear or not the piano microdetails is a false problem. In fact there is little need for imaging etc... to reproduce those made up recordings!

As far as live recordings are concerned, to me the Mercury Living Presence approach was the closest to feeling like one person in the best seat of the concert hall. Multimiking may be pleasant, technically advanced etc... but ultimately is also a made up product. A previous commenter pointed out how some orchestral instruments are often artificially enhanced by mixing engineers.

I'd argue that "high fidelity" means firstly fidelity to reality. A system able to reproduce the reality of a properly positioned group, dynamic, tonal color etc... will likely come out a winner when playing a Bjork purely created sound landscape.

In any case, I always smile when these people advise spending $1000s in speaker cables to simply feed the same ordinary Vifa, ScanSpeak 8" drivers just because some manufacturer packaged them in gorgeous veneered boxes, especially when they'll claim amazing basses... Notwithstanding the fact that if the internal cabling of the speaker is not made up of the Asian Forest TM $50,000/m cable, the final result will always depend on the lesser component...

In fact the dichotomy between professional sound and the high end is troubling, as if the self anointed appear uninterested in the upstream aspect of the product that will feed their niche industry and their endless esoteric pursuit. Between a $12k DeVore soap box and a retooled pair of Hosoken JBL 4343, the choice is in fact very simple for anyone who experienced pro sound.  

Scorpio69er's picture

re: "if the internal cabling of the speaker is not made up of the Asian Forest TM $50,000/m cable, the final result will always depend on the lesser component"

I was thinking the same thing! All of this esoteric cable is, first of all, terminated using the same spade lugs or bananna plugs as my Monoprice cables. So whatever "magic" they possess is ultimately routed not only through these everyday connectors, which should utterly negate their magical properties, but there is the additional issue of, as you point out, the speaker's internal cabling. I have a pair of nice Dynaudio speakers that sound great, but I'm sure if I were to crack them open the connection from the speaker connector terminal to the drivers is basic copper wire sheathed in plastic.

Joe8423's picture

It could provide some credibility and perspective.  I know that most reviewers don't believe that db tests can uncover all differences but they would certainly help readers understand how big differences really are.  If reviewers love a component but can't tell it from another component in a blind test the differences must be subtle.  Nobody has to admit that there is no difference, just that it isn't obvious enough to be heard in a dbt.  There certainly ought to be differences that can be discerned by a dbt.  A class A speaker should sound enough different from a class C speaker that the differences can be consistently heard in a dbt.  If tests were done a couple of times a year on various components, over time the data could help people make good decisions about what types of components make the biggest differences and therefore deserve the most attention.

MVBC's picture

Right on!enlightened

Scorpio69er's picture

Re: Double blind testing

I doubt Stereophile would ever do this, since they rely on advertising revenue. If such tests revealed little or no difference bewteen mega $ cables or amps and actual affordable gear, there goes the whole shebang. What would the maker of that fabulous $1000/ft Capablanca Emerald™ speaker cable do when it was revealed that no one could actually discern its wonderfulness compared to this week's special at Radio Shack? Oh, the humanity!

John Atkinson's picture

Scorpio69er wrote:

I doubt Stereophile would ever do [double blind testing], since they rely on advertising revenue. If such tests revealed little or no difference between mega $ cables or amps and actual affordable gear, there goes the whole shebang.

And now we get the inevitable insult to our integrity when someone's statements are not accepted as fact. No, advertising does not rule what we do and write at this magazine. And, of course, your implication that double-blind tests inherently prove a negative suggests that for you, that there be no differences "between mega $ cables or amps and actual affordable gear" is a matter of faith, not fact.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Scorpio69er's picture

Get over yourself, dude. Seriously. No one is attacking your integrity. But we are not sheep that are willing to be herded into spending hundreds or thousands of $ based solely upon your utterances from on high. If we ask for scientific verification of, particularly, your claims regarding pieces of wire that can run into the thousands of dollars when you're talking the 10, 20 or more feet needed for most home systems, you should rise to the challenge instead of ranting. If you do not wish to conduct such tests, it is simple enough to say so and be done with it. The rest of us will make our own judgements, thank you very much. 

ChrisS's picture

Scorpio69er,

Did you just tell John "You're not the boss of me!" ?

John Atkinson's picture

Scorpio69er wrote:
John Atkinson wrote:
Scorpio69er wrote:
I doubt Stereophile would ever do [double blind testing], since they rely on advertising revenue. If such tests revealed little or no difference between mega $ cables or amps and actual affordable gear, there goes the whole shebang.

And now we get the inevitable insult to our integrity when someone's statements are not accepted as fact. No, advertising does not rule what we do and write at this magazine.

Get over yourself, dude. Seriously. No one is attacking your integrity.

Forgive me for taking what you wrote (requoted above) literally. If you don't believe that advertising influences what Stereophile does, then why did you write the words above?

Quote:
If you do not wish to conduct such tests, it is simple enough to say so and be done with it.

I have repeatedly written, both in the magazine and on this website, why I believe quick-switched double-blind testing as typically practiced is very poor at identifying small but real differences. This is not, as you state above, due to my yielding to pressure from advertisers but to my experience at having been involved in a large number of such tests over the past 35 years, as listener, organizer, or as proctor.

Quote:
The rest of us will make our own judgements, thank you very much.

That has always been what we recommend. The staff at this magazine may be experienced and careful listeners but we have always emphasized that our readers test our opinions by listening for themselves. However, this is with the proviso, given Jason's thesis in this essay, that people acknowledge that what will be true for their tastes and expectations might not be true for others. Robert Deutsch wrote about this dichotomy in “Sharpeners and Levelers,” his May 2011 “As We See It.”

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

arve's picture

I have repeatedly written, both in the magazine and on this website, why I believe quick-switched double-blind testing as typically practiced is very poor at identifying small but real differences. 

Could you point us to those writings.  I have done a great number of quick-switch ABX tests to tell the difference between:

  • Sample rates
  • Sample rate converters
  • Bit depth
  • Audio encodings - both in different codecs head to head, and between bitrates of the same lossy material

And come up with positive results in those double-blind tests, even when being told that there should be no audible difference at all, so I find it curious that you find it to be bad.

ChrisS's picture

What did your findings mean? Do you understand "false positives"?

Did you happen to do these ABX tests from the internet listerning through your computer speakers?

arve's picture

Even for a troll, you are useless.   Goodbye.

ChrisS's picture

Because I asked you about false positives?

Tell me, Arve, do you have roguish eyes?

John Atkinson's picture

John Atkinson wrote:
arve wrote:
I have repeatedly written, both in the magazine and on this website, why I believe quick-switched double-blind testing as typically practiced is very poor at identifying small but real differences.

Could you point us to those writings.

I gathered together my thoughts on blind testing for my 2011 Richard Heyser lecture to the Audio Engineering Society: www.stereophile.com/content/2011-richard-c-heyser-memorial-lecture-where-did-negative-frequencies-go-measuring-sound-qua. But first read www.stereophile.com/content/2011-richard-c-heyser-memorial-lecture-where-did-negative-frequencies-go-nothing-real.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

arve's picture

… I've only had a chance to briefly skim the writing, so I'm not going to draw conclusions on it.  

My reason for asking was simply that my experience with rapid-switching blind testing has identified differences where the truly hardline objectivists tell me that I shouldn't be able to hear them (e.g. 16/44.1 vs 24/96) in tests that are rigorous enough to satisfy a statistican - one example of such a test I've done is here: http://en.reddit.com/r/audiophile/comments/12fgln/abxing_2496_material_w...

Done on decidedly low-end gear, but under conditions that exaggerate the differences somewhat.  Note that when I passed these ABX tests, it was easy to identify the differences, and easy to translate to a long-term subjective experience - differences in timbre of background noise in recordings and blackness of the sonic carpet on which we paint easily change both our perception of dynamics, detail and listening fatigue.

Note, there seems to be a problem with the second of your articles - The audio started autoplaying, and the playback controls are partially hidden, so it was very hard to find them (Browser: Chrome on OS X).

ChrisS's picture

Ahh, so you were doing your ABXing on the internet through your computer... Then no need for bed sheets to hide the equipment!

Read the articles, carefully.  Very informative.

Scorpio69er's picture

re: "The staff at this magazine may be experienced and careful listeners but..."

...in the end, you're really no different than the rest of us. You have two ears and certain tastes and biases. Perhaps the only real difference is that you are immersed in a world of uber-expensive audio equipment supplied to you by fawning manufacturers who, by supplying you with such equipment, serve to affirm your delusion about being an audio guru, which, I am sorry to tell you, you are not. Whatever you write about whatever it is you think you hear is, in the end, your own subjective judgement. Nothing more and nothing less. It is not "the truth", so my questioning of it is not an attack upon your integrity.

It is also a simple fact that your magazince is chock full of ads for ridiculously priced pieces of equipment and could not help but be adversely affected, economically speaking, if your tests actually showed, for example, zero sonic differences between Acme's Speaker Cable or DAC or Amp and [insert brand here]. I mean, who would run an ad for $500/meter cable in a magazine that told its readers to save its $ because this stuff is essentially no better than Monoprice cable?

Now, you may fancy yourself a "careful listener", which can only mean that the rest of us untutored rubes are therefore "careless listeners", but somehow it is you who feels slighted when your pronouncements are questioned and your methodology observed to be less than scientfic. You may reject employing such methodology, which is certainly your prerogative, but you cannot say that it is not valid, scientifically.

That you would even think to advise anyone who does not literally have a pile of money to burn to shell out hundreds or even thousands of $ from their hard earned paycheck for a friggin' piece of wire(!) with (alleged) "small but real differences" illustrates how out of touch with the vast majority of your readership you really are. 

Come down from the mountain, sir. Mingle among the umwashed masses. Realize that this hobby is, first and foremost, about music, and 99.9% of us will never drive an $80000 amp cabled with $5000 worth of magic wire. It is also irrelevant whether or not we can hear the timpani player scratch his nuts after the second violinist clears his throat. This is not music, and it is most assuredly not fun.

Stereophile used to have a sense of humor. I read it in the same way I would read MAD magazine. It was funny and we all realized that we were perhaps a bit nuts, or at least suffered from a harmless obsession. You and the rest of your humorless crew are in desperate need of a wild week of sinful abandon. When you wake up dazed and confused and suffering a severe hangover and wondering who in the hell is this woman in a catsuit lying next to me on the pool table, brush yourself off and get back to work reviewing equipment that makes some kind of rational economic sense, given that 99% of us are listening to the 99% of music that is a totally manufactured product, a la a box of Corn Flakes, and that what is "accurate" when it comes to this music can only mean what the engineer who finalized the recording heard on his studio monitors and therefore all we really need to know is the answer to two questions: (1.) Do I enjoy listening to music on this gear? (2.) Can my readers afford to buy this gear?

May the spirit of J. Gordon Holt be with you. smiley

ChrisS's picture

Scorpio69er,

You sound happiest when shopping at Monoprice and unhappy when you can't control the lives of others.

Go back to Monoprice and back to reading Mad Magazine.

Scorpio69er's picture

You make me cry with laughter, mixed with actual physical pain. You need your own TV show. I can only imagine the results of your interviews with various movers and shakers and celebrities. The results would be priceless.

ChrisS's picture

I am so glad that you allow me to inhabit and enrich your fantasy life!

Scorpio69er's picture

You confuse "fantasy" with "nightmare".

Dude, you are so far out in right field that you're over the wall, beyond the bleachers and somewhere out in the third parking lot with the winos.

laugh

ChrisS's picture

Wow, if you say so....Be sure to see someone if you're nervous about the dark under your bed, too.

John Atkinson's picture

John Atkinson wrote:
Scorpio69er wrote:

The staff at this magazine may be experienced and careful listeners...

in the end, you're really no different than the rest of us. You have two ears and certain tastes and biases. Perhaps the only real difference is that you are immersed in a world of uber-expensive audio equipment supplied to you by fawning manufacturers who, by supplying you with such equipment, serve to affirm your delusion about being an audio guru, which, I am sorry to tell you, you are not.

Wow, I seem to have touched a nerve. I have never claimed that I am a "guru," to use your emotionally loaded word. And I am certainly not claiming inherent superiority on our part. Instead, as I wrote earlier in this thread, while It is inarguable that we all start out with the same hearing apparatus, people differ in their listening skills, as they do in every other skill. It is also inarguable that those skills can be improved by learning and mentoring. I am merely suggesting both that this magazine's reviewers, including myself, have spent decades listening critically to audio components and we have been the beneficiary of guidance from people with greater listening skills and experience along the way.

Scorpio69er wrote:
Now, you may fancy yourself a "careful listener", which can only mean that the rest of us untutored rubes are therefore "careless listeners" . . .

I don't understand how you can reject the effect of that experience and mentoring. This is not a zero-sum game. Anyone who had been subject to it (provided they did not have physical hearing damage) would be a better listener at the end of it than they were at the beginning. Why do you believe Stereophile's reviewers are immune to this learning experience?

Scorpio69er wrote:
but somehow it is you who feels slighted when your pronouncements are questioned and your methodology observed to be less than scientific.

Nothing I have written in this thread suggests that I feel slighted because of what you say above. What I have objected to is your unsupported and insulting conjecture that serving the magazine's advertisers governs what I say and do at Stereophile.

Scorpio69er wrote:

You may reject employing such methodology, which is certainly your prerogative, but you cannot say that it is not valid, scientifically.

I most certainly can when such testing is sloppily performed, with no control of interfering variables, with biased analysis of the results, and with misuse of statistics, all of which was the case in the example you linked to. That you have an unquestioning belief in the validity of such tests because the results align with your prejudices is the opposite of "scientific," I am afraid.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Scorpio69er's picture

There really is not much more that I can say, so I will leave it to anyone who reads this thread to come to their own conclusions. Others must now judge who makes the most sense in their arguments.

However, when the day arrives where you are turning off the lights in the Stereophile world headquarters for the last time because no one is any longer willing (or able) to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars for alleged minute differences in audio gear that only the initiated think they hear, you may wish to recall this discussion. As others have said in this very thread, it's no wonder high end audio is dying. You guys seem to really believe that the rest of us bumpkins dull listening "skills can be improved by learning and mentoring" -- by you, of course. If this wasn't so bloody arrogant and laughable I'd cry. 

As I peruse your latest Recommended Components list I see, for example, a pair of monoblock amps costing over TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS(!!!!!!!!!!!!!) that yet only make your "Class B" designation. Let me say this plainly: If someone can't make a Class A1+ superb sounding amp or any other piece of audio equipment for home use for $3000 or less, depending of course upon the actual type of component (with loudspeakers being the most expensive) they should be banished to the dark side of the moon. That someone could charge 3x, 5x, 10x (or more) this amount and still make any list other than "the biggest shysters in audio history" is beyond my understanding and, I would wager, anyone else's who is not utterly delusional. 

Indeed, your entire approach to reviewing and rating audio products is upside down. You should begin from a premise that makes some sort of rational economic sense, given that what we listen to in terms of recorded music is an utterly manufactured and highly manipulated product. For example, set an absolute upper limit to the amount any human should spend for a home stereo system, say, $15K  for speakers, amp, preamp, etc. Even this amount is far beyond what 99% of your readers will ever in their wildest audio fantasy spend on stereo equipment. Then, call this your ultimate reference system. Any manufacturer who cannot work within such constraints and yet be able to produce  absolutely stunning sound is worthless and should be banished to peddling his wares to coked-out Wall Street crooks and self-proclaimed "careful listeners".

"Class A" components, under this new paradigm, would be those that come the closest to the reference system at the lowest cost, not the highest cost. If your reference amp, for example, cost $2000, then the $500 amp that gives us 90% of its wonderfulness would be Class A, and the $1900 amp that gives us 95% would be Class F. Now, there's a real challenge that also makes sense. It is what would best serve the interest of struggling brick and mortar dealers and the 99.9% of us audiophiles who aren't swimming in money. It is indeed the only thing that's going to save high end audio from flaming out on its own hubris and delusional thinking.

ChrisS's picture

Once again, you're right! So many words in your stream of consciousness and none have any root in reality.

You would like Monoprice to carry Krell, no?

John Atkinson's picture

scorpio69er wrote:
There really is not much more that I can say, so I will leave it to anyone who reads this thread to come to their own conclusions.

That's fine by me. It appears that you wish Stereophile was a very different magazine to what it currently is. I am sorry but that is not going to happen and I have nothing more to say on that subject. But I will address one more point you have made:

scorpio69er wrote:
You guys seem to really believe that the rest of us bumpkins dull listening "skills can be improved by learning and mentoring" -- by you, of course. If this wasn't so bloody arrogant and laughable I'd cry.

First, no-one has described our readers as "bumpkins," nor would we. And I don't understand why it is "arrogant" of me to bring up the subject of mentoring. Often when I share a listening experience with one of my writers, or a designer, or a retailer I learn something I wasn't aware of before. None of us start out as expert listeners; all of us undergo a lifetime of learning. I am a more perceptive listener now than I was 25 years ago; I hope I will be a more perceptive listener in the future. That doesn't mean I used to be a "bumpkin," only that things can go unnoticed until someone points them out. You then hear them every time!

Earlier in this thread I mentioned my experience listening to CD with the late Raymond Cooke as an example of mentoring from my own life. I was also lucky to have shared many listening experiences with Martin Colloms in the 1970s and it was Martin who taught what me much of what to listen for in loudspeakers. Was that "arrogant" of Martin? Of course not. If you had been in the audience in the loudspeaker seminars I have conducted at audio shows recently, you would have witnessed me in turn passing on such information by playing, for example, the sound of music afflicted with reflex port resonances. Is this "arrogant" of me? I don't think so.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Scorpio69er's picture

You have convinced me of one thing: Stereophile, a magazine that used to be fun and funny and actually useful to relatively normal people of normal means, is now lost in its own imaginary universe of $10K "Class B" amplifiers, magic multi-hundred dollar/ft cables, and "mentored" listening to even begin to be able to discern the wonderfulness these insane items allegedly produce. It is no longer worth my time. For that, I thank you, though tearfully.

Good night and good luck.

ChrisS's picture

That magazine must also have existed only in your imagination.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4sUPvDZfog

Ariel Bitran's picture

(NT)

ChrisS's picture
Richard Dale's picture

If you think all HiFi equipment sounds much the same, and you don't think an individual can come to sound conclusions by themselves about what sort of equipment or cables they should buy, then you don't share the same hobby with the rest of us. If I wasn't able do that, then I would not have a HiFi hobby. And because I don't share the same hobby with you, I personally have no interest in your opinions.

I can listen to equipment, including my very good Nordost speaker cables, and form opinions about what it sounds like without needing to turn to 'objectivity police' such as yourself, to vindicate my preferences.

Stephen Majias has written plenty of excellent Stereophile articles about entry level equipement, and his experiences have indicated that it makes a lot of sense to consider which cables to use when optimizing the performance of even relatively budget systems.

MVBC's picture

"If you think all HiFi equipment sounds much the same"

Nobody said that. Strawman argument. For that matter even the same digits on, let's say burnt on a Maxell CD and a HHB CD support, will have a different sound.

"And because I don't share the same hobby with you, I personally have no interest in your opinions."

And the next sentence is usually: I should go back where I came from... angry

I have a low budget bridge to sell you that will help make your Nordost cable sound even better: is that now the same hobby?

My "hobby" is access to music i.e. culture through a tool and since money is still an object in pursuing this interest, so far experience showed me professional sound is a better quality/price tool to achieve my goal.

Now, of course, you have total freedom to spend your dough as you see fit.

Joe8423's picture

the way the measurements do.  You don't buy based solely on measurements but they do uncover things that can contribute to a decision to buy or not.  If test data shows that spending 10k to upgrade speakers will most likely improve your system more than spending 10k to upgrade wires why wouldn't you want to know that?  Since it's a very subjective hobby I like to have as much objective data as possible to help give me perspective and keep me grounded.  I think it would really help the reviewers with perspective and grounding as well.  They'd be less likely to exaggerate and imagine if they knew that once a year they were going to have to back up a review with a blind test of the component.  It sounds like a ton of fun to me.   

ChrisS's picture

Blind testing won't tell the average consumer anything. Trying a component in one's own system is all it takes.

Joe8423's picture

Why are you even here? 

Scorpio69er's picture

re: "Why are you even here?"

I'm a heretic. cheeky 

ChrisS's picture

If you're shopping, you have to start somewhere, and Stereophile does a way better job than Consumers Report!

MVBC's picture

After reading Stephen Majias column about Kimber cables, and the associated debate about measurements and what they'd show or not: 

I believe this whole affair could be easily settled: there must be sets of measurements since these smart engineers who manufactured the better cable created it, no? And since they even went into designing a series of cables at incremental prices, it must be easy to simply ask the manufacturer for the comparative designer sheet that guided their research in performance, beyond the obvious differences due to 18k versus 24 k gold plating connections. So Stereophile reviewers have simply to ask manufacturers. Mr. Atkinson?

P.S.: Please do not tell us that manufacturers do not have such laboratory tests... or that those are "secret defence". Thank you.

MVBC's picture

Speaker cable sublime

High purity class 1.003 extruded Flourinated Ethylene Propylene (FEP) Precision Dual Micro Mono-Filament design 24 x 20 AWG extruded silver over 99.999999% OFC Capacitance 9.2pF/ft Inductance 0.15uH/ft Propagation delay 98% speed of light

Speaker cable almost sublime

High purity class 1 extruded FEP 40 x optimized diameter in micro mono-filament construction 78 microns of extruded silver over 99.999999% OFC solid core Capacitance 11.8pF/ft Inductance 9.6uH/ft 2.6ohms/1000ft (304M) Propagation delay 96% speed of light

So I guess some audio critics are able to differentiate 96% versus 98% of speed light... notice a difference of 2.6pF/ft of capacitance and 9.45uH/ft of inductance and claim the difference is "massive"... Notwithstanding that if your speakers are not internally cabled with the gods, the propagation delay will be lowered to that of the lesser element.

I do not mind to entertain the notion that a well built and designed cable could bring a subtle difference compared to an inadapted lamp post wire, but all this for tens of thousands dollars seems quite over the top unless of course money is no object; however, when a firesale seems to be all the rage at one of the righthand column advertisers -no less than 50% discount!- and we all know they still make money at that price. cool

Scorpio69er's picture

I could supply you with the technical data from my fabulous Asian Forest™ cable, but I'm afraid it would make little sense to you, since the methods and equipment I use to test and manufacture God's favorite cable* are of proprietary design. I can, however, tell you this much: We mine our ore strictly by hand, using only tiny diamond-tipped forks made of Brazilian Rosewood that have been blessed by a local shaman, so as to not disturb the "time alignment" of the ore and the midichlorian counts in our workers.

 

*As he so informed me in a dream I had after spending the previous evening sinning mightily in a local gentlemen's club with a young lady by the name of "Kissy" and a bottle of fine Scotch Whisky.

devil

ChrisS's picture
MVBC's picture

Complete radio silence from Stereophile staff on the proposal to publish cables' technical data and no comment about the measures versus audition benefits of the gods cables... Speaks volume. no

John Atkinson's picture

MVBC wrote:
Complete radio silence from Stereophile staff on the proposal to publish cables' technical data . .

Apologies for the tardy response.  Life occasionally interferes with my ability to get involved in Internet fights. Yes, this is a good idea and we will endeavor to do so when the manufacturers make the data available.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

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