Breakthrough Approach to Audio Measurement

Cable manufacturers Nordost and Vertex AQ had good reason to present their joint seminar, "New Approach to Audio Measurement: Why Cables Really Matter," no less than five times during the show. As Art Dudley will report at length in his December "Listening" column, their groundbreaking new approach to measurement, developed by Nordost and Vertex AQ in collaboration with military electronic-engineering consultant Gareth Humphrey Jones, has produced an entirely new method for measuring the audible effects of components on sound. We're talking not only cables, support platforms, and the like, all of which can now be unequivocally shown to affect a system's sound quality, but also CD players, amplifiers, and speakers.

Co-presenters Roy Gregory of Nordost (former editor of HiFi+) and Steve Elford of Vertex AQ (pictured) projected a series of graphs that for the first time definitively demonstrated the effects of audiophile power cables, supports, and the Quantum device on sound. They also measured differences between CD players. Simply changing from a stock power cord to a well-made audiophile cord resulted in a 36% reduction in timing errors between the original WAV file and the same file burned on to a CD and played back by a typical high-quality player. Vertex AQ's support platform further reduced noise by 15%. The Quantum unit reduced noise by another 11%. Furthermore, there was no apparent hierarchy; if the support platform had been introduced first, rather than the power cord, its effect on errors would have been far greater.

Errors and effects that were formerly attributed to jitter have for the first time been identified as program-related using real music as the test signal. These errors cannot be identified by the standard continuous tone tests that everyone and their mother have been using all these years. To quote Roy Gregory, "We knew this stuff worked, but we didn't know why. Now we can gain insight into how to construct cables, CD players, and amps to produce better sound."

According to Gregory, the so-called law of diminishing returns, which says the more costly, high quality parts you put into a cable or device, the less of an improvement you will hear, need no longer apply. Using this new form of measurement to perfect products, it should now be possible to mate properly designed cables, components, and supports to deliver sound that reflects every bit of the time and investment devoted to their design and manufacture. This will not happen overnight—developing these measurements took a good six months, and this is very much a work in progress—but the results so far are extremely heartening. Bravos and gratitude to all.

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COMMENTS
Dave's picture

Wow, it's really interesting to read the fear amongst the cable and isolation naysayers.I saw the presentation and it was clear that it's preliminary results presented by marketing guys trying to get a jump on the final, official results, which are likely months away.The defense contractor analyst was not starting from ground zero at measuring sonic phenomenum because his specialties are sonar and radar, not audio.I'm reserving judgement until we see and actual white paper and it's subjected to validation. If nothing ever comes out, then we can lay it off to pure marketing hype, but if they deliver it could be a great leap forward in correlating what we hear to what's happening electronically.BTW, the CDPs compared were an old Linn, a current Rotel and a dcS. It was amazing to finally get confirmation of how badly that old Linn measured vs. what I heard it in the early 1990s.

Alan Sircom's picture

Strange then that most of this "Nordost marketing blitz" is conducted by Steve Elford of Vertex AQ (a UK-based competitor), the majority of information disclosed thus far is on the Vertex AQ site and that the end of the talk turns to discussing the strengths of rival brands (to both companies) such as Stillpoints, Finite Elemente and Crystal Cable. As I said earlier, these people are still at the "3,000 ways not to make a lightbulb" stage; maybe the end result will come to nothing, or maybe it'll join Audio Precision and the Miller QC Suite as one of the barrage of tests people use to determine product quality. It's too early to say for sure, even if those determined to play judge, jury and executioner think they know better.

Ted Clamstruck's picture

Okay, now I get it. "We really don't know WTF we're doing at this point" translates to "incontrovertible proof", and "Nordost is paying Vertex AQ for this work" translates to "this is a strategic alliance having no relationship to Nordost".

Alan Sircom's picture

I don't know why the post reposted, sorry. But no, that's not how it happens. "We really don't know WTF we are doing at this point" translates to "We've found something. How big a thing we don't know at this time." And where on earth did you get the idea that Nordost was paying Vertex AQ? Sometimes a strategic alliance is just that; a strategic alliance. Of course I may be wrong, and it was Nordost on the grassy knoll after all.

Ted Clamstruck's picture

Oops, sorry - I should have said "Acuity", rather than "Vertex AQ". Somebody's paying them to come up with the measurement technique. There's no way they're doing it on their own. It's hard to keep all these scammers straight.

Costas's picture

"Seminar", huh? "Cables really matter", huh? "Timing", huh? The problem is that there are plenty of fools out there, ready *once again* to spend their money on ignorant fools' or plain scammers' cables - the choice is yours. Ridiculous "seminars" by ridiculous vendors for ridiculous clients...

monkeyboy's picture

Bollocks!

George's picture

And yet another "breakthrough" in a piece of wire. Actually it's called another way to fool the dopey. I thought the other company had the "breakthrough" the other week, in last month's ad. Will these still need to be on cable "elevators" has that issue been resolved?

John Atkinson's picture

I understand why people like "monkeyboy," "Costas," ands "George" are skeptica;, but I am also puzzled why they are ridiculing the experimental evidence that was presented in the Nordost-Vertex seminar. Are they satisying that difference testing doesn't work? Are they saying that difference testing is legitimate, but only in the hands of people who don't work for Vertex or Nordost? Or they claiming that as they _personally_ can't think of a reason why cables or vibration isolators can affect sound quality, their opinions should therefore be treated as received lore? Open your minds, people, maybe there is something in this work that does deserve further experimental investigation.

Ethan Winer's picture

John, some of us are skeptical because we understand science and electronics. Null and difference tests are absolutely valid, but to convince me I need ALL of the data with nothing hidden or obfuscated. That hasn't happened here, and you and I both know that will never happen.

John Atkinson's picture

Ethan, when ypou write "John, some of us are skeptical because we understand science and electronics," I had to roll my eyes, because your preantation on "audio myths" at the recent AES Convention did little more than reveal your own lack of technical knowledge. FIrst, Dr, Crum;s presentation showed why your oft-made claim that acoustic "comb filtering" is the cause of all perceived differences is flawed; second, your claims that the correct use of dither is also an audio myth was embarassing, given that the careful reearch in the academic literature has convincingly shown both the audibility of its beneficial effectsa and the audibility of its omission. You admitted in your presentation that you have _no_ scientific training or qualifications -- perhaps you should leave subjects like this to those of us who _do_!

Ethan Winer's picture

LOL, nice try John. :->)I never said that comb filtering is the cause of all perceived differences! I'm certain the MAIN reason people think they hear a difference after demagnetizing an LP or raising their speaker cables off the floor with cable elevators is what JJ and Poppy addressed. They didn't want to offend by using the word "delusion," but I'm glad to because it's the truth and the proper word. In my comb filtering article I was trying to be conciliatory to 'phooles, by showing them a reason the sound really can change. And I stand by that using my measurements as proof.John, if you're so convinced that dither makes an audible (not measurable) difference, please read my dither article and email me your guesses (and I do mean guesses) as to which sections are dithered and which are not:www.ethanwiner.com/dither.htmlAs an aside, it amazes me that you could see JJ's and Poppy's presentations and still not understand how frail and unreliable hum

John Atkinson's picture

"I never said that comb filtering is the cause of all perceived differences!" Ethan, please don't insult me by back-tracking. Both in your AES presentation and on the Stereophile forum, you stated definitively that acoustic comb filtering was the reason people heard a difference, for example, with the Furutech "LP demagnetizer." Yet Dr. Krum's presentation showed definitively why the measured differences in the continuous sound at 2 different positions in the room have little or even no effect on the perceived sound quality. Your protests have as little credibility as your implications in the AES presentation that Stereophile promotes Geoff Kaits' "Intelligent Rocks." And while I am on the subject, you should be ashamed of using an AES presentation to promote your room acoustic treatments. And you accuse others of being sales hacks!

Ethan Winer's picture

John, your hostility is misplaced, and surely inappropriate. If you show me a forum post where I said comb filtering is the ONLY reason people think they hear a difference with replacement power cords et al, I will mail you a check for $100. That you can make your case only by stuffing words into my mouth says much more about you than about me!John, the best solution is for you and I to get together in person, with our laptops connected to your system or mine (or preferably both in two sessions). Then we can test our various theories as to what matters and what does not. I test you blind, and you test me if you'd like. Single blind is fine, and having a few witnesses from both sides of the "debate" is better still. Now, I know you won't agree to this because it's in your financial interest to perpetuate anti-science BS. But I'd love you to prove me wrong and accept this "challenge" for lack of a better word.

George's picture

How was that AES presentation, did JA attend? I heard it was quite good. Talking bout' magic things audiophiles believe in. Did Mickey Fremer attend to to debate these things, as he certainly has some really far out abilitys to hear things, from his write ups. Who attened the Stereophile workshop, what went on there? Ethan did you go to the Stereophile workshop? Another question I thought of, how does a consumer based publication, get a spot at a PRO event?

John Atkinson's picture

"If you show me a forum post where I said comb filtering is the ONLY reason people think they hear a difference with replacement power cords et al, I will mail you a check for $100." Ethan, you specifically said and have not denied it that you feel comb filtering is the reason I and others heard a difference with the Furutech "LP demagnetizer." You said at AES and you said it on the Stereophile forum. And regarding your blind test "challenge," as I once wrote in ther magazine, and has been reprinted by Tom Nousaine et al, "blind testing is the last refuge of the agenda-driven scoundrel." Consider yourself so accused. And, BTW, when you write "know you won't agree to this because it's in your financial interest to perpetuate anti-science BS," I think you need to take a chill pill, Ethan. You should note that almost none of the products you took a swing at at AES are advertised by their manufacturers in Stereophile. Like the Amazing Randi, you don'

John Atkinson's picture

George asked "how does a consumer based publication, get a spot at a PRO event?" Michael Fremer is well-known in the NY pro-audio scene; I have been a full member of the Audio Engineering Society since 1981 and a voting member of NARAS (Producers and Engineers Wing) since 1997. George also asked "Who attended the Stereophile workshop, what went on there?" This panel included mastering engineers Bob Ludwig and Greg Calbi, Sony Legacy senior VP Steve Berkowitz, and manufacturer Eveanna Manley. The topics was about why, if conusmrs have embraced HD video, they generally are content with MP3s etc. The room was SRO full - whereas Ethan's session on "Audio Myths" was about 70% full.

Ethan Winer's picture

John, in hindsight I should have said "audiophile magazines" at my workshop. It was unfair of me to single out Stereophile Magazine. Okay, now here are two questions for you: 1) If comb filtering isn't the reason you and others heard a difference after "demagnetizing" an LP, what is your explanation for hearing a difference? Please be very specific! 2) If getting together with you in person is not a valid way to tell if you can really hear the effect of tweaks like demagnetizing vinyl, what is your better suggestion for *proving* the effect is real? Finally, it looked like there were close to 200 people at my talk late Monday afternoon. I can believe there were more people at Mike's. So what? Half the people had already left the show by Monday. Are you suggesting that Scientific Truth is best decided by a popularity contest?

Nyquist's evil brother, NyQuil's picture

Ethan, when you say,"you and I both know that will never happen."What evidence are you relying on to make statement? Are you, in fact, just working on anecdote and inductive reasoning? Put another way, aren't you letting your own prejudices get the better of you?You may well be right, all of this comes to nothing. It may just be a lengthy excuse for a 'white paper'. Or, it might be something that itself leads nowhere, but in the process delivers concrete results in a wholly unexpected manner. Or maybe, just maybe, it adds something constructive to audio, which has importance far beyond the companies currently announcing this. You don't seem able to parse this, Ethan. You seem intent on cutting it off at the knees. This is like walking into Pierre and Marie Curie's lab 110 years ago, pointing at the big pile of pitchblende and saying "You call THAT a nuclear power station?"It's good to be skeptical. It's destructive to be cynical. I just wonde

Ethan Winer's picture

"What evidence are you relying on to make statement?" My evidence is many years of posting in the Stereophile forum. :->) I really do wish that John would agree to get together in person to hash this out. Web forums are not a good venue for a technical discussion and meeting of opposite minds, and a blog comments area is even worse. I imagine that John and I agree on much more than we disagree, even if he won't say so in public. Unlike many 'phooles, John is an accomplished recordist, so he knows what matters. But if you think about it, some people have a vested interest in preventing conclusive acceptance of what is audible and what is not. Hence my "never happen" comment.

Nyquist's evil brother, NyQuil's picture

Nice answer, but it evaded the question. The original posting was about a prospective measurement system. Your comments suggested (correctly, I feel) that it is as nothing without showing its workings. You then implied that no such disclosure of data and working will ever be forthcoming. Are you basing this implication on anything more than anecdote or inductive reasoning?

Rich@Boulder's picture

Woooowwwwwwwww. It's amazing what this has turned into since I looked at it a week ago.I'm willing to wait and see what this "measurement system" actually consists of in the future, but it still seems to me to be marketing more than a scientific endeavor. To think that Nordost has absolutely nothing to do with the project when their marketing guy is making the presentation and they paid for the room and provided promotional signage within that room is...a stretch. We'll call it "a stretch." Any scientific "breakthrough" must be open to dissection by others. If it passes scrutiny and can't be disproved, then more power to them. But to use it as a marketing ploy and get as much mileage out of it (and thus, sales) as possible with the potential that it quietly goes away in the future is simply making it appear as nothing more than a marketing exercise. Especially when it was PRIMARILY aimed squarely at the foreheads of consumers, not at anyone else within

John Atkinson's picture

"John, in hindsight I should have said "audiophile magazines" at my workshop. It was unfair of me to single out Stereophile Magazine." Thank you for the correction, Ethan. Of course, the problem with a public event is that things that are said can't be unsaid. Now for your questions. You asked: "1) If comb filtering isn't the reason you and others heard a difference after "demagnetizing" an LP, what is your explanation for hearing a difference?" I have no idea, not do I have to. Science proceeds by experimental observation first, with explanation later, sometimes very much later. More in my next response.

John Atkinson's picture

Ethan asked " 2) If getting together with you in person is not a valid way to tell if you can really hear the effect of tweaks like demagnetizing vinyl, what is your better suggestion for *proving* the effect is real?" Yes, I heard a difference when I wasn't expecting one. That is all I need. For me. Yes, more work is needed but am certainly not offering to do that work myself. Perhaps when I retire :-)

Ted Clamstruck's picture

I thought the claim was not just that the effects of the LP demagnetizer could be heard, but that the additional bass could even be heard from another room, right? See this blog entry from Stephen Mejias - http://tinyurl.com/yjcdmqb - Stephen says: "There is a difference and it is obvious and it is immediate. The applause at the very beginning of the LP sounds more like real applause, more like pairs of human hands coming together to make sound, and less like Styrofoam or static. JA walks into the room and announces, 'There's more bass, too!'". Given that the change was so obvious, I would think any of the claimants would be very eager to embarrass the naysayers with their ability to immediately identify it. After all, that's what happened at Mikey's, right? As to what Ethan said at the AES, I don't see why anybody would get mad at him for stating the obvious about Stereophile.

John Atkinson's picture

Ted Clamstruck stated "As to what Ethan said at the AES, I don't see why anybody would get mad at him for stating the obvious about Stereophile." Okay, Ted, when, exactly, did Stereophile review favorably (or even at all) the "Intelligent Rocks" that Ethan used as an illustration of an audo myth?

John Atkinson's picture

In the post above, for "Intelligent Rocks, " read "Briliiant Pebbles," of course.

Ethan Winer's picture

NyQuil wrote: "Nice answer, but it evaded the question." Not really. In my initial post I wrote "some of us are skeptical because we understand science and electronics." When you understand how electronics works, you understand that ALL such "high-end" wire products are a scam. There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to wire at audio frequencies, and all this stuff has been understood fully for 100+ years. Therefore, it's safe to conclude those marketeers will never offer proof their wires "measure" better. In fact, they insult us by even claiming the benefits of their wire is even measurable. They're hiding behind the apron strings of science. The should go back to using subjective prose because they will never prove it with science. If you or anyone else would like to make a long-term bet,$1 ,000 says a year from now there still will be no proof. Google to find my email addy.

Ethan Winer's picture

JA said, "I have no idea, [nor] do I have to." Yes John, ethically speaking, you DO have to prove it. Based on a single anecdotal experience, you are suggesting people should spend $1,800 (!) on a device that may or may not work, and most likely does not work. When an extraordinary claim is made - in this case that music on a non-magnetic LP can be improved by applying a demagnetizer - that demands extraordinary proof. My proof that the Furutech demag is BS, besides the common sense obvious, is I heard no difference in the two clips you mailed me. If the effect was so obvious you heard it from another room, then I would have heard at least a small difference. And if the bass really changed, that is trivial to measure yet I measured nothing. It amazes me that anyone could see the talks Monday by JJ and Poppy and still insist "I know what I heard that one time" is valid.

John Atkinson's picture

JA said, "I have no idea, [nor] do I have to." Yes John, ethically speaking, you DO have to prove it. - Yet Ethan. I do not remember you making that demand when we reported, anecdotally, of the effect of your own product :-) And when you said that "Based on a single anecdotal experience, you are suggesting people should spend $1,800 (!) on a device that may or may not work, and most likely does not work." I offered my experience, honestly described. People are free to believe or ignore as they wish. I have no desire to submit my experiences to your thought police, Ethan. You have every right to offer an opposed opinion, as you are doing here.

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