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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Ethan Winer's picture

Those are good points John, but there are two defining differences between high quality bass traps and a "demagnetizer" for LP records. One is that EVERYONE hears the effect of bass traps with no disagreement. The other is measurement data clearly shows that adding bass traps reduces peaks, nulls, and ringing. And getting back to the topic of this blog, what's missing is proof in the form of measurement data that is universally accepted as valid.

George's picture

As I read this blog again, especially the description by the cable purveyors, I am flumaxed. So in 6 months these sales guys have redefined digital audio, when the creators of digital optical recording, Philips and Sony (mostly PHILIPS) introduced the format decades ago, and before that in the 70's digital recording was coming to fruition, so we are talking almost 40 years!!! Digital recording has progressed and improved via real science, and improvements. Philips/Sony basically made a dramatic jump in optical digital recording with the SACD/DSD format. Yet these wire guys have now "discovered" the power cord, above all else, is a culprit, in causing some issues. Does anybody wonder, in all these years, with the research capacity of Philips, some engineer at their facility would have discovered that a power cord would be an issue? Now this is after DECADES of digital recording systems, by numerous mfgs. Yet in a mere 6 months, a wire seller, has discovered that his magic power cord, improv

Alan Sircom's picture

@ george: The 'sales guys' are the front end of this. The company doing all the measurement is Acuity Products Ltd. Acuity's 'day job' is designing ultrasonic measurement protocols to assess submarine sonar systems, and finding ways to measure and reduce electronic systems noise in miscellaneous combat applications. All this is public domain and on Acuity's website, although the details of this work is restricted. The guys doing this research are not rolled out to public seminars because post-doctoral mathematicians have an alarming habit of scaring away real people.

Gordon's picture

Ethan, I noticed you suggested that being 'delusional' is the main reason that people 'think' the sound changes when their speaker cables are raised from the floor. Are you serious? I'm so tired of hearing the naysayers suggest, "This is why you 'think' you hear a difference." Well, it is because we 'do' hear a difference. I came across this, quite by accident a couple of years ago, when I lifted one channel's speaker cables from my carpet onto a box to vacuum and wondered why that side sounded so much clearer than the other. I then started off by using cheap porcelain bowls and have now graduated to Dark Fields. There is such an obvious difference that you would have to be somewhat to totally deaf not to hear it. Good grief. Don't be insulting.

Ethan Winer's picture

I know you'll find this insulting, but it's not meant that way. I have nothing to gain by insulting you! You say "we 'do' hear a difference ... There is such an obvious difference that you would have to be somewhat to totally deaf not to hear it." Gordon, if you are anywhere near me in Western Connecticut, I'll gladly visit you in person and PROVE to you with a simple blind test that you only think you hear a difference. If you're not near me, but another reader here with cable lifters is, I extend that offer to them. As long as they promise to post here an honest recount of what happened.

Gordon's picture

Hi Ethan. I will explain further. A dealer didn't sit me down and say, "Watch this. Don't these cables elevators make things sound nicer? Just listen. Don't you hear it? You should." I came across this by my own means, and quite unexpectedly. When I first noticed the difference with one channel's speaker cables off the carpet, I thought,'What did I break? I searched for something wrong on the other channel. Maybe a lose cord or interconnect. Nothing wrong. Then, I realized that the speaker cable was still off the carpet. I dropped that channel and raised the other channel. I was absolutely dumbfounded. Now what?! Something new? You have to be kidding. I lifted both off the carpet and it sounded even better. It was as if someone turned a 'focus' knob a little bit. I tried wood, plastic, metal, and other materials under the cables. Each time, the sound changed a bit. As it dawned on me that I couldn't possibly be the only one to have discovered thi

Gordon's picture

this, I did a few searches. Low and behold, I wasn't the first. Since them, I've tried a few different home made versions. One day, I tried the Shunyatas. I 'might' get hold of an Acoustic Revive RCI-3 in the future. For now, I'm quite happy. So...when I hear someone suggest that it's all in my head, I usually just laugh. I didn't ever expect this particular aspect of this grand hobby to even exist. If someone had told me of this, I would have had the same attitude as you. 'You must be kidding.' To say I need to take part in a double-blind test for cable elevators is like me asking you to take a similar test to tell the difference between a pepperoni-mushroom pizza and a ham and pineapple. The cables I was using were Goertz Ag3s. Perhaps they were more effected by the lift. I'm now using Tara Labs The 0.5s. They are less effected than the Goertz, but there is still a definite difference. There must be an awful lot of 'deluted' people out there, ju

Gordon's picture

judging by what I read. Best of luck, Ethan.

Rob G's picture

Ethan said "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:"You are even more unqualified in practice it seems! Here are some basics for you in any simple such test: try comparing the same passages dithered and undithered, not different ones (!!), try to remove observer bias (in your case the meaning of the term is quite literal) and try not to invalidate the purpose of your own test by concluding any correct identifications must have been lucky guesses by chance.Embarrassing indeed.Wait till I show Bob Katz this one!

Lawrence de Martin's picture

John does a great service by publishing consistent measurements and Ethan also for engineering cost-effective acoustic devices. However, the only talk at the AES which agrees with my inferential & anecdotal data was Siegfried Linkwitz's.His thesis is that nobody is qualified to rate reproduction unless they audition acoustic music regularly. My criterion is auditioning within the critical distance. This rules out halls over 600 seats and ensembles larger than 30 players. Any more and you lose discrimination of articulation and discreet specular reflections.I attend over 50 such concerts a year and also hear piano & harpsichord played in my domicile (the latter is the musical equivalent of an impulse function). I have never been fooled by a reproduction system although I have heard very good illusions demonstrated by Michael Gerzon, Charlie Hanson, JJ, Ralph Glasgal, Andrew Lipinsky and GamuT.I welcome comments from all who maintain their hearing with equal rigor. All else is chasing the euphonic.

GEORGE's picture

Has any further"research" come out on how and why? Or has this just faded away, like most stuff? Speaking of which, where is the further investigation into the workings of those "magic bowls" from outfit called ART or something. There where some incredible claims about sticking bowls in a room, and how it "improves" everything. I thought I remember the magazine saying they will review the stuff? things come to mind, Bybee bad electron catchers, Mapingo discs,and many other bizarre items. Magic rocks and Brilliant pebbles. Is that really high performance audio, or what?

George Corner's picture

An impressive justification of Nordost's ridiculously high pricing structure. I'm with the guy who put this up some time ago... rest is tripe. Tried a bunch of cables from Nordost, Audioquest, van den hul, QED, Monster, Digitalis and Computergear over the years. Who? The last two you say? Ah yes, Digitalis were the suppliers of my 322 strand, 2.5mm speaker cable I use in two five metre runs that is as good as the Audioquest Type IV I used since 1997 and Computergear are the manufacturers of the pro-audio interconnect that replaced the other, better known manufacturers whose fancy boxes, marketing blurb and all the rest made NOT ONE JOT of a difference and cost me £7. The sound is excellent from my stereo and no thanks to all the nonsense delivered to the consumer from the cable brigade. I used to buy into it but the real value is in understanding what a cable is capable of and what it most patently isn't.


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