What is the goofiest product or product category in high-end audio?

High-end audio has always supported a fringe element of manufacturers who make bizarre products backed up by loopy "research." Curious, strange, or just plain silly, these products, and the claims made for them, have given the audio hobby a sort of "Flat Earth Society" cult reputation.

What is the goofiest product or product category in high-end audio?
Ultra-expensive low-power amplifiers
7% (14 votes)
Ceremonial listening aids (small items that affect sound)
34% (67 votes)
Magic clocks with "programmed electrons"
17% (34 votes)
Cable "trees"
1% (2 votes)
Water-encased speaker cables
12% (24 votes)
Illuminated speaker cables
12% (23 votes)
Other (please explain)
16% (31 votes)
Total votes: 195

Bob Wood's picture

I'm sure there are items in my system which others would think come straight from the house o' voodoo tweakage. I've never HEARD the water jacket wire, but it's always impressed me as silly.

Julian Price's picture

I have owned one of these silly things ever since they came out. I have no idea if the Tice Clock improves the sound. I have never taken it out of the system to find out. The only thing that I am sure about the thing is that it keeps good time. NO, I DID NOT BUY IT---A DEALER GAVE IT TO ME AS AN INCENTIVE IN A TRADE I WAS MAKING, THANK YOU.

Jeffrey Teuber's picture

Too bad only one choice is allowed. More than one of these categories has distinguished itself for both its lunacy and its proof of P.T. Barnum's oft-quoted proclamation regarding the birth rate of suckers. I would have voted for "Ceremonial" devices, but at least these may have some psychological value for the gullible and the desperate. Magic Clocks with "programmed electrons" are nothing more or less than fraud. Everyone needs to believe in something, I guess, and unsavory people will stand in line to service that need.

Mike Smith's picture

Big Ear

Kohei Tamura's picture

The Audio Note Ongaku amp has quite an extravagant price tag of $89,125 in the US. However, in Japan it is sold for 2,200,000 yen. I have one Ongaku that I bought second-hand for 50,000 yen, but I regret having bought such a low-powered amplifier, even at this price.

Susie Kraft's picture

Hey, my water cables are not goofy!! How about those weird cables with boxes on them? Oops, never mind, I think I have some of those, too. I think the most ridiculous thing in high-end audio is not the "goofy" products but the outrageous prices that are charged for them!

Jaf's picture

All of the above!

Trevers Astheimer's picture

Topping my list would be "Magic Clocks"; second would be Illuminated speaker cables; third would be cable trees. Although I find the above-listed products to have very little impact on sound quality, I believe that some "Magic" tweaks do have merit---for instance, the Bedini Ultra Clarifier does give a sound improvement without any scientific basis.

J.  A.  McKinney's picture

M. Green's "tunable" loudspeaker cabinets, I guess you have to twist the tuning knobs in time with the bass player! Would you need perfect pitch? If so, would you know if you were in tune?

Stephen Westbom's picture

Jitter busters. With a little bit of RAM, error-detection, a reread capability, and reclocking of the words that come out of RAM (what every portable CD player already has), there is no possible reason for this nonsense. People waste hundreds and even thousands of dollars on this snake oil when a CD player manufacturer can fix it for a few dollars in components. What comes as no surprise is that the people who buy these things are technically illiterate and swear they hear improvements. A psychiatrist could have a field day with these people.

Mike's picture

It is strange that audio magazines will wax over an esoterically priced amplifier (pay for what you feel like you're getting rather than what you can hear)that would have a difficult time powering a pair of Radio Shack Walkman speakers!

Brian Boehler's picture

You hit the nail on the head---these items affect or change sound. That doesn't mean that it makes the sound better. I have tried some of the tweaks that people have suggested in letters and found many of them to make changes, but not always for the better. Change is fun, but it must be done with an ear for improvements to the sound.

Jim Sanders's picture

Shun Mook Mpingo Disks

Adam L.'s picture

how about all of the CD enhancer gimicks like the "Cd Clarifier" that "demagnitizes" CD's. even if there is a magnetic charge CD's are OPTICAL, i.e. charges won't effect it!! there are plenty of others, but i'll save space. if you have any data that can support these tweaks i'd love to see it! email me at lepp0012@tc.umn.edu

Albert Porter's picture

Water and illuminated speaker cables. Yes, Dominus RS from Purist Audio. Obviously you guys either do not have ears, or have not listened to these cables. They are the best available. Yes, they are too much money, and so is the new Porsche Carrera 4. However, that does not make either of these state-of-the-art products any less valid. Perhaps your views are not those of Stereophile at all, but rather Consumer Reports.

Bruce Hradek's picture

Shun Mook Mpingo resonance-control devices, as an example . . . I find that my pet rock, purchased for just a few dollars in the early '70s, works just as well when properly placed in my listening room.

Lyman GL DeLiguori, Sr.'s picture

Andrew Singer, President of Sound By Singer, Inc. His advertisement in the 98-FEB Issue (Vol. 21, No. 2, Page 122)is perhaps the most arrogant ad I have yet to have ever seen by any manufacturer...ever. Those of us 'getting by' with our current loudspeakers which may have only cost 10%-20% of the Grand Utopia's really do NOT need this gentleman rubbing our faces in his ability to drop $140K on a pair of loudspeakers. Mr. Singer, you would do very well to remember whom brought your company (and perhaps yourself) to the level of financial capability that you are at, therby permitting you to rest on your ass until 04:00 as you "....just compleed a marathon listenting session..." Sour grapes? Not at all, not by the wildest stretch of the imagination. I've just never seen such an arrogant ad!

Bill Weinstein's picture

Dusters "specifically designed for your audio rack"---PLEEASE! Check out the Static Duster three-pack for $7.95 at Caldor's.

William Batt's picture

All of the above!

Anonymous's picture

Shakti stones

val willis's picture

the best cable is no cable

Ari's picture

Do these exist? I guess nobody ever went broke marketing to stupid rich people.

K Peterson's picture

not having heard them, can't justify the cost, the idea of small disks of ebony transplanting one to untold heights fo euphoria seems a tad rediculous.

Dave Brown's picture

Funky tweaking tools are the biggest rip-off out there. Sadly, it's the people who don't have their setups fundamentally correct who usually go in for the tweak "fixes." Come on now, how big of an effect is clarifying your CD, pulling out half of your preamp's chassis screws, or putting EXACTLY three Mpingo dots on each capacitor going to have on your system's sound quality? Although I did pick up a great book that lists a couple of excellent chants you can do to make your system . . . :)

mike garver's picture

bought some1 I am still laughing

Edward J.  Pugacz's picture

Sorry, I can't pick just one from your list. With the possible exception of the low-powered expensive amps, they ALL make those of us into high-end audio look ridiculous. I've long felt that when Stereophile reviews this stuff, it should be done in a section entitled "The Lunatic Fringe" in order to alert those new to this hobby that this stuff does not receive widespread acceptance.

Scott Snyder's picture

All of the above

Reed McIntyre's picture

You should have a category for CD treatments. That's got to be one of the silliest ideas in audio. The CD isn't a vinyl record. Nothing you do to the disc can change it as a digital storage medium---not freezing, heating, painting the edges, or demagnetizing the thing. The pits and lands remain the same.

Keith Shearer's picture

Speaker cables should be heard, not seen ?

Glenn Young's picture

Crazy!! I can't hear 'em - prove that they work...