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How to disguise science with snake oil !


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I came across this interesting link on another forum, in which Max Townshend purports to show why it is that poor speaker cables introduce distortion, and (of course) that his cables don't.



To anyone who doesn't have an engineering background, it probably looks very impressive, and may well encourage them to go out and spend a lot of money on expensive cables. Whilst I'm not suggesting that Max is deliberately trying to deceive (I'll give him the benefit of the doubt), contrived tests such as this are at best misleading and at worst erroneous.


The effects he is demonstrating are nothing more than changes in the frequency response of the system due to the inductance and capacitance of the various cables he is using. Furthermore, these artefacts only affect the response at several 100kHz, so have absolutely no influence on sound quality. There is no non-linear distortion introduced at all.




Editor's note: Here is the video.






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Somewhere along the line during the development of digital audio, and the high-end community's desperate panic to prove that accurate sources (and amplification, for that matter) were still their exclusive domain, I lost my faith in measurement. Show me all the charts and numbers you can come up with, legit or PT Barnumesque. If you can't confirm the numbers in double-blind listening tests at a statistically significant sample, they just don't matter.


Revealingly, such tests are almost never used by audiophiles or their suppliers. Run them for them, and they will simply question the validity of the tests, or fall back on such fuzzy logic as "musicality" which is, essentially, saying that colored sound is somehow more "real" than accurate sound. If they simply said that they prefer it, I would often agree. But preference doesn't seem to be enough. They long to be right.




I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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Re "Revealingly, such tests are almost never used by audiophiles or their suppliers. Run them for them, and they will simply question the validity of the tests"


Yes, I agree.


I saw a report of an interconnect cable blind test recently, where the audiophile participants were all convinced they would be able to hear a difference. They couldn't !


In the final part of the test, they compared some exotic £750 cable against a freebie cable from a 1974 Sony cassette deck. No-one could tell the difference ! Despite such overwhelming damning evidence, some of the audiofools still thought their expensive cables were worthwhile.


As someone who has worked in electronics for >25yrs (as a designer), I think proper engineering measurements are useful and valid, provided they are conducted by someone with the appropriate engineering qualifications.




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Hi everyone!


I`m very grateful that at last I`ve found some people to chat with. I simply couldn`t stand the other english Hifi Forum (the coloured fish) no more with all it`s esoteric babble. I live in the North of Germany and am really delighted to share experiences with folks who care about progress in the field of High End. Forgive my imperfect english writing, I`ll try as best as I can..

I too think it`s a pity that a lot of so called "High End" companies don`t do double blind testing but I guess the problem is that if they`d do it they would realise that a lot of their stuff is redundant.




White Macbook - Apple Airport Express - AVI ADM 9.1[br]AVI ADM 9 Owners Club

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Heh I thought that demo was good. I'll go out and buy or try those cables. hmm.

Isn't the point of ads to put the product out there and generate sales. The buyers got to decide at the end of the day if its any good.

For example we've all seen the dodgy soap powder adds, claiming this that or other innovation, what i'm interested in is can they clean my underpants without putting holes in them. Two couldn't and one could. Guess which one i'm using. I reckon this hobby is about finding stuff that fits us.

For the record i've used Isolda cables for the last 10 years, they stopped my upgraditis permanently for speaker cable. They don't etch the sound or add bloom. Just right.



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In another Post on CA I referred to acrimony on certain Brit Forums that in my opinion it has much to do with this sort of stuff. For reasons that are not clear, we seem to be losing respect for Science and the Scientific Community and nowhere is this more obvious than with the rising tide of controversy surrounding Darwin's now conclusively proven Theory and Hi Fi. Not that I'd put the two in the same category, but just mention that the arguments against science in both instances, are remarkably similar. "Science doesn't know everything" and " I believe the evidence of my own ears" are two sentences that have me reaching for a Baseball Bat in America and a Cricket one at Home!


The problem in the UK is that for many years pseudo scientific products have ruled the roost in most hi fi shops and, to be frank, the sales patter could be considered arrogant and patronising. I recall a distinguished Specialist writing and thanking me for recommending a dealer, saying that he didn't like attitude as he had more than enough to cope with at home! The net result of all this has probably been an acceleration in the decline of interest in hi fi and its marginalisation. It's also been a thorn in the side of the scientific community, many of whom love the subject and would buy some decent equipment if they thought it was available. Our magazines have developed their own language and there is a cosy relationship between a group of manufacturers, retailers and the Press that ensures continuing success. Or it did, but perhaps not any more.


The Hi Fi Industry in the UK has been contracting for years, much more so recently, now we have the Internet and more computer media available than ever before. We can watch Movies, TV programs, listen to radio stations, download music and so on, the possibilities are endless and it makes hi fi alone seem rather boring. Not surprisingly this is a massive growth area that Apple is leading the way in.


Apple aside, the Internet and Forums in particular, have given voice to everyone who has one (many should have it confiscated!) and it's presented lovers of science and engineering with an opportunity to tell the subjectivist hi fi loony tweakers exactly what they think of them! Suddenly this cosy little relationship, that has protected the status quo for so long, is very vulnerable indeed. Magazine sales are down, so is their influence, the shops are under siege from online sales and having to change direction to survive and hi fi manufacturers are fumbling to find their feet in a very rapidly developing market. Music Servers appeared in Europe a couple of years ago, for a time, they sold well and then suddenly the company went bust. Now several specialist hi fi companies have produced some at vastly greater price, probably on the advice of dealers "to keep computers out" and I suspect they'll be difficult to sell against Apple.


The Forums have become a rearguard action in that they are frequented by industry insiders, shop sales staff and the party faithful as well as genuine hi fi lovers. Not surprisingly these characters, who are safe behind a silly nickname, can use the opportunity to attempt to redress the balance. They are failing and unhappy, so regular bust ups occur than will eventually ebb, if not for a year or two.


Dear Chris has provided the solution by making clear exactly where he stands and dispelling some of the nonsense. It's a wonderful opportunity and CA could turn out to be a foundation stone in the massive project that is a return to sanity in hi fi. OH Erps I meant to say IMHO!


I'm a happy bunny!




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Hi Gordon


If you`re not interested in the true reproduction of the original recording and just want something that sounds good I`d say you`re right. There`s nothing wrong with that and I did this kind of approach to Hifi products for many years,too. I ended at Linn LP12,Ekos,Linto, Lingo,Majik Uniplayer,Chakra 4100 and active Tukans,Naim CDX2 with Hiline Interconnect. Then after 3 months I almost lost interest in music, because I realised, that whichever music I played IT ALL SOUNDED THE SAME! The more money I`ve spent the less satisfied I`ve been. The only solution my dealer had was that maybe I should by a Naim CDS3, hello...?

My solution was that I needed some kind of reference and what can be better than the original recording? So I searched the Internet for people who could help me. That`s how I came into contact with Ash from AVI. He`s got a lot experience in the field of Pro Audio, so he knows what a true reproduction of an original studio recording should sound like. His adviced was that I should buy a Macbook, AE and ADM 9.1 loudspeakers. And guess what? Now I hear more music and genres then ever before. I never thought I could like music podcasts, now I love them and I think Internet Radio is great!! A dream has come true. I wouldn`t be here if this hasn`t happened.

Ash can proof everything he says because at AVI they do double blind testing and every other scientific test to get the best out of their products. Check the articles on the Avi site!!

For me, what Ash once said to me is true: " You can`t hear cables, you can just see them!" That`s exactly what every double blind cable test tells you.


White Macbook - Apple Airport Express - AVI ADM 9.1[br]AVI ADM 9 Owners Club

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as you're an incredibly ignorant one.


Sorry folks, but im getting sick of people bringing religion, evolution, and their silly misguided ideas of what science is and how it works into hifi debates - its especially popular where cables are concerned.


So Mr James, how exactly is Darwin's theory conclusively proven? Can you explain this or have you just heard it from Dawkins and accepted it? For a great refutation of evolution see "God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?" by John Lennox - especially the chapter The Nature And Scope Of Evolution.


Scientific theories are just that, and they remain nothing more than best guesses until they are disproven (or not, but that doesnt make them facts, as they still may be disproven at some later point). Moreover, science cannot explain everything (you may believe - have faith - in its ability to do so one day, but that doesnt make it so), and people do sometimes have unexplainable experiences which are later explained by science - in other words, human experience can precede empirical evidence, and often does.


Regardless of my view on interconnects or any type of cable, why is'nt it sufficient for people to say "if you're happy faffing with cables and think you hear a difference, go for it...?"


Panasonic PXP 42 V20; Panasonic DMP BD35; Sky+ HD Box. [br]Optical out from Asus P7H55-M into AVI ADM 9.1 speakers. [br]\"Music will provide the light you cannot resist\"[br]

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OK guys, I respect everyone's opinion here and to me there is no right or wrong answer. But, calling another reader ignorant is not tolerated around this laid back site. I created Computer Audiophile to improve the enjoyment of our wonderful hobby through music servers. Conversations where people can't respect another opinion and people stoop to personal attacks take the enjoyment out of everything.


If one person says they believe in quadruple blind testing and another person says they trust their ears, so be it. We aren't talking life and death here. I love when people are passionate about their opinion whether or not I agree with them.




Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems AudiophileStyleStickerWhite2.0.png AudiophileStyleStickerWhite7.1.4.png

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tho im afraid i stand by the thrust of my argument completely, believe he argued his point very badly, draws invalid parallels and anaologies, and that we could do with a bit less baseball/cricket bat nonsense, and people toching (with an air of certainty and confidence) on areas they do not understand.


I think its good to express a little doubt from time to time - just look at my other posts lol!


Panasonic PXP 42 V20; Panasonic DMP BD35; Sky+ HD Box. [br]Optical out from Asus P7H55-M into AVI ADM 9.1 speakers. [br]\"Music will provide the light you cannot resist\"[br]

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I have the deepest respect for Christian beliefs and number members of the Clergy amongst my dearest friends, therefore my comments were exclusive to Darwin's Theory and not intended in any way to impugn anyone's religion of beliefs.

I'm a foreigner on here and the attitude is different in the UK, so please be tolerant as no offence was intended. My beef is with hi fi nonsense and not intended to spread to a far more important and more personal subject.




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consider myself religious, my father is a man of the cloth. I have, for many years, tried to square the man i know with my views, and the supposed christian outlook.


in doing so i have met many people and read many a book suggesting that it is better to accept science and religion at the same time - they are not mutually exclusive. However, many bright christian thinkers want to know if darwin, for example, really was right. some believers would contend that he was not, and they do this with plain reasoning in plain english - not whilst speaking in tongues.


im not putting all this very well but i hope the esscence is coming across.


I kknow that it wasnt your intention to be religiously inflamatory, and i apologise for my refernce to religion. I should have stuck to my main point about your reference to evolution and my objection to it - and tou your attitude to those who choose to believe their own experioence - (or "experience" - i personally have little view on cables, i just object to the terms in which some debate them sometimes) - as an aid to furthering this discussion.


Afterthought - maybe people distrust science as theres so much hokum about in its name, such as the above video. In some cases, as Chris hints, it would be very dangerous to ignore science. with cables, however, i dont see the harm in letting ones ears and one's wallet be ones guide - it isnt life or death, afterall. And if someone told me tha theyd bought an expensive cable as they thought they heard a positive difference and they could afford it, id trust them a bit more, in a sense, than someone who said the science says its better, so it is better.


apologies for the typos, im rushing as i must go out a while.


Panasonic PXP 42 V20; Panasonic DMP BD35; Sky+ HD Box. [br]Optical out from Asus P7H55-M into AVI ADM 9.1 speakers. [br]\"Music will provide the light you cannot resist\"[br]

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I tend to agree with Ashley on this one.

I do think that Darwin's theory is as good as proven now. And as for Xians, or any other religions followers, Darwins theory does not in any way discount the existence of one or more supreme beings, or in fact provide any serious offence to any rational being.


As far as HiFi and snake oil, whilst I accept that certain things may make a difference, that I can't quantify just yet, I do like to see the snake oil fought. Too many companies are essentially making money from almost nothing. Outside the 'audiophile' world, many hifi enthusiasts are openly ridiculed. No wonder with some claims for some equipment, so ridiculous that they wouldn't look out of place in a Harry Potter novel.




“Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul” - Plato[br]

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and i sincerely apologise in advance.


However, a look at the fossil records will show that there are so many "missing links" that there is huge doubt about darwins theories. Let us remember that he proposes that very different animals becam entirely other, over the course of centureis and, indeed, millennia. Theres actually pretty much no physical evidence.


There are a few instances of small adaptations to suit environmental factors, but they have been discrete - they have not, as far as we can tell, been part of an on-going process. Sokme propose that species died out, and others came into being. How? We dont know, but we must consider it, as we cannot yet plug the gaps.


This is the pompous bit - you dont have to take it from some anonymous oik on the net...


I'm going to leave it now as this isnt where this thread should be going. my apologies to all for being the one to steer it off course.


Panasonic PXP 42 V20; Panasonic DMP BD35; Sky+ HD Box. [br]Optical out from Asus P7H55-M into AVI ADM 9.1 speakers. [br]\"Music will provide the light you cannot resist\"[br]

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"Outside the 'audiophile' world, many hifi enthusiasts are openly ridiculed."


I agree.


In addition, audiophiles are probably much harder on other audiophiles than the "outsiders" are on audiophiles! One would think since our niche is so small that we would all be supporting each other etc... Oh well, that's how it goes :-)




Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems AudiophileStyleStickerWhite2.0.png AudiophileStyleStickerWhite7.1.4.png

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you sound so down-hearted. I'm sorry, i really am. I didnt mean to ruin your weekend!


Panasonic PXP 42 V20; Panasonic DMP BD35; Sky+ HD Box. [br]Optical out from Asus P7H55-M into AVI ADM 9.1 speakers. [br]\"Music will provide the light you cannot resist\"[br]

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If someone wants to spend thousands of dollars on speaker cables (or whatever), they're free to do so....just don't expect me to do the same thing. I stopped reading hifi magazines because I have no interest in reading reviews on products that don't interest me (in my case, turntables, expensive cords, power management, etc.) I know what sounds good to me in the testing that I've done, and I could care less if someone looks down upon my radioshack speaker cable.


I was reading another forum (not sure why...), and there was a giant debate over turntables and if they infact were only a fad or here to stay, etc. SOOOO many opinions and emotions shared (mostly anger), but it seems so strange to me that anyone would be so involved in what other people spend their money on...who cares! I thought this hobby was about the music. I guess that's what these forums are for though, and I'm content reading the opinions, but it's almost intimidating taking part in the discussions!


itunes alac > mac mini > pro-ject usb box > pro-ject pre box > pro-ject amp box > totem rainmaker

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I really must comment on the 'who cares?' (what other people spend their money on)


I care. If they are spending money needlessly. If they are being 'conned'.

Just like I care about elderly people being fleeced out of their savings for 'security systems', or whatever by dodgy firms.

When anyone takes advantage of the trust of another, to their own end, then I care.


In my not so humble opinion, many of the purveyors of hifi related goods are doing just that.



“Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul” - Plato[br]

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I prefer to care about children, animals and the unfortunate who cannot make qualified and educated decisions on their own. If a competent adult spends too much on speaker cables and that upsets you, then you are a much more considerate person than I, but I can respect that.


itunes alac > mac mini > pro-ject usb box > pro-ject pre box > pro-ject amp box > totem rainmaker

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