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Mike Fremer visits Shunyata


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In fairness, the idea that power cables do not make a difference is a reasonable null hypothesis (i.e., starting point for a discussion).

 

Why?

 

1. Most manufacturers supply stock generic power cables with their units. Why would they deliberately cripple performance? I just bought a Rel subwoofer. Not only did it come with a stock power cable, but the manual says "do not replace the cable."

 

So it is not unreasonable to take this at face value.

 

 

2. The simplest explanation is the null hypothesis. The idea that two power cables with the same measurable properties (inductance, capacitance, resistance, etc.) will sound the same is a logical starting point. The idea that power transmission, as long as it is done adequately, should have nothing to do with the signal that comes out of an amp, is a logical starting point. Hence the simplest explanation is that they will sound the same because their relevant measurable properties are the same. Claims to the contrary are counter-intuitive, and thus require more evidence.

 

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Extraordinary might be a matter of perspective, don't you think?

 

Although I brought this up earlier, I have yet to see any comment on what effect an "unconnected" cable shield might have on a cable's performance.

 

Nor has anybody addressed what effect a cable's dielectric might have on performance.

 

Those are just two examples of details that Shunyata has exploited in their cable designs.

 

Overall, there hasn't even been any agreement on what the problem is that different cables might address.

 

And, Dr. Scott...

 

I personally know bupkis about crystallography. So, does that mean that I should find any comments you make on the subject extraordinary? How about if you rephrase your explanation for some aspect of the topic into a layman's version that may be hyperbolic in some ways to someone who has your level of expertise? Or how about if you were trying to raise support for keeping your lab running by selling gen-u-ine crystals? (Not really picking on you; you just happened to come along at the right time to make the point, and I know you're a big boy when it comes to this...)

 

To my way of thinking, what we have here is a niche area of engineering. There is no reason why somebody who isn't in the business of selling small quantities of specialty products to a tiny market segment would devote a lot of resources toward investigating this. The people selling the products are in the business, and it is a small one for these products, of selling products not research studies. Studies do not keep the lights on and the doors unlocked.

 

To make things worse, they are not primarily selling their products to people who use them as tools in their vocation. This is not the equivalent of selling oscilloscopes to electrical engineers or wrenches to mechanics. So they need to slant their explanations toward their target audience. Unfortunately, the audience seems to respond better to explanations than actually sampling the product. (Imagine a restaurant needing to give a detailed analysis of their wares before people will consider buying them, and even then a cost analysis is performed before sitting down. "Hey! I saw potatoes at a stand just down the road for two dollars a bag! You must buy them for less! Why are you charging me a dollar and a half for a side order of mashed potatoes?? Dirty rip-off }#]*[%€!s")

 

Even worse, if possible, is that everybody who is an engineer of any sort automatically assumes that every problem can be simplified down to a couple equations. This is part of the curse of engineering curricula. In order to get the point of the lesson across, many details are left unaddressed in the problem sets and the exam questions. Just because they are conveniently ignored in those two places does not mean that in real life they do not exist or have an effect. Maybe they matter, maybe not.

 

Again, I'm not at all certain that some of the measurements presented in the Fremer article are germane or apply in the way suggested. I just find it very hard to swallow that the whole cableproblem is just a first order effect centered around the effects of R, L, and C and what they do to the 50/60 Hz AC mains power. That's counter to my experience, which is mostly outside my home audio system.

 

Of course, there's also the very real possibility that some if not most participants in this and other threads here are just looking for a dorm/bar argument and the jousting is the attraction...

 

 

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OK - you did ask.

 

Start with the chart that shows a curve for an incandescent light and another curve that shows the rectifier. Read on from there.

 

Internet troll. As you may have seen from every append I have ever made on any thread on this site I have never said that power cables do not make a difference.

 

Experience. As you may have seen from an append of mine on this thread I have made several experiments/changes on power cables,cleaning connectors, and so on. With the results on my system. To clarify further, I define 'power cables' as any piece of wire that carries the mains supply from my consumer unit to my equipment. Including the wire inside any multi-way strip or whatever. I have not changed or modified every item of this chain. Yet.

 

High End. Unless you define precisely what this means (for me personally, dollars per piece may be a good unit to use, but the unit of measurement you use is up to you). Color, weight, a tube or two stuck out of the top, price, tiny cottage industry resulting in a 'I make them in the back shed in my garden' appearance. Whatever you like. Without a precise definition 'high end' is meaningless. We do not have to agree on a definition, we just have to know how at least one us of defines it.

 

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The idea here isn't that the claim is wrong, but simply that it is claiming something counter-intuitive.

 

So to take an analogy from crystallography. Here is an extraordinary claim:

 

"Electrons and neutrons diffract from crystals. Moreover, if you only shoot one electron/neutron through a crystal every five minutes, you will still build up the same interference pattern as you would if you had a very intense source. So even though a particle can only bounce off of one atom, it looks like every particle is interacting with every atom in the crystal."

 

These are particles with mass. They aren't light. Yet the claim is that they diffract, and create interference patters even from individual interactions.

 

The claim is extraordinary, and completely counter-intuitive. The expectation is that they behave like any other particle. But they don't.

 

This required not only an extraordinary amount of evidence, but in fact a new theory (quantum mechanics) to understand what is happening.

 

I don't think you need to be a specialist to understand why it is counter-intuitive.

 

 

Here is another example: Evolution vs. creationism

 

Two ideas: One is that organisms evolve spontaneously, and the other is that God created life.

 

The idea that God created life should be the extraordinary claim, because it requires the existence of a super-natural being that by definition we cannot measure or prove. The other idea doesn't require anything so extraordinary, so it is the simpler hypothesis, and the null hypothesis. The only thing that would make you favor creationism over an idea that doesn't require the existence of a deity is prior acceptance of the existence of the required deity.

 

So yes, if you set out to assume what you are asked to prove, the task is simplified, but that doesn't advance the discussion.

 

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An example that I believe is a close parallel to the cable wizards, similar mumbo jumbo and a complete lack of evidence.

 

'Alternative' medicine. This is a popular name among practitions of 'healing' (healing of what precisely, they never say).

 

You ask me how to get from Seattle to New York. I give you two ways. One gets you there, the other does not. ie - it doesn't work.

 

But an alternative has to be valid. It has to work. Or it is not an alternative.

 

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I don' think it is completely lame, from the perspective of a somewhat interested spectator...

 

Before the argument looked to me like this: "There is something different about these expensive cables that makes them sound better, but we can't measure these differences, and can't tell you what they are, but if you listen with your ears, instead of looking at numbers and graphs, you too will understand."

 

This one looks different: "Here are measurements and graphs and data that show the cables are doing something different." So if the claims of measured differences are valid, then the problem has been greatly simplified to one of whether these differences that show up in numbers and graphs actually translate into better/worse/different audible effects.

 

This is progress.

 

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Respectfully: I did not say (or mean to insuate) that you were an internet troll, and neither did I suggest that you had no experience in this area-I was talking about those who do not.

I think most people here have a pretty good understanding of where the "high end" starts, although there are some products which blur the lines, admittedly.

If needed, an example; most stuff you can buy at a best buy, walmart, or formerly, circuit city, would not be considered to offer high end performance. But, we know this when we hear it.

 

CG, I do understand (a little) where you are coming from, and am sorry that others seem to choose not to (eyes glazing over...). It is complicated.

Thanks for your thoughts re engineers in general-to add a further detail which might might help some understand your point: engineers are taught a craft, a way to apply a set of rules to a given problem. The rules are not necessarily entirely "correct", but they do work well for most of the problems that the engineers will encounter in the practice of their trade. Unfortunately, many of the rules break down when trying to consider the finer points of audio design, and the inadequacy of the rules for this task becomes apparent. Hence we have many of the most talented audio engineers often have a background in a more "open" science, like theoretical physics. I have quite a few friends who are architects, they often have a similar kind of commentary when it comes to dealing with structural engineers...

Bottom line, as you mention, there are lower order effects at work here, which are beyond the scope of many general EEs understanding/teaching.

 

It has been a while since I have heard any Shunyata power cables in comparisons, but when I have, they have generally offered good performance. Their newish high end cables the Black Mamba, appear to offer a good value (relative to other high end cables) and I would like to hear them sometime...

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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And I do not mean buying expensive cables.

 

I mean going to such ridiculous lengths to try and convince other people they are just fooling themselves if they hear something different?

 

I've mentioned before that the human ear, over a very poor transmission path, can easily tell the difference between a very stealthy submarine and other traffic, such as a freighter on the surface.

 

Anyone here want to try and tell me the human ear cannot hear the difference between software players, speaker cables, or USB cables? Go ahead, be wrong.

 

You guys taking the easy pot shots should be a bit ashamed of yourselves. Who recruited you to the thought police? Most of you would rebel if forced into a "politically correct" format, yet you insist that other people agree with you?

 

Remember, the folks here are mostly friends you just haven't had the chance to meet in person yet.

 

 

 

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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The constant struggle against expectation bias. This is everyday reality in experimental science, and I presume designing, engineering and manufacturing audio components.

 

If you want to buy a cable for yourself, what you accept or not is obviously your business alone.

 

If you want to recommend or sell a cable, then it isn't completely insane that someone asks you to prove a claim.

 

If you are designing cables, presumably you have a strong vested interest in knowing if your expensive and time-consuming changes are real and are really making an improvement, and that you aren't just fooling yourself.

 

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Makes music more musical when in the system, thinking about one for my amp...one that delivers current fast.

 

Tried an Anaconda, one of the expensive ones about three or four generations ago, and it added some big brass balls to my amp, bought a cheaper one called a Python for my Theta Gen V, smoothed out the edgy treble and helped create a very 3D experience...but didn't have a spare $2K at the monment for the big boy. The Cable Co used to not charge for loaners, so I asked for a couple to try.

 

Don't get the scientists/engineers out there arguing about why they work or should they work...just borrow one, attach it to your DAC or amp and listen.

 

You don't likey, you don't buy it.

 

Recently lent an old Synergistic Master Coupler, my first non-stack PC, to a buddy who has an Alessandro English guitar amp, a VOX AC 30 type all tube amp with very HQ parts, not unlike those used in exotic single ended hi fi amps like Audio Note foil in oil caps, Black Gates, relatively simple/direct circuit...(Pink Floyd's guitarist is known to tour and record with these amps). I own two of Mr. Alessandro's Marshall inspired amps...so I tried the Synergistic PC on my amps and was astounded by the increased musicality, deeper more defined bass and sweeter treble. My bud doesn't want to give it back until he finds a long used one on Audiogon. Knows I generally play a Carol-Ann OD2 EL 34 50 Watt, and the Synergistic doesn't make a significant improvement with this circuit, so "I can wait to get it back".

 

Tone with Soul

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It's not insane at all to demand some proof, but it is insane to eliminate any kind of evidence from individuals as "expectation bias."

 

And it is insane for some folks to go about making carved in stone declarations that no differences exist and anyone spending more than 10 or 20 dollars is buying snake oil.

 

Besides it just not being so, it indicates some kind of agenda that is probably at least non-sane. Its just as non-sane for someone to say you can't have a high end system until you spend over $50K, or buy these $3000 cables.

 

I wasn't targeting you by the way, you almost always quality things well, and I know you have at least listened to different cables, formats, etc. Reporting your experience and the conclusions you draw from it is great.

 

-Paul

 

 

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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I must admit, I bought a pair of the Venoms based on a recommendation by Mike W. here, and I was shocked at the difference they made. I would have bet a paycheck there would be no sonic difference, or at best, one I would find impossible to be sure of.

 

At least here, I was dead wrong. Same with USB cables, and most shocking to me of all, with speaker cables.

 

Nothing wrong with being wrong, 'especially when it makes things sound really cool.

 

-Paul

 

 

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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Love that D. Gilmour guitar tone...

 

Thanks for reminding me 57!

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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Difference.

 

USB cables. tried three. No

Software players. Tried two. Yes. For clear and understandable reasons.

Speaker cables Yes. Tried three. Again for understandable reasons.

Power cabling. Yes. But including the relevant household wiring. Not otherwise. For not fully understood reasons.

 

 

 

Improvement.

 

USB cables. No.

Software players. Yes. Explanation as above.

Speaker cables. No.

Power cabling. Yes. Again for not fully understood reasons.

 

Differences are of no importance. They serve only to confuse.

 

Improvements are important. With 'ancilliaries', such as cables, power or interconnect, the improvement gained bears no relation whatsover to the price charged. That, and only that, is where I start to become a skeptic.

 

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"So Demian, are you saying Power cords matter, and how so?

 

The networks are likely somewhat complex, but so are many other things.

 

What differences can you demonstrate, and how different do they filter out to the final output from power amps to the speakers?

 

Frankly, I doubt it is enough to matter if the power cord is adequately sized."

 

I don't think the problem is that two dimensional. I wish it were. I think there are other aspects that have a lot of influence. A controlled experiment to validate these speculations is more work than I have time for.

 

I did a demonstration to two traditional audio engineers, not blind, with 4 different power cords connected to a power amp. They heard clear differences between them. They acknowledged the differences.

 

First, this was not double blind.

Second, I was not trying to impress them or get them to buy cables (they would never do such a thing).

 

It is simply anecdotal evidence that power cords could make a difference. The cause may be no more than the suggestion that they might. No difference here from any other aspect of "high end audio" or claims that anything would sound better than an iPod on 128K files. Its just a starting point.

 

Looking at a power cord as a simple 4 terminal network connecting two points is too simple. The measurements Michael Fremer posted can be reduced to a simple RCL network but they don't tell the full story. There is emi and rfi all over the system. The cord can be a transmitter as well as a receiver to rfi. The source of RFI can be the amp in question as much as anything upstream. Rectified power gets its energy at a harmonic of the power frequency, mostly 5th and 7th harmonic. That is what those current bumps in the rectified current picture show. All of this makes analysis harder. And what works in a given system is only applicable to that system. Also, different systems will be sensitive to different aspects.

 

Conspicuously absent is the time scale on the Shunata graphs. I can't figure out the time per division so the rate of change on the initial transient or the duration of the transient is not clear. This may all be moot if its short enough, since the leakage inductance of the power transformer or the power line noise filter in the switching supply will dominate the rate of change in current. However the low Z cable may have a significant effect on noise radiation and conduction. Not to mention the issues on the shield and how its connected.

 

Adding a shield to a power cord will also change the effective impedance of the cable at high frequencies so its not simple to compare. Correct termination of the shield is not obvious since it not obvious where the noise is coming from.

 

Predicting how a power amp will respond is also difficult. In my demo above its entirely possible the amp was oscillating from coupling between the power cords and the input cables and changing the cables altered the oscillations. I don't know. I can speculate that this could be the root cause of most power cord differences, but I could not really support that speculation. Even connecting an oscilloscope to the system to look for oscillation will alter and possibly kill the oscillation. These are all vexing real world problems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Demian Martin

auraliti http://www.auraliti.com

Constellation Audio http://www.constellationaudio.com

NuForce http://www.nuforce.com

Monster Cable http://www.monstercable.com

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An important issue I sailed right by. Safety is very important when addressing something connected directy to the power source. There is a lot of power available from the line and the voltages can be lethal. A manufacturer selling products that connect to the mains should conform to the local safety requirements. Those are unique to each region (and even municipality e.g. Los Angeles requires UL or similar certification). Those requirements can really constrict what you can make. They have limits on the insulator materials, thicknesses arrangements on the wire, shape of the cord etc. For example a Dryer cord must be round. Flat is not acceptable (don't ask how I know).

 

For a manufacturer to operate outside of these regulations is risky. Most of the US still operates on the "caveat emptor" model until the fire hits and the lawsuits arrive. In the EU it's more serious and the importer can even end up in jail. Making something that departs from the rules and is approved is possible but will take a very long time to get approved. In the US if the cord set isn't UL approved (or equivalent from etl etc.) you are taking a risk with some serious potential consequences. I suspect similar is true in the rest of the world.

 

Demian Martin

auraliti http://www.auraliti.com

Constellation Audio http://www.constellationaudio.com

NuForce http://www.nuforce.com

Monster Cable http://www.monstercable.com

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"Differences are of no importance. They serve only to confuse."

 

Well, you can't have an improvement without a difference, so "differences" are a necessary but not sufficient condition. If you can't demonstrate a difference, you can't demonstrate an improvement, ispo facto.

 

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Obviously an improvement includes a difference, but the reverse is not true. Subjective as it is, if I make a change and then can't make up my mind whether I prefer it or not I score it as a 'difference', and you can see that in my list of results.

 

For the last week I have been faffing around swapping a Toslink/coax between my MF V-Link and DAC. Because the Toslink provides galvanic isolation and the coax does not so I 'want' the Toslink to be 'better' than the coax. "There may be no improvement now, but I haven't got any 192 files yet and I read that Toslink does not work too well at 192". Then I remember that neither my recently purchased DAC and my also recently purchased V-Link won't work at 192 anyway. But then I also recall that somewhere here I saw that Toslink has a poorer jitter performance.

 

At that point I realise that I am being totally obsessive about something that is not really going to change my life. So I go and cut the grass.

 

I hope that other people do all this. I will feel much better if they do.

 

 

 

 

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WGS: Hence the simplest explanation is that they will sound the same because their relevant measurable properties are the same. Claims to the contrary are counter-intuitive, and thus require more evidence.

 

Intuition is a devilishly difficult place to begin anything. I mean, wasn’t phlogiston a perfectly legitimate operating theory until someone (a couple hundred years later) successfully replaced “phlogiston” with “oxygen”? As an explanation for combustion or rusting, oxygen, at the point at which the phlogiston theory was introduced, would have not only been a stretch, it would pretty much have been impossible to prove. Does that mean the theory was wrong? Or that that the phlogiston theory, as incorrect, was somehow not useful? Or were the theoretical gaps alone, even with the lack of a competing theory, sufficient to warrant it’s dismissal?

 

The only point I’m making here is that epistemology is hardly a solid foundation from which to argue truth — or, in point of fact, anything ontological.

 

The idea that God created life should be the extraordinary claim, because it requires the existence of a super-natural being that by definition we cannot measure or prove. The other idea doesn't require anything so extraordinary, so it is the simpler hypothesis, and the null hypothesis. The only thing that would make you favor creationism over an idea that doesn't require the existence of a deity is prior acceptance of the existence of the required deity.

 

Why? The claim that “God created Life” was not only not controversial for the bulk of the last 2,000 years, but moreover, some variation of that claim was near-universally accepted as true for (arguably) a couple-dozen millennia before that. And if you think that Natural Selection and Evolution are in some way privileged because they’re *simpler* than creationism, you’re batty. The only way Occam holds up here is that there is an agent that might well be unnecessary — but that’s hardly an argument *for* Darwinism, or any particular competing theory.

 

And, for the record, you don’t have to be a theist to appreciate the elegance of the creationist argument. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the arguments that Evolutionary Biologists have to tackle. I mean, there’s the entire problem of “implied spaces” -- all that spontaneous (and not necessarily advantageous) structure that seems to fall out of complexity “theory”, yet doesn’t seem necessarily required by the math that incited it. Another way to illustrate this is Gould’s excellent “Spandrels of San Marcos”. These gaps have been hilariously difficult to account for with simple Darwinistic theory, yet, do not refute the approach, but simply illuminate a gap — an “implied space”. And yet, this is “more elegant” than a beneficent creator? A moot point, at best.

 

Again, the point here isn’t to debate creationist theology, only to underscore that an epistemic bias may well be as blinding as the alternative approach.

 

Before the argument looked to me like this: "There is something different about these expensive cables that makes them sound better, but we can't measure these differences, and can't tell you what they are, but if you listen with your ears, instead of looking at numbers and graphs, you too will understand."

 

This one looks different: "Here are measurements and graphs and data that show the cables are doing something different." So if the claims of measured differences are valid, then the problem has been greatly simplified to one of whether these differences that show up in numbers and graphs actually translate into better/worse/different audible effects.

 

But how do we get here? By magic? For years, cable designers have argued pretty much ceaselessly that “dialectric” and “skin effect” and a host of other bizarrely esoteric “properties” that may well impart sonic filtering on the signals that pass through them (hell, even crystallography gets a play here, which is ironic not only given the example/discussion above but the hint that this may well be exactly the secret sauce that Shunyata is using in their newest power conditioners -- which happen to work great, BTW). These things are routinely dismissed or ignored — and you yourself have done the same with your reference to cap/res/ind as those variables that are the ones worth mentioning. I mean, are you an electrical or RF researcher (and most emphatically *not* an engineer) actively engaged in pushing the SOTA? Neither am I. So, we can certainly doubt and even offer derisive and condescending comments. That’s only fair. But when it comes down to it, what guarantee do we have what we’re dissing is “phlogiston theory” and not “oxygen theory”? Or “geocentrism” and not “heliocentrism”? What, logic?

 

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"Predicting how a power amp will respond is also difficult. In my demo above its entirely possible the amp was oscillating from coupling between the power cords and the input cables and changing the cables altered the oscillations. I don't know. I can speculate that this could be the root cause of most power cord differences, but I could not really support that speculation. Even connecting an oscilloscope to the system to look for oscillation will alter and possibly kill the oscillation. These are all vexing real world problems."

 

Well Demian supposing the oscillation were the problem, and if connecting an O-scope alters and kills the oscillation, would be good to know. Connecting the little bit of capacitance, and highly resistive load across the regular cord would certainly beat blindly buying expensive cords to sound better. Of course connected the O-scope and comparing readings as you swap cords might tell you something too.

 

If it is RFI, then intentionally injecting it around a cord and then removing it would be instructive.

 

And clearly I don't intend for you to be the person taking up for all claims of power cords. I was wondering about the details of what you had described.

 

 

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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in the US is a rip off. This is a case of capitalism gone awry. UL is a private company, and makes large profits by requiring companies to pay them for "listing" their products. This is a totally corrupt system if local governments then require products connected to the mains to be UL listed.

 

Demian, you work for/with manufacturers: do those manufacturers you work with UL list all their products?

 

Note that UL listing will add considerably to the retail price of high end components which are not produced in large quantities.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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