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Audio accesories for the millionaire.
November 1, 2005 7:26 AM   Subscribe

Would you pay $9000 for speaker cables? No? Ok, how about $11,700? These are just a few of the seemingly overpriced audio components listed on this page.
posted by KevinSkomsvold (119 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I know people who own cables like these. It's a sickness.
posted by GuyZero at 7:29 AM on November 1, 2005


8 feet / $11,700 = 0.21mm per dollar.
posted by Plutor at 7:29 AM on November 1, 2005


I had a friend who subscribed to a fanatical audiophile magazine. My favourite review was a fawning one over a liquid that you sprayed on the light bulbs in the room--the reviewer swore that you could immediately tell the difference in the 'color' of the music playing at the time.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 7:31 AM on November 1, 2005


Absurd.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:33 AM on November 1, 2005


Hahahah.

I always thought it would be great to actualy make and sell these products.
posted by delmoi at 7:36 AM on November 1, 2005


I made fun of audiophiles until I read Blink, and the interview with the women who could tell you which factory a given bag of Oreos were made in. Now, I just think "Well, maybe sound is the same way. Maybe tube amps are 'warmer'. Maybe light bulb spray really does change the quality of the sound perceptably. Maybe there's a world of sound nuances that I'm missing out on."

Then I forget about it and just crank my stereo. Louder = better.
posted by Plutor at 7:37 AM on November 1, 2005


I like to bait my audiophile pal about how awesome mp3's sound on my iPod, it makes him physically cringe.
posted by fenriq at 7:43 AM on November 1, 2005


tube amps really do have a sound which is fantastic - but light bulb spray . . . maybe it changes the mood.

As far as speaker cables go, cables don't often color the sound like these reviews claim - what makes a speaker cable good is that it doesn't pick up any interference, which you can get for much less than any of this. What I like about the review is how it covers up for the fact that the company doesn't tell anyone what it's doing because they are secretive about their technology.

BS, anything that's usually properity is based on ideas that everyone knows about that have usually been theoretically developed years and years ago.

I guess to the person who buys these cables - they do change the sound, but only because they feel like, after paying that much for cables, they have to hear a better sound.
posted by klik99 at 7:44 AM on November 1, 2005


I've got some minor hearing loss in my right ear. These products do me absolutely no good whatsoever. If you've got superhearing, and can actually tell the difference in sound produced by a lightbulb, then more power to you, but I think I'll stick with the $20 cables from Radio Shack.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:46 AM on November 1, 2005


What kind of music do people listen to with this type of equipment? Is the music recorded using microphone cables that costs this much and with slimed light bulbs?
posted by mullacc at 7:52 AM on November 1, 2005


There's always been a little debate between scientists and jazz fans because the former insist that different pianists cannot have different tones sitting at the same piano. I understand the logic: There's no direct contact with the strings, and two people are using the same mechanism to activate those sounds. I don't know how it works. But I know I'd have to go deaf to lose the ability to differentiate Bill Evans from Oscar Peterson, language aside. Their voices are different.

Science isn't a...science. There's a lot about our world we don't know or can't yet measure; and yes, there are all sorts of nuances to sound. I've heard some of this equipment; and yes, it does sound better.

However. The people who buy this stuff invariably tell you, "I want it to sound live, like the musicians are in the room." The one thing they always fail to grasp is that a $65,000 stereo system can never compensate for music that was recorded by a rookie engineer. Your experience will only be as good as the sum of all its parts; so unless the studio had top of the line equipment, too, you're going to hit a ceiling somewhere.

If you want to experience high-quality sound without taking a mortgage for a new system, check out this CD. The label is run by a guy named Todd Garfinkle -- who builds his own microphones. The guy takes sound very, very seriously; and his recordings absolutely sound better than anything else I've heard. I picked that particular CD to link only because it's a great recording of the Goldberg Variations, which would have a broad appeal; you can hear his results on any of his recordings. I also love this one, a solo saxophone performance recorded live in the San Martino Cathedral in Lucca, Italy.
posted by cribcage at 7:53 AM on November 1, 2005


Yes, yes, but does it go up to 11?
posted by Rothko at 7:55 AM on November 1, 2005


The Emperor's new cables?
posted by C.Batt at 7:56 AM on November 1, 2005


Almost everything audiophiles believe is pure bullshit. The only significant difference between tube amps and solid-state amps is the way they distort when they overdrive (driven beyond their linear range of operation). Electric guitars should be plugged into tube amps for this reason. Home strereos...not so much.
There will always be gullible people with money, and there will always be someone more than happy to take it from them.
posted by rocket88 at 7:57 AM on November 1, 2005



Science isn't a...science. There's a lot about our world we don't know or can't yet measure; and yes, there are all sorts of nuances to sound. I've heard some of this equipment; and yes, it does sound better.


Absolute bullshit. The scientists are right that you can't distinguish "tone" on a piano. But you can easily tell apart Evans from Peterson because of the music itself - the phrasing, the chord structure, the melodies, the harmonic rhythm, etc.

It's also bullshit that you can't "measure" these effects. You can easily perform double-blind listening tests where you can actually see if the "effect" exists or not. Just like you can have people listen to two artists and tell them apart, you could have them listen to music with or without these fancy cables and see if there is a perceivable difference.
posted by aerify at 7:58 AM on November 1, 2005


I remember the good old eighties when rich people spent their extra money on cocaine instead of silly things like speaker cables.
posted by bondcliff at 7:58 AM on November 1, 2005


There's always been a little debate between scientists and jazz fans because the former insist that different pianists cannot have different tones sitting at the same piano.

They can't. I'm a big jazz fan, and can tell apart many different pianists because of their signature styles. But if they were to all play the same note at the same volume, you could not tell in a double-blind listening test who was playing what.

If you actually think it's the "tone" that lets you tell musicians apart you really should go study some music theory.

By the way, the compression schemes for music (mp3 and such) are tested using double-blind ABX testing.

What is a blind ABX test?
posted by aerify at 8:00 AM on November 1, 2005


Claims about greater audio quality mean nothing unless they can be tested experimentally, in an ABX setting. If you can't tell them apart blind, then you're just imagining the effect.
posted by aerify at 8:03 AM on November 1, 2005


And for something different, check out the T-Amp, an integrated circuit amplifier that supposedly rivals $8,000 tube amps and runs for the dear price of $29.99.

Science and electrical engineering wins over snooty superstitious audiophiles.

Yay!
posted by PissOnYourParade at 8:04 AM on November 1, 2005


For another "guy who builds his own microphones" music site, check out mapleshade. This CD is quite good.
posted by wakko at 8:05 AM on November 1, 2005


Sound is your ear drum going back and forth.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 8:06 AM on November 1, 2005


Haha, pure shite. I wonder what music these people listen to?
posted by fire&wings at 8:07 AM on November 1, 2005


What is much more likely is that these cables do indeed color or influence the sound, they just do it in a pleasing way, which could contribute to them sounding "better".
posted by Ynoxas at 8:07 AM on November 1, 2005


There's nothing quite so amusing as audiophool stupidity - those conmen who part gullible audiophools of their cash are actually doing the world a favor in my opinion.
Science isn't a...science.
Mod -1, Incoherent.This is pure nonsense, and your comments about some of this overhyped equipment being "better" are more than anecdotes subject to the placebo effect. I suggest you head over to the Hydrogenaudio forum to begin deprogramming by schooling yourself on the subject of double-blind ABX testing.

It's safe to say that anyone who uses terms like "warmth", refers approvingly to Stereophile magazine or insists that super-dooper expensive equipment is needed to accurately reproduce recorded audio is either an ignoramus or a conman (and in the case of Stereophool magazine, likely a noxious mixture of both), and can therefore be safely ignored. There is no justification whatsoever for spending more than $1000 at the very most to build a top-notch audio system, and if you can afford such things your hearing is probably too far gone at the high frequencies anyway for you to detect the difference, and a middle-aged guy who can't hear above 14kHz shelling out $9000 for audio equipment is nothing but a schmuck.
posted by Goedel at 8:09 AM on November 1, 2005


I've always thought that this area was one that really mixed religion with science. Yes, there are lot's of geeky numbers that maybe prove something, but in the end, it's all about belief. A friend of mine was telling me about a company which made platforms which reduced vibrations for stereo components...at up to a couple K a stand. They also made them for your speaker wires. (Yes, that's right, a speaker wire stand.) Apparently it was started by an engineer who used to work on submarines.

I think the other hobby that is most closely related is wine. It's great to hear the wine snobs go on and on about the acid and fruity tastes and hint of oysters...whatever. It tastes good, I'll drink it.
posted by mtstover at 8:11 AM on November 1, 2005


Fucking dingbats. $450 for a wooden knob. Those guys are pissing themselves on every order.
posted by MetaJohn at 8:13 AM on November 1, 2005


what makes a speaker cable good is that it doesn't pick up any interference

How would that weak interference affect a speaker coil that has 80 volts of alternating high-current music pouring through it? With pre-amp cables on the other hand, insulation and conductivity are important because you're dealing with a very low current 500 millivolt signal.

You can use ordinary lamp cord from the hardware store for most stereo applications, and for big amps heavy duty heater cord will do. That stuff handles 240 volts at 20 amps. Only $10~15k+ systems justify buying dedicated speaker cable.
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:14 AM on November 1, 2005


mtsover: At least with wine, the snobs are commenting on the actual thing. The closer analogy, I think, would be someone who obsessed over the quality of the actual musical instrument or technique of the musician. An audiophile is like someone who cares passionately about what kind of paper and print pressing is used to publish a wine review.

Yeah, I know that last sentence doesn't work, but I thought it was funny.
posted by mullacc at 8:17 AM on November 1, 2005


There is no justification whatsoever for spending more than $1000 at the very most to build a top-notch audio system

And there is nothing more delicious to enjoy with your music than a glass of chilled white zin.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:20 AM on November 1, 2005


PIYP- Wow, OK, I'm totally intrigued by that amp. But... what's the deal? I've got a fairly standard component system- TV, CD, audio-in from laptop, DVD, and a receiver/amp that outputs to speakers. Would this unit sit btw. my receiver and speakers?
posted by mkultra at 8:28 AM on November 1, 2005


For the life of me, I still don't understand what the fuck this thing does. These things remind me of that trend back in the late 70's where people would tape cow magnets to their gas lines thinking it gave them better mileage.

[Hello RRC:)]
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:29 AM on November 1, 2005


Anyone who would drop this much cash on a stereo system has a sickness, and I pity them the way I would someone who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. No matter how good your set-up is...it could always sound a little better...right?

Like others have pointed out, it's all about belief. Music will never sound as good to me as it did when I was five and played Beach Boys records on this.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:30 AM on November 1, 2005


I used to work for the company who did IMAX audio installations. I have lots of interesting stories from those guys. However, here's the one relevant one I remember:

They did a blind listening test with a bunch of their audio engineers. Four sets of speaker cables, if memory serves.

The first was just regular romex wiring, like what you probably have inside your walls for power right now. The audio guys all looked visibly horrified and said they hope whatever that is will never be used in a real-life installation.

Next was expensive Monster Cables they had picked up at an audio shop. They said it was still pretty poor.

I forget the next, but they finally went to their regular grade speaker cables, which incidentally were cheaper than the monster cable, and they all heard the difference and were greatly relieved.

Very impressive. I'm as skeptical as anyone about the need for multiple-thousand-dollar speaker cables, certainly, but there are people out there who are extremely sensitive to subtleties most of us would miss.
posted by mragreeable at 8:32 AM on November 1, 2005


If you're gonna spend $9000.00 on speaker cables, you might as well spring for the extra $2700.00 and get the $11,700.00 ones, right? I mean, at that level what's a couple more grand? I'm just saying...
posted by wsg at 8:34 AM on November 1, 2005


A lot of the audiophile mystique is the sense of being superior.... as in, "I can hear the difference between cable A and cable B, and you can't." And reviewers REALLY have to have that mystique; their jobs depend on it. Their mission is to sell you stuff. The manufacturers of these products are their real customers. You, the reader, are the PRODUCT.

With analog sound cables, as long as you buy reasonable quality in sufficient gauge for your run length, you're good. Home Depot sells very nice 12- and 14-gauge speaker wire for something like twenty cents a foot. Yes, cables do vary in inductance and capacitance values. But nobody has yet been able to demonstrate, in blind or double-blind testing, any audible difference whatsoever. Gauge matters. The quality of the connections matters. (soldered banana clips or spades work very nicely.) The rest is pretty unimportant.

I saw an interesting post awhile back by one of the Serious Names in audio, an electrical engineer by the name of Dick Pierce. He talked about how, in one case, he did see equipment that was affected by cable quality... on a digital connection yet, which is quite unusual. In that specific case, the (very expensive) gear had a very, very bad design... the sending unit was way under voltage, and the receiving unit had a truly dismal circuit design. So some cables would work okay and others wouldn't, because the equipment was on the ragged edge of not working anyway.

What's interesting is that audiophiles SWORE by this equipment and said it was 'very revealing', and that it was proof that cables really mattered. They were right that they COULD hear a difference in cables, but it wasn't because the cables were good. Rather, the gear was TERRIBLE. But they convinced themselves that this poorly-performing gear was better than competently-designed equipment, because they wanted so badly to believe in their own hearing prowess.

Part of the problem is that everyone learns to hear a bit differently. The brain isn't as specialized into sound as into vision... it devotes maybe a tenth as many neurons to the function. There's pretty wide variance in how people hear sound.

All audio gear is a series of tradeoffs, even the high-end stuff. Particularly with speakers, the most audible part of the chain, the goal is to find a set of compromises that sync well with how you learned to hear.

That's why listening is so important, and also why the placebo effect is so rampant in audio. If you really want to know the truth, get a friend and DO BLIND TESTING.
posted by Malor at 8:39 AM on November 1, 2005


For those asking about music styles, audiophiles almost always listen to either jazz or classical, but usually not both, as their tastes tend to be exclusive. They especially desire unusual or esoteric recordings. If you can just buy it in a record store, they probably don't' want it.

Few audiophiles are arguing over which set of speakers more accurately reflects the little gurgle in Britney's voice on "Baby One More Time". What they are listening for is on the September 12th, 1987 recording of Mendelssohn's Concerto in E Minor, the 1st violinist's finger lightly brushes the E string at 4 minutes and 25 seconds into the second movement. It is, indeed, a sickness.

For the wine people, the proper analogue is that it is like those that say drinking the same wine, from the same bottle, out of a $400 goblet makes it "better" than drinking it from a $20 goblet. (Notice I mentioned a true goblet, designed for the task, and not a paper cup, so please keep your fanatical ravings at bay, wine freaks.)
posted by Ynoxas at 8:47 AM on November 1, 2005


To me - this isn't a debate about whether or not there is a potential improvement to be had from buying expensive components - this will always end in a shouting match. What the debate is about is whether or not it's sane to care enough that you're willing to put this much of an investment in it.
posted by odinsdream at 8:58 AM on November 1, 2005


i own a set of $700 argon-filled interconnects. but only because i inherited them from a friend who blew all his money on audio as he was slowly dying of a incurable disease. since this made him happy, i call it money well spent. the interconnects are part of a feedback loop which has circuitry to conpensate for variabilities in the acoustic impedance of different rooms. i can't say how great they are because interconnects of this type aren't exactly fused. which means it only took a week for a friend to blow the ridiculously expensive monitors i also inherited but cannot afford to fix. one thing about both these even more expensive cable sets linked in this post, i see from their pictures they definitely do not use audiophile terminators. audiophile monitors do not have screw terminals.
posted by 3.2.3 at 8:59 AM on November 1, 2005


Sound is your ear drum going back and forth.

Brilliant! I'm off to file a patent on my new invention: audiophile Q-Tips. A tuft of microfibre mounted on a graphite shaft, precision calibrate. After you clean your ears the sound will be much clearer. And as a bonus, you can wipe the ear wax on your lightbulbs. I'm not sure if it adjusts the 'color' of the room or simply the mood, but I sure as heck know you can smell it.
posted by Nelson at 8:59 AM on November 1, 2005


This is great stuff. My favorite ... "Before ample break-in, the Oracle v2.1 cables sounded fuzzy, constricted, and dynamically dead -- a sonic mess. Luckily, their sound improves markedly in short order, and within 100 hours or so the cables had reached their sonic peak."
posted by JackFlash at 9:04 AM on November 1, 2005


I had no idea they went to such extremes.

Sillly arguments about analog vs. digital and hardware vs. software are a daily occurrence where I hang out, but this takes the cake.
posted by Foosnark at 9:11 AM on November 1, 2005


It's also bullshit that you can't "measure" these effects. You can easily perform double-blind listening tests where you can actually see if the "effect" exists or not. Just like you can have people listen to two artists and tell them apart, you could have them listen to music with or without these fancy cables and see if there is a perceivable difference.

Yes, but I suspect that actual scientific testing of the ludicrous claims made for various cables and components would miss the point. Audiophiles like to think that only they can hear the differences. As Malor said above:

A lot of the audiophile mystique is the sense of being superior.... as in, "I can hear the difference between cable A and cable B, and you can't." And reviewers REALLY have to have that mystique; their jobs depend on it.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 9:13 AM on November 1, 2005


There's a lot about our world we don't know or can't yet measure

Like what? Ghosts? Gravitons?
posted by wfrgms at 9:17 AM on November 1, 2005


God, I can write the copy, who here has enough engineering cred to make up some total bullshit that we can fleece audiophiles with? I mean, the "quantom chips" thing? Fuckin' a, man, haven't they heard that you have to use a green marker around all of your cds to make 'em sound better?
I can tell the difference between my excellent (for my purposes) Sony speakers upstairs and my crappy all-in-one downstairs, but these days I listen to so much music on my computer that it's kinda moot. Well, and I go to shows for my job, and even earplugs probably don't stanch the hearing loss.
posted by klangklangston at 9:20 AM on November 1, 2005


And as a bonus, you can wipe the ear wax on your lightbulbs. I'm not sure if it adjusts the 'color' of the room or simply the mood, but I sure as heck know you can smell it. - Nelson

I would ask how you know about the smell of earwax-on-lightbulb, but I'm not sure I want to know the answer.
posted by raedyn at 9:21 AM on November 1, 2005


And for something different, check out the T-Amp, an integrated circuit amplifier that supposedly rivals $8,000 tube amps and runs for the dear price of $29.99.

I have my $30 T-Amp hooked to a $400 set of Bose speakers. I love it. :)
posted by mrbill at 9:27 AM on November 1, 2005


I can't find the reference at the moment, but somewhere out there you can buy crystals to put on top of your audio equipment. Because apparently amber and garnet, placed on top of your amplifier in the right alignment, improve sound.

But not quartz, you philistines!

...the mere existence of such products indicates, to me, that there are too many fantastically wealthy fantastically stupid people in the world.
posted by aramaic at 9:29 AM on November 1, 2005


For those asking about music styles, audiophiles almost always listen to either jazz or classical, but usually not both, as their tastes tend to be exclusive.

I see this changing in a few years as the 80s Generation gets older and starts spending money on "quality" audio versus "loud" audio - but keeps listening to much of the same music.

My wife is VERY picky about her headphones, and she tested out her favorite pair (Sennheiser HD600s) with Sisters of Mercy instead of Bach.
posted by mrbill at 9:35 AM on November 1, 2005


All true audiophiles know that Bose is cheap plastic unshielded crap, and has been since back in the late 70s when they stopped using quality components.

At any rate, I've heard that the Bose speakers you hear in the store are set up in a carefully constructed closed-room display with a buttload of fancy processing equipment behind the wall (or so the claim goes, anyway- have not ever seen the equipment myself) to make them sound better than they are. At home they will never apporximate the same sound.

Don't know how true it is; I've always been a bit skeptical about the sound quality you would get from those tiny cube speakers, and I don't think I'd buy Bose myself (partly because I can't stop thinking now that I've heard that Bose is cheap plastic crap for those who don't know any better...)
posted by caution live frogs at 9:59 AM on November 1, 2005


One thing that I do think is worth it is getting a good cartridge for the record player. Cheap ones will fuck your vinyl.
posted by klangklangston at 10:01 AM on November 1, 2005


There is no justification whatsoever for spending more than $1000 at the very most to build a top-notch audio system

Erm, I could spend a lot more than that on a top notch home audio system, just on the speakers alone. And not on mystical audio shit. And certainly not at a big-box consumer store. I could spend a few grand just on a pair of good near-field studio monitors. And that isn't mystical audiophile stuff, that's just the cost of good materials, design, workmanship and support.

In real life, though, I've never spent more than 100 bucks at a shot on any chunk of audio gear, but then I like to buy old used amps and stuff and refurbish 'em or use them as is. As it is now I consider myself lucky to have a low-noise pro-sumer audio card, a power-conditioned UPS and a decent-but-really-cheap 2.1 speaker rig. Considering I mostly just listen to high bitrate MP3s and record my own DJ sets and whatnot, even this is probably overkill.

Though, I'd like some headphones and speakers with a flatter response and more detailed midrange.

But if I had the money, I could spend $5-10k on up to $50k or more on a good home audio/studio, and not have it be "wasted" money. But then, I'd have a home recording studio, not a home stereo. Anyway, if I had that kind of money, I'd buy a plot of land somewhere empty and quiet first, build a house, and enjoy the freedom to listen to whatever I wanted to as loud or as quiet as I wanted to.

Also, there's plenty of justification for spending more than $1000 on an audio system: Public Address / "sound reinforcement" systems. You're looking at $1000 amps. Speakers that cost $500-$5000 a piece. Pre-amps. EQs. Cables. Mixing board. Transformers. Snakes.

You can't build a quality small size PA for under a $1000. No, sticking a couple of self-powered JBL monitors up on some poles doesn't count.

Then there's real science stuff like the BBE Sonic Maximizer - which are, no lie, the single best investment for a PA, ever, hands down. The effect and improvement that it produces is tangible and concrete in a way no other component in any system I've ever heard. It's such a palpable improvement I can tell whether or not a PA rig is using one without even bothering to look for it in the racks and stacks, and I can even tell what kind of settings or parameters are being used by gauging what I hear against what I can see as far as what kind of speakers are being used, how many, and what the listening environment is.
posted by loquacious at 10:04 AM on November 1, 2005


Any perceived differences in audio cables vanish with overwhelming statistical significance in double-blind tests. People who spend thousands of dollars on exotic wires are complete morons.
posted by pmbuko at 10:08 AM on November 1, 2005


As a teenager, I was "into" audio. I thought that as an adult, I'd have an expensive hi-fi system and spend lots of time listening to it. I'd build my own speakers and Heathkit style audio components.

There are many reasons why none of that happened. But one significant one was the pseudoscientific high-endism that took over the hobby. There used to be rational mainstream audio magazines like Audio and Stereo Review. Those are long gone; now the audio mags at the newsstand are all superstitious garbage like Stereophile and The Absolute Sound. (There are individual articles in Stereophile that are worthwhile, but the overall editorial direction is clearly toward the not-worthwhile, IMHO. The Absolute Sound doesn't even make good toliet paper.)

When these magazines aren't waxing eloquent over the virtues of US$80K speakers or US$20K amplifiers, they're vigorously editorializing on why double-blind testing of such stuff can't possibly work, or isn't relevant, or would miss the point. These people aren't enjoying music any more, they're just worrying about whether they've been suckered all this time.

It may just be that the introduction of CDs in the 80s, and the dramatic increase in the quality/price ratio of consumer electronics in general over the last 40 years, spelled doom for mainstream audio enthusiasm. The questions are all answered, the problems are all solved. It's cheap and easy to buy and set up a surround-sound system-in-a-box that would humiliate 95% of the audio setups available in the 70s, for example. There's much less room for real improvement than there was.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:14 AM on November 1, 2005


Posted by cribcage:
Science isn't a...science. There's a lot about our world we don't know or can't yet measure; and yes, there are all sorts of nuances to sound. I've heard some of this equipment; and yes, it does sound better.
...otherwise known as Intelligent Hearing.
posted by scrump at 10:16 AM on November 1, 2005 [1 favorite]


Not only that, but do you realize that top concert string players play instruments worth hundreds of thousands (sometimes even millions) of dollars!!!!!
posted by stet at 10:20 AM on November 1, 2005


But why stop there? Why not also build a giant horn subwoofer in the room beneath your feet?
posted by StarForce5 at 10:22 AM on November 1, 2005


The one I love best on this list is the so-called "GSIC-10 Intelligent Chip".

I had no idea one could fit this much bullsh*t in such a small package...
posted by clevershark at 10:25 AM on November 1, 2005


Cribcage:

To be clear, the issue people are discussing isn't that science doesn't account for why you can hear the difference between fundamentally similar things. The issue is that it's been shown in double-blind tests that you actually can't. There is a big difference between "I can, but nobody knows why I can" and "I think I can, but when actually tested on whether I can or not, it turns out that I can't". That's not so much science as it is statistics and experimentation (often hand-in-hand with science, but not actually science, as far as I know).

And to be fair, I'm not saying that you personally can't hear the difference between any bits of high-end stereo stuff: some of it does make a difference, and the fact that people lie on a spectrum of hearing ability means that there are some differences that are just on the cuff: the average person can't hear the difference between A and B, but people slightly up the hearing bell-curve can. However, the stuff folks here are railing against is in the "off the bell curve" end. Some people can see slightly further up the electromagnetic spectrum than others, but nobody can see X-rays.
posted by Bugbread at 10:26 AM on November 1, 2005


I, for one, welcome our new pedo-er...audiophillic overlords.
posted by vagus at 10:34 AM on November 1, 2005


I had no idea one could fit this much bullsh*t in such a small package...

Dude...c'mon! Everyone and their mother knows that the Intelligent Chip works via coherent quantum superposition and quantum entanglement, in which two coherent light sources - the CD laser and the quantum dot laser in the chip - interact strongly with the atoms and molecules in the CD's polycarbonate layer to produce long-lasting, superior transparency for better optical signal to noise ratio (SNR).

Fuck, don't be such a luddite.
(I kid because I love).
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:40 AM on November 1, 2005


Several people have asked what music audiophiles listen to on their ridiculously overpriced pseudoscientifically-designed equipment.

They listen to Mannheim Steamroller. Seriously.
posted by kcds at 10:49 AM on November 1, 2005


kcds : "They listen to Mannheim Steamroller. Seriously."

Huh. I didn't know anything about Mannheim Steamroller, so I googled around, and found, regarding the first Mannheim Steamroller album:
Davis...titled the resulting album Fresh Aire...Davis initially marketed Fresh Aire to stereo showrooms, where his state-of-the-art sound proved ideal for demonstrating home stereo equipment; the LP became a smash hit among audiophiles, and a series of popular Fresh Aire sequels followed in the years to come.
So they're building kick-ass systems just to listen to (basically) a store demo CD that exists to show them how good their kick-ass systems are?
posted by Bugbread at 11:06 AM on November 1, 2005


Screw cables like those.

All needed: A bad day (job), a Good Amp (Denon), Nice speakers (Paradigm) and, ha, weed.
posted by Peter H at 11:10 AM on November 1, 2005


My highschool voice just screamed at me to say f-ck the amp and the speakers -- a tape player, headphones, and the aforementioned weed, actually. That's HIGH FIDELITY.

Man, the music cant' be luod enuouhg. (joking)
posted by Peter H at 11:15 AM on November 1, 2005


Everything mentioned so far cost peanuts compared to this one:

Krell


And here is some serious bass (at least according to the write-up):

Decware Imperial Folded Horn


"On one occasion a club owner wanted to hear what one would do in his own place so he called us up. On the spur of the moment we had to take what we had so we packed up a single Imperial, my frequency generator, and an old Harmon Kardon Reciever with one channel blown. Just before we got this call, we had been experiementing with a unique driver arangement. We removed the 15 inch woofer, and replaced it with a 12 inch woofer that was already mounted in a 1 cubic foot sealed cube. The response of the woofer in the cube was 3 dB down at 120 cycles. Basically ZERO bass. We installed this cube into the Imperial with the woofer facing the back of the encosure. The original 15 inch speaker opening was sealed. Installed the response was a bit different. Starting at the same 120 cycles and measuring the SPL at 90 dB in the room we slowly started to sweep the frequencies down until at 28.5 cycles the SPL had risen to 118 dB. That's a 28 dB of gain at 28.5 cycles! I really can't begin to describe what happens at that frequency when you hit that SPL, but it's serious. We saw a mouse stagger out of a crack in the concrete floor and die.

We gave the same demonstration in the night club for its owner, using only a single 12 inch woofer and 80 watts we were able to move the ash trays on 51 tables throughout the facility. It was an effective demonstration. He bought it, and we placed it into service with the 12 inch woofer that you couldn't move for the sealed box behind it - just to see how long it would last with 800 watts driving it all night long. The woofer lasted about 1 week and we got a service call. Upon inspection I was shocked to see 1/2 of the pulp speaker cone missing. It was all still inside the cube in the form of a powder. The largest fragment was less than 10 milimeters across. We saved that woofer for over 10 years just to look at it."
posted by Capt. Bligh at 11:21 AM on November 1, 2005


There is no justification whatsoever for spending more than $1000 at the very most to build a top-notch audio system

and there is no justification for spending more than $19,000 to obtain a top-notch sports car. A Neon-SRT is as good as a Porsche 911 Turbo S Coupe, right?

"You get what you pay for" has meaning even in audio, but there is a lot of snake oil for sale to be sure - wood blocks and crystals placed on components, cables costing more than the amps to which they are connected, etc.
posted by caddis at 11:52 AM on November 1, 2005


KevinSkomsvold, dude: That's, like, some seriously righteous bullshitting. Dude. Hat is off. Duuuude. Hat. Is. Off.
posted by lodurr at 11:58 AM on November 1, 2005


Back in the 80's I installed car stereos at one of the first big-box chain stores. Head office bought a crap-load of cheap Craig car stereos and got a huge shipment of 6.5" car speakers for free as an wholesale incentive.

So, we figured "any price is profit" and put them on the floor for $39.95 a pair. They barely sold.

We upped the price to $64.95 and let ourselves be talked down to $50~$59 without much difficulty - they sold out in a few weeks.
posted by CynicalKnight at 11:58 AM on November 1, 2005


Caddis, the comparison is interesting: It doesn't hold, but it does expose some things.

What exactly do you get with a 911? Well, you get a really much better suspension, better quality components, and a better feeling experience (in quantifiable ways like fit and finish, vibration, etc.). The Neon (or, for that matter, my Matrix XRS) might perform wth a Porsche, given equal drivers, but I sincerely doubt it would continue to perform with that porsche over time, and I sincerely doubt that it would do as well with poor drivers.

OTOH, a nice RX-8 will probably feel like silk underdrawers while it hangs right in there with that porsche, at a much lower cost...
posted by lodurr at 12:02 PM on November 1, 2005


I don't know why everyone gets so pissed off over audiophiles. No matter what the hobby, there's always going to be people that take it far beyond the level that most people care to - some people spend hundreds on bottles of wine, some people spend millions on cars, some people spend hundreds on cigars, some spend tens of thousands on rugs. At a certain level, does that extra money really make that much of a difference in quality? No, but the point is to get the "best" flavor, or sound, or picture, so they'll keep buying more stuff and trying more things in an attempt to reach that point. It happens with all kinds of endeavors, but for some reason, however, there seems to be this almost universal disgust (particularly on the net) reserved for people that do it with stereo equipment. Why?

Anyway, someone asked what these people listen to; I think in many cases you'd be surprised. Yes, some listen to Mannheim Steamroller, and sure, there's more Jazz and Classical than most of us enjoy, but there's a lot of other music as well. For example, Stereophile's 2004 Records 2 Die 4 (yes, they spell it like that) included bands such as Fountains of Wayne, Porcupine Tree, The Replacements, Public Enemy, The Allman Brothers Band, Bob Dylan, Deltron 3030 and The Weakerthans. And yes, you are at the mercy of the engineer that records it. After I got a decent pair of headphones it was rather disappointing how shitty some records sounded when you could hear more of them. It's kind of like watching a poorly encoded movie on a computer monitor vs an older TV - the overall poor image quality of the TV masks the otherwise-noticable artifacts.

Anyway, Audioholics has a collection of excellent articles on cables (as well as other A/V stuff) and they do measurements and listening tests for all their reviews. If you'd like a skeptical and scientific look at what does and doesn't make a difference in cables I'd highly suggest reading The Truth About Interconnects and Cables. Also good are Speaker Cable Face-off and DIY Speaker Cable Face-off.
posted by nTeleKy at 12:22 PM on November 1, 2005


cribcage: However. The people who buy this stuff invariably tell you, "I want it to sound live, like the musicians are in the room."

In that case, they might try catching some live music. Lord knows we musicians would appreciate it.

loquacious: I could spend a few grand just on a pair of good near-field studio monitors.

True. But we're not talking about home recording studios here (or sound reinforcement, which you also mention). We're talking about a playback system for records and CDs (unless some of the audiophiles are still into reel-to-reel). Any flexible home studio system has the potential to be far more expensive than a decent home stereo system.

That said, $1K is on the low end even for a stereo system if you buy decent speakers and have several components in addition to the tuner/amp.
posted by wheat at 12:28 PM on November 1, 2005


nTeleKy : "there seems to be this almost universal disgust (particularly on the net) reserved for people that do it with stereo equipment. Why?"

I think it's because, unlike some other hobbies, audiophiles present themselves as liking stuff specifically for its audio qualities.

That is, take your average Prada collector: they'll tell you they buy Prada because it's better made than average cheapo stuff. However, if you were to present them with something mid-price but equally well made, they would be likely to admit that they also like Prada because it's "high class" or has "cachet", or the like. Same with a lot of things. So they aren't really "wrong". Silly, perhaps, but not wrong. If audiophiles generally said they liked SnootyAudioBrand because it sounds better, it has character, and it has prestige, people would probably leave them alone (or, rather, leave them to the same level of ridicule as other superspenders), but instead they frame things purely in terms of audio qualities, which (unlike class) can be disproven.

In short, people ridicule them more because their claims are more ridiculous.
posted by Bugbread at 12:37 PM on November 1, 2005


Erm, I could spend a lot more than that on a top notch home audio system, just on the speakers alone. And not on mystical audio shit. And certainly not at a big-box consumer store. I could spend a few grand just on a pair of good near-field studio monitors. And that isn't mystical audiophile stuff, that's just the cost of good materials, design, workmanship and support.
Sure you could spend that much, but you could also spend lots of money on Tice clocks, Shakti Stones, gold-coated speaker wire and other such nonsense: the price of a thing isn't necessarily a good indicator of its fitness for its stated purpose. The fact of the matter is that unless you're a teenager or one of the lucky few who haven't ruined their hearing by attending too many concerts or listening to too many loud albums, your ears simply aren't likely to be good enough at this point for it to matter. Don't believe me? Why not put your ears to the test or check out how high you can go on this tone generator?

If you aren't a teenager and can hear pure tones above 17kHz or can distinguish a 15kHz lowpass from the full thing, you'll be one of the very, very few; most audiophiles don't have "golden ears", and probably wouldn't even be able to tell the difference between cheapo Altec Lansing speakers and better stuff under blind testing. The humdrum truth is that once you get above the absolute bottom of the market, most modern day stereo equipment is sufficiently high in quality that most people are just as well off sonically as they would be if they spent mortgage-sized sums on their audio equipment.
and there is no justification for spending more than $19,000 to obtain a top-notch sports car. A Neon-SRT is as good as a Porsche 911 Turbo S Coupe, right?
Not unless we're speaking of audiophile "high end" equipment buying as a middle-aged man's penis-extension, there isn't. Worse yet, at least with the Porsche 911 it can be established that there's a positive performance difference, even if it will never be manifested under legally testable conditions - with 90% of audiophool equipment what one is buying is actually a decrease in audio fidelity in the name of "warmth", "verve" and other such vague nonsense.
"there seems to be this almost universal disgust (particularly on the net) reserved for people that do it with stereo equipment. Why?"
Because they're arrogant blowhards whose pomposity is only matched by their ignorance of audio engineering?
posted by Goedel at 1:26 PM on November 1, 2005


Goedel,

Thanks for the link to the tone generator. I was surprised to find that I can hear a 17K tone, but it's extraordinarily quiet, but also that the tone appeared to "stay" with me after I hit the Stop button, as part of the ringing in ones ears that one normally ignores. In fact, I should probably not say that I heard the 17K tone, but that I heard a change when I went from 17K to 18K. Kinda like one of those things where you can't feel the touch of something, but you can feel when it changes position.

Anyway, no disagreement with your position, just wanted to thank you for the link, and the interesting observations it provided.
posted by Bugbread at 1:45 PM on November 1, 2005


No one buys a 180+mph sports car for its benefits under legally testable conditions (except perhaps Autobahn drivers) perceived anatomy extensions notwithstanding.

High fidelity is not merely hearing high frequencies and your focus on this point shows an ignorance of the subject. Frankly, you are sounding like “an arrogant blowhard whose pomposity is matched only by your ignorance of audio engineering.” Even cheap KMart systems can produce sounds above the frequency that even a pre-teen can hear. Low frequencies are another matter. Someone made a great comment on MeFi recently about the difference between two systems, one expensive, the other even more so - the first perfectly reproduced the sound of a flute such that you could not tell whether it was live or recorded, the second - five Harleys revving their engines. In any event, it is about reproducing the sound accurately. Human hearing is quite sensitive, golden ears or not, and lots of little things can muddy up the sound. The more expensive stuff generally does a better job of not screwing things up.
posted by caddis at 1:49 PM on November 1, 2005


caddis : "The more expensive stuff generally does a better job of not screwing things up."

Yes, but that's not generally the stuff that gets so much ridicule. You never really hear people get flack for buying really expensive speakers, because, to some degree, more money does get you better quality (though, of course, with diminishing returns: double the price doesn't get double the sound quality, if one could measure that sort of thing). You also don't hear people giving audiophiles flack for buying expensive amps. Acoustic tiling, foam for walls/floors/whathaveyou, etc. also get spared the axe, besides the usual "Geeze, how much does this guy want to spend to hear a violinist sniffle?" stuff, which is the kind of criticism directed at pretty much any hobby.

The ridicule comes in at solid dilithium speaker cables at a billion dollars a millimeter, crystals you can place on your speakers to make your tweeters convert into Elohim, and magical unicorn powered preamp inversion fibrillators. Human hearing is quite sensitive, but it has its limits, and no amount of braggartry will enable someone to hear things beyond the furthest range of human hearing.
posted by Bugbread at 2:00 PM on November 1, 2005


Best, if you follow the links ... The nominal size of the Altmann Acoustic Panel is a golden section 80 x 50 cm (31.5 x 19.7 inch) with a 19mm (0.75 Inch) strength, and about 3.5kg weigth.

So fancy they even needed a new word for it!

That, or they couldn't afford a spellchecker.
posted by devbrain at 2:09 PM on November 1, 2005


PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE! Do not let the pentagon see this or they'll rip out all those new walls to install this stuff. Nothing's to good when in the name of "National Security".
posted by wavespy at 2:47 PM on November 1, 2005


PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE! Do not let the pentagon see this or they'll rip out all those new walls to install this stuff. Nothing's to good when in the name of "National Security".
posted by wavespy at 2:48 PM on November 1, 2005


I totally agree bugbread. [although I am having trouble telling you as the document contains no data]
posted by caddis at 2:53 PM on November 1, 2005


(I never know what to say in these situations. "Thanks"? "Good to hear"? "Sorry that I misunderstood you"?)
posted by Bugbread at 2:58 PM on November 1, 2005


Wow. I wouldn't have returned to this thread if someone hadn't emailed me about it. It was dead when I stopped in, and I just thought I'd drop a note to defend the audionuts and plug some music I love. I guess I struck a nerve.

Ironically, the email that brought me back was a friendly note from a nice fellow who appreciate the link to MA Recordings. I figured I'd return to find some discussion about music. Instead, a bunch of folks have reminded me why I stay away from the blue.

I wouldn't stoop to rebutting the scientific nonsense. You fanatics are the reason why half the country believes in creationism. You just know you're right, and you harbor such venom and disdain toward anyone who doubts -- and then tomorrow we learn the world isn't flat after all. Congratulations: You've failed to learn the lesson of Galileo.

I've spent a lot of years playing, performing, writing, and conducting music. I don't own any high-end equipment, but I've known people who spend more than I'd consider investing in a car. I'll tell you what's always struck me about this "argument": It's one sided. People obsess over proving the audiophiles are wrong, and doing so with contempt; and meanwhile, the audiophiles I've known shrug and walk away.

They don't care what you think about their purchases -- and what's more, if you're halfway decent about it, they're usually eager to invite you into their homes to hear for yourself. They tend to be incredibly warm people -- nothing like what's found above.
posted by cribcage at 3:24 PM on November 1, 2005


Goedel, thanks for the tone generator link.

I've been curious for a long time. So far I can easily hear from about 26hz to 19.5kHz, but I suspect my crappy-but-tolerable $20 headphones are crapping out on me above and below those ranges. (Headphones: Phillips HP170s, which I lucked out on.) I'm one of those people that can hear the ultrasonic whine of a powered-on CRT at a distance.

I started using earplugs at a young age, in early high school, because I went to a lot of crappy ska and punk shows where the sound quality was generally less than optimum. Then shortly thereafter it was pre-rave acidhouse parties with big walls of crappy speakers so large you can crawl around inside 'em, and then later raves with similar sound setups.

A few years later I was only really going to smaller shows and parties where people cared about the sound, so I wasn't as frequently bombarded with clipped/overdriven sound and excessive sound levels.
posted by loquacious at 3:31 PM on November 1, 2005


cribcage : "It's one sided. People obsess over proving the audiophiles are wrong, and doing so with contempt; and meanwhile, the audiophiles I've known shrug and walk away."

I dunno. The thread started out generally with people making fun of audiophiles, not tripping over themselves to prove audiophiles wrong (with one exception). Then some audiophiles countered the non-audiophiles. Then the non-audiophiles countered the audiophiles. Rinse and repeat.

Unless this thread fell out of some bizarre warphole, it looks like neither audiophiles nor non-audiophiles hold any special position in regards to shrugging and walking away. Both counter eachother, and both apparently care about not only eachothers purchases/lack of purchases, but people's opinions regarding them. And, of course, there are audiophiles who don't particularly care about the arguments of non-audiophiles, but there are just as many non-audiophiles that don't particularly care about the arguments of audiophiles (witness the fact that I've met several people during the course of my life (let's call it "a whole passel of folks"), and yet I've never heard anyone discussing excessive audiophilia except on the internet).
posted by Bugbread at 3:35 PM on November 1, 2005


Loq, sorry about the chatfiltery aspect of this next question, but I'm really really curious: What artist have you found to have the best sound fidelity live? I don't mean best music, but best clarity of sound? I've personally always been astounded how Infected Mushroom sounds live, and have to credit them for showing me the pleasure that audiophiles surely get from having a good system.
posted by Bugbread at 3:37 PM on November 1, 2005


caution live frogs declared All true audiophiles know that Bose is cheap plastic unshielded crap.

I actually work at company that manufactures expensive AV cables (though not this expensive), we have a saying, "If there is no highs or lows it must be Bose."
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 3:39 PM on November 1, 2005


All true audiophiles know that Bose is cheap plastic unshielded crap.

Maybe I'm sheltered, but these speakers are the best ones I've ever owned, and I'm happy with them. Isn't that what's important?
posted by mrbill at 3:50 PM on November 1, 2005


(Addition regarding audiophiles and non-audiophiles walking away: I dunno if we're counting the "'You can't hear the difference between a 192 kbps mp3 and a CD' vs. 'You can hear the difference between a 192 kbps mp3 and a CD'" topic, but if we are, and I had a nickel in my left hand from non-audiophile choosing not to walk away but to try to convince an audiophile, and a nickel in my right hand from every audiophile choosing not to walk away but to try to convince a non-audiophile, both of my arms would have been ripped from their sockets and flattened paperthin, but I'd have so much money in each hand to buy bionic arms made out of pure laser light and inlaid with gems mined from distant planets)
posted by Bugbread at 4:08 PM on November 1, 2005


It's not that the thread fell out of any warphole. It's a perennial pinata on blogs, bulletins boards, newsgroups, whatever: Someone posts a link or and advertisement about high-end equipment, and a posse rallies to mock audiophiles. Have you ever seen one of these arguments begin with some billionaire audionut posting links to two pairs of headphones and exclaiming, "Can you believe some people can't tell the difference?!?"
posted by cribcage at 4:19 PM on November 1, 2005


cribcage : "Have you ever seen one of these arguments begin with some billionaire audionut posting links to two pairs of headphones and exclaiming, 'Can you believe some people can't tell the difference?!?'"

Yes, but not in relation to high-end stuff, but low-end stuff. People shouting out about how everyone has crappy fidelity tastes for listening to stuff on their iPod, or staying with the headphones that come with them, or ripping their CDs to mp3s and listening to the mp3s primarily, or selling their vinyl, or the like. Non-audiophiles don't start fights by ridiculing people who ridicule low end audio, but start fights by ridiculing high end audio. Audiophiles, similarly, don't start fights by ridiculing people who ridicule high end audio, but by ridiculing low end audio.
posted by Bugbread at 4:26 PM on November 1, 2005


I spent years working in audio stores and yes, a difference in speaker wire can be heard even by the most tone-deaf moron. But anything more than a buck a foot or so is just insanity.

mrbill, don't take it personally if you get slammed for Bose. If they fit your needs, budget and ears you've got what you need. But I would avoid ever bringing them up around anyone that has equipment not bought at a Bose store or a big box electronic store. There's different levels to this stuff and Bose is not meant to compete with audiophile equipment.

I've got what might be called a modest audiophile system (under $3500) but every non-audiophile friend that has come in sneering at the cost has left weeping in envy. I would not spend several grand on cables or volume knobs. I did spend extra on the cables interconnecting my amp and CD player, and it did make a difference. When you get to this modest level, any reasonable tweaking makes an audible difference.

I really could care less if non-audiophiles sneer about this shit. To each there own. I enjoy my little audio vice, just like I enjoy my micro-brews. If you want to drink Bud instead of Sierra Nevada that's your business. It's all a matter of taste in vices.
posted by Ber at 5:05 PM on November 1, 2005


If you aren't a teenager and can hear pure tones above 17kHz or can distinguish a 15kHz lowpass from the full thing, you'll be one of the very, very few; most audiophiles don't have "golden ears", and probably wouldn't even be able to tell the difference between cheapo Altec Lansing speakers and better stuff under blind testing.

I'm not an audiophile, but I do need to point out that this comment is bunk, as while there are frequencies you might not hear, they may contribute to harmonics that you do hear. Therefore the quality of the frequency range and fidelity of an audio system can have an impact on many listeners' ears, irregardless of age.

This doesn't make me want to run out and put a $11000 set of speaker cabling on my credit card, but knowing the physics I'm not going to discount the quality of a setup on sound reproduction, either.
posted by Rothko at 5:16 PM on November 1, 2005


You've failed to learn the lesson of Galileo

I don't know, it seems that the "creationists" that you defend are the ones that failed to learn that lesson...

So your argument is that these audiophiles are nice people, and therefore what they say is right? I'm sure they're great people, but they're spending their money on crap, is all.
posted by aerify at 6:08 PM on November 1, 2005


About Chip Davis and Fresh Air, he is also known as CW McCall
of Convoy fame. really.
posted by hortense at 6:58 PM on November 1, 2005


About Chip Davis and Fresh Air, he is also known as CW McCall
of Convoy fame. really.
posted by hortense at 8:58 PM CST on November 1 [!]


Wow. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:17 PM on November 1, 2005


I do need to point out that this comment is bunk, as while there are frequencies you might not hear, they may contribute to harmonics that you do hear.
This is a classic example of the ignorance-inspired audiophoolery I've been condemning. Do you actually know how sound and the ear work? Let me tell you a little secret - there's this thing called fourier analysis, and when sound waves are decomposed into their constitutuent sine waves, those higher frequencies you claim to "contribute to harmonics" actually contribute nothing, as there aren't any cilia in your ears which can respond to them: what you hear in your mind is actually a mental reconstruction of the sound waves which set your cochlear cilia vibrating, so how on earth could frequencies they can't respond to have an influence on it?

What makes your assertion even more preposterous is that there's this little acoustic phenomenon called masking, which basically means that your ears can't pick out a higher frequency when an adjacent lower frequency tone has a greater intensity, and it's because of this phenomenon that the discriminatory level I mentioned in linking to the lowpass filter test was 2kHz lower than that of the tone sweep test: if the best you can hear on the tone sweep is 19kHz, then you aren't going to be able to distinguish a 17kHz lowpass from a full-spectrum recording under an ABX test carried out with a setup like this one.

It's not a crime to spend outrageous sums to absolutely no effect on superstitious mumbo-jumbo, but I reserve the right to laugh heartily at blowhards who do and then defend their stupid purchases by making claims which fly in the face of well-established science: there is as much equivalence between audiophools and their detractors as there is between creationists and those who mock them, i.e. none whatsoever.

The day when audiophools become willing to subject their grandiose claims to double-blind testing and pass with flying colors is the day when I begin to take such nonsense seriously, but until that distant day I'd advise anyone who doesn't suffer from a burning desire to buy a fancy penis extension hardly anyone will ever see and even fewer will ever be impressed by to spend time lurking on this forum before pointlessly splurging thousands on "high end" [sic], low-fidelity equipment. Hydrogenaudio is your friend - it's the no-bullshit, evidence-required forum where the people who actually write and test those fancy Vorbis, AAC and LAME codecs y'all use hang out, and I can't recommend the place enough.
posted by Goedel at 2:06 AM on November 2, 2005


Finally, for the sake of posterity I provide the following link:

The 10 Biggest Lies in Audio.

Enjoy.
posted by Goedel at 3:03 AM on November 2, 2005


All true audiophiles know that Bose is cheap plastic unshielded crap.

Maybe I'm sheltered, but these speakers are the best ones I've ever owned, and I'm happy with them. Isn't that what's important?
posted by mrbill at 6:50 PM EST on November 1 [!]


Yes. [Just know that someday you might be able to get even better ones.]

Oh, and Goedel doesn't understand harmonics.
posted by caddis at 4:32 AM on November 2, 2005


I don't understand harmonics, so I can neither agree with nor deny what Goedel says, but I have to give props to Goedel for linking that "10 Biggest Lies" site because it exposed me to the wonderful phrase "Tree-Worshipping Analogue Druids". Thanks, Goedel.
posted by Bugbread at 4:55 AM on November 2, 2005


Caddis: Perhaps you could explain to us where Goedel errs? Otherwise, I'm afraid I have no basis on which to give any credence to your dismissal.

In my experience, there are two kinds of audiophiles: Those who understand some basic principles of physics, and those who are obsessed with the aesthetics of audiophile culture. They're not mutually exclusive groups, but there's a different character to the aesthetics of the people who understand physics. They love things like tube amps with exposed innards; they revel in the simplicity of design of a vintage full-manual AR turntable, with its machined aluminum platters, fully-suspended platter and tonearm assembly, and the drive belts you have to move by hand.

A friend is in the other camp: The folks who believe in things like "uni-directional cables"* (man, I'm amazed that one hasn't come up so far); he also happens to be a fairly self-aware guy who recognizes that a lot of what he does, he does for the aesthetics of the experience. Hooking up fancy cables is part of the ritual of enjoyment for him.

He's very atypical, though, I think, because of that self-awareness.

There's something to be said for the idea of connectedness to the performance. The same guy also owns a vintage Victrola and a small but impressive collecction of 78s. He occasionally gets one out to play for visitors. As he does, after a little while, he's likely to point out that the music we're hearing was carved onto a wax master as it was being played, and then mastered back onto this disk. "It's the same physical vibrations, without any magnetic or digital transformations." As a pretty hard-core empiricist, that idea still gave me a little chill.

But aesthetics aside, ultra-high-end audio is basically built around magical thinking. Despite the scientistic trappings, and even the occasionally quite sophisticated engineering, there's no science to it. It's a religion. We can challenge it on a rational basis all we want, but we're being naive if we expect that to have an effect.


--
* "Uni-directional" in the sense that, supposedly, they sound better when hooked up in one "direction" than in the other. I have been informed by someone who used to make them that they're manufactured by simply taking standard cable off of bulk spools and packaging it with a label that explains which direction the "polarity" should be via reference to the marking on one side of the cable that's designed to keep you from shorting out your equipment....
posted by lodurr at 5:31 AM on November 2, 2005


About Chip Davis and Fresh Air, he is also known as CW McCall
of Convoy fame. really.
posted by hortense at 8:58 PM CST on November 1 [!]


No fucking way. Awesome. I used to take guitar lessons down the road from Chip Davis' house (my guitar teacher even helped fight a fire at the Davis place), and that factoid is much, much cooler if he was responsible for Convoy.
posted by COBRA! at 6:46 AM on November 2, 2005


Regarding the ten biggest lies article, while I am not trying to debunk the major themes, I note the article does not mention two things:

Semiconductor materials will undergo changes during use due to, for example, dopant migrations. Thus, to some degree, there is truth to the need for burn in for such devices.

Also, as the amp reaches distortion, tubes will roll off whereas transistors will clip. The clipping will introduce different signals/sounds. Thus, below distortion levels, tubes and solid state amps are basically the same, but at distorion levels (ie., louder volumes), there likely is an audible difference.
posted by Capt. Bligh at 6:52 AM on November 2, 2005


Thus, below distortion levels, tubes and solid state amps are basically the same, but at distorion levels (ie., louder volumes), there likely is an audible difference.

Of course - any electric guitar player is familiar with "tube distortion" versus say, a generic distortion pedal. Completely different sounds, although manufacturers have managed to get the "sound" of tube distortion out of transistors nowdays.
posted by mrbill at 7:05 AM on November 2, 2005


Capt. Bligh,

I'm not too knowledgeable about hi-fi, so if I'm wrong, please help educate me, but: I would assume that the distortion qualities of tube amps would be a good thing for musicians, who're trying to make new sounds / modify a signal from what it would normally be, but not be a good thing for music listeners, who're trying to replicate a sound as faithfully as possible. Am I off-base?
posted by Bugbread at 7:17 AM on November 2, 2005


blah blah irregardless blah blah - Rothko

heh.
posted by raedyn at 7:18 AM on November 2, 2005


At least it's a quatersawn wood knob! /absurd justification
posted by Dick Paris at 7:27 AM on November 2, 2005


My only point is that at distortion, the transistor clipping would sound harsher than the roll off of tubes. If you don't drive your amp close to distortion, then there should be no difference, as noted in the article. I only wanted to note that the article's comments are/were somewhat incomplete, even though generally probably true. Electric guitar distortion is very pleasing (except perhaps to my parents who were born before The War (WWII for those too young to have heard their parents complain about such things) !).
posted by Capt. Bligh at 7:30 AM on November 2, 2005


Sorry, Capt. Bligh, what I said probably came off wrong. It wasn't an attempted counterargument against what you said, just checking if I was interpreting it (and the situation) correctly or incorrectly.

This, however, is a counterargument: Everyone knows "The War" is World War I.

I wonder what audio changes will happen such that we think our grandkid's music is noisy. Ways for it to change such that we think it's crappy, I can imagine, but noisy? Maybe it'll all be really really high-pitched.
posted by Bugbread at 7:38 AM on November 2, 2005


Apologies to Goedal; I should not have said that he does not understand harmonics. That was an unfair, and pre-coffee, utterance.

Nevertheless, I think Goedal has it wrong about high frequencies. Studies have shown that even though we shouldn't be able to hear these frequencies that nevertheless they affect perception of the music and produce measurable activity in the brain.
posted by caddis at 7:58 AM on November 2, 2005


bugbread:

This, however, is a counterargument: Everyone knows "The War" is World War I.

LOL. You are right. But, as a practical matter, my parents and most of my parent's friends also refer/referred to WWI as "The War."

I wonder what audio changes will happen such that we think our grandkid's music is noisy.

Not sure if you really mean "noisy" or simply annoying, or does it even make a difference? : )
posted by Capt. Bligh at 8:30 AM on November 2, 2005


Around here, "The War" is WWII, and "The Great War" is WWI.
posted by raedyn at 8:45 AM on November 2, 2005


Capt. Bligh : "Not sure if you really mean 'noisy' or simply annoying, or does it even make a difference? : )"

Noisy. Annoying, I can imagine a billion ways to up the current ante. But considering the audio torturings of the last few decades, I can't see how we will tell our grandkids "That's not music, it's just noise". Crap, yeah, but noise?

raedyn : "Around here, 'The War' is WWII, and 'The Great War' is WWI."

Doh!! You're right, of course. I apologize, Capt. Bligh, my counterargument has been smote.
posted by Bugbread at 8:58 AM on November 2, 2005


There is just no way you folks are actually as old as you seem to be trying to get us to think you are....that said, it's too damn drafty in here....
posted by lodurr at 10:00 AM on November 2, 2005


lodurr : "There is just no way you folks are actually as old as you seem to be trying to get us to think you are"

You've got it backwards. We're trying to convince you we're young. We're covering up our ages by pretending that "The War" doesn't actually mean "The Peloponnesian War" to us.
posted by Bugbread at 10:14 AM on November 2, 2005


Okay, these are seriously overpriced, but the guy who's writing about them is kind of an idiot too. "Overtones" are not mystical, they're a real, scientifically measurable acoustical phenomenon. Doofus.
posted by speicus at 11:18 AM on November 2, 2005


LOL. You are right. But, as a practical matter, my parents and most of my parent's friends also refer/referred to WWII as "The War."

corrected a typo.

Mid lifer here (and hope that turns out to be true too!)

Regarding music becoming noise, I found this and thought it appropriate humor, particularly the graph:

http://www.pifmagazine.com/vol32/m_clon.shtml
posted by Capt. Bligh at 11:30 AM on November 2, 2005


I'm not trying to deceive anyone about my age. I'm a 23 year old Canadian and because of that, war is a distant and abstract concept to me. I know that I'm very fortunate in that regard. I do try and remain informed and to reduce the ignorance that might otherwise come with my youth.

/derail
posted by raedyn at 11:44 AM on November 2, 2005


Thanks for the link, Capt. Bligh. Talk about nostalgia: my dad owns Tintinnabulation, and I'd forgotten about it for years (probably more than a decade). I'm going back for Thanksgiving, so I'll get to turn on the stereo and listen to the
Gonnnnnng..........diiiiiiinnnnngg.....bonnnng.................donnnnnngggggg
of my childhood again.
posted by Bugbread at 11:57 AM on November 2, 2005


Listened to the sample on Amazon. If you like that, you probably would enjoy this "on-going" piece by John Cage (hustle on over and you will only have missed the first two chords!):

As Slow As Possible

Of course there always is his famous work: 4'33"

Not a fan myself, but I'd give him an A for creativity for the first piece.
posted by Capt. Bligh at 12:41 PM on November 2, 2005


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