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Thread: Where do audiophile quality listening tools become snake oil?

  1. #1
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    Default Where do audiophile quality listening tools become snake oil?

    I am a newcomer to the listening end of the recorded music business in that I have spent a lifetime recording and performing music.

    During this time I have noticed with some amusement various seemingly crackpot ideas that have surfaced that are claimed to enhance the listening experience.

    Now sometimes it is a revolutionary technology like the electrostatic speaker which in its day was revolutionary, or it could be as simple as a record clamp or a super duper disk mat.

    On the other side of the coin are the solid gold mains plugs and the cocobolo disks that make your cd player function better when it is stood on four of these wooden disks.

    Now in most areas of life, a normal rational person will recognise theis BS for what it is and cross to the other side of the street to aviod it.
    However, some of these snake oil merchants are so glib in their presentation and their marks so naiive(sp?) that innocent, if gullible, people are persuaded to part with in some cases enormous amounts of their hard earned cash for a worthless product.

    Whilst I can see no likelihood that the varisou countries where these productws are offered will do anything leaglly to prevent their sale, is it not something that the various majors in the hifi industry should be banding together to stamp out, or at least clarify which products are in fact worthless?

    Like your views, especially on things like undirectional speaker wire, for one.

    Ivan

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    Come on, ya wimps!

    This is very relevant to anyone who claims an interest in quality audio, surely?

    I can only assume you are carefully formulating reasoned arguments for or against....

  3. #3
    Andante
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    Mr T, perhaps your attitude and manor in general and referring to us as ‘Ya Wimps’ may have some thing to do with the lack of interest, however I will admit that a lot of Snake oil is out there and some of it finds its way onto this forum, in one guise or another.
    If I could ask your expert opinion on one thing, does the material used in wire manufacture not have an effect upon the signal transmitted along the wire?

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    The Wimps comment was designed to do exactly what it did - get you going and liven up the discussion.
    I am not really as nasty as I have been m,ade out.

    The general consensus is that within limits there is a law of diminishing returns with wire.
    You are not really going to see any meaningful (ie audible to normal humans) difference between regular oxygen-free copper cable and gold plated, silver, titanium or whatever.
    There is a measurable but minute difference in capacitance over pretty long pieces of wire, but frankly rule 1 is keep you rinterconnects as short as possible.
    Rule 2 is that you are less likely to get problems on signal cables than you are on speaker cables, but again it is not that simple.
    As an example, I have settled on bi-wiring my Tannoy monitors with solid copper oxygen free cable.
    Before this I had them hooked up with 2.5mm square multistrand copper mains cable.
    The runs from my amp to my speakers are both under 18" long.
    Neither I nor anyone else that knows my studio have been able to hear a difference, but I got the wire for free & decided to use it anyway.
    Of more significance is a pal`s studio where he had his amp in a different room because it had a cooling fan (I know!) and when we hooked his speakers up with the amp AND speakers in the same room there was a small but significant difference, even allowing for the fan noise.
    But we had also cut about 15ft off the runs to his speakers from the amp & upped the size of the cable to 2.5mm squ.
    Incidentally the 2.5mm sq is no magic figure, it`s just a readily available size of mains cable.
    My solid core is skinny by comparison.
    Problem is, every case is going to be different but frankly if you think you can hear the difference you will. That is what the Monster Cablers of this world rely on.

    OK so we are left with alternative materials.
    The only way you can really convince yourself one way or the other is by conducting a truly objective test.
    You have to use interconnects of exactly the same length diameter and strand size/number with only the material used being the variable, and that is not exactly easy to do.

    But why don`t you make a start at debunking all this stuff by buying some 2.5 mm square multistrand and substituting it for whatever you use for speaker wire now?
    Be relentlessly objective and see if you really honestly CAN tell the difference.

    I bought a 100m roll of generic stuff, just regular lamp cable, for £30 a few years back & have used it on all sorts of things.
    In fact my 2 kw PA rig is wired with it, via neutrik connectirs and *banana plugs*
    Believe it or not I get good signal transfer, but mostly because I do have some very robust industrial banana plugs!

    Can I stress as I have already done I am NOT an expert, just another person trying to get decent sound but coming at it from a different perspective to you guys I think.

    I`m always willing to learn, try anything new, etc.
    Recently converted from all analog till it gets to my hard disk recorders & mastering to tape.
    Now master in the box.
    Still not sure I am 100% comfortable with the transfer but the control you get over signal levels etc. goes a long way to compensating.
    As in everything, compromises sometimes have to be made.
    Oh, and I still bung a line out to my harware signal processors - sometimes there is no substitute for valves.

    And... over to you, Hughie....
    Last edited by Mr. Terrible; Oct-20-2008 at 09:57. Reason: My awful arthritic typing - sorry.

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    I have 6mm2 speaker cables Mr Terrible, oxygen free stuff if I remember rightly, does that make me gullible? I soldered gold-plated banana-plugs on the ends, too...

    (have you any uncompressed piano recordings in your recorded collections I could listen to? It's ages since I've broken any speakers at home. My meager collection of Rachmaninoff is boring me...)

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    Nope - 6mmsq OF Copper is just fine.
    Sounds like you are steering clear of the unidirectional cryogenically-cooled tikme-aligned wire being sold to others....
    And as you can see I have soldered banana plugs here and there too - it`s more a question of how good a fit the plugs are in the sockets, as always.
    (grin)

    I really miss smileys on here!
    Prolly find some if I could be bothered to nose around....

    FWIW You are very unlikely indeed to find any recordings of anything that have not been either limited or compressed to a certain extent - it`s the nature of getting 130dB of dynamic range onto a medium that supports less than that.
    Even the high bitrate files I have offered on here are pretty well processed during the preparation for mastering.
    But it does offer another perspective on how audio changes from one stage in the proceedings to the next.
    The difference betweeen 44.1 /16 on a CD and 96/192 on a high quality DAW recording is quite staggering.

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    1. If a cable has directional arrows on it, the manufacturer is implying that the current will flow more easily in one direction, than in the other.

    2. Audio is always alternating current. i.e. the current flows back and forth, following the audio signal.

    3. Any length of copper or other conductive material does not and can not differentiate between current flowing in one or the other direction.

    4. There are of course semi-conductive constructions, such as diodes, that do allow current to flow more easily in one direction and hinder in some way, flow in the other direction.

    5. A diodial hindrance is a type of distortion, as it alters the original signal.

    Therefore, if a cable manufacturer puts directional arrows onto a cable that he claims is better than others, either there is a diode in that cable (EXTREMELY unlikely!) or that manufacturer is dishonest.

    If a shop, dealer, manufacturer or other source of equipment sells cables with arrows on them, I would avoid them like the plague, as they are likely to be every bit as dishonest about other items they sell.

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    Ten minutes on the back patting machine awarded to Bluebottle!

    I am still waiting to hear whether or not the pattern that you plait the RJ45 cables in makes a difference to the sound......

    I`m sure our paths have crossed elsewhere, Mr. B.
    Your style of posting and the few bits of background are naggingly familiar for some reason.
    Ever work in the southern USA?

    Nice to see Hugh posting on here too.

    http://www.shunmook.com/text1.htm

    tell me how you like this one....

  9. #9
    Andante
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Terrible View Post
    The Wimps comment was designed to do exactly what it did - get you going and liven up the discussion.
    I am not really as nasty as I have been m,ade out............................................... .................................

    Oh, and I still bung a line out to my harware signal processors - sometimes there is no substitute for valves.

    And... over to you, Hughie....
    Hughie..... ????????????????????????

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    you have to be a Brit of a certain age to recognise it - the Well Known Stooge to a Well Known Talent Show Host (of Colonial Origins) used the expression week after week after week on british TV s few years back.
    He was dropped in favour if a short, coarse cockney female sidekick.

    Oh - Don`t tell me - now I`ve offended someone on here called Hugh?

    (Where`s the smilies when you need `em!)

    Oh well....
    (GRIN)
    Last edited by Mr. Terrible; Oct-21-2008 at 20:39. Reason: Havent finished my sensitivity training yet.

  11. #11
    Andante
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    So, now I am a stooge (colonial) <sigh>

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    Well at the risk of getting shot for going OT...

    There used to be this show when telly was black and white called "Opportunity Knocks"

    Run by a hunchbacked Canadian guy called Hughie Green.

    Have a google and you`ll see why the somewhat bizarre show caught a lot of people`s imagination.
    Curiously enough , I was in a band that won a later incarnation, pre Pop Idol/X Factor etc.

    Called New Faces.

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    Senior Member Kuhlau's Avatar
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    To bring this thread back on topic, here's an anecdote which I offer with no personal comment.

    I know of someone who spent tens of thousands of pounds on top-end hifi equipment. Seriously, this guy had EVERYTHING. Yet still, he couldn't make his system sound as amazing as it had at the hifi show where he'd auditioned it.

    Then, someone suggested that he soundproof the walls of his listening room. Guess what? Instant improvement. And the cost of the soundproofing? Less than £500.

    FK
    An everyman for himself ~ Classical music reviews & resources
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kuhlau View Post
    Then, someone suggested that he soundproof the walls of his listening room. Guess what? Instant improvement. And the cost of the soundproofing? Less than £500.
    Not really 'sound proofing' (which is incredibly difficult and expensive to do), but acoustic treatment to control the reflections and standing waves that plague all enclosed rooms.
    And yes, I quite believe the vast improvement he would have found.

    Sadly, this is a common story among home and project studios, too. The plain fact is that spending a few hundred pounds on appropriate acoustic treatment doesn't seem as attractive or meaningful as buying shiny black boxes with coloured lights -- even though £500 spent on sensible acoustic treatment will provide 1000% more sound quality improvement than the same spent on weird cables, external power supplies, tweaky stands or even new front end components.

    The other issue of course -- and this is more relevant to domestic listeners than home studio types -- is that acoustic treatment, by it's very nature, is difficult to integrate in a living room in a way that meets the conventional aesthetic requirements.

    Hugh

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    Senior Member Kuhlau's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hugerr View Post
    Not really 'sound proofing' (which is incredibly difficult and expensive to do), but acoustic treatment to control the reflections and standing waves that plague all enclosed rooms.
    Quite possibly so. I was just repeating what I heard.

    FK
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