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Jul 28 2012

The cables!

I saw this on @cstross‘s twitter feed and had to laugh. Audiophiles and other bewildered purchasers of high-end electronics can get thoroughly deranged and start throwing ridiculous sums of money at the most trivial components — like cables. How would you like this extra-special X-Box cable? I found one place selling it for $85; the non-elite cables without the virus protection are about $8.

If you really want an amazing deal, though, go for an AudioQuest K2 terminated speaker cable.

It’s only $8,450. And Amazon has 5 in stock! Order fast before they’re gone!

I don’t think they’re selling, though. The most wonderful thing about over-priced (or possibly typoed) cables are the reviews. You must read the reviews! Even the 5 star reviews are loaded with snark, but my very favorite is this one-star review. It’s a whole tragic story.

We live underground. We speak with our hands. We wear the earplugs all our lives.

PLEASE! You must listen! We cannot maintain the link for long… I will type as fast as I can.

DO NOT USE THE CABLES!

We were fools, fools to develop such a thing! Sound was never meant to be this clear, this pure, this… accurate. For a few short days, we marveled. Then the… whispers… began.

Were they Aramaic? Hyperborean? Some even more ancient tongue, first spoken by elder races under the red light of dying suns far from here? We do not know, but somehow, slowly… we began to UNDERSTAND.

No, no, please! I don’t want to remember! YOU WILL NOT MAKE ME REMEMBER! I saw brave men claw their own eyes out… oh, god, the screaming… the mobs of feral children feasting on corpses, the shadows MOVING, the fires burning in the air! The CHANTING!

WHY CAN’T I FORGET THE WORDS???

We live underground. We speak with our hands. We wear the earplugs all our lives.

Do not use the cables!

I want to read more of the author’s work. Alas, after that one flash of brilliance, most of Whisper’s work is pedestrian: shoes, exercise equipment, computer accessories. No audio gear, though, which is only to be expected if he has to wear earplugs all the time.

82 comments

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  1. 1
    Sili

    And now we know just what it is that compels the UFOs to travel all the way here.

  2. 2
    hyperdeath

    Not to mention the fact that HDMI is digital. The cheapest cable will be identical in performance to one studded in diamonds and blessed by Nyarlathotep.

  3. 3
    Sastra

    The JREF occasionally offers its million dollar award to some of the pseudoscientific audio folks. I can’t remember if any of them was honest enough (self-deluded enough) to want to try a fair — blinded — test.

    They must have a limited market they’re trying to tap into: audiophiles who are completely technologically challenged … but with money to burn. I guess they only need a few.

    Of course, the “try it for yourself and hear the difference” challenge is a perfect set-up for the placebo effect.

  4. 4
    littlejohn

    Surely there are some audiophiles out there who remember Monster Cables (do they still sell them?). They claimed to be made of low-oxygen copper, whatever that means, and to be more “accurate” and to deliver better bass. They were just freaking wires, but people apparently paid and arm and a leg for them. I’ve always bought my speaker wires from Radio Shack.

  5. 5
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    I tried plugging the cables directly into my ears, and now I can’t hear anything at all. Rip off!

  6. 6
    Alex

    Afaik Michael Fremer is still hiding in his closet clutching his $10000 clearaudio wires while accusing the jref of fraudulent tactics.

    That being said, the input stage of my old very audiophile integrated amp has such an amazing bandwidth (and no capacitors in the shielding for magical sound related reasons) that one picks up strange voices from all over the world via the electric grid (mostly them commies), so I can relate to Whisper’s pain…

  7. 7
    pentatomid

    That review really is a thing of beauty.

  8. 8
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    In the mandatory critical thinking classes there need to be in K-12, there needs to be at least a whole unit on the concept of “Diminishing Returns.”

  9. 9
    Rip Steakface

    One of the four star reviews is equally funny:

    If there is one cable I would whole-heartedly trust to my Chimera-hunting needs, this would be the cable. No other cable has the tensile strength to properly and efficiently garrote a lycanthrope, asphyxiate an Esquilax or even gag a mermaid. Last week, using my trusty AudioQuest K2 (retrofitted with lead weights, bright orange latex paint and a generous coating of crushed glass stolen from the window of an abandoned church at midnight), I managed to snuff 3 golden unicorns in swift succession!

    Pros: Quickly tears through scales, fur, bone, and adamantium with ease
    Coils and uncoils from hip holster (optional) quickly and quietly
    For a product fabricated from 1,000 Onyx Dragon fetuses, the price is unbelievably reasonable!

    Cons: Shipping from the R’lyeh took far too long
    Doesn’t come in 10′ lengths (which would be perfect for hydra, cerberii and other multi-headed creatures)
    After every use, I can feel 6 ounces of my soul slipping from my core into the ether. But this may be due to the fact that I prefer to work without gloves. YMMV.

    Overall, I would recommend that any hunter buy one, nay, two, of these immediately, and experience the difference that upgrading to the K2 will make in your next quest!

    Zoidberg: “I’ll take fifty!”

  10. 10
    wvtechie

    My favorites are the water-jacketed power cables which are supposed to reduce the noise entering the system with the 60 Hz AC. As an EE I’ve never understood how they were supposed to work.

  11. 11
    oolon

    I think it was Which? in the UK that did a blind test with some Audiophiles and they could not tell the difference between cheap and £100/m analogue speaker cable. A test that no Audiophile has agreed to since (afaik) – and with analogue there is at least some scientific basis for saying the quality of the cable *could* affect the sound. HDMI cables for £100+ are a tax on the terminally stupid – I had an interesting conversation with an ‘expert’ in Richer Sounds where he was convinced the more expensive cable will give you deeper contrast and ‘better colours’. Ignoring the insane concept of ‘better colours’ (Original sin for colours?) I tried in vain to give an idiots guide to digital and digital encoding of video to no avail. Could be just cos they get more commission on the expensive ones so he was blind sighted by that.

  12. 12
    a3kr0n

    Only $8,450? Those cables are cheap!
    AUDIOQUEST – WEL SIGNATURE SPEAKER CABLES (PR)
    Price: $18,200.00.

  13. 13
    jakc

    Laugh all you want, but if the Robinsons had cables like these, they never would have been lost in space.

  14. 14
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Damn, this is even sillier than Ray-Bans. (Is there some non-obvious way they’re actually different from the subset of the sunglasses available for $7.99 at gas stations that are similarly shaped?)

  15. 15
    Rip Steakface

    @oolon

    Color is used by musicians on the occasion to describe a specific timbre in a piece… but usually it’s a quantity, not a quality (i.e., “having that second oboe part will add some color”).

  16. 16
    DLC

    I love good music, played from a good stereo system. The one I used to have back in the 80s cost me about 150.00, and included an 8 track and a turntable. It’s audio quality was at least equal to my parents (wedding present) console stereo. The cables were “What came with it from the store” and functioned fine.

    This whole bullshit of audiophiles being able to magically detect “good” equipment is the bunk. The human ear simply isn’t that good, and the brain makes up for it. when you believe you’re listening to music being played on the best available technology, your brain accepts that and values the experience more highly. It’s the audio equivalent of the placebo effect.

    (you know. somewhere on the other side of the deep rift someone wrote about these kind of cables, and the scam that is high-end audio gear. They even challenged some audiophreaks to prove their claim. )

  17. 17
    cyberax

    This review reminds me of this post:

    http://stackoverflow.com/a/1732454/625001 – read it, it’s a masterpiece.

    PS: yes, you can’t parse HTML using regular expressions. And it’s all Noam Chomsky’s fault. Really.

  18. 18
    Zeno

    Audiophiles are some of the biggest suckers in the world. Remember green marking pens and compact discs? How about Sonic Circles? Those were weighted rings you were supposed to put on your CDs to dampen those awful bit-scattering vibrations! (As I recall, one magazine advertisement said, “Are you hearing only 3/5 of Beethoven’s Fifth?” Ha ha ha!) Can’t hear any difference when someone flips an A/B switch between a regular CD and a green-markered CD? Well, that proves nothing!!!

    I’m not surprised to hear that such self-deluded marks are still around.

    Check out this amusing compilation from 1994 of crazy audio “enhancements.”

  19. 19
    BrianX

    I put the tagline on TVTropes under “Madness Mantra”. I wonder if that’s the only piece of Amazon creepypasta on the entire wiki…

  20. 20
    TGAP Dad

    You don’t need eBay to peddle to the gullible. BestBuy has a 2′ HDMI cable for $935. Does anybody actually buy these? Are there really enough people with that level of gullibility to make this type of scam profitable?

  21. 21
    madscientist

    I bought the Brooklyn Bridge for less!

    Even the London Bridge (in Az since the 1970s) only cost like 250 of these cables (maybe the installation and shipping of the bridge cost another 600 or so cables).

    I remember talking to an electronics engineer (who was famous for his amplifier designs) years ago and saying “hey, what’s the point of saying your amp has a flat frequency response to 200KHz when most humans can’t even hear 20KHz?” The guy laughed and said it was trivial to design an amp with those characteristics and although it isn’t important at all, people lap it up and buy products marketed that way. I told him he had nice amps but they were way too expensive for what they were and he smiled and said “I know, isn’t it great?”

  22. 22
    kc9oq

    I saw a test done in the UK in which the audiophile couldn’t discern the difference between the high-priced speaker cables and stretched-out coathangers. I can’t possibly imagine how you build virus-protection into a cable.

  23. 23
    Amphiox

    If you plot quality against price for these cables, I suspect it would give one of those classic S curves, and the inflection point where the top limb flattens out is likely no higher that $20.

  24. 24
    Sili

    Incidentally, I can get you a pair of goggles that do exactly the same thing as these cables.

  25. 25
    Amphiox

    Even if it were possible build antivirus capability into a cable, I fail to see how putting such a protection in the thing that connects your computer to your monitor (or speaker) would do anything useful at all.

  26. 26
    susan

    I want to read more of the author’s work. Alas, after that one flash of brilliance, most of Whisper’s work is pedestrian

    I hate when that happens. I used to read everything by Sloucho on epinions, and then he just up and disappeared, apparently going back to writing normal stuff. WHHHYYYY? “Masturbating with Spam” was a favorite.

  27. 27
    JohnnieCanuck

    Taken literally, “”100% Mylar” double shield” isn’t too functional, either. Presumably it was a marketeer that wrote the copy and it’s aluminised Mylar they’re describing, at which point it isn’t 100% Mylar and it’s the aluminum that’s doing the shielding.

    Though, I suppose the Mylar would block rhinoviruses and the like from getting through if that were ever a concern. Practise safe viewing and shield your cable every time.

  28. 28
    andrewriding

    Strictly speaking I don’t think this is so much placebo effect as expectation bias and some post purchase rationalization.

    My understanding is that placebo isn’t so much about what type of thing you’re getting to improve some situation so much as the idea that you’re getting something instead of nothing. Also the times when there is an actual improvement for other reasons that gets credited to the placebo and a few behavioral changes that come from knowing that you’re involved in an important study or such, but those don’t have to apply to every case and certainly would not here.

  29. 29
    Alverant

    $8? You got ripped off! Go online. I needed some spare cables and found a spot on New Egg selling them for about $3. Shipping 5 of them at the cheapest rate cost another $3 and they got here quickly.

  30. 30
    Marcus Ranum

    There are a lot of fun surrealists on Amazon. My favorite is the “customer use pictures” of the “accoutrements horse mask” .. There is some truly bizzare stuff there.

    Also, there appear to be people who do things like purchase porn and communion wafers or bibles in the same shopping cart, just to manipulate the “customers who bought this also bought..”

  31. 31
    DLC

    andrewriding @28 : Placebo effect is related to the expectations of the patient, or listener in this case, and is not limited to being given sugar pills and told they’re morphine, for example.
    The same holds with audio equipment. You’ve been told that your system will sound better with the 8500.00 wire, your expectation is that it will sound better, and so your brain fools you into believing it, and you end up down at the pub, telling everyone how good your blaupunkt sounds with the new wires. Yes, some of it is also some level of justification. After all, if you spent 8400 on a cable. . .
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placebo_effect

  32. 32
    Stephen Minhinnick

    Whisper did write one more funny review:

    This review is from: JVC HAFX67B Air Cushion Headphone (Black) (Electronics)
    Good sound, too big., December 11, 2010

    After repeatedly cramming these enormous buds into my ear canals, and slowly developing one huge headache after another, I developed a profound sympathy for every sexual partner I have ever had in my life.

    Sorry, ladies.

  33. 33
    Crissa

    Even for digital signals, all cables are not identical. The thickness of the shielding, the conductors, the clarity of the signal.. How much they’ll bend, corrode, or pinch.

    But price is not completely correlated with cable performance; since you can get the same exact fancy cable at many prices, and the same for the cheap cable.

  34. 34
    Ace of Sevens

    In the case of speakers, there are advantages to some more expensive models, but audiophile sites are so full of woo that it’s impossible to tell anything. Anyone know good, woo-free sources for audio info? I want information on the positives/negatives of different kinds of speakers and advice on placement and how to acoustically treat rooms.

  35. 35
    terryg

    Crissa @33:

    Even for digital signals, all cables are not identical. The thickness of the shielding, the conductors, the clarity of the signal. How much they’ll bend, corrode, or pinch.

    FIFY

    Yep, thats pretty much right, although you’ve missed some of the most important ones.

    unless you are using “clarity” in a rather non-standard context to refer to the “shape” of the digital signals – what we (EE’s) would refer to as the Signal Integrity, which is of paramount importance.

    that aside, there are lots of ways cheap == shit with cables – especially the terminations. I had a 10A 240V chinese power strip I bought at Saige for about 3 RMB. I noticed the cable got warm when running my laptop – with a 70W power supply. the “10A” cable had about 4 strands of maybe 34AWG Cu, and a whole shitload of plastic. So I gutted it completely and then binned.

    but Signal Integrity is bloody important. a shit cable can happily screw up 100Mbps ethernet – I’ve done it to digital video. near the end of a 40hr day, I and 2 other EEs spent 6 hours making what was, essentially, an ethernet cable.

    it used custom IP65 connectors, and there was an internal harness to a pcb. the connector manufacturer screwed up their pin numbering (one was viewed from the front, the other from the rear). this did not help. we had screwed up the pin numbering on the schematic (our numbers didnt match the connectors), and we were finishing off a 40-hour day. even so….

    it took us 5 hours to get end-to-end connectivity….not our best work.

    And then we ran it, and the BER was around 99.95%, with about 20m of cable. we had connectivity, but had carefully ignored twisting – so each differential signal was NOT on its own twisted pair. that seriously buggered up the signal integrity (hence the BER), but we recognised what we’d done as soon as we saw it. then it only took 1 guy 1hr to properly fix it. then 2 guys loaded all the gear into a truck and drove it from SF to Vegas, for a trade show the next morning. Friday stopped about 7pm on sunday…

  36. 36
    eigenperson

    #4 littlejohn:

    Monster Cable definitely still exists. Heck, they were doing so well that they could afford to get their name attached to Candlestick Park (in San Francisco) for 4 years.

  37. 37
    ajeffri

    For that price, I expect cables to be made of genuine rainbow unicorn farts.

    Even drunk me thinks this is a total ripoff.

  38. 38
    stuartvo

    Monster also produces power cable (or was it a power-strip?) Complete with the same combination of outrageous price and unsupportable claims.

    I only know this because Penny Arcade based a strip on them. (Someone more industrious than I can look it up). I’ve not remotely interested in audiophile gear: I’ve never had the money and anyway I have a tin ear, so what would be the point?

  39. 39
    madtom1999

    I was an audiophile as a youth. Even went to university to study electronics to get it right. Once armed with the physics I rapidly became disillusioned with the industry as an almost complete con. DOuble blind tests were dropped in 1969 when Quad showed the audio mags golden ears couldn’t tell the difference between 1952 valve amps and, up to then, the most accurate modern transistor amps.

    I do use electrostatic speakers and do have a wonderful ‘trick’ to show people where I play sound through some studio monitors at one end of the room, then through the electrostatics (which have lowish distortion compared to cones) and ask the listener to adjust the sound levels so the two speaker setups have similar volumes. Then both speakers setups are played simultaneously and the listener has to move so the sound appears to come equally from both setups when standing in the centre of the room. Its not actually possible – you can put your head near one of the cone speakers (2′ or so) to get it to drown out the electrostatics but never in between the cone speakers.
    I have shown that putting a lit candle in between the speaker and the listener has orders of magnitude more effect than any cable configurations.

  40. 40
    Jafafa Hots

    Somewhere there’s someone still putting green permanent marker around the edges of their CDs. (That was from the 1980s.)

  41. 41
    robinjohnson

    On a vaguely related note, there’s this guy who writes highbrow literary criticism of the Mr Men books. The best thing about them is that he often seems to have a point.

  42. 42
    terryg

    here’s a couple of (IMO) decent audio sites:
    http://sound.westhost.com
    http://www.linearaudio.nl/
    http://www.douglas-self.com/
    YMMV

  43. 43
    Matt Penfold

    A while back an audiophile in the UK put an post on his blog about how it was worth paying more for quality SATA cables as poor quality ones add noise to music.

    PC Pro did an good take down here.

  44. 44
    Kristof

    Best story I’ve ever heard about audiophiles was from some big audio. During a break they got real string quartet on the stage, and one audiophile, without noticing what’s going on on the stage, started big rant how crappy is currently presented equipment. :)

  45. 45
    oolon

    Ahh Matt you reminded me of something that really pissed me off – not just Sata cables What HiFi had a whole article about what fricken NAS drive to use to get the best sound! They had a forum on the subject with people pointing out it would make absolutely no difference if the NAS was spotify’s and located a few thousand miles away! The ‘expert’ on that forum felt that them doing the article as a reader test meant it was was fine as they would have polluted the test if they had given their opinion. So pseudo science and tricking people into ‘hearing’ non-existent differences is fine as far as they are concerned. I suppose a large number of their advertisers would be seriously annoyed if they let the cat out of the bag.

  46. 46
    kangxi

    For me the line between sense & nonsense was crossed when I bought an audiophile mag 20 or 30 years ago, and saw an ad selling mains plugs with gold plated prongs. I wonder if they’re still being touted.

  47. 47
    Rasmus

    I haven’t had any viruses on my laptop since I bought a pair of earphones with a gold-plated stereo plug for it. Good stuff.

    Seriously though, gold plated connectors can be a good thing. Corrosion can happen surprisingly quickly if the stuff has to deal with moist and salty environments, like your fingers for example.

  48. 48
    submoron

    Hmmm, the people to go to are Nordost. The last time that I looked you paid as much for 2 x 3M speaker cable as you did for a medium sized Mercedes.
    The gold plating, by the by, is to prevent semiconductor effects from metal oxides: even Quad, who have mocked the silliness of some fads, started gold plating their low level input connecters and switches 20+ years ago.
    Did you hear of the exhibition where Quad had some bright orange speaker cable that nobody else had seen before? Everyone thought that it sounded good until Quad told that it was just mains wire from a DIY store £1/M I believe.

  49. 49
    angelakingdom

    I gave up trying to explain some basic Physics to guys on audio forums and why the audiophoolery tat they thought sounded better, in fact probably sounded the same. It is rather like debating with religious fundamentalists.

    Sadly, yes there are still loads of overpriced woo gadgets for the gullible to spend their money.

  50. 50
    fullyladenswallow

    I used to work for a high-end oscilloscope manufacturer here in Portland and their patented “probe cables” ran anywheres from $50 to $15,000 (justifiably) depending on the sophistication of their electronics. My former job is now in China.

  51. 51
    David Marjanović

    It is rather like debating with religious fundamentalists.

    Not more like homeopaths? “But it works! It WORKS, damnit!!!1!” Right?

  52. 52
    gAytheist

    You can do a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation to see why fancy cables don’t do anthing for audio. Just figure out what the wavelength of the audio signal is inside the cable. Remember that the signal is moving a nearly the speed of light. Even a frequency at the far end of human hearing (let’s say 20 kHz) has a wavelength that is huge compared to any sort of distance there would be between your amplifier and your speakers.

    I estimate that you might JUST BARELY be able to detect a difference between super high-end cables and simple lamp cord PROVIDED the distance from you amp to your speakers was about 3 miles.

  53. 53
    No One

    And an ad for “Northwire” appears on the page. PZ did you do this to pump up your ad revenue?

    *smirk*

  54. 54
    katie

    Not only can audiophiles not actually tell the difference between an expensive cable and a cheap one, they can’t even tell the difference between an expensive cable and four twisted-together wire coat hangers.

  55. 55
    carbonbasedlifeform

    I used to know an audiophile who had stuff from here, http://www.goldmund.com/en Here is the price list: http://tinyurl.com/cu5wfor

  56. 56
    kreativekaos

    wvtechie@ #10:

    ‘Water-jacketed power cables’ to reduce 60-cycle noise from the power supply? Since you’re an EE, wouldn’t electronic 60-cycle hum filter circuitry do that job? Water-jacketed cables sounds suspiciously pseudoscientifically exotic to me.

  57. 57
    Dhorvath, OM

    I have high end audio gear. I even have Monster Cables, they are a luxury to deal with compared to the cheaper wires I used to own. Not for the sound, but the casing does loop and lay with a more supple nature than the Radio Shack special that they replaced. It’s an aesthetic thing, but one I could easily abandon with no impact on my listening experience.
    I will say that loudspeakers can vary dramatically in terms of what they reproduce and if you have money to spend and time to shop that is the critical place to focus. Wires? Gimme a break.

  58. 58
    Menyambal

    The amount of gold used in gold plating costs almost nothing. It does resist corrosion, but it needs to be protected from wear. And if it’s plugged in to a non-gold socket, it can cause corrosion.

    Me, I gave up on audiophile stuff back when I first put on a pair of stereo headphones and actually heard stereo. If you aren’t sitting quietly and focussing on the music, you might as well have mono sound. (That was back when boomboxes were coming out with stereo speakers about a foot apart—I and others from that time still call music systems “stereos”, even though we’ve seldom heard stereo sound (and I still can’t see the point of it (“Ooo, it sounds like you are sitting in the orchestra, just like Mozart intended!”)).)

  59. 59
    Trebuchet

    And an ad for “Northwire” appears on the page. PZ did you do this to pump up your ad revenue?

    *smirk*

    I clicked on the “Northwire” ad. They’re selling cabling for industrial and aerospace use, not audio stuff.

  60. 60
    unclefrogy

    I spent some time looking for a good summery article about cables and such because I had not bookmarked it when I read it before.

    http://www.roger-russell.com/wire/wire.htm

    very good in depth article with real data included. There is something like magic connected with electronics and electricity anyway just in what is going on and how circuits work and the “general public” has no idea what is going on.

    if anyone is dissatisfied with what their system is doing putting more money in wire is maybe the last thing to do. I know it seems obvious but try some analysis first to determine what the problems are. Sometimes it might be easier and cheaper just to rearrange the furniture in the listening / viewing room?

    uncle frogy

  61. 61
    =8)-DX

    I heartily recommend reading the rest of Whispers’ reviews, he seems very, very bemused consumer:

    The finish is poor at best, and the fit appears to be the brainchild of some alien life form which has read many books about the human foot, and hopes to one day have the privilege of seeing one with its own three eyes.

  62. 62
    Sili

    Somewhere there’s someone still putting green permanent marker around the edges of their CDs. (That was from the 1980s.)

    And cutting the ends off their brisket before cooking it.

  63. 63
    Rasmus

    Menyambal: That’s funny. I wasn’t aware that that gold and nickel (for example) could cause galvanic corrosion.

  64. 64
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Menyambal: That’s funny. I wasn’t aware that that gold and nickel (for example) could cause galvanic corrosion.

    To simplify slightly, any pair of dissimilar metals will.

  65. 65
    scottplumer

    Surely there are some audiophiles out there who remember Monster Cables (do they still sell them?). They claimed to be made of low-oxygen copper, whatever that means, and to be more “accurate” and to deliver better bass.

    Yes, they still make Monster cables, and they’re just as overpriced as before. I do audio & video for a living, and there is no difference detectable by the human ear between normal and high-end cables. There is a difference between cheap and better cables in things like build quality, solder connections (though most consumer cables have molded connectors), gold plated contacts, etc. Also, better speaker cables (at least pro speaker cables, not wires with bare ends) are shielded against EM interference they can pick up when run next to power cables. THAT is something where I’ve seen a difference.

    There are differences that are measurable, though, at least with cables that carry analog signals. Not measurable with the ear, but with test equipment. The differences aren’t enough to justify the cost, though. Once you get better than, say, Wal-Mart quality, there’s really no difference.

    For cables that carry digital signals, there is no difference, period. Either the ones and zeros make or they don’t.

  66. 66
    feralboy12

    Reduce virus noises?
    What I need is something to remove the toxins that have built up in my music collection. Most of it is pretty old, after all. I tried ear candles, but all I did was set fire to my speakers.

  67. 67
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Reduce virus noises?

    I suppose there’s a TINY chance this could stem from a bad translation of “parasitic capacitance” or some such…

  68. 68
    Rasmus

    To simplify slightly, any pair of dissimilar metals will.

    Sure, I kinda remembered that.

    I just figured that gold plating and nickel plating would be “similar enough” in whatever property or properties it is that governs the galvanic process, since those two platings seem to be the ones that manufacturers use on their connectors.

  69. 69
    Alex

    As I understand it, its not quite as simple as “either the ones and zeros make it or not” if the receiving equipment does not produce an independent time base to reclock the signal before conversion since the actual shape and timing of the digital signal can *in principle* affect the quality of D/A conversion.

  70. 70
    terryg

    Rasmus:
    http://www.corrosion-doctors.org/Definitions/galvanic-series.htm

    the farther apart two metals are on the galvanic series, the faster they will corrode.

    years ago (’91) I bought a brand-new SVGA multisync monitor for $100 – with no warranty. manufacturer had mixed-and-matched SIL pins and sockets – gold-flashed header pins, tin-plated female pins. their agents had the misfortune of having to fix a few of these, and dumped their stock well below cost (was $1000) cos it was cheaper. my monitor never misbehaved, but my mates did – repeatedly. I must have replaced all the connectors in that thing…..

  71. 71
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    So, in principle gold and nickel shouldn’t corrode MUCH (they have a galvnaic voltage difference of about 0.25V) in a non-harsh environment. Not sure offhand what having a sizable current going through them is going to do to that, though…

  72. 72
    andyo

    Damn, this is even sillier than Ray-Bans. (Is there some non-obvious way they’re actually different from the subset of the sunglasses available for $7.99 at gas stations that are similarly shaped?)

    Hey! I got RB’s and they’re pretty awesome.

    Non-obvious: anti-reflective coating on the inside, the same as expensive photographic filters. Polarization helps in many situations too, but I guess there are cheap polarized glasses too.

    Obvious: they’re made of actual glass, not plastic (at least the ones I got). Granted, I (thankfully easily) scraped off the tacky white “Ray-ban” logo on the lens, but otherwise they’re fine, and they’re not that expensive if you look enough (and yes, they’re authentic, thankyouverymuch).

  73. 73
    andyo

    This is not aimed at audio/videophiles though. This is aimed at regular consumers that don’t know anything about A/V technology (and why should they?). The word “virus” will scare anyone if they don’t know what a virus actually is. I fix computers sometimes, and people believe everything that might be wrong with their computers is caused by a virus. That’s the first question most ask, and it’s not the correct answer most of the time.

    And also, Gizmodo is not one to be making fun of people for believing strange things. Say the correct type of mumbo-jumbo, get one of their “reporters” into your multi-hundred-thousand-dollar-equipped living room, and they’ll believe any kind of tripe you throw at them. (Yes, that’s infamous Michael Fremer, also referenced above by someone else.)

    After that, they had a whole audio week in which they posted some other audiophile nonsense.

    If you’re interested in scientific audio discussion, hydrogenaudio.org is a great forum. This is the thread where they discussed the Giz article.

  74. 74
    terryg

    Azkyroth @70:
    high current will make it worse. surface irregularities ensure that microscopically contact occurs at very few points (exactly analagous to thermal interfaces – and in fact really high current connections use electrical jointing compounds). significant local heating results, which helpfully makes everything worse.

    Electric Contacts by Ragnar Holm is a useful resource, even though its old.

  75. 75
    andyo

    There are a lot of fun surrealists on Amazon. My favorite is the “customer use pictures” of the “accoutrements horse mask”

    Holy shit, some awesome pictures there. Thanks for that.

  76. 76
    andyo

    Anyone know good, woo-free sources for audio info? I want information on the positives/negatives of different kinds of speakers and advice on placement and how to acoustically treat rooms.

    Hydrogenaudio.org is the place for you. In fact, the most often invoked term of service is number 8 (“TOS8″), which states:

    8. All members that put forth a statement concerning subjective sound quality, must — to the best of their ability — provide objective support for their claims. Acceptable means of support are double blind listening tests (ABX or ABC/HR) demonstrating that the member can discern a difference perceptually, together with a test sample to allow others to reproduce their findings. Graphs, non-blind listening tests, waveform difference comparisons, and so on, are not acceptable means of providing support.

    People are called out on their BS pretty quickly over there by everyone, much like here, I must say. There’s very knowledgeable people there as well.

  77. 77
    axiology

    There’s a similar irrational nuttiness amongst electric guitar players in search of an elusive quality known as “tone”…

  78. 78
    andrewriding

    @DLC 31
    You just described expectation bias (I expect the diamond plated wires to be better.)
    I think that bit at the end was accepting the second cognitive shortcut I mentioned but am not certain that was your intent.

    As such I’m standing by my statement that this isn’t best described as the placebo effect. Other than in the case of the review they don’t think these are actually doing anything to their hearing ability, but rather that the quality of the machine is improved- and while I agree that the placebo effect doesn’t have to be about gulping down a pill (I specifically mentioned other contributing factors that contribute to the effect, albeit poorly describing the behavioral shifts while taking part in studies- to correct that an example: “I’d better eat healthy because I’m in that study” leads to subtle differences in the results compared to behaving as normal,) I can’t agree that this is the best description here.

    I could let it slide if there was some agreement that we’re sort of twisting a better known term to fit the situation, so that it’s easier to read- there’s a certain sort of poetry to that, but to be thorough (but hopefully not pedantic- I at least think I’m not crossing that line here,) this is more aligned with those self deceptions that make us relatively resistant to buyer’s remorse.

    So are you arguing that it is completely accurate to classify this as a placebo effect or just that the general use of the term is close enough?

  79. 79
    Ava, Oporornis maledetta

    Oh, those noisy viruses. And that review was teh awesome.

  80. 80
    Ava, Oporornis maledetta

    Marcus Ranum, #30:

    Oh, great. Now I have another way to waste time online, since I now have to look up these reviews.

  81. 81
    Rasmus

    It’s often said that situations where you’re experiencing diminishing returns on investment (training, time, money, etc) are fertile grounds for all sorts of superstitions. I don’t know how true that is, but it makes intuitive sense that people who have run out of ways to make significant objectively measurable improvements would be tempted to use fake ways to make fake improvements and subjective ways to measure those improvements in order to keep feeding their need for the rush that you get when you feel that you have made an improvement in something.

  82. 82
    shades

    I’m surprised that no one’s invoked Flanders & Swann in this thread yet — surely there’s an older Brit around who remembers their Song of Reproduction (High Fidelity)?

    All the highest notes neither sharp nor flat!
    The ear can’t hear as high as that
    Still, I ought to please any passing bat
    With my high fidelity

    Unfortunately the version on youTube doesn’t include “You shouldn’t have it in this room, anyway, the acoustics are all wrong. Raise the ceiling two feet, move the fireplace from this wall to that wall, and you’ll still only get the full stereophonic effect if you sit in the bottom of that cupboard.”

    All that said, I have to admit I’ve played quite a bit with room accoustics, not so much for my stereo system (currently an awesome 1975 receiver connected to speakers that don’t do it justice) as for live music parties. It’s one thing when I’m practicing by myself, but get 12 people and their instruments in there and things get echoey.

    Come to think of it, that’s an audio situation where virus connection would really come in handy; I’m sure I’ve caught colds from some of those parties. Which part of the cable do I wrap my guests in, again?

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