On Day Two of CES 2018 Proof That A.C. Cables Make a Big Sonic Difference

"Walk" the Venetian Hotel hallway with AnalogPlanet.com editor Michael Fremer at Day two of the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show. On day two visit Musical Surroundings and see all of the new Clearaudio, AMG and DS Audio products plus a new Hana monophonic cartridge.

Later in the day AudioQuest power expert Garth Powell (who knows well more about A.C. power than do you, trust me), explains why A.C. cables make a significant audible difference in an audio system. Powell not only explains why, he demonstrates it here. You will hear the same piece of music played twice, once with a "stock" molded rubber power cord between the CD player and preamplifier and once with AudioQuest's least expensive power cord, the Thunder. Despite being recorded via a camcorder shotgun microphone you can easily hear the difference.

Later, Powell, a veteran power conditioner designer, who worked for years for the pro audio company Furman, compared in real time expensive power cables from Shunyata, Transparent and Nordost with the AudioQuest cables he designed using a track from "Muddy Waters Folk Singer".

And after that, using a track from Bruce Springsteen's "The Seeger Sessions" album, he compares the three AudioQuest A.C. cables and the differences were critical and easily heard by all in attendance. It was no more "conformational bias" than would be showing a color and black and white photo and asking which was which.

The video does not include the demo using the other brands of A.C. cables because recording through a camcorder microphone is hardly ideal or fair! However the comparison between "stock" rubber molded and the AudioQuest cable is, especially since the most important point is to demonstrate that power cords do make a difference and even using the shotgun microphone from the second row, you should be able to hear it!

Tomorrow we'll have the final video from day three plus a written show wrap-up.

COMMENTS
isaacrivera's picture

Is that some people think it's controversial. Not that hard to conceive the possibility that introducing differences into the path of a delicate, micro-electro-mechanic signal affects the flow and quality of the signal in audible ways. Whatever claims of snake oil and witchcraft, a true scientific attitude necessitates both skepticism and an open mind--knowing the result ahead of the experiment inherently unscientific. I routinely demonstrate this experiment in my studio and the difference is clear as night and day. Not everyone has a good set of ears, nor a system capable of resolving it (does not have to be an expensive system, just a resolving, well-setup one). Some say it is placebo, but as this is reproducible and perceived by most who experience a carefully conducted test, I would argue that in reality it is nocebo in the mind of the denialist that is actually taking place, or a total lack of experience.

kozakjj's picture

I still can't understand this because the wire inside the wall and out to the breaker box and than outside pole pole is not very good wire. Please explain why a short cable from the outlet can make a difference?

Thanks

foxhall's picture

Yeah, this has always been perplexing for me as well but I've noticed a difference in power cords.

Jack Gilvey's picture

Huge, untapped market there.

xtcfan80's picture

Hi kozakjj,

I would encourage you to try a $50-100 power cord on your system and hear what happens...."understanding" the effect may not be important...hearing the improvement might be worth it!!

Best regards,

Chris O.

kozakjj's picture

You have evaded the question? But anyway I have tried a PS audio 50.00 cable before and notice no difference. The question still remains. Please reply with an educated answer.

Thanks

xtcfan80's picture

Hi there,

I'm not running for office or trying to avoid answering your question. I do not have the "scientific" education to offer you a "real" answer. If you tried an upgraded PC and heard no difference, spend the $50-100 on some of the great Analogue Productions vinyl and keep listening!!!

Best,

Chris O.

kozakjj's picture

Yeah i have and played the The Doors 45RPM box set from Analogue productions on my VPI HX turntable with the shelter 901 cartridge. There is absolutely no difference in sound. I also have a scientific education and this is a Placebo effect. Until one can change the full run of the wire from your home straight to the electric company then proof might be feasible. For now i would save your money.

Regards

xtcfan80's picture

Indeed!!!

jkingtut's picture

The 40th Anniversary double CD of LA woman had very uneven sound cut by cut, I should have just rebought the original vinyl.

Michael Fremer's picture
You didn't hear difference then don't bother.
goblin141's picture

in my little system changing from monster cables to silvers everyone heard a difference. Then going from regular speaker cables to homemade and then to the little Mapleshade wires was a big improvement. When my new room is finished i will be adding new power cables. I always love to see the jaws drop on people who were not believers in quality cables hear things in my records that were never there before. Keep up the fight.

AnalogJ's picture

What sounds good in one system may not sound good in another.

I'd recommend trying differ brands of cords and at higher price points which will have better technology and design.

And your system may not be as resolving as some.

As far as why some better cords can make a difference, power coming out of the wall is relatively unbridled, but can be noisy. Cords can try to strip the noise, the grunge out, but at the expense of acting like a choke, flattening the dynamics and musicality. How the power coming in interacts with the power supplies in the equipment can alter the ultimate performance.

Better cords have a more sophisticated design which allow clean sound while allowing extended bandwidth and dynamics. The difference, in a good system, can be incredibly exciting.

The Cable Company has an extensive lending library. Give them a call.

kozakjj's picture

The wire inside the wall and out to the breaker box and than outside pole pole is not very good wire. A short cable form the outlet will never make a difference. You are fooling yourself if you think better power cords work. It is the placebo effect if you believe your system sounds better.

AnalogJ's picture

Of course power cords can alter the quality of the electricity.

Take water filters. Water, which is treated before coming to your home, still has a lot of organic and inorganic matter in it, some of it picked up on its way to you. A 4-step reverse osmosis filter can take out 99% of the impurities of the water. That means the water you drink after the filtration is substantially different than what it was prior. That's in spite of the water having traveled for many miles.

Power cords, along with the power supplies, act as filters, cleaning up the electrical signals on the other side. The design of the cords can tamp down on dynamics, however, They can also allow the sound to be improved. It's important to audition them in your system.

But if you put your head in the sand, you can continue to hold your position. Your loss.

By the way, I take it that you probably use the cheapest $10 interconnects and speaker wiring.

AnalogJ's picture

Of course power cords can alter the quality of the electricity.

Take water filters. Water, which is treated before coming to your home, still has a lot of organic and inorganic matter in it, some of it picked up on its way to you. A 4-step reverse osmosis filter can take out 99% of the impurities of the water. That means the water you drink after the filtration is substantially different than what it was prior. That's in spite of the water having traveled for many miles.

Power cords, along with the power supplies, act as filters, cleaning up the electrical signals on the other side. The design of the cords can tamp down on dynamics, however, They can also allow the sound to be improved. It's important to audition them in your system.

But if you put your head in the sand, you can continue to hold your position. Your loss.

By the way, I take it that you probably use the cheapest $10 interconnects and speaker wiring.

RH's picture

AnalogJ,

I agree with you that the common refrain "but there's miles of crappy cable leading up to your equipment anyway" doesn't really address the possibility AC power cords could make a difference.

As you say: the claim can be made, just like a water purifier, that the better AC cable "cleans up" or purifies the signal to be given the component.

However, just elucidating such a possibility doesn't establish the truth. Most scientific hypotheses are made because they are plausible extrapolations from known phenomena to begin with. It's in the testing that we find out whether the hypothesis is actually supported. But often life shows us where we went wrong, and many (if not most) plausible-sounding hypotheses actually fail to survive rigorous investigation (the plight of a scientist, unfortunately).

So we still have to ask IS the power cord altering the signal, and in a measurable way, and in a way detectable by our hearing?

In the case of water filtration, one can easily measure to show the difference between dirty and filtered water.

We should want to see just such measured results for a power cord.
But not ONLY the signal from the power cord; also from the device it is powering. As it is hypothesized the power cords effect are altering the signal of the unit - e.g. CD player - we should be able to measure changes in the output of the CD player. And even in output of the speakers/room sound (as that is purported to change as a result of the effects of the AC cord).

IF we can see such measurements showing differences that fall within known audible parameters, that would be significant. At least a step towards supporting the claims. (Though one would want the claims to be repeatable by other parties, not just the company making the claim).

If you have any links to such measurements, I'd appreciate seeing them, as they are awfully thin on the ground for most such claims.

Anon's picture

Congrats on wasting hours of your life with your arguments! I hope you at least found it enjoyable.

Here is Shunyata showing a measurement, of how a quality power cord makes a difference over the stock cables included with products:

https://youtu.be/4qCK--lRFd0

If the link doesn't work, search for "Dtcd and ascc demonstration" in YouTube.

Besides DTCD, there are many measurable differences with power cords, from shielding for reduction in RFI/EMI, skin effect, impedance, resistance, etc.

RH's picture

Discussing our hobby doesn't seem a waste of time to me.

Thanks all the same for the link.

But I suggest if you'd just read the post to which you replied to a little more charitably, you'd see why your video link didn't answer the questions I raised.

That's a nice commercial by Shunyata. I'd like to also see third party repetitions of these tests (as I've said), vs only what the company selling the cable will show us.

But, the main point is that, per my previous post, it just doesn't get us to where I was talking about. It's certainly not implausible that an AC cable could be designed to measurably alter the signal at the other end. Or even perhaps remove some noise. After all, non-exotic power cables employ shielding etc to reject noise, component power supplies, transformers etc are made to reject noise.

But as I made clear in my post, the claims being made aren't simply that the exotic AC cable can alter the signal, but that they alter the AUDIO SIGNAL. That's why I was careful to say we'd want to see measurements of how the AUDIO SIGNAL would have changed. And then whether, if the audio signal output changed, whether it turns out to be audible or not.

So if you want to really answer my post, you would point me to measurements showing the audio signal of the component - e.g. cd player or whatever - changes with an exotic power cord vs a standard (good quality) power cord. Do you have a link to such measurements?

And then to AC cables also being identifiable in blind testing?

Again: I'm not declaring that the claims made by Audioquest in the video are false, or that their cables do not make an audible difference. All I'm saying is that IF THEY DO, then it makes sense to look for more reliable evidence than is typically supplied, in the form of "listen to this" demonstrations that are ripe for bias.

ChrisS's picture

...the information that you are requesting?

Keen Observer's picture

From those ASCC measurements I conclude that the premium cord has a lower impedance than the generic cord. Of course one might have guessed that from looking at them. Repeat the measurement with a cord of equivalent gauge as the expensive one.
The way they talk about their term DTCD, you'd think you could dispense with the capacitors in your amplifier's supply section.

Michael Fremer's picture
Transmitted through power cables (or not) is EASILY measured. And the difference can be heard. I really do not think you watched the video. You don't want to watch it. You don't want to hear it. The man doing the talking is not a "snake oil" salesman. He's been in the power conditioning field for years, working for a long time at Furman, a pro audio company not involved in bullshit.
Michael Fremer's picture
1) You do not understand the issues involved here (even a short piece of wire is an antenna for one thing). 2) and DO NOT put a water filter on the end of your tap because the water travels through bad pipes all the way to your faucet and nothing put on the end could possible make a difference 3) JUST GOT TO A DEMO A LISTEN.
nagysaudio's picture

to answer your question has not been invented yet. Electronics, psycho acoustics, and the entire Universe seems to be infinitely complex. The more we study, discover, invent, and try to answer, the more questions arise. Power cords make an audible difference, I can hear it and so do many others. Why? It doesn't matter.

Anton D's picture

I can see Nordost's ad now: "Power cords make an audible difference. We can hear it and so do many others. Why? It doesn't matter. Now available in 10 (no kidding) different price levels based on reasons we don't understand."

"The answer to your question hasn't been answered yet?" So, tell us how cable manufacturers are approaching this, by tossing cables at walls and seeing what sticks?

Loved your answer! Science can't explain why, but I did.

You know why Nordost uses different colors on its power cord wrappers?

So, they can tell them apart!

xtcfan80's picture

LOL

Michael Fremer's picture
Your comment is appallingly ignorant and utterly cynical. None of the serious cable makers are "tossing cables at walls seeing what sticks". That's what you imagine because you haven't a clue. Actually science can and does explain it. The serious designers like Powell and Shunyata's Caelin Gabriel have excellent methodology and reasons for their designs. In this demo the most costly cable was Nordost's Odin ($16,000). It was also the shiniest and most eye-catching. "Confirmational bias" would have us all thinking it sounded best but actually it sounded THE WORST. And after we gave our opinion, which was shared and pretty much unanimous, Powell explained what Nordost's design was, what was measured and why it produced those results.
Anton D's picture

If you would be so kind as to look at the post I replied to:

"The science to answer your question has not been invented yet. Electronics, psycho acoustics, and the entire Universe seems to be infinitely complex. The more we study, discover, invent, and try to answer, the more questions arise. Power cords make an audible difference, I can hear it and so do many others. Why? It doesn't matter."

Why would you not call that out?

I know why, because, even though the author was wrong in every dimension, he happened to land on your side of the argument.

That is what I'd call cynical and embarrassing.

You've spent the entire thread telling everybody we know the why, but ignore the main post that says we don't!

Consider my reply in the context of someone saying that science can't know what what these cable geniuses are up to.

You apology is accepted in advance. ;-D

RH's picture

^^^^^ Aaaand...this is why even Stereophile founder J. Gordon Holt became so embarrassed by our hobby.

Michael Fremer's picture
ARE EMBARRASSING.
Michael Fremer's picture
watch the video? Apparently not.
Rayman's picture

that works! Not all do. And expensive AC power cords. Once again certain brands are best

isaacrivera's picture

But that those not change the fact, that simple tests can show you it does. Though I am sure someone may be able to explain it, I am content experiencing that it does even before I can get an explanation. I suppose people fell down cliffs long before Sir Isaac Newton postulated the law of gravity. Science explains phenomena, but phenomena occur without the need for scientific explanations.

Anton D's picture

I failed math, therefore I am a genius.

People fell down before Newton "discovered" gravity, therefore cables will be proven to do whatever it is the manufacturers claim.

I get ya!

isaacrivera's picture
isaacrivera's picture

Because your analogy does not apply to my statement. In the case of your IQ there no evidence of your genius NOR a way to explain scientifically why you would be one. In my example, Newton described in physics what everyone knew empirically for millennia. Science does not create phenomena, it describes it. Power cables affecting sound is a phenomenon empirically confirmed repeatedly by many (as is falling down cliffs or your math and logic incapacity). The fact that science can't explain it does not negate the experience just like not having a Law of Gravity does not make things float.

By the way, Einstein did not fail math, though he did fail the admission test to the Zurich Polytechnic when he first took it.

Anton D's picture

Churchill failed English, but became an eloquent author and speaker. I failed English, therefore I is eloquent.

Just because science hasn't worked out running electrical signal through a plastic wrapped cable to your satisfaction doesn't mean that science will therefore show you to be correct in 200 years.

People make up so much bullshit and fall back on the smug claim that 'science just doesn't get me yet' that it buggers belief that y'all still expect others to fall for it!

Science will one day show what my senses tell me, the earth is flat and the air in the sky is blue.

isaacrivera's picture

Just because you are deaf that does not mean cables are ineffective.

Michael Fremer's picture
A truly dumb comment. A) Garth Powell explains why power cables make a difference. He did not fail math. Before AudioQuest he worked for pro audio company Furman. If you WATCH the video shot under fairly primitive audio conditions the difference between the stock cord and the better one are EASY to hear! While they are not in the video, the differences between the various brands of costly cords ARE EASILY HEARD and the differences among the three AudioQuest cords are also easy to hear. These skeptical comments are as if someone showed a black and white and color photo and people said they saw a difference and a skeptic said "CONFIRMATIONAL BIAS".....
supamark's picture

that everything is being run from a high quality power conditioner like AC's own Niagra 7000 (which would make a lot of sense here), in which case... still sceptical but at least it makes up for the wiring in the wall, etc.

Michael Fremer's picture
Yes, we also heard system plugged into wall and then into Niagara 7000. Anyone who cannot understand why that might make a difference probably shouldn't comment here about anything. However the cable demo was done by putting the difference ones between the CD player and amplifier and the differences were EASY TO HEAR, AGREED TO BY ALL IN THE ROOM including a few who had the same jaundiced perspective as some of the commenters here.
Michael Fremer's picture
Did you watch the video? Hear Garth Powell's explanation? He formerly did power for pro audio company Furman and definitely does not deal in "snake oil". Watch!
Michael Fremer's picture
Watch the video. Powell explains it.
Genez's picture

Simply put. Power cords produce their own sound signature. Hopefully, one that compliments the system you are listening with. The copper inside the wall wiring at that point becomes inconsequential.

clucking's picture

Can't afford a $700 power cable, but I see that Audioquest does make an $80 cable - AudioQuest NRGX2 & X3 - would these even be worth the $ or at that price-point would the difference between these and stock be negligible?

Supperconductor's picture

I like doing n=1 experiments, with diet & nutrition, or HiFi. The only question really is whether the difference is worth the expense/effort. There’s lots of DIY articles on cables if you choose to go that route. Better power supplies, footers, cables, etc. - they’re all worth it or not. I’ve never understood the why the daggers have to come out. And don’t get me started on the MQA hate.

Preston's picture

I had been skeptical of power cords for exactly the reasons described by kozakjj above. After 20 years in this hobby and improving everything else in my system (room acoustic treatments, equipment rack, vibration control, interconnects, speaker cables, etc.), I finally bought a $100 Shunyata power cord and trusted my ears. My ears said that it made a difference. Over the course of a year, I replaced every power cord and noticed differences (improvements) each time. My university training said this shouldn't matter, but it does. Obviously, there are things that influence the sound that we can't measure yet or similar explanation(s). Also, the Shunyata power cords keep noise from from migrating between components. I think this is especially important with power supply noise from digital components. I'm sold on them now. Always trust your ears!

xtcfan80's picture

Indeed!! I'm of the mind that university training in electronics may be a detriment, not an advantage in enjoying hifi/music reproduction.

Best,

Chris O.

RH's picture

"I finally bought a $100 Shunyata power cord and trusted my ears. My ears said that it made a difference."

Well, yes, that's not surprising; it's just how human bias works.

Once you aren't controlling for bias, virtually anything can and will "make a difference." The combination of imagination, changes in perception, bias etc tend to work that way. It's why you encounter similar testimonials for every possible scientifically dubious claim; your local Psychic Fair will be full of people saying whatever power or nostrum they promulgate "works" once you just "try it yourself and trust yourself on the results."

It would be nice if much of the high end audio industry, and this hobby, didn't operate as if science never happened. (In regards to the rigor by which the technical claims are vetted).

Preston's picture

I was completely predisposed by education and many other factors to NOT hear a difference. I'm an engineer, and most who are engineers are very good with numbers and objectivity. I've heard engineers say "if you can measure it, it exists; if you can't, it doesn't." As I stated, I was a complete skeptic. If you don't hear a difference, I'm happy for you: I wish I didn't. It costs more money that I could put to good use elsewhere. Enjoy!

RH's picture

Hi again Preston.

The problem with what you just wrote is that "being skeptical" has nothing to do with whether you will experience any number of bias effects. That is one of the pervasive myths that audiophiles, and countless other people making dubious inferences, make about bias effects.

Why do you think it's so common in advertising to include "I was a skeptic, until I tried it!"? If you look into all the scientifically undemonstrated claims - millions of them out there - you will almost inevitably find testimonials of people who "started out skeptical until I experienced it for myself!"

The pervasiveness of this idea, and it's pervasive ability to influence people, is, again, down to a misunderstanding of the nature of bias and perception.

If you listen FOR differences, you can perceive that you are hearing differences. That doesn't mean "expecting" a difference, it simply means listening critically between what you take to be two different sources. The mere act of changing moving your attention around on, say, a piece of music and trying to discern differences, can end in you thinking you hear a difference whether you expect it or not. That's why, in blind testing, you can leave the same cable in a system, and all someone has to do is think cables are being switched, and often enough they'll describe the sound of "one" cable as different than another. (I've experienced this plenty of times myself).

You don't even have to be listening critically for a difference. You could, for instance, put a new cable into your system and, not listening critically but just at some point think "Hmmm, this piece seems to sound different from the last time I heard it. What changed? Well I changed the power chord. Oh...maybe THAT changed the sound."

But it could merely have been any number of different factors that changed your perception: your mood, your state of mind, tiredness, precisely where you were sitting vs the last time, the manner in which you were concentrating, etc.

Audiophiles, and reviewers use this faulty heuristic all the time "I wasn't EXPECTING to hear a difference, but darn it I did, so it wasn't due to a bias effect and therefore there was a real sonic difference." But that's just not how it works. And that is why the science of perception has adopted the controls it has.

As I said, unfortunately, this hobby often acts as if science never happened (in terms of method). As Richard Feynman said about what we've learned in developing the scientific method: "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool."

BTW, I once had several Shunyata power cords to test out, from their lower tier to higher tier. I was not disposed to think I'd hear a difference but I just could have sworn one of them changed the sound of my system - smoothed it but also darkened the sound considerably to the point I wasn't sure if I liked how my system sounded with that cord.

But then I decide to *really* trust my ears, and have a friend help me do a blind shoot-out between the Shunyata and a standard $15 power cord. Guess what? I simply could not tell a difference between the two. There was no "darkening" or anything to tip me off on which cord I was hearing and my guesses were totally random.

Saved lots of money right there :-)

my new username's picture

“If you listen FOR differences, you can perceive that you are hearing differences.”

You can just as easily decide that you are not "hearing differences," especially if predisposed to not want nor expect to hear them. I submit that it's impossible, in a practical sense, to leave all value systems and norms at the door. Everyone has a reference for what's "different" and must use that as the basis for declaring differences.

Machines have their own limitations for that, based on OUR programming of them. What’s your point again, about one’s bias … ? I would never, ever, want to be unbiased with whatever I consider "quality" when/if seeking to identify differences anywhere. I am a human. I am not "a science."

So if the science of perception and controls for bias do not prevent people from fooling themselves, it’s just as likely that the science has failed them as it is that they aren’t listening/perceiving in some rigorous way.

So here’s the problem with all of that, and especially with blind testing, which it seems as if you’ve spent a lot of time and effort to do: It’s bullshit, because it’s nothing like how we listen to music, i.e., for pleasure. Apply that knowledge to a hobby, as the hobby aspect is inseparable from the whole point of listening in the first place, and it gets complicated in ways science doesn’t even begin to describe, because it isn’t supposed to do so!

Bottom line: if you audition something for awhile and it does not help sound/enjoyment/pleasure, get rid of it. Just as true: If someone else reaches a different conclusion, why on earth would you ever deny them that result? That's ... inhuman.

RH's picture

This is of course the anticipated "science isn't all that, it can't measure what I'm experiencing" response. It's full of a fair amount of misunderstanding and strawmen.

"new username," science studies human perception - and that includes even our aesthetic preferences, aversions, opinions etc - all the time. It's routine. But suddenly when it comes to high end audio, it becomes "impossible" and outside the bounds of science. No, not really.

Have you ever had a hearing test? You sit in a booth, ascending tones are played, and you press a button when you can hear a tone.
Note that you do not see, for instance, the person running the test pressing the tone buttons (it's automatic anyway, I believe). If you DID see when the highest pitched tones are being played, then when you saw a "button pressed" you may presume you can hear the tone - it may cue you to press your button affirming you heard something. The only way to ensure you are actually relying on what you can actually hear is by your not knowing when a tone is being played, and trying to identify when you can hear it.

If you can't identify when the 18Hz tone is actually playing, it's because you can't hear it. You don't get to say you have magical hearing - YOU know you can hear 18Hz, even though you can pass no test demonstrating this ability.

This is a normal, rational, accepted way in which it's established *what people can actually hear.* Even audiophiles tend to understand this and accept the results of an audio test.

And yet, should the same type of test be proposed: using just your ears, not your sighted knowledge, can you hear a difference between component A and B? suddenly the audiophile protests "this is junk science! We can't establish the audibility of things that way!!! If I say I can hear the difference, that's good enough!"

We always want to make a special exception for ourselves, when it comes to protecting a cherished experience.

When you say it's "b.s" because blind testing isn't how we listen, that misunderstands the issue. A blind test can help establish whether there is actually a reliably identifiable sonic difference between A and B. Which one you like better, why and how much pleasure it gives you to listen to it in all your relaxing days is unaffected by the blind test. Simply taking a blind test doesn't turn you into a robot; it just tests in a far more reliable way whether you can actually hear a difference.

I'm not trying to come down on anyone who decides they don't care about blind testing, scientific vetting etc. Everyone should be able to spend his/her money as they wish, and if placebo plays a part...hey it plays a part in a lot of our choices. And my own stereo purchases no doubt look nuts to those who don't share in the audio hobby, so it's not like I'm going to cast stones that way.

However, to the degree one is actually interested in getting at truth, if we really want to know IF X makes a difference to the sound and why that's the case, then we should want to get more rigorous. That's how we've progressed scientifically and technologically on all fronts. And it also allows us to make more informed purchases. One person may not care whether a manufacturers claims are b.s. - "as long as I think I hear a difference," but many of us do care, and we'd like better information than we normally get in high end audio.

Personally, blind testing, and attempting to look to technological claims that don't veer outside known physics or engineering principles, has saved me quite a bit of money, while also leaving me with a very satisfying audio system.

I don't blind test everything I buy. But by the same token, I am not going to imply anyone who doesn't hear what I think I hear to be wrong, deficient in hearing, or imply they have a crappy audio system. And that is often the response of audiophiles who are so wedded to the superiority of their own subjective impressions that they feel warranted in casting aspersions to "anyone who can't hear the OBVIOUS differences" in power cords or whatever.

Cheers!

my new username's picture

I’m here to let you know that there isn’t “enough science” (i.e. enough time in the day!) that will test for all the conditions/controls that one might experience over days and weeks/months in regards to sound differences. How many blind tests would it take, using sample theory even, to adequately account for a representation of the very things you cite as influencing perception such as time of day, mood and so on?

So this isn’t me putting up straw men, but simply applying the same standards you want applied everywhere.

re: “scientific vetting”

If I insert a new piece of gear, or sample a different version of a song file, and don’t care enough to care about any differences, then I’m effectively “done.” It no longer matters if there’s a difference, provable or not. Some of us are honest enough to admit that, and others will loudly declare that their chosen method of “testing” is the only legit one for making decisions of value, “for all.” And on that, I have zero patience. "Bullshit" isn't about something or someone being fake or untruthful, it's about being an irrelevant distraction. No emotion/personification is needed there.

You and I are fundamentally on the same page but approach decision making differently. The goal remains the same, better sound or enjoyment for a given budget. I can't define that nor do I think it matters to anyone but me. We have potential choices to make and the circumstances determine what happens next. No science necessary --- I'm not deciding anything for you, and I don't need it for myself.

RH's picture

How many blind tests would it take, using sample theory even, to adequately account for a representation of the very things you cite as influencing perception such as time of day, mood and so on?

The answer is: a statistically significant amount, for the phenomenon being tested. That sounds like a non-answer, but it is a declaration that what you seem to imply is impossible...isn't so impossible or complicated.

Just in principle: Say you want to determine if you can hear a difference between cable A and cable B.

You do a double blind test where you correctly identify cable "B" 9 out of 10 times.

You don't have to talk about conditions over "days/months" etc to know that's a statistically significant result. It meets the 95% confidence level usually thought of as statistically significant.
(Or you could correctly identify it 15 out of 20 times for the same statistical significance). You could then continue adding trials to gain ever more confidence in the results.

If you reliably identify differences between the two cables in the blind tests, by far the best explanation for this is that you can actually hear differences. We don't have to talk about weeks and months of experience, or whether your mood had an influence or not. Your "mood" is not going to aid you in correctly identifying the cables with statistical significance.

So for a positive result...the concerns you raise are essentially a red herring.

Now, for a negative result, it may be possible something negative in the experiment, or your mood, tiredness or whatever was responsible for not being able to hear differences you otherwise could have heard. Of a negative result, the most we can say is your ability to identify the difference has not been established via a positive result.

Though it's not as dire as that, as all sorts of pre-test criteria can be adduced to investigate under what conditions you are likely to have your ability to judge impaired or not, and so tests are fine tuned to allow for these things. For instance, the ability of a person to listen critically in a test can, of itself, be tested (and that ability refined, through practice)..

Michael Fremer's picture
1) DID YOU WATCH THE VIDEO? DID YOU OR DID YOU NOT HEAR THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE STOCK CORD AND AUDIOQUEST'S LEAST EXPENSIVE (in this line)? 2) It's EASILY heard even though it's recorded through a camcorder microphone. 3) If you can't hear it, then fine stick with whatever. If you CAN hear it, everything you've written is contrary to your own experience. 4) Blind tests are useful but also can easily be abused. I've taken my share and done very well (at Harman's speaker testing facility) but I've done extremely well when challenged by a guy who said all amplifiers that measure the same sound the same and I got 100% correct identifications in a blind A/B/X test. But because my result was better than the average AES engineer at the event, my result was declared an "outlier" to the curve and it was TOSSED.
RH's picture

As I mentioned, I thought I heard a difference, did some more back to back comparisons and the difference didn't seem so clear. I'll give it another try. (It would be fun to do a blind test but I'm not sure I can pull that off even with help, with a youtube video).

I'm aware you have done blind tests and I think that's great! As you know, blind tests don't equate to "no audible differences!" If you reliably detected differences (for speakers?) at Harman, wonderful. That's what the tests are for. I've blind tested DACs an CD players, and have been able to identify some of them.

As for the "abuse" of your A/B/X test results, it's hard to tell from the info you've given that your results were abused.

As I'm sure you know, there is an outlier problem in statistics:
If we have 50 people flip their coin 100 times, it turns out we should EXPECT that roughly 16 of those coins will flip 7 consecutive heads! So we should expect as a matter of chance some instances of what look like "statistically significant" results. That would go for an individual flipping a coin many times; he is likely to flip at some point a surprising result, and it may happen on his first trial, or his last, or anywhere in between.

So there is good reason when doing many trials not to accept the outliers as ratifying the effect being studied. That's not "abuse," it's just doing good science.

You may well of course have been identifying audible differences. But what you just told us doesn't establish that fact.

To establish the relevance of your results, we would want to put you through multiple trials to see if your ability - in the test in question - was repeatable, not just an anomaly.

I don't know the item you were evaluating in the test...but did you go on to score similarly in separate repetitions of the same test?
That sure would be intriguing.

But that said, even taking the fact you may have scored well in certain blind tests (not all, I presume?), it doesn't entail you would always do so or that suddenly you are immune to the effects of bias.

My younger son, with his younger hearing, would certainly routinely pass test in hearing higher frequency tones that I could not. It doesn't follow that his ability to discern a difference in one test means he'd pass any other audible test, and he'd be immune from bias effects.

Again, just to re-iterate experience from another area of blind testing: My son was enrolled in a study of a new allergy drug. As is standard good practice, the study was double blind so neither we nor the doctor knew whether we were on the placebo, or the real drug (which contained the allergen my son was allergic to). Imagine if I'd protested "Why bother with this blind testing stuff? Just give us the drug, sighted, and then we'll tell you the results. I'm sure the results will be obvious with no bias contaminating our perception!"

Would that be reasonable? Given the reasons such controls are normally used? Is that the type of reaction you would endorse?
I suspect not.

Back to the study: It should be easy, right? Because anyone deathly allergic to the allergen in question has felt it's effects, so it should be easy to know if you've eaten something benign, or poison to your system. The doctors had tried to guess (off-the record) during the study which patients were on the placebo vs the real allergen, based on patient reports of symptoms. We patients also tried to guess. It turned out the doctors inferences were wrong 50 percent of the time! Some of the people on placebo had symptoms that made them SURE they were ingesting the allergen, and some on the allergen had no symptoms that made them SURE their does contained no allergen. Based on subjective sighted assessment only, the results would have been completely skewed and in error. Which is why such controls are put in place.

And yet, it seems when we come to an area where we have a particular emotional interest in the outcome, a beloved hobby like high end audio, we are supposed to just put aside all normal good practices in terms of weeding reliable results from bias, and act as if our hobby is untouched by the problems science studies in every other endevour. If a reviewer heard it, well then that's good enough. If people put a new power cable in their system all you have to do is "listen for yourself to know if there's a difference."

This should seem deeply suspicious to anyone trying to be consistent in understanding audio and human perception...or just how the world works in general.

Again: I'm not saying that everyone ought to turn their hi-fi purchases into some rigorously controlled experiment (though if some like doing that...go for it. I do it occasionally).

But when we really care about the truth, and want to know whether any particular claim is justified, especially in an industry rife with dubious claims, there's nothing wrong with putting on one's skeptic hat and demanding evidence consistent with how we'd demand evidence in many other areas of empirical inquiry.

BTW, I have your reviews to thank for the wonderful Audio Physic Virgos, and Scorpios, that ended up at my home at one point. As well as for leading me to the Conrad Johnson Premier 12 tube mono-blocks that I've enjoyed in my system for many years! I still think very highly of your speaker reviews.

Cheers!

RH

Michael Fremer's picture
Told you that you would not hear a difference so you didn't, even though it was there and obvious. And your reaction to that? OUTRAGE I'm sure. I would not make that statement but what you are claiming is just that. So if you don't hear it, FINE. It's pretty easy to hear and it's not because we are being "fooled". You know there are numbskulls who claim that all amplifiers sound the same too and they use the same insulting and frankly silly stuff you've posted above to "prove" their point.
Michael Fremer's picture
Scientific methodology begins with observations. You seem to deny that. The differences heard in this demo were audible including that a few very expensive cords sounded awful. Based on your comment, every mix done in a studio must be bad because every mix is done without "scientific backup". Garth Powell is not a "snake oil peddler". He worked at pro audio company Furman, which is engineering, not "snake oil" based. It's quite obvious you didn't watch the video before posting a very tired comment.
Michael Fremer's picture
The designer is not a "psychic". He's an expert in power conditioning who previously worked for pro audio company Furman. The differences between these cords was EASY to hear and not because of "imagination" or the rest of the bullshit spewed by those for whom results that defy their "confirmational bias" expectations are shattered. You'd have EASILY heard the differences all of those in the room heard---many of whom were skeptical before the demo.
RH's picture

Michael,

Thanks for replying. Though the "public shaming" method you seem to be indulging isn't exactly helpful. (Including implying that I hadn't even viewed the video when I wrote I'd watched it and directly compared the portions with the different cables).

Note that my comment gave respect, and nowhere suggested YOU were an "idiot" or even declared you wrong in apprehending a sonic difference. I'm just another audiophile trying to make sense of all the products in our hobby, and you have to admit they span the gamut from non-controversial, easily demonstrable and measurable claims (e.g. differences in speaker design/sonic quality) to much more dubious claims outside established science or engineering principles.

And I therefore have to ask myself: is the product in question a controversial one in terms of a lack of consensus by the relevant authorities (e.g. electrical engineers, or scientists, etc). And if so, what type of evidence is being presented?

The audibility of high end audio, high priced power cords is, as you know, an area of such controversy. And Audioquest's products have ventured well into the deep end of that controversy.

Take another Audioquest product: a $10,500 Ethernet cable (Audiquests 12m "Diamond.")

Do you truly think one has to be an "idiot" to be skeptical of a product like that? Certainly many who understand digital technology are skeptical, and are not "idiots." Surely you don't want to endorse wholesale credulity in the face of every product that comes to the market.

For a product making extraordinary claims asking extraordinary prices, it is reasonable to be skeptical and ask for extraordinarily good evidence. The technical claims about that cable and it's relationship to audible changes in the signal are controversial and disputed by many people who understand computer theory (and audio theory). So it's far from widely accepted by other relevant experts on technical grounds.

What's left are reviewers or audiophiles who will claim to have heard a difference made by such a cable.

But with no reliable controls involved for the influence of bias.

And if someone is just ignoring the problem of bias when evaluating such claims, that is a Big Red Flag. We simply know too much to ignore about the effects of human bias in such evaluations. Slap a different label on the same bottle of wine, or alter it's color, people will presume it's a different wine and will report a different taste. There are just countless examples from scientific studies showing how easily our senses/perception are fooled.

Does this mean that one can never claim "the differences are obvious?" Of course not. I can happily claim the difference between the taste of root beer and a glass of milk are obvious. However, if anyone wants to measure the properties of milk and root beer, they will find a difference. And anyone who wants to taste test the two without knowing which they are tasting (blind) could do so with reliable results.

So the problem isn't any claim that "there is a difference" in of itself. The problem comes when we ask for evidence and then the claim can't pass a standard rigorous form of test. THEN, unfortunately, that claim becomes harder to distinguish from any other pseudoscience claim. Someone pointing this out isn't being an "idiot," he is trying to be empirically consistent in his understanding. (And, this, btw, is why it doesn't follow that music mixing would have to be done blind or "scientifically." The effects of eq, processing, microphone colorations etc are measurable, and are generally within known audible parameters. It would be different if music mixers thought they have to place a crystal, or mpingo discs on every mixer console in order to alter the sound).

When you say that confirmation bias obviously wasn't in play at the demo because the difference was "easy" to hear, that simply doesn't account for the actual power of bias. You can find people saying "it's obvious" for virtually every dubious audio product that exists - from tuning pebbles, to tiny brass resonators, to coloring CDs, to literally every tweak any audiophile has proposed. Worse, it's the very type of declaration we can find in support of every person taken in by snake oil products, be it bogus medicine, psychics, you name it.

That isn't to say that the audioquest cable in the demo did not make a sonic difference. But the problem comes when the method used to evaluate that claim is the same one that validates countless bogus claims. THAT's where the problem comes from in distinguishing real from bogus.

At one point I had a Shunyata power cord that I thought produced a sonic effect so obvious my ears couldn't deny it. And yet when I did a blind shoot out with my standard, cheap power cord, I couldn't identify any difference at all. The "so obvious" difference just wasn't there.

Recently when I changed music servers it seemed "obvious" to my ears my system had verged into uncomfortably bright and brittle. This bummed me out. But when I did a blind test with my previous server, I could detect NO difference between the two. The "obvious difference" just wasn't there when I didn't know which was playing.

So when you ask me to just accept your claim the audioquest difference was so "obvious" that it must have been true, and not due to perceptual bias, I'd just have to put aside everything I've learned from my own experiences of the strength of bias, not to mention everything science tells us about the strength of bias effects.

Far from just ruling it out a priori, I'd be happy to accept the Audioquest cable made (and makes) a sonic difference. I want want to be able to further refine my system as much as any other audiophile.

But it's reasonable to ask for better evidence than I'm seeing from Audioquest, or you, on this matter. Audioquest claims to have fixed a technical problem in cable design that produces technical changes in the audio signal. I have not seen measured evidence of the technical changes to the audio signals (e.g. of CD players or whatever that are powered by the cord).

And given there are nothing but standard "I heard a difference" reports on their purported effects - no controlled listening tests - I have unfortunately the same level of "evidence" that I can find for reviews of mpingo discs, resonating brass bowls, and other technically suspicious audio products.

So it seems to me my skepticism is reasonable, not idiotic.

Audio genius just kidding's picture

I'm amazed that I'm even going through the trouble to make a post on this thread but I have to stop the nonsense here because it's really absurd... I have a fairly decent hi-fi system in terms of components McIntosh amplifiers Sonus fiber speakers which Have pretty much recognized by anyone knows anything about hi if to be good components from manufactures with a solid reputation.I didn't think much about any of the cables other than I knew you probably didn't want to use the five dollar cable from RadioShack so I purchased very modestly priced cables Initially just speaker cables only used all of the stock power cords that came with these components. After spending around $30,000 or so although the system sounded good I wasn't blown away and I was thinking wow do I really have to spend 60, 70 or 100 grand to get the sound that I consider to be impressive ? At that point I got my shop recommended upgrading the various cables. I wasn't skeptical as some of the people here I was a little taken aback when I saw the prices of some of these cables because I know there's tons of people up there with unlimited budgets and so why not get silver cables it cost $40,000 if you have the money but they have a return policy at my local shop if I'm not happy I thought well let's just try it and see if I can hear a difference and if not I will return them . I first started with speaker cables and went from $300 pair of rocket 33 audio quest to the $2000 aspen cables the difference was astounding..bass response detail transparency we're all night and day over the cheaper cable ..but I didn't stop there. I then added the Niagara 1000 power strip and went with some energy for cables which are not super expensive in comparison to some of the high-end audio power cables. Comparison test playing some Hi-Rez music in this case Pink Floyd the wall DSD in an A B comparison before and after adding the Niagara allowed me to crank the system to the same volume and higher before the amp started to clip.. The sound was also much more transparent and the instrument placing seem to be centered in the soundstage between the speakers rather than coming from the speakers how they accomplish this I don't know but the idea that this is all in my imagination because i'm expecting to hear change is not only skeptical it's retarded yes I said that you are a retard ..and you must be incredibly cheap why don't you just use a wet piece of string to connect your audio equipment after all it doesn't have to be metal right or shielded for that matter because it's all about what comes from your wall and the power company makes no difference right ? come on use your brain. I just replaced the energy 4 cable with audio quest's new thunder cable from there storm series and I can also attest to a significant improvement in clarity and detail. If you listen to the presentation by Garth Powell he explains it very succinctly and perfectly for the layperson it literally is like Uncovering the sound that has been covered up through all the distortion in your system ..it makes sense scientifically and hearing Is believing..

RH's picture

Loved it.

I think we need a "Poe's Law" for audiophiles ;-)

smargo77's picture

the first demo was so easy to hear - plugging into the audioquest conditioner - the sound was much more put together - individual instruments playing before me - when plugged directly into the wall the whole soundstage collapsed and everything sounded tinty and mushy.

the 2nd demo with the power cords - was much more difficult to discern differences - but i detected that the audioquest was a little more enabling - so instruments could be more fleshed out - but not night and day

Michael Fremer's picture
The audio was from my camcorder's inexpensive shotgun microphone. The bottom line is that those who claim power cords cannot possibly make any difference are WRONG!
old_school's picture

is a strange way to test this power cable issue. I have not done this so I cant say why it would make a difference. I can tell you that every electrical and audio engineer I've asked about this has laughed. I have hundreds of feet of plain romax between the outlets that power my system and the breaker box. There are miles of power line cable between my house and its source. Yet somehow a few feet of "Magic Cable" can transform the power my components receive and allow them to perform better? Well I tried it and it doesn't work. I had one electrical engine explain that if I HAD heard a difference it would have been because the new cable fixed one or both of the possible issues my old cable caused. Either the old cable was not of sufficient size to deliver the power needed, or the connection was not as solid/tight as needed and was not passing enough power or was inducing noise due to arcing. He explained that if I fixed one or both of those issues with a better cable it could make an electrical component perform better. He also suggested replacing the receptacle with a better unit that provided a tighter fit to the plug. Some of you may be having the power and connection issues above and that's why some of you hear an improvement while others don't. I think that explains the phenomenon better than the "Magic Cable" theory.

Michael Fremer's picture
Then you are talking to the wrong electrical and audio engineers. What do you think Garth Powell does for a living? Yes he works now for a "high end audio" company so you are suspicious but he formerly worked at pro audio power company Furman. There's no "MAGIC" involved in these cables and no "MAGIC" claimed. DID YOU WATCH THE VIDEO?
old_school's picture

I guess no one understood my post so I will try to clarify it. I'm not saying difference don't exist between power cables. I'm saying it is far more likely that the difference is due to the connectors than the wire. Look at the connectors on almost any brand of really good upgraded cables. They are often gorgeous and of obviously superior quality to stock cables. I think the engineer who explained to me that the connection of the better cables was likely the source of the improvement, has to be more easily believable than the idea that a short piece of wire is doing most of what a power conditioner can accomplish. I said I didn't hear any difference when I tried new cables - but I had already upgraded to very good quality wall receptacles based on the advice I was given. The receptacles fit my PC very snugly and take real effort to insert. The ones on the amp and preamp already seemed very snug. I think this discussion is directly comparable to speaker wire. Yes, the wire is important. But the connectors also matter. And the connections all need to be solid and tight. You would not buy great speaker cables and then not make sure the connector used gave a tight fit. I'm not sure why the discussion is always that the 6 feet of wire is doing all this cleansing of power issues and the contributions of the connectors are not really discussed.
BTW, the discussion is great even if some people take it personally and get ugly. We could do without that but the information gleaned is worth it. Thanks Mikey-

xtcfan80's picture

Sounds like on one hand you are saying an upgraded PC does not improve your system, but that an electrical engineer whose opinion you trust gave a few reasons on why a PC with improved materials and a higher quality wall outlet may help with sound. As with most things audio;
1. "E Engineers" may be using what they feel are "objective" methods to evaluate a change that may not be relevant to reality....ie "Wire is Wire" 2. YMMV depending on power quality delivered to your listening room and many other variables which some EE folks do not take into consideration. As Michael Fremer and other have mentioned, Nordost, Shunyata and other cable manf. have the ability to "scientifically" measure the reduction in noise using a properly designed and manf. cable.

Best,

Chris

SpinMark3313's picture

It seems to me that between wall outlet and conditioner, a highly engineered, audiophile cable is rather a waste, as it is simply passing dirty power from the area's grid and house's romex into the conditioner unit. This assumes a cable of sufficient capacity for the current needed, of course.
Conversely, it DOES make sense for the rest of the power cabling to be of great quality as power is distributed to various components, to maintain the goodness of the conditioner's work.
Yes? No? Anyone?

xtcfan80's picture

Agreed... the quality of power distributed to various components can make an improvement to the sound of a system. The difference is there...The question is if the change is something you like or dislike for your listening habits. In my system, I have returned to stock or to a lower level in a given manf. line of PC cords because I liked the sound better than the more expensive PCs I was using...Trust your ears.

Audio genius just kidding's picture

Actually there seems to be some disagreement about this depending on who you speak to I'm actually waiting on a reply from Garth Powell himself to answer this question in my system I have a Niagara 1000 power conditioner and I recently ordered two of the new cables in the storm series thunder and hurricane respectively to use between the wall and the conditioner and the conditioner to the power amp and my question was which is the more important link in the system from the wall to the conditioner conditioner to the amp there seems to be very schools of thought on this .. you would think that the power conditioners going to clean up whatever issues are coming from the wall outlet and then you would want to clean a signal from the conditioner to your power amp so using the higher-quality cable would make more sense but there are some who say you want to clean up the signal as best as possible when it gets to the conditioner.also my question is does it make sense to have two levels of quality cables in the system or should they be uniform?

Michael Fremer's picture
Changed the cord between a CD player and an amplifier at a hi fi show in a hotel. The differences were EASILY heard and claims of "confirmational bias" are frankly idiotic..
Anton D's picture

Once the audio Messiah arrives and delivers us from the affliction of double blind deafness, all will be revealed.

Until then, the effects will continue to only be discernible when we know what we just did and spent.

Imagine all the designers, finally able to properly design equipment. Those poor bastards have been hampered by their AC cords for too long. They were only a proper AC cord from being able to produce really good stuff.

Now, if we could get those same designers on board for using proper fuses!

If you really want good sound, step up and spend the price of one (yup, just one) pair of Siltech Emperor Crown speakers cables to go solar and free your Hi Fi from the terrible tyranny of all the inferior power cables between you and your local coal fired electrical plant!

True Hi Fi can't be achieved via the grid.

The real "High End" is not a slave to the grid.

RH's picture

Michael Fremer,

First, thanks for the videos...as well as all your videos. They are a wonderful resource and a fun way to spend one's time.

I'd also like to say you remain my favourite audio reviewer! I find your ability to describe the essential characteristics of a component to be the most useful, accurate and succinct I know of. (Insofar as this is possible within the realm of subjective reporting).

That said...

I suggest you have set quite a low bar for the use of the term "Proof" here. I understand of course you don't mean some grand scientific result has been demonstrated, I suppose, that this video should be somehow persuasive on the subject of AC power cable effects on sound.

But I think even in that sense, it ought to be dubious for any critically thinking visitor.

That AC power chord demonstration looked just like the standard high end salesman patter - giving what might sound to be a plausible technical account of the product’s virtues, which is the worm on the hook for many of us audiophiles - then telling us what we should hear in the demo, afterward telling us what we heard. This is a standard in high end audio, and frankly a perfect scenario for bias effects o play a part. I actually thought maybe I heard a difference between the two cables represented in the video sound, but when I actually managed to switch directly between them at the same points, the “difference” seemed to be less obvious to me...if at all.

And this demo, btw, is from a company like Audioquest who has no compunction about wanting to sell me an ethernet cable for over $10,000. That is not a good starting point for presuming credibility.

I'm not an electrical engineer and so I am not in a position to evaluate the technical claims made by Mr. Powell. But I do have a decent grasp of how science operates and why. In that way, I no more need a degree in engineering to have warranted skepticism about the claims made by Mr. Powell’s company than I need a degree in theoretical physics to be skeptical when someone is using sciencey language to describe their perpetual motion machine.

If this claim falls outside the consensus of the authorities in the relevant field, I ought to be very cautious in accepting the claim. The reason I can place more confidence in the scientific consensus vs a fringe claim that is outside the consensus is because I know the method by which the consensus is achieved is a rigorous one; the best method we have for weeding out error and human bias.

Whereas a marked characteristic of fringe claims - be they about quantum hokum, healing therapies, or resonating high end audio pucks - is that they make their own “sciency” arguments, but do not vet their own claims in the rigorous way demanded by science. (It’s always amazing to me how companies like audioquest use appeals to all sorts of measured phenomena that they claim to be the source of the problem they are fixing...and yet when asked for measured confirmation they’ve fixed the problem, none seem forthcoming).

And that, as far as I can see, describes the claims made by companies like Audioquest. Anyone can make any set of technical claims they want...but I want to know how they have validated the claims. I see no scientific rigor at all in these demonstrations. I’ve seen Audioquest and Shunyata called out for their claims before, and I’d think “maybe now they will present some good evidence.”
But no...the answers tend to be a re-iteration of the technical claims...followed by “and we have plenty of satisfied customers so this indicates we are right!”

Ugh. This is EXACTLY the level of “evidence” any snake oil merchant, faith healer, homeopath, or psychic will use. All of them have plenty of satisfied followers...because that’s what you can get when you let all the controls for bias slip. And when the skeptic asks for more rigorous evidence, the answer is inevitably “these things can not be measured...the science isn’t there yet to vet our claims...”

The majority of the analysis I’ve seen by engineers - the ones who aren’t trying to sell me the cables! - indicate the claims made by Audioquest are extremely dubious (to use a polite word).

So...their claims seem to fall outside the consensus of experts, and they (as far as I know) do not supply any technical results for their claims, at least not to the engineering community, but instead they take their claims directly to the (more gullible, less informed) community of audiophiles, with demonstrations utterly careless of scientific rigour.

If the Audioquest AC cables actually DO change the sonics in an easily discernible way, then it seems to me that should be measurable - at the output of the system, be it the output of an amp/CD player or whatever in terms of signal/distortion analyzers, and even via sonic measurement room sweeps. (Especially if there are the level of change so many claim for these tweaks: “deeper, tighter bass, cleaner highs,” etc).

And demonstrating it’s measurable would be the first step. The next step would be demonstrating it is audible. In a controlled fashion, not one rife with bias.
(From my own experience, as I related in another post in this thread, I have been fooled into thinking I heard differences in AC cords, only to find out via blind testing my inferences were totally unreliable).

So long as companies like Audioquest make technical claims that have not survived the critique of relevant authorities in the electrical engineering field (ones not trying to sell cables!), while taking their claims to the public instead in poorly run methods of demonstration, and charging exorbitant amounts for those items, I think I’m very justified in maintaining skepticism here.

And I think any critical thinking person would feel the same.

I’ll leave with a quote that I’d think you are familiar with. It describes the mood of those of us in the hobby who wish for more critical thinking and rigour in high end audio, instead of falling to the level of used by psychics, crystal healers, homeopaths, and similar fringe claims:

“Audio as a hobby is dying, largely by its own hand. As far as the real world is concerned, high-end audio lost its credibility during the 1980s, when it flatly refused to submit to the kind of basic honesty controls (double-blind testing, for example) that had legitimized every other serious scientific endeavor since Pascal. [This refusal] is a source of endless derisive amusement among rational people and of perpetual embarrassment for me,...

J. Gordon Holt

Read more at https://www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/1107awsi/index.html#zMvjeFvFZGR1YS...

Michael Fremer's picture
First of all Powell is not a "salesman", he is a power conditioning expert who previously worked for pro audio company Furman. So let's start there. It is unfair to label him a "salesman." Secondly, I agree that his methodology here was flawed and when it was over I told him so. I told him to just play the track with the different cables and not say anything. He agreed that would be better. And the next day he did it that way and while I wasn't there, someone who was who is a cable skeptic described hearing precisely what I heard because these differences were EASY TO HEAR! The most expensive shiny cable sounded the worst and Powell explained why based upon how it was constructed. The issues of noise getting into the cables and being transmitted into the system are not "hokum" or "magic" but real, and well understood, just as they are in designing power conditioners. HOW the designer goes about solving the problems will affect both how well they measure and how they sound. When I visited Shunyata a few years ago Caelin Gabriel showed me measured results for his filtration systems and explained why they sounded as they did. This is not "snake oil". Powell did iikewise in this demo. Here's the thing: I believe you'd have easily heard what everyone in the room at both demos heard. If you wish to call it "self-hypnosis" or whatever, go ahead! However did you listen to the first demo in the video? As for Holt's claim that "audio as a hobby is dying". That's wrong! It's just the opposite right now.
RH's picture

Thanks again for the reply, Michael.

As I tried to explain in my other reply, my position is not that Audioquests claims ARE snake oil. I'm not declaring they are referencing technical phenomena that don't exist. Nor am I saying their products don't/can't make a sonic difference.

I'm simply pointing out that taken in total their claims are controversial. It's one thing to talk about the various forms of radiation or interference affecting AC power; it's another to claim
the effects of this interference is audible in normal, competently designed audio equipment, and that the Audioquest cables produce technically different, audibly different results when attached to such equipment.

That last part is clearly the area of controversy. And it's the last part - the change to the audio signal - that seems to suffer from far less technical rigor in terms of evidence, than I think we should want to see.

Genez's picture

Some here fail to see the differences between a salesman... and a teacher. I can picture Powell teaching that in a college classroom.

ChrisS's picture

How about just shopping?

I'm lucky enough to frequent a brick-and-mortar "stereo" shop where the staff knows me well enough to let me borrow over the weekend almost any item that I'm interested in purchasing. When I was shopping to upgrade all the wires (power cords, interconnects, speaker wire, etc.) in my system, I was able to try out different brands, different "grades" and/or different price points of any of the above items. What I purchased was whatever sounded best in my system and it wasn't always the "best" or most expensive.

It's a pity if you don't have the opportunity to shop this way.

Like buying pants- if they fit, you like the way they look on you and they're the right price, then...

It might be fun to do, but you don't really need blind testing to "shop".

mfsoa's picture

...of these pathetic arguments that PROVE that I am not hearing what I think I am, due to expectation bias. "Since there is a thing called expectation bias, it is not possible to evaluate the sound of audio equipment" C'mon. Either there is a worldwide communal hallucination going on among thousands of the most experienced music listeners, or maybe, just maybe, there may be differences in the sound produced by different gear. Funny how expectation bias isn't used when people don't hear differences (or worse, refuse to even consider the possibility) when they were already convinced that there CANNOT BE ANY DIFFERENCE, yet an audiophile picks something up to see what happens, and we automatically lose our ability to assess it's sound because of OUR expectation bias.

I bought Tara cables once, fully expecting them the sound better than my existing cables. They didn't. I brought them back. There, expectation bias argument gone, please do not use it again.

I had the designer of my amp over for a listen - I wanted him to hear the dramatic changes that a power cord swap made. My wife was there, kinda paying attention but not really. She was shocked at the difference in SQ. But she thought we were changing amps. I told her we were't changing amps. She said OK, well I'm surprised that changing interconnects made such a difference. I told her that we weren't changing interconnects, only the power cord. She walked away at this point, not even realizing that she just proved in a blind test that power cords made a dramatic difference in the SQ of the system.

There, Expectation Bias - proven to not influence MY buying decisions. Power cords - proven to make a SQ difference in MY system. Please don't tell me that I can't hear.

It is just comical to use the concept of expectation bias to summarily discount hundreds of thousands of listening experiences worldwide, in order to support one's own expectation bias that there is no SQ difference.

-Mike

RH's picture

Mike,

Please see my reply to Preston.

Like many, you are operating under a misunderstanding of human bias.
It's not so simple as "I expected to hear something, I didn't, therefore bias was not involved (or the reverse)."

There are just many different ways our perception/imagination can fool us.

As I mentioned above, I had 3 different Shunyata AC cables. I didn't expect to hear anything and did not for two of them. But one of them seemed to change the sound of the system pretty obviously.
If expectation bias worked simply as you imagine, then this would have "proven" there was a sonic difference made by the AC cord, because I "heard" a difference I wasn't expecting to hear.

Yet when I really cared to be more sure of my finding, and tested the Shunyata cable (with help) against the standard power cord I'd been using, I could in fact detect no difference at all between them. The sound difference I "thought" I heard wasn't there. And in fact my guesses were so random sometimes I was sure the standard power cord was the Shunyata cord.

That's the type of lessons you learn about human bias when you get more rigorous, when you really care about understanding and detecting what is going on.

Just recently I changed music servers and, against my expectation, it seemed to change the sound of my system, making it more bright and digital sounding. This didn't make sense to me, so I wanted to check it. A friend helped me do a blind test between the servers and...the difference vanished. I simply could not, only by hearing, tell them apart. And once that nagging experience had been put to rest...I no longer perceive the system as bright, it sounds just as it did with the other server.

I would hazard to guess that you do not deny the validity of the scientific method in general. Which is a method characterized by it's deep acknowledgement of the problem of bias, and which is our most cautious method of investigation that takes human bias seriously in it's methods.

My son is currently enrolled in a scientific study for a new allergy treatment. As is normally the case, it is a double blind study. One group is getting a control - a placebo - the other group is getting the actual study drug. Neither we patients nor the study doctors know who is on the placebo vs the real drug.

Why do you think they do this? Do you think it's just on a whim?
No. It's been proven necessary due to the way bias, in various forms, can produce inaccurate results. We just finished the trial and found out my son was on the real drug. But it was fascinating talking to the doctors because they had been trying to guess who was on the real drug and who wasn't, simply be looking at the diary of symptoms for each patient. The doctors guesses turned out to be wrong 50 percent of the time! Some people had "symptoms" on the placebo and figured they were on the study drug. Some people had no symptoms and presumed they were on the placebo. If people had been going simply on their own subjective assessment, many times they would have come to erroneous conclusions, the doctors included.

This is why blind tests are employed everywhere in science, from studies of medicine, to human perception, to human preferences, etc.

The question then is: why in the world would you think yourself exempt from the problem of bias? How is it you, somehow, can magically navigate your audio choices while being so sure of your ability to wean results from your bias (if you even admit you suffer from bias like the rest of humanity)?

None of this means shutting off any possibility that tweaks, AC cables, amps etc make a sonic difference. They may well. But the problem we should at least acknowledge is that audiophiles tend to use methods of evaluation that are pretty ill-suited to determining these matters, as the scenarios are so open to the effects of bias.

No one is asking YOU to suddenly adopt scientific tests in order to buy and enjoy whatever you want.

But companies like Audioquest are going to make claims that their cables sound different, and make specific technical claims for why they sound different, and also charge far more money than just "regular" cables....some of us actually care whether those claims are true or not. And neither Audioquest nor most audiophiles are engaging in the type of behavior that is suited for establishing those claims with any confidence.

Elubow's picture

You have cogently and very convincingly presented your case. The next time I’m on death row, I’d like you as my lawyer!

Michael Fremer's picture
I'm with you Mike. At one point TARA Labs, whose cables I do use, sent me what they said was a more expensive "upgrade" to what I had. "Confirmational bias" would have had me thinking it sound MUCH better but in fact it was much worse. There were reasons for that, which I won't go into but at this point in my life as an experience listener, I'm pretty confident in what I hear and I'm not easily fooled. If others think I need to jump through hoops for them, they are welcome not to read what I write or take it seriously. Their choice. I've taken numerous blind tests including at Harman International's speaker testing facility and demonstrated my hearing acuity and consistency and that's good enough for me. All I can say is: cable skeptics need to borrow various A.C. cables and listen for themselves. If they don't hear differences, fine, use the stock cords that come with gear and be done with it. My experience is that such indifference to A.C. cords can spell the difference between blah sound and great sound....
Audio genius just kidding's picture

As someone who is fairly new to the audio file community in the last few years I'm astonished at how many people seem more interested in discrediting the work of someone like Mr. Powell instead of celebrating the advances that he's made in this industry . Obviously there is science involved in this but if there is not enough data other than multiple listeners hearing a clear and improved difference in various cables whether it be AC power speaker or interconnects.. it's really insulting for people to suggest that it's all in our minds and were imagining it I've spent over $10,000 in my $40-$50,000 system on the various cables .. and each time I do it incrementally not all at once if the differences were subtle or indiscernible I would've simply return them to the dealer where I bought them and said this is bullshit and I would've made a very large stink about it but the differences were not subtle in some cases they were stunning but even when they weren't so pronounced it still made it clear improvement to the sound as a whole all the while my components were the same.. I hate to use the word Hater but that seems to be what's happening here on some of these posts..I mean really do you think Garth Powell is just some clown who wandered in off the street somewhere..it's insulting

Zardoz's picture

Would you agree that if you upgraded the components at the very first contact of the incoming AC, caps, resistors, contacts, etc, in a component, that you would hear a difference? If your answer is NO, then please read no further, for if you believe that the quality of parts in a component don't make a difference, then why ever buy anything other than the cheapest component out there? And why are you in this hobby?
But if your answer is YES, then think about the PC as the FIRST component of your pre, dac, amp, or whatever. If better quality parts INSIDE a component make a difference, then why wouldn't a PC of higher quality make a difference? Just because it is OUTSIDE the chassis doesn't mean it is not a part of the power supply INSIDE the box.
The PC can also act as an antenna, so different builds should "pull in" or "reject" difference airborne noise, wouldn't they?
Just my thoughts, YMMV.
Good listening,
Z

Jim Tavegia's picture

You must use quality cables for everything and you need to use FFT to better understand where the noise in your recording system is coming from and where it is in terms of frequency. If the recording engineers miss this then their recording will be much less than it could be, but most of them care. The ambient noise of the room when the mics are open, or your listening room, will also mask some details as it is all a part of the "noise" you near. I can achieve near -80db in my home studio, but also when I pull tracks off commercial CDs where the base noise is as high as -55db and some slightly less, but still too high...if it is in the audible spectrum, and often that noise might be 60 hz line noise or some multiple. It all matters if you have a high resolution playback system and good cables are often affordable. It is often eye opening when one just sits in their listening chair with nothing on around them and they really listen for the ambient noise in their home and often are shocked at what they CAN hear in the background. That darn refrigerator.

Wade's picture

For those who can't hear the difference between a high end pc and a standard pc---I'm jealous. I'd save so much money if I could not tell a significant difference between many (not all) high end pcs. But I also would not have as much musical enjoyment. The same goes for ICs. The differences are often pretty significant and highly audible.

RH's picture

"I'm jealous"

But that's exactly why it pays to be more skeptical and cautious in accepting these claims!

I see the same sentiments expressed very often: "I only wish I didn't hear the obvious differences X cable/tweak makes, because then I wouldn't be spending so much money on these things."

This is why it would be so useful to be better informed.

I have saved thousands of dollars by doing blind tests, to see whether I'm actually able to hear what I think I'm hearing. I did blind tests between some DACs and CD players, could reliably detect a difference between certain units, and so kept the one that I liked best. I did blind tests between AC cables, found out I could not hear any reliable difference in the expensive cords, and saved lots of money - same sonics, money saved, just as happy.

The same goes for my music server shoot out. If I had decided only on my sighted test that the new server had produced unwelcome sonic changes, if I took the route of many audiophiles I'd end up spending a bunch of time looking into various external boxes or "fixes" out there based on dubious science, and likely have thrown more money trying to fix a problem that wasn't there. But once I determined the new server did not actually change the sound in any detectable way...all such concerns vanished. I felt better about the system, saved money, and I'm just as happy with the sonics as ever.

On a more anecdotal level, I have heard speakers I've owned hooked up to some of the highest end, most expensive cabling (AC, speaker, interconnects...Nordost etc) vs in my own system, using simple belden cabling, everything plugged into the wall. It was not better sound. I would actually judge the sound better in my place, most of the differences coming no doubt from speaker positioning, better acoustics, which play a far bigger (and measurable) part in influencing sound. And every time I hear comparable priced speakers to the ones I own at a high end store, it will be after the salesman has waxed lyrical about the $6,000 AC conditioner that "lifted viels, tightened bass, transformed the sound into a new level" along with all the garden-hosed size super expensive cables (often from Audioquest, Nordost etc).

Then I come home and...hear everything on my system I heard at those stores...with basic cabling, no power conditioning. In not falling immediately for all these claims, I am able to put my money where it's most likely to make differences sonically (speakers/room acoustics etc). I can spend more on that, instead of apportioning a significant amount of my money to thinking I must buy expensive cables and power conditioners.

There is hope. There really are ways to help judge whether your money is well spent to achieve your goals.

ChrisS's picture

...is what you hear and what your wallet can bear.

Elubow's picture

Everyone’s entitled to deceive themselves if they wish and money is no object. Isn’t this rather obvious? Sorry, I don’t see how your comment brings any light to the subject.

ChrisS's picture

...if one is being deceived?

Like buying a pair of pants, if it fits, and you like it, and you can afford it, then buy it.

Or not.

I did not say that money is no object.

ChrisS's picture

Too much talking.

Not enough listening for oneself.

Or testing one's own ideas.

RH's picture

If you were sold a watch claimed to be made of gold, and you wanted to know if the claim were true or not...how do you think you would find out?

If a medicine is claimed to contain ibuprofen, how do you think we could determine the truth of that claim?

If a cable is said to take a signal highly contaminated with radiation at one end, and output a signal cleaned of that contamination at the other end...do you think we are utterly helpless in the face of such claims? That there can be no way to investigate them, beyond just plugging it in?

Do you ever care about what's true or not?

ChrisS's picture

...or you don't.

If there is some way one can test a product for oneself, then do it.

If not, but there is existing information, test results, surveys, opinions, white papers, etc. about a product you are interested in, then you believe or you don't.

ChrisS's picture

...shop?

We look for a product.

We look for a sale.

We see the product information, listen to the hype and marketing.

We're satisfied, or we're not.

Testing? Truth?

Look at tobacco

Oxycontin

VW diesel engines

and on...

Audio genius just kidding's picture

I don't get it one thing that is never talked about here in terms of determining whether or not these things make a difference is you're not buying a Ferrari and if you're not happy you can go back a week later and say I want my money back most of these cables if purchased through an authorized dealer they're going to have a return policy..buy them take them home listen to them on your system if there's absolutely no difference to your ears Take them back and get your money back.
The comments about snake oil and salesmen are ridiculous when referring to somebody like Garth Powell and audio quest as a company for that matter they been around for decades if it was all a scam I think it would've been uncovered by now ..don't these people have credit cards just purchase it on your credit card and before your monthly statement comes out you'll know whether the cable made a difference or not and if you didn't you can return it and you won't lose a dime other than the money you spent in gas to get to the store if you're an audiophile spending thousands of dollars on components I think you can afford that..

theboogeydown's picture

Tried scrubbing thru Clear Audio commercial but failing to find the Hana mono piece, anyone have a time?

...everybody has one.

ChrisS's picture

...for ourselves,

it is all opinion.

Michael Fremer's picture
That has nothing whatsoever to do with this discussion or the claims being made by an experienced power expert who explains his and other designs and why they sound as they do. As for the differences, they are easily heard. Did you bother to listen to the demo in the video? I bet not.
Elubow's picture

Sorry, not much of a difference to me. Guess my ears aren’t as highly developed as yours or as that room full of people who ALL heard the difference. And if you call this a HUGE difference, I’m living in an alternate reality!

Elubow's picture

It may not be directed related to THIS demonstration but I believe it’s relevant to the discussion of cables, in general, and whether or not they change the sound. Isn’t that what we’re talking about here?

Quoted in this preview:
“the electrons are unable to break free from the magnetic pathway of the cables. This means noise, distortion, and external EMI is simply overpowered by the magnetic conductance tech . . ."

Seems to me very relevant to the present discussion.

Elubow's picture

It may not be directed related to THIS demonstration but I believe it’s relevant to the discussion of cables or power cords in general, and whether or not they change the sound. Isn’t that what we’re talking about here?

Quoted in this preview:
“the electrons are unable to break free from the magnetic pathway of the cables. This means noise, distortion, and external EMI is simply overpowered by the magnetic conductance tech . . ."

Seems to me very relevant to the present discussion.

cgh's picture

I listened to the video... I'll admit, I heard a nice, audible difference, for the better (i.e., not just "different") between the tracks, particularly the first one that was more drum/bass heavy.

Michael Fremer's picture
That difference is easy to hear through a camcorder shotgun microphone. The skeptics posting long comments here DO NOT write that they've listened and heard it, or didn't hear it because I don't think they bothered! Why? "They know".
RH's picture

I listened to the video carefully.

I thought I DID hear a difference even through the video.

But when I opened up the video in different tabs and was able to do a back and forth, the differences did not seem so obvious.

Given some of my experience doing blind testing, and what we know about human bias in general, I personally would like to be able to evaluate these claims more rigorously (blind, if possible). So for the time being, I am not quick to conclude the there's an audible difference.

Michael Fremer's picture
You had heard the entire demo live....
RH's picture

Yes, so do I.

I love that kind of stuff and would eagerly have attended the demo.

Wimbo's picture

you dont.
Also, I don't care about your ideals on power cable differences.
Or any other cables for that matter. Go use your cheap or free power cables and interconnects and live with your ideology.
I can hear a difference and I'll use what I believe is correct.

Audio genius just kidding's picture

You're beating your head against the wall Michael with some of these people .. even though I'm glad to watch the video and I've watched others with Garth Powell explaining some of his designs the idea that someone is going to really hear an audible difference or should be able to hear an audible difference watching a video through their computer system when we're talking about hi-fi audio is sort of a joke.. I would say it like this you were either at the demo in person or not...if you weren't I don't see how you can really comment on this with any real certainty ..at least in terms of whether you can hear a difference for whether this is all expectation bias which sounds hilarious to me ..I'm sorry

cgh's picture

I couldn't hear it through the computer's speakers. Only with ear-in headphones.

mark1's picture

There sure was an audible difference. I'd say maybe 3dB louder when the "good" power cord was switched in. Enough to distort the cell phone mic or the PA amp a little bit. Guess somebody in the audience should have asked if any part of the demonstration was "simulated," which it apparently was. Don't know if he had shill in the back or foot switch or what to change the volume, but it was a cute trick. I've seen better stage magic, of course, but not too bad. There was the time I saw a guy read the mind of a random woman in the audience, and he claimed to be a mentalist. It sure creeped out one of the people I was with who thought it was real!

Elubow's picture

Michael- I understand that these issues strike a chord with you, but is it really necessary to resort to invectives and insults to further your argument? On the one hand, you seem like such an affable and open-minded person with a genuine sense of humor; on the other, you can be quite demeaning( especially in your written responses) and patronizing. Just a sampling:
“Your comment is appallingly ignorant and utterly cynical”
“You are EMBARRASSING”
“A truly dumb comment”
“You know there are numbskulls who claim that all amplifiers sound the same too and they use the same insulting and frankly silly stuff you've posted above to "prove" their point.”
“Silly- it’s quite obvious you didn't watch the video before posting a very tired comment.”
“Claims of “conformational bias” are frankly idiotic”

Not sure I understand why this has to be directed so personally. And even if it’s not meant that way, it certainly doesn’t add in any positive way to the discussion.

Max's picture

Mike has put up with a lot of idiots over the years, and he allows them to post here, so we can give him a pass. Many of the smartest people I've known (in some areas) are also the most profoundly ignorant in other areas, because they are know-it-alls. You can't teach a know-it-all. They're worse than mere idiots as some idiots can be taught new things.

I've had the same experience with a couple of well-credentialed men. One, a Cal Tech grad, very successful in his work, but a know-it-all, outright insulting on the issue of cables and interconnects. He has zero experience with different cables and interconnects, and is impervious to new information. I finally asked his, when he was a horny teenage virgin, did he claim to tell the sexually active what it was *really* like? Because he had no skin in this game (no pun intended), either.

If know-it-alls come here and post drivel at Mike's site, he has the right to call them out in any manner he chooses.

Elubow's picture

“he allows idiots to post here so we can give him a pass”???

Sorry, I disagree. There’s always room for civility in discussions like this. I haven’t read anyone who posted on this topic who’s been “outright insulting” except Mr. Fremer. Just because someone may have profound disagreements with him, even if they may not be experts on the subject, doesn’t entitle him to be vindictive. I’ve met plenty of extremely intelligent people in my life and the ones I respected most were those who had the capacity and forbearance to LISTEN to other viewpoints, to be tolerant and respectful, even if YOU may think they’re “idiots.” And I doubt Mr, Fremer needs YOU to defend him; he seems to be quite talented in that realm.

Max's picture

Your points are noted, and I respectfully disagree.

Max's picture

Your points are noted, and I respectfully disagree.

Audio genius just kidding's picture

Well said ...it's so common when dealing with so-called smart people there's very seldom a person that knows everything about everything.. usually people have an area of expertise but because they have a high IQ or well educated they just generally think they're smart about everything and it is worse than dealing with a complete idiot on some level..
I concur

theboogeydown's picture

but in this age of people so comfortably hiding behind their phones and computers on Facebook and Twitter etc., spewing their often uninformed opinions, I imagine what you are seeing is more of a "venting." It is not easy interacting with the general public under these type of "empowered" conditions (especially when he is busting his ass. Did you see all of his post from around the world last year? Exhausting!)and while I agree, MF could stand to rise above it all more often, I think he is trying his best to be accessible to all of us which, as you can imagine, is quite frustrating on many levels. That, and well hell, it's his site, he can roll around in the mud once in a while.

Elubow's picture

Fremer is a good guy; my remarks were not meant to be an indictment of his character. He’s very likable, intelligent and has a wonderful sense of humor.( I’m not his mom). He’s passionate about his love of vinyl and shows it. He’s generally very genial and accessible. That’s why it surprises me that he can’t seem to resist taking the bait at times and lashing out. I’ve seen him do this only in his writing, not only here but elsewhere when he disagrees with something he feels strongly about. Maybe it’s a catharsis of sorts- who knows. To me, it just seems counterproductive and seems to inflame things even more.

This has been a long and arduous journey and it’s difficult to believe we’re just talking about power cords! And we’re probably right back where we started. Those who were highly suspicious of cable and power cord claims are still suspicious. Those who are incontrovertibly convinced that they make a difference are still convinced. Me—I’m exhausted; think I’ll go back to sleep!

RH's picture

Elubow,

It's a shame how public discourse on the internet has taken such a turn toward coarseness and animosity, where people feel they have to add insults in addition to, or instead of, simply providing counter argument.

Just voicing some skepticism about the claims of a high end cable manufacturer seems to net one personal insults and abuse...and ironically, implications that the one voicing skepticism is the "zealot."

It's a strange phenomenon.

Elubow's picture

I share your sentiments. One thing we probably can all agree on: we’ve spent way too much time on this—probably not among the most crucial or high-priority issues we face on this planet. There are still world’s to conquer. “Onward, Don Quixote!”

kkatseanes's picture

to hear the differences, I'm struggling to understand the basis for argument. There are flat-earthers too, but...

I don't come from the engineering world, nor the electronics world, I'm a classical musician, and in my world, no one argues when the proof is in the sound. I could take any person off the street and play two passages on a $2500 violin and on a Strad, in front or behind a screen, and everyone would pick the Strad. And no one can yet definitavely say why the Strad is better. Lots of theories, but no settled science of practice. You don't need science to prove it. You just need to listen.

I read with interest the comments before I listened to the video, but I had to laugh when I heard the video. What is there to argue about. The sound is so instantly better, in so many ways, it's simply undeniable. It so reminded me of violin comparing, or even more fun, violin bow comparing.

I am now seriously interested to hear what might be possible in my system with better power cables. Here is my question, Michael. Sorry to not know this, but did he change two cables? One power cable for the CD player, and one for the preamp? It sounded like just one, but I didn't understand how one cable could drive both components. Sorry to be ignorant here, but I'm very appreciative of your work, and I thought this report was brilliant. Keep up the fine work. I trust your ears!

Elubow's picture

“I don't come from the engineering world, nor the electronics world, I'm a classical musician, and in my world, no one argues when the proof is in the sound. I could take any person off the street and play two passages on a $2500 violin and on a Strad, in front or behind a screen, and everyone would pick the Strad. And no one can yet definitavely say why the Strad is better. Lots of theories, but no settled science of practice. You don't need science to prove it. You just need to listen.”

I know you’re a classical musician, but I think you need to read this study, if you haven’t already seen it.

https://www.thestrad.com/blind-tested-soloists-unable-to-tell-stradivari...

ChrisS's picture

...a Strad badly.

Given the exact same instrument, everyone will play it differently and make it sound unlike anyone else.

It's a meaningless "test".

Playing Miles Davis' trumpet does not make you sound like Miles Davis, nor will you be able to identify the horn.

Elubow's picture

If you think this is a “meaningless” test, than probably we have no foundation for discussion. I admit I haven’t got the patience to even begin to point out your fallacious assumptions.

Max's picture

A single study - yet you expect us to believe it is the final word. Any evaluator worth his salt would chuckle at that one. And your call for civility would have more credibility if you dialed down your own snark. And Mikey doesn't need you, either. I owe the guy since he helped me on my quest. Cheers!

Elubow's picture

Sorry if you found my comments snarky. I tried to express my honest view of things without resorting to personal insults and invectives. I even attempted to limit the sarcasm. I guess I didn’t succeed!

“ And Mikey doesn’t need you, either.” No doubt, he would agree with that!

Max's picture

Thank you.

Elubow's picture

And, BTW, If you read further you would have seen there were at least three studies done, two seeming to confirm that the violinists couldn’t identify the Strad (or didn’t think it was the best sounding) and another study in which the Strad was voted best sounding. Taken together, I think there is no definitive conclusion on whether accomplished violinists or in one case audience members, will invariably pick the Strad as best sounding.

ChrisS's picture

...instruments, then you would know that these tests are meaningless.

Audio genius just kidding's picture

Great analogy

mark1's picture

You don't think they over-played it a little? It was simulated cheap-trick stage magic, I my personal opinion, of course. I could play the same trick on you too, anybody could. Think about it, please.

kkatseanes's picture

There are always efforts to try and level the playing field, so that those of us without the financial means to get a truly world class instrument can have options. If you have heard such a comparison yourself, and especially if you've made one yourself, the answers are much clearer.

That really is the point I was trying to make. It's not about Strad vs new, or about which cable maker is best. To me it's just about the sound. Whatever sounds better, IS better. It was very obvious to me with this cable demonstration. If it isn't to someone else, then they'll be happy with what they already have.

Elubow's picture

“There are always efforts to try and level the playing field, so that those of us without the financial means to get a truly world class instrument can have options. If you have heard such a comparison yourself, and especially if you've made one yourself, the answers are much clearer.”

These were accomplished violinists who themselves were surprised at the results. Let us know how you do when you enroll in one of these studies. Until then, your comments are completely anecdotal.

Elubow's picture

Aside from pointing out that a violinist establishes a unique bond with his instrument, he also admits:

But perhaps there is a psychological component, too, given the storied histories of some violins crafted by old masters and the luminaries whose hands these instruments have passed through.

RH's picture

I've made this point several times, but it's the main issue:

The claim being made is that the AQ cord produces a sonic change at the output so OBVIOUS that anyone should be able to hear it then it HAS to be changing the output signal. And that should be measurable.

The measurements I think we should want to see aren't those made at the power cord, but in the signal output by the CD player.

In fact, if the sound is so different with the AQ cord that the difference can be captured by a camcorder microphone, we should even be able to make a recording of the sound from the output of the CD player with and without the AQ cable, and we should be able to observe/measure the difference.

Can someone point to such measurements that support the claims made in this video?

Thanks.

ChrisS's picture

Who else should do this procedure and provide this information for you?

mark1's picture

Probably Randi, or someone else who debunks false claims.

RH's picture

I looked at the AudioQuest web site.

No such measurements are there, that I could find. I'd think that they would be pretty easy and if such measurement helped make AudioQuest's case for their products, they would be the ones providing them.

Instead what I read didn't exactly fill me with more confidence.
For instance, in their "Theory and Education" section I read about their attention to cord directionality. It appears the folks at AudioQuest first *believed* they heard differences in sound based on which direction they plugged in cords. Instead of acting like scientists and first determining whether they *could* actually hear a difference (e.g. via blind testing) it appears they simply believed their ears and went about making a theory to explain what they (believe) they were hearing. They don't provide measurements in support of this, but say "As always, the proof is in the listening."

Again, if the cable direction changes actually produced the audible changes they claim, it seems this should be verifiable by measuring changes in the output of whatever device is using the cables.

It seems rather...suspicious...that no such evidence is provided (that I could find).

It is also something of a red flag that Stereophile provides measurements for speakers, amplifiers, DACs etc...attempting to understand the measurements in terms of their audible consequences.

But for cables - an item that reviewers, audiophiles and cable manufacturers tout as changing the sound of a system - they don't even bother trying measurements.

This is I think something of a red flag for skeptics that something is fishy about the high end cable phenomenon.

ChrisS's picture

...in reviews, product information, tests, white papers, etc., anyone providing the kind of information that you are looking for?

For that matter, do you know of anyone in the entire audio industry that does blind testing?

Maybe, what you are looking for doesn't exist.

RH's picture

Companies that produce industry standard quality cables - e.g. Belden, Canare, provide measurements for their cables. It's the high end boutique market cables selling cables for thousands of dollars who don't seem to want to supply the measurements.

Do you think that isn't cause for some skepticism?

Web sites such as Audioholics will show measurements when they test/review cables. Example:

http://www.audioholics.com/gadget-reviews/blue-jeans-10awg-speaker-cable...

And companies like Harmon Karden design via more scientific methods (e.g. blind testing involved) for which there is a great deal of data available (e.g. results of blind tests, technical explanations for the results, etc).

So, yes, there are places to get this type of info.

Companies like AudioQuest and Shunyata are happy to talk in technical terms about the problem they are "solving." And where they CAN produce technical, objective measurements in support of their claims, they want to show us, given this is just more good advertisement for their product. Look up, for instance, the various videos in which Shunyata demonstrate objectively measurable differences produced by their products. (E.g. the "DTCD and ASCC Demonstration" and other videos).

When even I look at the videos, they seem compelling. Why? Because they are showing objective measurements that can't just be put down to imagination.

BUT...the point I keep making...is that what we aren't seeing are measurements for the crucial part of their technical claim: that their product alters the audio signal output of the device powered by the cables.

It's strange that the companies are comfortable talking tech-speak right up until the point where they ought to be able to show us technical demonstration of the results...but it's just at that point that marketing takes over instead of engineering and science.

Anton D's picture

Thanks for that great post.

Agree.

ChrisS's picture

...answers your question.

This is retail.

Profit driven.

No one is compelled to tell you anything.

Audio genius just kidding's picture

I think that might've been the most sensibly written, for the skeptics...

Max's picture

If I read the Denby piece correctly, Mikey picked out a problem of speaker cables - in a system with which he had no familiarity; a much less expensive cable was used, and the sound dramatically improved. That's quite a story in and of itself. How much did cost enter into this? Sometimes the little things illuminate the big things.

These exchanges jogged my memory back to '87 when I read Dad's Stereo Review and the Michigan Woofer and Tweeter Society's test of power amplifiers, using blind tests. They concluded there were no audible differences between a $350 Pioneer receiver, a Mark Levinson amp, and a Jules Futterman OTL tube amp. Am I remembering this correctly?

My familiarity with power cables is limited but not nonexistent and not high on my radar right now. At some point audiophile friends and I will try some comparisons. I will trust my ears. Having read Mikey since he joined Stereophile (mid-90s?), and having benefited in analog by reading his advice (thanks for that) and when funds have allowed, he had a good record with me and have come to trust his judgment.

Anton D's picture

To be clear, the power cord in question was to the CD player?

After the electricity had gone through their AC conditioner?

Isn't that kind of an indictment of their power conditioner?

GroovyGuru's picture

I do not master the English language very well but his demonstration does not seem very scientific to me. On the other hand, what is certain is that the difference in audio quality is so obvious that if there was no trick, everyone would agree and no one would talk about a placebo effect concerning the power supply! But I think he will never do his experiment in a scientific context but will continue to do it in audiophile salons filled with rich people ...

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