"I'm Appalled at the Way You Treat Your Readership"

Rabbi Fremer says: The Peter, Paul & Mary file comparison story has created quite an uproar. Most of you took it for what it was—an informal but reasonable comparison of two unidentified files that could have been the same or different. 79% of you thought they were different files. 21% though they were the same file posted twice.

The majority was correct. You were then asked to vote for which you preferred. There the voting was closer: 43% to 36%, with more preferring "A", which was the brighter of the two according to the comments posted before the results were revealed.

No, this wasn't a double blind A/B/X but I thought it made a pretty good case for cables sounding different at least in the critical application of tonearm cable, which passes very low voltage. The cable deniers had other ideas.

One reader said my conclusion was misleading and wrong because the poll says the results were 50-50. Were they? NO. Which people preferred was 50-50 but that the files were not identical was about 80-20!

Another reader who went by the last name "Assmilk" wrote Chances were Mikey did something to one of the clips, or else why post the article? This isn't difficult to understand. He then went on to completely change the subject and write "And the even split between those who claimed to have heard a difference shows the expensive upgrade doesn't improve the sound in an obvious way.".

Was this a test of "improved" sound? No. Does different and more expensive sometimes mean "worse"? Yes of course! Mr. Assmilk changed the subject because sonic differences among cables is outside of his belief system. And that's fine with me.

But his charge that I "did something to one of the clips" is not fine with me. Note, he didn't say I changed a source variable and then recorded the clip. He charged me with "doing something" to one of the clips, which would mean some post-production manipulation. I don't think it can be read any other way. I think his intentions are clear: he's accusing me of cheating.

I don't like that. So I removed his account from this site. Does that mean I treat readers poorly? That's the accusation of the same individual who wrote that my conclusions were "misleading and wrong."

Another reader who goes by the name "Hats Domino" agrees! I was going to answer him in the comments section but I decided to post it on the home page because his post includes another outright falsehood that I wish to refute.

So here is what "Hats Domino" wrote:

"Bravo, fjhuerta!!!

I also thought the banishment of this professional (despite his rather unprofessional username) was out of line. Reminds me of how the Steve Hoffman forum systematically bans professionals like Ken Scott, Ted Jensen, Rob LoVerde and many others for voicing opinions that don't fall within the group-think of the audiophile world. Just as with religion, people get angry when you question their beliefs with the threat of scientific facts.

If Mr. Fremer was really interested in testing to see if cables make an audible difference he should post Cable A, Cable B and a control. I'd bet the results would fall within the boundaries of guessing. He's backed out of tests like this before (my boldface, ed.). I'm sure we all know why. I certainly hope Mr. Fremer doesn't go to doctors who don't believe in scientific testing methods. Can you imagine a doctor telling you the medication hasn't gone though blind testing, but it's okay because it costs a lot so he firmly believes it'll work."

And here is my response:

You are accusing me of banning someone for "voicing an opinion"? I have NEVER done that. Ever. I banned him for impugning my integrity. For claiming I "fixed" that test. He did that because the results short-circuited a long cherished belief so the only way out was to call me a cheat.

As for your charge that I "backed out" of a cable test, that is a lie perpetrated by the "Amazing Randi". So let me clear that up for you. Randi proposed a 'cable challenge' because he thinks audiophiles are loonies and that cable manufacturers are frauds. So he said he'd pay a million dollars to anyone who could distinguish cables in a double blind ABX test that his people would supervise.

I said I'd take the challenge. I understand that these kinds of tests are really circuses but I really don't care one way or the other because I'm already called a "fraud" or a cheat by guys like Jamie (Assmilk). So what's the difference?

A company called Pear Cables was set to supply their cables, which I had never heard nor had I ever heard of the company. Interestingly Randi did not wish to compare them to lampcord but to "Monster Cable" (which of course is meaningless since Monster has a wide variety of cables, but whatever). Because even Randi was willing to admit that Monster Cable (by which I believe he meant "thicker" cable) sounded better than lamp cord.

But then Pear backed out. PEAR BACKED OUT, GOT ME "HATS"? Pear was afraid I'd fail the test. I emailed and told them they were being stupid because they were playing into Mr. Randi's hands. But they chickened out. NOT ME.

Next morning I go onto the "Amazing" Randi's site to read that I HAD BACKED OUT! That was a COMPLETE lie. How big a lie? So big that Randi started looking really bad to his acolytes. Those who were paying attention pointed out to Randi that he was engaging in very poor behavior attacking me. They saw with their own eyes just what a deceptive guy was Mr. Randi the "truth seeker" who was really a serial demonizer.

Randi was caught "red handed" by his peeps and so what did he do? He was forced to use the usual scoundrel's fallback: he claimed to have had a "medical emergency" that confused him or caused him to misread or misinterpret what had happened. He went so far as to post a picture of his E.R wristband! UGH!

Eventually we started negotiating again and as I remember it he wanted to use some ultra-expensive Transparent Cable that has the network boxes. I said that wouldn't be a good test since the box is like adding another component to the test and that we should just compare CABLES.

Ultimately it turned into a big J.O. session and talks broke down. But I didn't back out. Were I to have been compensated for the amount of time I spent on this "challenge" it would have run into many thousands of dollars.

So now that I've dispensed with that, let's look at the rest of what you've written. You would like to see double blind A/B/X testing because you are SURE of the results.

You know the conclusion. You are not really interested in the experiment. That's why when this little experiment, which doesn't meet your standards, seemed to disprove your cherished beliefs, rather than saying maybe there's something here, you chose to deny its validity and to suggest a different test. Maybe we will do just that in the future.

And were I to take and pass your test, I am certain you'd do the same thing again. You'd move the goalposts. Or if a large group took the test and only I got it right, my result would be tossed and I'd be declared a "lucky coin," which is what happened in an amplifier double blind test I took at an AES.

The test was set up specifically for me to fail because someone challenged ME to a double blind test. Someone who claimed that all amplifiers that measure the same sound the same.

Five amplfiiers were chosen (not by me) and used for a test set up by someone else: the person who challenged me to take his test.

I got 5 of 5 identifications correct. Stereophile editor John Atkinson got 4 of five correct. But among the many members of the AES who took the test the results were statistically insignificant. Did that prove the contention that all amplifiers that measure the same sound the same?

Well, actually not because for some reason the test producer chose to include a Crown DC-300 known as an "ear-bleeder" and a VTL 300 a warm, vacuum tube amplifier. These amplifiers sound and measure very differently yet the AES members, most of whom were audio engineers could not distinguish between them!

Now if the test creator's point was to show that I'm a bad listener his test backfired, since I was easily able to hear those two.

Though I passed the test I got no credit and my detractors said "well there weren't enough samples. It wasn't a valid test. You don't understand statistics, etc." Of course I didn't create the test! And had I failed it do you think those same people would have said "There weren't enough samples, it wasn't statistically valid?" Of course not! They'd have said "You failed. All amplifiers do sound the same." That's how it works.

The test also backfired because what it really proved was that double blind testing in audio can lead to STUPID results. They can lead to STUPID results because while double blind DRUG testing is useful, double blind audio testing can produce confusion, especially among less experienced listeners. Drug trials and evaluating audio gear are not remotely comparable. How about "double blind" automobile testing? After all when you see the BMW logo, rational thought ends. So what you do is, you blindfold the driver and send him out on the track and…

Or double blind wife testing. You cut holes large enough for lips to fit through in a giant sheet and line up five women behind the sheet, one of whom is your wife. You then have to walk down the line and kiss each set of lips. If you can't tell which is your wife it "proves" all women are the same and it doesn't matter who you marry.

That is how we got MP3s (and this is a simplified version of the process). The inventors used double blind listening and inexperienced listeners to remove information from CD quality audio it claimed was superflous because it was "masked" by adjacent information. After removing it, the participants "A/B"'d the CD and the lossy file and if they couldn't hear the difference that was "proof" it was inaudible. This continued until the CODEC was complete. A great deal of information was removed and the inexperienced listeners couldn't hear the difference as each bit of information was shaved off, so therefore, concluded the inventors, MP3s are transparent to the full resolution source, but require a fraction of the bits.

But are MP3s indistinguishable from CDs? NO!!!!!!!! And yes, I know this is a gross simplification of that process but my bottom line is that evaluating audio gear using double blind A/B/X testing can lead to stupid results as the five amplifier test I took (and passed) proves.

Those who discount observational audio reviewing claim there's "reviewer bias" and too many variables and that a 1dB level difference between components can produce skewed results or that champagne faceplates can make you think it sounds warm and brushed aluminum bright, etc. Experienced reviewers and listeners take all of that into account. When I review speakers in Stereophile I try to predict what the measured response will be and more often than not I get it right. Sometimes I confuse a dip in one region with a peak in the next, but that's essentially the same sonic observation.

Finally, if you look at the responses to this story from those who are certain cables don't "sound" you can see that the result of the experiment so unsettled them they either completely mis-interpreted the results claiming it was "50-50" when it really was "80-20", or they changed the subject claiming the much closer listener preference "proved" the "expensive upgrade doesn't necessarily improve the sound" or they accuse me of cheating.

Back to your medical analogy, I can point to acupuncture, which absolutely does work. I've seen it work on my dogs and they certainly don't go into the needle pushing sessions with 'pre-conceived notions" of its efficacy nor do they walk out relieved of pain because of "the placebo effect". Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years. It was dismissed out of hand by western medicine until very recently and now blind tests have shown it does work yet there are still doctors who refuse to believe even the tests. And for those who have gotten excellent results, do they care if it has been double blind tested? No. And why should they? And how many drugs that have been blind tested and released by the FDA have proven to be disasters? Many. And we're not talking about life and death here, we're talking about audio!

Differences of opinion here are welcomed. Accusations of cheating are not. So I chose to delete that individual's account. Did I treat him poorly? Or did he treat me poorly?

COMMENTS
Paul Boudreau's picture

Cripes, you'd think by now we'd be over the "if it can't be measured, it doesn't exist" idee fixe.  Of course, live and let live would solve the problem but some folks just love to fight.

 

Extra Credit:  "Idefix" is the name of Obelix's dog in the "Asterix" comix.  Almost all the names are puns; my favorite is "Ielosubmarine."

http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_de_personnages_d%27Ast%C3%A9rix

audiophile5000's picture

RIGHT THING! Kick his A** outta here! Ok. Now that I have vented, I am sorry you have to spend so much time to write these rebuttals and integrity defending words when the time and energy could have and should have gone into more fun reviews. But you gotta do what you gotta do when someone steps on your integrity. Good job proving your points; now all the people who disagree can get the F outta here and wage your wars somewhere else. Whew, thanks for more venting. This won't get printed most likely but still, after reading Mikey's post, you can't help but feel for him. Jeez, he's our audio ambassador for crying out loud! I, and I'm sure there are others out there, enjoy AnalogPlanet tremendously and appreciate all your hard work championing a hobby that no neighbors of mine comprehend.  Keep up the great work. - Bob

J. Carter's picture

His integrety wasn't stepped on, it was his pride.

Rick Tomaszewicz's picture

I guess some of the readers' strong comments are attempts at establishing an alpha male position within their field of interest. For them it's not about the actual issue at hand. Rather, it's about their need to be right, and that means the "other tribe" must be wrong. (First rule of politics: find an external enemy to unite your people behind you.)  It's very tempting, especially when you don't use your real name and image in the comments.

As for the actual results - I picked "B" - the differences aside for 99.9% of us it's mostly a question of value for money.  Yes, there may be an improvement, but is it worth $100 or $1000 or $10,000 or $100,000 more?  (I admit I was surprised at the differnce between "A" and "B".)

Mikey, I sincerely value your role in reviewing state of the art for boundary, comparative and aspirational reasons, but honestly, I'm thrilled when you reveal that the emperor has no clothes or when budget gear greatly exceeds expectations.  It keeps everyone honest in a business full of hyperbole.  (For instance, honest reviews - together with foreign competition and government regs - forced the car industry to make much better vehicles.)  For that reason I'm looking forward to your review of the Shure M97XE with the Jico SAS stylus.  

"Illegitimi non carborundum"

Jim Tavegia's picture

You give us a chance to have some audio fun and look what happens.  It is a sad commentary.

Maybe people should have their catilever retipped in the back of a Lincoln by the Rabbi of their choice like they did in the long ago Saturday Night Live skit. Maye that was some other operation. 

StonedBeatles1's picture

Rabbi Fremer is a menschs' mensch!  :)

J. Carter's picture

I think that neither of you were totally in the right here. That is the problem. You both have strong beliefs in the opposite directions and you chose to take your toys and go home because he hurt your pride. 

Was he in the right, probably not. But I don't think you were either.

ChrisS's picture

avrcguy's picture

How on earth does this have anything to do with pride? Hurting his pride would suggest that he was somehow in the wrong. Which he wasn't! Move on!

Michael Fremer's picture

I have no problem with his belief that cables cannot possibly make a sonic difference.

His "belief" that I rigged the test is what I object to.

He didn't hurt my pride! He impugned my honesty.

sunderwood's picture

There is a you tube video entitled Audiophile Audiofoolery in which this guy goes on a 10 minute rant spewing venom about the money we pay for cables.  There are audio discussion websites in which people are making similar comments. Why does this seem to produce anger in these people? Is anyone taking money out of their bank accounts to buy them? If not, then it's not any of their business anyway. No one questions someone spending several thousand dollars on a Rolex when you can go to Walmart and get a Timex for $30. Both of them will tell you what time it is. What about buying a $50000 cadillac when you can get a good used car for $10000 that will get you wherever you want  or a $30000 bass boat when a row boat and a pair of oars will get you to that fishing spot. Everyone that desires these things understand what the motivation is. This seems to be about the only hobby that is open season to these mean spirited comments. If they would find an audio store and go in and listen to a nice stereo  system sometime for a while they might get what we are talking about. I know it would make them feel better.

Michael Fremer's picture

You are correct. And one of the reasons audiophiles have become punching bags is that we don't fight back. I'm done with that. 

my new username's picture

Assmilk was banned because of an unsubstantiated cheating claim and resulting trollish behavior. After you understand that, the rest is easy. I promise.

atomlow's picture

I read AssCheese's statement very differently:
Chances were Mikey did something to one of the clips, or else why post the article? This isn't difficult to understand.

He wasn't calling you a fraud. He stated what's the point of this test if the two files were the same? Read his statement again. Chances were is key here. Then read or else why post the article. He is saying the comparison would be pointless if the files weren't different.

I'm not sure how long he's been being an ass, but did you ever ask askmilk what he was getting at or were you just fed up?

Why don't you come up with another listening test ;) thanks.

my new username's picture

In the first post the dude mentioned he couldn't hear a difference, and then said if the answer is that there is a difference Fremer would attribute it to something minor but here's the kciker: he literally equated a cable swap to waving a magic wand over the procedure.

Reading comprehension tells us that the dude was predisposed to not believe any of it and that he was chomping at the bit to claim fraud.

And then he commented as a different user and continued in the second post.

Michael Fremer's picture

He charged that I did "something to one of the clips".

That is not the same as "Chances were Mikey posted two different clips, or else why post the article? This isn't difficult to understand."

Before I deleted his account there was time for him to clarify but he didn't. If one of his friends who know him by his real name is reading this and I misinterpreted what he wrote because it was inelegantly stated, then I would of course re-instate him if he's interested.

Certainly in time for another go at this with all of the controls, bells and whistles needed to obtain FDA approval.

J. Carter's picture

I'm not sure why you haven't seen them. Actually you did because you replied to the responses I gave already.

Michael Fremer's picture

Coming up!

LS35A's picture

And a worthwhile thing to do.  I'm grateful to Michael for setting these up. 

And questioning your integrity?  Yeah, abusive ad hominem that out of line should get someone banned. 

avrcguy's picture

...is the fact that numerous "professionals" in the recording industry either can't tell the difference, or refuse to try. No wonder there are so many horrendous recordings out there.

Though I did find it amusing when Mr. Jamie Taint (aka Asshat) had to bring up his claimed mixing of 3 "hits" last year. As if "hits" are synonymous with sound quality. What a narrow minded and ignorant moron.

Michael Fremer's picture

To admit to hearing differences. Greg Calbi, who has mastered many great records like "Graceland" and albums for Paul McCartney, Dylan (his credits could fill a book) is on record as hearing cable differences and you can find a YouTube video where he discusses it.

You can also read the hate mail there.

avrcguy's picture

Yea, plenty of ignorant hate there. A few months ago, I stumbled across the roundtable discussion you and Greg were part of. Without a doubt one of my favorite discussions regarding audio. In fact, right after watching it, I sent it to a good friend of mine who is anything but an audiophile, but I knew would find it interesting. The next day we met for lunch and he asked me if I could offer suggestions for an inexpensive home stereo with a turntable. Apparently your comments about people losing their connection with music when they switched to CD really struck a chord with him. Within a few weeks we pieced together a system for him, and he said since then, he and his family have been sitting down in front of it almost every night. Apparently his young boys are really loving it. THAT's what it's all about!

It would be nice if all the trolling haters, would realize that. At the end of the day, all we want to do is enjoy our music. Who are they to tell us how we should do it?

Michael Fremer's picture

Warms my heart. 

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

I wish people would lighten up! I used to get 'slagged' for sticking with vinyl and was called a dinosaur! Who's laughing now, certainly not the people who got rid of their vinyl!

When I first saw the piece about listening to file A and file B, I thought it would be 'fun' to see if I got it completely wrong (me being the expert I think I am) and of course I didn't I voted for file B.

Personally I don't care if people think I am a headcase for spending money on equipment that I 'obviously' won't hear any difference. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder so I must be completely blind!

On a lot of forums I visit I find a lot of 'lurkers' just waiting to spew their bile because they have nothing better to do!

I JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN!

James, Dublin, Ireland.

Vhiner's picture

Thanks for fighting the good fight, Mikey! I am always puzzled about why cables and power cords in particular inspire such vitriol. Any theories?  There *must* be a Talmudic proverb that would enlighten us. ;-)

fjhuerta's picture

Hello Michael.

 

First of all, thank you for not banning me, so I can set the record straight on what I think happened yesterday.

 

I wrote the post that had the header of today's article ("I'm appalled...")

 

I think your writings are insightful and fun. I enjoy your posts. I enjoy your tests. I enjoy the banter and comments. Sometimes I agree with them, most of the time I don't. Nevertheless I like reading your blog, and I hope you keep on doing articles and tests. Even though I believe people who think cables make a difference are a prime target for unscrupulous businessmen (don't ban me, not yet) I also am a firm believer in respecting everyone's opinions. Even if they are wrong. Or even when I think I'm wrong.

 

"Opinions". A completely subjective term. Just like our senses. But I digress...

 

I'd only like to set the record straight. You made a huge post regarding your personal views on the state of audio, all started by a post of mine, but avoided completely the core of the reason why I told you I believe you are wrong (yes - wrong).

 

I'd have loved to see you explain why your test proves there are differences between wires. All I saw was that your test confirmed the fact that people *thought* they heard differences. I know you hate A/B/X tests, but if you don't do one, then you can't say you proved your point. Because there's no way to find out if people DID hear any differences at all. They just said they did. That's old news now. No big deal. Nobody wins an Internet argument. Ever.

 

Here's the deal, though. You didn't tell your readers that, in your answer, you told me to go Dick Cheney myself and tried to bring me down with mockery, as if I was a complete ignoramus on the subject. 

 

Michael, that should have been the point of your post, not whether you think MP3s are good or evil, or whether you can find out amp A from B. You treated me as if I was stupid, when I raised a valid point. Is this the way you treat your readership? Do you tell everyone who tells you you are wrong to go f*** themselves in real life?

 

All I ask of you is to have some respect (professional or otherwise) to people on discussion forums. Sure. I said you were WRONG and your test results were misleading. I have a right to say so, and you have the right to say I'm the one who is wrong. But I never told you to go Dick Cheney yourself and I can't accept you doing the same.

 

I don't know whether an apology is forthcoming (honestly, I don't expect one), but I've said what I had to say, so I'm fine.

 

I hope we can all learn from this little incident and move forward. 

 

Thanks,

 

Javier.

avrcguy's picture

79% to 21%. What do we have to gain by lying? If you can't hear the difference. Congrats! You can go spend time, and money elsewhere. Please do so! You're not accomplishing anything here.

Rayman's picture

Why do you blindly believe that double blind tests are scientifically valid when it comes to audio? 

Why are we supposed to accept them as gospel? Yours is more an ideological position than a scientific one!

Yet you act like you have the scientific high ground in this discussion which is a real joke!!!

Without tipping you off as to why the double blind test seems to me obviously faulty.

Just because others on the internet tout the test's infallability does not make it true and that is not a good enough reason.

I think it is your duty to provide some evidence.

Otherwise all your talk is meaningless.

And all that can be said is you do not hear a difference and that we do hear a difference. Those are both valid preferences.

Michael Fremer's picture

I don't feel I owe you an apology but I appreciate your measured tone. That said, I really find what you have written borders on the incomprehensible. We have survived over tens of thousands of years using our senses. We didn't require an A/B/X test to determine whether or not a tiger was approaching from behind. We heard it. 

We all agree that our senses can be fooled but we also have to trust them on some level or we become incapacitated. When digital photography began many were fooled by images of seemingly impossible events thanks to Photoshop and other manipulative software. Over time we've come to understand that what we see in photographs is not necessarily true so we are more cautious.

When you say people "think" they heard a difference between these two cables but until that perception is subjected to an A/B/X test it isn't true or isn't proven, I have to say I find that bordering on insanity. 

I pointed to an A/B/X test that produced absolutely stupid results: that a group of experienced engineers could not distinguish between a VTL300 and a Crown DC300. I guaranty you they measure and sound different. Very different. Were you to sit those same people down and play them both using the same material, 90% would easily hear the differences. The other 10% should quietly be asked to change professions.

The engineers couldn't distinguish between the two in the blind test because they were inexperienced test takers and the test is designed to confuse. What's efficacious for drug trials is not necessarily useful in audio. I say that because it more often that not produces stupid results as in the amplifier test.

In this episode I was preparing files to take to CES. I began the recordings and made a bunch, admittedly not listening because I was getting ready for the show and I forgot that I'd routed the signal through the Thales wire and not through the direct connection. When I got to the Peter, Paul & Mary track, with which I was very familiar, I did sit down to listen because I'd not played that record in a very long time. 

I immediately heard an unfamilar edge to the vocals. It didn't sound TERRIBLE. It just didn't sound as coherent and "whole" to my ears. I looked over and realized I'd switched to the junction box.

So after it was recorded I switched back and recorded the track again. The difference was obvious. I didn't "think" I heard it. I HEARD IT. I don't have to "test" myself every time I SEE something nor do I have to test myself every time I HEAR something, particularly when it is glaringly OBVIOUS to an experienced listener. My speaker listening observations have been repeatedly confirmed by later measurements in Stereophile. Have I been 100% correct. No. But who has with anything?

I took those tracks to CES and in room after room I sat down with experienced listeners and said "I want you to listen to these twoi recordings and tell me what you hear". CONSISTENTLY and 100% of the time listeners said "That one was brighter. There was an edge to the vocals." 

The quality of the system did not matter. It was obvious in the big and small rooms. NO ONE said they didn't hear any difference and NO ONE confused which one was edgier. Everyone heard what I'd heard in my home a few days earlier.

So when I got home I decided to try this out on analogplanet.com readers but I did add the choice "no difference". 

80% said they heard a difference. You say they "thought" they did but until it's done under A/B/X conditions they can't be sure of what they heard.

Yes, which was preferred was close to 50-50 but that's not surprising. People have different listening preferences and different sounding systems. On darker systems the edgier recording might sound better, etc.

But look at the comments! With but one or two exceptions EVERYONE, regardless of which they preferred, heard the SAME DIFFERENCES!

Yet none of this is sufficient to prove anything to you. In fact for you, this isn't evidence of anything but perhaps "mass hypnosis." 

All I can say is that you clearly are blinded by science. And you have a set of firmly fixed beliefs that borders on religious fanaticism, which is precisely what the "cable deniers" accuse the rest of us of suffering from. 

Furthermore I am 100% certain that were we to produce a test conforming to your standards, which I submit are designed to disorient and produce confusion, you would move the goal posts yet again.

It's funny because I had a visit on Monday from Tom Fine, son of Wilma Cozart Fine and Robert Fine—names familiar to most audiophiles. They were the husband and wife team behind Mercury Records (and Command Records, etc.). Robert saw the digital future and literally begged the AES not to convert until the sampling rate was 100K and the bit depth was at least 24 and preferrably 32. The "math" said otherwise—that 44.1K was sufficient (double the highest audible frequency) but the listening proved him correct (yes, the "double blinders" contend higher sampling and bit rates are inaudible because they set up the same confusing tests).

Tom is a no-nonsense listener who doesn't buy into some of the audiophile "hocus pocus" but he easily heard the cable differences. He said he was "surprised" by it and immediately went to the "capacitance/resistance" defensive crouch. I said there's more to it than that. Perhaps it's the conductor or the geometry or the dialectric or even not the cable at all, but the junction. 

That should be studied perhaps by using a length of the same cable in the arm as a set of interconnects and repeating the test. That makes sense.

But for me, denying what is in "plain audio sight" and heard by hundreds of people online and at a hi-fi show borders on audio insanity.

So Javier, if you really don't trust your own senses unless confirmed by A/B/X—and what other conclusion are we to draw?—then okay. But most of us are moving on!

fjhuerta's picture

But that's OK, I didn't expect many people to actually READ my post.

avrcguy's picture

I did read your post. I just chose to address a certain part of it. Primarily the recurring passive-agressive jabs you have to take at those who "thought" they heard a difference. I don't "think" I heard a difference, I KNOW I heard a difference. I also know that my non-"audiophile" wife heard the difference. Why can you (and your cohorts) not accept that there is a difference?

Now, with the exception of the personal matters between you and Michael, which obvioulsy are just that, between you two, all your other 'points' have been addressed many times over. You're just not getting it.

Michael Fremer's picture

And if they and I didn't understand what you wrote I'm sure we'd appreciate an explanation. To sum up what I think you wrote was that people may have THOUGHT the heard differences but until they are subjected to double blind listening, there's no "proof" they did.

my new username's picture

I'd have loved to see you explain why your test proves there are differences between wires. All I saw was that your test confirmed the fact that people *thought* they heard differences.

As you say, "here's the deal." I listened, not knowing what the differences, if any, were. I heard differences. I listened a few days later and still heard what I'd heard before. Maybe you'll feel better knowing they both sounded the same to my wife, who isn't nearly as experienced as I am here. What would an ABX test have proved, apart from the obvious? 

I preferred file "B" but for different reasons than Michael did. I freely admit that after reading his description of what he'd heard, I too was then better able to "hear" what he'd heard about the edge on Peter's voice since I'd been concentrating on the other aspects that jumped out at me initially.

Perhaps, if Michael also then heard more clearly hand taps keeping rhythm on guitar and greater dynamism in the vocals (my two stated "main differences") that wouldn't make you feel any less than each of us were feeding the other a load of crap. Sorry!

On the other hand it could be that he and I have more listening experience overall and therefore could more easily pick up on all the differences, even if they weren't the same differences initially that stood out for us individually!

That's how the human hearing system works: with complexity and being maddenly imprecise sometimes, and insanely exacting at others. All of these themes and constructs were mentioned by Michael and others over the course of this exercise, and more than once. Disbelieve as you wish, but that's a choice that shuts you down from another truth.

Ajcrock's picture

An attack on integrity when you don’t understand, disagree with or can’t comprehend the results is never acceptable.  But this seems to be more common with the ability to hide behind electronic media, the listener’s login should have been a dead give away.

As to cables, the differences have been measured and proven.  Look to the work done by Morgan Jones, Vishay, and a dozen others on the affect the different composition of resistors has on a signal.  If we can accept that carbon, foil, metal film, etc have different affects on the signal passing through them then why can we not accept the same for cable.  Furthermore, wiring has also been already proven to have an affect on the signal passing through it.  If you don’t believe me, wire your house with Aluminum and see what happens.  Sure it will conduct, even while your house burns down around you.  Perhaps the question should be “Why don’t I notice a difference”?  Perhaps the rest of the components in the signal chain don’t support the change.  As for me I use pure silver for all my cables and silver and gold for my phono cable because I like the way the metal interacts with the signal.  Sure you have to make these yourself but it is not that difficult.

FormatOmnivore's picture

Many years ago, when I had just bought my first (ultra-budget) hi-fi separates, I read about cables and supports making a difference. It didn't make me angry that I didn't understand why and if the internet had been around back then, I wouldn't have gone on as many sites as possible to let everyone know how furious I was that some people believed that such things had an effect.

No; I decided to give it a try without any outlay, therefore no cost to me if it didn't work. A plank of wood and several wire coathangers formed a primitive suspension for my (lightweight!) amplifier and the bellwire to the speakers was replaced by some heavier-gauge solid-core cable. All were items found lying around the house - nothing was bought. Tried separately, then together, I could hear a distinct improvement.

That made it worthwhile for me to spend a modest amount on decent cables and interconnects, as well as relocating my hi-fi to a more solid piece of furniture and making a basic isolation platform. 

They make a difference. If you can't hear it, it doesn't bother me at all. If you accuse me or Michael of lying, however, then you can go stick your head up a pig. As Frank Zappa once said, "A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it isn’t open."

Michael Fremer's picture

Which will be "you think you heard a difference because you wanted to. The only way to really 'prove' it made a difference is to set up an A/B/X guaranteed to confuse you so you don't hear a difference."

TMink's picture

your rules. And thanks for banning another crankpot who wants to talk about testing methods rather than audio. They are tedious and boring and we do well with fewer of them taking up bandwidth.

Trey

hanuman's picture

I became very suspicious of the ability of double-blind and ABX testing to reveal small differences when I tried it on myself a while ago. I recorded a track on a number of cartridges including the two I believed to be the most different sounding in my collection, a modified DL-103 and a stock Karat 17D3. That modified '103 (it has a sapphire cantilever and paratrace diamond) had from first listen a distinctively bright sound, quite crystalline rather than tizzy. By contrast the '17D3 would be the most tonally balanced of my collection, relatively laid back by comparison.

The relative brightness of the modified Denon was so pronounced that I analyzed it with pink noise along with the Dynavector, including a graph of the frequency response difference and, sure enough, the '103 showed a very pronounced rising top above 8-10k in both absolute terms and compared to the 17D3. To be clear I did this analysis after getting to know the sound of the modified DL-103. So scientific testing verified the observations. So far, so good.

When comparing these files with ABX software, however, I found it surprisingly difficult to separate them and really was guessing much of the time to pick the cartridge. I found this, frankly, not credible. It occurred to me that, possibly, ABX testing is just not the tool for doing this kind of test with very similar inputs. It also caused me wonder whether the ABX concept has ever actually been scientically validated. We are expected to just take it as read that it's infallible but is it really? Testing it would be really simple. Just take a file and make slight variations to it at varying degrees and find the thresholds for audibility according to the testing. Variations could be in parameters like frequency response, phase-shift, THD and IMD, all the usual ones. Have such tests ever been done? Once these thresholds are statistically clear then they could be interpreted according to accepted knowledge of the human auditory system and conclusions drawn as to whether the test appears to be valid.

It did occur to me during my self-testing that what might be going on is that when an audio sample is listened to immediately after another, almost identical, one the brain "cheats" while listening to the 2nd by partially "replaying" the first - this saves a lot of processing power. I don't know enough about the auditory system to know whether this thesis holds any water at all but I do know enough to realize that not only is Hi Fi reproduction an exercise in trickery but so, to a large extent, is hearing anything at all. Like colour vision sound is a concept that actually mostly occurs in our heads. We create sounds in our brains in response to outside stimulus. We do have various different types of short term and long term memory systems specifically for sounds. This much I do know. It should also be observed that our senses do not operate "live" in real time as much as we might think. It is well known, for example, that it is fairly easy to read whole paragraphs where only the first and last letters of each word are correct, the others being gibberish, and this illustrates that we do a lot of recall and reconstruction as a natural part of perception so my "replay" idea does not seem at all outlandish.

The auditory system is not anything like as objective as a microphone and spectrum analyzer and yet ABX and double-blind testing seems to be premised on the opposite being true.

Michael Fremer's picture

For such a useful and thoughtful post!

Stu Morgenstern's picture

Mike, I would have banned him just for using the name "Assmilk". Sheesh! What the hell is up with that? It sounds like he has issues.

Michael Fremer's picture

His chosen name showed a kind of disrespect for everyone here, but I chalked it up to my paranoia....

Devil Doc's picture

The most important thing I learned in my pursuit of a degree in Behavioral Science is perception varies. No one hears the same, sees the same, feels the same, tastes the same or smells the same. The problem with hearing as opposed to say tasting is the testing. Wine and whisky tasters can percieve esters in as small amounts as one part per billion. It's easily proved with titration. Hearing on the other hand is much more difficult to prove. Remember that acid trip? The one with an over abundance of aural hallucinations. Disquieting wasn't it?

Michael Fremer's picture

One that I had in the early 70s involved a quadraphonic sound system and two Revox tape recorders. I recorded some conversation. Then I played it back and recorded to fresh tape on the second machine talking to myself. I overdubbed this in a fixated state talking to myself through time and the thicket of conversations. 

After about an hour of this my roomate came home so I stopped the machine. I had gotten lost in time and when I tried to speak I wasn't sure which one of "me" was speaking. 

It took a day or so for it all to settle. Until then I felt like Tweety Bird after the metal spoon bangs on a pot placed over his head. 

Now THAT was disquieting!

Paul Boudreau's picture

"He said he was 'surprised' by it and immediately went to the 'capacitance/resistance' defensive crouch."

I look forward to seeing that defensive crouch during tomorrow's Super Bowl.

my new username's picture

Thank you, I'll be here all week, and don't forget to tip your waiter or waitress!

nixonismyhero's picture

I loved the comparison poll though. It didn't help that I'm both inexperienced as an audiophile listener (I'm relatively new to it) and was listening at work on very cheap, very poor quality headphones (like a $5 pair).

I thought it was interesting that so many people could differentiate between A and B.  Of course, which file they preferred was a matter of opinion. 

I'll relate it to wine.  I have a wine tasting group with some friends. We learn about wine and sample various types. I've come to learn about wine, things to identify types, what is considered a "better wine", etc.  Still, I like what I like and usually that is an inexpensive white wine, not an expensive red wine.

I think that's often the rub; we have different things we enjoy about a thing, and find it difficult to accept that other can't see our viewpoint.

Still, I'd love to hear more comparisons! Keep up the excellent work Mr. Fremer!

Devil Doc's picture

I see Frank Van Alstine has released his new second generation ABX comparator. It would seem to me this device would eliminate the one huge intervening variable of stress. You use it in your own listening room, in your own chair, in familiar surroundings. And it's ony $999. More info can be had here http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=123310.msg1299463#new

Is this worthwhile Mike? It seems like it would be a lot of fun.

Michael Fremer's picture

We'd absolutely have to do an A/B/X test on a variety of A/B/X boxes to determine which is the most transparent. 

The problem with an A/B/X box is that it adds yet another variable. 

tlat.com's picture

Why can't we all get along?....Mikey keep up the fantastic work, 99% of your readers applaud your efforts and extensive research contained in each and everyone of your articles and or reviews. Your test are fun  and lets face it that's what the world needs more of today. Let's not turn this one into CableGate.

Glotz's picture

Oy, my Rebbe!

Oh shit, I needed that today.  

Experienced listeners don't need this shit-talk about double-blind testing.  I am a tired old man sick of the bullshit.

Yes, we're always wrong.  We like lying to you.  Don't trust us.  We have an agenda.  A bad one. 

But, I really do appreciate YOU still have the balls to still put up with all of the fuckin tsuris these flat-earth bitches dole out every day. 

I need a drink (and to look at the pic again).  

God bless Michael Fremer! 

Glotz's picture

You look stoned there too.. 

That pic is pure joy. 

Michael Fremer's picture

Just "hit over the head". Here's what happened: so I was asked to Emcee an audio awards event in NYC. I decided to enter the room dressed as an orthodox rabbi since this was in NYC. When I did the same event in San Francisco I dressed in drag and said I was the president of TAS, the "Transvestite Audiophile Society". 

So I was standing outside the ballroom waiting to be introduced so I could open with my comedy routine: a ritual circumsicision of a CD jewel case. I'm standing outside and the person who was to introduced me to the crowd of hundreds of audio industry luminaries begins by saying "I have some terrible news: one of our friends and cohorts (I forget his name) was found murdered in his Hoboken apartment this afternoon."

He then eulogized the guy for ten minutes as the crowd sat in stunned silence. 

Then he introduced me to provide the evening's laughs.

Superfuzz's picture

I'm glad you banned Smafdy Asshat, or whatever his name was. Trolling people like that are only going to drive decent people away from your site. I haven't even visited this site (until now obviously) since I replied to his ridiculous claims. I didn't want to ready any dumb follow ups and be tempted to reply again. It's not like he shared a disagreeable opinion on something (which I'm sure you'd agree is fine), he made the most stupid, illogical statements, changed his frame of reasoning a couple times, then charged you with some ridiculous thing, as you've already pointed out in lengthy detail... it's too bad you had to take time out of your life to address the issue, but I guess it had to be done. So you did the right thing.

A_Hourst's picture

No science without methodology... This is an interesting test and I think Mr Fremer should be given credit for brigning up this kind of rational experiment. But the conclusion can be misleading. The result of this experience (79% - 21%) was predictable. Previous experiments have shown that when a group of people are exposed to two samples of music and are faced with the question : same or different?, they tend to hear differences 65% of the time, even when both samples are exactly the same. So it's no surprise that this kind of test, in a context when people "expect" to hear differences (we assume there is a reason for Mr Fremer to bring this test on the table, so there's a default bias) resulted in a 79% - 21% distribution. This test does not prove without a doubth that there is an audible difference between both cables. The right metodology to reach this conclusion would be to put 3 files on the website: File "A" ; File "B" and File "X", where "X" may be "A" or "B". People would be asked to identify "X", after as much familiarization they wish with both "A" and "B". Significant departure from a random result (50-50) would indicate without a doubt that there is an audible difference between both cables. People wouldn't just have to say they heard a difference, they must prove it by identifying X. This is not a question of being honest, but a way to go around the 65%-35% natural tendancy to hear differences between identical signals. I would love to participate in such experiment if Mr Fremer would agree to push this investigation a little further. Needless to say, the same experiment could be done with amplifiers, CD players, tonearms... the only requirement is to have level matched by 0.1 db (more or less).
Hope for more of these!
A.Hourst

Michael Fremer's picture

I think that can easily be done in the future. And in this case I am 100% certain that the results would be identical. But we'll see in the future with the addition of the "X" factor.

A_Hourst's picture

That would be a bullet-proof experiment. Altough some people may find that too much technicalities is boring, others, such as me, appreciate this kind of rigor and fine tuning wich provide really conclusive results.

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