Gizmodo mounted on maple blocks, sounds great

John Mahoney’s article about a meeting with famed audiophile Michael Fremer is wonderfully written. In fact, it’s the most effective pro-audiophile piece I’ve seen in years. He went in skeptical and emerged a believer, even after hearing the telltale hiss of dead technology.

That it’s a well-crafted piece is what makes it so sad to read: his hypothesis is that even if normal people can’t appreciate what makes ultra-expensive gear special, audiophiles can. This is a myth, and to honor it like this is to sell it.

His tests, of course, were entirely subjective. Mahoney’s conclusions emerge with an unremarkable discovery–that a 256kbs MP3 played on an iPod doesn’t sound as good as a well-kept vinyl record on high-end gear. It moves on in steps, however, toward serious discussion of the differences between varieties of thousand-dollar power cable and Flatland-like descriptions of the amazing aural world of the audiophile.

I’ve met Fremer, just once. He’s a a nice chap who sincerely believes in the technology, unlike some of the people who sell it. But Mahoney’s journey from skepticism to poesy shouldn’t surprise you, because it’s how music store salesmen have been “turning” skeptics since the beginning of time: establish a difference between shit and sugar, and then say “But if you pay more, you get more sugar. Are you sure you can’t hear it?”

The hard part in making sense of this is in challenging what we understand to be reasonable. When you think you hear a difference but haven’t done the work to rule out bad mastering or other variables, how can you be sure? And when you don’t even notice the hiss anymore, how do you trust your own frail senses with so much money?

There’s only one way to rationalize it all: golden ears. Mahoney is not afraid to couch that epiphany in the requisite vaguely scientific terminology:

Audiophiles are basically synesthesiacs. They “see” music in three-dimensional visual space. You close your eyes in Fremer’s chair, and you can perceive a detailed 3D matrix of sound, with each element occupying its own special space in the air. It’s crazy and I’ve never experienced anything like it.

But John, was it danceable?

The problem isn’t that expensive gear doesn’t sound better than rubbish. The problem is the claim that you can go from “98.6 to 99.1 percent by swapping out a $2,600 AC power cable for a $4,000 one.”

There is not a law of diminishing returns here: there is merely the law of whether you can hear it or not. Tests under controlled conditions would justify these claims, but no-one ever agrees to do them.

Such recalcitrance is fine, but it’s an admission that audiophiles have supernatural powers.

And that is why it’s O.K. to shoot them.

Why We Need Audiophiles [Gizmodo]

About Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Email is dead, but you can try your luck at besc...@gmail.com
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to Gizmodo mounted on maple blocks, sounds great

  1. TwoShort says:

    “if spending a thousand dollars on a hunk of maple to hang on your wall makes someone happy then so be it.”

    An what if defrauding someone of a thousand dollars for a useless hunk of maple makes someone happy?

  2. searconflex says:

    Was wondering if you would have a response up. Good points Rob, as always, and I agree with you to a degree.

    First, my system is worth around $1500 and I consider myself an audiophile. I hate that word, but can’t think of anything better. “lover of sound”. whatever. Just want to make clear that I am no even on the same planet as Fremer, but man do I ever want to hang out with him because ANALORD would sound awesome on his setup.

    ‘ahem’

    OK, anyroad… I know people who spend 20K on BOWLS! And PLATES! They then put then on a pedestal where they do nothing but soak light. They are very pretty. I don’t understand why, but can appreciate their love of the ART.

    My question (don’t throw the shoe yet…wait for it) is if one was to regard audio equipment as art then could a price jump from 2K to 5K be justified? Yes, they do balls difference to the sound, but they are not the same cable. The manufacturing is different, the engineering is different. They look very different, some even being very pretty.

    Let’s let the rich dweebs have their fun. As ridiculously overpriced hobbies go, hi-fi audio junky is relatively harmless. And sometimes, SOMETIMES it might even get you out of your chair and dance.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m afraid that I made a common internet-commenting mistake in my comment about audiophiles and synesthesia when I lumped “audiophiles who say they are synesthetic” with “synesthetes who collect high-end audio equipment”. I was really talking about the first group, but I acknowledge that the second group exists. They just seem to write a lot less. And I don’t mean to say that high-end audio is useless to synesthetes, but I would be surprised to hear a synesthete say that the exciting part of good audio was to be found in the tiny, diminishing returns at the high, high end rather than in the much more accessible area of clear and un-colored sound.

  4. Hugh says:

    Audiophile’s claims are legitimately irritating to anyone who values objectivity, and even more so because in order to debunk them you would have to be equally rich. But as searconflex points out, it’s a pretty harmless form of dbaggery.

    I’ve been trying to build a decent cheap stereo system (“the high end of the low end”), and consequently have had to read a lot of ambiguously unreliable verbage out of people who really believe they are hearing a difference. It’s been good for me: it’s helped me to come to terms with the fact that placebo effects are just as real to the person taking the placebo as real effects could be. And as a human who can enjoy placebo effects, that’s important to be at terms with.

    Of course, after the societal collapse, I’m going to know how to put together a perfectly sweet sounding stereo to run off my microhydro plant by looting what’s available at local pawn shops, wheras Mr. Fremer will ever after pine for fresh exotic boxes to make his music sound transcendent again.

    I love how the pending societal collapse is going to prove me right on so many topics.

  5. TwoShort says:

    The guys who spend crazy amounts on plates claim that the plates are pretty, and that they are worth the money because of that. It’s a subjective judgment I disagree with, but nobody pretends otherwise. Nobody claims food tastes better eaten off them.

    As for audiophiles, the problem is selling stuff based on demonstrably false claims of objective superiority. Show me a sales guy who says “This thousand dollar cable cannot possibly make a difference in the sound, you should buy it because it is pretty.” If they say that, nobody will feel the need to call them frauds. Let’s be honest though: they won’t sell any cables.

    Sure, ‘hi-fi audio junky’ is a harmless hobby. So is ‘ponzi-scheme victim’. That doesn’t change my opinion of the scammers, or those who promote the scam.

  6. craiig says:

    I’d like to reiterate my general feelings that BBG will be my last bastion of sanity when the other gadget blogs are drooling over the next quadrillion dollar pair of cables or audio system. Great piece, Rob.

    I believe it’s about time war was declared on Audophiles and their ilk. It’s not a black art to figure out if things will sound like their original recording. It’s just science. It works. It’s not hard, it’s just that they prefer to rate on emotional response and don’t have the patience for scientific testing.

    The domain of Audiophiles is rating their emotional experience when they hear music through their gear. Saying music sounds better when you’ve got that new piece of gear is the same as saying that music sounds better when you’re stoned unless you can back it up with experiments and proper scientific rigor.

    Ultimately, the attitude that it’s okay for reviewers to subjectively evaluate audio equipment is harmful to the average gadget consumer. The packaging of an audio product (both in physical and intellectual) appears to influence the decisions of reviewers, audiophiles, and ultimately average consumers far more than it should.

    Sorry for being wordy, I’m absolutely blown away that while audio waves which have been measured, quantified, and compared by scientists for decades we’re still taking audiophiles and reviewers saying “yup yup, sounds good to me. much better than apple headphones!” as serious commentary!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Ah, here’s my theory. Audiophiles don’t understand music. they understand processes of listening to music, but can’t actually appreciate the art. they sense the medium where most just see art. they heap capital on attempting to get to why music is great, but simply can never quite get there. Sad really.

  8. Wingo says:

    My “stereo system” is a MacBook, an (admittedly not-so-relatively-cheap $500) Apogee Duet audio interface, and a pair of fairly cheap (~$300/pair) KRK powered monitors connected to an old, crappy Mackie mixer.

    It sounds amazing. Absolutely amazing. People who are professional engineers comment on how clear and full the sound is (even with ‘crappy’ MP3s), and can’t believe the setup is so ad-hoc and simple. I think it kind of pisses them off. ;) I don’t know exactly how that particular combination of things I stumbled upon works out so awesomely, but I’m not complaining. I’m assuming it’s a combo of the latest Mac core audio drivers + the Duet that is just a good match.

    These audiophile weirdos are just silly.

    And I agree with the commenter above who said that most musicians ears are shot anyway. I think I fall into that category. But I can still tell when something sounds relatively “good”, even if I’m missing swatches of frequency response in my head.

    Aaaand, @winstonsmith85:

    Mr. James has a new one in store for us soon.

    HOLY SH#T!!!! REALLY???? I’m actually a bit scared… ;)

  9. Anonymous says:

    @#23: When CNET tested a bunch of MP3 players a while back, the Zen Vision M came out at 83.8 SNR, against the iPod’s 83. That’s a pretty small difference, a far cry from 98 SNR and way below your audio crapness threshold of 90. What gives?

  10. strider_mt2k says:

    This stuff is all pretty laughable, but it keeps these wackos off the street so take the good with the bad.

  11. Downpressor says:

    #23 you already got served, but allow me to point out that Umptygajillion dollar audio gear is not used to listen while in a noisy environment like public transportation, work, or while out and about. Your comparison is foolish.

  12. philipb says:

    I was going to throw in my usual response but Pork Musket summed it up better than I ever could.

    “Audiophiles are to audio engineers as astrologers are to astrophysicists.”

  13. winstonsmith85 says:

    I guess if had so much disposable income that I was choking on it, I might buy into some of that audiophile stuff.

    Back on earth, though, I use a cheap plastic amp that I bought after reading about on boingboing:
    http://gadgets.boingboing.net/2007/11/29/tamp-gen-2-simple-st.html

    I’m very happy with it. It makes my twelve-year-old Radio Shack OPTIMUSes sound better than they ever did before.

    @SEARCONFLEX: ANALORD is my walking commute soundtrack this week! I hear Mr. James has a new one in store for us soon.

  14. nutbastard says:

    anyone who really loves music has likely destroyed their hearing to the point of not being able to tell the difference between high end and low end audio equipment.

    i say that’s a blessing in disguise – because my ears are somewhat shot, i’ll never be dissatisfied with cheap audio equipment. i can’t imagine spending $250+ on a portable music player and being turned off by the audio quality. it’s like having 20/15 vision – you can see every blemish and pore on a girls face.

    for the record, i prefer analog SD television to digital or HD. i WANT the unnecessary details to be blurred and glossed over.

    sometimes a little blurriness makes the world a more enjoyable place (i’m looking at you, beer)

  15. Anonymous says:

    I know Audiophiles. I was one of them.
    I have tens of thousands of dollars in audiophile gear in my living room and yet i am skeptical of people like Michael Fremer who claim to hear differences between power cables, when they can’t even hear the hiss in vinyl records.

    There is one word the audiophile industry hates.
    It is called: DOUBLE BLIND TESTING.
    As a matter of fact, bringing up the subject in a few audiophile forums will get you automatically banned.

    Everything that Michael Fremer claims he can hear is not backed up by any scientific evidence.
    As a matter of fact, so called audiophiles have been gathered to listen in a double blind test to different power cables in an audiophile system, and nobody could really tell them apart, because IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to tell the difference,
    So called audiophiles think they can hear differences between audio cables and power cables, because they BELIEVE they can do so, but when tested scientifically they CANNOT.

    http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/volume_11_4/feature-article-blind-test-power-cords-12-2004.html

    Let’s see if Michael Fremer is willing to undergo strict double blind testing of his audio components and see how much of an audiophile he is!

  16. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    I’m an Audiophile. Have been for decades. No apologies or explanations needed. I’m very disappointed that this happened on Boing Boing. Guess I’m out of here for a while.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Hi. I am severely synaesthetic, and two of my main sensory issues are between vision and hearing and hearing and spacial perception. I nearly went crazy because of this in my teens, and was hospitalized for a while. I learned to deal with it a long time ago, but one of my closest friends never has and she’s in and out of hospitals well into her thirties. I have a lot of interest in quality sound, and have an academic interest in the audiophile debate. Most of the questions about the placebo effect and taste as a social construct have been thoroughly addressed by modern psychology and art theory, and there’s no reason to exclude audiophilia from that work. What I find interesting is how the discussion stops when synaethesia or analogies to it are mentioned, as if that is some event-horizon for dialogue. Yes, it is intrinsically experiential, but most of art history consists of the attempt to communicate that class of things. I would be far less suspicious of audiophiles if they talked, in detail, about the difference between audio reproduction that *fails* to trigger their higher senses and that which can. I can’t afford audiophile equipment, but I don’t really want it. Listening to low-end equipment is usually physically uncomfortable for me, but anything that can be used as a studio monitor will preserve enough of a dynamic range and tonal separation that it won’t feel squished, cramped, and muddy to me. Of course there is a spectrum of quality after that, but the important point is where the equipment does not get in the way. Most things we consume and believe are expedited versions of what we’re really looking for, so luxury has become, in a large part, having whole things, or having fresh things, or having thing that haven’t been mangled in production. The basic standard of audio reproduction nowadays is so high that a couple hundred bucks will buy equipment that nearly does what its supposed to: reproduce the sound. It’s the musicians and the audio engineers who are responsible for the orignal signal, and their choices affect that sound more than anything else. If it were food, you could cook it with other ingredients to accent or mask its intrinsic flavors. It’s not, though, so everything beyond nearly-accurate reproduction is an artifact, and any auditory synaesthete should be as aware of those artifacts from high-end equipment as they are from low-end. If someone said to you, I can taste things in this food that you can’t, wouldn’t you expect them to be more interested in the intrinsic qualities of the food than elaborate ways of preparing it? If audiophiles are such excellent listeners, why do they need so much help from equipment? Bad sound is like being drunk, good sound is like reality, which is difficult and amazing, and processed sound is like too much sugar.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Here’s the thing:

    Me, I love *my* type of music, which is by most standards crap. My judgement of music I like, but don’t LOVE, varies with mood or time of day, or maybe psychoacoustics.

    When I love a song, I have a preferred recording of that song. Any other recording of that same song, by the same artist, with the same equipment, or even a slight edit, grates on me terribly.

    Music embodies psychology for a lot of people — which details they fixate on dictates how they deal with maximising their personal experience.

    The problem with stereo salesmen and audiophiles is their insistence that what is better for them (whether it’s new-toy-fetishism or procedure-perfectionism or ideal-levels-of-distortion or whatever) is objectively the ‘best’ for everyone.

  19. markfrei says:

    My analogy is that it’s a lot like wine.

    Some people dismiss connoisseurship and think spending anything about $12 for a bottle is a waste. I have price point that I’m willing to pay for a wine that I believe tastes better. Beyond that I notice that for me I can’t really tell enough of a difference to spend any more cash. But I don’t knock those who think that better bottles are worth it. And when they take me out to dinner, I certainly enjoy their expensive selections and am appreciative.

  20. Rob Beschizza says:

    Bastardnambian wrote “He can hear the difference, even if you can’t. … Laugh at the idea of audiophiles all you want, but the fact is, without trying to somehow say they are better normal people, many of them can indeed hear things better than someone used to an iPod.”

    I have a feeling you haven’t really read this post, because we’re not saying it’s impossible for perceptivel people to tell the difference between good and mediocre.

    What we’re talking about is $4,000 power cords and interconnects mounted on wooden blocks and so on. When it comes to those, you can say “Audiophiles can hear the difference,” but the question then becomes, why won’t anyone ever agree to some controlled tests?

  21. Anonymous says:

    Of course the iPod version sounds lifeless in comparison to the LP. Even the flattest disks and finest bearings cannot help but introduce extra low-frequency lateral energy into the stereo playback, resulting in a sense of “spaciousness” not there in the original. (vertical displacement of stylus = one woofer pulling in and other woofer pushing out = lateral air movement in the room). The great audio physicist Stanley Lipschitz would scoff and call this “phasiness” but most of us find it pleasing, even if it really is just distortion and noise.

  22. philipb says:

    #18 – “Mr. Femer has trained his ears for years to discern between various sonic minutia”

    So have many of us audio professionals, yet we hold the likes of the audiophile reviewer in even higher disdain than most.

  23. Hugh says:

    @craiig

    “The domain of Audiophiles is rating their emotional experience when they hear music through their gear. Saying music sounds better when you’ve got that new piece of gear is the same as saying that music sounds better when you’re stoned unless you can back it up with experiments and proper scientific rigor.”

    But listening to music isn’t about signal quantification. Plenty of quantifiable sound characteristics are irrelevant to music appreciation. (And music probably does sound better when you’re stoned. Why is that a falsity?)

    Science might be useful to test if these people who claim to be able to hear differences that we can’t are hearing an objective phenomenon or just their own biases. But it doesn’t matter, since I still won’t be able to hear it.

    What’s useful to me is knowing what differences *I* might be able to hear if I switched to different equipment, and that shouldn’t require a science experiment, it should just require that somebody with similar hearing to me listen to the equipment and tell me in an article.

    The problem is that instead of normal people reviewing audio equipment in a normal way, we’re mostly stuck with self-convinced synesthesiacs describing their transhuman experiences. Or in other cases, people distorting potentially useful reviews by trying to write like they too are Michael Fremer. I don’t want engineers. I don’t want transhumans. I just want to know if that amp sounds better than that one to mortals.

  24. remmelt says:

    @23: Wow, tell us how you really feel why don’t you?

    What’s with the uncalled for anti-Apple rant?

    Cnet did a PMP audio test, here’s the SNR page:
    http://reviews.cnet.com/4520-11297_7-6510133-2.html?tag=nav

    Your beloved Zen Vision M has a ratio of 83.8, only .8 above the 5G iPod and 1.2 above the Nano and Shuffle, all far, far below 90 and your claimed 98 dB.

    If you can take the beating, you could also peruse the Distortion and Frequency tests. I’m not saying everyone should use an iPod and if you do, you’re much better off buying a set of decent headphones, but if there are tests (you know, like science) that tell us that they’re not as bad as people are saying, it’s not wrong to read them and act accordingly.

  25. strider_mt2k says:

    #5 really did say it best.

  26. scaught says:

    Most of this stuff is ridiculous, but if spending a thousand dollars on a hunk of maple to hang on your wall makes someone happy then so be it. If I thought spending a thousand on a piece of dog shit would make me happy I’d be in line for at least 3.

  27. muteboy says:

    I just don’t like the “I’m better than you” implication from people who claim to hear these differences.

  28. I arrived late.

    I have a rather expensive system I built about 18 years ago. It is a compromise. I wanted something that would sound good anywhere in the room, which means it has to give up that ultimate bit of tweakiness. I also listen to XM radio from DirecTV on an old CRT TV through little 3″ speakers. I know it doesn’t sound anywhere near as good. So what? I can still hear the music. I also enjoy music over my car radio.

    There are differences among various program sources. Anybody can hear them even if you can’t measure them. The critical point is how important they are to your enjoyment of the music. If I want to listen to something I might prefer it on my expensive system, but if my only choice is my TV, I will still enjoy it.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I’m sure we can all agree that all ears are not created equal. Mr. Femer has trained his ears for years to discern between various sonic minutia. They are the tools of his trade. A tool which he uses day in and day out in order to make a living. I think it’s rediculous for casual music listeners to even begin to compare their sense of hearing to Mr. Fremer’s. YOU might not be able to hear a differnence in the cables, the amp or the speakers, but HE does. I genuinely feel that in the world of audio reproduction, most people just don’t know what they are missing… and that is a good thing. You should be happy you cannot percieve the difference between a $50,000 amp and a $500 amp. If you could maybe you’d end up squandering the better part of your life and your bank account chasing the holy grail of audio too.

  30. Matt Katz says:

    The differences are real, but not why you think.

    Disclaimer: I know both Fremer and a wine reviewer.

    We know that $90 wine tastes better than the same wine for $9, because we’ve tested it.

    Double blind tests merely show us that, absent the information about the price and label, we don’t derive more joy from variously priced and labeled goods. Some people think these tests prove there is no difference in sound or composition, but that’s foolish. We wouldn’t need human beings to test that. A really good microphone in a room and some computer analysis could tell you the difference in soundwaves.

    Humans do the hearing and tasting in their minds.

    Me, I’m with you lot. I like the idea that I can find a tasty cheap wine. I don’t discriminate on price that way, and I’ve drunk some obscenely expensive things while hanging out with people who care.

    On the other hand, I find that things I make bring me more satisfaction than my purchases that work better and cost me less. Funny how that happens.

  31. dculberson says:

    I have no problem believing that some people can hear more nuances in sound than I can. I have decent hearing but haven’t treated it that well. What I can’t believe is that a “golden ear” could hear things that a 100-megahertz bandwidth oscilloscope can’t pick up. And testing various cables, there is a point of not just diminished returns but no returns when oversizing conductors, overspeccing shielding, and overcharging customers.

    I do not believe that a $7000 power cord is any better than 12-gauge copper with THHN insulation. I do not believe a maple block makes a difference in signal transfer. Because these things are false – they are a fetish built up around pursuing the unattainable. Once your sound reproduction equipment matches the recording equipment in quality, you’re done. There are no real gains to be made. Anything further is imaginary.

    While it’s true that “hearing” is different from “measuring,” that doesn’t mean I have to buy into a cultist’s obsessions about it. Someone might very well convince themselves that poop tastes good, but we will still mock them for eating it.

  32. millia says:

    You know what? I was okay with it for a while. Then I got to the bit about the $2,000 cables and went, well, he’s overboard, but whatever. I’m sure it does sound good, of course.

    Then I saw the pics, and the cabling resting on wood blocks. I lost all traces of belief. It’s quite possible he loves music but when you put your cabling up on blocks, you’re past the point of focusing on anything but ‘making it more real.’

    Making it danceable, if you will.

    I’ve heard the same record played on my turntable, and on a ~$20,000 rig. ~$20,000 rig did sound notably better. But I’m guessing that a $5,000 rig would sound just fine…

    And as for power, I didn’t see it, but I’m sure he’s got plenty of power conditioners on that rig. Why not? What’s another 5 grand?

  33. Rob Beschizza says:

    Thank you, anonymous synesthesiac, for that fascinating comment!

  34. Anonymous says:

    Hey I’m a scientist, and i can understand there are things happening in cables and equipment that we can’t model and explain…double blind testing or not, at the end of the day some stuff just sounds better than other stuff (maybe, usually heavily dollar weighted to the expensive). But hey, shit happens. good stuff costs money…We are not new to this equation,.
    And one of the techy mp3 brigade calling for “audiophiles” to be shot?
    Just listen to your favourite music on Fremer’s system; then you might understand.

    I benefit from ARC electronics and Sonus Faber speakers…measure all you like it sounds amazing, even in my comprimised listening space.
    Cheers,
    Dave

  35. BastardNamban says:

    Look, I said it before in the 35$ gold fuse thread- you DON’T need 1,000,000$ for a killer setup.

    If you RTFA, you realize this guy has a lot of money, and he spent a lot on what he loves. He can hear the difference, even if you can’t. And with the money he spent on his stereo, then to say a max of 5,000$ would satisfy absolutely most people totally, that gives you a ballpark- that’s a figure coming from, argueably, one of the so-called audiophile “kings”. Yes, we need people like this around to master our music, even if we can’t hear every difference.

    Now if you know better sound when you hear it, based on his statement, I’d argue you can put together something really wonderful, something that will lift you out of your iPod “las noches” (Bleach anime reference) blank desert of sound, for around 1,200$. If you read said before thread, you’d see that using ebay for what his kind sells all.the.time, you can put together something amazing for a reasonable investment.

    I have a killer 7.2 system that I put together using ebay, for only 500$. The room sounds close to Carnegie Hall with the right music now.

    Laugh at the idea of audiophiles all you want, but the fact is, without trying to somehow say they are better normal people, many of them can indeed hear things better than someone used to an iPod. You may think that the idea of some people being able to hear more/better than you is “elitist”, but what do you think of people who are near deaf? Some people really have better ears than others, and some people pretend they do, and buy 500$ wooden knobs to do so.

    And if you wonder why so many people hate the sound of iPods, maybe you should start wondering WHY. Maybe there’s something to that? Maybe, dear god, they’re RIGHT?

    What then, fanboys?

    Maybe there’s a reason why Apple, for some reason, bucking all industry trend, refuse to publish any iPod’s SNR number- a major number for sound quality comparison. Maybe that’s because it’s below/at 90, if they’re lucky. Anything below 90 sounds like crap. I want to buy an iPod, because the user interface is brilliant, but they sound like crap!

    If you want something you can test the difference on, look for something around a 98 SNR- like my Zen Vision M, or anything by Cowon.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Audiophiles are like sports car afficionados.

    They know their hobby is expensive.

    With the exception of a gifted few, they’re probably not qualified to maximize their toys. There are probably very few audiophiles with real “golden ears”, but there are very few sports car owners who can drive like Schumacher too.

    They like tweak their toys to make them perform better, but it’s only the expensive tweaks that grab headlines outside their specialized communities.

    In the end, all they’re doing is pursuing their own personal happiness.

    So why is there so much negative energy for audiophiles but only cool aura for sports car people?

    - chudez

  37. Anonymous says:

    Nice! Good job! I’ll even go click on some ads now.

  38. krabapple says:

    Rob wrote:
    “Mahoney’s conclusions emerge with an unremarkable discovery–that a 256kbs MP3 played on an iPod doesn’t sound as good as a well-kept vinyl record on high-end gear.”

    Actually, this *is* remarkable. A well-made high-bitrate mp3 is more likely than not to be indistinguishable from its source to msot listeners. And iPods (depending on the model) perform rather well in bench tests (Stereophile themselves provided evidence for that).

    So why *shouldn’t* an iPod, playing well-recorded music, lossy encoded at a high bitrate with LAME, sound every bit as good as ‘well-kept vinyl record’ if BOTH are played back through the same high-end gear?

    They won’t sound the SAME, of course , but that’s not due to the format or the gear. It’s the mastering and the inherent distortion of the LP, or the EQ/dynamic range compression tweaks in the CD mastering. (Even all that can be eliminated as a factor, by digitizing the LP output, and making an mp3 of *that* for comparison to the LP).

    As for Fremer having golden ears from long experience and the idea that “HE hears the differences even if you don’t”, that begs the question — how do we *know* he does? It’s an argument from authority; I don’t accept his authority from sighted reports, and neither should you. Especially when he touts utter nonsense like LP demagnetizers.

  39. Anonymous says:

    Remember, fully de-magnetizing your bullets will increase their stopping power by 34%.

  40. Rob Beschizza says:

    Wouldn’t it be awesome if Monster Cable sponsored our audio section?

  41. Mike Estee says:

    All things being equal, the single most influential factor in the quality of a listening experience is the room. Since selling people foam is not as sexy as speakers, this usually the last thing addressed.

    What’s so sad about these guys is their basic lack of understanding of psycho-acoustics, electronics, and physics, really simple stuff you can find in text books. Stuff you can measure.

    There’s also an abandonment of the concept of scale. The noise floor for the room, or their ears, or their speakers being higher than the source media. RFI generating voltages so small they get filtered out long before they hit anything of consequence. Vibrations so miniscule they’re lost in thermal variations.

    Out of all the crazy shit audiophiles convince themselves they need luxury power cables are the most mind boggling. That power just got routed thousands of miles over the earth, through your .12c/foot copper wiring and conduit. What can the last 1 meter possibly provide that 12 gauge copper can not? The very best you could possibly hope for is that it perfectly preserves all the noise picked up by the house wiring on the way to the amp. This also raises the question, “what is so poorly designed about your amp that it requires such a power cable?”

    I wonder how many of them could tell the difference between a 1 meter unshielded coat hanger and anything else?

    Only your imagination & your ignorance are golden Mr. Audiophile.

  42. pork musket says:

    Audiophiles are to audio engineers as astrologers are to astrophysicists. Nice piece, Rob.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

 

More BB

Boing Boing Video

Flickr Pool

Digg

Wikipedia

Advertise

Displays ads via FM Tech

RSS and Email

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution. Boing Boing is a trademark of Happy Mutants LLC in the United States and other countries.

FM Tech