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Audio absurdities
thesurfingalien
post Mar 26 2011, 05:25
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Hi All,

I have been active in the (high end) audio world for about 25 years. My main interest has always been loudspeakers and design. As such, together with a friend of mine, we have created some pretty decent loudspeakers. We did this just for fun.

Contrary of what you might expect, I have not invested in expensive equipment myself, mainly because there is only so much money I am willing (or able for that matter) to spend on it , and I like to listen to the music and not to the equipment.

However, during this time I have run into what I would like to call "Audio Absurdities". By that I mean things that people do (usually this involves spending a lot of money) to make their setup sound better.

One thing you should know of me is that over the years I have become a very skeptical person with regards to audio. But that does not mean I have lost my sense of humor. Hence this tread...

I would like to invite you to post your experience with this type of things. Be it for either generate a good laugh, or warn other readers for costly "audio improvements" that can be categorized being scams.

Have fun or be warned :-)



My first contribution: The Magic Woodblocks

About four years ago I heard from a to remain unnamed person that he had obtained little pieces of wood, about 2" square, varying in thickness depending on application, that should be placed under the equipment's feet. According to the vendor, the wood was from a rare species of trees only to be found in the Amazon. The audible results were claimed to be like "upgrading your equipment to a model twice the price". And that for only US$250 to US$375 per set of three...




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hlloyge
post Mar 26 2011, 09:47
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http://www.shunmook.com/text1.htm

QUOTE
The Mpingo Disc is invented by the Shun Mook team. It is made from a combination of Gaboon and Mpingo Ebony, treated with a proprietary process that gives the disc a unique property to regulate the resonance of any sonic component and its transmission. Yet this is a very simple item to use. Just place one to three disc on top of your preamp, CD transport, DA converter, turntable etc, and listen for the wonderful change in your Hi fi system. When this disc is excited by any external acoustic energy, it will resonate throughout the entire audible spectrum, thus overriding unwanted harmonic distortions and at the same enriching the musical reproduction.
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thesurfingalien
post Mar 26 2011, 14:14
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Hi All,

To make sure everybody understands correctly:

I am talking about things that have not received proper testing / lack any kind of scientific proof. Basically the "I can not tell why it works, but it just does... Believe me!"

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thesurfingalien
post Mar 26 2011, 14:39
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Second contribution...

I was informed of a product described as follows: "A thin dome-shaped object, about 1" in diameter, made of either silver, gold or platinum, that is suspended in a frame (material unknown).

It should be placed against the walls, experimenting with positioning for optimum results". The purpose of this product was to improve room-acoustics for all frequency ranges (but especially bass).

According to this person, who had attended a demonstration of this product, the results were "beyond belief". However, he had not heard any explanation of how it worked.

All this for a very friendly price, depending on the dome's material, up to some US$ 10.000 for a set of 6.
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SpiderJon
post Mar 26 2011, 20:25
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Anything by Peter Belt.

The free ideas are staggeringly daft, but at least they're free - http://www.belt.demon.co.uk/Free_Technique...Techniques.html

But the products he charges for beggar belief - eg, the so-called "Quantum Clip", which is basically a crocodile clip with a bit of wire attached for 500.

http://www.belt.demon.co.uk/product/quantum/quantum.html

The description is a triumph of nonsense.
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db1989
post Mar 26 2011, 21:38
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Two words:
Brilliant Pebbles.
Insert anti-marketing/credulity rant here!
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Wombat
post Mar 26 2011, 22:23
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With digital audio coming to streaming devices like the Squeezeboxes tons of digital Voodoo comes up on the net.
Sometimes even not funny anymore when you have to read that stuff and see how it turns loose a mass hysteria!
Here is a nice one but much to read. The developer of software based tunings does his magic to a Squeezebox Touch.
While one or two of the changes like switching off the display may indeed change the output signal of a device several other "improvements" are simply silly.
One change that he did in the code is a volume level fix to 100% and his "Core-Team" of "choosen" beta listeners clearly heard the improvement against the max volume setting of the GUI. Some developers of the software caught him there cause it does NOT make a difference if the volume is changed here or there.
Some other things like a Windows server sounds better as Linux cause of better network protocol usage from the PC to the router, half duplex from PC to router sound sbetter also and so on.
We talk about changes at the digital out here btw.
You can read about it here and may start in the middle of the thread. The forum itself lately has gone downhill since some Trolling or Pinheaded members joined but there are some nice guys with a sense of humor smile.gif

http://forums.slimdevices.com/showthread.p...742&page=41
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thesurfingalien
post Mar 27 2011, 01:20
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QUOTE (dv1989 @ Mar 26 2011, 17:38) *
Two words:
Brilliant Pebbles.
Insert anti-marketing/credulity rant here!


I am not getting this remark... Would you care to explain?

Thanks & regards,
Peter

Sorry dv1989... I just Googled on Brilliant Pebbles and I am getting it now.

This post has been edited by thesurfingalien: Mar 27 2011, 01:31
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SpiderJon
post Mar 27 2011, 01:28
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QUOTE (thesurfingalien @ Mar 27 2011, 00:20) *
QUOTE (dv1989 @ Mar 26 2011, 17:38) *
Two words:
Brilliant Pebbles.
Insert anti-marketing/credulity rant here!


I am not getting this remark... Would you care to explain?



Have a look at http://www.machinadynamica.com/machina31.htm

If you're short on time, the following extracts may be enough for you to reach a conclusion

"Brilliant Pebbles is a unique and comprehensive system for tuning the room and audio system based on special physical properties of highly symmetrical crystal structures ... Brilliant Pebbles comprises a number of precious and semi-precious stones (crystals) selected for their effectiveness. The original glass bottles for Brilliant Pebbles have been replaced by clear zip lock bags, which have a more linear response than glass. We employ a number of highly-specialized, proprietary techniques in the preparation/assembly of Brilliant Pebbles to enhance the crystals' inherent characteristics. The fundamental operating principle of Brilliant Pebbles involves a number of atomic mechanisms in the crystals."

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db1989
post Mar 27 2011, 01:30
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No, but my friend Google would! tongue.gif Alright, it's from http://www.machinadynamica.com/ - which I assume (or very much hope) is a parody site, although it isn't all that far removed from perfectly genuine (as far as audiophool marketing goes) alternatives.
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thesurfingalien
post Mar 27 2011, 02:02
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@dv1989

I thought I missed something language wise, but I did a google & found out about it just before I got to read your and SpiderJohn's remarks...

Slightly off-topic, but nevertheless amusing story:

About 12 years ago I had a female colleague (nice gal but sort of a strange type involved in paranormal stuff) who had bought a bag of sea-salt for about $50 that she attached to the back of the CRT monitor of the person opposite to her. The person she obtained it from claimed to be a professor in some vague paranormal area. He also claimed that the bag of salt was treated by him so it would eliminate lethal radiation that was beamed towards her.

Regards,
peter

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db1989
post Mar 27 2011, 02:07
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QUOTE
language wise
Well, I read earlier that English is not your first language, and I can safely say that you have a better grasp of it than many native speakers. smile.gif
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thesurfingalien
post Mar 27 2011, 23:21
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@dv1989:

Thanks for your compliment!


@All - Another one...

Some 10 years ago I visited an audio store in town I had never been before. I got into a conversation with one of the owners. After a little while, he introduced me to the Nordhorst brand they were dealers of. He apparently was very taken with a digital interconnect he had bought (at a discount) to connect his CD-player and external DAC, replacing the AudioQuest interconnect. According to him, the results were astonishing: lower & tighter bass, deeper and wider soundstage / imaging, you name it. And even his wife and kid could easily hear the difference.

I asked him what possibly could cause this result. He pointed out a Nordhorst poster that explained that the cable in question was capable of transporting electrical signals at 98 percent (or something like that) of the speed of light, while competing cables only could go up to 83 percent (or something like that). I replied that this information still did not tell me the WHY. His answer was: "Jitter, man, jitter. This cable eliminates jitter because it is so fast!".

I tried to explain to him that the electrical pulses still arrived in the same order, and with the same time interval, regardless of the speed they were transported, but I was unable to communicate that to him.

When I asked him if he would submit his findings to a blind test, he refused and basically accused me of calling him a liar.





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thesurfingalien
post Mar 28 2011, 23:35
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And yet another one:

I can not recall when I heard this story, but I heard it at the Audio shop a friend of mine used to own... He had a client who had spend some serious buck on equipment, and got into the tweaking-fase. I do not know where he got the idea from, but he believed that loudspeaker-cable should be elevated from a re-barred concrete floor by at least 5". He constructed some nice wooden suspensions, and while visiting my friends store, he kept on talking about the unbelievable effect of the "levitated" cables. Since he was a much-valued customer, nobody had the guts to inquire him how that could be the case as all his floors were made of wood...
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thesurfingalien
post Mar 29 2011, 00:30
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And another...

After I got my Naim setup, I decided to make a nice rack for it. Made it out of 5 triangle-shaped birch plywood shelfs, aluminum legs and square black marble under the equipment (same size). The marble rested on 3 very low spikes. The top-to-top distance between the birch shelfs was 15cm (5.9").

Just so you all understand... The whole "design" was based on aesthetics...

Some time after finishing the work on it (to me it looked pretty nice), I ran into a topic on a forum about audio-racks, so I posted a picture of my work. After everybody had a good laugh about my opening subject line "Photos of my rack" (I was completely unaware of the fact that a "rack" is slang for specific female body-features - plural), I got some nice remarks.

However, there was this guy that was of opinion that, because of the design and chosen materials, I should be able to experience a significant improvement in sound quality. He also mentioned that if I had used granite in stead of marble, the sonic improvement would be even greater. Any reasonable explanation for these alleged "improvements" I have yet to see...

I have not done any ABX-test on that one (too much trouble), but I can assure you I did not notice any change.
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WonderSlug
post Mar 29 2011, 10:48
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QUOTE (thesurfingalien @ Mar 27 2011, 15:21) *
I asked him what possibly could cause this result. He pointed out a Nordhorst poster that explained that the cable in question was capable of transporting electrical signals at 98 percent (or something like that) of the speed of light, while competing cables only could go up to 83 percent (or something like that). I replied that this information still did not tell me the WHY. His answer was: "Jitter, man, jitter. This cable eliminates jitter because it is so fast!".



What I'd like to know is how they actually arrived at those 98% speed-of-light and 83% speed-of-light figures.
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thesurfingalien
post Mar 29 2011, 12:46
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@WonderSlug:

I did a Google "http://www.google.com.br/search?hl=pt-BR&q=electrical+conductors+speed+of+light&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=" on it, and came across some interesting articles.

@All: I misspelled the NordHorst brandname - should be Nordost.
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thesurfingalien
post Mar 29 2011, 22:42
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While this is probably funny for most people, it is not an absurdity...

A long time ago, I frequented a DIY audio-shop in Amsterdam for a couple of times. The second time I went there, I and a friend of mine were greeted at the door by a fellow that just left with the Dutch equivalent of "Howdy, Folks", identifying the person as a farmer from around the area where I lived. If his accent had not give away his profession, his clothes would have. It's hard to explain, and probably a Dutch thing...

Anyway, when we entered the store, the guys who ran it were pretty exited about the customer that had just left as he had ordered a rather unusually system, and spend some serious money for it. I could understand that it was a reason for them to be joyful, but when they started imitating cows (the sound), I really thought the guys had been smoking something...

It took us a bit of time the get the story from them, but it turned out that the customer had ordered a system that he would use in his cow-stables. At that time, the Dutch government had a (heavily) subsidized experiment for this. Believe it or not, but the milk-production of a cow that is exposed to relaxing (mostly classical as I recall) music increases up to 3% (0.7 liters). It also seems to be true that milk from a relaxed cow tastes better, where the music comes in again.
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Arnold B. Kruege...
post Mar 30 2011, 01:27
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QUOTE (WonderSlug @ Mar 29 2011, 05:48) *
QUOTE (thesurfingalien @ Mar 27 2011, 15:21) *
I asked him what possibly could cause this result. He pointed out a Nordhorst poster that explained that the cable in question was capable of transporting electrical signals at 98 percent (or something like that) of the speed of light, while competing cables only could go up to 83 percent (or something like that). I replied that this information still did not tell me the WHY. His answer was: "Jitter, man, jitter. This cable eliminates jitter because it is so fast!".



What I'd like to know is how they actually arrived at those 98% speed-of-light and 83% speed-of-light figures.


The speed of an electrical signal in a cable is usually in the 70-80% range.

How they got theirs up to 98% - I don't know. The claim that it necessarily reduces jitter is very questionable. In fact almost all arguments involving claims about audible jitter in the digital domain are false.

Of course the spped of signals in a cable matters not for the kinds of distances you find in a listening room.
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WonderSlug
post Mar 30 2011, 04:20
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QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Mar 29 2011, 17:27) *
QUOTE (WonderSlug @ Mar 29 2011, 05:48) *
QUOTE (thesurfingalien @ Mar 27 2011, 15:21) *
I asked him what possibly could cause this result. He pointed out a Nordhorst poster that explained that the cable in question was capable of transporting electrical signals at 98 percent (or something like that) of the speed of light, while competing cables only could go up to 83 percent (or something like that). I replied that this information still did not tell me the WHY. His answer was: "Jitter, man, jitter. This cable eliminates jitter because it is so fast!".



What I'd like to know is how they actually arrived at those 98% speed-of-light and 83% speed-of-light figures.


The speed of an electrical signal in a cable is usually in the 70-80% range.

How they got theirs up to 98% - I don't know. The claim that it necessarily reduces jitter is very questionable. In fact almost all arguments involving claims about audible jitter in the digital domain are false.

Of course the spped of signals in a cable matters not for the kinds of distances you find in a listening room.


I agree.

I figure they would base this speed claim off of the conductivity and resistance of the wire. Nevertheless, even if the 98% versus 83% claim were true, given a typical cable length of 1 to 2 meters, that means that the electrical signal gets from source to A/V receiver just 22 to 44 nanoseconds faster. I don't think it would be noticeable at all.
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pdq
post Mar 30 2011, 12:37
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At 300 million meters per second, that is just 3.3 nanoseconds per meter, or 6.6 nanoseconds for 2 meters at 100% of the speed of light. The difference between "fast" and "slow" cables would be on the order of one nanosecond!

Besides, delay is not an issue, only dispersion.
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thesurfingalien
post Mar 30 2011, 12:54
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About the cable speed...

If I understand correctly, a (the main?) factor for limiting the theoretical possibility of 100% light speed is the insulator. There are quite a few articles that explain the exact "why", but these goes beyond my understanding.

However, given that the receiving end is completely unaware of when the actual signal started, and that the time it takes for a signal to get from sender to receiver is of no influence on the order or the length of the sent pulses (in a digital situation), I can not see any reason why the speed as a property be responsible for eliminating jitter.

Personally I feel that putting comparative emphasis on the "speed" is more a marketing choice; for many people it will sound impressive. If that results in customers that believe that "faster is better", than the battle is already half won.

Regards,
Peter
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Andavari
post Mar 30 2011, 13:10
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CD rings/guards which were thin round rings either rubber or flexible plastic that went on the outside edge of a CD (personally I'd just call them CD rubbers) were in some audio-type magazines back in the 1990s.

They were marketed as "protecting and stabilizing to increase audio quality" for audio CDs during playback since they supposedly raised CDs an insignificant amount off the CD tray. But in reality they caused more problems, could get slightly baked onto the CD leaving residue behind on the outer ring of the disc, and if they broke off whilst inside a CD player it could become damaged.


--------------------
Complexity of incoherent design.
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thesurfingalien
post Mar 30 2011, 13:36
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I can not remember when, but at some time one could buy a black CD marker that one should apply to the outer edge of a CD, coloring it black, claiming improvement on sound. I can not recall the specifics, but it had something to do with canceling reflections.

I believe it was an audiophile magazine that analyzed the markers, and found out they were nothing more than regular permanent markers (the Edding brand if I recall correctly), sold at about 25 times the price of the original.
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probedb
post Mar 30 2011, 13:44
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QUOTE (Andavari @ Mar 30 2011, 13:10) *
CD rings/guards which were thin round rings either rubber or flexible plastic that went on the outside edge of a CD (personally I'd just call them CD rubbers) were in some audio-type magazines back in the 1990s.

They were marketed as "protecting and stabilizing to increase audio quality" for audio CDs during playback since they supposedly raised CDs an insignificant amount off the CD tray. But in reality they caused more problems, could get slightly baked onto the CD leaving residue behind on the outer ring of the disc, and if they broke off whilst inside a CD player it could become damaged.


That's quite amusing considering the CDs don't sit on the tray during playback anyways wink.gif
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