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The Ten Biggest Lies In Audio

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Funny article for the obsessed high-end audio types.

For the low-end, the are some other great audio lies:

"CD-quality." As applied to (usually) 128 kbps mp3s or worse.

DIGITAL ready--for analog equipment like mics, headphones, etc .

And that great Sony lie: "Open"

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All lossy codecs suck.

True SP for life, yo. Long live 292 Kbps.

I'm not dissing you S. and I do not want to start any discussions or flame wars: I actually think I understand what you are saying and I do agree partly (I guess) ... but don't you think that's a bit odd stating those two right next to each other? laugh.gif

but I guess you meant:

- all lossy codecs are lossy (hence the name) and won't give full quality, this is not limited to atrac... I'm with you on this one

- of all lossy ones, you prefer true SP... well, for me HiSP is more than adequate (I have tried it with ABX for a number of songs and only with one really demanding one I could get close to a significant score... either my ears are somewhat damaged or I stink at listening tests...or perhaps HiSP does actually sound good for most music, it definitely works for me)

but actually, all this is really off topic... as most of the (very nice) article is about other types of "lies" (not digital/codec-related stuff) and it's nice to hear some logical views on some hocus-pocus subjects and to see that burning in phones really can make a (albeit small) difference laugh.gif I was really starting to think my ears were ruined! first I failed the ABX HiSP/wav quite often, then I thought I could hear a difference before and after burn-in biggrin.gif )... this article saved me a trip to the specialist

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I've been an audiophile for at least 30 years, have had some stae of the art systems,(Still up in Edmonton infortunately) What I left up there when I moved to the Caribbean, a Revox cd player, Revox turn table, Heco triamped speakers, Teac reel to reel tape recorder, Aiwa Cassette deck, and DBX dynamic range enhancer.

The only device that I used thet trucl had any effect on sound was a high damping sticky mat for the turntable with a disc clamp/

The speakers will run off a preamp, but have had a variety of good amps as well.

The biggest thing you can do for good sound is meticulous speaker placement, and good speakers,especially on a two speaker system.

Surround sound systems sometimes take away from the sound of a properly set up stereo system.

A good to excellent speaker system is your starting point, anything else adds to it.

Really enjoyed that article.

I love the argument on speake cables that say they use special wires to allow for the skin effect at high frequenies. Audio frequencies don't go high enough for skin effect, I don't think many people can hear in the gigahertz range.



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The biggest thing you can do for good sound is meticulous speaker placement,  and good speakers,especially on a two speaker system.

There's one thing what's often overlooked and at least equally important: To have a good recording - the best, carefully placed equipment will only sound mediocre with an average recording. GIGO - garbage in, garbage out.

And by the way, i totally agree that speakers and their placement (or headphones) are (besides the recording) by far the most critical component of the chain. I could never hear significant differences between different HiFi amps, standalone cd players or let alone cables and other voodoo, but there are whole worlds between different speakers/headphones. That's basically the reason why i'm running full-sized, rather expensive speakers with a small, nowadays inexpensive, rather weak amp from the '70s. I virtually never need more than 1 watt in my small living room and it can supply at least ten times the power. wink.gif

This leads to another untruth: Large speakers are said to require powerful amps. This is not true because large speakers are usually much more energy efficient than smaller ones and thus don't need as much amplification to reproduce the same loudness. This is particularly true for the low frequency region.

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A pretty long but intresting NY Times article from 1999.


You have to register if you want to read it so I paste it here.

A Spat Among Audiophiles Over High-End Speaker Wire

By ROY FURCHGOTT December 23, 1999.

In the last year, Lewis Lipnick has tested high-end audio cables from 28 manufacturers. As a professional musician with the National Symphony Orchestra and as an audio consultant, he counts on his exacting ear to tell him if changing cables affects the accuracy of the sound from his $25,000 Krell amplifiers.

His personal choice is a pair of speaker wires that cost $13,000. "Anyone would have to have cloth ears not to tell the difference between cables," he said.

"In my professional opinion that's baloney," said Alan P. Kefauver, a classically trained musician and director of the Recording Arts and Sciences program at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. "Has the wire been cryogenically frozen? Is it flat or round? It makes no difference, unless it makes you feel better." His choice for speaker wire? Good-quality 16-gauge zip wire.

The disagreement would be unnotable except for one thing: experts are in agreement that most cables that claim to improve the sound of audio equipment don't. Even cables costing thousands of dollars per foot are often little more than sonic snake oil, experts say.

Consumers trying to purchase audio cables often find themselves buying high-end replacements because the only cables in the store are expensive ones.

A purchaser of an entry-level $550 stereo system might be sent home with $55 worth of the least expensive middle-quality audio cables. While experts agree that most cables make exaggerated and unfounded claims about improving sound, they cannot agree on which cables actually do improve sound and which do not.

The scientific record is unclear. So far no research paper contending to prove or disprove the value of fancy wires has been accepted by the leading industry publication, The Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, said Patricia M. MacDonald, its executive editor. She said there were dozens of reasons a research paper might not meet her journal's standards.

"I don't think anyone should infer anything from it," she said.

The manufacturers and sellers of audio goods like to stay above the fray. Cables are a highly lucrative item that may account for a modest percentage of sales but a greater percentage of profit.

Even audio manufacturers not directly involved in the cable business like to steer clear of the debate.

Polk Audio, a well respected manufacturer of loudspeakers in Baltimore, no longer makes cables but declined an invitation to set up a listening test in its laboratories. One reason it gave was that the test could affect relationships with audio stores. "We would be hearing from every retailer in the country," said Paul Dicomo, communications director for Polk Audio.

Kerry Moyer, staff director for the Consumer Electronics Association, which represents manufacturers, said accessories were usually the highest markup items, wires included. Sales of high-margin accessories have become critical in the current market, where prices of components like receivers, amplifiers and DVD players, have had profit margins squeezed by competition.

"It becomes a question of where are we going to make a little money?" he said. Mr. Moyer, whose $3,000 sound system uses about $300 worth of cables, said the technological superiority of a cable is not the issue -- it is the perceived value to the hobbyist.

Proving that one audio cable is better than the next is nearly impossible, experts say.

"If someone feels good about buying it, whether it works or it doesn't, it makes them feel good," he said. "I don't think we should question."

John Dunlavy, who manufactures audiophile loudspeakers and wire to go with it, does think questioning is valid. A musician and engineer, Mr. Dunlavy said as an academic exercise he used principles of physics relating to transmission line and network theory to produce a high-end cable. "People ask if they will hear a difference, and I tell them no," he said.

Mr. Dunlavy has often gathered audio critics in his Colorado Springs lab for a demonstration.

"What we do is kind of dirty and stinky," he said. "We say we are starting with a 12 WAG zip cord, and we position a technician behind each speaker to change the cables out."

The technicians hold up fancy-looking cables before they disappear behind the speakers. The critics debate the sound characteristics of each wire.

"They describe huge changes and they say, 'Oh my God, John, tell me you can hear that difference,'" Mr. Dunlavy said. The trick is the technicians never actually change the cables, he said, adding, "It's the placebo effect."

This leads to disagreements based on competing science. Bruce Brisson, who owns Music Interface Technology, an ultrahigh-end wire manufacturer in Rockland, Calif., also wants to see cable charlatans revealed and may use his extensive laboratory to do it.

"I am getting ready to expose this in the year 2000," he said. "People are paying a lot of money and getting nothing for it." But he disagrees with Mr. Dunlavy on the effectiveness of wires, saying that the theory Mr.

Dunlavy uses to design his cables is not the right theory and that is why listeners cannot hear a difference.

Some scientists say it would be difficult to prove one way or another. Changing cables leaves a time lapse that makes comparison difficult. Putting several stereos side by side with the different wires would mean that the speakers would be different distances from the ear, which could have an effect. And while a switch could be made that would send a signal through each of several cables to a speaker from a single sound system, cable makers say the switch itself might spoil the advantages of their wires.

Part of the difficulty is that there are still unexplained acoustic phenomena. William Morris Hartmann, a professor of physics at Michigan State University in East Lansing, works on psycho-acoustic projects, which investigate the way sound is perceived, rather than the way it is produced.

There are examples, he said, of sounds that measure beyond the range of human hearing, and yet some people seem to perceive them. That means the market is left open to wild claims and psuedoscience. "It's annoying, but it's hard to disprove," Professor Hartmann said.

Perhaps the closest thing to middle ground is the position taken by Russ Hamm, an electrical engineer whose New York company G Prime Ltd. installs digital processing equipment for studios.

Mr. Hamm said that indeed, wires do make a perceivable difference, but very little, and then only to professionals, like the engineers at BMG Music. He lent them new high-grade cables for use on roughly $250,000 of equipment. On his system, Mr. Hamm uses a specialty cable manufactured in Vienna that costs $2 a foot.

"We are talking subtle differences, but that is what the high end is all about," he said.

It is a subtlety he describes as a 2 percent difference on a high-end system. "If you had a fine Bordeaux wine, how much does it matter if it's in a nice wineglass or a Riedel crystal glass?"

His advice to audiophiles: "I would say that you want to put the first $10,000 into your equipment."

This was very well known article in 1999. Fortunately I read it at that time.

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"What we do is kind of dirty and stinky," he said. "We say we are starting with a 12 WAG zip cord, and we position a technician behind each speaker to change the cables out."

The technicians hold up fancy-looking cables before they disappear behind the speakers. The critics debate the sound characteristics of each wire.

"They describe huge changes and they say, 'Oh my God, John, tell me you can hear that difference,'" Mr. Dunlavy said. The trick is the technicians never actually change the cables, he said, adding, "It's the placebo effect."


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Here's another one from my nh700 operation manual:

About Atrac3plus

ATRAC3plus is an enhanced version of ATRAC3.

Compared to ATRAC3 (used in LP2 and LP4 mode of the recorder), which attains a compression ratio 10 times higher than that of a CD, ATRAC3plus (used in Hi-SP and Hi-LP mode of the recorder) achieves a higher compression ratio that is 20 times higher than that of a CD, but with no loss in sound quality.

Hi-LP has the same sound quality as LP2 at half the bitrate? I don't think so.

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That's all your quoting? There must be quite a few words in that manual that are full of it. tongue.gif

Interesting article regardless, I really liked #3 - whilst I've never heard a tube amp it seems as if this person's words are well rounded; perhaps there really isn't much to them and the maintenance overhead makes it an unreasonable endeavor. It's almost like delving into such is like a regular Hi-Fi stereo amp being a cigarette and a Tube amp being a cigar..a difference of taste if you will.

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I'm going to keep this link. Great article, sums up the biggest lies quite well.

Too bad the author doesn't mention audio compression. "MP3 is bad" or something like that should definitely be in the top ten.

Just a note: The "Vacuum-tube lie" only holds for high-end audio. As a guitarist, I can say vacuum tubes are very nice in the field where overdrive is needed (instead of transparancy). It is very hard to model by digital techniques, because of its non-linear response. However, I have to do some blind testing yet laugh.gif

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As I posted before the Great Forum Collapse:

Another lie is that of "ATRAC sucks, therefore, everything related to ATRAC must suck too."

Hey, that's Head-Fi Dogma #7, and you have no right to question it, for it must be true. Why? Because that guy at Hydrogen Audio said so! Dogma #7 is always true, you can not question it, nor proof is needed, because it always has been!!


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