Posted by admin on 2009 May 11

Why we don’t need audiophiles

After reading this amusing article about why we “need audiophiles” in gizmodo and its followup response on i knew i had to write this:

I am sure most of you have heard about audiophiles.. guys who spend a fortune pursuing perfect sound reproduction via very expensive stereo equipment.
In the beginning of the audiophile craze (late 60s, early 70s), most of the equipment being sold was comprised of amplifiers, preamps, turntables, tuners and speakers.. then, as technology progressed, that era quickly degenerated into the age of snake-oil equipment: audio cables made of silver worth throusands of dollars, power regulators that “clean” the power coming into the audio equipment, speakers cables worth a small fortune, Wooden stands that can make your system better, etc etc.

How do i know all this? because i used to be one of them ‘audiophiles’ dudes. I still have tens of thousands of dollars in audiophile gear in my living room (which i mostly use in the mastering and mixing process of the music that will be released by Enigmafon)
Despite this i am very skeptical of people like the one portrayed in the Gizmodo article.. people like Michael Fremer who claim to hear differences between power cables, when he himself can’t even hear the hiss in vinyl records.

After a few years of buying and selling various amps, D/A converters and other stuff, i realized most of the equipment being peddled to high -end audiophiles was just hopeless HYPE. What lead me to figure this out?, i hear you ask: There are three words the audiophile industry hates: DOUBLE BLIND TESTING. As a matter of fact, bringing up the subject in a few “audiophile” website forums will get you automatically banned. I did a bunch of double blind tests with a few people using various systems and components, and it didn’t take long before we realized that, no person with a normal range of hearing can possibly hear the difference between different audio cables, power cables, and sometimes even between different components such as CD / DVD players.

The differences in sound between components such as audio cables and power cables that Michael Fremer claims he can hear are not backed up by a single iota of scientific evidence. As a matter of fact, in 2004, a few so called audiophiles were 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, as long as you are a human with normal hearing range.
Read the results for yourself here

Anyone claiming that he /she can hear audible differences that cannot be detected by current scientific equipment is either: Deluded by the Placebo effect, a charlatan, or a biological freak.
Considering the fact that Michael Fremer makes a living out of peddling $4000 power cables and other nonsense, through his ad-filled website and writing reviews for publications such as stereophile, i would think he has a lot to lose if he stopped “hearing” differences that only exist in his head…

His stories of having triumphed over double blind tests are just hearsay, as there is no third party verification of any of his claims. The only thing that Fremer could come up with to silence his critics was to post a list of quotes from famous engineers claiming they could hear differences when using some of the snake-oil equipment he peddles.
Hilarious.. i guess celebrities cannot be bribed and always tell the truth… this is why you never see any celebrities doing commercials, LOL
Have you EVER seen a celebrity bad mouthing a product?

Micheal Fremer is nothing but a peddler of dubious audiophile wares. His livelihood depends on it. Believing his theories is like believing the truthfulness of a used car salesman.
I am sure Fremer’s system sounds fantastic, at least when compared to the average stereo most people have; and there is some truth in some of his claims about the sonic quality of MP3s, CDs vs. LPs, etc, but to claim that he or anyone can hear differences between audio and power cables really puts a question mark on the validity of anything he says or writes. If he is so sure about his golden ears, why didn’t he take the million dollar challenge from James Randi ??

There are audio components that do make a difference (not necessarily better or worse) in the sound of a stereo system: Speakers, Pre-Amplifiers, Amplifiers; i’ve even heard differences between the cheap built-in D/A converters in a cable converter box and a high-end Musical Fidelity D/A converter and NO difference between the Burr-Brown D/A converters in a Denon 3910 DVD/CD/SACD/DVD-A player (which used to be worth about $1000, before BlueRay DVDs existed) and the same Musical Fidelity Tri Vista 21 DAC, (worth more than twice as much!!)

Do LPs sound different than CDs? Sure. some people may like CDs over LPs… and viceversa.. does this make one better over the other? Hardly.

We don’t need any snake oil peddling “audiophiles” like Michael Fremer, what we need is serious, honest, audio equipment reviewers with engineering backgrounds doing double blind testing, people
who are not in the business of selling advertisements, websites like Audioholics who are trying to educate people against snake oil wares and their golden eared peddlers.

PS. I am not way affiliated with audioholics or any other company or website mentioned.

This is what a sunset on hundreds of pounds of audiophile amplifiers looks like

Post a Comment

3 Responses to “Why we don’t need audiophiles”

  1. Sam says:

    Followed you here from Boingboing gadgets. Seems to put into perspective for me the entire case.

  2. admin says:

    thanks for your comment.

  3. Steve says:

    I am writing this reply as someone who is very tight with money, who likes the best sound possible at reasonable cost, and who would have agreed with you in theory before hearing what a difference cables can and do make to a system. Synergy of a system is also vitally important, and not just buying equipment based on review’s (which are almost always compromised by advertising and therefore are not objective and unbiased, they also subjectively audition them with other sub par equipment sometimes to be abe to write a favourable review without telling it how it really is). You need to listen with your ears, not with your eyes.
    I happened upon a group of friends who are audiophiles (a den of audiophiles, how scary) who range in economic circumstance, from average to very well off, and one is connected to the audiophile industry in a huge way, and is now releasing his own line of cables shortly after getting involved with an electrical engineer who developed high spec military and aeronoutical cabling for a living, He has spent a fortune on R&D, he wouldn’t need to if the “all cables sound the same” theory were true, or if he didn’t care and know and believe in what he is doing.

    If you have revealing equipment, the difference is night and day, there is no two ways about it. To say they don’t make a difference doesn’t even just border on absurdity. True, quality isn’t cheap, and some manufacturer’s do sell snake oil in highly fashioned jewellery style. Though some manufacturer’s do a lot of R&D to get their products right, they can take an average sounding system and make it a truly involving experience, and once you have had that experience, you know what to look for. A mishmash of equipment and cabling and even the most highly expensive, (not that all of them are even good) and revealing systems will sound 2 dimensional, flat, poor soundstage, bloated bass, poorly detailed, lacking realism, rather like a cardboard cutout of your favourite model. Given well chosen and matched components and the right right room dynamics, a set of cables chosen well can open up a system, even one on a reasonably modest audiophiles budget to realms not thought possible without said cabling. Summing up, It’s not snake oil, but choose carefully, and have someone who actually knows what they are doing show you in your system in your home.

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