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  1. #1
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    Lightbulb Swivel the Lens to look at Ourselves

    Hi boys and girls!

    First day here and I'm already hemmoraging in the head...

    I'm going to share a very recent experience with a "Natural Food Company". You see, I shop at a place that was once called "Nature's". It is now called "Wild Oats", and it sort of postures as a health food store, but on a scale of grand salon slickness that already gives one pause. Suffering from a head cold this week, I figured some "Organic Cocoa" would help clear my sinuses. I bought some AH!LASKA branded product. I read the ingredient list, and each one was presented with "natural" or similar wording to reassure the reader its what they wanted. The first few were what you'd expect; cocoa, sugar, rice solids. Fine, fine. At the bottom, prefaced with (less than 1%) were carrageenan and xanthan gum. We've probably all seen this stuff in milkshakes and ice cream, but do we know what it really is? I figured it was like starch; nice if it was missing, but acceptable if added. After all, the makers of these products know more than we do about making them, or we'd all make ice cream at home, eh? Instead I was horrified to learn that the FDA proposed a ban on certain forms of carrageenan as early as the 70's because it causes breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. Worse news yet, is processes of digestion are showing up in recent research that turn high molecular weight carrageenan, the "approved" form, into the low molecular weight polygeenan that turns your insides into a festering mess. What has the FDA done about it? After 35 years, it reversed its earlier decision, and continues to give it GRAS (generally regarded as safe) status. A particular researcher, Dr. Joanne Tobacman, is waving a banner that has strong science behind it, and could force the FDA to reverse its standing. I wrote an Email to this company, asking them to reconsider the use of such an additive on the basis of the Precautionary Principle. I would be discarding their cocoa, and not purchasing products from them until the ingredient was no longer added. The response I got was the most chilling possible; namely that they were perfectly AWARE of the objections raised by Dr. Tobacman. As long as the FDA did not pass regulations against it, they were going to continue adding their (possibly) cancerous powder, regardless of my objections or common prudence, thank you very much. Despite their happy polar teddy bear waving a mug of supposedly natural hot chocolate, and many uplifting stories on their parent company website about community involvement, their actual legal stance was we can do whatever we want that will make us a tad more money, because our cocoa will taste a little smoother with this crap in it. The true irony, is one of their OTHER products is something called PumpKorn, supposedly invented by a guy suffering from CANCER looking for a natural snack.

    This seemingly off-topic diatribe is anything but. It suggests that a business entity will create the impression of a whole series of things being true, but when even slightly challenged, resorts to tactics completely at odds with their stated philosophy. As a matter of fact, if a company is willing to KILL YOU with its products, and LIE to you about it, while their marketing campaigns imply they are BETTER FOR YOU than those from the other guys...

    ...Then why wouldn't cable manufacturers tell you anything you want to hear, to get you to spend more for cable than a set of racing tires for a Ferrari? WHAT IS IT THAT WE WANT TO BE TRUE?

    I invite debate on my following premise. Most of us are NOT audio designers. This doesn't mean anything like "we are stupid". Many of us are excellent automobile drivers. Some of us may race them. Backyard mechanics, even professional ones among us. Perhaps a few have DESIGNED CARS. Or Tires. Or a turbo intake manifold. The trouble comes, when we are expected to know about fuel chemistry, too. And the wafer fab protocols for the fuel injection computer IC. Or the weaving of the wool carpet in a Porsche. Or the viscosity tradeoffs with temperature in an automatic transmission. SOMEONE knows, or at least has thought about it, tried stuff, written down their test results, and came to a decision based on a myriad of inputs. But most drivers at one level or another, have to start treating the whole car, or its major subassemblies, or detailed parts, as "BLACK BOXES". So how do many people customize their cars? Loud Exhausts, Etc. The claims I’ve seen for these things, and actual dyno measurements… All looked familiar.

    I’m asking people to be honest with themselves. They really don’t have a clue what goes on in a CD player. Or a power amplifier. Or a loudspeaker. Oh, even audio designers may think they do, but then most amplifiers, speakers, and CD players would sound very much alike, and would all be quite good, at any given price point. We are limited to going out and buying some OTHER product to make “upgrades” in our systems. But hey, if the things we CAN control…. are BETWEEN the black boxes, and we are told that the differences in the wires are at least as big as the differences between the boxes themselves, tada! We have POWER and CONTROL over our surroundings again!

    I think some food for thought lies in the observation that as many products get better and faster and shinier, like say… THE PERSONAL COMPUTER, more people make them, and the price FALLS. But with something like cables, more people than ever are making them, and they are supposedly better and shiner, but they keep CLIMBING IN PRICE.

    Next, I challenge someone to find a subjective reviewer that found some well made, clever, INEXPENSIVE cables that beat the pants off the pricier guys. The odds are that some people might want to get their cables out there in the marketplace and make some money, but be in a different price category. This doesn't seem to be happening. To beat the odds, sometimes you have to “fix” the game.

    Lastly, I have to point to one of the most abusive pricing strategies of the cable industry. Sure, if you sell bulk cable, you would think twice as much cable should cost twice as much, or maybe… you get a small price break for buying in quantity. But just check out the pricing difference between 1m and 2m versions of “high end” cable. Twice as much! Where is the second set of connectors? The labor to put them on? The second unneeded package? Can you say GOUGE?

    We’ve been led to believe something by one group, to make that group rich enough to have stadiums named after them. So where is the motivation of the naysayers, the folks who have done the math and are coming up short in defending the corporate claims with anything substantive? Can science be wrong? Of course. It is part of the basic premise. But is the motivation of being recognized as “right” anywhere near as strong as taking off that white lab coat that proves you are a genius and driving a Lamborghini to the grocery store?

    The only thing to be Patriotic about is the Truth.
    MAS

  2. #2
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    Well, I can try to tackle a few of your points.

    What we "want" to be true is what is in fact true - that different cables can impart different sonic signatures in different systems. I'm not sure if we really "want" this to be true. In fact, I'd love it if common zipcord sounded as good as the Cardas I use. It's simply not the case. So we do have some control on what's "between the boxes".

    Comparing the cable industry to computers has its pitfalls. There are economies of scale in the computer biz that make it easier to make better computers cheaper while cable manufacture introduces upgraded architecture that costs more money... witness Audioquests battery. R&D is expensive as is the fact that sales are lower so they have to have higher margins. That's business, like it or not.

    No one I know of argues against cables being overly expensive. So are amps, certain automobiles and certain bicycles as well as many other things. I buy my cables on the secondary market to save money. If I had bought the Cardas I use at retail pricing, I can state unequivocally that the improvement would not have been worth the investment. The message is simple: If cable pricing offends thee, don't buy it! Vote with your dollars.

    This cable didn't "beat the pants off" its higher priced competitors but Home Depot 14 guage got a nice review in a recent Absolute Sound issue - I can't recall which one. The company that makes a cable costing $50 at retail and that beats the higher priced models will be a genius and should make himself a lot of money! BTW, none of the cables I looked at when I was creating my short list of auditions cost twice as much for 2 meters as 1. In fact, 3 meters was not twice as much as 1 meter - I checked this since I use monoblocks and needed 3 meter interconnects. Certainly I'm not well informed on ALL cable pricing but I would question your facts here.

  3. #3
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    Hey musicoverall,

    Thanks for your response! I will clarify my pricing objections by saying when you walk into a big box chain or even Fry's, companies like Monster do indeed charge double without batting an eye.

    I want you to rethink "economies of scale" when referring to the relatively recent phenomenon of "accessories" available to the typical consumer that cost as much as their home theater in a box did. I should let you know I've had nice face time with Asian guys that supply companies like Vandersteen(who then do the muscle bound pose act like they invented the stuff).

    Every stereo ever made has to be hooked up with something. Its a huge market.

    The reason I wanted people to reexamine the psychology behind cable swapping are the possible parallels to the Hawthorne Effect. As you may recall, Harvard Business School researchers T.N. Whitehead, Elton Mayo, and George Homans demonstrated that the ACTUAL changes made in the workplace (for example lighting levels) had less correlation than the FACT that a change was made.

    Furthermore, Occam�s Razor ( http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/OCCAMRAZ.html ) demands that a theory discard superfluous elements, and I'll throw down the gauntlet that few high end wire design theories have ever been subjected to any sort of peer review, but instead are inevitably described in language that defies scientific analysis.

    I'm curious to see if you would agree to the following statement:

    "The best wire would have NO SONIC EFFECT"

    If it was achievable, then several very good wires would be nearly indistinguishable from one another, on the basis that really good wire is inaudible when inserted into a given system.

    Consequently, wire that has significant audible characteristics, easily discernible from all other wire, is either the ONE TRUE WIRE, and all others are guilty of some level of adulteration to the musical signal... or it too has deleterious effects. I've read claims by wire manufacturers their cable is SUPERIOR TO STRAIGHT LINE CONNECTION. That is, if there was no cable, if your gear happened to line up nicely to plug together, their wire still makes the gear come alive and become more musical and magical and truthful to the original performance. Who's kidding whom?

    The discussion branches into two camps at this juncture; the first for those who seek high resolution and fidelity to the original performance, and the second to those that wish to tailor the sound to suit their taste. I submit that both are legitimate stances, but they should never be confused with each other.

    I think the reason the objectivists take umbrage at claims of the supernormal regarding wire, is that they feel somehow left out of the magic. They may have great ears, and be very much plugged into the music scene, but simply don't get "it".

    They say no good deed goes unpunished. That there is a certain level of arrogance and condescension involved when you deign to offer help to someone who appears befuddled, misguided, or even offering cash to a bum on the street because they look like they need it, but haven�t asked you for it. So be it. It seems a form of passive malice to stand by and allow cruelty in the form of economic exploitation occur regarding the idea that good engineering practices are incapable of creating sufficiently high performance wire, but cloistered cave dwelling magic-cable charlatans indeed have the answers science fails to provide.

    The only thing to be Patriotic about is the Truth.
    MAS

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    Toga: First, let's not get all wrapped up in cables!

    You may have read the endless, and rather pointless, barrage of posts on cables and I/C here. The only understandable motivations are the AR Watchdogs wishing to protect their cable advertisement revenues while the do-gooders try to protect the overly-trusting neophytes from unfettered commercial onslaught.

    Obviously, if everyone attended live recitals for only 25% of the time people have wasted posting arguments here about cables and I/C, they would not have to argue about comparing cables et al. In fact, once one has learned how real instruments REALLY sound, equipment comparisons become an unnecessary waste of time.

    We can all learn the sound of live musical instruments the same way that most of us become able to recognize the voices of unseen family members whom we have previously heard 'live' over many days. I gave a Dobie to my father-in-law because I developed a severe alergy problem with dogs and cats. When my wife & I pulled up my father-in-law's driveway in our new car one night, after we had not seen this dog for more than two years, that Dobie went wild and was ready to kill. I stepped out of the car and said the dog's name and it quieted right down. It still remembered my voice.

  5. #5
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    Again, no one is saying high brow cables aren't overly expensive. Quite frankly, I find it unthinkable as a consumer that the loudspeakers I use could cost $10K! Even the $5500 I paid on the used market is too much in the sense that one can buy speakers that would transmit most of the music and not too much more in the way of gross anomalies for under a grand. But it's a matter of how much one is willing to pay for smaller and smaller improvements. To use an analogy I've used before, the sprinter spends many many hours of training and conditioning to shave a few 10ths of a second off his time. Some audiophiles are willing to spend many thousands of dollars for a very subtle improvement. As long as they improvement is there, I can't argue that they spent their money foolishly.

    I agree that the best wire would have no sonic effect. Are you aware of such an animal? I am not, regardless of the wire companies marketing claims. Such claims are easily dispelled or reinforced by simply listening to their product. OTOH, I'm using my ears and they're using theirs. Perhaps they truly don't hear any sonic anomalies. Who am I to say? Perhaps they didn't use their wire with my components. I'm not so certain that the cable itself has a sound; I'm leaning towards the same cable reacting to the speakers and the components differently in different systems. Furthermore, several very good wires WERE in fact indistinguishable in my system. I've also found silver cables that were reported as being bright sounding to be dull and lazy in my systems over the years.

    I can't say for sure if the components I choose are truly transparent or if they impart some kind of sonic signature that I find agreeable. Perhaps I'm a poor excuse for an audiophile but I truly don't care. I don't really know what "transparent" means anyway! If transparent is the sound of cheap receivers and cheap wire, then transparent means that there is either an incredibly huge problem with the recording industry or my ear/brain interface is screwed up beyond repair. I suppose either or both is a possibility!

    If you speak with Ray Kimber of Kimber Kable, Bill Low of Audioquest, or George Cardas of Cardas Cable and suggest to them that something other than "good engineering practices" is at work in the design and manufacture of their cable, I don't think you'll get a very warm reception! You will, however, be disabused of that notion. These guys, and many others like them, are engineers. They create a product and they listen to it. If science hasn't found the means to mathematically calculate the sonic differences, that's ok... if we're patient, it will come.

    Lastly, regarding Monster's pricing structure, that's a company that is marching to the beat of its own drummer in many ways. I think I'd steer clear of them even if they made a product that I found sonically appealing, which they don't. Most cable companies don't double the price of a 2m IC over a 1m. Then again, most cable companies don't own football stadiums or sue everybody under the sun, either!

  6. #6
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    [QUOTE=Mash].Obviously, if everyone attended live recitals for only 25% of the time people have wasted posting arguments here about cables and I/C, they would not have to argue about comparing cables et al. In fact, once one has learned how real instruments REALLY sound, equipment comparisons become an unnecessary waste of time. /QUOTE]

    Well... except for the fact that I can no longer hear folks like John Coltrane, Miles Davis or Thelonious Monk play live anymore. They're dead. So it makes sense to me to upgrade my audio system to the point where they sound like they're playing in my living room, at least as much as possible. Cables and component comparisons are therefore hardly a waste of time.

    BTW, I'm at live recitals about 300% of the time I post here, either listening or performing.

  7. #7
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    Mr musicoverall: I believe you have flunked Reading 101.

    I wrote that "once one has learned how real instruments REALLY sound, equipment comparisons become an unnecessary waste of time. "

    You, on the other hand are discussing PERFORMERS, i.e. John Coltrane, Miles Davis or Thelonious Monk.

    Btw I am familiar with these people, but since you missed it the first time, I will reiterate that "once one has learned how real instruments REALLY sound...."

    Real instruments..... Got it?

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    Mash, thanks for chiming in! Your mentioning the bias of this forum, suggested by the fact this thread was moved already (still learning the "rules" folks), is much appreciated.

    Musicoverall! I'm pleased that you too get to attend live musical performances as I do. I'm with you completely on the "dead guys". What an astounding miracle, that we can continue to enjoy the genius of such greats as Jimi and Jaco posthumously. Often older recordings fall far short of audiophile standards, but remain an important way to enjoy the sounds of a bygone era.

    I'm just now learning about the truly great microphones. At my new job, I've inherited hundreds of NOS tubes in cute colored cardboard boxes made in AMERICA. There might be 10,000 miles of wire at this place; no joke. Old school Canon, 20 different vendors of xlr, and mountains of dated gear are a daily reminder that the actual recordings many of us really love from the analog days were often made through very questionable methods. And yet you can imagine a pair of Neumanns tethered with stout hemp lined Belden cable to a Studer running at 15IPS turning out a hell of a sound.
    The only thing to be Patriotic about is the Truth.
    MAS

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    Not to mention Comprehension 101!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mash
    I wrote that "once one has learned how real instruments REALLY sound, equipment comparisons become an unnecessary waste of time. "

    You, on the other hand are discussing PERFORMERS, i.e. John Coltrane, Miles Davis or Thelonious Monk.

    Btw I am familiar with these people, but since you missed it the first time, I will reiterate that "once one has learned how real instruments REALLY sound...."

    Real instruments..... Got it?
    When I get slammed for not being able to read, it's usually because I don't understand what was written. I've read your post a few more times and I'm not sure what you're trying to say. I know how most instruments sound live so why is it a waste of time to compare equipment to see which pieces come closest to that sound? Are you saying that no component comes close to the sound of real instruments? Sorry, I don't understand your point.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toga
    . Often older recordings fall far short of audiophile standards, but remain an important way to enjoy the sounds of a bygone era..
    Yes! One of the things about myself that I'm not able to explain is how I get as much enjoyment out of old Lester Young 78 RPM's as I do an SACD recording of Ben Webster mixed directly from master tapes. When pressed for a moniker upon joining A/R, I settled upon "musicoverall". Despite the fact that people envision me as some old geezer wearing bib overalls with musical notes and staffs on them, my moniker came about from the fact that I'd trade my Magnepans for Bose before I'd be willing to give up A Love Supreme.

  11. #11
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    Bose!

    ...crying

    The correct fallback position is to POLK, with a sock stuffed in the port and a little bass EQ.

    Amar and his psycho direct/reflection babble has tea parties with the devil and you know it.

    hehe
    The only thing to be Patriotic about is the Truth.
    MAS

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    Mr. musicoverall

    If you could not connect the dots in my post describing how the dog we had given to my father-in-law had responded instantly to my voice and became friendly, well before the animal could ever smell me (I was downwind), then I will elaborate.

    Remember that this dog did NOT know our new car, and he had not seen us for more than two years because I had to avoid all contact with dogs and cats. Now let's think about this: Did that dog compare my voice to another man's voice and then decide which of us sounded more like me? Silly question- of course he did not! In fact the animal did not know we were coming! But it did respond favorably, and instantly, to my voice. And ONLY to my voice! Clear, so far?

    Now let's try another scenario that 'might' apply to your personal life by making some assumptions:

    1. Let's assume you grew up in the so-called 'normal' family home with a mother and a father;

    2. Let's assume you are all-grown-up and living in your own place, but you are on great personal terms with your parents;

    3. Let's assume you have family get-togethers with them periodically, and that you expect your father to call today or tomorrow and discuss the next family get-together;

    4. The phone rings (you do NOT have caller ID) and you answer "Hello";

    5. A man's voice says "Hello, musicoverall!";

    6. Do you:
    a. Compare this man's voice to another man's voice to decide which sounds 'better' as representing your father's voice; or
    b. Do you decide in 2 nanoseconds that the caller IS, or IS NOT, your father?

    Of course, the answer would be (b.)

    And so it should be with audio equipment: it is accurate, or it isn't accurate, at reproducing live instruments.

    None of us will ever live long enough to compare every paired-set of audio paraphernalia to select which 'sounds better'. Even Methuselah's life would not be long enough.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mash
    And so it should be with audio equipment: it is accurate, or it isn't accurate, at reproducing live instruments. .
    That's a gross oversimplification. All consumer audio equipment comes in varying degrees of sonic accuracy... or so my experience with numerous pieces, along with the testimony of others on pieces I have no experience with tells me. So the point is trying to find which components and cables are closest to reproducing live instruments... closest, since none of them (to my knowledge) can exactly reproduce it. Remember, I'm talking consumer equipment here. The system I own now does a very good job but I've heard components I can't afford that do better.

    Your dog recognized the sound of your voice as instantly as you could recognize a trumpet or your fathers voice. But I wonder if your dog would have recognized a recording of your voice.

  14. #14
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    [QUOTE=Toga

    Amar and his psycho direct/reflection babble has tea parties with the devil and you know it.
    )[/QUOTE]

    Well, he should have his tea parties with a different kind of "monster", Mr Noel Lee. They could compare their litigious souls!

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    "Your dog recognized the sound of your voice as instantly as you could recognize a trumpet or your fathers voice. But I wonder if your dog would have recognized a recording of your voice."........(?)

    My wife told me that if our telephone rang when I was not at home the dog would became quite excited. But it calmed down if it heard my voice on the speaker phone.

    Our dog would respond, or "go to check things out", when unknown dogs "barked" from our Futterman-Tympani setup. The cats would go looking when they heard Robert J.'s birds on Morning Promusica. So I believe that your seemingly-pessimistic view is unwarranted and, really, an unnecessary assumption. I still believe that one can, and should, evaluate each piece of audio gear alone on its own merits and decide if that piece is realistic, or not realistic. I have found success using this method, where I define success as achieving a realistic sound while I stay off of the expensive and time-consuming upgrade merry go round.

    I believe that neither you, nor I, will live as long as Methuselah so I suggest using the sound of real instruments as a straightford GO/NO GO standard and avoid wasting time staging "comparisons" to obtain "incremental improvements".

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    I wanna be Methuselah! He had a kid when he was 187! That's precisely the age I want kids too.
    The only thing to be Patriotic about is the Truth.
    MAS

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    [QUOTE=Mash. I still believe that one can, and should, evaluate each piece of audio gear alone on its own merits and decide if that piece is realistic, or not realistic. I have found success using this method, where I define success as achieving a realistic sound while I stay off of the expensive and time-consuming upgrade merry go round.

    I believe that neither you, nor I, will live as long as Methuselah so I suggest using the sound of real instruments as a straightford GO/NO GO standard and avoid wasting time staging "comparisons" to obtain "incremental improvements".[/QUOTE]

    I don't disagree. The only difference is that I compared more than one cable against my reference to see which one was the most realistic.

  18. #18
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    Here is where I see us standing today. A perfect wire would pass the sound completely unaltered. That is, the signal coming out of the amp and the one arriving at the speaker terminals would be identical. You can't get a better wire than that.

    When it is suggested that one wire sounds different than another, this implies that at least one wire is altering the signal. In other words, one of the wires is deficient and less than perfect (or perhaps both, but to different degrees). There is simply no reason that scientists or engineers cannot find the reason for any of these deficiencies. Regardless of what you believe, that is a very curious fact.

    Of course, the designers/marketers of these cables have all sorts of techno-babble on why their particular cable will sound better (or different) but no independent, objective third party has been able to verify any of it. And strangely enough, the cable companies have not attempted to really show their cables are better through valid testing. All we have are testimonials. Again, this is very curious.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Monstrous Mike
    There is simply no reason that scientists or engineers cannot find the reason for any of these deficiencies.
    Totally agree. Who's working on finding these reasons besides Jneutron???

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    I have managed to retire reasonably young from doing engineering at a world-famous company. The full retiree benefits are pretty darned good. Of course, the policy there of firing the bottom 10% every year made things rather competitive. And the number of retirees with full retiree benefits is relatively small. That is to say, relatively very small.

    I had noticed over the years that one trait of the people at that world-famous company was that one simply did NOT admit to being an "Audiophile" because of all the hair-brained, pseudo-science balderdash that "Audiophiles" are famous for:
    Breaking in loudspeakers...
    I/C and speaker wire had to be exotic because they all sound different.....
    yada-yada-yada

    Reputable Engineers will continue to work on loudspeaker technology because improvements in transducer technology should be possible well into the forseeable future. Improvements in amplifiers should also be possible. The loudspeaker-amplifier union will continue to be worthy of improvement, especially for applications involving servo-feedback technology.

    But Reputable Scientists and Engineers are not going to waste their time on the nonsense of "finding the reason for wire deficiencies". Wire parameters are well known and well documented for anyone who wishes to leave Audiophile LaLa Land.

    The pertinent point in Mikes post is simply:
    "....the designers/marketers of these cables have all sorts of techno-babble on why their particular cable will sound better (or different) but no independent, objective third party has been able to verify any of it. And strangely enough, the cable companies have not attempted to really show their cables are better through valid testing."

    And to the last point: They never will.......

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mash
    But Reputable Scientists and Engineers are not going to waste their time on the nonsense of "finding the reason for wire deficiencies". Wire parameters are well known and well documented for anyone who wishes to leave Audiophile LaLa Land.
    Hmmm... I suspect Mr Neutron will read the above comment with much dismay, since I also suspect he is a "reputable" scientist/engineer. But you are entitled to your opinions, the same as anyone else.

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