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Ten Biggest Audio Lies: Agree or Disagree (If you disagree, you must explain why!) Votes are public!


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i agree'd with all of it except one.the one thing i didnt agree with is burn in.the reason why is from my diy amp building.specifically some t-amps swapping input coupling caps.i have heard some difference after 100 or so hours of use.
 

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I can't believe people are still talking about this 13 year old article.

Oddly, in that same publication the Audio Critic reviewed a pair of speakers that I designed for AVMS. It was a good review that ended with "definitely recommended".

After all these years that 10 biggest lies story is even funnier now than it was back then. What's sad is how many people went for that stuff. The real lies are not in the audio industry as much as they are in the article. I won't call the writer a lair though. He is not intentionally telling a lie. He is just ignorant.

This whole thread reads like a poll as to whether or not there is a Big Foot. Everybody is talking about what they believe verses what someone else believes. Does it exist or does it not? Some say they have seen it, but they have no proof.... All the while there are groups of people that have some in their freezer and aren't saying anything. The guys that have one in their freezer don't really care what everyone else thinks. They know the answer. It is a fact for them. Okay no one really has a Big Foot in their freezer (that I know of). But for those of us in the audio industry that do this for a living... We have some of these answers. For some of us this stuff is a matter of fact. It doesn't matter what everyone else believes. We already have the answers. Some of them anyway....

It is just really sad to see more people here being mislead by this stuff. More people here taking this poll bought into the lies of Peter Aczel than know the truth.
 

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Which lies?

(Tries to light fireworks)
 

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The problem with the article and the poll is that it paints everything as a dichotomy. The fact is that there is some truth in most lies and misconceptions in most things that are assumed to be true. You have to qualify virtually every one of the "lies" to get at the truth. The only true statement for nearly all of them is, "it depends." It is where we challenge our own assumptions, do the research, discuss and debate, and do real analysis of data that we learn. Most of what we get with regard to these "lies" is belief or opinion of one flavor or another.
 

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Danny,

Don't know about anybody else but for someone who is not in the industry or have unlimited funds to experiment with all possible combinations & permutations that can affect sound perception I would appreciate that.

I can always draw on experience and knowledge from my own fields and even "common sense" to evaluate claims. However, there are many things in my field that, while true, seem counter-intuitive if you don't fully understand the mechanisms involved. I suspect the same is true of audio.

Mike
 

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Hummm
Danny you have certainly piqued my interest.
Waiting to see exactly where you stand on the myths.
Cannot tell for sure if you intend to debunk the myths or the article that is debunking the myths.
Popcorn is definitely on the stove though.
 

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Perception is reality. If you believe the $500 a/c cable will improve the low bass sound, it will. If you believe a $50 rubber ring around a tube will improve the high end, it will. If you believe a set of four $200 speaker stand spikes will improve the low end, it will.

True story from my youth ('60s): I worked in a TV repair shop where I went on service calls to fix TV's. One old lady kept repeatedly complaining about bad picture quality in an old (even then) b&w tv. My boss asked me to do something when I arrived at her home. In those days, tv's had horizontal hold, vertical hold, etc. controls. I asked her to tune to the channel with the bad picture. Then I adjusted the vertical hold until the picture started to vertically roll slowly. I asked her to let me know which picture was good. She spent 10 minutes looking at all the images (obviously all were the same), and then she yelled "stop, that's it!". I then locked in the vertical hold and never heard back from her again.
 

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Okay, almost done. I will make a new post for each "lie". You guys can copy or quote them individually if you want to add comments to them.
 

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1. The cable lie.

This one shows complete ignorance. There is much more to cables than simple resistance, inductance, and capacitance.

All cables have attributes of being an antenna and a filter to some degree. And some lean much more one way than the other. They can pick up EMI and RFI or reject or block it.

There is also a big difference it type and purity of the wire itself. Think of the signal being placed on the wire like the swinging kinetic balls. See some of them here:
Whatever you hit on one side transfers to the other. However, put a bunch of impurities in the wire (low purity Copper) and it will block or disrupt the signal. It would be like sliding a piece of paper between a couple of those swinging balls. So what you get off of the other end is not quite the same as what you hit it with.

Different types of speaker wire react differently when the speaker loads change as well.

The dielectric material or jacketing also has a big effect on the signal transfer. Differences from PVC, polyethylene, or Teflon all have some effect, and a character to their sound. This is very easily heard.

Braiding or shielding effects the sounds as well. Braiding will have a filtering effect by canceling out noise. Shielding works very differently, but can have a similar effect sometimes. You can even effect the sound of a cable by adding a Copper sleeve around it like a Z-Sleeve. You can just wrap a little bit of Stillpoints ERS cloth around the end of a cable and clearly alter the sound without changing anything about the way the wire measures. For that matter just twist or braid your speaker cables and notice the difference.

All cables have some effect or a difference in sound compared to cables of a different type or typology. I find it hard to find two that sound alike than to find any that sound different. They all sound a little different. And this is true for speaker cables, interconnect, and power cables.

For those of you that really do believe that a coat hanger with the ends scraped off or some 16 gauge lamp cord is just as good as anything else (as per the article), then I have some beach front property I'd like to sell you in Nebraska. Okay that was a little jab and I wasn't going to do that. But really, if you consider the system that the writer likely uses then is there any surprise to his conclusions?

Really though, if you use a $79 CD/DVD player and a $200 receiver with Bose speakers then do you really think you'll hear a difference if you drop in a $1,200 set of speaker cables. Possibly, but probably not. And that would be kind of silly. But could one then conclude fancy cables make no difference. Certainly not. You could conclude "I don't notice a difference in MY system".
 

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2. The vacuum tube lie.

To come out and knock tube gear and claim that "whatever vacuum tubes can do in a piece of audio equipment, solid state devices can do better", is just a false statement.

In this case you can't just throw a blanket over the whole thing either. There are tube amps and tube pre-amps out there that will do everything as well as any solid state amp. And there are some that aren't that great. The same can be said for many solid state amps or pre-amps. There are good ones and bad ones.

And the lush musical richness of some tubes amps has nothing to do with added coloration or distortion.

The funny thing is that since this article was written this whole debate has almost gone away. It is hardly even worth mentioning.
 

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3. The antidigital lie.

This has to be one of the funniest ones because so much has changed since then.

Digital has come so far since this article was written that there is really no comparison to where it was. It is not just about 1's and 0's, and never has been. In the new world of computer based audio even the playback software makes a difference. Differences in D/A converters are heard easily as well. Only now does digital come close to the best analog or vinyl playback systems. Back when this article was written digital was still a long way from the best vinyl systems.

To state "the 1's and 0's are incapable of being distorted in the signal path" shows much ignorance. Even changing out digital cables makes a difference. Noise on the line is noise on the line, and RFI and EMI is picked up on the digital cable as well. The quality of the USB cable can even make a notable difference. And yes it is just carrying 1's and 0's. Ever hear of jitter error? And that one is quite basic and a common type of filtering now used. That bit stream has to be properly clocked, and converted....

The problem with the top level analog or vinyl playback systems at that time was the cost of them. It was so expensive and still is so expensive, that most people have never heard them. The new problem of today with those systems (besides the cost still being high) is that they are too inconvenient to use. People want to press play and get instant satisfaction. Most of the people of today are much like the writer of this article way back the year 2000. They have never heard serious analog playback systems. So they really don't know.

The same is true from the recording end of it. An acoustic instrument for instance produces an analog sound. It does not produce numbers (ones and zeros). If that sound is recorded with a high quality analog recorder it stands the best chance of being a copy that more closely matches the original. Added an analog to digital conversion for the consumer to then then add a digital to analog conversion is not an improvement. That is like taking a photo with real film, printing it, and taking another photo of it with a digital camera, then printing it off, and thinking it will be as good or better than the original. One can of course take a digital picture of the original or likewise a digital recording of the music. That is very common today and much easier to store. But just like digital cameras the digital recording quality can vary. And it is not just about the bit rate. Once a picture is stored digitally it still has to be printed off to be appreciated. So the quality of the printer can also vary quite a bit. Likewise to hear the digital recording a D/A converter must be used and the quality can vary a LOT. D/A converters can range from $49 to $24,000.

Digital is more marketable, more convenient, less expensive, portable, and in recent years the quality has gotten very good especially on the playback side. Is it better now than vinyl? No, but close. In the year 2000, it wasn't even close.
 

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4. The listening test lie.

The writer would have you believe that the only valid subjective comparisons are double blind A/B/X comparisons. Not true at all. And those tests can be conducted to sway results based on how the tests are given. I have conducted them to prove points in two different directions proving outcomes in both directions. It all depends on how they are conducted.

I'll give you an example. I did this. I had a group of people in a room with a system that they did not know, with music that the did not know, and played an entire song all the way through then made a switch. Then played the song all the way through again. No one could tell a difference. And these were audiophiles. Take a group of people off the street not well trained in listening and the results will certainly be that no one hears a difference in this test. Too much information over too long of a period is a problem. It is not about audibility at that point.

Next I took the same group of guys and played a 5 to 10 second piece over several times. It was an acoustic intro. Then a switch was made. Low and behold everyone heard a difference. Sometimes it is as much about memory retention as hearing a difference, and the shorter sample time makes it much easier. When I moved to a new piece of music the same thing happened. Everyone notices the difference and can identify the difference. Pretty soon they notice the things that one does over the other and can pick which is which on a new piece of music without A/B switching. They have learned the differences.

The thing that we compared that day was two different types of capacitors in the output stage of a DAC. One was an Axon poly cap and the other a Sonicap.

I could have just as well repeated the test many times to show that no one could hear a difference. It is depends on how the test is conducted.

And often differences between whatever is being compared is readily apparent. You don't need a well documented A/B/X test to confirm a difference. When you can hear a repeatable difference there is a difference.
 

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5. The feedback lie.

This is another one that in this day and age we look back on it and wonder why it even made the list. Using some negative feedback in some amps designs have become common place. Some amps were designed around a no negative feedback typology and sound very good. But this is not a rule and really never was. So I can agree with him on this one, but the topic is not really worth discussion.
 

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6. The burn-in lie.

He really misses the boat on this one. Everything goes through mechanical and electrical forming periods. At least he admits to mechanical burn in effects of speakers, but again misses the boat when he claims it takes only a few hours. This effect is well documented. And mechanical burn in effects can still be seen in some drivers 100 hours or more later.

Here are some examples: http://www.gr-research.com/burnin.htm

http://www.gr-research.com/myths.htm

All signal carrying devices from cables to connectors go through a settling or burn in period. Some devices even take quite a bit of time. Capacitors are especially sensitive to the time needed to form the dielectric materials and settle in. Most polypropylene caps need a good 100 hours or so. And caps with Teflon film can take as long as 500 to 1000 hours to finish settling. They don't form in a few seconds as the writer claims. And some go through quite a swing during those times and the sound can vary quite a bit.

The same is true for any piece of gear and includes speaker cables, interconnect, and power cables.

To think otherwise shows a complete lack of experience with such. This is understandable though if the writer truly uses zip cord and coat hanger wire for speaker cables. His reference system my not allow such differences to be heard.

In my system it is not hard to notice burn in effect differences even in cables. I had a handful of guys over once doing some listening and swapped out one pair of interconnects from my DAC to my pre-amp. I swapped in an identical fresh pair just like the other pair that had been in the system for a long time. So I only dropped in one pair of interconnects that had not been burned in. The difference was subtle but could clearly be heard and identified by all present. Trailing edges of a piano were held a little longer and had a little bit of an edge or ring to them verses the well burned in cables. No question about it.

Here is pic of my listening system. Speakers change regularly depending on what I am working on.

 

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7. The bi-wiring lie.

There is some truth to this one. Bi-wiring does not separate the signal in any way. It really does not put lows on one cable and highs on another. Electrically the load is still the same. It can and does change the sound, but not because of any signal separation. Often the change can be an adverse change especially if dissimilar wire types are used. A slight phase shift can even be introduced with dissimilar wire. Usually one can get better sound by using a bi-wire style cable as a single standard cable using both ends together. It just depends on the typology.

Bi-amping has some advantages in some circumstances and the writer acknowledges that as well.

And in most cases the speakers that use a bi-wiring binding post adds some flat piece of tin between the two for normal wiring. This is not something that should be in the signal path. You can even hear a difference depending on whether you plug into the top or bottom binding posts. Moving it from post to post determines if your highs or lows pass through the tin (gold coated) jumper. Getting that out of the path always sounds better.

Bi-wiring is not voodoo as the writer suggests, but all things being equal you don't gain a performance advantage from two sets of speaker cables over one. You are introducing changes that have effect, but for other reasons.
 

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8. The power conditioner lie.

This one is another complete lie on the part of the writer. And this is one of the easiest of all to hear and notice differences. AC noise and everything else that has attached itself to the miles of power lines terribly contaminates the audio signal and creates an undesirable noise floor. It doesn't matter how good your source gear is. It is not immune to AC noise.

When I'd exhibit at a show (somewhere in a hotel room) the AC noise on the lines are really bad, different from place to place, and at different times of the day. We always have to focus some attention to this problem. Otherwise we have a high noise floor.

Good power conditioning can really drop the noise floor. It can improve the efficiency of power supplies in amps and pre-amps, and improve low level clarity and imaging. Even a good power cable can filter out a lot of garbage and make notable improvements.

By leaving all settings the same on the gear and making back to back A/B comparisons, using some power conditioners, will show a change in loudness. Yes the system with conditioning actually plays louder without touching a volume control. This is because the transformers operate more efficiently. The noise floor is lower too.

And anyone that has ever listened to one of our displays at a show can easily note the low noise floor compared to other rooms. We have blacker blacks, more clear space between notes, better resolution, and great levels of detail. Other rooms not putting forth as much effort to address this problem clearly do have get the same results.

Again the writer shows a complete lack of experience or just ignorance on this topic. And it is indeed a shame that so many people here taking this poll have bought into the lie perpetuated by the writer.

There are companies that will send out free power conditioners and power cables for a free trail. Get some and try them out. I have even sent some out on a demo tour free of charge just for education and enlightenment. In other words, don't take my word of it. Let me show you.
 
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