Dr. AIX's POSTS — 22 January 2016


If you pay attention to any of the usual audiophile sites or FB pages, you’ve probably seen the Youtube video by Home Entertainment by D-Tronics [Editor’s NOTE: This is not Home Entertainment, which is a different retailer in Texas] that promotes several different AudioQuest HDMI cables. It purports to demonstrate that different qualities of their cables can improve…even dramatically improve…the fidelity of your music. The 6 minute video is presented by David Ellington, who is apparently a member of the AudioQuest marketing team.

He tries to make the case for three different models of AudioQuest HDMA cables ranging in price from $25 to $200 (for one meter). According to the AQ website they make lots of different HDMI models, including the “Diamond” that will set you back $1000. He talks about long-grain wire vs. wires with lots of strands, about the directionality of cables (apparently they listen to them in both directions and pick the one that “sounds” the best), and the different materials that they use to make the cables (copper or silver).

This marketing video would probably not have caught my eye or made it to several audiophile groups that I belong to except that it includes short excerpts from a song following the discussion of each cable. He starts by describing a “generic” HDMI cable…the baseline…and then plays the tune as it sounds through that cable. Each successive cable type…Pearl, Forest, and Chocolate…is described in glowing terms and then the tune is played.

And I can attest to the fact that each cable sounded better than the last one…even through my desktop computer audio system! The generic cable was dull, lifeless, lacked high-frequencies, and was much quieter than the others. The AudioQuest HDMI cables were much clearer, detailed, full fidelity, and louder. As the the price of the cables increased, so did the fidelity of the playback. Pretty convincing stuff, right?

He was talking up the “fidelity” produced by a short HDMI cable. These are digital cables designed and manufactured to meet a rigid set of standards set out by the people behind the HDMI specification. If the cable meets their specs, then it’s capable of accurately passing the digital ones and zeros from the source to the destination. But in this remarkable video, the fidelity of the sound was improved with each new cable. Somehow the digital information was changed to include higher frequencies, louder amplitudes, and smoother equalization. How is that possible. This goes against everything I know as an engineer.

Well, it turns out it’s not possible…no real surprise. I downloaded the video and extracted the soundtrack to a 96 kHz/24-bit WAV file, which I opened in Adobe Audition to get a peek at the spectra and amplitudes of the music clips. Take a look at the plot that I created from the Adobe tool:


Figure 1 – The spectra of the tune played in the AudioQuest promotional video on YouTube. [Click to enlarge]

I haven’t posted a spectragraph for a number of months so let me briefly describe what the producers of this video did with each music sample. Note the red line on the plot, which shows the spectra of the “baseline” generic cable. It shows a continuous attenuation as the frequencies increase with a sharp corner at about 17500 Hz.

The AudioQuest “Pearl” model starts at the same amplitude at the low frequencies but at around 2000 Hz it doesn’t have the same roll off as the generic cable. In other words, it’s much louder (by as much as 10 dB!) than the baseline or inexpensive HDMI cable. Curiously, it doesn’t have the sharp corner at 17500 Hz. It seems the engineers at AudioQuest have figured out a way to do some advantageous digital signal processing on the data stream during the transmission. Or more likely, they modified the tonal characteristics and equalization during a post production stage.

Each subsequent cable with their attendant increased price, improves on the previous one with the same modification. Of course, the “Chocolate” AudioQuest sounds the best. It was the loudest, brightest, and had the smoothest equalization of any of the less expensive models.

This is fraud. Any company that would produce a sales video full of faked results and then post it on YouTube (or anywhere else) is not deserving our your business. They’re not alone, of course. But this is so blatant and deliberate, that it deserves to be called out. At least Geoff Kaitt of Machina Dynamics admits that he’s a snake oil salesman.

And there’s a representative of AudioQuest on the CTA Audio Board. I get booted from the board because I tell the truth but AudioQuest gets a pass for falsifying their ad. As one of their representative told me in an email exchange, “the truth is bad for commerce” [Editor’s NOTE: The actual quote was, “It’s bad for enterprise”. I went back and checked the email thread.]. So the solution is to cheat.

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About Author


Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

(84) Readers Comments

  1. Oh boy, all this cable and “tunning” gadgets (like the ones from Synergistic Research) are all a HUGE scam. Honestly, i don’t understand how can this things even be legal?

    BTW, what cables do you use? And why do you pick them (i mean, what is your criteria)?

    I choose mine cables based on the quality of construcion vs price. I am pretty sure that i won’t spend my time listening different cables for my system… never! It’s pure marketing.

    Best regards!

  2. Mark, thank you for continuing to be the voice of reason!

  3. This cable stuff always makes me laugh. You are right, digital is digital. Unless the cable is faulty and stops the bits from flowing or is intermittent in transmission a $10 HDMI cable is just as good. Same for USB cables and all the rest.

  4. Thanks for writing about this. I’m a newcomer and a small player in this industry. I do my own marketing, but I can’t look people in the eye and tell lies that I know are wrong just to sell my products. It makes me sick that everyone gets away with this type marketing. It’s very discouraging.

  5. I have had 1 experience that says more money improves an HDMI cable. This involved Monster cables. The$ 80.00 cable gave a grainy picture, whereas the upgraded $200.00 cable was great. It is possible that the first cable was just defective. Some no name cables provided by our cable company have performed well. It is easy to waste money on accessories. Thanks for telling it like it is.

  6. Thankyou so much, people spend money on worthless items every day, you have prevented this injustice.
    Quality high definition music is a life long hunt, that I enjoy , so I very much appreciate your honesty and detailed descriptions in your mailing.

    • You’re welcome Gary….the hunt for great music and great sound is worth the trouble.

  7. Wow…I’ve sat through a number of AQ demos and have noticed them juicing the volume, but they’ve always hidden it under the guise of fading in/out the music. I spot it, and try to give them the benefit of the doubt by saying, well, maybe they’re not doing it intentionally. Doing it in a recorded video where a simple analysis can reveal the fraud…that’s just blatant.

    • Louder is always better…but in this instance they changed the equalization as well. Interesting to note that today, they YouTube video has “been removed” by the author. I guess the truth hurts. Glad that I copied and still have it.

      • They only removed one of them, this one’s still up: AQ Video Link

        • It’s still there…perhaps we should all leave comments. I just did.

        • That one’s gone too, now.

          • I have the copy of the video and the extracted audio soundtrack. I’ve offered to make it available to AudioQuest for independent analysis.

    • I have been an AQ dealer for many years. It is not the practice in my store to “goose” the volume. I consider it dishonest and distasteful. Back in the old days as a Levinson dealer we could adjust volume to .1db, which made truly matched speaker comparisons easier. Not perfect because of the variance in speaker response. This is still not exact because of the averaging involved in pink noise, but it was close and we were aware of and dealing with the issue. With cable comparisons the volume was never touched. That’s why God gave us a mute button.

      I’ve no idea what is going on here. I have not loved every single Audioquest product although I’m a loyal dealer. We sometimes disagree about things but I have no experience with them doing any kind of rigged demo and I’ve seen plenty. The implication that every AQ dealer plays the games with level that were implied in a post is absurd and an insult to conscientious dealers. This is obviously bothersome and I hope the issue gets cleared up, whatever the case may be. I use a Diamond USB cable on my DAC. It’s not louder, it’s improvements over Chocolate are subtle but worthwhile in my view. Nothing like the over the top measurements that were taken.

      Frankly I don’t get it. If Audioquest did something wrong it should be investigated. If someone else did in the name of Audioquest, that should be dealt with since it is difficult to view it as anything but fraud and the people I know well at AQ are the antithesis of that.

      • Thanks Rick, it’s nice to hear from a member of the retail community about AQ and your association. I’ve done the data and sound comparison between a $300 USB cable and one that came with a hard drive and found no difference in the data produced or the sound reproduced by with one. Their function is to deliver the bits…not alter the sound. I’d welcome the chance to add an AQ Diamond USB cable to that comparison. People will hear what they want to hear…it’s a part of the hobby.

      • The “improvement” that you hear between the chocolate and the diamond USB is in your head. It doesn’t exist in external reality.

  8. Fundamentally, wouldn’t the playback system have to be of the “Diamond” quality in order to reproduce the full range of fidelity claimed for the high-end cables in any case? If my play-back system uses “standard” cables, how would my system be capable of playing back the full-range of sound purported to be delivered only through “diamond” cables? H Given a “standard” system, the consumer shouldn’t be able to discern ANY difference in fidelity when playing back the “demo”. The fact that *any* system can reproduce the (fraudulent) differences in fidelity exhibited by the different cables should inherently disqualify the “demo” as completely fabricated.

    • No, the quality of your playback system doesn’t need to be “diamond” level to get the maximum fidelity through the HDMI cable. When a digital cable meets the requirements as set out by that establishes the specs for that cable, the cables will ALL pass the same data. There are things that can mess up the transmission…like over long lengths…but in a typical situation, the fidelity isn’t changed by the direction or materials in the cable. I know this runs counter to a lot of believers out there…but it’s true. It can be measured and I believe that if the digital data is the same between to cables, the sound will be as well.

    • The thing is, HDMI is a digital format.

      The audio is encoded into a digital signal, 1s and zeros, which are given by high and low voltage pulses.

      This is then decoded at the recieving end.

      You can’t add noise to the signal, unlike analogue, because what interference or noise in the cable will do is mess up the encoded signal, the ones, the zeros. It won’t add background noise, or not pass certain frequencies, what it’ll do is randomly mess up the information, and it’ll decode to something different.

      With a Digital system like this, if it works, if the signal gets through, then it gets through in exactly the same fidelity. Interference or line issues will prevent the signal from coming through correctly, not attenuate or add noise.

      What they’re preying on is old school Analogue logic. Analogue signals are susceptible to noise in the line, which is then reproduced by the speaker. Because the audio signal travels along the cable as an audio signal, with a frequency spectrum, it is subject to attenuation by filtering effects, reactive or inductive effects on the cable changing the attenuation of different frequencies. Noise, caused by EM disturbance can also be added to the signal, as any long wire is essentially an antennae, and strong enough EM fields will be picked up.

      Any digital cable that functions, up to standard, will pass the signal, and will function the same as any other. It’s relatively simple, because usually we’re looking at the difference between 0 and 5 V, which is just plain hard to mess up. The digital signal is just far stronger than any noise introduced, which is why you don’t experience intermittent garbled noise from a digital cable that isn’t severely damaged.

      It’s a scam that’s playing on people’s desires for the best equipment that hopes that you won’t know the difference between digital and analogue.

      With an analogue signal, you do want the best possible components at each point, even if you’ve only got a poor speaker, the better the cable, the less noise you add to the signal. You will see an improvement in an analogue signal even if you’re using poor speakers by using a better cable, but unless you’re looking at a long or damaged cable, usually they won’t cause many problems anyway. It’s just completely irrelevant to digital.

      Thanks Mark Waldrep. This post is awesome, it’s an epic takedown of a very scummy business practice. Love the inclusion of data and analysis too.

    • Couldn’t have put it better myself.
      And when any manufacturer brings up directionality for an AC signal, the bulshit alert goes off.

  9. Are any of the higher priced hdmi or usb cables worth the money? I know people who swear by their cables but I can’t figure out why the ones and zeroes would be coming through any more efficiently. It’s pretty apparent when video and audio data isn’t coming through in a timely fashion. But once the bits are flowing, does a more expensive cable make them flow better? I can see the case for analog cables but have never understood digital. Thanks for any comments.

    • In my experience and opinion…no. I’ve done tests on $300 USB cables and expensive digital cables. No benefit. Save your money.

    • For the physics-electrons flow at the speed of light along the cable. The medium matters pretty little, the reduction in speed is unnoticeable to a human. What is changed by the quality is the amount of current that can be delivered, because of resistance. Resistance means that more power is lost to heat, which is bad all around.

      The thing is, digital signals aren’t trying to pass current. The other end of the cable has a massive impedance in the socket, it’s not drawing power, it’s trying to see the voltage delivered. We’re talking really really low amperage here. So with digital, it works or it doesn’t.

      So a higher quality cable doesn’t improve the transmission speed, the transmission rate is fixed by the protocol, by how fast the timer cycles. You gain no speed, no extra data transmission, from a better cable. You might get a gold plated tip on it which will stop it from corroding, but if your USB and HDMI connections are rusting, you are doing something very, very wrong.

      You’ll only see an improvement to a functioning cable in analogue. Not in digital.

      • Cal, I agree with most of your comment, but I want to provide one correction. Electrons do not flow at the speed of light along the cable, it is the electromagnetic wave that is moving along the cable. This wave moves very quickly, but the speed is less than the speed of light in a vacuum.

        This blog discusses the propagation speed, with particular attention to analog speaker (or microphone) cables.

        Link to CA article

    • Dave,

      HDMI cables do matter. The HDMI standard is not very robust to interference, unlike DVI or DisplayPort and marginal HDMI cables can certainly have unacceptable error rates, or be limited to 1080p resolution. I have some Apple HDMI cables, nice and very thin, but they struggle with 4K. Make sure you check the bandwidth rating on the cable to ensure it is future-proof. My inexpensive Monoprice Redmere cables (6ft, 18Gbps, rated for 4K) work just fine, although some devices have compatibility issues with Redmere active cables.

      That said, snake oil vendors like AudioQuest are not the kind to spend money on improved conductors, shielding or connectors. You are better off getting cables from a company that caters to pros like Blue jeans Cable (although I have been disappointed by the durability of some of their HDMI cables), or simply Monoprice/Amazon/whatever.

      • Thanks…and you’re right about substandard cables of any specification. Expecting acceptable results when the cables don’t meet the specs is wishful thinking. But spending outrageous sums on cables is a waste of money.

  10. As you state, Mark, appears that each succesive sample had a higher amplitude. Is there no other reason possible for these changes except human manipulation of the loudness? So, wire composition cannot explain these differences? How do we know that?

    • None…they juiced the sound of the audio during the post production phase of the video/audio edit. No doubt in my mind.

  11. As we both know, your eyes are far more acute than ears that tolerate significant non-linearities before they object.
    The entire AQ crew including Bill Lowe visited my shop a while back. They left samples of cables, including their top HDMI. Forgetting audio, comparing various HDMI cables for picture quality, all of the several viewers agreed on every back and forth that the picture was clearly more detailed and color saturated on the top AQ cable.

    Don’t get me wrong; I am not a big fan of HDMI as an audio carrier, though it has gotten better from v. 1.1 to 1.4
    Just my two cents. Thanks.

    • Sorry Craig, you’re preaching the wrong side of this issue. If you did a strict A|B|X double blind test, no one would notice a difference.

  12. Good job Mark…

    Are there no advertising regulating bodies in the US to deal with these kinds of fraudulent ads? Terrible. At the same time I think these are desperate measures suggesting they really need to SELL SELL SELL THESE CABLES!!!

    • Thanks Joe…this one seemed to have touched a nerve.

  13. Thank you, i was suppose to do this but forgot. Glad someone did it, i think we are closer for actual class action lawsuit.

    • I’m not a lawyer, but I have been an expert witness on several previous occasions. This is simple fraud…but whether it’s illegal is for someone else to judge. I think the simple answer is to boycott any company that is know to have blatantly lied about their products. AudioQuest is not alone.

  14. Not sure about anyone else, but I’m ready for some positive news or a good audio story. Let’s just resign to the fact that the audio “business” and “fidelity” are oxymorons. Pseudo science is amuck whatever the medium, so it goes on the WWW.
    It would be great to discuss the “good stuff” and I for one await the long overdue discussion over the hardware and software of surround audio.
    How’s the “room” coming Mark ?

  15. Hi Mark,

    Many thanks for your excellent posts and your valuable contribution to our quest for the best enjoyment of music, which is the ultimate goal of high fidelity reproduction.

    The truth is, and alays was, the most dangerous obstable for the ones who lack talent or skill.
    Telling the truth makes you a dangerous person for weak and fraudulent people.
    I thank you for being the courageous defender of the truth acting as a beacon in the darkness of fraudulent products.

    Respectfully Yours,


    • Thanks Jacques.

  16. Mark, please forward this to the State Attny General. AudioQuest should be brought up on fraud charges and everyone who has their cables need to start a class action law suit to recover their costs for buying these phony cables.

  17. My first “real” job (one not in the food industry) out of high school was as a electronic technician in an environmental test laboratory. Every kind of capacitor, resistor, inductor and even wire and connectors were tested in controlled humidity, temperature, and vibration environments to determine the effects of change upon electrical parameters. As to be expected, not all components responded in the same way. Instrumentation and tests, not human hearing, sight or touch determined which components were selected for inclusion in a missile’s circuitry.

    Living in a small town in Idaho, three hours from the nearest Wal-Mart and Best Buy presented a challange a few years back when I sold my 50″ Pioneer plazma and acquired a 60″ Elite KURO. The HDMI spec was still on V2 as I recall with some equipment still using DVI. This required an adapter. I had assembled all this using Blue Jeans cable and a required adapter and found the DVD player could talk to the TV 100% of the time. After installing the new KURO however, things changed. It often took several DVD startups to get the player to talk to the tv. What to do? I then remembered my included “Geek Squad” tech support from BB.

    They convinced me to try a new HDMI cable. They were 100% sure that they had one from MONSTER that would absolutely work for about $325 (20 ft). I made the six hour round trip and installed the shiny cable. Guess what? This cable was picking up noise (fluorescent light?) and the screen was covered at all times with dots and snow. This was clearly a cable shielding issue. (HDMI is done through twisted-pair technology, not co-axial technology known in the broadcast industry to be useful for hundreds of feet. Its prime design function is to preserve DRM info, not carry a flawless signal.) In any case, the problem was solved with a new DVI/HDMI adapter. So much for expensive cables. Took it back to BB.

    Blue Jeans, Outlaw Audio and a few other companies offer cables that work because of careful construction and testing, not snake oil. Buyer-B-Ware(y).

    • Thanks for the comment and story. Very telling. Mark

  18. LOL,
    It’s not funny but I do so love watching AQ getting caught with their pants down
    Snake oilers!
    Once again shame on you to the controllers of the CTA board for supporting dis-honesty.
    Thanks Mark

  19. Hello Mark
    Thanks for digging into the cable magic swamp. Whoever is in charge of marketing for that company needs to be fired. It’s my understanding that all audio cables have some type of shielding, with the other concern wire size. Clearly both items can be overdone for sales purposes.

  20. We certainly agree on this, Mark! The real question is why aren’t these people in jail? This is obvious fraud. I applaud you for your effort to test the audio and expose these people for what they are. I already see this article getting around on Facebook. I’ll share it there now too.

    • Thanks Ethan…I think we’re pretty much on the same page in general. Have you downloaded and listened to any of the free tracks from my FTP site. I’d be curious what you think?

  21. These should be your first two paragraphs. This is the story plan and simple and you nailed it. “This is fraud. Any company that would produce a sales video full of faked results and then post it on YouTube (or anywhere else) is not deserving our your business. They’re not alone, of course. But this is so blatant and deliberate, that it deserves to be called out. At least Geoff Kaitt of Machina Dynamics admits that he’s a snake oil salesman.

    “And there’s a representative of AudioQuest on the CTA Audio Board. I get booted from the board because I tell the truth but AudioQuest gets a pass for falsifying their ad. As one of their representative told me in an email exchange, “the truth is bad for commerce”. So the solution is to cheat.”

  22. Seems like a pretty blatant FTC violation. Even if they had not played with the signal I expect the placebo effect would have still sold some of their cables without resorting to these tactics.

  23. Hi Mark,

    If the blog stops I’ll know the Hit Squads got there before the Lawyers.

    I don’t stream any HRA. I only listen to AIX DVD-Audio. I still haven’t decided which two discs I want from the KS promo.

    I can’t get enough. Keep it coming!


    • Hi Glen, yeah…I think you’re right about the hit squads. In a very real way, my reputation among some companies in the audiophile space is not good. But my father taught me to be honest and I’ll keep posting what I know.

  24. Thank you for using your public forum to point out the fraud.

  25. If only more and more audio engineers and those involved in the recording industry would stand up to this bullshit.

    That all said, there’s so much gullibility among many “audiophiles”, that they will keep buying that crap. They will also claim to hear the differences when A/B testing. Even when the vendor demoing the product is not actually pulling any strings, these guys are going to hear a difference, especially when in a room or peers.

    Unfortunately some people can be easily conned and others are great at the art of being the conman.

  26. So in the last two years I got rid of all my generic cables and connectors and speaker wire and switched it all out for AudioQuest branded components. Now, having said that I didn’t pay retail for most of it (other than the Jitterbugs and they were only $50 not a big deal) and bought some used and didn’t buy anything but the one-or-two-notch-up from-basic stuff. It works to my satisfaction so I am not feeling ripped off. Would I ever go for the ultra expensive stuff no way I also see no benefit (no matter who is the vendor). For this reason I spend little or no time looking at interconnects of any kind at shows I attend.

    Is it OK if I bought it all because the logo looks cool?? Grin.

    By the way has anyone ever evaluated Mapleshade wiring and tweaks? I’m assuming more snake oil, however it’s all quite quirky in looks.

    • If you got the cables for a reasonable price and are happy, it’s all good. I personally would never purchase anything from AQ knowing that they falsified their YT video on HDMI cables. I run an audiophile record label and have a beautiful state-of-the-art studio…and I don’t have expensive cables here. I use professional Mogami and Canare cabling and make my own interconnects.

  27. Mark,

    You should (actually, you shouldn’t) listen to AudioQuest preach about computer audio. I have attended one of their seminars and the amount of voodoo that came out of the guy’s mouth was staggering.


    Why they are in business is beyond me.

    • I have attended one of their seminars…most of what I heard was sales and marketing spin to hype their products. There is no reality check on companies selling audiophile accessories, cables, and enhancements.

  28. My goodness….I suppose you guys didn’t follow the whole “Cinnamon” Ethernet cable fiasco? Sigh.

    • Actually, I did…but in that case I couldn’t do any real analysis.

  29. I recently bought some AudioQuest cables … not the high end ones. They seem well made. I really can’t hear the difference but for me it was about giving a SPDIF converter feed from my computer to my amplifier’s built-in DAC a chance to perform.

    When it comes to cables I have a friend who swears he can tell the difference but I have caught him out a couple of times when listening to recordings he didn’t know were poor quality MP3s!

    At the end of the day it should be about our hearing and being able to tell the difference. So in this instance it sounds that the manufacturer understands this and chose to ‘fix’ the results! Not good.

    Moral of the story – listen to everything before you buy! If you are happy nothing else really matters.

  30. If only I could get an AQ cable to connect to this — link to Urban Outfitters page — then I would have perfect sound!

  31. Over 6,000 hits on this post. Someone slamming your server or did you just get really popular?

    • I touched a nerve with the fraud being presented by AudioQuest for their HDMI cables. Companies can make claims about the benefits of their cables but when they get caught fixing the results, it can hurt.

  32. I agree. One way or another I think this test had to be rigged. The most obvious way was to adjust the gain and FR for each one. A less obvious way would be to have somehow used these HDMI cables in an analog mode, not as they were intended. Either way or any other way, the results have no explanation I can think of if used in any kind of valid test. I am not a believer in audiophile wires anyway. Wire is described by the Telegrapher’s Equation. It is nothing more than a distributed parameter filter. The equation has proven a reliable predictor of performance for almost 150 years.

    There is nothing a wire can do to an analog signal that an equalizer can’t also do more predictably, reliably, and much cheaper. IMO audiophile wires is a sucker’s game that relies on consumer ignorance to succeed.

    • I’m trying to figure out a possible test that might be able to show in a graphical manner any difference in an audio signal between two or more different cables. It could be speaker cables, interconnect cables, etc.

      Get a high quality recording of a piano playing ONE note at a time from the lowest note to the highest note. Since a piano covers a pretty range from 27.5 Hz to 4186Hz as the fundamental frequency and they also have various harmonics, etc. with each note played. Now, get a MLSSA system and conduct a harmonic structure waterfall that can test between each cable being used. Then see how much difference there is with each note being played. Since it’s a high quality recording of the same note on the same piano, and the only difference is a cable in the system, then any differences in the harmonic structure should show up. If there is any difference in the harmonic structure of the same recording of single notes being played on a piano, then it’s possible to hear those differences in a high quality recording. I’ve never used the MLSSA system in this manner, but I’m sure there has to be someone that can perform this test with a high degree of integrity. Anyone have any intelligent arguments for or against this based on actually performing such a test?

      I’m wondering if the cable mfg have done this sort of test and if so, do they find this a valid test and if not why?

      Another test that I do when comparing two different cables.

      I have my own method for testing speaker and interconnect cables that have proven to me that there CAN be a difference between cables, but not always since SOME cables simply aren’t different enough between the two cables being tested, but I have found two mfg of cables that consistently pass this test when compared to a small number of generic cables. The test I do is a ear fatigue test. I set the ave SPL at the listening position to 85dB and I have a selection of good quality recordings I’m familiar with. I ensure that I am listening to my stereo when there is a low ambient noise level. I don’t have to know which cables are being used as I just pay attention to whether or not there is a pain in my ears or I simply can’t listen to the stereo for long periods of time because it’s causing too much distortions which cause ear fatigue. Some cables simply had too much distortion and I couldn’t listen to my system at that SPL for longer than a couple of minutes and some cables I can listen to my system at the same SPL all day long without any pain and ear fatigue. I have read many reports from audiologists that suggest that 85dB should be a comfortable listening level without causing short term or long term hearing problems. I have found two brands of cables that have a passive filter network wired in parallel to pass this test with flying colors. I have NEVER experienced any ear fatigue at that SPL with good quality recordings and I can listen to my stereo for extended periods of time with no pain. However, I have experienced a ear fatigue after only a few minute with everything set the same. I haven’t tried this with every cable, but with the small samples of cables I have tested this, I consistently get great results with only two mfg of cables. Those brands are MIT and Transparent. No, I don’t work for either company and no, they aren’t paying me money or giving me free product to get me to endorse them. I haven’t tried every brand/model cable with this test, so I can’t comment on whether or not other cables would pass this test. I know my speakers are of good quality and my power DAC is of good working order, so I have removed them as causing any distortions.

      All I can say is try it and see for yourself if you sense any ear fatigue. I learned a LONG time ago that distortions in certain frequency ranges can cause ear fatigue and a pain in my ears, so I’m not making this up.

      Anyone with any real life experiences to share?

  33. I guess we can thank the same consultants and / or focus group wranglers who subliminally convinced the masses that loud was superior to dynamic range. I have to wonder if they were spawned from a corporate giant selling HRA turntables or a similarly nefarious smoke & mirror manufacturer.

    • This article and the results are just too appropriate. Save your money.

    • That test only represents that test. There are other tests of other cables that have and can be done. The problem is that I personally do my own listening tests and the first thing I do is play music at a prescribed 85dB SPL and I have a variety of recordings I’m VERY familiar with and I just listen to cables until I get ear fatigue. Some cables, believe it or not, I had to shut off my system because of ear fatigue and I simply couldn’t listen for more than 5 minutes. Other cables using the exact same everything I could listen to all day long with absolutely no pain, no ear fatigue. I have only run across two brands of cables (their cheapest cables pass this test, so one doesn’t necessarily have to spend $$ on their more expensive cables) that consistently pass this ear fatigue test.

      I know what we all hear things differently, but I have gotten to the point where small amounts of distortions are painful and I simply can’t sit in a room for long periods of time if the system doesn’t sound good. This is what prompted me to perform cable tests to figure out how long I can listen to my system at a designated SPL that’s well within the guidelines of long term listening.

      Once I decide if the cable can be used for long periods of time without ear fatigue, then I listen to certain tracks that have acoustic bass, drums, guitar, voice, various acoustic instruments that are recorded and mastered without audio compression, limiting, etc. so I have a very natural recording to begin with. Recordings of electric instruments, heavy signal processing, etc. etc. is much more difficult to hear any such differences in cables, which is probably why a lot of people can’t hear a difference. Most people don’t listen to acoustic recordings, most people listen to pop music that has electronic instruments, etc. and most pop recordings, IMO sound like crap to begin with.

      Also, be VERY skeptical of any listening test where they use questionable source material or they add switching devices. The reason is they add other cables along with switch boxes and those other cables might neutralize any sonic differences in cables, so it’s very difficult to compare cables using a switch box environment. BTW, the recording used in that cable test sucked. I thought it was a poor recording to use. I like to hear upright bass, grand piano, acoustic guitar. Why? If recorded well in a good sounding room, these instruments have a lot of harmonic structure. A classical orchestra recording is also good to listen to to hear separation between instruments. The thing is, if the people constructing the listening test want to debunk differences in cables, they can conjure up ways to make it more difficult in telling if there is a difference. So I prefer to do my own listening tests in a room, stereo and source material that I’m VERY familiar with and doing ear fatigue tests first. Then listening to the quality of bass, mid range and high frequency reproduction, separation between instruments, etc. etc. and sometimes those tests can take a long time over a period of several days or a week or two because I have to be well rested, with no interruptions. Sometimes I hear a noticeable difference very quickly, sometimes not.

  34. Maybe this approach will help: Remember provenance — where we look at the conditions at the source of a recording? Let’s bypass the details of proving or disproving how a cable affects sound. Let’s ask for the credentials of the designer. EE degrees are hard enough to obtain that those with the real ones will probably promptly admit their Alma Mater. No degree, no sale.

  35. Wait–Geoff Kait admitted he’s a snake-oil salesman and I missed it?

    • Yes, there was a Linked In group that allowed audio dealers etc. and Geoff Kait posted a little something about Machina Dynamics…and he titled himself a “purveyor of snake oil”.

  36. The almost apology letter from AQ owner William Low was posted at Stereophile: http://www.stereophile.com/content/open-letter-bill-low-audioquest#zHa9seYA4KOHDsi3.97

    By clicking on the link, you’ll be helping Stereophile make money off their banner ads from Nordost. Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?

      • Thanks for the link. I would not have associated the fraudulent video with AudioQuest, if David Ellington had not been the representative on the video. The real question now is who made the decision during the post productions stage of the video production to monkey with the audio signals.

        • Mark –

          To piggyback your comments… I couldn’t figure out if this pointed to complicity or incompetence. I am slightly inclined towards the former. I did some research into the people running AQ, which is actually part of the Quest Group, which is larger and comprises five brands with quite a bit of product diversification, presumably leveraging the same manufacturing, distribution, and R&D chassis. I am not sure how much bigger than the 60 FTE $35mln/year in revenue AQ. The people at the helm have been around for a while, running companies and staring at data, both R&D and financial. Dean Miller, the President, has been in the industry since ’77, running NAD, Bang & Olefsen, and Rolls Royce and Bentley. You can also get your hands on the AQ employee manual which is rife with the usual employment covenants protecting intellectual property, trademarks, logos, etc.

          Anyway, my point is Mr Low or Mr Miller hear this video, which clearly sounds like stepped attenuation and truncation of an analog signal, and with over 60 years of experience between the two of them they do what? Nothing? The legal department that wrote the 33 page employee handbook with employment covenants doesn’t know how to write a cease and desist letter to a fraudster using their logos and trademarks? The man responsible for brands such as NAD, B&O, and Rolls Royce doesn’t know how to stop this infringement?

          I am an ex mathematical physicist who’s been involved in the capital markets since 2000. I can spot bad data like a Japanese chicken sexer can discern the sex of a chick. In 2008 the CEO of a fund approached me and brought several Russian physicists from his team. They pitched me some of their strategies. I looked at the graphs and instantly knew they were manufactured. The underlying strategies, the mathematics, etc. was highly complex, but I could tell form the timeseries they were manufactured. I was so confident I told them as much and bid them bad days. That CEO is currently being prosecuted by the SEC for falsifying investor data. The analogy here is that I fond it very hard for Mr Low and Mr Miller to be unaware. However, even if they were, they sat on their thumbs for a year.


          • Thanks Carey…I know Dean Miller and will reach out to him.

  37. With digital audio products, isn’t JITTER one of the biggest issues? Is there some form of reliable jitter measurement that can be done with cables to see if one has lower levels of jitter than another? Is that something someone can perform?

    How about frequency response measurements of analog cables? Is there certain test equipment that must be used? I read that one cable mfg had HP Measurement (now Agilent) created single channel FFT analyzers because dual channel FFT analyzers didn’t work. if an analog cable is essentially a filter, since there are measurable amounts of resistance, capacitance, and inductance, then it’s filtering whatever is passing through the signal. Well, how do you measure that “curve”? There has to be precision measurement equipment to show that curve. I have read reviews of cables and some reviewers mention that one cable is brighter or darker sounding than another. That would indicate to me that there must be some form of frequency response measurement to show that the audio signal passion through that cable is being altered, much like a EQ alters an audio signal.

    I read an interview with Bob Ludwig and he mentioned that cables inherently damage the audio signal and it’s just a matter of getting a cable that doesn’t damage the signal. maybe he’s done some tests before he decided to replace all of his cables with expensive cables in his mastering studio. I would think that he, of all people, would be able to hear differences in cables since he does have a really nice play back system and his job entails listening to master recordings and mastering them for public consumption. I have to believe he might be able to help this with whatever research he’s done. He is, after all, one of the most prestigious mastering engineers. How about SkyWalker Sound? They have also dealt with replacing cables in their sound stage and they are well regarded as a top studio for film and audio recordings. What measurements did they do before they replaced their cables with expensive cabling?

    From my experience, recording and mastering studios don’t like ripping out cables and spending a ton of money on new cabling unless there is a measurement and audible difference. I know they aren’t getting their cables for free and even at a discount due to the volume of purchase, it’s still a very expensive proposition. maybe they can help identify what measurements they performed before they made the jump to more expensive cabling.

  38. Well done Mark.

    Weasel Words via Stereophile

    • I saw the open letter yesterday evening and have noticed the comments being posted around the web. The gist from a few audiophile is to attack the messenger…meaning me.

  39. Mark, I think a reply to the letter is in order. A few questions to ask would be:

    Why did he mention the shop that produced the video but ‘forgot’ to mention his own sales manager was presenting it.

    Why did it take him a year to respond to a video?

    Is he firing the sales manager for using fraudulent methods to flog his products?

    Would he be happy to ‘test’ the video that he somehow can’t find if you gave him your downloaded version?

    Does his staff drive Volkswagens? (sorry, thought it would be funny 🙂

    • I’m in touch with the CEO of AudioQuest. See today’s blog.

  40. I have a comment that’s unrelated to the Audioquest, but it’s still something that I feel is worthy of a response.

    With the advent of 24 Bit recordings, since the frequency response is higher than with 16 bit, or at least it’s supposed to, why aren’t more studios using these later generation microphones that companies such as Earthworks sells. Most microphones don’t have a frequency response curve that extends past 20KHz and some don’t even go to even 20kHz, but Earthworks microphones have frequency response curves that are essentially flat that some of them go down to 9Hz and up to as much as 30kHz, plus they can handle up to 145dB or in that range.

    Other microphones that have been on the market since the analog days sometimes don’t have these kind of wide frequency response ranges and/or can’t handle SPL’s that are as high as the Earthworks.

    What I’m get at is that if the high res bit and sample rates are capable of dealing with extended frequency and dynamic range,, wouldn’t it make sense to use microphones that also have extended frequency range and dynamic range so that we can take advantage of idea of “high res”?

    • It does make sense. Earthworks makes terrific microphones but audio engineers use microphones like photographers use lens and filters…to craft specific sounds and timbres. The increase of word length provides increased dynamic range not additional frequency response. But it doesn’t really matter whether a microphone goes past 20 kHz or not. I use lots of “classic” microphones and some that are high-frequency capable. The results include ultrasonics…if that matters.

  41. What a well commented and debated topic. Always will be.

    Topic at hand; no matter what we read into on HDMI qualities, it does come down to preference and what you see or hear is a difference to YOU.
    Like a car, everyone has a taste, preference and belief in a ‘better’ brand, etc.

    For audio, why don’t the audiophiles try analogue, direct out audio or XLR out; now there is where cables actually do make a difference to audio quality and listening experience.

    As for HDMI video.. 1’s & 0’s, Yes. But I did compare for myself a Kordz $300 3metre HDMI cable vs a generic $80 from my Blu-ray out to my screen and there was noticeable slight sharpness loss and, in particular, subtitle blurring and ‘off’ colouring with the $80. Though slight; but to a trained eye; looking for variation I noticed it.
    So…. Somewhere there is differences in 100% functional cables.

    Is Audio Quest snake oil selling? I don’t know… But you may be selling your system and investment short with a $20 or $50 HDMI cable.

    • Thanks Matt…but in the world of digital interconnects (S/P DIF, HDMI, etc), compliant cable costing $5 will perform as well as a $1000 cable. It’s really that simple.

  42. Funny things happen …

    I was on the Stereophile web-page with the answer of Mr. Low yesterday
    ( http://www.stereophile.com/content/open-letter-bill-low-audioquest#cpXIJKvbUtAAVZd3.97 ) and there were 6 (in words ‘six’) pages of reader comments. When I was on the Page today only 4 pages were left.

    Very strange

    Honi soit qui mal y pense


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