Dr. AIX's POSTS — 25 January 2016

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I’ve been writing this blog for almost three years and have never had the kind of instant response as my piece revealing the fraud behind AudioQuest and their HDMI cables as represented in the YouTube video. I just checked the stats on over 1000 posts and while it’s not the most viewed (that belongs to the interview with Benchmark head John Siau at over 17,000 views), it does rank number 5 after only a few days. In the world of audiophile blog posts, it’s as close as I’ve ever come to having a post go viral. And while the original video was taken down, it still remains at another location. If you want to see the offending piece, you can click here.

We all know that there is a lot of snake oil in the high-end audio business. Companies and their representatives are free to make any claims they want without much fear of challenge or legal trouble. Saying that a device, cable, or power cord enhances “low level details” or that a cable can be directional…as all AudioQuest cables seem to be…resulting in your sound “simply sounding better in one direction over the other” is hyperbole at best and misleading. But it’s not fraudulent. You can’t get in trouble by expressing your opinion. It’s the same as the reviewers and audiophiles that want to focus on “subjective” sound experiences vs. “objective” observations. You can make any claim you want when you avoid specifications.

But AudioQuest went a step further. By carefully examining the audio associated with their YouTube promotional video, it is uncontestable that they “juiced” the fidelity of their HDMI cables…and they did so progressively. As the cables get more expensive, the amplitude increases and the equalization gets brighter. If they were so confident in their products, why would they feel the need to fake the results? Just how different or perceptible would the differences be between the generic and high-end cables? Maybe they tried it and the differences were too subtle to detect. I’ve done this test with an expensive USB cable vs. a cheap one and found no difference in the sound and no difference in the data coming through the cables.

I have been asked if there’s any other explanation that could account for the huge amplitude differences. As an audio engineer, I can’t think of one. Imagine how screwed up the audio world would be if simple cables were responsible for huge amplitude and equalization changes? I don’t know about you, but I want my cables to carry the signals from one place to another without degradation…not monkey with the sound along the way.

In the interest of a complete analysis, I went back and took another look at the audio from the offending AudioQuest YT video. This time I focused on the equalization changes that were made to each audio segment. I created a short 2-second video that shows the increased “brightness” associated with each cable quality. The more intense the colors are, the greater the amplitude of the partials in that frequency range. The only thing that can alter the equalization of an audio signal is a filter or equalizer.

Check out the video below:

[Video width=”598″ height=”298″ mp4=”http://www.realhd-audio.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/160124_AQ-Spectra.mp4″][/video]

Figure 1 – A short video showing the increasing high-frequency information associated with each new HDMI cable.

The people at AudioQuest should come clean and admit that the sound presented in the video is not an accurate reflection of the fidelity increases claimed in the video. We should also recognize that they are not alone in making unfounded claims about their products.

I have also been asked what cables I use in my own studio and playback system. I use professional grade Mogami and Canare cables as well as some premium cables given to me by Cardas and Audience. I would never spend my money on high priced cables…it’s just not worth it.

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About Author

Dr. AIX

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.

(34) Readers Comments

  1. Hello Mark
    What do you know about wireless speakers? Is everything received that is transmitted? While watching TV with an over the air antenna these days, the audio and visual are completely separate. The program sound will continue when the picture breaks up.

    • I have evaluated a wireless high-resolution setup from Toshiba…it worked great but was very expensive.

  2. The link in your article has also now been pulled.

    AQ embarrassed you think? Good on you Mark.

    • I don’t imagine that AQ has any concerns about their product line at all. Their normal promotions, advertising, and distribution won’t be impacted by audio enthusiasts learning about their fraud.

  3. A company praising capabilities of their product is not expressing “opinions”, they are making claims about properties of the product, in order to get people to give up their hard-earned cash . In other words : It is commercial marketing and there ARE rules for what silly nonsense you can say, at least in civilized countries with decent consumer-protection .
    IF this sort of self-appraisal really is legal in the US – You guys have a serious problem .

    • But if you listen to the the AQ guy when he addresses the issue of directionality, he simply says, “it just sounds more like you want it to”. Thanks…and yes, the U.S. has many serious problems.

      • Wire is cold drawn through dies. This gives them metallurgical directionality and work hardens them. This can be reversed through annealing if desired. The principle of conduction of electrons in wire has no known relationship to directionality which is on a macro level. Besides, the signal is AC. Just one more preposterous sales gimmick targeting the ignorant with irrelevant and misleading technobabble.

        One way to evaluate interconnect wires or any other wire for that matter is not to compare it to another wire which is an invalid test but to compare it to a shunt. There should be no difference between the signal through the wire and the shunted signal. This can easily be accomplished with interconnects using a preamplifier, integrated amplifier, or receiver with tape outputs and a tape monitor input. Connect the interconnects between the tape outputs and monitor inputs. Switching back and forth between monitor and source puts the signal in and out of the circuit. Any wire that fails this test should be discarded. No $1 radio shack or Dollar Store interconnect I tried ever failed this test. They do not change the signal. They also pass the much tougher video out vs RF out connecting a DVD player to a high quality TV set.

        Wires are not good control elements. They are unpredictable, expensive, not adjustable, and far better results can be obtained from an equalizer. This is why the consumer audio industry had to convince its market this product was ruining their sound systems. IMO it isn’t just Audioquest that’s a fraud, it’s the entire aftermarket high end consumer audio wire market.

        • Thanks Mark. Great comments. As for AQ vs. the entire consumer audio wire market, I agree that audiophiles are spending a lot of money for nothing. However, the problem goes far beyond just the cable folks and extends to hardware, software, etc. However, in the case of AQ and their HDMI cables…I was able to demonstrate that they deliberately falsified the results of their marketing piece. IMHO this goes beyond making ridiculous claims…they cheated with a straight face.

        • You have it nailed down and explained as to why this was done. I am not a high end audiophile but suggest that one reason more listeners are not, the voo doo thrown at us who would like to be!
          Of course, not many of the big name high end editors have commented on this voo doo, because Audioquest advertises in their publication of hard copy or internet.
          Especially absent is a big name magazines where a person writing a column for budget items, left to go to Audioquest for employment. They test products and would seem to be qualified to test this fake claim.
          Until this voo doo is confirmed by this magazine or defended, I remain convinced of the pocket book defeating the cultivation for high end listeners!

    • Don’t point fingers at the US. This is a multi-national corporation selling and advertising at a mulit-national level.
      I don’t agree with AQ practices but I don’t see any other countries bring them to court for the same issues either.

  4. And that’s one more hunted down!

    Good job!

  5. Did YouTube take down your video? What was the reason?

    • I didn’t post the video. It was taken down by AudioQuest.

  6. I use professional grade Mogami and Canare cables as well as some premium cables given to me by Cardas and Audience.

    If only you had said that you used regular 16 gauge zip chord. Oh well.

    • I have some 12 gauge zip cord as well.

  7. At the same time Stephen Majias formerly of Stereophile, now with AQ marketing is supporting and trying to save face for Robert Baird-Stereophile’s shameful hatchet job on the Eagles-Glenn Frey just days after his death. The majority of the audiophile community is up in arms over this travesty.
    Peaceful Easy Feeling | Stereophile.com

    Some of the other good followup posts
    http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f8-general-forum/peaceful-easy-feeling-stereophile-obit-glenn-frey-lacking-class-27333/

  8. Mark wrote “‘simply sounding better in one direction over the other’ is hyperbole at best and misleading. But it’s not fraudulent. You can’t get in trouble by expressing your opinion.”

    The claims made by AudioQuest absolutely *are* fraudulent. They know they’re lying, and it’s not opinion either because it’s easy to prove they’re factually incorrect either by measuring or with a blind listening test.

    • You’re right, I should have been more emphatic in my judgement. My point is that lots of advertising says things that are opinion and not based on facts.

  9. Mark, thanks for honest reporting. Hope you also hunt down MQA.

    • I working on it.

  10. After a certain point, a lot of expensive equipment and accessories becomes more about it being “jewelry” than about obtaining any better performance. There is plenty of excellent performing gear and accessories out there that won’t break the bank, but the profit margin on that stuff probably isn’t incredible. That’s where stuff like this AQ business comes in. Caveat Emptor.

  11. Thanks for continuing to expose misleading or even fraudulent claims in the high-end audio world. I am still trying to figure out how quantum effects can be manipulated to deliver better sound. I have seen such claims a number of times. Please keep it going till they leave to join the investment world: I heard that quantum investing is a sure thing!

    Question: where can I buy professional grade Mogami and Canare cables?

    • They’re available online and in most electronics retailers.

  12. What I find mind boggling is that HDMI passes Video at 1.8 Gigabits per second. Why would a cable that can pass that bit rate make any difference to an audio signal even if it was 24 bit 292 Kilobits per second. This is just bonkers. What marketing wazzock thought this would survive any reasonable scrutiny?

    Mark, you’ve done us all a service to remove the curtain on this one.

  13. http://www.stereophile.com/content/open-letter-bill-low-audioquest#ltD7QbdOZrtjucC1.97

    In case you haven’t seen it. Bill Low about the matter. Apparently AQ asked the video be removed.

    • What is this though? Are they saying they now can’t find the video to investigate?

      I hope someone ripped the video on to their HD…

      • According to the CEO of AudioQuest, the people responsible for the video are unwilling to provide a copy. I have it.

    • No. Mark asked that the video be removed. Right Mark?

      • I didn’t request removal of the videos…AQ did.

        • Could you send it please? We are eager to see and evaluate it.

          • I will today…been busy with university commitments.

  14. Pathetic. Audioquest has been doing this type of deceptive marketing since the beginnings of the company. And their CEO is trying to convince us he was ignorant of the video? Give me a break!

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