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.