Dr. AIX's POSTS — 11 February 2016

By

Making sense out of all of the claims and counter claims about cables is a waste of time. The believers will continue to believe and the skeptics will continue to challenge them. The recent YouTube video was just the tip of the iceberg as far as I’m concerned. I doubt whether AQ or the rest of us will ever learn how the audio track was “fudged” resulting in “unbelievable” differences. Thus far, I haven’t heard back from the folks at AudioQuest. I sent them the link to the original video so that they could confirm what I reported back in January. But I have been in email contact with a few other players in this arena over the past couple of weeks.

First, I would like to thank those who have written comments or private notes to me in support of my reporting. As you can imagine, it’s rather unpleasant to be the target of attacks by professionals and journalists in the audiophile industry. You really discover who your friends are when circumstances like this come along (Thanks Kal!). I admit that I made some assumptions (which I believe were reasonable) with regards to AQ’s involvement with the YouTube video. Perhaps I should have contacted them for additional information…but I didn’t. The open letter that William Low, the CEO of AudioQuest, posted on the Stereophile website was a very positive step forward. And I can confirm that I’m satisfied with the emails that we’ve exchanged since then.

But why have none of the usual audiophile sites reported on this incident?

However, I was dismayed when he wrote to roughly 90 audio industry colleagues following my post of the 22nd:

– The cables are digital. To our awareness, it’s impossible for a cable to affect spectral content — though differences in the integrity of the data do very clearly affect the ultimate emotional response to the sound, and therefor to the subjective impression of amplitude.

– Yes, regardless of any questions as to the professionalism of Mark’s muckraking process, and his apparent fabrication of a quote referencing an email debate with an AudioQuest employee about the definition of High-Resolution, the only pertinent issue is that I currently believe that Mark has exposed the truth about a falsified video.

I don’t make stuff up. Although, I am guilty of having strong positions on issues relating to audio and music. But I don’t lie. Recently, I received this from Michael Lavorgna of Audiostream.com:

“I’m looking into this matter and I can tell what I have found out so far; your quote ‘the truth is bad for commerce’ which you claim is from an email exchange with an AudioQuest employee does not exist. You made that up to support your demonetization of the company.”

Claiming I fabricated the exchange or that the email from Steve Silberman (AQ employee) doesn’t exist runs contrary to the truth. Steve and I were both members of the CEA Audio Board a year ago. What began as a conversation on the monthly phone call spilled over into a series of back and forth arguments concerning high-resolution audio. Steve’s believes that “16/44.1 is high resolution (We should rethink that as part of the CEA message).”

His definition is at odds with the DEG, NARAS, CEA/CTA, and the major labels…and is way below what my own definition requires. Here’s the relevant part of our very real email exchange last January:

On 1/21/15 12:32 PM, “Steve Silberman” wrote:

you’re kidding me? Right? In terms of defining high-resolution it could also go like this:

CEA defines high-resolution audio as any format, in an uncompressed state, at a rate of 1411Kbps and above.

This would have allowed customers to realize that it would be easy to at least get back to a baseline.

Can we be done now? I’m not really interested in arguing with you any longer. Most people outside of the board disagree with the current stance on CD quality being left out. It’s bad for enterprise.

On 1/21/15, 1:16 PM, “Mark Waldrep” wrote:

Steve,

How are definitions arbitrary? In my world they mean something. In the video world they mean something.

When did I say the CDs weren’t serious? I believe that CDs can do an amazing job at reproducing high-end audio. But they haven’t got the same fidelity potential as high-resolution audio recordings.

I don’t want consumers to be fooled by marketers and spinmeisters that CDs are all of a sudden the next big thing…just because they’ve been digitized. The fidelity is the same as its always been.

Mark

I apologize for remembering “commerce” rather than “enterprise”, but in my lexicon they’re synonymous.

The quote does exist.

Forward this post to a friend and help us spread the word about HD-Audio Forward this post to a friend and help us spread the word about HD-Audio

Share

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.

(25) Readers Comments

  1. It’s just more of the same stuff that just makes you shake your head and at times you just have to marvel at the stupidness of it all. At CES I walked into a room (one of a few) that had some pretty esoteric gear in it. The gear was, as you might expect, very pricey and it sounded, legitimately, great. As you also might expect, there were some equally esoteric cables connecting everything as well. What was unexpected, was the total price of the cables alone (interconnect, digital, speaker, power cables, turntable wires) cost over $350,000.00. Yup, $350 GRAND! That is more that the cost of all the equipment that it was all connected to! I was basically in a room showing off some “Audio Jewelry.” I’m surprised that Tiffany’s or De Beers hasn’t gotten into the audio wire business. With their background in gems and precious metals, they could make a killing at it!
    I’ve been in this hobby for a while and I’ve participated in a few double-blind and sighted wire listening demos. I’ve never, reliably, heard a difference between two properly designed pieces of cable. The only time I ever heard a difference was a test between lamp cord and 12 gauge speaker cable of over a 20 foot run.
    Mark, I hope this whole ordeal hasn’t put a damper on your livelihood. Getting the honest truth out there is important but it would suck if industry folks started putting the screws to you to get you to knock it off.
    Take care.

    • Carlo, thanks for the comments. It is fortunate that this blog and my writings are not a source of income. They already have.

  2. Mark, I appreciate you keeping us up to date on matters pertaining to true audio performance and honesty. I stopped subscribing to audio magazines long ago. The articles they write cannot be believed as it is their job to promote ‘commerce’ or ‘enterprise’. Audiostream and Michael Lavorgna would promote butterfly wings if there was a vendor claiming some positive affect on audio performance.

  3. Just thinking about definitions for a moment, maybe a better term for what we now refer to as “high-resolution” would be ultra high-resolution”. I’m sort of with Steve Silberman that CD can fairly be interpreted as a high-resolution format, seeing as it’s more or less capable of faithfully reproducing almost all that an analog master tape has to offer. The issue is that, in the current terminology, there is insufficient differentiation of the higher definition that is on offer over and above the red book standard. Thus I’m also in agreement with you Mark that to call CD hi-res is indeed misleading, given that high-resolution is a rather too general term. And no thanks to Mr N. Young either for muddying the waters even further with what’s generally on offer over at the Pono store.

    In the TV screen business ultra high definition 4k is so clearly differentiated from ye olde 1080p HD, so why not do the same with audio?

    And I certainly wouldn’t be losing any sleep over the most recent comments you quote from AQ. Of course they’re going to defend themselves at all costs. In the end, your brave stance has, I’m sure, had the effect of making many audiophiles consider the merits of an upgrade path with a significant cable budget. Caveat Emptor applies and there will always be cable believers and non believers. It’s good to know that blogs like yours have sufficient clout to make people think. In the final analysis, however, they’re free to choose which side of the pro/anti cable fence to sit on.

    • A very fair assessment Chris. Steve is certainly not alone in equating CD with the high-res audio initiative. And he’s right that it would be better for the high-end cable business, content holders, hardware manufacturers, and others if the standard was lowered. If you and others believe that we had high-resolution audio in the analog tape days, then that’s OK. I believe it requires a meaningful advancement in potential fidelity.

    • When any new standard is too high for most of the current market offerings to meet, then there will be cries that it is unfair. Of course it’s unfair – to the old guard! That’s the whole point! Worth noting, however, that it is very fair to the music-buying public.

      I side with Chris in believing that CD can resolve sound about as well as can the ear (although whether it is exactly 100% is a fair debate), so if its resolution is about as high as the ear then it should not be classed as an audible downgrade. However, there is a vast catalog of CD that sounds poor due to poor mastering, yet the same cannot be said of high-res masters as a broad statement (yet). So there is usually a sound quality step up from a typical CD master to a made-for-high-res master, and that is worth promoting. Although to the majority of consumers, if we tell them that CD is legitimate high-res audio, they would be entitled to grab the nearest CD and play it and ask, “So, is this the new high-res sound?” And the only right answer is no. So IMHO counting CD as high res is probably not going to be a good way to gain recognition for the step up in sound quality that is the main thing that is on offer here.

      A big sonic limitation of CD is of course it’s 2-channel limit. If we had category definitions for surround-ness, then CD could be high-res, low-surround. But that, I suppose, is another battle for another day.

      • Hi again Mark, to clarify my stance on CD, to me it more or less represents full resolution of a legacy analog master tape. As you have been at pains to emphasize here and elsewhere, just adding extra resolution to what’s on those tapes is, to a great extent, simply taking up more hard drive space for no sonic benefit. Mastering is far more important in this context and is something that needs as vigorous a promotional campaign as do the high-res formats themselves. There is little, if any, gain in buying, say, a 24/96 old Zeppelin recording, but lots to enjoy if it’s remastered better than before, even if you’re listening at 16/44 – the main caveat being that, in many cases, the original tapes are either decaying or worn out, so it’s probably a matter of trying to make the best of a 24/192 digital master. This is why I very much prize my extensive CD collection prior to the compression wars, when master tapes were probably used to remaster for the very last time. The current vinyl craze may be all pervading, but I truly believe the best of CD has the potential to become an even more precious commodity going forward. Remember that you couldn’t give away vinyl at one time. What goes around…

      • Actually, the dynamic range of a compact disc is quite limited as compared with the human ear (93 dB vs. 130+ dB). But you’re right that music recording or performances that require this much room and playback systems that can realize it are very, very rare. But I don’t think we should limit ourselves because of the realities of the business as it is.

  4. You would think by now they would have learned not to call you a lie and that you can back up the things you say.

    The stuff I’ve read complaining that you should have contacted AQ or who ever before your public posting of the results from your testing of the video I find reprehensible. It’s the political eq of why didn’t you give them a chance to prepare a cover up, or have some PR people prepare a real good BS spin on the subject.
    Why, because you and your supporters are not in the pockets of anyone, unlike some of audio media, both print and electronic. As admitted by AQ they were aware of the video for over a year and had plenty of opportunity to do the right thing. They ARE the experts in the field and I’ll never buy that they didn’t smell that something was a little funny. The just didn’t think they would get caught.

    My personal thanks to Gene DellaSala and the crew at Audioholics for their support and reporting things correctly.
    http://forums.audioholics.com/forums/threads/audioquest-hdmi-audio-rigged-demo-exposed-and-addressed-in-open-letter.97696/

    “Audiophile drama is unfolding as an Audioquest HDMI cable demo, featuring an Audioquest employee showing unrealistic changes in sound, was seemingly debunked as fraudulent by Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, in a recent blog post.
    A subsequent “Open Letter” from Audioquest owner William Low admitted he heard the video a year ago, found the audio difference “unbelievable”, but did not ask to have the video removed until after Mark Waldrep published his findings a year later.
    Is this an isolated incident, or just the latest in a string of misleading behavior perpetuated in the high-end cable industry?

    They are too busy listening for directionality in wire :rolleyes: I wonder if they realize how truly misinformed they are or if they know better but continue the psuedoscience to perpetuate their story to differentiate their products in hopes it would increase their brand appeal to their target customers.”
    Gene DellaSala
    President, Audioholics
    Pursuing the truth in audio & video…

    LOL, Thanks Gene

    • Thanks Sal…it continues to be a rough road.

    • I agree with Sal. It is the perpetrators’ responsibility to get their media productions right, and they remain accountable for monitoring or lack of monitoring of what is out there in their name.

      And when a whistleblower (if not within the company, at least Mark is within the industry) blows the whistle, then everyone needs to rally around and support him, even protect him, because we all know what the perpetrators and their henchmen will try to do to the whistleblower. As we can see, this case is no exception.

      Keep the focus, and the heat, where it belongs.

  5. I would have thought that anyone in the HiFi industry with a genuine concern for its well being would seize the opportunity to stamp out the mischievous claims you highlighted, and re-establish integrity across the industry.

    It appears that now, we have a circling of the wagons from various vested interests, and instead of thanking you for highlighting a scurrilous piece of advertising, they are choosing to attack you. There’s a lot at stake I guess, but for the life of me, I can’t understand those who would defend, condone or not otherwise condemn the video that you investigated.

    This never was about cables, it was always about integrity and trust. HiFi as a hobby (and a business) is at risk of losing out on that measure. That would be a great shame.

  6. So you won’t be on Michael Lavorgna’s Christmas card list, I’m sure you won’t lose sleep over that.

    • No, I won’t.

  7. OMG Mark
    Gene DellaSala is at it again and has me ROTFLMAO
    You have to what the video they put up today on this issue.
    https://youtu.be/BgDB86tkth8

  8. I don’t know about calling CD hirez. Of course I don’t know about hirez anyway.

    The first time I saw a demo of an HD TV it was super obvious the improvement. I wanted one right then. The same with various speakers over the years. UHD also is an obvious improvement though I wonder if we aren’t getting too close to the screen to take in the whole picture.

    First time I heard a 192/24 recording from a renown music company who did minimalist recordings and no processing of what was recorded. I don’t know…might be a little better….well okay after hearing a CD from the same recording I am not sure there is a difference. Certainly no lust after getting that for myself like in the above examples. So maybe CD is high enough rez.

    Nonetheless, good on you about the AQ fiasco. Everyone else comes off looking bad in this Mark. Not you. You do in the eyes of those profiting from keeping the info secret. Pretty transparent why that is.

  9. It occurred to me this morning as I was playing with Roon and listening to the new Elton John album (keep this in mind, Elton John, certainly not a heavy metal rocker) that it makes little or no difference in my opinion what DAC you use, what cables and interconnects and so on and so on, if the producers of the music continue to so dynamically compress the sound files to the point they are almost unlistenable.

    I tried to see if I could embed an image of the sound file with this post but it appears not. Each of the songs is basically a solid rectangle across the entire sound file, no highs, no lows, just everything loud. It’s Elton for crying out loud, geesh.

  10. Hi Mark,

    I have been one of very few – if any – that have repeatedly told you to do the necessary to take legal action against the fraudsters, who appear to be a whole industry, and who are certainly prepared to take action against you. They have excluded you and I’m pretty certain they can do worse. You can’t allow for a bunch of liars and criminals – that’s what their practices ultimately amount to – to harm you or even potentially discredit you. I believe that part of telling the truth is seeing to that the truth has its day in court and has its consequences.

    I also warned you about [name removed], one of the very lowest characters out there, and certainly the most prepared to personally attack his detractors, and apparently at any cost. He’s probably not even worth mentioning, as he lacks any professional authority or integrity, but he gives quite a clear example of the ethos of the people you the business is made of.

    I recommend you use the professional authority you have amassed throughout your career, along with other professionals, technologists and scientists, and put it behind some real legal action against this and other frauds, or at the very least, include a chapter in your book dedicated to the most widespread falsehoods and frauds perpetrated by the so called hifi industry, and back it up with interviews from the real authorities on the matter. Or maybe dedicate a second book to that.

    It’s fine to build ridiculous esoteric and absurd components, as long as you are also prepared to add specs and accurate information, and even OK to charge obscene amounts of money for them if people are prepared to pay for them, having all the info necessary to make that decision at their disposal. This is however not what is happening, and there’s a large and of course unregulated industry built on fraud and ignorance making millions on lies and harm to the common good. This is America, and this is what America is all about, whether we like it or actively participate in it or not. There are reasons why these people feel safe and are even allowed to continue their systematically dishonest practices. ( I recently watched Concussion, and I can clearly understand why the movie or Will Smith weren’t nominated for an Oscar. It doesn’t have much to do with the cinematographic quality of the movie.) What we can no longer do, is sit and watch it continue. We need regulations!

    Why not crowdfund a legal initiative to regulate this industry, and to stop this once and for all. I would be prepared to back a bill to regulate the hifi industry and hold people to account for fraud, and I think it’s time. I believe it would benefit consumers and music making alike.

    Cheers!

    • I understand the realities of legal actions and it’s never good. It’s takes a lot of time, a lot of money, and ultimately nobody comes out ahead except the lawyer. The only path is to inform and educate people so they don’t continue to purchase expensive audiophile accessories, over hyped cables, and other unproven devices. I do my best…this little blog has made some impact.

      • I guess you’re right about the legal battles, and definitely about the effects of your blog, but although education can change consumers’ purchase preferences, and ultimately impact the market and its priorities, we will still need laws that effectively regulate and protect consumers. There has to be positive consequences to doing things right, but also consequences to doing things wrong.

        Cheers!

      • Absolutely agree Mark.

        Not generally a good idea to go the litigation route. The way to go is through education.

        The pendulum has swung way too far into the “subjectivist” domain where testimony and other unsubstantiated claims have become the norm. Where audiophile magazines have stopped educating the public and have lost their ability as journalists with the public’s interests in mind… Essentially becoming an extension of the advertising arm of the audiophile industry.

        Keep up the good fight. I believe the pendulum is turning bit by bit.

        • “He really hates it when I remind him that not only didn’t he hear the difference between a real Steinway type D Grand Piano and the sound that came out of a pair of Vivid speakers in a live versus recorded demo he conducted and described on Home Theater Geeks episode 84 website about 30 minutes into the interview, he didn’t understand it when the audience pointed it out to him. “For a long time I wondered what they meant by that.”

          Ok, I have to know the thread this was in for reading up on it.

  11. I got banned again from the Audio Insane Asylum Cornered Critics board for challenging the gospel according to Saint John Atkinson one time too many. He really hates it when I remind him that not only didn’t he hear the difference between a real Steinway type D Grand Piano and the sound that came out of a pair of Vivid speakers in a live versus recorded demo he conducted and described on Home Theater Geeks episode 84 website about 30 minutes into the interview, he didn’t understand it when the audience pointed it out to him. “For a long time I wondered what they meant by that.”

    I don’t think this guy ever saw a potential advertiser’s piece of equipment he didn’t like.

    The moderator RodM is equally a jackass. Once many years ago some guy was hawking a CD duplicator called Reality Check that was supposed to enhance any CD. He was selling it for an introductory discount of $550 instead of the usual price of $600. There were no technical claims made for it and finally in exasperation I said I was suspicious that it was a fraud after the hoots and howls of the audiophile know it alls. For that I was banned for a week. Several months later people who bought this thing were furious when they found out it was an ordinary CD duplicator that sold for $300 that had been drop shipped by the supplier and was not modified in the slightest. Watch out for these liars, they’re all over the place.

    Would you buy a Nagra preamp whose circuit consists of two 12AX7As and a 12AT7 in a small box in a circuit that’s simpler than a five tube $10 1950s table radio for $12,000? What’s more, the output impedance is so high if you connect it to a solid state amplifier its output gets loaded down. I know I wouldn’t buy it. Not when I could build its signal circuit myself for well under $100 if I wanted it. To hear Saint John’s magazine explain it, it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

    Lies, deceptions, illusions, fear, hope, inferences, are this industry’s tools to sell with as a substitute for actual technical advancement of any substance. Buyer beware. Know what things are actually worth before you plunk your money down.

  12. Really too bad the FTC could not do more enforcement actions against the audio cable companies that are so obviously fraudulently marketing their products. The market is so small the FTC probably have no interest, and the consumers purchasing such products likely convince themselves of the benefit of said products. Very sad all around.

    https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/advertising-faqs-guide-small-business

    “The FTC looks at both “express” and “implied” claims. An express claim is literally made in the ad. For example, “ABC Mouthwash prevents colds” is an express claim that the product will prevent colds. An implied claim is one made indirectly or by inference. “ABC Mouthwash kills the germs that cause colds” contains an implied claim that the product will prevent colds. Although the ad doesn’t literally say that the product prevents colds, it would be reasonable for a consumer to conclude from the statement “kills the germs that cause colds” that the product will prevent colds. Under the law, advertisers must have proof to back up express and implied claims that consumers take from an ad.”

  13. I am seeing a movement towards flat cables. I thought cables had to be a twisted to stop interference; is this not the case anymore?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *