AUDIO SHOWS Dr. AIX's POSTS — 30 April 2016

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Following my participation and attendance at the 2016 AXPONA Show, I wrote several posts reporting on a series of power demos held in room 450 by the high-end cable company Nordost of Holliston, MA. This morning I opened a FEDEX letter containing a 7-page “CEASE AND DESIST LETTER”. It describes and quotes from the articles that I posted. Per the DEMAND contained in the document written by attorney Rodney E. Gould, I have removed the original posts.

The letter also demands a retraction “prior to the institution of litigation”. This post is that retraction. Some of the statements made in the posts of April 18, 21, and 22 are described as malicious and libelous in the “CEASE AND DESIST LETTER”. Therefore, I wish to retract those statements because they were unsubstantiated.

Mark “Dr. AIX” Waldrep, Ph.D.

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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.

(49) Readers Comments

  1. Hello Mark
    If your interpretation of what was happing at the trade show is correct, this and other companies like them, who engage in dubious demonstrations will be the one’s on the defensive. Power cords do not increase volume, detail or clarity. These claim’s cannot be defended with honest science. Good luck with your defense on this matter, and know that reality is on your side.

    • “Power cords do not increase volume, detail or clarity.” That about says it all.

    • Mark;

      I’d be happy to publish your findings on this Nordost Demo on Audioholics.com. We don’t scare easily and appreciate your efforts in exposing these type of shenanigans. Keep fighting the good fight!

      • Thanks Gene. The problem is that my findings published anywhere will cause the lawyers to bite back at me. I’m more than willing to fight them but don’t have the resources. I may try to do some crowd sourcing to build a war chest. We’ll see how this goes.

        • Mark;

          How about you approach this from a different angle. Write up a brief summary of the chain of events that lead to this cease and desist, but don’t give explicit details of what you uncovered to keep outside the cease and desist order, then we open up the topic for debate on our forum along with a call to action for our readers? Feel free to email me if you want to discuss further particulars.

  2. Retraction notwithstanding, I still believe those demos were rigged.

  3. Since when did anyone have the right to gag you on your personal opinion? Surely you have a right to state your thoughts on the subject matter in question.

  4. BTW just tried to buy the new book as an ebook and downloaded music files but received an “invalid shipping address”. I also got the following message, which is no doubt linked to the error message:

    “There are no shipping methods available. Please check your address or contact us if you need any help.”

    David

  5. You may be covered by the California SLAPP statutes:
    http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/anti-slapp-law-california
    I’d be happy to contribute to a legal defense fund should you need one.

  6. When you sell $10 power cords for $1700 you have a lot of gross margin to help pay your legal team to shutdown bloggers like you who are exposing these audiophile cable companies as nothing but a total fraud.

    Archimago’s blog recently had an entire posting taken down by Blogger after he posted an article on the ridiculous iFi sponsored posting on AudioStream recently.

    When people buy a product from Nordost or iFi, they should realize they are helping fund these legal takedown actions to attempt to hide what should be obvious to any educated audiophile – they sell bogus products based upon FUD and pseudoscience. It’s unfortunate the FTC can’t do more here….

    • I wouldn’t place iFi in the same category as Nordost. Although their marketing is somewhat hyped, the products are actually useful and not outrageously priced. That Audiostream post was a bit over the top though.

      • I don’t visit the Audiostream site without a specific reason to do so. The administration of the site and the subjective reviews that appear on it don’t provide “information” I’m interested in. I know the iFi marketing and it’s clearly over the top. But who doesn’t spin their message. Other companies, in my opinion, should be avoided because of their tactics, unsubstantiated product claims, and sometime outright faking of results.

    • I’ve been informed that Audiostream, not iFi, initiated the action to take down Archimago’s posting criticizing the iFi article they published due to copyright infringement. Certainly Fair Use should have allowed the quotations Archimago used, but not a fight an individual wants to make against a company with the resources of TEN.

      That said, while I can believe that many of iFi’s products might actually have some value, and yes most audio companies aggressively market their products, the article from iFi that Audiostream published was just ridiculous. I therefore will still keep iFi on my banned companies list for future audio equipment purchasing.

      I will reiterate my major point however, that anyone purchasing Nordost equipment is helping finance their law firm to threaten legal action to blogs like this, and you are therefore complicit in this outrageous behavior.

      • After looking more into this situation in more detail and Fair use copyright law in general, I will give Audiostream a pass here regarding their action here to take down Archimago’s blog posting on their iFi article.

        However I still believe the Audiostream/iFi posting is emblematic of the larger issue I see with many “audiophile” manufacturers marketing their products based on FUD and pseudo-science. Nordost certainly is near or at the top of the leaderboard in this regard.

        http://www.nordost.com/images/review-images/review-pdf/9-HiFiPlus_issue47b.pdf

  7. All the power to you, Mark, and know that you have many supporters out here who will avoid buying from dubious companies and who are fed up with the cozy relationship between the major hifi publications and their advertisers.

    In your recent post lamenting that there was not more coverage of your room at AXPONA, you were too kind (or maybe just not paranoid enough!). It seems pretty clear to me that the major titles blacklisted you because you have offended their advertisers. (Of course, many seem to have an ongoing bias against multichannel, even though it’s obvious to those of us who have set up high-quality 5:1 systems with music in mind that they are the route to the most realistic reproduction obtainable.)

    • Jonathan, I’m sure that there are emails and conversations among the audiophile companies and audio press about my challenging posts. They certainly don’t want someone rocking their very profitable boat. Wouldn’t it be great if they were interested in better sound?

  8. I’m surprised it took this long for someone to threaten you with litigation, Mark, and not because you’ve said anything actionable, but because your scientific rationality threatens the profits of companies manufacturing these dubious and often absurd products. Your decision to retract makes good business sense, too — litigation always enriches attorneys, but rarely the litigants.

    • I reported on my experiences at the AXPONA show…just like so many other journalists. However, without a war chest to fight the status quo, I choose to avoid confrontation in this case.

  9. yeah, well , I’ve sat through Nordost demos at two different audio shows and in my OPINION it’s all bullshit

  10. Sometimes when faced with a lawsuit it is better to meet the plaintiff’s demands even when you know you are right. Those who would believe practically anything would not be swayed by what anyone says anyway.

    You have to be careful on the internet. Using words and phrases like IMO, in my experience, I can find no evidence anywhere to support their claims, it makes no sense to me, I suspect…, are just opinions. When you state something as a fact you can’t prove, you are open to a lawsuit. You can say this is what I saw in a way that leads the reader to draw his own conclusions you want him to draw without making a clear assertion. You have to be careful not to cross the legal line between opinion and possible libel. The truth of course in not libel but you have to be able to prove it is the truth.

    In the now out of print book “I can sell you anything” an ex Madison Avenue advertising executive explains just how far you can go and still be legally safe. Everyone is out to make money and if you can make more of it with a law suit, so much the better.

    • Agree, however where’s the scientific evidence that support the cable manufacturers – there is none. If I say, in my opinion, a cable does not do what the manufacturer claims, where is the scientific evidence to prove that I’m wrong; again there is none.

  11. This is beyond revolting. Mark, I understand that it’s easier to submit which costs nothing, versus telling them to go to hell which means hiring a lawyer. I’ll gladly kick in $100 if you decide to fight this. Which you absolutely should.

    • I like the idea of establishing a defense fund to fight off the heavy handed tactics of companies with more money than me. I would love to fight them…that day may come.

      • Your problem is that while you have well educated guesses, you have no proof that would stand up in a court of law. Not even loudness measurements made unscientifically from in the audience. No video of the guy switching from one track to the next or twirling a knob.

        However I know what you mean. Around 2007 I aborted prosecution of 7 new patents related to my own audio idea. It was intended to accomplish standardization of playback performance and of mastering studios in a way that would allow the end user to always hear almost exactly what the mastering engineer heard. It would also have facilitated a unique encryption method so that the recordings could not be copied and the player could not be reverse engineered. The encryption method for each recording, even sequential production units of the same recording would have been impossible to decode since within each recording there would be contained the encryption instructions to play that recording alone. Nor could the player be moved from one room to another since the room is literally an integral part of the system and each one has to be custom calibrated for that room alone. That was about the time there was a lot of worry in the recording industry about Napster. Seeing Apple Computer battle Samsung in courts around the world with vast financial resources, I knew if my idea ever caught on, it would be stolen and so I quit the whole thing because there’d be nothing I could do about it..

        • Again, where is the manufacturer’s scientific evidence that supports their claim? Without saying “I think the manufacturer is fraudulently misleading the public” I can say, “I see no scientific evidence that supports the manufacturers claim”.

          • You have to be very careful when it comes to the legalities of what you can say publically without consequence and committing libel. What exactly does the manufacture claim? A lot of manufacturers produce ads that don’t actually make specific claims but lead you down a path that gets you to draw conclusions they never actually said. They rely on your imagination, hopes, fears, but they never actually make a definitive claim.

            Even in a patent where claims are made, at best you can get a patent overturned if you can prove the other guy’s claims are false. But you must have solid proof and convince a judge who may not be expert in the area you are challenging. It is not easy. Even ordinary common sense is not enough. The only kind of invention for which the patent office requires a working model is a perpetual motion machine.

      • Count me in. Your honesty, integrity and sheer common sense is too jarring for many, and much appreciated by many, many more.

  12. Please fight this. We need to call out companies with deceptive practices that damage the reputation of the entire pro audio inudstry.

    • No, please don’t fight this Mark. This is really not your fight. The prospect of you being stripped of your savings or put into debt by a lawsuit, for things you said that were for general public interest and not really for your own profit, is not something that I would like to see happen.

  13. I think we will all come to more or less the same conclusion about the reasons behind Nordost’s chosen response here.

  14. Kind of like Blue Jeans Cable and Monster Cable’s threatened litigation. I won’t buy Nordost anyway. I’ll buy good quality power cables from a guy named Cullen, who makes custom stuff at super fair prices.

  15. There is so much rubbish out in the so called audiophile world from super-cables, cable-raisers, magic dots to things that look like a wardrobe-stand and is used to better the acoustic of a room – it’s ridiculous. NordOst is welcome to send me a CEASE AND DESIST LETTER. Here in Germany they have to prove, that all they say is correct before they will win at court because we have proof reversal in that cases. Nevertheless they are selling their over-priced stuff in Germany, too. If anyboby thinks that there is no context between advertising and positive reviews resulting in higher profit I can’t help.
    Regards

    • Sounds to me like German and the EU has it right. Without substantiation, they shouldn’t be able to make ridiculous claims.

  16. The war on a single manufacturer, product, or even class of products seems far too narrowly focused to me. Consumer hi fi audio has never come close to fulfilling its promise of recreating the sound of live music in the home, especially music regarded as fine art and I’m not talking about pop, rock, or other cheap trash that is commercially successful produced for the musically illiterate.

    It’s the whole concept I reject. As someone who has been surrounded and educated by some of the best scientists and engineers in their field, using a pea shooter to take out a clay pigeon seems like a waste of time. There were 8 Nobel prize winners who worked at my current employer’s facilities. I know the real thing when I hear it and hi fi ain’t it. Perfecting a system that is inherently fatally flawed with an endless parade of useless silver bullets is IMO a futile waste of time. Why can’t they make any real progress? Because IMO opinion they aren’t intellectually even remotely up to it. The really capable ones find far more interesting projects to expend their talents on. Therefore spending time and effort on criticizing audio cables is silly.

    • Mark, I don’t believe that the “promise” of hi-fi is to recreate the sound of live music at home. Some engineers and producers may subscribe to that philosophy but I don’t and most of the record producers that I know don’t either. Even the classical and jazz labels modify the reality during the recording process.

      I’m hardly musically illiterate (I have my doctorate in music composition) and I love pop, rock, country, and commercial music. I love the productions, the catchy melodies, and the sentiments. I generally don’t like the fidelity but it’s the reality of the commercial music business.

      You may have a better idea (I think I do to) but the business is based on other criteria…not fidelity or realism. I’m very satisfied with the sound and fidelity of my recordings.

      Informing audio customers about the nonsense of high cost, over hyped cables is important. Improvements are not going to be found with expensive power cables…but in better recordings.

    • In my book hi-fi is about accurately recreating what was originally recorded, not trying to recreate a “live music session” in the living room. Admittedly I used to think that a hi-fi system was all about re-creating that live sound, but when I acquired some good, but not overly-expensive equipment, which did “the job”, I realised that musical recording is all about artistic interpretation.

      It’s the same in photography; rather than trying to capture what’s in front of you, it’s all about using established (and new innovative) techniques to create an image which draws you in and captures the imagination – a good graphics card and video monitor gets you to what the original photographer wanted you to see.

      A good hi-fi system gets you to what the recording artists and engineers wanted you to hear.

      • Record production can be done a variety of ways. The magic of the band, combined with a great tune, a great arrangement/production, and terrific engineering can create classics. They don’t all measure up to hi-fi standards because of market realities and the demands of the record companies. Ultimately, if the music works…then it’s successful regardless of the fidelity. However, if producing a great rendering of a live performance is the goal, then high-resolution audio, purist recording methods, and great care in preserving the sound of the original instruments/voices are critical.

  17. I think it is the way you worded your article that exposed you to this action. You make statements of opinion as if they are facts and coming from a professional with your credentials, you open yourself to being smacked with a legal letter.

    I think you can get your observations and point across by leaving leeway in what you believe as opposed to coming across as definitive. There is no doubt that your assertions cannot be substantiated in court just as Nordost’s claims won’t stand up to a Judge’s own ears, if they do a real ABC test with same track, different wires, one of which is a decent quality standard mains cable.

    • I think you’re right. As long as I state that I’m offering my opinion, perhaps I’ll stop getting cease and desist letters. However, when I read a brochure that states as fact that power cords are the most important thing in an audio system, it is presented as fact, which is clearly isn’t.

      • Then ask them to show scientific/engineering evidence to back up their assertion, if they can’t they have no right to state it as definitive.

        • None of the high-end cable companies or the audiophile magazines can show scientific proof that power cords or digital interconnects or digital signal regenerators improve or change the sound of a system. They can say it, but they can’t prove it…because it’s not true. To claim that a power cable of any price will change the analog signal outputs goes against what we want from power cords. The cable “designers” produce beautiful cables…but looks don’t change the basic 120 VAC 60 Hz needs of your gear.

    • An A/B test is not a form of substantiation, scientific/engineering principles are. You don’t build a bridge by consensus of opinion, you use established techniques and and apply the design to design codes that prove the bridge is fit for purpose. I cannot believe any court of law in the world would accept listening tests as proof of veracity of a manufacturer’s claim.

  18. Here’s an article where there is reasoned input about the veracity, or otherwise, of “increased audio quality” cables from both a manufacturer’s and a scientific viewpoint: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/10827699/Crossed-wires-are-expensive-cables-a-waste-of-money.html

  19. Mark, please don’t be discouraged or tempted to give up the fight. It’s nauseating when people can say whatever they want, then those with true integrity have to pay a price. But it’s worth it. Thank you for standing up for what you believe in, which just happens to be the truth!

  20. Perhaps you can publish the letter. IN FULL. Every single word and quotation. LOL

    • That’s a possibility.

  21. I’ll say it. I believe Nordhost cables are BS. They cannot prove your ears, or my ears, or VanGoh’s 1 good ear, can hear any difference.

    But, there are fools out there that they can fleece, and suggest the subtle differences from their least expensive, to outrageously expensive cables, and some one will buy it.

    • The company is Nordost. And they and lots of other high-end audio companies make lots of extravagant claims about their products. But when it comes times to proving…with science…that they do what they claim, things get somewhat more challenging. I’m going to do a series of YouTube videos in order to try and evaluate the veracity of these claims. It should be fun.

  22. Don’t bankrupt yourself, Mark. After all, this is really a small tempest in the tiny teapot that is high end audio. Instead, I suggest we use this cautionary tale to be a LOT more aggressive about demos. Let’s ask questions, bring OUR OWN sources, and so forth to be sure we are getting truly fair comparisons.

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