AUDIO SHOWS HD-AUDIO NEWS — 09 July 2018

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about an event that reported on some of the nonsense demos that happen at trade shows (you can visit the article by clicking here). I deliberately avoided naming the salesperson who demonstrated the “benefits” of expensive — very expensive — power cords and the name of his company out of respect for the hosts. His demo produced audible/measurable increases in the amplitude of identical music selections. A result that is impossible according to the laws of physics. Electrical engineers and those with even a casual knowledge of how electrical circuits and power supplies work know that a heavy twisted cable worth thousands of dollars cannot — and should not — increase the plus and minus voltages needed by the various circuits in the equipment in question.

So what does reporting on this sonic slight of hand this have to do with my “lifetime” membership in the Los Angeles and Orange County Audiophile Society? Apparently, the president of the society felt I was “out of line” by reporting negatively one of the presenters at his first AudioCon event. I received the following email from Bob Levi, the head of the organization:

“Mark, It has been brought to my attention that you may have slandered important manufactures in your blog. That you snuck into a Society event: hi-rez recording gear to record and analyze their claims and did all this without any permission from anyone. Plus, you attended and sold merchandise by the grace of the society at the event, gratis.

What in the world were you thinking?? [He copied the original article, which I have omitted]

I frankly do not care whether you discovered AQ or Nordost were using black magic or a hidden flux capacitor, you are way out of line Doctor!

REMEDY

I want this blog/article above eliminated by close of business today, July 2. If asked, you will apologize as necessary using best efforts to contain any damage to the Society or our relationships.

I am very disappointed in you Mark. We should suspend your membership in the Society and may still do so. We will see how this prodeeds going forward.

Sincerely yours, Bob”

I was completely surprised by his reaction and responded:

“Bob,

I am sorry that you found my report from the AudioCon event problematic. First, let me clarify a couple of points made in your email. I didn’t “sneak” into the event. I was invited and confirmed my participation with both you and Sunil:

‘Mark, Bring your books, AIX discs, and a ton of backup software both Saturday and Sunday 10:30-6pm to Sunny’s!!! Enjoy and sell and entertain and inform!
See you there! Bob’

I respectfully sat and listened to the presenters as they pitched their wares. I didn’t ask questions and I didn’t interrupt. However, I wasn’t the only audience member to question the reports of fidelity improvements made by the gentleman and his power cords — another society member also captured the loudness increase produced by the power cables, which I hope you would agree is simply not possible! I did not name the company or presenter. I simply reported the facts as I saw them. I believe that it is important that audiophiles get factual and unbiased information from independent third parties to counter the nonsense that colors a lot of the information provided by anxious sales people. I have been doing that for almost 5 years in my well-respected blog and in my very favorably reviewed book (including your own assessment).

When is telling the truth considered ‘out of line’? I didn’t slander anyone because I didn’t name the individual or his company. That was a conscious decision on my part and done so out of respect for your event. I simply reported on the generic issue of power cords and how unscrupulous vendors are falsely presenting their wares to the detriment of customers — your members. I would hope integrity would be desired in your audiophile organization. My report was no different than any other published show report by any other audiophile journalist. I reported facts. Would you contact John Atkinson or Robert Harley about altering one of their reports?

I will not be retracting the blog, I will not apologize for presenting the facts, and I will not restrict my reporting on false claims made by audiophile manufacturers. If this results in my membership being terminated, it is your decision. I have enjoyed my time and the friendships I have made in the society but have to maintain my own integrity. I very much appreciate your kindness, friendship, support, and your willingness to include me in your group over these last fews years. But I cannot agree to be censored by you or anyone else under any circumstances.

There is way too much hocus pocus in the audiophile marketplace. I believe people deserve to know the facts.

With respect, Mark”

Bob was unwilling to let it go and replied with a list:

1. You were invited to sell and listen, not do sudo scientific research.
2. You informed no one in charge, not asked permission, and concealed your test gear and intent.
3. I have been an audiophile for 50 years and have heard volume increases from ancillaties to the system for no apparent reason at the time. So, unless actual snake oil was involved you are out of line.
4. If I know about this, so do many others. You identified Sunny’s by name.
5. We recognize your right to print anything you want, of course.
6. We also have the right to withdraw your membership in the society until further notice which we do eff. Immediately.
7. I recall only one other time we withdrew membership in the last 15 years for acting with lack of consideration to your fellow audiophiles.
8. Taking advantage of an occasion arranged by a non profit whose only intent is to enhance communication and discussion for your own gains is a special sin in my book .
Bob

I have to say that I have enjoyed my years in the society and Bob, in particular, has shown great willingness to have me attend his events, speak at co-sponsored shows (I’ve given the keynote at T.H.E. Show more than once) and was instrumental in promoting my book to the group. I regarded Bob as a friend even if I disagreed with many of the audiophile “accessories” that he pitches. I wrote back:

“Bob, You have the right to revoke my membership. I’m sorry that you’ve decided to make that decision since I know I did nothing wrong — unless you accept fraud as a proper way to do business. I will be reporting on this exchange to my readers and let them know the nonsense that the LAOCAS condones and actually seems to encourage. The only real sin in this episode is your continued support for “snake oil” vendors and lack of fundamental knowledge behind the technology that makes audio recording and reproduction possible. I gain nothing by sharing the truth behind the BS artists — the only beneficiaries are those readers that realize they are being hosed by charlatan vendors.

Respectfully, Mark Waldrep

PS It has been a pleasure to interact with Dr. Mark Katz and many of the other members of your organization. I will miss those friendships.”

And Bob wrote again:

“Mark,
If we 2700 Members of the Society sat in front of vendors from renowned companies with hidden microphones etc. to later comdemn their presentations with our own theories and preconceptions, we would have very very lonely events. You are still out of line and owe the vendors and Sunil an apology.
With you around, no wonder so many manufacturers refuse to divulge information and point to trade secrets. Snake oil? Fraud? Made up entirely by you to feel important. Hey, next time ask questions instead of hatching plots.
Bob”

Knowing there’s never any reason to rant or get angry, I reached out one more time trying to bring some reason to the discussion:

“Bob,

So the point of holding meetings is to shill for the vendors of products of questionable value? I would have thought that greater service and benefit would be to educate, inform, and advance the enjoyment of reproduced music through explanations and demonstrations. When an individual company plays loose with the facts, cheats during their presentations, makes videos that defy physics, and pushes pseudoscience to uninformed audio enthusiasts — with the support of publications, reviewers, and organizations — there is a need to counterbalance the BS with facts and reasoned discussion/demonstrations. Your members would be able to make better decisions, save lots of money, and enhance their listening with more information. When a charlatan cable vendor turns up the volume — and that’s what he did during the presentation — to fool attendees into believing that spending thousands of dollars on a 99.99999% pure silver twisted power cord, it’s time to say time out. That’s what I did.

If you knew more about the physics of electricity and how analog and digital systems actually work, you would understand that my “own theories and preconceptions” are what has allowed fidelity to advance and has spread our hobby to the masses. I don’t make this stuff up Bob. Even the CEO of AudioQuest finally acknowledged that I was right about the falsification of his promotional video of high priced HDMI cables. Facts are sometimes inconvenient but mandatory in a marketplace prone to hyperbole, ripoffs, and ridiculous product claims.

I will not apologize for presenting the truth — I never have and I never will. The vendor that lies about the laws of electricity should be apologizing and you should open your meetings up to include alternative points of view. A healthy debate would only increase the number of people coming to the meetings.

Manufacturers need not reveal trade secrets nor should they hide behind techno jargon and discredited theories. If you really deny that there are “snake oil” products in audio or that unscrupulous vendors haven’t fraudulently promoted their wares, then you need to redouble your efforts into learning the nature of how things work. That’s what I do.

It’s regrettable that you side with a sales person caught cheating during a public event sponsored by the LAOCAS rather than embracing facts. You choose to terminate my participation in your group — a source of honest, unbiased, and intelligent information — instead of taking a hard look at your process. You made your choice. I believe you missed a tremendous opportunity.

Regards,

Mark”

And the final exchange:

“Mark, Just because you believe something whole heartedly and passionately does not mean it is true.
Bob Levi
President and CEO
Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society”

I finished the conversation with:

“Bob,

Doesn’t the same statement more appropriately apply to audiophiles like yourself that take it on faith the power cords somehow increase amplitude or that isolating a hard drive with expensive “cones” magically alters the flow of data bytes being transferred to a digital playback system. It would be far more interesting, educational, and productive to have BOTH sides of the issue presented during one of your events. If a particular vendor can unambiguously demonstrate that power cords or digital interconnects or small adhesive patches can change the fidelity to a group without manipulating the volume or otherwise cheating — I would sign on immediately.

At the present time, I have been offering a casual test of high-resolution vs. standard-resolution audio to my readers. As you know, I’m a strong advocate for high-resolution digital recordings made with no processing or mastering. I’ve won numerous awards for my work. It’s indisputable that a high-resolution PCM recording offers more potential fidelity than another other audio format. Whether the “sound” rivals vinyl LPs or analog tape is preferred is a matter of personal taste. The results of the HD Challenge have been inconclusive. It turns out the audiophiles — even those with fabulous, highly resolving systems — have done no better than chance in determining the difference between CD spec and real high-resolution. So I may have to change my position on the merits of high-resolution audio. I can accept that. When a rigorous study is ultimately performed using double blind ABX testing AND real high-resolution content, the truth may show that I’ve been wrong.

To present only one side of an issue to your members does them a great disservice. I would be very interested in working with you to bring both sides of issues of interest to audiophiles to the group. To let Ken Forsythe of MQA give a 30 minute pep talk for a process that is hotly debated is another example of one-side thinking. Many of the LAOCAS members would show up to an event that presents both sides of a picture. Or course it’s your call, but restricting information to only the message carefully crafted by vendors of expensive cords or purveyors of processes of dubious merit is wrong IMHO.

I have always balanced science and faith, left and right brain thinking. In this case of expensive power cords, there is no debate among qualified audio and educated electrical engineers. When the truth becomes cast as “fake news” we’re all worse off.

Mark”

So once again, I got myself kicked out of an organization (the CEA Audio Board didn’t like that I wrote the truth about their high-res audio campaign several years ago). Do you really want to be part of a group that supports “snake oil” salesmen and excludes healthy debate? I guess the LAOCAS — at lease under the direction of Bob Levi — would rather cater to the companies that provide the raffle prizes (I was one of them BTW) than offer accurate and beneficial information to its members.

I know I’ll miss my friendships with Chuck Bruce, Chip, Mark, Doug, and others but I was deemed “out of line” for telling the truth and refusing to retract my reporting. BTW Slander requires that the person being slandered prove that what was stated is not true. I’m pretty confident that I’m on solid ground here.

So for the overly long post. I felt it was necessary to include everything and not edit the statements made by Bob or myself.

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(58) Readers Comments

  1. I imagine you had to stop and cool off before responding to his immature comments. You provided a calm, well thought out factual response to a disturbing situation, followed by almost laughable comments from this individual. As the saying goes, you just have to “follow the money”. At no point did he attempt to clarify or gain an explanation for the vendor performance…just threaten and insult.
    If I were a member of this group, I would resign in support.

    • Jim, I don’t really let myself get worked up over stuff like this. I was very surprised that Bob reacted the way that he did…as I said, my reporting was not meant to “out” any specific company or individual OR to embarrass the hosts.

  2. Is there actually any audio society that applies/demands proper scientific process?

    When reading this post tonight, it reminded me of a Richard Dawkins documentary over 10 years ago where he mentioned a moment in his undergraduate years. I looked it up just now to post the quote itself. It has always stayed with me as an example of what the scientific process is.

    “There was an elderly professor in my department who had been passionately keen on a particular theory for, oh, a number of years, and one day an American visiting researcher came and he completely and utterly disproved our old man’s hypothesis. The old man strode to the front, shook his hand and said, “My dear fellow, I wish to thank you, I have been wrong these fifteen years”. And we all clapped our hands raw. That was the scientific ideal, of somebody who had a lot invested, a lifetime almost invested in a theory, and he was rejoicing that he had been shown wrong and that scientific truth had been advanced.”

    • Great story…I just wish there were more cases where people let go of long held beliefs and acknowledged being wrong.

      • “It is easier to fool someone than to convince them that they have been fooled.” -Mark Twain

        • Tell that Richard Dawkins story to Michael Fremer, and I’m sure that he will react like the professor ;-).

    • @Cormac AES

    • There are groups like SMWTMS that follow the scientific processes but I think most enthusiasts stay away from these groups because the subject matter can become dry and esoteric.
      Groups and communities that embrace snake oil products and theories are more appealing to most people and play at human weaknesses and desires to emotionally engage its members

    • a truly respectable vendor wouldnt object any test of his hardware; if fact, if you are a honest vendor you will be proud that many people tested your product and found nothing but the anonunced specs; on the other hand, if you are a snake oil vendor you would not only react furiously to any scientific measurements but also demand the “society”to respond in a corporate (mafia) way to try to ban the testers

      • That was very, very, very well said, Juan :-).

  3. Mark,
    If this Bob believes an electric cord can increase the volume or improve audio fidelity, he is an ignorant.
    If this man cannot distinguish between faith and science, he should nor have any influence over an engineering association.
    If, after having been corrected, this man does not accept to distinguish between faith and science, he is not an honest man.
    You have been very patient trying to explain simple facts to him.
    Thank you for telling and publishing the truth, Sir.

    • Thanks Édouard. The LAOCAS is not an “engineering association”. It’s a bunch of really nice guys that enjoy their hobby and need a reason to get out every month to trade stories. I’ve met some really interesting people through the group and will miss not being part of the group because I met people like Russ, Chip, and Doug.

  4. Thanks for posting this saga in its entirety, Mark. Bob really comes across as a sweetheart. If his views represent those of LAOCAS, then I suspect you’re better off out of it.

    Enthusiast organisations like this should be holding companies that make such silly claims to account, not holding their beer while they pull the wool over our (and their members) eyes.

    • I honestly thought that Bob would realize that providing alternative points of view to the group would elevate the LAOCAS. But he only dug in deeper.

      • Do to outside posting of your expose’ this embarrassing position by Bob Levi has gone viral around the audiophile web. I can only hope the membership will come together, relieve Mr Levi of his position, and reinstate your membership. The LAOCAS’s only interest should be in advancing the knowledge of their members, not doing what “good for commerce” by helping presenters to con a audience.

        • I seriously doubt that Bob will change his stance and open the door to more rigorous presentations. It has worked for many years and I believe the members appreciate his energy and leadership. The group is well organized and has grown during his tenure.

  5. What’s the point of having these audiophiles societies if their only raison d’être is to make money exploiting ignorance of audiophiles most of whom do not have degree in physics or electrical engineering. Most audiophiles have difficulty telling difference even between CD and HiRes quality audio records (as we all witnessed with latest HiRes challenge) let alone power cords (!) or (properly designed) audio cords. I have PhD in Physics and experience in designing and building analogue and digital equipment myself including advanced concepts like current dumping (which BTW allows to build light, low current, transparent and lightweight A class equivalent solid state amplifiers, but most audiophiles have no clue about it of course). I understand that these societies are kind of professional snake oil vendor associations but why call them “audiophile societies” if they serve completely opposite purpose – to fool “audiophiles” into parting with their money for no good reason and not helping but rather hurting them.

  6. This is really pathetic. Thank you for standing up for the truth. I believe that measurements sometimes don’t tell the whole story… but in the long term, conning the public into spending megabucks on bullish** hurts, rather than helps, the audio marketplace. The fact that Bob whoever can’t face that he is an apologist for flat out fraud is really, really sad.By the way, SPL’s aren’t ‘theories’- they are objective data. If you believe your claims, you don’t need to ‘put your finger on the scale’. Thanks for pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes.

  7. That conversation went 2 e-mails further than necessary(if it were me). The moment when he demanded a public retraction and end to the blog then threaten to censor me out of the Society, that would had been the end and I would be out without a second thought. It seems like a good time to jump off that merry-go-round if these demos are presented in this way. Find another group of open and like-minded audiophiles in SoCal or start your own society.

    • It actually crossed my mind to start another audiophile society dedicated to information, music, and fun. It would take a lot of effort and I doubt the subjectivist crowd would come over, but it might be entertaining.

      • Yes Mark, it would be so nice to find a place that was honest and objective about music, listening and the how to’s of building a system. Thank goodness you wrote the book.

      • I would join your new audio society, Mark.

        • You are the first new member! THanks.

  8. John, You’re right — it would be against my own rules of conduct to approve your comments. I get your drift and would be happy to let a more reasoned comment pass, but I won’t allow profanity — it never helps.

  9. Hi Mark,

    Having read your blogs I have asked for a refund for the $1000 I recently spent on a bag of ‘Sonic gravel’ a product that claimed to remove jitter, time smear, bit-wobble, aliasing screech and hard drive lurgi when sprinkled liberally over my MacBook music server. The company in question Crystal Resolution Audio Products (CRAP) are not being very forward in doing so – could you please intervene on my behalf?

    But Seriously…..

    Having our convictions overturned is very hard for us as human beings particularly when we have years of time and energy invested in those convictions but the truth is the truth and the best in us is when we say “yep I was wrong”.
    I’m shocked by your treatment in this business – almost being talked too like a naughty school child! You are well out of a society that promotes such rubbish and then dares to reprimand you in this way. I enjoy music and I now enjoy learning more about its capture, recording and reproduction – I appreciate it more for that. Keep up the good work Sir and as we say in England “Don’t let the bastards grind you down”

  10. A random comment from the sides:

    I do appreciate quality audio. Yet, I feel “audiophiles” are often some sort of male equivalent to the spiritual movements with healing crystals and whatnot. Life just tends to feel more meaningful if you are striving for some intangible greater meaning!

    And where there are seekers of this meaning, there will soon be preachers and snake-oil salesmen. Why sell pretty patio stones when you can sell angelic healing stones for tenfold profit? And what would one think preachers and salesmen think if you go an tell on (or of) their convention that much of their stuff is bunk?

    It is unfortunate to notice that bunch you actually thought to at least tolerate rational thought were actually either believers of intangible, unmeasurable benefits of bogus engineering, or even worse, dependent on presence of snake oil salesmen in the premises.

    I want to think of myself a rational chap; I try to verify that claims are actually sensible by laws of physics and physiology of human hearing. Yet, I tend to feel these unexplainable urges to buy something like $60000 headphones, although I can be quite confident of the fact I’d be mostly paying for the experience of purchase and ownership, not the increase in quality of audio reproduction. I am thankful that my urges are to an extent kept at bay by people who dare to voice their criticism on soundness of engineering and value of such offerings – which are sometimes more sensible, sometimes less so. Without those people many more people would have given back to the healing crystal salesmen. Is it really the task of audiophile societies to align with those salesmen to this extent?

  11. Hi Mark,

    Sorry to hear about this and your ejection.

    This approach by the society only goes to prove that pockets are lined by shaking hands and closing minds.

    Vendors are not usually asked at events to provide overwhelming evidence of the qualities of their wares, neither do they offer such data, knowing full well the data would not prove their point. So a bit of a win/win for them not to be asked and not have to offer the data.

    However one wonders what is happening in their heads as you part with your cash for such folly.

    I hope that despite this you feel vindicated to continue your blog, it is clear that you know the difference and when to call this type of thing out. I for one, will continnue to support your blog and hope further truths come forward to stop me from being a sheep in a ripped off herd.

    As always look forward to your next piece and hope it is a more positive one for us and you, may be even something about 24 bit recording being used somewhere to enhance the listening experience.

    Gordon

  12. It is disturbing to think that an organization claiming to support high qualtiy audio would so readily condone what appears to be fraud, and so quick to condemn someone attempting to enlighten others about it.

  13. It feels funny to congratulate someone for holding not only to elemtary science, but also to basic common sense logic. While it’s a worthwhile effort to present science to the strata of the audio industry that is fueled by faith and dollars, conversations don’t get much easier when you do cross the threshold into science. I walked away from my own academic career years ago because I was surrounded by the exact same blindness, irrationality, and self-preserving suppression by the people who were supposed to be the ‘scientists’. So, it’s good to educate and inform, but never assume that others have a desire to learn and grow in discernment. Most truly don’t.

  14. I’m afraid we’re facing a much bigger issue here than just a “snake oil” debate. In the past 18 months we’ve been drawn into a new, intellectually dishonest and morally bankrupt world of “alternative facts”, with all the lying, cheating, and false morals that we are all unfortunately witnessing first hand. Alas, the audiophile world seems to be no exception to this: when facts and science are twisted and distorted for mere financial gain, and persons who should be upholding such science are in fact aiding and abetting, that’s when you know that there is something that has gone fundamentally wrong.

    • This is unfortunate circumstance that we find ourselves. According to Bob, I’m a purveyor of “fake news”.

  15. Thank you for blogging on this topic, there is a lot of collusion between the organizers of these sorts of events and the purveyors of audiophile nirvana of all sorts. You acted with integrity, and I hope you will stand your ground. Who wants to belong to an organization that promotes mythology over science anyway.

    • That was my point exactly. I’ve seen so many cases of overzealous salesmanship in the audiophile market. What is most bothersome is the one-sided approach that Bob and the organization insist on. Why not give others with an equal level of expertise to counter the exaggerated claims made during presentations like the one I saw.

  16. 1. Why do you assume, “I know I’ll miss my friendships with Chuck Bruce, Chip, Mark, Doug, and others”. This assumption doesn’t cast the integrity of those individuals in a positive light in my opinion. There is more to a friendship than monthly meetings. How do you know your friendships will end? This baffles me. Am I to believe these men will sever their friendships like flipping a switch?

    If yes, please illuminate what has happened vs conjecture.

    2. Thank you for posting everything.

    • No, I feel closely connected to Chuck, Russ, and Chip but I usually only see them at LAOCAS events or trade shows. I believe they will stick with our relationship in spite of the thinking of the group’s leader.

  17. This scam sounds like something we have heard before…

    http://www.eevblog.com/forum/chat/nordost-power-cable-scam-audiophoolery-alert/

  18. “Apparently, the president of the society felt I was “out of line” by reporting negatively one of the presenters at his first AudioCon event”.

    Mark, I have only one question. Was the event really named “AudioCon” or is that sarcasm/jest?

  19. “Fools names and fools traces are often seen in public places.”

  20. Reading your email exchange with Mr. Levi gave me a visceral reaction. I almost felt sick. At no time in your exchange does he give even a hint that he gives a damn about the audiophile at these shows. His concerns are clearly with the manufacturers and the exhibitors and how dare you threaten the natural order of things! I’m sorry, but the money we audiophiles spend matters to us and his attitude comes across loud and clear: he’s concerned about the vendors and not about me, someone who has attended the Southern California audio show every year for last decade. You did more than expose the snake oil of this demonstration. You exposed Mr. Levi. It’s clear where the allegiance of the CEO of the Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society lies and it’s not with the listener.

    • I agree. The cozy relationship between the President of the Society trumps a free and open exchange of information about our hobby. He “investigated” the incident. I guess he simply asked the vendor if the presentation was not rigged and was assured that everything was on the up and up. I have evidence (and so does another member of the audience) to the contrary, which I will post when I return from my vacation.

  21. Mark, just FYI…The term slander refers to SPOKEN untrue claims. When the comments are written, it’s called libel.

    Libel – written
    Slander – spoken

    Bob apparently doesn’t know this either.

    I’ve been an audiophile for 38 years and own a large library of CDs as well as SACDs, DVD-As, and Blu-ray audio discs, and am firmly convinced that a 16-bit delivery container is all we need. What matters is the quality of the recording (mics, positioning, acoustic space, etc) and a minimalist approach to mixing and mastering in order to preserve bits. Some of the most astonishing recordings in my collection are on CDs that were produced in the 1980’s, and they are better than most of the recently produced hi-res recordings done in 24/96 PCM that I own. I’m all for hi-res music production, simply because we can do so at no additional cost, but I think downsampling the result in 16/44.1 results in no audible loss of fidelity. Our ears and brains just aren’t that good.

    • Thanks Dave. If done well a 16-bit container does adequately contain virtually all commercial audio. The rare recordings that exceed Redbook specs are probably undetectable as well. I would love to do an MRI or some other type of scan to see if our brains react differently.

  22. Your article is now on AK. Have a good read, some people are wondering what was your setup, according to M. Levi, it was à cellphone.

    http://audiokarma.org/forums/index.php?threads/interesting-article-on-cables-drama-ensues.829893/

    • Thanks Yan. Yes, it seems my article has spread around the audiophile web. My point in posting the exchange was not so much to open the contentious topic of cables but to highlight the fact that Audiophile organizations have an obligation to present both sides of the debate. On many occasions, the LAOCAS has allowed vendors to promote expensive “snake oil” accessories while ignoring those of us that challenge them. As a former member of the group in Los Angeles, I would like to see companies like AudioQuest, Nordost, Synergistic Research, and Bybee prove that their devices and cables actually alter the sound output. It’s not hard to do.

  23. Mark do you still have your files?

    • Yes, I do. I’m currently on the road heading towards a family reunion in Colorado but will show my analysis in a post when I return.

  24. The unmentioned conflict of interest over the T.H.E. show for the society is the real bind here. Hence the panicky reaction. However, nothing would stop anyone from outside the society from performing the same tests. It was only the leverage of a membership they could withdraw that allowed them to attempt a retraction. I suppose you could now be banned from future shows though.

    • John, it wasn’t the T.H.E. Show. It was a quick additional offering after the LAAS failed this year. If journalists and reviewers are banned from future shows, vendors would stop attending. Getting good press is one of the prime reasons to exhibit.

  25. Great post (albeit sad at the same time). My favourite part was this:

    “Slander requires that the person being slandered prove that what was stated is not true. I’m pretty confident that I’m on solid ground here.”

    Yeah, I’m not holding my breath for them to prove you wrong either.
    I hope you can keep in touch with the people you liked from the group, if they either take your side, or at least respect that you took this position.

    These dishonest companies have to be brought down as soon as possible!

  26. Thank you for posting this, articles like this are very valuable in exposing the chicanery of parts of the hobby. I would like to say that the story surprised me or shocked me but sadly it is both all too believable and consistent with certain behaviours I have observed in my own travels. I can fully understand that there is a pleasure in ownership and that even though I consider most amplifiers and DACs to be transparent I have also spent more than I needed to just because I wanted a particular component. However I also object to all the spin around hi-fi equipment and attempts to inflate marginal differences (many or most of which will be all but unnoticeable to the vast majority of listeners) into huge “night and day” differences and the wilful refusal of so many to accept the value of objective measurement. I only discovered this site and am enjoying it hugely, very informative and a breath of fresh air, thank you.

  27. Mark, I wish I had found your website earlier. It is sad when trained engineers and scientists abandon their principles for money. Talking about money, I proposed a $10,000 bet to Paul Gowan, from PS Audio, that neither he nor anyone else can hear a difference in sound between his expensive power cords and a length of wire that I would buy at Home Depot. Our public exchange is here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EU0A_nr7Xts&lc=z22rxhvz5u3wuj4q404t1aokgbtjgkxa0z43dfbywyhrbk0h00410.1532520624937208&feature=em-comments

    Of course, he didn’t want to bet. Jose

    • Jose, I know Paul and have a great deal of respect for him and the products he makes. But you have to realize, as with most others involved in the high-end audio world, that he runs a business and is forced to follow the general drift about power cords, new formats, etc. (although he does seem to be pushing against MQA). Power cords DO NOT make any difference to the sound produced by equipment period. Many will disagree. In fact, I had audiophiles disagree with me at last weekend’s California Audio Show. The debate will continue until someone does the kind of experiment you proposed. I know a prominent cable company declined to go to court when I wrote about their fraud at a trade show. We simply asked that they prove their cable could change the amplitude of the output of a device. They backed off pretty quickly.

      • Yes, Paul is a good engineer and PS sells some great products. That is what puzzles me. I’ve been trying to combat snake oil in healthcare (my field, I am a biomedical engineer) for years. It is even more painful when accredited physicians persist in dubious practices. Analogous to medicine, I think we should have “evidence-based audio”. I know, this is idealistic. Many sales to the audiophile market are based on making people believe they can hear what they can’t. All the best.

      • Hi Mark,

        Sorry I’m a bit late catching up!

        This dialogue with Bob Levi is astounding. What is the point of an audiophile association if it lacks any scepticism and exists only to promote dubious products? Putting the interests of manufacturers above those of the members is unacceptable. In particular, I found it amusing and ironic that Mr Levi said “You were invited to sell and listen, not do sudo scientific research”. Can he really not spell “pseudo”?

        I don’t understand why anyone who makes good products, such as PS Audio, would also need to “follow the general drift about power cords”. There’s nothing wrong with making a profit from selling your own branded (and well-made, of course) cables, but surely the correct position is the one adopted by Benchmark. “If you are a hi-fi user, beware of the pseudo-scientific false claims of overpriced and underperforming hi-fi cables. Avoid these “hi-fi” cables and equip your system with the finest professional cables available”.

        BTW I found your site via Archimago some time ago but this is the first time I’ve posted here. Anyone who finds this blog useful will also enjoy Archimago’s attempts to inject some rationality into the audio hobby.

        • Archimago is a very solid reporter in the audio world. Thanks for coming by.

  28. Sorry for entering the conversation so late but only recently came across your web site. I was at the event that you reported on and enjoyed it (free beer!) with my eyes and ears wide open to possible “snake oil”. I thought about joining the society but decided not to when Bob Levi ” won” the door prize raffle. Seemed like an insular group. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Kevin. I’ve enjoyed my time with the society and made some good friends. Bob is to be credited with helping build an active and large community. But he lacks all scientific and practical knowledge about the subject matter of the audiophile hobby. By continually promoting “snake oil” and those who push it, he has proven he has no interest in providing a balanced perspective on equipment, formats, or accessories. Too bad. I liked Bob and the group. I know others that have left the group as a result of Bob oversteps and attitude.

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