Dr. AIX's POSTS NEWS TECH TALK — 02 January 2019

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The hucksters wasted no time in rolling out the BS machine over at the HI END Sound & Surround Group on FB. I admit to spending too much time cruising through various audio groups, looking at both left and right leaning political posts and reading posts from my friends. I don’t usually respond but there are times when it’s impossible to resist. Early this morning, Ted Denney of Synergistic Research posted a single sentence on John Lusk’s group page. He wrote, “Proper mechanical isolation, ground isolation, AC filtration and cabling is (sic) critical for the performance of any serious high resolution audio system”. Accompanying the post was the image below — a picture of isolation platforms (the Tranquility Base UEF sells for $2,250), other exotic devices, and pricey cables neatly routed between a variety of pieces of equipment. Check out the setup in the image provided courtesy of Mr. Denney. What happened to less is more?

Without rehashing the entire sequence of comments, I responded first with a “HaHa” and wrote, “I couldn’t disagree more…professional audio studios don’t embrace any of these things (with the exception of good central grounding). Getting great sound at home doesn’t require wasting money on products of dubious efficacy“.

Ted promptly replied, “Professional audio studios do not come close to the sound of the Synergistic Research reference system. This is due in large part to paying attention to factors they ignore”.

MW: “You would have unsuspecting audio enthusiasts believe that your products enhance the fidelity of an album or track beyond that achieved at the reference studio where they were produced? As a professional audio engineer and producer of real high-resolution audio, I’ll pass on your ‘reference system’. I can get better sound for less than the cost of one of your Hocus Pocus power cords. Pass”.

Well, that was enough to arouse the ire of the moderator/owner of the page. John Lusk wrote, “Mark Waldrep your (sic) in the wrong group”. And he warned me “One more flaming statement…”, which I took to be a threat to ban me from the group. His tone seemed odd to me. I didn’t regard my exchange with Ted to be flaming, aggressive, or even impolite. Most audiophiles, I thought, were already familiar with the Synergistic Research product line and the reputation of its owner Ted Denney.

So I wrote a private message to John expecting him to be an unbiased conduit of information to interested audiophiles. I don’t know John he seems like a reasonable guy. I wrote, “John, you allow a company to promote his products and yet you threaten to ban me for pointing out the fact that professionals don’t use his products or products of that type. I was respectful, polite, and truthful. I didn’t flame Synergistic Research. Do you really want to promote power cords and such that cost $20K?”

He replied, “I have experienced very expensive setups and gear. And yes, on systems where no cost, 20k power cords are relevant. Two yrs ago I took home 10k worth of Nordost Frey2 speaker cable’s, power cords and they are fantastic, matter…”

MW: “I am always polite and non-flaming in my posts. If you want to believe that spending crazy money on products from Nordost, Audioquest, or SR then you’re entitled to do so. To let purveyors of overpriced audio accesories and cables promote their wares on your FB group doesn’t instill much confidence in your policies. Sorry.”

John was polite and responded, “Mark you are a gentleman and I’m glad your in the group. This topic puzzles me but each to our own. Thanks for your message and I will remove the comment over you being in the wrong group”.

You’re welcome to read the numerous comments from both sides of the exotic cables and accessories debate. Everyone here knows that I’m not a believer…science and technology and objectivity mean a lot to me than voodoo, subjectivism, pseudo-science nonsense that passes as fact among a large percentage of audiophiles. But SR and Ted Denney — as well as plenty of others — have built substantial companies on selling products that exist on the fringe for professionals. To assert that professional, architecturally designed, acoustically tuned mixing and mastering rooms “do not come close” to a high-resolution system comprised of Synergistic Research accessories and cables is utter nonsense and they know it.

The fundamental question is who can audiophiles trust to provide accurate, unbiased advice? John Lusk and others recommend establishing a close relationship with a local audio retailer. Of course, they will always want to up sell you the latest gadgets etc. I remember talking to a custom electronic installer who always recommended Meridian and Wilson equipment and expensive cables. Why? Because the mark up on pricey gear is a percentage and the bigger the final bill, the more profit they made. Would anyone really spend $20k on a power cord and think that it would make any difference to the sound coming out of your speakers?

John acknowledged that he and Ted Denney are “friends”. No wonder he allows a post that is clearly promotional in nature on his FB page. I’m not so sure that a post about the idiocy of cables and a picture of my book would get the same warm reception and repeated defense. This is all too familiar. The “CableGate” YouTube promotion that featured various grades of AudioQuest HDMI cables and was posted by a Texas distributor (which the AQ CEO told me was not a company production and which he didn’t sponsor), the Nordost trade show power cord demos that magically increase volume (something that power cables cannot do), and the cable nonsense perpetuated by Bob Levi and the LAOCAS at his event last summer might cause audiophiles to rightfully doubt the “so called” experts. They should.

However, professional engineers aren’t without promoting falsehoods, too. I read a newsletter from a respected fellow audio engineer, friend, and fellow label owner recently. Another expert right? Well, the newsletter stated the following in describing their CD-Rs, “The gold gives it longevity and the sound is one less generation of degradation“. One generation less degradation? What?!? A digital copy of a stereo CD is identical with each generation — there is no loss. That’s the whole point — and a huge advantage — of PCM digital encoding. Marketing spin trumps all other considerations.

So welcome to an other new year. Let’s make it one of truth, happiness, health, honesty, and great sounding recordings.

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(32) Readers Comments

  1. Mark,

    Thanks for the info. I made my day. I was recently perusing a site (streamthestudio.news) because it came across is some feed I was reading. They purportedly promote equipment and services that are ‘Hi-Rez’. included in their recommended sites is HDTracks even though even though few tracks, if any, could pass Hi-Rez muster. I was going to leave a message about the extreme importance of the provenance of the source and how that is what is critical in determining the Hi-Rez worthiness of the music but I didn’t see a place to leave a comment.

    So, keep up the good fight for as long as you can.

    • Happy New Year Kit and thanks for the link to the StreamTheStudio.news site. Interesting that all of the same characters and organizations are still out there promoting the hoax of high-resolution music. Marc Finer of the DEG is in almost every picture and a lot of people I know are spewing the company line when they know better. I was inside that group but was pushed out because I refused to go along with their falsehoods. It’s true that the companies, engineers, producers, and organizations talk about great sound but very few actually accomplish it.

    • What, no mpingo discs?

  2. You really can’t help yourself, can you? 😉
    Keep on fighting the good fight Mark!

    Best… Carlo.

    • I really can’t Carlo. Happy New Year!

  3. Hey Mark, thanks for the info. I too joined and then quit the Subjective Audio FB page that you are referring to. He appears on the MQA FB page on occasion to try and sell his wears. I have forwarded links to your Text on the subject to all of my audiophile friends. It is amazing how many of the HiFi industry, and publications have been hoodwinked, by this notion that you need these crazy cables and power supplies. After reading your Text and info from Paul on PS audio, I have cleaned up my Cables, particularly the large amount of Monster speaker cables that I had coiled in the back of my speakers, I re-terminated and shortened them. All of your advice sure makes common sense to me. I ran a dedicated power supply feed from my fuse box and have had a Electrician/Electronic tech friend check to see if I need any filtration and there was no fluctuations of any type on the test equipment he had. Thanks again for your insights.

    • Thanks Glen, have a great 2019!

  4. I have not considered myself an audiophile for 45 years since I came to understand exactly how sound and acoustics works. I was trained and consider myself a scientist and an engineer. This is only a hobby, it’s not my day job by any stretch. I remain amazed at the intensity of emotions, anger, hostility, and argument over something that should not only be so straightforward but is so trivial among all matters in life and in the world. Something’s wrong here. I have no emotional attachment to any equipment or frankly any music. I simply enjoy it. I do like my turntable, an old Empire 698 with a Shure V15 type V MR cartridge although I rarely listen to any of the over 3000 vinyl phonograph records I own.

    That being said, achieving the original goal of convincingly duplicating the sound of live music from a recording has been a purely intellectual pursuit for me, not that I didn’t get a great deal of enjoyment out of the effort or the recordings but I see it all from an entirely different perspective. The only reason for my interest is that I was surrounded by people who performed and appreciated music when it rose to a level of a fine art. In fact their standards were impossibly tough and I was infected with their level of appreciation and critical examination. While other recordings and other types of sound systems can be enjoyable and life enriching for many people this is where I focused my interests. Yet I can enjoy music I like even from the tiny speaker in my smart phone.

    My superb education prepared me for a career in electronics or electrical engineering but I was drilled with many other areas of science and engineering including fluid dynamics and field theory which came in very handy for understanding sound and acoustics as it is an application of fluid dynamics and is not an electrical phenomenon.

    So my attention was focused on understanding, modeling, measuring, and reconstructing sound fields based on the unique mathematical solution I’d discovered to explain it. The equipment itself receded into much less importance and the engineer in me made price value judgments that put me outside the popular definition of audiophile. It’s not that I’m an objectivist. Quite the opposite, when subjective experience defies objective measurements I’ve concluded you are measuring the wrong things or you’ve omitted something critical. The mathematical model explains what that is.

    That understanding has not only allowed me to reconstruct and manipulate sound fields from recordings in ways sound fields based on other models can’t, it allows me to understand the flaws in their concepts, their inherent inadequacies. I have a patent and a working prototype of my invention. Is it the best sound system in the world? I think so. A lot of other people would claim the same for their sound systems. Did my prototype cost a bazillion dollars? I’ve built only two, neither costing over $3000. Does it use “state of the art” equipment. No, not because of the cost but because it was unnecessary and would have added little or nothing to the final result. In fact the newest component in the system is a power amplifier I built from a kit for $200 in 1993 to replace one that had blown up I didn’t care to repair. Because the current prototype system functions exactly the way I want it to, there will be no substitutions, no improvements, no changes. Could I build another system that’s better? On paper yes, but in practical terms I don’t know or care. Any change to this one would be a downgrade and I wouldn’t swap it or any part of it for any equipment and any price. How fortunate I feel not being so wound up in what seems like such silliness and a waste of precious time and mental energy.

    • Could you refer us to the patents you hold on the parts of this device that make it so amazing? I think it would be very interesting to learn more about this. Thank you,

  5. Thank you so very much for your honesty Mark. I have always been suspicious of these voodoo claims for expensive accessories. However, there certainly must be a difference, or at least some benefit to using single crystal, oxygen free copper cabling over 28 gauge lamp chord. And, if there is, what would be a reasonable cost for such cables?

    • Honestly, you would never want to use 28 gauge lamp cord but 10-12 gauge would deliver as much fidelity as expensive, “single crystal, oxygen free copper”. It has been clearly demonstrated using the null testing process that identical signals are passed by these cables. Your call but I would never purchase any expensive cables unless I needed to impress someone with the physical design.

      • Thank you for confirming for me what I was always sceptical of. Like my ID. suggests, I dont have a lot of cash to experiment with expensive doo dads, but darn, they sure make some rather convincing claims. The power of suggestion I suppose works. Thank God I have never been an easy subject to hypnotize. I did at one time buy some moderately priced Oxygen free cables, but that was only because I thought there must surely be some advantage to them since all the rev
        ewers claimed thrills spills and chills and sonic superiority with $$$$$$ cables. I assume you are talking about speakers cables, but does that thinking hold true for interconnects also?

        • The debate about cables will last a long time. There’s way too much money at stake for the companies, magazines, and others to get back to what really counts in audio and digital signals. Everything about cables is true for power, interconnects (digital and analog), and speaker cables. Until one of these companies is willing to do a real comparison instead of the hocus pocus demos, stay away.

  6. I have updated this post following the receipt of an email from William Low, the CEO of AudioQuest. I wanted to make it clear that the Youtube video shown promoting various grades of AudioQuest HDMI cables was NOT produced and distributed by the company but by a local distributor. However, the CEO was aware of the video for many months before I discovered it and demonstrated that the fidelity improvements were faked. Who was ultimately responsible for the video was never determined.

  7. Love the photo. I’ve got all my hifi gear sitting on bathroom scales. I found it gives the same result and costs a lot less. Happy New Year, and keep up the good fight. Cheers,
    Phil

    • putting your gear on bathroom scales provides that level of isolation to increase fidelity… 😉

  8. Discontinued samples of quality thick pile carpeting, which can be had at very minimal cost, make great supports for turntables. Two, three, four layers, then a slab of granite, topped with a turntable will do more than a multi thousand dollar support. Another way is to use double yellow dot squash balls in an appropriately sized cup under the granite slab. Cheap and effective.

  9. There is a certain part of audio which has much more in common with wacko cults than the enjoyment of music. The silly thing is that in some ways all this snake oil stuff and the arguments it creates is reminiscent of the old joke about two bald men arguing over a comb given that the world of high end audio is a niche within a niche and the main market for audio moved to smart devices and either headphones or wireless speakers a long time ago. I find it slightly sad that there is probably a whole generation now where few have listened to music via a decent audio set up (and I don’t mean expensive or high end, just a good, solid stereo) but the audio industry insists on shooting itself in the foot peddling snake oil, conning people with upsampled “high-res” downloads that are basically a scam, peddling outrageously priced cables, power chords etc, trying to convince people that they can transform sound by spending $$$$$$s on expensive USB cables etc. It’s sad really. Thanks for your efforts to bring a bit of sanity to such a dysfunctional field!

  10. Thanks for a great post and happy new year.
    The audio industry is going downwards in a spiral. We are getting hammered by more and more foolery to get money from people without technical knowledge.

    Even more frightening when bad attitude gets known to more people. Here is Ted Denney. He actually wishes someone that makes a comment dead.
    Very very bad.
    This person runs a company that makes a living selling snakeoil.

    https://www.hifisentralen.no/forumet/attachments/kabelhja-rnet/524219d1546714901-usb-kabler-screenshot-www.facebook.com-2019.01.04-20-41-43.jpg

  11. Love the picture as well. Has it ever struck these silly folks that McIntosh (et cetera) would be making ‘isolation’ (levitation) tables for their gear if there was any science to it? And be peddling ’em for more or greater prices?

    I’m personally waiting for seismic ‘isolation’ devices for my stuff. And tubular Faraday cages for all of my interconnects and power cables…..

    • It’s completely crazy but still manages to sell. There are promotional videos and glossy brochures and magazine special publications pushing this nonsense. Crazy

  12. You can only try to explain logic to those without the capacity to understand… It is hard to imagine how fancy power cords make a difference, when the rest of the power line from the outlet to the utilities transformer is not built to the same standard..

  13. Hello everyone, I listened to demos on FTP, I really do hear it, I really do not compare, I have a 6-year audio dvd with Miss Elliot on 5 channels but it does not compare, I hear a lot better those mastered by Mark

  14. I have just been kicked out of that group for replying to John Lusk’s post regarding cables.
    I only asked a simple question, “If someone posts something about cables worth more than $10k, should they have to provide evidence of why the cables are worth so much?” I was given a firm “NO” by John, then was bombarded by other members telling me to go to my closest dealer to hear these exotic cables. This thread was live for about 48 hours then i was deleted from the group. I did not make any personal remarks and did not put anyone down. I just asked, why?

    • Anthony, high-end audio is full of misguided, uninformed, individuals that are committed to maintaining the status quo. My exchanges with John were polite but it’s obvious that he buys into the hocus pocus aspects of cables, isolation pads, and other exotic — and expensive — accessories sold by unscrupulous vendors. And why shouldn’t he and other “journalists” praise things that have no basis in science or technological fact? Because they profit from it…it is their business. Without the dollars that high-end cable companies spend on fancy ads and trades shows, magazines and their writers wouldn’t be sustainable. That’s why I started talking about who can you trust to give you the straight facts. It turns out there are very few individuals willing to tell the truth about these things.

      • On Saturday I’m going to an audition for a cable review, basically someone has invited me to listen to the differences between a hi end and a normal cable, how do you teach me to get this information?
        Thank you ,

        • There is no difference between a high-end cable and a normal cable if they meet the required specification.

        • It is very simple – have someone you trust take the expensive cables, and the cheap cables, and switch them out. Listen to the same audio on both cables, but do not let them tell you which cable is which.

          Do this four or five times. (That is important, because it will eliminate luck from the equation.)

          If you can tell him which cables were the expensive cables and which cables were the cheap cables 5 out of 5 times, then they are real.

          I suppose if you could repeatedly (several tests) get 4/5 right, then you could make an argument for the cables making a difference.

          But I’m CONFIDENT that you won’t ever get 5/5 and I’m certain you cannot consistently do it.

          If the argument is that “it depends on the music” or “that wasn’t the right content” or “the difference is subtle” or “it must be your ears/hearing” then why would you pay $$$ for something that does not CONSISTENTLY produce better results?

          It’s really that simple.

          Blind testing will answer your question, and PROMISE you that 99.99% of this garbage won’t pass the test.

          You will NOT be able to tell the difference in an electric cord and some expensive cable when you listen. There is ZERO science behind it. None. In fact, most electric cord is outstanding audio cable because it is usually pure copper and thick as heck. Which is all it needs to be.

    • Anthony, I’m on Saturday to listen to some cables, I’m not their follower, but I want to hear with my ears, and I’ll ask for some measurements if I’m going to come back to you.
      I played with audio since I was 9 years old, I had a Grundig ZK 120 tape recorder at 9th speed and I put a bush and I made a 19 cm / sec turn so I can listen to the molds so they can not fool me today theirs, do you think?

  15. Hello Mr. Mark
    I downloaded the hi resolution files from FTP and I mean that I never heard such clarity in this music, just as if I was in the auditorium, especially when I closed my eyes was sensational, amazing, wow. I have a three horizontal amplified system with an active crossover of about 2000 euro composed of the following components and with that please tell me on a scale from 1 to 10 as I approach a minimal system and can listen to hi resolution.
    1. Mac book for
    2. If Fostex HP A8 MK2
    3. Crossover Behringer CX 3400
    4. Marantz PM 80 MK2 S.E. for tweeters
    5. Marantz 6010 S.E. for medium speakers
    6. Yamaha A 1050 for bass
    7. Elac 5000 or Siemens RL 602 enclosures
    8. B & W DM 1800 enclosures

    Thank you in advance for your answer.

  16. Hi Mark
    Given the state of the Yarra 3DX campaign, is there any soundbar that you would recommend for the main tv in the lounge ?

    • It really depends on what you intended purpose will be. Virtually all traditional sound bars simply bounce sound around the room or off of the ceiling. I’m not aware of any that use the same beamforming approach with going to crazy expensive units like the BACCH SP, which is over $50K. Yamaha would probably be the best bet since they’ve used crosstalk cancellation in some of their units.

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