I got a newsletter from another audiophile record label the other day. I’m going to refrain from being specific about the company or the proprietor because the idea behind today’s post is not to fault an individual or company but to consider the credibility of a company or individual that does interesting things on one hand and then peddles snake oil on the other. The newsletter was simply the trigger because in reality there are other companies and people doing exactly the same thing. I guess it’s standard operating procedure in the audiophile marketplace but it continues to trouble me.
Figure 1 – A nicely packaged collection of “snake oil” for only $150!
Here’s the gist of the story. A company is capable of producing and releasing very fine recordings. At the same time as they’re saying how rigorous their production standards are or how much dislike PCM encoded audio, they promote, sell and provide testimonials for ‘snake oil” products like optical disc “enhancement” potions…for hundreds of dollars OR they include PCM processes in their production flow and sell PCM products.
They sell high quality recordings and digital music downloads on their site AND have a few pages dedicated to audiophile accessories that have no benefit other than to their bank account.
Reading statements like this makes me doubt the integrity of the whole operation:
“Essence of Music two-step CD cleaner and treatment is an essential product for preparing your CD and Blu-ray discs for upload and playback. Ripping following Essence of Music application reveals and permanently captures visceral details, spatial cues, and ambient intimacies of a live event to your media server – delicacies always present, but obscured within your disc, prior to Essence of Music application.”
And they back up their claims with testimonials and scientific tests:
“During single blind listening tests that followed, with the company’s reference audio test system, two identical copies of 8 different CDs were played randomly. Participants selected the Essence of Music treated disc every time. Audible improvements noted were additional detail retrieval and an improved spatial presentation.”
I would like to be one of the participants in those listening sessions. I’ve actually done this with products that several companies have sworn have real benefits. I still have my Auric Illuminator special sauce and cleaning towels from Audience. They’re friends and I fully endorse their cables (I have them in my studio) but when John insisted that I try the Auric Illuminator (which was positively reviewed in The Absolute Sound magazine…again it makes me doubt the integrity of the publication), I agreed.
I tried the solution on one of my samplers. I have the ability to instantly and noiselessly switch between two identical sources (two Oppo optical disc players) and listen through the same DACs, amplifiers and speakers. I did the test. I coated one disc and not the other. Switching between them made no different at all. I had everyone in the studio come in a listen… no one could tell any difference. Perhaps if I were getting paid for this flim flam, I would get different results.
There’s a new twist to this stuff these days. And it’s one that I can test, when I get a chance. We’ll take the digital output from a reference player and capture it into a file. Then we’ll do what ridiculous process the snake oil peddlers want us to do and capture the output once again. If we compare the digital files, they will be the same…and thus if they are the same then they will reproduce exactly the same electrical output to the amps and speakers. Stay tuned…I’ll get to this soon.
In the meantime, I would plead with my fellow audiophile vendors and consumers to focus on real products and avoid confusing people with false ones.