Smartphone Sound 128x Clearer & 8x Louder?

Is the general audiophile population really that naive that they don’t know a BS sales pitch when they hear one? As a result of my recent visit to the crowd-sourcing site whose name shall not be mentioned on this site, their advertising has been following me around. I noticed their pitch on my FB page and saw the claim of “128x clearer and 8x louder” in the sidebar. Their crowd sourcing business strategy just keeps on spewing nonsense…and it seems to be working. The uninformed and easily swayed are pledging money on a device that is not even designed yet. Much to my disappointment, these folks will once again raise a substantial amount of money on a marginal product. How long do you think it will be until they roll out another variant in their line of converters? I’m sure we won’t have to wait long for the “Nano” version.

In the original video, the spokesman tell us that their $400 DAC sounds “90% as good as their $20K DAC”. I can only assume that the overpriced and overhyped premium DAC sounds pretty good. I highly doubt that it sounds as good as the Bryston BDA-1 External DAC or my favorite Benchmark DAC2 HGC. The way I heard it, the expensive units were being built to order…as you might expect there’s not a lot of demand for a stereo DAC in that price range. So the company headed for the other end of the price spectrum…and crowd sourced funding to pitch the new units. Their campaign was successful beyond anyone’s wildest dreams…and they’re hooked to a new business model.

And seemingly, so are enough audiophiles that they keep on playing the same refrain. But saying their small unit is “128 times clearer” doesn’t mean anything! And it’s patently untrue. What is the measure of clarity? Is it the same thing as fidelity? Or is it perhaps limited to the high frequency extension available with high sampling rate PCM or DSD 128?

As someone that is very interested in the accuracy of higher order partials and even ultrasonics in recordings, I can assure you that the “clarity” of a recording made using PCM at 96 kHz/24-bits is as good as it gets. If you play a 96 kHz/24-bit file back through a good DAC, the “clarity” will be fully reproduced. I remember having a prominent cable manufacturer say to me after listening to some of my HD-Audio recording, “Mark, these are incredible recordings but they’re just too clear!” I took that as a compliment.

Making any comparison requires that you state both sides of the issue. Is the sound coming from their new DAC 128 times “clearer” than a high quality smartphone? Or 128 times clearer than a submerged transistor radio? How is that determined? I’m guessing they arrived at that number by comparing the sample rate of a CD at 44.1 kHz and comparing it to the sample rate of double DSD at 128 times 44.1. Does anyone really think this makes any sense? Apparently, they do.

And how about the “8x louder” claim? Same deal…increased volume is not a determinant for fidelity. In fact, it’s the dynamic range that we want to be greater.

Their campaign is close to their goal…so close that it’s pretty much a lock that they will get another six figures plus of funding (Heck if I operated like they do, I would support the remaining amount with the funds that I got from the previous efforts). I don’t care whether their products ultimately prove to be worthy or not, I wouldn’t spend a dime on their DACs because of the deceptive marketing practices and the hubris of their effort and team. It’s a question of integrity.


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.

5 thoughts on “Smartphone Sound 128x Clearer & 8x Louder?

  • Mark, it’s pretty typical to like that…. in these days.

    Actually these guys are not as hypocritical as ‘typical’ hifi manufacturers like those selling ‘audiophile’ USB cable that does not even match proper USB 2.0 spec (essential for playing anything higher than 24/96) in the first place.

    There is a reason why a lot of young people these days went super-absolutism on objective side of the audio, and simply reject high-res because of double blind tests (and never attempt to actually listen high-res on properly built audio system). It’s because hi-fi industry as whole, lost a lot of trust. I would understand why people want to buy expensive cables, but…. 1K USD USB cable is just pure nonsense, and existence of such products degrade the trust on hifi industry further and further.

    But I DO see that ‘128x clearer’ is just as outrageous as audiophile USB cables indeed.

    (Off topic : please accept the registrations for Hraplanet.com. My registration is still pending as we speak.. Also Hraplanet.com link on aixrecords.com is broken. a dot is missing between www and hrsplanet.com, making a broken link)

  • Dave Griffin

    Unfortunately there’s a lot of marketing rubbish spouted in Hi-Fi, started by the magazines (paper and on-line) and perpetuated by the manufacturers. I remember back in the ’90s questioning a cable manufacturer how could their cables exhibit “directionality”, given that the output from a CD or DAC (or whatever the source) is AC; for a cable to be directional would give it diode properties. Or better still, gold plated optical cables..

    Fortunately these days I’t possible to evaluate a product by looking at direct user feedback on sites like Head-Fi, and then decide whether to audition.

  • Do not be so quick to label all Audiophiles as DMF’s. IMV Audiophiles are very discriminating when it comes to purchases and can see right through the shirt salesman approach to box shifting and whiter than white schemes for false or misleading advertising.

    • I’m certainly not labeling all audiophiles as gullible or dim-witted. But the fact remains that there is a lot of sales hype and misinformation out there. The guy with the “Teleportation Tweak” audio/video alignment phone call signed on a list at Linked In and called himself a “purveyor of audio snake oil”…at least he admits it.

      I’m just tired of pitches that through meaningless numbers around.

      • Yes I am with you here Mark on useless numbers, but looking back on the history of CD replay, they always use ever bigger numbers to imply better performance. I will go on record as saying that even some 16 bit recordings can sound very satisfying when replayed through excellent electronics although I do acknowledge there are better higher bit bucket repro’s out there including your label.

        Maybe your news letters would be better served in directly promoting your own wares rather than scavenging around poo pooing others flawed marketing strategies, a kind of stand on your own merits approach as I have to admit the attacks on others misguided approaches to making a fast buck is ultimately wearing……

        Tell us what you are up to with latest artists etc and possibly toss in other great experiences with other folks recordings or else the beast may turn upon you and start a slagging match which maybe neither warranted or desired.


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