Dr. AIX's POSTS — 18 February 2015

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The curious world of audiophile craziness continues. Here are a couple of recent things that really make me question the pursuit of high-end audio and the sense of the people involved:

Well-heeled audiophile enthusiasts (or just plain quality conscious network professionals) can purchase a CAT-6 Ethernet Cable from AudioQuest for $10,500. The article I read didn’t include the length of the cable but I hope you get a long section for that price. The AudioQuest company has got snake oil “marketing speak” down to a science. According to the article at The Register in the UK (you can read it for yourself by clicking here), this ridiculously expensive cable is “a ‘money no object’ cable for the dedicated Hi-Fi enthusiast that has extended into a world of digital audio sources.”

The “ultra-performance RJ45 connector (is) made from silver” and you’ll have to take extra care that you plug these cables in with the arrow heading from source to destination because these are “directional” Ethernet cables. That’s what they claim! Here’s the text right from their very polished website (style over substance wins every time):

“All audio cables are directional. The correct direction is determined by listening to every batch of metal conductors used in every AudioQuest audio cable. Arrows are clearly marked on the connectors to ensure superior sound quality. For best results have the arrow pointing in the direction of the flow of music. For example, NAS to Router, Router to Network Player.”

I want to evaluate the job qualifications of the person in charge of “listening to every batch of metal conductors” to determine the directionality of that batch. Are there really people that believe this stuff…let alone purchase their products?

It seems AudioQuest is in the business of selling snake oil to audiophiles. You’ve been warned.

And there’s the article about the sonic differences between Networked Audio Servers. The article is titled, “Listening To Storage…Listening tests reveal significant sound quality differences between various digital music storage technologies,” by Andrew Harrison and Stephen N. Harris. These guys are hearing differences between a stream of digital ones and zeros coming from one NAS and a different unit. I admit I’ve never done this sort of listening test but I have auditioned my tracks in my studio from Nuendo, Blu-ray discs, Pro Tools, a RAID, and USB stick and never noticed any differences in the storage medium OR the digital cables carrying the signals around the studio. I think we’ll get better results looking into ways to avoid heavy handed mastering than worrying about the “sound” of hard drives.

They closed their piece with the following:

“As it turned out, it was possibly the best sounding source yet. It could sustain pace and drive, and gave body and richness to music where the Kingston SSD, for example, had been heard as limpid and lightweight. Maybe higher frequencies still weren’t as insightful as direct CD playback at its best, but the sound had a relaxed quality that this listener has found quite enticing enough to plan a migration of all music onto it — pending a test of other NAS combinations!”

Oh my…

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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.

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