We need this in the United States (maybe we’ve already got something similar but I’ve never seen anything like what I found relating to audio foolery)! I came across a link to a British site that allows people to make a complaint against false advertising. It’s known as the ASA or Advertising Standards Authority and it describes itself as:
“The Advertising Standards Authority is the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media. We apply the Advertising Codes, which are written by the Committees of Advertising Practice. Our work includes acting on complaints and proactively checking the media to take action against misleading, harmful or offensive advertisements.”
Imagine if audio advertisers had to prove their claims? There would be huge shake up in the world of audiophile hardware, software, and especially the “accessories” area if manufacturers had to show that their esoteric and often very expensive products perform as advertised. I would love to see this idea expanded to the reviews and testimonials that publications and websites write about tweaky items. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the claimed dramatic improvements in “low level details” or “rhythmic and temporal coherence” were put to some sort of test…a reality check of sorts.
In the UK, the ASA tackles this task. And late last year they received a complaint against the Chord Company, a very UK-based manufacturer of cables (not to be mistaken for the maker of hardware). Apparently, the company’s website included a product description for the “Chord Sarum Tuned ARAY streaming cable (and Ethernet cable retailing at nearly $2500 for 1 meter)” with some pretty typical verbiage about how they work). Let me know if you’ve heard some of these claims before:
• Extraordinary level of detail, dynamics and coherence
• Music is simply more involving
• Stunning transformations of the sound of both WAV and FLAC files and high-resolution downloads
• Dramatic reduction in noise levels
The Chord Company responded to the ASA. They didn’t attempt to support their products with the results of technical tests, scientific studies, or empirical data. Instead, Chord said, “their cables were of a specialist nature and were sold by demonstration with customers normally trialling the cables first. They said the cables had been reviewed worldwide and had been tested by their worldwide distributors before they decided to stock the product. They provided copies of a number of positive industry and consumer reviews of their products, some of which were specifically in relation to the Sarum Tuned ARAY streaming cable. They also provided three videos from demonstrations to the public at a hi-fi show in which the audience was asked to raise their hands if they heard a difference in quality between their Ethernet cables and regular Ethernet cables. In each video everyone in the audience raised their hand.”
Retreating to the usual excuses for expensive tweaks, Chord explained, “that it was difficult to technically measure the improvement in sound quality which their Ethernet cables produced compared with standard Ethernet cables. They said the difference was by nature subjective, as listening to music was subjective and describing it in words was impossible.”
If their distributors and customers are happy in what they hear, that should be enough evidence that the cables are better than standard Ethernet cables.
What would you do if you were part of the ASA responsible for investigating the complaints against Chord? The complaint was upheld. The ASA acknowledged the positive reviews but felt that the company needed to support their claims with “objective testing”. They found the statements by Chord “misleading”. The ACTION taken by the ASA was to demand that, “The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told The Chord Company Ltd not to make objective claims about the performance capabilities of their cables unless they held substantiation.”
Can you imagine if the audiophile industry in the US were required to submit to “objective testing”? Of course, it will never happen…that kind of rigor might have an effect on the “commerce” of companies that peddle this sort of thing.
Sadly, a simple online search still finds these unfounded claims on the Chord website (and similar nonsense of dozens of other sites). There is no such thing as the truth in the world of audiophile accessories. At least the Chord Company’s 1-meter cable cost only on quarter the price of the AudioQuest product.