An Open Response to Michael Lavorgna
Some of you may be reading the polite back and forth that Michael Lavorgna of Audiostream.com and I have been having about topics we’re both interested in. He’s been writing long responses to a few of my posts and I’ve posted a few responses. He wrote again today. His comments are at the bottom of this post. I spent a fair amount of time typing out a reasoned response and thought I would share it here:
Michael, we’ll push this marble a little further down the road. Before I respond to all of the points you make in your comment. I would like to ask you a relevant and important question. Do you believe that there are any people or companies (regardless of their engineering prowess or academic degrees) that are promoting products or services that are knowingly selling “snake oil” audiophile tweaks? There has to be a line below which we don’t have to validate a claim and I’m wondering where that line is for you.
For example, there is a company (really an individual named Geoff Kait) called Machina Dynamica that offers a variety of audiophile tweaks including the “teleportation tweak”, which is described this way: “Long-Distance Audio and Video System Enhancement – The Only Audio Product that doesn’t Require Shipping”. It comes with a 30-day money back guarantee and has plenty of very positive reviews, “I noted a vast improvement in depth and staging. The tone is pure, correct-sounding and natural. In fact, I have never heard sound so real. The Teleportation Tweak is a thing of indescribable beauty.” – Customer, Sept 2007. There are other testimonials including some from other vendors of high-end audiophile tweaks (how convenient?). It’s almost as if they got together to support each other.
And Geoff certainly has the right credentials: “Geoff Kait — Aerospace Engineering (theoretical fluid dynamics and propulsion, statistical thermodynamics, nuclear physics, indeterminate structures). Undergrad thesis: Preliminary design of low-thrust engine for interplanetary travel utilizing momentum transfer mechanisms in highly magnetic metal crystal bombarded by high-energy ions. Work experience: satellite operations; radar data analysis; aerodynamics of high-performance aircraft; reentry vehicle dynamics; radio communications; satellite communications; spread spectrum communications. He incorporated Machina Dynamica in 1998; he designed Nimbus Sub-Hertz Isolation Platform, Promethean Base, Baby Promethean Mini Isolators, Brilliant Pebbles, Tru-Tone Duplex Covers, Codename Turquoise II CD Tray Masking Kit, Codename Top Banana II Blu Ray Tray Masking Kit, the Teleportation Tweak, Clever Little Clock, Codename White Poppy, Codename Blue Meanies, Frog Jump in Water Tweak, The Super Intelligent Chip, the Diamond Light Crystal High Frequency Clarifier, Spectrum Purifier CD Coloring System, Blu Spectrum Purifier Blu Ray Coloring System, Flying Saucers for Windows, Flying Saucers for Wall Outlets, Pretzel Logic Reef Knot Device, Dark Matter CD Optical Coating and the Ultra Signature Version of the Clever Little Clock. He is the Author of How the Intelligent Chip Works – The Definitive Explanation and The Real Story of How the Clever Little Clock Works.”
You can visit the website for yourself and read the theory upon which the teleportation tweak is based…“quantum teleportation and mind-matter interaction”. It seems real enough to me…or perhaps this guy is selling a service that is so ridiculous that we don’t need to test it.
It might be of interest that he describes himself on a Linked In audio group as a, “snake oil purveyor”. No kidding!
My point is that there are people and companies that are frauds. Geoff is at least honest enough to admit that he’s nothing but voodoo. Yes, he’s still in business and as far as I know he generates a substantial income from his products.
So back to your comments. The exact details of the Ars/Randi challenge are not important to me. I think a more rigorous test might be worthwhile but I don’t believe the results would be any different. My position on “bits are bits” is based on at least three thorough tests that I’ve done personally and information from people (“real” engineers) who have as much if not more expertise and practical experience than the engineers behind REGEN and JitterBug. I’ve compared the data output from a treated “vivified” CD and an untreated disc…the data and fidelity were exactly the same. If the bits delivered to the DAC are the same, then the sound is the same. I’ve compared an expensive USB cable to a standard issue USB cable…same results. The data nulls when the polarity is reversed and the fidelity didn’t change.
As for the reforming of the data traveling through a USB cable as the JitterBug and REGEN claim to do, again my expert engineer with over 30 years designing and building state-of-the-art analog and digital equipment tells me, “If these thing work, there is something wrong with your DAC!” And that’s good enough for me. If you and others want to spend the money and feel you hear an improvement in the fidelity of your systems, that’s great. The explanations (and yes, I did read through them) are nice but they don’t change the conclusion for me. The same data is present without the tweaks…and therefore “calling someone out” is warranted. I’ve done my homework and read the explanations, talked to respected experts, done rigorous evaluations myself, and listened in a state-of-the-art studio – nothing in the bits changed! If doing all of that qualifies me as “ignorant” then we have a different definition of the word. I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else to be able to speak with some authority about my personal experience.
So there has to be some audiophile tweak that you just know is BS, right? Would you spend $60 on the “Teleportation Tweak” (remember there is a money back guarantee)? I don’t have time for tweaks that defy the “bits are bits” logic. I guess you do.
21 thoughts on “An Open Response to Michael Lavorgna”
I typically avoid getting into commenting on other people’s blogs. I decided to comment here since you have written a number of posts about me.
In an attempt to understand your position, I read a few of the posts you wrote which related directly to me. In “A | B Testing At Home”, you raised the question, “Without identical systems from source to speaker that can easily switch from one cable to another without any re-plugging, I don’t think you can actually [do] a comparison that holds up. If I’m wrong please explain to me your approach.”
Then you said this in the comments to another of your posts, “I admit that there are issues with trying to compare the fidelity or sound of two systems far apart in time and space. However, I do know my recordings quite well AND the sound that I’m used to in my room. There is some reason to believe that I can comment on the differences.”
I see these as being contradictory positions.
In a more recent post, “Cable Challenges” you rely on the Ars Technica/JREF ABX “test” in Las Vegas as proving that digital cables don’t matter. The fact that this test was completely flawed, they failed to make it a “forced choice” test being the most important failure thus invalidating the results, apparently didn’t stop you from believing this flawed test proved your point.
In the comments to this same “Cable Challenges” post, you have made the statement that the AudioQuest Jitterbug, the UpTone Audio USB REGEN, and by extension the Schiit Wyrd, are “solutions in search of a problem”. You’ve gone even further claiming they are “snake oil”.
When challenged, you say, “I can’t know for sure that the REGEN and Jitterbug are ‘snake oil’ for sure until I test them.” Yet you continue to claim they are “snake oil”.
We then got into the notion of being personal. Your response to that was “This is my position. It’s not personal.”
Now you’ve posted “An Open Response to Michael Lavorgna”.
I hope you can appreciate the difficulty I’m having following your logic and why I will no longer engage with you on these topics.
Thanks for coming by Michael and expressing your concerns. I could respond to each of your points but feel leaving things at this point is the best. Cheers.
Got Michael’s AudioStream email today with all it’s InfoMerchials for Stereophiles super advertiser AudioQuest soon to be UpTone. They join the ranks with Synergistic Research as one of the most disgraceful snake oil peddlers in High End Audio. What a laugh, Michael don’t you guys have any ethics at all any more? Do you read around the audio based websites and blogs on the internet, your making audiophiles look like a bunch of lunatics following a voodoo cult of anti-science gurus.
Sad the way you guys keep posting well chosen articles from JGH that attempt to make it sound like he would support today’s position of JA RB etc. There was a reason he refused advertising when he started Stereophile and if he can see the road it’s gone down now he’s rolling in his grave.
SAD the whole situation.
I don’t think Michael or the site are doing anything fishy with regards to the advertising. They do run a business and know Michael to be person of integrity. We have very different views about the world of audiophile tweaks…but that’s just the nature of the audiophile world.
To answer your question, “Michael don’t you guys have any ethics at all any more?”, I am very pleasantly surprised to find that you feel we had ethics to begin with 😉
I hope you can appreciate why I do not take your question seriously as it is, for all intents and purposes, a rhetorical question since you’ve clearly made up your mind on this subject. But I’ll humor you this once in order to address this issue for people interested in hearing the truth.
I will restrict my comments to AudioStream since you are addressing me. Do not interpret this as anything other than my desire to field the ball I know best.
Advertising has no influence on editorial content on AudioStream. This is a fact. If you believe you can prove otherwise, have at it Sal. Just so we’re clear on the ground rules, conjecture, innuendo, and silly suppositions won’t cut it. You need to disprove something I know to be true. Good luck.
Well, that has been a bit painful to read through all the comments but I’m sure it has been a lot more frustrating for the two of you. Given Michael’s engagement in the discussion, I thought to read a little bit about what he and John Svenson are talking about:
After this I think that if he would have made a concise argument the discussion would have been more productive. If my understanding of their piece is correct:
1) Yes, there is an acknowledgment that the digital information is preserved because the DAC will reclock etc.
2) They claim that the harder the DAC has to work in reclocking and restoring the digital information, the more noise its circuitry generates, which goes out of the analog output of the DAC.
3) The signal that goes through the USB cable carries electrical noise and according to their claims that noise travels through the DAC and out of its analog output.
Anyways, their words, not mine but I think this is what Michael should have said if these are the points he was trying to make. In other words, that he should have agreed with you I that the bits processed by the DAC chip are the same that entered the USB cable, and that the reason why there would be audible differences in using different USB cables and/or the REGEN device is because design flaws in the DACs (points 2 and 3 above, if true, sound like design flaws in the DAC to me).
I’m OK with Michael’s comments and he certainly has contributed a lot to the world of computer audio despite our disagreements. Your assessment is right on target…and it is why my close friend and analog/digital engineer guru says that if the REGEN does improve the fidelity of a particular DAC, the problem was with the less than ideal design of the DAC. If things are done with rigor, these tweaks will have no effect. So maybe there are opportunities for sonic upgrades…but not if you start with high-end gear.
No problem Mark, you remain as PC as you have to. For a guy that produces some of the finest sounding HD recordings on the market, you’ve already paid a high enough price by being ignored and snubbed at all the latest HiFi shows by the Audiophile press for being a little too outspoken on their BS subjective views. Don’t cut off your nose to spite you face, it is they who should be ashamed of their group reactions to the truth.
I on the other hand as a consumer have the duty to call them as I see them. If I see and can read the writing on the wall I feel compelled to call a spade a spade.Snake oil is snake oil and I find it reprehensible when respected journalists use their position in the community to enhance their income through misinformation.
But I will promise to tame my strongly stated positions so as not to endanger your family’s income any further.
Sal, my motivations are to inform and educate readers such as you based on my own knowledge and the expertise of my knowledgeable friends. There is a lot of flim flam out there no matter where you look…I don’t fault Michael for pitching his side of the issue. A reasoned debate is fine with me. In fact, I honestly think he does a pretty good job…I enjoy reading his articles even if I wince every so often. This is not a competition.
Just a clarification. You linked to our Q&A with John Swenson. This interview does not represent my position, rather it represents John’s thoughts on this subject (note that you linked to Part 2 of a 3-part interview).
I have said to Mark that I would not focus on the data for an explanation as to why these devices may offer an improvement and suggested he read what UpTone Audio had to say about what it is their REGEN is doing. Certainly reading all three parts of our interview with John would provide even more background on this subject.
To be clear – what and why these devices do what they do is an issue best addressed by their designers. That’s why I include as much info from them as is available in my reviews. My job is to listen and report on what I hear. If you’d like to talk about that, I’m the best person to talk to.
One of the DACs I used when listening to the REGEN, JitterBug, and Schiit Wyrd is the Auralic Vega. If you look at John Atkinson’s measurements of this DAC (http://www.stereophile.com/content/auralic-vega-da-processor-measurements), you’ll note that his conclusion is “Auralic’s Vega D/A processor offers measured performance that is beyond reproach.” Yet I heard an improvement when using all three of these USB devices with the Vega.
So what we’re talking about here are two separate issues; does the device make sense, and does the device work. Again, I am not the person to speak to if you want an informed answer to the first question. The designers are. I am the person to speak to about the latter issue.
The difficulty I’ve had in trying to discuss this topic with Mark is he feels it unnecessary to do either since he believes he already has an answer to both questions.
While I have taken Michael to task on Audiostream.com for hearing differences between LAN cables, I have to say that when it comes to the REGEN, you are on the wrong side of the argument this time.
While I haven’t gone through every REGEN post in the multiple REGEN impressions threads on ComputerAudiophile.com, I find it interesting that in all of the posts I’ve read, without exception every person that has purchased a REGEN has noticed that it makes the same sort of improvements (some more, some less, but still improved) in their system, no matter what DAC they are using. Now compare this with DAC listening impressions threads on Computeraudiophile and/or Head-fi where there is never 100% agreement about a DACs performance, well, I have to believe that this can’t be just written off as expectation bias.
And, as I said in response to one of your previous posts, I have experienced the same thing — the REGEN has had the same impact on both of my DACs (Ayre QB-9 DSD & Schiit Yggdrasil) that Michael and other REGEN owners have described and, in my case, this is with using USB cables from Blue Jeans Cable and the stock USB cable that comes with the REGEN. I don’t buy into the “cables make a difference” camp – I’ve tried some pretty expensive cables in my system and never heard a difference and before anyone says anything — yes, my main system is more than revealing enough to hear a difference & my listening room has been acoustically designed by a professional so if there was a difference, I’m sure I would hear it.
I can’t say the same about the REGEN, it makes a noticeable difference.
Now if your unnamed expert (John Siau, cough cough) wants to claim that none of these DACs are designed properly, then I wish he would do so publicly and name every DAC that this applies to instead of you quoting “anonymous sources”. Sure, I know neither of you want to go on record about this since you’ll be sued, but if you truly believe it and can prove it, then have at it just like you’ve proved the REGEN doesn’t work…wait, you haven’t…yet you both seem unwilling to try it.
On a side note comments like the one below denigrating people as not being real engineers because they have designed something that appears to work & you don’t agree with it, just make you look bad:
– “My position on “bits are bits” is based on at least three thorough tests that I’ve done personally and information from people (“real” engineers) who have as much if not more expertise and practical experience than the engineers behind REGEN and JitterBug”.
Honestly, you sound very petty when you write stuff like this and it isn’t the first time.
As a former owner of a Benchmark DAC2 HGC, I don’t have one here to try the REGEN on to see if it makes a difference. However, I replaced the Benchmark with the Ayre after listening to the Ayre because I believe it sounds better and is a great product. And with the REGEN attached, I have to believe that it widens the gap even more.
I don’t know how these two DACs measurements compare, but what if the QB-9 DSD measures poorly against Benchmark’s latest TOL DAC but it sounds better, in other words, great? Well, then I have to take Siau at his word when he says on his website
“SOME GREAT PRODUCTS MEASURE POORLY
A product that measures poorly cannot be transparent, but it may still be a great audio product. As stated earlier, many audio products are not designed to be transparent. A guitar amplifier can produce high levels of distortion, but this can be used to create a musically pleasing effect. Devices that are designed to alter the sound will show at least one measured parameter that measures ‘poorly’. In such a case, the achieved effect must be evaluated by ear and not primarily on the basis of measurements.”
Personally, I’ll always go with the great sounding product over the great measuring product and I’m glad that John agrees! I mean, who am I to argue with a “real” engineer?
Since you and John drink the same Kool-aid and he made that nice big pitcher above, I suggest you both drink a big glass and evaluate the REGEN by listening before either of you come to a conclusion.
I’d be happy to evaluate REGEN but I doubt they would make one available to me. If you tell me that you hear a difference in your sound because the bits are somehow “better” after being “regenerated” then I would want to know why are the bits different? How does this device change them. If I deliver the bits that make my recordings the way that I want them to sound on in my studio and the REGEN (or cables or whatever) alters them in a way that pleases you or others, then I would be concerned about the fidelity of my recordings through that device.
John is one among many expert designers and I regard him as a very informed source. There are others that are equally skilled but I find his papers to be very informative. I hardly regard us as having consumed “Kool Aid” when explaining the basics of digital processes or DSD.
My inclusion of the quoted “real engineer” was deliberate. Michael wrote it in reference to the gentlemen that have designed the REGEN and Jitterbug. In his opinion, audio engineers are not “real” engineers. I have acknowledged that I’m not an academically trained EE but I have built equipment from scratch, repaired hundreds of audio components professionally, and read schematics. However, I do consider myself a skilled audio engineer.
If you have a REGEN and would be willing to part with it for a long weekend…I’ll pay the shipping.
For everyone to note that Waldrep wrote this article with one simple question for Lavorgna: where do you draw the line on snake oil? Lavorgna has written three replies to the article, but not a word in reply to the only question asked.
Instead he dedicated his time to re-reading a number of Waldrep’s past posts, trying to find the slightest inconsistency in comments, so he could triumphantly expose him and have an excuse to rush to his closing comment, “I will no longer engage with you on these topics”.
In other words, smokescreen and personal attack, combined with “I’m outta here”. Pretty consistent with the worst behaviour, short of abuse, that can be found on any open discussion board around the internet, usually written by the least interesting contributors with the weakest arguments. Only in this case, sadly, the person of concern has a relatively high profile in computer audio, and might very well be influencing honest audiophiles into making very poor and expensive choices.
In closing, I don’t think we are finished hearing from Lavorgna on these topics. Firstly, he seems to wake up every morning and google his name and race around trying to put out spot fires and score points with lowbrow debating techniques. I know of at least three forums where he is doing this, and his closing comment is usually the same, along the line “You are not worthy of my respect.” Never a hint of genuine respect or self-doubt, despite the multi-pronged, multi-national concerns with his writings. Secondly, “these topics” are routine subjects for his own published articles and reviews. He is starting it, every single time. And that will continue.
Thanks Grant…yes, the question was exactly that. I asked if there is a line below which we don’t need to bother doing a detailed evaluation of particular item? The Machina Dynamica guy sells lots of tweaks under lots of clever names. I don’t believe in any of them.
However, the REGEN and Jitterbug have been designed to do a job that IMHO doesn’t need to be done…I base this on my knowledge of how things work.
I’m willing to be proven wrong but the explanations provided on the various pages written by John Swenson don’t convince me.
I read a lot of audio blogs and online magazines, but Mark’s blog here and Archimago’s archimago.blogspot.com are two of my favorites. Interesting that Audiostream’s Michael Lavorgna is spending so much time commenting on both, and in a fairly offensive manner in both cases.
If I had to compare all three to general news sources I’d put realhd-audio.com and archimago.blogspot.com in the New York Times and Washington Post calibre of quality. Audiostream is the Fox News of audio reporting. A strong agenda, and they don’t let facts get in the way of pushing that agenda.
Thanks Jim, but I would disagree. Michael believes in the information that he’s read and he believes his ears. I’ve tried to clarify my position that some products are questionable in their claims. I’ve done a bunch of evaluating and base my responses on them and my own listening. Audiostream and Computer Audiophile are the 800 pound gorillas…some see my posts as a breath of fresh air (plenty of people today at the show gave me many thumbs up).
I have my own agenda to educate and share my experience and knowledge. There are things that I’ve stated that have been shown to be wrong…I’m not always right. But I’m pretty good with the current topic…until someone sends me a Jitterbug or REGEN. But in the end regardless of my findings, it will be lack of integrity, my poor hearing, or my lousy playback system that will be questioned it it turns out that neither device changes the bits.
I think Michael was also asking the question, which I agree with, How can you judge a component’s quality if you don’t listen to it? This is where Michael leaves the discussion, I think.
Mark seems to regularly say “bits is bits,” that a cable can’t sound any different if it’s transmitting the same bits. I don’t have anywhere near Mark’s level of expertise on this subject, but in my experience, EVERYTHING in the system makes a difference that can be heard. Every component will sound different depending on its support surface. The turntable sounds different if the dustcover is on or off. Suspending speaker cables even makes a difference. So why wouldn’t every cable sound different, which is my experience?
Mark doesn’t attack Michael’s character, and Grant shouldn’t lower this forum to empty accusations. I know Michael, and can guarantee you that the last thing he enjoys is prowling forums looking for a fight. It gives him a headache. He’s a music lover, first and foremost.
Machina Dynamics? Now that smells funny. But hey, I don’t have it here so can’t ultimately judge. K
Analog and digital representations of audio signals are very different and the cables used to transmit them are also very different. You are an analog guy and perhaps haven’t messed with digital signal encoding and digital recording/playback. In analog system noise and RF do affect the quality of the audio signals…inducing hum, degrading dynamics, rolling off high end frequencies. BTW I’m not saying that an expensive cable is any less susceptible to inference than regular cables…just that analog signals are the actual information and if disturbed the actual signals will be degraded…or at least changed.
Digital representations of audio signals are not the actual information. The digital ones and zeros are the “blueprints” necessary to rebuild the analog audio signal from scratch. That’s what so fabulous about digital audio…it is not susceptible to noise, RF, and magnetic interference. Get the data to the construction crew and they can reconstruct a brand new analog waveform the perfectly matches the original before it was digitized.
My $1.00 75 Ohm S/P DIF cable does it just as well as the $320 fancy cable that I have…promise.
Hi Ken, the basic answer to your assertion that everything is audible, is that when you take away knowledge of whether a change has been made or not, i.e. control the listening test, then suddenly *not* everything is audible.
Why is this? It’s because our overall subjective impression of a recording being played back, and that we attribute to the term ‘sound quality’, includes the auditory information, plus other information, stirred together. And we hear it as ‘the sound’, i.e. we wrongly attribute all of it to the auditory information only.
And this unconscious processing and mixing-in of non-sonic information by our minds is not under our conscious control. The (self) deception happens all the time, automatically. Put a thicker, expensive looking faceplate on the same amplifier and it *will* sound better to many subjective listeners, in *sighted* listening tests. Et cetera ad infinitum.
Importantly, all of our audiophile hobbyist listening is by way of *sighted* listening. It’s the normal condition. Change this or that and, depending on the person, it *will* sound better — or worse. Even when we know that it shouldn’t. Or couldn’t.
So, what to do (pragmatically)? The way I see it is, we should accept what our mind is doing with the contextual information that creates our subjective listening experiences, and use it to maximize our personal listening pleasure. In other words, even if one’s personal positive response to the ‘sound’ of a product is entirely manufactured by the mind, consider buying it anyway, since it’s ‘working’ for you personally. BUT, and it’s a big but as you can see, we can’t use our personal subjective impressions to advise anyone else about what ‘sounds better’ in terms of sound waves, or what will sound better to them. It only applies to ourselves, personally, individually. And that is where Lavorgna and the subjectivist group exceed their remit, because they don’t ‘get it’ that there is a distinction to be made.
It doesn’t help to say that Lavorgna is a nice guy and a music lover, first and foremost. I’m a nice guy and a music lover first and foremost, too. So what? I’m not sitting in a position of substantial ‘agenda influence’ on the Stereophile websites. Lavorgna is, and yet he shows such a poor understanding of the limits of human hearing, the way humans process sonic information and arrive at an impression of ‘sound’, and the realities of what is achieved with a controlled and an uncontrolled listening test, that one would think that he would have an active professional interest in learning these things, in order to better serve his audience. One would think. And yet, all the evidence is that he is actively antagonistic to all incoming advice that contradicts his prior understanding. The simplest example is to look at the way he cherry-picks the critique of controlled listening tests, while turning a blind eye to the 1000x-stronger critique of uncontrolled listening tests. One is less than perfect, the other is an utter sham if the goal is to assess audible changes in sound waves. Yet one would think it is the other way around, from his writings. And this is *after* many sincere attempts to explain the situation to him. It’s not good.
I stood at my AIX table on Saturday talking about the whole REGEN thing with a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University. He insisted that if the same exact bits were sent to my Benchmark DAC2 HGC having been through the REGEN and without, that the analog waveform out of the Benchmark would be different. I was astounded. If the same bits can’t be counted on to deliver a consistent converted analog signal on the outputs, then what is the use of having a digital files of data in the first place?
I recently stumbled upon this posting and it articulates in great detail what I concluded myself after the past year of reading a large number of audiophile blogs/magazines:
I really like this: Secret Rule No. 8- “The more dishonest your magazine is, the more you shall proclaim your honesty.”
Follow the money!