The upcoming Newport Audio show, which will be held in a couple of weeks in Southern California, might be a perfect opportunity to do a little investigative reporting into high-end cable demos (or other questionable equipment demos). I got thinking about my recent experience — and aftermath — in Chicago after a reader told he thought it would be good idea to document a few of the demos on video. In reality, I had planned to capture the AXPONA cable demo with my wife’s iPhone but failed. My inability to “substantiate” any of the claims I presented in my posts was where I got into trouble. If I had succeeded in properly documenting the demonstrations, perhaps the outcome would have been different.
But that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try again, right? And the Newport Show might be just the opportunity to record audio and video of demos showing dramatic fidelity improvements attributed to power cords, digital interconnects, or expensive isolation “cones”. In reality, most of the vendors know who I am and will likely avoid doing anything to falsely hype their products if I walk in their demo room. But what about other visitors interested in getting to the bottom of these questions? Why not reach out to a few readers of this blog?
In the interest of understanding the “science” behind cable design and the search for the truth, I’m suggesting that show attendees take out their Smartphones and record both the audio and video of various demos. Then post them on YouTube or send them to me. If you want to step up the game a little, download a “sound pressure meter” or “spectrum analyzer” app for your device and have a friend video the readings as the various demos are played. An SPL meter, if held steady throughout the demo, should indicate the volume of sound. A meter with a digital readout would be best.
What should you see…the same volume regardless of which cable is inserted into the signal path. Power cords and digital interconnects should not change the volume level of optical players, music servers, preamplifiers, or power amps. They should also not alter the timbre or fidelity of any music being played. There are other pieces of equipment or software plug-ins that are used to accomplish those tasks. So be on the lookout. If you see a demo and something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You should enter every demo with a healthy amount of skepticism.
I believe it would be very good for show attendees to document everything they experience at the upcoming Newport Show. Let’s start to challenge the claims that company representatives make. Make them explain what they’re demoing, why their products “improve” fidelity, and the methodology behind their demos. If you hear something that doesn’t sound quite right, ask questions and challenge the “subjective” approach to high-end audio claims.
I read a report from a well know audio blog site about a demo he experienced at the last RMAF by a very familiar high-end cable company that claimed company X “busts cable myths”. Needless to say, the “review” read like a sales piece by the marketing department of the cable maker. In a clear case of “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”, there was a banner ad from another very high-end cable manufacturer adjacent to the ridiculous comments being made by the writer. How convenient.
See you in Newport Beach!