Audio Honesty

A few days ago as I was surveying the latest posts on a familiar FB audiophile website, I responded to a post about an amazing — and very expensive — power cord with a “haha” instead of a “like”. The laughing icon appeared and I moved on — it was posted by another audiophile who had been suckered into believing that pricey power cords can somehow improve or alter the sound of a system. They can’t and any honest vendor, dealer, or writer will confirm that — unless their livelihood depends on it!


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So a few hours later, up pops the same post with a lengthy response to my “haha” response from a fellow member of the FB group letting me know how wrong I was and asking whether I had heard the cable demo at the recent AXPONA show? I hadn’t at the recent show but I have in the past. In fact, if I visit demo rooms extolling the benefits of $4000 power cords (or even $50 ones), I’m usually recognized and the demos take a distinctly different trajectory. The presenters and the companies they work for can’t handle the truth. The individual that responded to my laugh, detailed how he had been in the demo room of company X and was “blown away” at the difference he — and his wife — heard when the cheap cable was swapped for the company’s top of the line cable. There was not doubt in his mind that the expensive cable produced better sound. It was not subtle. How could I laugh at his claim when the pricey cable clearly performed better?

The truth is I so believe him! I’m sure that he heard better sound when that vendor’s cable was used — just like the times that I’ve experienced the same phenomenon at trade shows in the past — including AXPONA or the show that the LA&OC Audio Society put on last summer in West Covina (the one that resulted in me getting kicked out of the society because I exposed the fraudulent demo of a cable vendor!) The fact is the audiophiles visiting these rooms and experiencing the demos ARE hearing actual differences! But the differences are not caused by the power cables! They are part of the “slight-of-hand” that these seasoned “magicians” perform during every show.

It took some detective work to figure out how they’re doing it but I’ve seen it in person and confirmed these methods with others who have experienced the same things. You might ask why would a cable or accessory company feel the need to fake the performance of their products? Why wouldn’t they simply depend on the science to establish the superiority of their products? Well, the cable business — like the entire audio industry — is making huge profits by faking things — and no one is calling them on their fraud! Some of the major brands of cables are making tens of millions of dollars annually! They’re fooling thousands of audio enthusiasts into spending stupid amounts of money of bogus cables and other other nonsensical devices or processes.

Here are a couple of documented “tricks” that demonstrators have pulled:

  1. The expensive power cord is always played louder – The presenter will increase the volume when their pricey cord is inserted. When the cables are swapped, the volume is increased using a remote control hidden in their pocket. Carefully look at the amplitude readout on the preamplifier. This is what I — and another observer — confirmed was happening at the LA&OC event. The society president endorsed the fraud!
  2. The music played from their demo disc has multiple copies of the same music selection – this method is pretty clever and took a little sleuthing to figure out. As a former mastering engineer, I know how easy it is to subtly alter the EQ or volume of different tunes — that’s an essential part of the job. However, to include multiple copies of the same tune on a single disc AND play the better sounding tracks (which have been mastered louder and brighter EQ) when demoing an expensive cable is pretty sneaky. But I’ve seen it done. Why do you think they never let attendees offer their own discs during the demos…I’ve offered my recordings and been flatly rejected every time.

So it is highly unlikely that you will ever hear a legitimate cable demo at trade show or online. There’s simply too much at stake…too much money! These companies have to pay for advertising in the big audio magazines and support the frequent “special cable issues”, which always contain ridiculous reviews full of nonsensical statements. Have you ever read a negative cable review in a special issue? I haven’t.

As an industry, we don’t do very well in the honesty department. The amount of misinformation and outright lies is shocking to those of us that have spent our careers working in audio recording. I will refrain from naming specific companies but you know who they are. Don’t waste your money on power cords or other accessories that have no value in your system.

3 thoughts on “Audio Honesty

  • It never ceases to amaze me that people who buy pricey power cords do not appear to understand that a pricey bridge cable between your household outlet wired with 14g Home Depot wiring and the equipment has no effect on the sound…and that is not even considering that the input socket of the device’s internal wiring is usually standard 12-18g wire.

  • Can’t believe there are no comments. I’ve got a few…

    Expectation bias, superstition, conspicuous consumption and snake oil rule today’s ‘deep-end’ audio world. To be fair, many of the vendors at shows believe their own claims (expectation bias; most audiophiles avoid blind testing like vampires avoid garlic). It crosses the line into fraud when the vendors know their claims are BS and are manipulating the ‘test’ to deceive the customer.

    It’s too bad because they are ruining the audio market. The overpriced ‘bling-fi’ that dominates shows turns off people who aren’t prepared to spend the price of a luxury sedan in order to listen to good-sounding music at home. As a result, most people just buy $300 ‘smart speakers’.

  • Hi Mark. Sorry I could not make it to Axpona this year. Hopefully you will be able to make it back east this year to the Capital Audio Fest. One of the other tricks is to prime the pump by telling the listeners what they will hear before they do. Most people hear what they are told they will hear. It is just human nature. I have never seen a demo that didn’t use this technique. Be well!


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