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Audio Myths

Audio Snake Oil

The Audio Myths Website

Many unsubstantiated claims pervade the world of audio, and are often asserted as factually based, without any credible supporting evidence. In these circumstances science takes a back seat to mythology, not unlike the claims of alien abductions, homeopathy, holistic healing, Big Foot sightings, spontaneous human combustion, psychic powers, clairvoyance, repressed memory syndrome, and too many others to list.

Often, such claims are held to be true by large numbers of believers, despite the lack of evidence to lend any credence to the claims. Such a firmly entrenched acceptance of such claims in the absence of reliable supportive data is a basic characteristic of false belief systems in general. The claimant and proponents of such false belief systems so closely adhere to their belief system that challenges to it are often regarded as personal affronts, and treated accordingly.

Such mythology often seems to develop a life of it's own, and several examples are commonplace in regards to audio reproduction, in defiance of the applicable audio science, including what is known in the fields of physics, psychoacoustics, and auditory sensory neurophysiology, to name some.

Examples include, but are not limited to claims made for the audible effects of:

--Biwiring
--Expensive speaker wire of similar gauge and length, but dissimilar retail cost
--Silver vs. copper speaker wire
--Wire elevators
--Green paint around the edges of a CD
--Freezing CDs
--"Anti-static" CD treatments
--"Demagnetizing" CDs
--Expensive aftermarket power cords
--Expensive power receptacles
--Sand bags placed on, in, and around electronic audio components
--Speaker wire and audio interconnect "break-in"
--Speaker "break-in"

Another commonly asserted audio myth is that the budget allotted to speaker wires and audio interconnects should be some fixed proportion or percentage of the system cost (10% is a figure frequently quoted by audiophiles).

And many others sharing similar lack of reliable supporting evidence.


Allowances are to made for the clear distinction between:

A) a personal preference, which is non-testable and immune from a need for substantiation, and which can exist for any number of reasons, and:

B) testable claims, such as those for audible differences, which warrant reliable, valid, and repeatable supportive evidence before they can be accepted as established factually.

Go to partexpress.com, they sell 12 gauge speaker wire in 100 foot rolls for $29. If this is way more than you need to obtain, and the rest would be wasted, you can purchase 12 ga at The Home Depot for about $0.30/foot off a spool. Anything more is a waste, as the cheapest 12 gauge that is well made is as it good as it gets, insofar as audible performance appears to be.

Regarding Monster, while this is very good cable, there is a lot of marketing hype, which the consumer has to pay for, without performance gains. To read more about this, see the "Selling Sizzle With Sizzle" link below. To read this extremely interesting and eye opening article requires a simple registration with Forbes.com, but it is well worth the free subscription.

I don't agree with the advice to spend money on pricey or exotic cables if the purpose is to obtain better sound quality. Here are some interesting URLs and links that are relevant to that topic. A few of these articles require free registration to access (the two NY Times articles, and the Forbes.com article).

Here are the URLs/links. Where I have included active links, they are underlined, and I have included a brief summary of the content within the website that is linked. Clicking on any of the underlined active links will take you to that website in a new browser window:

Examples of Double Blind Wire Tests

(ABX Test Results: Interconnects and Wires. Find out how some expensive single and biwire speaker wires faired against inexpensive "zip cord" when subjected to bias controlled double blind listening tests, in which neither the test administrators nor the listeners could see the wires that were being compared.)

Speaker Wire - A History

(This one has a chart recommending wire gauges. Don't use wire that is too narrow in gauge. Because 'generic' 12 gauge wire is so inexpensive, I recommend not using anything narrower, unless you absolutely have to [as, for example, you are running it through a conduit that is not large enough]. Also, the entire article is interesting and informative. Keep in mind the inverse relationship of the numeric wire gauge to the wire calibur or thickness; the smaller the gauge number, the thicker the wire.)

Cable Nonsense

(John Dunlavy, of Dunlavy Audio Labs, comments, as a concerned engineer with credible credentials, on the claims asserted on several internet audio groups by audiophiles regarding audio interconnects and speaker wires.)

Reviews of Radio Shack RS Gold Interconnects

(For this one, you should scroll down to the review by Christopher Fucik. Read a review? Read it, and you should understand why. His review is long, but well worth reading. His measurements are enlightening.)

Lies, Damn Lies, and Cables

(A wire manufacturer unwilling to have his claims actually tested. Why is it that, after so many years, there has been NO wire manufacturer who has actually bothered to prove their claims about their wires being audibly superior to ordinary ones? No, it is NOT a lack of money; see the next link.)

Selling sizzle with sizzle

(Aggressive sales and marketimg tactics of Monster Cable. "A $100 stereo cable is something like undercoating on a car. To move the product, you have to motivate the salesman." In order to access this article using the link provided, a free subscription to Forbes.com is needed.)

A coathanger used as a digital AC3 interconnect (sorry, broken link)

("A delicate digital AC-3 signal originating from my $4500.00 Theta DaViD transport THROUGH A WIRE HANGER...the
Dolby Decoder reported ZERO errors...")

What's All This Hoax Stuff, Anyhow?

(Robert A. Pease, Engineer and Staff Scientist at National Semiconductor Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., explores and discusses several examples of Audio Hoaxes.)

What's All This Splicing Stuff, Anyhow?

(Does splicing a speaker wire degrade the sound quality? A claim to this effect is illustrated and discussed by Robert A Pease, Staff Scientist at National Semiconductor Corp., Santa Clara, Calif.)

Electrical Analysis of Biwiring

(Arny Krueger details both a simple, and a more complex analysis of biwiring, showing that it is electrically equivalent to single-wiring, and thus, "biwiring has no electrical effect if the speaker wire is properly designed for the speaker and the length of the wire, and the wire has lower series impedance than the source impedance of the power amp - both these conditions are commonly satisfied".)

Editorial - I Am As Mad As Hell!

("Keep watching this space for more examples of Hi-Fraud", and find out why Rod Elliott of Elliott Sound Products is so worked up.)

A Spat Among Audiophiles Over High-End Speaker Wire

(A free and simple subscription to "The New York Times on the Web" is required to read this, and the next, article, but it is well worth it, containing quotations attributed to Lewis Lipnick, a professional musician with the National Symphony Orchestra, Alan P. Kefauver, a classically trained musician and director of the Recording Arts and Sciences program at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, Paul Dicomo, communications director for Polk Audio, John Dunlavy of Dunlavy Audio Labs, and several notable others.)

A Little Soldering Goes a Long Way

(As with the previous link, a free and simple subscription to "The New York Times on the Web" is needed to read this article, but again, it is well worth the minimal effort. In this article, rational DIY speaker wire advice is offered by Alan P. Kefauver, director of the Recording Arts and Sciences program at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, and John Dunlavy, speaker designer for Dunlavy Audio Labs.)

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Here are additional links to some interesting and informative articles covering other areas of audio myth, not necessarily having to do specifically, or only, with wire and cable claims:

The Green Flash, and other Urban Legends

(Dana J. Parker, a technical support engineer for the first CD publishing systems on the market highlights a few of the more nonsensical treatments and tweaks claimed by many audiophiles to be effective at solving a variety of "unlikely or non-existent problems", beginning with the green marker technique, which quickly came to be regarded as "an industry inside joke". The following commercially marketed products claiming to improve the sound quality of audio systems are included in this article):

-CD Stoplight by Audio Prism
-CD Blacklight by Audio Prism
-Harmonix RF-11 CD Tuning Sheets
-QR Design Statmat
-Bedini Dual Beam Ultra Clarifier
-Rainbow Electret Foil

Dispelling Popular Audio Myths

(Ethan Winer, a professional musician, composer, audio engineer, recording instructor, computer programmer, consultant, former writer and contributing editor for PC Magazine for many years, author of feature articles for Electronic Musician, Recording, and R-e/p magazines, and celloist in the Danbury Symphony Orchestra, examines several popular audio myths and discusses some important non-sonic factors that contribute to the creation of false perceptions of audible differences.)

A Sure Cure for the "I Heard It" Disease

(Len Schneider of SMR Home Theatre offers this essay in which he expresses dismay at the plethora of laughable claims, technobabble, and myth that is commonplace in audio circles, and is often accepted by many audiophiles without any credible supporting basis in fact. A healthy cynicism regarding extraordinary audio claims is suggested, and rightly so.)

Band of Green Enables

(Examines the common claim that coating the edges of a CD using a green marking pen will noticeably improve its sound quality. The origins of this widely accepted false claim are described, along with a number of valid and credible factors that can explain the popularity and endurance of this veteran audio myth.)

TEETERING on the EDGE

(David Ranada, former Technical Editor of Stereo Review and High Fidelity, offers his own insights into the unfounded green marking CD tweak, in this article that originally appeared in "inMusic" on May 15 - June 15, 1990, and is one of the articles used as a reference in the "Band of Green Enables" article above, which is accessible using the link that immediatley precedes this one.)

Loudspeaker Testing Facility

(While not a link specifically addressing audio myths, this is the webpage for the Canadian National Research Council's loudspeaker testing facility, which utilizes an ASP anechoic chamber to obtain reliable objective measurements, and subjective speaker evaluations are conducted in a specially equipped IEC standardized listening room, taking advantage of the very real benefits obtainable from fully supervised, double-blind tests. Many audiophile claimants dispute the validity of Double Blind Testing [DBT] procedures in evaluating subjective audio criteria, but their vague and ill-defined objections are only seen to be even more unsubstantiated in light of such renowned facilities and everyday real research and testing using DBT methods.)

What's the Placebo Effect?

(Why Double Blind Testing is needed. Someone may easily believe they hear a difference when they do not actually hear a difference; the more impressive LOOKING thing usually is believed to "sound" better. Consequently, listening when you can see what you are hearing is unreliable for testing any controversial matter. Double blind tests can indicate whether it is the appearance of the thing {rather than the actual sound it makes} that influences people to believe that it sounds better. Many people hate double blind tests, because they do not always give the person the result they wanted; i.e., they often believe they hear things that they cannot. It is an unfortunate characteristic of humans that they tend to blame the test rather than to consider that they may have been mistaken about what they can actually hear. There have even been some fun tests where nothing is changed, but people swear they hear a difference!)

Science and Subjectivism in Audio.

("In the last twenty years, there has developed a major dislocation between the scientific evaluation of audio equipment and "subjective" assessment, the latter philosophy having come to be called 'Subjectivism'....")

Audio Distortions: A Mixture of Truth and Humor

(Roger Russell, Author, Artist, Engineer, Inventor, Photographer, Collector, and formerly Director of Acoustic Research at McIntosh Laboratory, Inc., and the originator of McIntosh Loudspeakers, discusses humor in audio, illustrates some examples of audio technobabble, and comments on truth and superstition in audio. If you don't understand something, it could be something important, or merely marketing hype with a few facts thrown in to sound impressive.)

Seven Shiny Pennies

(Frank Van Alstine, of Audio by Van Alstine, Inc, or AVA, criticizes the fraudulent and deceptive marketing practices he observes in the consumer audio industry.)

Last updated on 10-11-03