A friend sent me an article from Gizmodo mentioning a challenge to audiophiles by James Randi, famed debunker of charlatans who claim paranormal powers, to demonstrate their ability to detect differences in cables in a listening test.
He said that the claims that some reviewers made about the cables fall into the range of the paranormal.http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/calling-b...ter-305549.php
For people unfamiliar with James Randi, he has helped fight the forces of irrationality, denouncing spoon-benders, mind-readers and mediums, in a very showmanlike fashion. And he has a million-dollar prize as bait to get people to try to prove themselves capable of whatever paranormal talent they claim to have. This prize is also used to taunt people who may not feel inclined to submit to his examination of their claims.
So a few years ago, when he got intrigued by some nonsensical sounding devices that had been positively reviewed in the audiophile press, he issued challenges to the reviewers involved. When none came forward, he publicly taunted them about it.
Now he has become convinced that expensive cables must fall into the realm of hi-fi mythology. He seems to have simply decided that expensive cables are fair game, and has selected one company among the many purveyors of expensive cables, to go after. A reviewer who used some of the rather flowery terminology that reviewers are prone to use got his this is just plain silly engine going, and he declared his great big Million Dollar Challenge toward that reviewer and others quoted by the cable maker, Pear Cable on their site, http://www.pearcable.com/sub_products_anjou_sc.htm
Up until 2 days ago, I'd never heard of them, so I guess Randi may be doing something to bring them notoriety (whether or not they're enjoying it is another matter). They claim to make Ultimate Speaker Cable and go about backing up their claim by strictly technical assertions of what they do to make the cable, and what kind of electrical characteristics it has. But they also quote Dave Clark who said:
"In extended listening sessions, I found the cables' greatest strength to be its PRAT. Simply put these are very danceable cables. Music playing through them results in the proverbial foot-tapping scene with the need or desire to get up and move. Great swing and pacethese cables smack that right on the nose big time."
- Dave Clark, Editor Positive Feedback Online
Now I can recall being amused decades ago the first time I read a review of a preamp that had a butterscotch midrange and thinking that was silly. Hi Fi reviewers use language the way wine reviewers do, imaginatively and evocatively, as our standard language is so lacking in terms specifically for the flavor of sound or the nuances of wines. But for audiophiles, this kind of writing is exuberant, a way of saying gosh I really liked it!
I wrote a letter to Mr. Randi, telling him that I felt he had crossed over a line into a realm where he was not debunking paranormal claims, and that based on my personal experiences, there are quite a few people who could easily demonstrate their ability to discern differences in cables, given a fair setup (i.e. a sufficiently revealing system that cables could be revealed as weak links).
All he's saying people need to do is tell the difference between a set of Monster Cables and these Pear Cables. (Of course, there DO seem to be some catches so don't go cashing that big check until you find out what they are.)
I advised him to stand down from this particular challenge, telling him that it is akin to challenging wine snobs to detect the difference between a terribly expensive wine and something from the supermarket.
He was good enough to get back to me, but informed me I cannot and will not stand down from the challenge, since I made it and must stick with it. I'm a man of my word, and I don't back down, ever.
Those are such strong words that I doubt that offering him further information would help.
For him to say teleportation is impossible is fine with me. For him to say $7,000 is too much to pay for speaker cables is another kind of statement entirely.
There are two things about this that really bother me. One is that Mr. Randi's credibility is compromised. It would be a disaster for him to give up his prize and lose his incentive to go after true charlatans. I would like him to go on calling out the spiritualists who prey on the bereaved, the prayer-cloth healers who defraud little old ladies of their life savings. I don't want the bait snatched out of his trap.
But the other problem I have with this is personal.
If high-performance speaker cables are in the realm of pure Voodoo then where do you draw the line? This is shades of gray: he decided Monster cables are as expensive as cables could reasonably be without having paranormal claims attached to them. Are $20,000 loudspeakers in the same category? Is a pair of $1,200 speakers in that category? Is all Theta equipment? Is my whole career a fraud?
I spent 15 years helping people hear for themselves the differences between hi fi components, in the store Absolute Audio in southern California. I have always been proud of what we did for people.
Now there are people posting comments over at Gizmodo about how all audiophiles are deluded suckers.