James Randi’s attack on high performance audio - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 1770 Old 10-04-2007, 06:02 PM - Thread Starter
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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:

"Highly Recommended.

"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.

Comments?
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post #2 of 1770 Old 10-04-2007, 06:36 PM
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Wrong forum.

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post #3 of 1770 Old 10-04-2007, 06:39 PM
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Suckers? Well yes.
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post #4 of 1770 Old 10-04-2007, 07:08 PM
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Look at this rationally. If the differences are as clear as many claim, then what is the problem with some moron wanting to give away 1 million dineros?

However, (here is the science part) since nobody anywhere at any time can point to ANY blind test with even moderate controls where the end result is anything other than chance, maybe, just maybe... some people are seeing what they are hearing and subconsciously drawing sighted conclusions. maybe????

That is the central debate. now we all accept that NOBODY can remove themselves from sighted biases. this is a fact. and even being in a test affects your perception.

But if this is so darn apparent, night and day, any deaf moron can hear it... then why has nobody answered the challenge. after all, 1 million is a lot of scratch.

The fact is simple... if a cable, or even a whole suite of cables, affected the sound, then we can say that the sound was changed. if the sound was changed, then that could be measured. please do not debate this, it is a fact. test equipment cannot tell us the first iota about whether a sound is good bad or ugly, but it can tell us if it changed to a resolution that is orders of magnitude far more precise than the human ear.

So if it changes, why has nobody ever shown a measurement that shows thus?

Lets stay off the bandwagons, please give me reasons, lets have a rational discussion.

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post #5 of 1770 Old 10-04-2007, 07:18 PM
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Oh boy, here we go again.
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This is shades of gray: he decided Monster cables are as expensive as cables could reasonably be without having paranormal claims attached to them.

Actually, he doesn't hold Monster in high regard either. In particular he slammed their HDMI cable claims. I think he just picked them for the purposes of the comparison. I actually think he'd be willing to conduct the challenge with Home Depot wire of sufficient gauge if anyone was interested.

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post #6 of 1770 Old 10-04-2007, 07:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Evelyn Sinclair View Post

James Randi's attack on high performance audio

His challenge and demand for proof and test of a claim is hardly an assault on high performance audio IMO. To misquote the late Dr. Sagan- Extraordinary claims DEMAND extraordinary evidence."

I say get em James. Make em your bitch like you did with Uri and Sylvia. I'd think he could spend the rest of his days debunking in high-end audio/video what with all the pseudo-science, technobabble laden crap and potential $ associated with it.

Dave
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post #7 of 1770 Old 10-04-2007, 08:26 PM - Thread Starter
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I didn't realize there was a previous thread related to this topic when I decided to post about it.

I have read it now, and I see the devolution into a cables matter/no they don't debate.

What I'm surprised to hear is a flat denial, on a forum for those willing to put a fair amount of money into their systems, that it is possible to hear the differences made by changing elements conducting a huge amount of energy from a power amp to a loudspeaker over a meaningful distance.

Cables matter in some systems more than in others. Cables aren't magic. They do have electrical properties that are measureable, which are apart from the properties that we could categorize as merely audible.

To make that a little clearer by analogy, I think everyone agrees that wines taste different, though not everyone finds that the expensive ones make sense for them, and if you're eating a chili dog you might not get out the really good wine -- and yes you can measure acidity, alcohol, sugar and even do a spectrum analysis of wine but that's not the same as what you taste.

It was part of my job for many years to do a lot of listening evaluations, of every kind of audio component that goes into a system. There tend to be differences no matter what you change. Speaker wire is not exempt. (And yes, we did blind testing.)

Speaker wire performance comes in shades of gray. Saying there is no difference! is not particularly scientific, because you find yourself defending 100 feet of 22-gauge lamp cord at some point. Saying This is ridiculously expensive for what it does is different. That is what I wish Mr. Rrandi would realize!

If you have access to a good retailer, that store can offer you the opportunity to do listening evaluations of your own, so you can make up your own mind. (We used to just loan people the really high-end cables to try in THEIR systems, and let them decide what to keep.)

My intention in posting had nothing to do with discussing whether or not speaker wire could affect the sound in a system. It was to bring attention to the problem that a lunatic fringe perception brings to the happy realm of audiophilia.

I figure the people snickering over deluded audiophiles who claim there's something BETTER than an iPod are reassuring themselves that what we (at least some of us) regard as meaningful sonic differences are worse than meaningless.

It hurts to see the whole high end audio community called into question.

So over at Gizmodo there's the next generation of potential supporters who might keep this hobby afloat - if they don't decide its more fun to just buy more videogame gear.
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post #8 of 1770 Old 10-04-2007, 08:26 PM
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Dizzman - Great post.

Dave Clark of PFO recommended the MD Clever Little Clock:

http://www.positive-feedback.com/Iss...lock_nespa.htm

At first I thought it was a joke, but I guess he really thought it did something.
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post #9 of 1770 Old 10-04-2007, 08:27 PM
 
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Quote:


One is that Mr. Randi's credibility is compromised.

I don't think so.

Quote:


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.

He is not saying that all high end equipment makes no difference just cables.

Quote:


The fact is simple... if a cable, or even a whole suite of cables, affected the sound, then we can say that the sound was changed. if the sound was changed, then that could be measured. please do not debate this, it is a fact. test equipment cannot tell us the first iota about whether a sound is good bad or ugly, but it can tell us if it changed to a resolution that is orders of magnitude far more precise than the human ear.

So if it changes, why has nobody ever shown a measurement that shows thus?

And there we go, the high end can not answer this simple question.
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post #10 of 1770 Old 10-04-2007, 09:46 PM
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huge amount of energy

Uh... not so much. do the math. Mr Ohm knew what he was talking about.

Quote:


Saying “there is no difference!” is not particularly scientific

Who said that other than bluray? all of us on the dark side of the argument have always said that as long as we are talking about a cable of sufficient gauge, and solid construction, the diminishing returns do not add up. Nobody is comparing lamp cord to a 5K cable.

of course cable can be measured, we all quote measurements all the time. please quote something on these 5K cables that shows that they will somehow perform better in the audible spectrum. and perform better enough that a human can hear it. the reality is that you cannot. a maching like a test peice can hear these potential tiny differences but not us.

Show that they make the sound better in any perceptible manner and you are on your way to 1,000,000$$$

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post #11 of 1770 Old 10-04-2007, 11:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Evelyn Sinclair View Post

Now there are people posting comments over at Gizmodo about how all audiophiles are deluded suckers.

Comments?

Yes indeed.

I think you will find that the majority of people here will agree more with Randi than with Clark. Randi also put out a challenge to Stereophile's Atkinson some time ago; a challenge that was not accepted I may add.

I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith, I am nothing." ~ D.Adams
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post #12 of 1770 Old 10-04-2007, 11:16 PM
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i will go on record as not saying that they are deluded anythings...

I will say that in many cases we allow ourselves to believe things that are not there. perception is a powerful force.

I was at a demo where i watched a roomful of folks go slowly over the deep end about a "cryo" treated (burned) CD vs the original. it was funny to watch. I will point out that Dr. Grant was sitting with a smirk on his face checking his email.

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post #13 of 1770 Old 10-04-2007, 11:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Dizzman View Post

i will go on record as not saying that they are deluded anythings...

I will say that in many cases we allow ourselves to believe things that are not there. perception is a powerful force.

I was at a demo where i watched a roomful of folks go slowly over the deep end about a "cryo" treated (burned) CD vs the original. it was funny to watch. I will point out that Dr. Grant was sitting with a smirk on his face checking his email.

We delude ourselves. It happens. It's normal. Using more flowery language to make it sound less offensive doesn't change the fact.

What's silly is that even when presented with pretty convincing arguments the faithful absolutely refuse even to consider the fact that their senses are letting them down.

And I'll add the definition for you too;

Quote:
Originally Posted by dictionary.com View Post

American Heritage Dictionary - Cite This Source - Share This de·lu·sion (dĭ-lōō'zhən) Pronunciation Key
n.

The act or process of deluding.
The state of being deluded.
A false belief or opinion: labored under the delusion that success was at hand.
Psychiatry A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence, especially as a symptom of mental illness: delusions of persecution.

This isn't to say that there aren't cables out there that are so badly designed that they actually do change/corrupt the signal between amplifier and speaker. But nobody that knows even the most basic audio theory wants those cables.

I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith, I am nothing." ~ D.Adams
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post #14 of 1770 Old 10-04-2007, 11:32 PM
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Evelyn, now you know why generally high end audio enthusiasts do not post here at AVS, especially this forum. And even those who do generally are very sparing in their posts cause they don't feel like having to take too much S_H___T. Its unfortunate that the opinions re cabling often carry over to high end components.

Re Cabling, yes, I've heard many cables make some sonic difference in my or someone else's system. But whether the difference was "objectively" better sounding vs different sounding, where some liked the flavor better for awhile and then tired of it, or later realized the "flavor" was lacking in some ways as they listened over longer periods of time, can be difficult to fathom.

My current cabling has been my mainstay for years now after having a number of different cables in my system prior. I wish I had been more conservative before.
The argument that spend more on the components and less on cabling especially has merit when one periodically changes cables and keeps spending more $$$ on accessories that frankly could buy better sounding components in the first place.
On the other hand, yes, good cabling can make a system "sing" just right, like driving a tuned high performance race car down the drag.

A real problem in the cable industry is lack of standards, specs and objective measurements. Does a cable company need to have five lines of cables, each twice the price, to communicate the signal?

Despite the above, I'll keep my you know what brand cables.

Thats it for me in this thread. I've been pissed on at this forum enough this past week and time to get a bit of sleep and then get back to work. Now Adrian Mills can insult me like he did the other day in another thread and he won't have to worry about me striking back at his
nastiness!

"Doug Winsor" used to troll at some AV Forums as "Steve Bruzonsky"! My home theater at:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1158431
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post #15 of 1770 Old 10-04-2007, 11:38 PM
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While i will not argue your points. Why be so harsh? In order to have a reasonable discourse, it hardly helps to start off by claiming the other side are morons.

Proud Daddy to Anastasia and Christopher.
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Ob was the delivery doc.

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post #16 of 1770 Old 10-04-2007, 11:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Bruzonsky View Post

Thats it for me in this thread. I've been pissed on at this forum enough this past week and time to get a bit of sleep and then get back to work. Now Adrian Mills can insult me like he did the other day in another thread and he won't have to worry about me striking back at his
nastiness!

Dude, really, you are a lawyer right? And you consider facts to be insults?

By "the other day" I guess you are referring to my "fanboy forum" comment? Well, yes, but it does seem like you can get away with almost anything here whereas others have to tread a lot more lightly.

I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith, I am nothing." ~ D.Adams
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post #17 of 1770 Old 10-04-2007, 11:42 PM
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A real problem in the cable industry is lack of standards, specs and objective measurements.

the issue at hand steve is that you are wrong in this statement. there are loads of standards. and way more folks who just make stuff up.

Why in another thread we have KBK claiming to have found a new way to conduct electricity. and of course this newfound discovery is helping mankind by being used in... audio cables.

So while we love to talk about the science side of things, sometimes you have to sit back and just day... "the emperor is naked dude!"

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post #18 of 1770 Old 10-04-2007, 11:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Dizzman View Post

While i will not argue your points. Why be so harsh? In order to have a reasonable discourse, it hardly helps to start off by claiming the other side are morons.

I did not use the term "moron" and neither did I imply it.

The cable debate is very much like the debate that surrounds religion as their faith in a lot of cases is as strong and as blinded. So there is little hope that you can debate it and reach any sort of agreement except to agree to disagree.

Unfortunately, like religious debates, people easily take offense even when it's not intended.

I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith, I am nothing." ~ D.Adams
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post #19 of 1770 Old 10-05-2007, 06:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Michael Grant View Post

Oh boy, here we go again.Actually, he doesn't hold Monster in high regard either. In particular he slammed their HDMI cable claims. I think he just picked them for the purposes of the comparison. I actually think he'd be willing to conduct the challenge with Home Depot wire of sufficient gauge if anyone was interested.

here i am Mr. Randi. bring it on. i won't rehash my terms as they are stated in the other thread.

Blueray.....your responses are also in the other thread for anyone who is interested so let's not go round again.
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post #20 of 1770 Old 10-05-2007, 06:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dizzman View Post

the issue at hand steve is that you are wrong in this statement. there are loads of standards.

There are?? Where? What? Just RLC??

That's not enough. Roger Russel's 5% is simply inadequate. "Low inductance" is inadequate, low capacitance same. There is no clear engineering involved, merely knee jerk papers.

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Originally Posted by Dizzman View Post

and way more folks who just make stuff up.

Oh man, you got that right. That's what tailors the general public's dismal view of audiophiles..


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post #21 of 1770 Old 10-05-2007, 06:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Evelyn Sinclair View Post

They do have electrical properties that are measurable, which are apart from the properties that we could categorize as “merely” audible.

Evelyn, what properties of a cable are audible that are not measurable? If something in a cable changes the sound in an audible way, it has to be measurable.

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post #22 of 1770 Old 10-05-2007, 06:53 AM
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Originally Posted by mike lavigne View Post

here i am Mr. Randi. bring it on. i won't rehash my terms as they are stated in the other thread.

.

He's the one with the million bucks. He the one who gets to make the rules.
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post #23 of 1770 Old 10-05-2007, 06:54 AM
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Well, I suspect he's not the only one of the two with a million bucks. Randi's just the only one, among any of us I suspect, willing to wager that much over speaker cables.

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post #24 of 1770 Old 10-05-2007, 06:57 AM
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Originally Posted by David F View Post

If something in a cable changes the sound in an audible way, it has to be measurable.

really? why?

how does one know this with 100% certainty?

so everything is measurable? and there is 100% confidence of how to interpret those measurments as to cause and effect?
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post #25 of 1770 Old 10-05-2007, 07:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Swampfox View Post

He's the one with the million bucks. He the one who gets to make the rules.

first; the money is window dressing to get attention. personally; i don't really care about it.

second, cable differences are most evidant in a mature system. any generic system would dumb-down the differences and minmize the listener's ability to detect differences blind.

i make no claims to hear cable differences in unfamiliar environments; therefore i have no interest in participating in a test under those circumstances. my whole point is that with the correct tool (familiar room and system) cable differences are easy enough for me to hear in a blind test.

i have not read the terms of Randi's challenge. it does not matter to me. OTOH i would be happy (and have made the offer repeatedly over the last few years to many here on AVS) to demonstrate that i can blindly hear the difference between my cables and generic cables in my system.

with all the objectivist bluster on cable vodoo you would think that someone would call me on it.

here i am.

anyone?

if not then all i ask is that people stop saying that cable believers cannot back up what they preach. that does not mean that my stance proves anything.
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post #26 of 1770 Old 10-05-2007, 07:15 AM
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so everything is measurable?

Everything audible is measurable, yes. For one thing, extensive research has demonstrated the limits of our hearing ability; and those limits typically exceed the lower limits of our indirect (read: electronic) measuring capability by orders of magnitude. Second, controlled listening tests are themselves measurements. So even in cases where we have expanded our understanding of our hearing capabilities, those discoveries involve measurements of some sort.
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if not then all i ask is that people stop saying that cable believers cannot back up what they preach.

You are willing to do so on your terms, Mike, and that's admirable... but that's really not the way science works. A scientist really doesn't get to dictate the conditions of success of his own work; his peers do. Frankly, the ability to hear differences that manifest themselves electrically in such small measures is something that science would be very interested to discover.

I know you're not interested in science, you're interested in your music. (I don't say that perjoratively.) But your listening test offer really doesn't serve as an effective counterargument to those who say that cable believers don't back up their claims.

Having said that I really do wish that someone like James Randi or others would be willing to engage you or someone like you to develop a test that is amenable to both parties. There's certainly no scientific reason you couldn't use your own sound system and your own listening room.

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post #27 of 1770 Old 10-05-2007, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by mike lavigne View Post

first; the money is window dressing to get attention. personally; i don't really care about it.

Every celebrity has a schtick, but it must be nice that a mere million bucks isn't enough money for you to demonstrate your abilities.
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second, cable differences are most evidant in a mature system. any generic system would dumb-down the differences and minmize the listener's ability to detect differences blind.

i make no claims to hear cable differences in unfamiliar environments; therefore i have no interest in participating in a test under those circumstances. my whole point is that with the correct tool (familiar room and system) cable differences are easy enough for me to hear in a blind test.

i have not read the terms of Randi's challenge. it does not matter to me. OTOH i would be happy (and have made the offer repeatedly over the last few years to many here on AVS) to demonstrate that i can blindly hear the difference between my cables and generic cables in my system.

with all the objectivist bluster on cable vodoo you would think that someone would call me on it.

here i am.

anyone?

if not then all i ask is that people stop saying that cable believers cannot back up what they preach. that does not mean that my stance proves anything.

It's your challenge. It's Your rules.
Personally, I don't have the time or inclination participate.
Anyone with any sense would want to measure your cables prior to accepting your challenge. It's possible that the 'black boxes' contain components that alter the sound.
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post #28 of 1770 Old 10-05-2007, 08:02 AM
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Having said that I really do wish that someone like James Randi or others would be willing to engage you or someone like you to develop a test that is amenable to both parties.

Unfortunately it will never work; look what happened with the infamous Stereo Review amplifier test. The faithful signed up at the beginning that they were happy with the arrangements but in the end, when none of them could tell any of the amps apart, many of them reneged, made excuses and blamed the testing methodology. I've read about the same thing happening several times in controlled tests.

I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith, I am nothing." ~ D.Adams
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post #29 of 1770 Old 10-05-2007, 08:22 AM
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Evelyn, what properties of a cable are audible that are not measurable? If something in a cable changes the sound in an audible way, it has to be measurable.

This is where the arguments will be leveled against science and it's already been done in this thread. It is closer to religion where you as a skeptic must prove there is no god to the true believers.

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post #30 of 1770 Old 10-05-2007, 08:41 AM
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Adrian, it is OK with me if that happens (if tests are questioned after the fact). That's a common aspect of real science, and it's really only an argument for more testing, not less.

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