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James Randi Posts $1M Award On Speaker Cables

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the money-where-your-ears-are dept.

Toys 1239

elrond amandil writes "James Randi offered US$ 1 million to anyone who can prove that a pair of $7,250 Pear Anjou speaker cables is any better than ordinary (and also overpriced) Monster Cables. Pointing out the absurd review by audiophile Dave Clark, who called the cables 'danceable,' Randi called it 'hilarious and preposterous.' He added that if the cables could do what their makers claimed, 'they would be paranormal.'"

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All the things true Audiophile needs.... (5, Interesting)

10Ghz (453478) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851123)

... are listed here [pipex.com] . Those wooden knobs are a real bargain! Only $485!

Re:All the things true Audiophile needs.... (5, Funny)

purpledinoz (573045) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851367)

I have ultra-high quality CAT5-e RJ45 cables for sale as well. For only $100 per meter, you can achieve up to 1 GIGABIT PER SECOND!!!!! That's 1 billion bits in 1 second! You can stream MP3s through these cables with unprecedented quality. Your streaming digital audio and video will be crisper than ever before. Not only are these cables made out of expensive COPPER, they are shielded by the high tech plastics.

Re:All the things true Audiophile needs.... (5, Insightful)

sqldr (838964) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851405)

There's an old(ish) saying - music fans listen to music, whereas audiophiles listen to stereos.

Re:All the things true Audiophile needs.... (1)

interiot (50685) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851489)

Wooden knobs advert:

Well, hearing is believing as we always say. The sound becomes much more open and free flowing with a nice improvement in resolution. Dynamics are better and overall naturalness is improved. Here is a test for all you Silver Rock owners. Try removing the bakelite knobs and listen. You will be shocked by this!
W... T... F...

If being an audiophile means having the sort of mindset to remotely accept that as plausible, suddenly I have much less respect for the audiophiles I know.

Who? (5, Informative)

PlatyPaul (690601) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851133)

Unless you happen to love debunking the falsely-claimed-paranormal, you're probably like me and had no idea who the hell James Randi is/was/will be. Here's [wikipedia.org] his Wikipedia page, here [skepdic.com] is his standing $1,000,000 challenge for a demonstration of true paranormality, and here [randi.org] is his Education Foundation (on "the Paranormal, Pseudoscientific, and the Supernatural").

Also, here's [youtube.com] a video of him in action.

Re:Who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20851193)

Big up James Randi, I say.

If it weren't for him and Richard Dawkins, I'd wonder if we'd made any intellectual progress at all in the last thousand years.

Re:Who? (4, Informative)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851345)

I've been following The Amazing Randi for years. He is also an excellent stage magician, and his best weapon is repeating the "feats" he is debunking, but with a twist - doing "psychic surgery" and pulling out a rubber chicken, etc.

Re:Who? (1, Informative)

Riktov (632) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851391)

Really? I'd bet that practically every scientist in the U.S., and anyone else who is seriously interested in science, knows who James Randi is. And if they don't, they ought to know.

Re:Who? (3, Funny)

PlatyPaul (690601) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851427)

Well, I am a scientist [rochester.edu] (Comp. Sci.), and I don't recall ever hearing of James Randi before. But, then again, I haven't yet seen anyone manage anything approach "paranormal" involving a computer, unless we're counting Windows ME as "supernaturally bad".

Re:Who? (1)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851517)

I'm a scientist (Chemist) and I've never heard of him. Now that I know about him, I really don't care. It's cool what he is doing I guess, but in the scheme of things, it doesn't really matter.

Re:Who? (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851501)

Unless you happen to love debunking the falsely-claimed-paranormal

So basically "Unless you've read /. before".

Re:Who? (1)

PinkyDead (862370) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851597)

Jeez! He looks just like Richard from the Bay Area Audiophile Society (BAAS).

Now that's spooky.

From what I understand... (1, Redundant)

_PimpDaddy7_ (415866) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851147)

Isn't it true, as you build an audio system with very high end components, you need better cables?

While I think THESE cables are way over the top, I think only an audiophile would possible hear the slightest difference.

To the average consumer though, regular cables, even somewhat expensive cables should be sufficient.

These cables are probably marketed to a certain segment, the high end audiophiles.

Just me $0.2, which is why I won't go near these cables ;)

Re:From what I understand... (5, Informative)

jkmullins (643492) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851235)

All you need is an appropriate length of oxygen free copper cable/wire with sufficient shielding and appropriate gauge. All but the lowest of low end OEM cables meet these needs. Beyond this, there is zero difference in cables other than packaging and branding. Any perceived difference is in the listeners head.

Re:From what I understand... (5, Funny)

saigon_from_europe (741782) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851289)

Any perceived difference is in the listeners head.
If someone gives $7000 just for cables, there is certainly some difference in his head comparing to the head of someone who is not crazy and/or mentally challenged.

Re:From what I understand... (1, Interesting)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851423)

"If someone gives $7000 just for cables, there is certainly some difference in his head comparing to the head of someone who is not crazy and/or mentally challenged."

If he has $50 million in the bank, his perception of the value of money is going to be different from yours.

 

Re:From what I understand... (4, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851349)

All you need is an appropriate length of oxygen free copper cable/wire with sufficient shielding and appropriate gauge. All but the lowest of low end OEM cables meet these needs. Beyond this, there is zero difference in cables other than packaging and branding. Any perceived difference is in the listeners head.
Ah, but therein lies the rub. Does the listener possess a standard head or one with vacuum tubes? Because tubes sound better.

Re:From what I understand... (1)

initdeep (1073290) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851357)

Replied only to add that it is also important to have properly attached, with highly conductive attachment means, ends on these cables too. Which is the only real difference in optical cables of course. Better QA on the end attachment process.

Re:From what I understand... (1)

djasbestos (1035410) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851455)

Or in their speakers or amplifiers or equalization settings or other filtering devices or...or any multitude of devices in a high-end audio stack.

This strikes me as akin to slapping a big spoiler and some stickers on a stock car and expecting that to make it "wicked fast". In reality, that money could have been spent on other things that would actually make a difference, instead of making you look like a dumbass. But I guess some people think it is better to *look* high performance than to *be* high performance. And of course, in America, it is unethical to let stupid people keep their money.

Re:From what I understand... (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851491)

You don't even need oxygen free copper. Normal copper is quite enough, even aluminum is quite enough.

The only thing you need is some shielding to protect cable from RFI (it's real and measurable - try to put your cell phone next to speakers). But again, nothing fancy - a common shielded coaxial cable is OK.

Re:From what I understand... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20851541)

actually, some of the more high-end cables use copper wire that's spec'd higher than others.. if you want to cut to the chase of the important bits: the ideal is copper that has been treated in such a way to produce a more uniform molecular structure. the point of this is so that the outer valence of electrons is as close to the next atom as possible, while retaining a uniform lattice of electrons so that the energy transfer is slightly more efficient.

the cost of this should be around 15% greater than that of bargain bin wire. the only other real factor is shielding, but it is not necessary to have some crazy triple braided pair with 30 wraps of shielding and all that.

if you really want to improve your audiophile-quality stereo system, use a power conditioner.. cleaning up the noise from 60 cycle hum will do far more than any hokey cables ever will.

Re:From what I understand... (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851545)

Well, not quite. You did leave out the one REAL improvement for cable that people want, but is pretty hard to find:

Impervious to the bites of their pets.

French Connection United Kingdom'ing parrot can't learn what is OK to bite and what is not OK to bite.

Re:From what I understand... (5, Insightful)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851265)

Except, after some point, even those "audiophiles" cannot tell the difference. Human hearing has its limits, but gullibility has not.

Did you ever wonder why virtually no one makes double-blind tests of this kind of gear? Because if enough unbiased reviews are posted, no one will buy the most expensive stuff. It's the same reason why winemakers attack double-blind tests so fiercely.

Re:From what I understand... (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851453)

How about double blind tests of in-person musical performance? Oh wait, did that [washingtonpost.com] .

How about double blind tests of literature? Oh wait, did that too [dailymail.co.uk] .

How about double blind tests of painting and sculpture?

Re:From what I understand... (1)

Craig Maloney (1104) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851615)

I have done double blind tests on my etchings...

Both people went blind.

Re:From what I understand... (5, Informative)

sribe (304414) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851275)

Isn't it true, as you build an audio system with very high end components, you need better cables?
That statement by itself is strictly true. But what's missing is practical limits. Yes, it's true that very cheap (thin) wire can degrade a signal somewhat. Yes, it's true that with high-end equipment this can actually make a difference in the sound that actually comes out of the speakers. But the kind of wire that it takes to avoid any degradation can be had at Home Depot for less than $1.00/foot.

Re:From what I understand... (2, Informative)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851353)

I think only an audiophile would possible hear the slightest difference.

No, he/she wouldn't. Nada. That's what this whole article is about.

Re:From what I understand... (2, Interesting)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851363)

The thing is, even the cheap drilled wire of your phone-line is good enough to transmit multi-mhz signals for DSL over a few km.

Even for Multi-Ghz coax cable for high-frequency applications, including gold-plated SMA connectors you dont really pay more than $100/m.

thats 5(!) orders of magnitude higher frequency than those cables operate at. Just to make the picture a bit more visual for the imagination impaired: the difference between the requirements of those cables, and audio cables, is bigger than the speed difference between a turtle and the voyager probes.

Audiophiles often use science to back their claims, but the mere fact that they dont unterstand anything about what they are talking about makes it pseudoscience/voodoo.

Re:From what I understand... (1)

murderlegendre (776042) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851415)

You're on the right track. With typical consumer-grade equipment, you probably won't notice much difference between Cable A and Cable B. But, as the resolution of the system improves through the use of better built power amplifiers, preamplifiers, loudspeakers and so forth, cable effects can be quite noticeable.

However, I've found that when it comes to cables - speaker or interconnect - price and quality have no direct relationship, at least not when prices move into the thousands of dollars. When asked by a customer, I generally suggest a certain brand of speaker cable that sells in the $300 range.

IBHEAE - I build hi-end audio electronics

Re:From what I understand... (1)

Flying pig (925874) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851623)

"Better" in what respect? At the end of the cable what do you find? A copper coil in a magnetic field. The design of the loudspeaker normally dominates everything, including the amplifier response curve. (OK, there are electrostatic loudspeakers, but the same is true.) For minimum interference with the signal you want low self-capacitance, low series resistance, and low inductance. You also want the cable to have the smallest magnetic induction cross section or you WILL pick up external signals. You do not need high fairy dust or high bake male bovine excrement.

The best loudspeaker cable you will ever need to make can be provided quite simply. Use auto wiring cable of about 6mm sq cross section. Twist two colours together so that each 360 degree twist occupies 50mm or so. This minimises the magnetic cross-section.Make good quality screw connections at each end. That's it. Too much shielding, capacitance will affect high frequencies. But, at the resistance levels you are playing with, it's almost immaterial. 6mm cross section has a very low resistance, but if you want a very long cable just go up to 8 or 10. You are still paying well under "audiophile" prices.

An audiophile is someone who can hear the difference between copper, OFHC copper, and silver, but can't hear the salesman sniggering as he leaves the shop.

Finally! (1)

beldon (79695) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851149)

James Randi is putting his talents where it really matters!

I want to see him take on the tubes vs. solid-state thing next. Oh-- and those black ebony (teak?) hockey puck things they sell for $100 a pop that are supposed to improve the acoustics of your room by placing them wherever.

Re:Finally! (5, Insightful)

olclops (591840) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851343)

Whoa. Let's not equate the tube vs. solid-state debate with cable voodoo. You can look at the waveform of a tube amp's output and compare it to a solid-state amp's output and see the difference yourself, if you know what to look for. Tubes color the sound (essentially, distort it, but in a way that many people prefer) by emphasisizing the odd-ordered harmonics of a given tone.

Re:Finally! (2)

e4g4 (533831) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851421)

Okay - hang on a minute now, there is quite a noticeable difference between analog tube amps and digital amps - if you take an oscilloscope to them you'd actually be able to see the difference. I think, primarily, the tube adds noise to the signal that some people prefer, but either way, that's a whole different discussion from the absurdity of $7000 speaker cables. I doubt even a tuned machine could tell the difference between a decent set of RadioShack speaker cables and these ridiculous Anjou cables, let alone a human ear.

Tubes Vs. Solid State (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20851531)

I'm sorry, everyone agrees there's a difference in the distortion characteristics between tube and transistors. It's both measurable and audible. More likely you can prove that digitally modeled valve software sounds nothing like the analogue equipment it's emulating ;-)

> those black ebony (teak?) hockey puck things

Usually done with neoprene rubber and an acoustically inert material (marble, ceramic) - it works. Not sure about teak and for most listening environments the audible improvement will be negligible.

The real fun is with cables, try proving OFHC copper makes any significant electrical difference. Then look at cable capacitance; it's only relevant for passive guitar and Microphone cable (for long runs). Once you have an suitably amplified signal, cable capacitance audibly effects the signal by the same amount as the alignment of the planets or something.

The cable kooks are where it's at, if anyone deserves your scorn it's these guys.

oxygen-free sharpie (4, Interesting)

pohl (872) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851153)

I find the audiophile phenomenon to be mighty amusing, even though I'm guilty of throwing away a few extra dollars for an "oxygen free" guitar cable or two. But holy crap, that's quite a price difference -- and for what? If anybody ever gives me crap about getting a Cinema Display instead of a Dell monitor, I'll just think of the Pear Anjou cables. Getting a monitor to match your workstation's case at least has "interior decorating" to justify the difference in cost, but who's ever going to see your speaker cables? Yikes!

P.S. Did you know that if you mark around the edges of your CDs with a sharpie that the music sounds better? ;-)

Re:oxygen-free sharpie (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851419)

Actually marking around the edges foils certain DRM copyright schemes. Or so I've heard on the internet, so it must be true. :)

Re:oxygen-free sharpie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20851451)

Except, as everyone knows, the sharpie must be green. Otherwise the diffraction will be all wrong (or something). Tin ear!

Re:oxygen-free sharpie (5, Insightful)

zig007 (1097227) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851613)

I wouldn't feel guilty about the guitar cables, that's a completely different thing...

There, the reason for buying expensive cables isn't usually much one of sound quality.
Since the cable of an electric guitar is constantly bent,flexed and stepped on, it is more one about reliability.

There are few things more irritating than crappy, stiff and badly soldered guitar cables that break after five sessions.

Upgrade (2, Insightful)

Cryophallion (1129715) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851163)

So, the JREF Challenge [randi.org] has been upgraded to not jut paranormal psychic claims to ridiculous marketing claims? Well, he hasn't lost his money yet, so he's a pretty good gambler.

I love the concept, I just pray that it will change the marketing practices (Monster cables are HOW MUCH?... there isn't enough loss over 6' for me to not just buy some radio shack [also now overpriced, but not as much] cables instead)

Sadly, like the Music companies, I think ad-makers are set in their ways, and we won't see any change soon. I just hope it wakes people up to how much their ignorance can hurt their wallet.

Overpriced, yeah.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20851171)

[ 7000$ (danceable) + 700$ (feet-tap-able) + 70$ (head-nodable) ] ( 7$ + some good sh*t )

copper is copper (5, Insightful)

jcgam69 (994690) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851175)

Companies like monster cable rely on ignorance to stay in business.

Martians! (3, Funny)

PlatyPaul (690601) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851267)

Blasphemy! The Martians [penny-arcade.com] are gonna eat your signal!

Re:copper is copper (1)

ArcadeX (866171) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851295)

I'm not saying I would every pay the brand name tax for monster cables, but I would at least hope there is a purity difference and better sheathing / shielding on the monster cables. Copper may be copper, but 90% pure copper is different that 75% pure copper. As a disclaimer I should state I have no clue how pure the cables are, and how much difference purity would make in that application.

Re:copper is copper (1)

jcgam69 (994690) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851479)

It's true that the connectors on monster cables are of better quality than cheaper alternatives, but IMHO it's not worth the huge - HUGE - markup. It's freakin rediculous what people will pay for essentially no performance improvement. I just wish I had thought to market this crap. The profit margin has to be enormous!

Psychology (3, Funny)

Big Nothing (229456) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851181)

As a long-time (+20 years) audiophile, I can tell you right now that many of the tweaks and products in the business has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with psychology. But that's ok. If Speaker Cable A sounds better than Speaker Cable B to me, why souldn't I buy it? It makes me think I've bought the better product.

Ofcourse - the whole industry is based on me thinking that there's some better product out there that I still haven't bought... Just around the corner is Eternal Bliss ®

Re:Psychology (4, Insightful)

MiKM (752717) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851255)

But that's ok. If Speaker Cable A sounds better than Speaker Cable B to me, why souldn't I buy it?Because you're a sucker if you do.

Re:Psychology (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20851387)

My hobby is collecting phrases and sayings.

"A fool and his money are easily parted" and "More money than sense" are two of my favourites :)

Re:Psychology (1)

thewiz (24994) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851483)

Your speaker cables actually make sounds?

And I thought it was the speakers that made the sounds by driving a magnet that vibrates a membrane that compressed the air in the room from electrical signals sent along the cables.

Another $500 wasted on speakers.

I'm sure they never saw the X-Files (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20851195)

Outrageous claims in the series that can surpass any fantasy by some speaker cables. Anybody remember that chapter where someone from the future cames back to kill himself in the past, due to the "properties" of the compound X... read dichloroethane ?, hilarious.

As a pedophile (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20851199)

As a pedophile I know that all you need is thick cables and zip ties. Everything else just gets in the way.

He's also challenging the Broodwich (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20851203)

He claims that it is not the best sandwich ever made despite the fact it was "Forged in darkness from wheat harvested in Hell's half-acre, baked by Beelzebub, slathered with mayonnaise beaten from the evil eggs of dark chicken forced into sauce by the hands of a one-eyed madman, cheese boiled from the rancid teat of a fanged cow, layered with six-hundred and sixty-six separate meats from an animal which has maggots for blood. And mustard...DIJON mustard!" Apparently, he takes issue with the lack of bacon.

Is it just me (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851205)

...or is copper wire pretty much copper wire? Aside from things like selecting the appropriate gauge to ensure that the amount of signal you're pumping through is getting through with the most minimal degradation possible, how, exactly, are over-priced cables going to improve sound quality?

And as far as I'm concerned, audiophiles who claim that they can 'hear' differences between this brand and that brand of similar gauge speaker cable are just mental. Literally. The difference is in your head. Normal human hearing range is remarkably narrow.

Re:Is it just me (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851503)

Possible reasons to buy superior copper wire. Only one of them is 'realistic':

1. It is shielded against interefernces. (not likely to be a problem)

2. It is sheilded against giving off intereferences (not likely to be a problem)

3. It is shielded against the bites of pets (real problem for many people, my father's birds cut through several extension cords, luckily the birds lived.)

4. You want it shielded against an EMP effect, just in case of nuclear war. (really really really crazy)

You put all of those together, and maybe you got something that will cost 10x normal price. to get to 1,000 times normal price you have to be psycho.

Re:Is it just me (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851519)

while i can tell the diffrence between cheap ass cable and nice cable.. the diffrences between the nice cables is unnoticable. the only time i was able to tell the diffrence between "nice" cables is one shop i was at where the guy (who has a phd in speaker design) had made special silver cables.. and no.. the diffrence was not worth the cost

Cable advise (1)

PlatyPaul (690601) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851209)

Aside from systems whose price tags are similarly "preposterous", you might want to look at Crutchfield's guide to speaker cable selection [crutchfieldadvisor.com] . There are oodles of other guides out there, but this one covers everything pretty nicely.

Randi and his cohorts (5, Informative)

ajs (35943) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851211)

Randi is a real character. If you don't know who he is, check out James Randi [wikipedia.org] on Wikipedia or The James Randi Educational Foundation [randi.org] . One of his boosters is comedian and magician, Penn Jillette, whose TV show, Penn & Teller: Bullshit! [wikipedia.org] he frequently appears on. He's ruffled quite a few feathers over the years by being the poster-boy for skepticism, especially with respect to "mystic" or "supernatural" claims, so don't expect there to be many objective takes on him out there.

Re:Randi and his cohorts (1)

ajs (35943) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851557)

Note to moderators: just because someone else gave a Wikipedia link doesn't make everything I had to say redundant....

Couldn't it be proven (or disproven)... (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851215)

... simply by measuring the electrical characteristics of the cables and comparing them to the typical cables? Certainly if the values are sufficiently different, there should be some merit to the claim, but if not, then it's just a load of hooey.

Re:Couldn't it be proven (or disproven)... (2, Insightful)

timster (32400) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851281)

Randi's challenge is much harder than that -- you have to be able to HEAR the difference in a blind test. Delicate instruments can tell one cable from another pretty well, but the only way to prove that one sounds better is to do a listen. A blind listen, of course, to eliminate psychology.

Re:Couldn't it be proven (or disproven)... (1)

un1xl0ser (575642) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851317)

You would also have to prove that whatever electrical characteristics affect sound quality in a noticeable way across a variety of 'classes' of audio hardware. Without that, you haven't proved the worth of these cables (to an audiophile).

Re:Couldn't it be proven (or disproven)... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20851323)

Well, the cables may be better according to measurements, but can you actually HEAR the difference, which is a totally seperate thing.

Ideally, you'd do a double blind study with a some audiophiles, playing tones and then music through speakers hooked up with one set of cables, and then the other.

Does the cable TRULY produce audiably different music?

Best Buy (1)

AsnFkr (545033) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851225)

Tell the floor sales guys at Best Buy about this. Every single one of them will try to cash in with a "sales pitch".

Re:Best Buy (1)

ArcadeX (866171) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851493)

Only thing I ever tell the floor guys at best buy is 'no thanks'.

Re:Best Buy (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851605)

Tell them you're interested in something that's on a really high shelf that isn't eligible for an extended warranty. You'll never see them again ever.

Well, it generated $1 million worth of... (1)

blcamp (211756) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851243)

...free publicity.

I dare them to go further. (4, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851261)

Show those speaker cables are better than $0.49 a foot lamp cord.

I tried back when I worked in stereo showcase. double blind tests and even testing with high end equipment showed that the $100.00 a foot directional low-oxygen speaker cables were no different than the lamp cord.

Audiophiles typically are some of the stupidest people on the planet. they buy into the snake oil festering bull that any company comes along and pushes in any of the magazines.

Want an awesome example? Richard Gray power conditioners. They cost upwards of $5000.00 and do NOTHING a $49.00 one will. the sales people also make sure to tell you that you will not notice a change when you plug it in, it takes a few weeks for the capacitors and electronics in your equipment to re-learn how to run with clean power.

yes audiophiles fall for that kind of blatent crap!

Re:I dare them to go further. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851331)

Actually, on a technical level there can be a difference.
Run a long distance and check resistance. Lamp cords are really cheap, and may have more 'impurities' then a slightly more expensive copper.

Not that a human can tell the difference, especially over the very short distance most speaker cables are run in the home.

Re:I dare them to go further. (1)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851549)

It's not only resistance, but capacitance, especially over long runs of cable. The capacitance of a cable can lower the high frequency response. As a side note, apparently Stevie Ray Vaughan liked this effect with long runs of guitar cables and continued to use them throughout his career.

But whether you can actually hear the effect on your home stereo enough so that it interferes so much with the music that you can't correct it by bumping up the "treble" knob slightly is dubious.

Yeah, I know some guy will reply saying that he actually CAN hear the difference and it's INCREDIBLE on his $$$$$ stereo, but usually that's the same kind of guy who thinks Yes is the greatest band ever, so his opinion counts for shit.

Re:I dare them to go further. (3, Funny)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851495)

The best example so far I have seen was a demagnetization device for CDs!, yes CDs you read correctly. The even sader part was, that some audiophile magazines wrote positive reviews on that device saying that it was improving the sound quality!

very cheap cables. (1)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851547)

I don't have experience with speaker cable quality, but I know form a small hearing test that there can be a difference between a thin very cheap cable and a thick , slightly more expensive to connect a cd-player to the tuner/amplifier.

However "more dance able" certainly is a very creative way to describe a cable. You ought to give the man some credit in that area.

Re:I dare them to go further. (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851587)

they buy into the snake oil festering bull
OK, the snake oil part I get... that's a standard metaphor that is apt.

The "bull" I get, as a shortened form of "bullshit", meaning outright lies.

But "festering"? Really? Like an insiduous infected wound?

Richard Gray power conditioners. They cost upwards of $5000.00 and do NOTHING a $49.00 one will.
I'd hope they would at least do something a $49 one will... otherwise not only is it no better, it is worse. :)

It is like a placebo for your ears (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20851263)

Or homeopathy for that matter. As for me after shooting too many shotgun shells without ear protection, I would tell the difference if they used electrical cable for speakers.

In other news (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20851291)

In other news, Pear Cable has been named the sole supplier of audio cables to the Department of Defense.

This is silly (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20851297)

The reviewer claimed nothing paranormal about the cables. He described them technically and then claimed they were "danceable." Taking poetic license is not the same as making claims of the paranormal. The author clearly wasn't referring to a mystical property of the cables.

Are the cables worth it? I don't know. But I think Mr. Randi might have too much time on his hands.

Don't forget the cable towers (5, Funny)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851301)

You know, you do not want your speaker cables to be resting on the floor. That results in distortion of the sound. Make sure you are using cable towers [cabletower.com] to hold the $900 per foot cables off the floor.

MMMm... Placebo (3, Informative)

kevmatic (1133523) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851305)

This nutball spends thousands of dollars on SILVER POWER CABLES. http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue15/walkeraudio.htm [positive-feedback.com] Silver POWER CABLES. And he even uses one of these from the wall to his solid-oak-case brass-stool line conditioner. I suppose the Romex in his wall is silver too? I challenge any of these people to submit to a blind test without and with this $12,000 waste. I bet he wouldn't. Any amplifier worth its salt has an immense amount of isolation from its power input anyway. Silver audio cables are just as stupid. How cares about the .000000000003 watt you gain in the decreased resistance in the line!? Silver ain't gonna help against interference.

Randi's Podcast (1)

DeafDumbBlind (264205) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851309)

Randi's pretty cool. I've seen his lectures live a couple of times; very entertaining.
He contributes a segment to the SGU podcast each week.
The SGU rocks!
http://www.theskepticsguide.org/ [theskepticsguide.org]

He'd be safer with HDMI (5, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851321)

Those speaker cables look analog.

I'm not saying that it's at all possible for any human to detect the difference, but I suppose it's theoretically possible that if they are simply audio cables, there might be some measurable difference in the sound, even if no one could tell.

HDMI is where it's truly insane -- yeah, let's gold-plate a cable that transmit a digital signal. Digital is different -- either it worked or it didn't. HDMI even moreso -- if it didn't work, your entire audio/video is likely to cut out all at once, probably for a second or two, until it can be reestablished. If the video works at all, you have a good enough HDMI cable.

Re:He'd be safer with HDMI (1)

kevmatic (1133523) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851473)

You can't send a digital signal to a speaker. The signal's gotta become analog sooner or later.

HDMI/optical/SPDIF is only good for getting to the amplifier. These cables are running from the amplifier to the speaker. It has to be analog at that point, unless you put the amplifier IN the speaker, which no one does.

Sound waves are an analog thing. You can't expect to create them digitally; the speaker cone is going to respond to any changes in its electrical input.

I can prove it (5, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851325)

If you sell an idiot $5 cables, you only get $5 from him.
If you sell an idiot $7,000 cable, you get $7000 from him.

This proves that $7,000 cables are superior to $5 cables.

Where is my million?

Re:I can prove it (2, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851377)

There are far more 5 dollar idiots then 7000 dollar idiots. Millions more people.

So sell to both (1)

anomaly (15035) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851609)

If you can make money off of the $5 idiots, the $50 idiots, and the $7K idiots, you'll get rich!

Re:I can prove it (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851619)

Yes, but some of those idiots will pay 7000 if it's offered to them. So you get the maximum profit by doing price discrimination and offering a $7000 product, however insane it may be.

One $7000 idiot is worth more than 1400 $5 idiots.

Bwahahaha!! (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851395)

Okay, that post officially made my morning.

Need to do ABX testing (4, Insightful)

elwinc (663074) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851337)

The only reliable way to test matters of subtle perception (be it food or sound or whatever) is the ABX test http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABX_test [wikipedia.org] . It works like this: present two known different samples -- call them A and B. Then present an unknown sample -- call it X that's either identical to A or to B. Can the listener or taster or whatever reliably classify X? If so, you have evidence of a perceptible difference. If no one beats chance over a reasonable number of trials, you have evidence that there is no perceptible difference between A and B.

While we're at it... (4, Interesting)

mo (2873) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851341)

Perhaps he can also uncover why this reviewer [202.186.86.35] thinks that a $60 aftermarket DVD power cable somehow affects it's digital video output. From the review:

Colours of the individual vehicles come out much richer, and the all-important skin tone (she shows quite a bit of it too ...) is more natural. Edges are more defined, which makes it easy to make out the shapes and movement of vehicles far below. The biggest improvement, though, was in terms of contrast, and it was easier to make out details on areas of shadow than before.

Re:While we're at it... (1)

Eponymous Bastard (1143615) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851543)

Because by the time he did the first test and plugged in the new power cable it had turned into night? The lower ambient light made the contrast look that much better.

Of course, I'm just guessing, but he might be stupid rather than untruthful.

Of course,it might be fun to grab a bunch of audiophiles, do double blind tests with their gear and then file a class action lawsuit for fraud against these magazines and manufacturers.

Good for Randi (1)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851371)

I'm glad to see this offer. I am on the email list of a business that sells classical recordings and also apparently does a big business in turntables and various ridiculously priced gizmos to improve the sound of vinyl records. I like their email because sometimes they have SACDs or DVD-Audio discs for sale that I am interested in, but I abandoned records back in the late 80s. Apparently there are quite a few people out there with more money than sense who are convinced that "digital = suxor" and "vinyl = great". These people think nothing of spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars on gizmos like record clamps and such to supposedly "improve" the sound of their records. The choice is yours - you can buy the CD for $15 or you can buy the record for $30, the record clamp for $1994.99, the stylus force gauge to adjust your turntable needle for only $195, and so on. I'm not going to provide a link as I think they don't deserve to be Slashdotted. Nobody forces their idiotic customers spend so much money on turnables and accessories when they could just buy the CDs for a fraction of the cost. There are huge drawbacks to records - surface noise, every play of the disc technically causes it to degrade if only a little, less dynamic range than CD, and so on, yet apparently there is a group of rich boy vinylphiles out there who really can't spend enough money on things to improve the sound of their records. I congratulate Randi for calling b.s. on this whole subculture, but expect it to make no difference and for no one to take up his challenge.

It's all about social status (5, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851389)

The ability to spend $5k on a cable indicates to females that you have higher social status than the rest of the ordinary spuds who only spend $5.
 

Aw Jeez, Not This Shit Again! (5, Insightful)

Brazilian Geek (25299) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851413)

I know a few audiophiles, I know a lot of Windows evangelists, I know open source evangelists and I know quite a few evangelical Christians and all of them sound the exact same to me.

It all comes down to faith and the feeling that "I'm better than you."

Snake oil... very expensive snake oil (2, Interesting)

Tyrantmode (1053426) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851431)

I've been a self described "audiophile" for quite a long time now, and it never ceases to amaze me just how much cash you can drop on upgrades for a sound or theater system. Speakers, woofers, tweeters, 2 way and 3 way setups, room design, cables, terminations, power cleaning... the list of products can go on and on forever. Some of these guys are really and truly nuts. I spent about 2 hours one day talking to an "expert" at a Tweeter and he firmly believed that due to the current flowing through the speaker wires you should have them elevated above the floor (on paper cups that are turned upside down and have a trench cut through them to support the wire) and leave them "at rest for at least a few days before pushing current through them to settle the magnetism radiating from them". The amount of money that can be spent on something as simple as speaker cables completely boggles the mind, and almost all of the marketing is spooky ghost stories about how this one works better than another one due to umpteen factors that nobody even really knows anything about. The problem is that it's difficult to scientifically PROVE that one cable isn't better than the other (at least as far as I'm aware), which is likely why he's put up this challenge. Proving the performance of a speaker cable beyond simply resistance, length and loss is hardly an exact science and often is open to the interpretation of the listener. Perhaps a blind test with a large amount of subjects would help but then you're still dealing with opinions which can hardly be substituted for fact.

My mechanic makes a fortune truing Rim$$ (1)

gelfling (6534) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851481)

Almost all aftermarket Rims, are out of true in at least 2 dimensions if not all of them. My mechanic makes a fortune dealing with problems associated with these $4000 rims including tire wearout, alignment problems and a whole host of expensive problems.

Pear's headquaters (5, Informative)

hrieke (126185) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851485)

The interesting thing that I noticed in reading up on the cable was that Pear is local to me.
So I looked up their address listed, and it's residential. From the appearance, this appears to be a virtual company, in a nice Tony neighborhood, and all the owners have to do is sell a hundred cables and the house is paid for.

Oh, and the first and final word on speaker cable is from McIntosh's Rodger Russell [roger-russell.com] .

reminds me of "BALANCED HEADPHONE AMP" (2, Insightful)

crgrace (220738) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851507)

We had a good laugh at work about this balanced headphone amp: http://www.headphone.com/products/headphone-amps/the-max-line/headroom-balanced-max-amp.php [headphone.com]

We were thinking if there are really people paying $4k for this stuff, we're in the wrong business (Analog Integrated Circuits)

Audiophiles are idiots. The issue is they have more pretension than technical acumen... so they are easily taken.

Carl

Added Value (1)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851537)

From the cables' website:

"In extended listening sessions, I found the cables' greatest strength to be its PRAT."

No wonder they cost $8000. :D

Joke? (1)

Nevynxxx (932175) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851555)

Seriously, is the article linked not just a joke?

If not, can someone please define PRAT for me?

PRAT (4, Funny)

tsa (15680) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851575)

I never had cables with PRAT. I guess that's why I don't listen to music as much as I used to. Without PRAT, the joy of listening deminishes with time. I will go to the shop tonight and ask for cables with PRAT! PRAT is where it's at!
But I have one question for Dave Clark. I was told by my audiophilic colleagues in the late 1990's that as a true audiophile it is important to:

1. Check which way your amplifier is plugged in. Having the main power plug in the wrong way wreaks havoc on the sound,

2. Switch on your amplifier at least half an hour before even thinking about playing music, even if you have an amplifier that is devoid of any tubes whatsoever,

3. Put a second CD on top of the CD you want to play,

4. Keep your CD's in the freezer at all times.

This is all very very important for getting the best sound quality. Did you do all those things Dave? If not, I can't take your review seriously, sorry.

Not the normal fanboys we're dealing with... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20851579)

Forget all you know about fanboys. Nintendo-fanboys, Sony-fanboys, whatever...

Audiophile are far more than just religious about their shit. Their ears bleed when the brand is wrong. And the only way to stop the bleeding is turning money into music.

A fool and his money (5, Interesting)

15Bit (940730) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851601)

As a former employee of a HiFi shop i can say that this is an area which demonstrates some of the strangest and least empirical methodologies imaginable. Some of the customers are far from normal too. We had a guy who got the local electric company to lay a dedicated cable from the main copper in the road direct to his HiFi. Another had a custom listening room built as an annex to his house. Then of course there were the cd-freezing, green-pen-toting brigade...

Frankly, the drug dealers were our best customers - they just wanted something loud and they didn't f**k you around by insisting you order the latest greatest cable as reviewed by their favourite HiFi magazine. Paid in cash too.

Gotta give it to Randi (3, Insightful)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 6 years ago | (#20851621)

By offering 1 million to hoaxers to prove their claims true, he has debunked more scams than anyone else with effectively a budget of $0.
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