Saturday 20 April 2024

As We Hear It: Audiophile cable truths, claims, and reviewer age. Multichannel "madness"?

Hey everyone, this week let's have a look at a recent E-mail I received and think about the "classic" audiophile topic of contention over the decades - cables!

It has been awhile since I've talked about cables (I've published a number of cable measurements over the years, links collected here). It's not much fun talking about cables these days because after awhile I think most of us have tried enough cables and honestly just realized the truth that it really doesn't matter what the salespeople claim. There are better things to do like just sitting back and enjoying the music than obsessing over what essentially are minutiae with less potential effects* than hi-res audio recordings (which itself is usually questionable).

[* Unless of course the cable intentionally acts as a filter like some of the MIT cables - as per their patent.]

Here's an E-mail I received from reader JW Haus in March in response to a magazine article in Stereophile:

Hi Arch,

I want to share some ideas about Herb Reichert’s IKIGAI cable review found on, 2/29/2024. Comments are still being posted, but I wonder if I want to contribute to an argument that has gone on for too long and gotten too nasty. You probably know about this being one of the contributors.

First, my experiences with wires/cables are few, having bought my first serious pair of speaker cables about fifteen years ago. I was very pleased by the increase in bass and increase in sound stage size compared to my cheap cables [could this have been the resistance of the cables interacting with the amp's damping factor?], so I tried several interconnects (<$1k) and was disappointed. My interest in cables ended there.  However, not having experienced true hi-end cables doesn’t disqualify me from objecting to Reichert “review” particularly to this statement and others about details and clarity: "The Kangai-level IKIGAIs brought to my system a fresh-air clarity and a "Lights, camera, action!" vibe that equaled or exceeded AudioQuest's Thunderbird". This is a statement made by a salesman/shill not by a critical reviewer. I believe these claims to be baseless for these reasons:

The enemies of clarity and detail, noise and distortion (& probably jitter), have nearly been defeated - hurray!  You can see this when you visit ASR (am assuming you know who this is). Measured distortion and noise of some reasonably priced DACs and amplifiers are approaching or below human thresholds of hearing. Eventually, you won’t be able to tell the difference between these electric boxes.

Now Reichert may tell you: "good, that will help me hear the cables better". But going back to your surveys about mp3 and CD, few participants could hear a difference between them and remember Pono failed partly because people couldn't tell the difference between mp3 and what Neil Young was selling. Now, Reichert being over 55 [Ed. I believe Reichert is over 70, see below] may not be able to hear a frequency range greater than 8kHz. But more importantly, his hearing (like mine) is likely attenuated in the bass and treble frequencies. How can he claim to hear all these details, if he can't hear those frequencies which are important for some recordings? Hence, because his hearing is compromised he is unable to be a reliable reporter of detail or differences in details.

But I can go further, and again appeal to Amir’s work at ASR who tests DACs with ordinary wires then swaps those with hi-end wires, makes the same measurements, and compares the results.  Differences are usually very small, but sometimes the hi-end wires perform worse! If I post this at Stereophile, some people will say he’s not measuring the right things (perhaps some woo); some will say measurements are irrelevant. There's no convincing some folks.

One other thing involves one-box systems, receivers, and integrated amps as related to this topic. They need no interconnects, but do need speaker cables. In these boxes, wires connecting amp to preamp circuits, or DAC to preamp circuits are very short in length and should offer an advantage over interconnects. I am wondering if this can contribute to this argument in some way, so far as interconnects go. Seems if there were an advantage, manufacturers would have advertised it.


Thank you for that comment JW. Over the years, we've indeed seen countless comments like yours pointing out the incredulous claims by many writers in the audiophile press. As you noted, I have dipped my toes into these debates once awhile but I try not to be engrossed in the forum threads these days simply because the truth is obvious when it comes to passive lengths of conductors. That some manufacturers and remaining audiophiles will still strongly claim that cables make a massive difference will probably always be the case regardless of how much "mainstream" audiophile thinking might change in the years ahead based on rational thought and empirical evidence. After all, even with hundreds of years of astronomical observations, there are still some who seem to believe in a "flat Earth".

Getting excited about fancy cables is a little like the initiation tax that all audiophiles seem to have to go through before we mature and recognize that it simply makes no sense electrically given the short lengths of speaker cables or interconnects we typically use in our systems (by short, I generally think of <12' RCA interconnects, <25' speaker cables and XLR). So long as we follow some basic guidelines (like the use of decent 12AWG high quality copper speaker cables with good connectors). I bet you would have been more than happy with generic but decent wire when you upgraded 15 years ago.

I agree that with the years of objective testing, we have a very good sense now of the relative amounts of noise and distortions that have been "defeated". Regardless of how much one believes in the listening abilities of certain subjective-only reviewers, there's no denying that they cannot with any factual grounding insist that they hear ever-lower noise levels, and ever-lower distortion (and jitter) when these days it would not be difficult at all to run an objective test with a little effort. To achieve a similar level of evidence from these reviewers would require blind testing - when was the last time a subjective-only reviewer reported on his blind listening test results with cables?

Alas, some audiophiles are unable to fully satisfy their cable-insecurities; an insecurity that some individuals and companies will happily exploit for financial gain. This is not to say that a company or audiophile should not spend good money to make/acquire high-quality things that make us happy with out disposable income! Just that when we talk about this stuff, it's important to be insightful about the truthfulness of claims made.

Yeah, Reichert's comments are baffling and IMO obviously hard to believe. As he openly admits in the first line of his article, he was a peddler of "million-dollar sound systems"; and he is still peddling expensive, luxury stuff to this day, including those US$9400 "Kangai-level" 2m/6.6ft speaker cables.

I know it's frowned upon these days and one might be called "ageist" for speaking like this, but I agree that we have to be honest with ourselves and each other. Indeed, as we get older, we simply won't be hearing more details or be able to appreciate lower noise floors or lower distortions. Deterioration is slow and we might not notice it until one day some 20 year old reminds us that we can't seem to hear that annoying "Mosquito machine" they use to deter loitering at the local shopping mall. While higher frequencies are most affected as we get older, we will gradually lose dBs on the low end as well. Here's a nice graph from a recent 2021 Lancet paper comparing men and women of pure-tone perception:

While age may be good for fine wine, I'm afraid the years are doing us audiophiles no favors. Based on his previous article, Reichert was born in 1949. This means he's about 74 years old now - notice what that implies based on the graphs above (even though Herb's not a Japanese man as per the research test group, I trust his threshold vs. age trajectory would be similar). While some of us may have faster decline (don't listen too loud!), others may be blessed and "go" slower. Indeed, from the lofty hearing abilities of our twenties, by the time we're septuagenarians, that's a relative drop of -35dB or more at 8kHz (and just as unfortunate -20dB at 4kHz!). No matter how great our "golden ears" were at their peak, one must not deny biology, dear audiophiles, for that would simply be foolish (we must accept the limits of our hearing and cognitive abilities).

When it comes to the cable review, what Herb meant by "fresh-air clarity" or why "changing audio cables always changes the sound of my system", or "how silver added something akin to a shimmering halo around the stereo apparition" challenges my sense of reality (obviously why we get into heated arguments). The reader obviously has to figure out for him/herself which is more likely the truth: that Herb Reichert at age 74 is able to hear all these things he describes accurately and reliably, or that he's using his artistic license (he is an artist after all) to create an impressionistic desire for readers to explore these products he presumably has faith in. As one who "peddled" million-dollar sound systems, I would humbly suggest that the latter option seems much more likely.

Like ASR, and Audioholics, I too have seen instances where more expensive cables make no difference or might even be worse. Here's a measurement from the other night using 2 different XLR cables, both connected at the same time to the RME ADI-2 Pro FS, running in loopback from DAC to ADC. The left channel is a relatively expensive 6' XLR from a well-known audiophile brand that costs around US$200, the right channel is connected with a generic 10' "SRADIO"-branded US$17 cord (>10x difference in price).

See any significant difference with the hi-res FFT overlaid even with a more complex Triple-Tone waveform showing potential harmonic and intermodulation distortion products?

No? Well, I certainly would not blame you for thinking that there's also no difference in sound quality between the two cables then - I did not hear a difference. Since the RME is a hi-res DAC/ADC, clearly the impact of the cables is less than the resolution limits of this device. I can just as easily record music played through those cables and listen to make sure there's no channel imbalance, changed bass or treble extension, or greater detail in the left channel compared to the inexpensive cable on the right.

I've spent some time listening over the years and I can firmly say that for me, changing audio cables rarely ever affects the sound of my system now that I'm in my early 50's - not that in my 20s, 30s, or 40s did I hold any strong impression that they did even though this seemed much more exciting when I started the hi-fi journey. So enjoy the excitement, young audiophiles (like this guy, but skip the nonsense we discussed previously). Ultimately, don't waste too much time or money on it because I think you're going to regret being excessive one day looking back.

Of course, some of the extreme subjectivist audiophiles will always complain about measurements "not measuring the right thing". There's nothing wrong with providing criticism if one doesn't think something is measured/done correctly, but wouldn't it be better to provide constructive criticism? Seriously, in the last 3 decades, in what ways have purely-subjective "golden eared" opinions moved the needle towards evolving this hobby to achieve higher fidelity sound quality? For example, on the whole, do we have better cables today because subjective listeners helped us define the best geometry, the best materials, the best connectors to create consistently better models? Not that I've seen! Hi-fi has only gotten better because the physical properties like measurable noise level, lower distortion, lower jitter, better crosstalk, higher dynamic range have been improved upon with better engineering, not better "golden ear" feedback.

Yeah, I think there's certainly something to be said about all-in-one integrated DACs/pres/amps. It'll save money on cables and with well-engineered gear, noise and interference should not be an issue. If there is an issue, measurements would tell us with a little bit of effort (or you could send it to ASR if Amir's interested in your piece 🤔). I don't see "saving money" as necessarily something the high-end audio industry wants to flaunt though by advertising to audiophiles that their all-in-one is better than spending thousands on pieces of wire and connectors! Who knows, their next model might require those fancy cables with fat margins.

Finally, as usual, beware of snake oil salesmen who have nothing meaningful to add to the audiophile hobby other than pushing their own fantasies.

Check out this obvious snake oil salesman from Synergistic Research (still not sure what this company researches, and if it's even reality-based):

IMO, this coarse-spoken, high-school dropout who dreams up stuff based on "quantum" rationales, claiming he's "innovating", having started an audio cable company after mushroom trips is not someone I would personally find commendable. No OCD Mikey, he's not doing what "anybody would love to do in this business" unless one is a sociopathic entrepreneur; I see what he does as simply an embarrassment and shameful for this hobby.

BTW, notice the emptiness of the interview and the inability of the man to explain anything about his "technology". He was more interested in talking about his motorbikes. You may recall, I wrote about some measurements / description of his products 10 years ago, and witnessed his dog and pony show; this is why reasonable people think audiophiles are insane.

For entertainment only, want to see more from this fascinating character? Check out the SWAF demo of his "Voodoo" Streaming Server and his "Vibratron" using "Carmen Fantasy" from The All Star Percussion Ensemble (1983, DR13), and "What a Wonderful World" from Friend'n Fellow off Covered in the demo.

Okay JW, that should be enough audiophile wire discussions from me for awhile. 😐 Thanks for the E-mail!


Multichannel Madness?

Let's see... I've been enjoying the 24/48 LPCM 5.1 multichannel version of Beyoncé's self-titled album ripped from the "Visual" BluRay (2014 release, DR11). Fantastic if you like her music and the result from Dolby Surround Upmix or dts Neural:X is good for those with Atmos/height channels.  As usual, the multichannel version has better dynamic range compared to the CD at only DR6. If you have some nice speakers/sub with good low-frequency oomph, check out "Yoncé" and turn up the volume for a deep visceral experience.

Remember guys, multichannel is not just "Atmos". There have been thousands of multichannel albums and live concerts released on dts-CD, DVD, Blu-Ray, SACD, and DVD-A already well before streaming Atmos/Spatial Audio/360 Reality Audio content. Do a search of Discogs with the term "multichannel" and you will see more than 20,000 titles even though some of them may be repeats, promos, or demo albums - still plenty of music for a lifetime of enjoyment across genres. While admittedly most of my listening remains 2-channel stereo content, multichannel has been such a compelling experience that I've made sure to have multichannel playback available here at home since the early 2000's, not just for movies.

My first discrete multichannel system with an eye to good music playback was probably cobbled together a year after Telarc sent me a promo copy of their Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture multichannel hybrid SACD in 2001. I guess I purchased enough SACDs from them that they decided to send me the bonus disk! My system back then was based on the excellent Denon AVR-3802 receiver which still works well and sounds great today.

As discussed recently, EAC3-JOC Atmos streaming, while lossy, is typically at a reasonably high bitrate (like 768kbps) so it sounds good and there's no need to get anxious about it even though as audiophiles we can continue to advocate for lossless TrueHD-Atmos content when possible!

In some applications like mobile listening, high-bitrate lossy is more than enough. This is why, IMO, while Bluetooth lossless is interesting and will be more prevalent in time as we achieve higher bandwidth wireless communications, it's not needed for mobile audio enjoyment today. Despite Qualcomm's aptX Lossless announcement in September 2021, we're just starting to see product support now with minimal audible difference as expected.

I see that recently John Darko again is speaking out against Atmos which he has the right to express. However, taking the step to emotionally provoke by calling it "madness" is more than a little unreasonable. While there's quite a bit of madness in audiophilia as per the cable discussions and salesmanship shown above, multichannel/Atmos is certainly far from insane given the difference that it can make to one's potential listening enjoyment! As I recall, a few years back, Darko thought USB cables could sound significantly different from each other (based on faith in audiophile heroes), and even at one point recommended a £888/m USB cable which has since increased to >£1000/m over the years. That, my friends, is I think a better example of real madness. You can buy some nice rear speakers for the price of that USB cable if you have room and are interested in going beyond 2-channels!

I would suggest starting with even a 4.0 (2 front, 2 rear/surround, 0 sub) AV receiver system assuming one has speakers with decent bass extension which will already provide a good "quad" immersive experience, and then expanding over time with the sub, center, and then maybe Atmos height speakers if you desire. Nobody insists one has to start with 7.2.4 (7 horizontal, 2 subs, 4 heights). Heck, I'm pretty happy with 5.2.2 and one day I'll go to 5.2.4, but there's no urgency in this. To me it's that horizontal surround experience beyond one's typical 60° stereo layout (which is why XTC can be great) that's much more important than height channels anyway.

Multichannel is just the natural extension of reproducing soundstage information beyond the jump from mono to 2-channel stereo decades ago. Adding height channels is then the step beyond horizontal 360° to include the Y-axis, this is great but comparatively less important IMO.

I guess it's too bad Darko doesn't seem to have enough room in his apartment/condo to get the job done; he's missing out on some really good stuff. Oh well, maybe at some point he might appreciate the importance of promoting creative opportunities for musicians and audio engineers by advocating for technological progress. One day, maybe he'll be thankful that a better mix with improved dynamic range is available for an album he loves thanks to those who worked and saw the benefits of multichannel today.

Because they seem to be mainly in the business of promoting something available today to sell, audiophile writers and reviewers I feel often lack vision.

[ Speaking of audiophile hero Gordon Rankin, I noticed his unusual comment in a recent Stereophile interview article with Steven Wilson. He seems more than a little concerned about non-44.1kHz-family sample rates even though these days non-integer resampling is excellent with software like iZotope RX (ie. resampling from 96 to 44.1kHz is not going to cause audible issues). Other than the historical fact that CD is defined as an awkward 44.1kHz because of PAL/NTSC recordings back in the day, I prefer base 48.0kHz if only because it pushes the digital filter effects out a couple of kHz and is a nice round number.

While we'll always need 44.1kHz backward compatibility, as the impact of CD diminishes and almost all digital consumption is streamed, I think it's wise that Dolby Atmos streaming has standardized on 48kHz, and hi-res these days typically at 24/96. Sample rates like 88.2 and 176.4kHz should probably be considered as upsampling targets rather than as high-quality digital audio distribution targets which I would prefer to be 96 and 192kHz. I think it's good to simplify and standardize these values especially as we progress into a "post hi-res audio" era away from simply caring about these big numbers (that at one point Neil Young personified in his Pono advertising). 44.1kHz (CD), 48kHz (standard modern digital), and 96kHz (hi-res) are basically all I've been adding into my music library for the last number of years.]

In the pop world, on Friday, Taylor Swift dropped her latest album The Tortured Poets Department (2024, DR7 average for The Anthology 2-channel, DR12 for the Atmos mix) and as expected broke all kinds of "most streamed" records. It will be interesting to hear what the fans think of this one. As usual, I've got some "Swifties" in my family who happily shelled out my money for some tickets to her concert here in Vancouver later this year 🤔. So far I've only heard "Fortnight" from the album which I suspect will be popular. I'm sure I'll get a chance to catch up on her music over the weekend and have a listen to the multichannel/Atmos mix with its clearly superior dynamic range.

Finally, since the art/skill of Atmos mixing is still developing, it's interesting to see that new mixes have been released with 2024 versions of The Weeknd's albums After Hours (2020) and Dawn FM (2022) among others like Ariana Grande's My Everything (2014). So if you like these albums on Apple Music or Tidal or Amazon, have a listen again, it might be a new, and hopefully improved, multichannel "spatial" experience! The future of music production will feature the talents of celebrated mixing engineers like Steven Wilson and what they're able to accomplish in creating the sound while moving away from the mastering engineer we've often revered doing audiophile remasters on vinyl and the like.

Okay guys and gals, gotta get some work done, plus a trip to NYC planned. I enjoyed my visit to Stereo Exchange in 2015 when there. Any other audio stores I should check out while in Manhattan? Maybe I'll get a chance to listen to some DeVore speakers as discussed here.

Reminder: While expensive cables are passive devices, DACs are not. So make sure if you haven't already done so, take part in the 2024 "High-End" DAC Blind Listening Survey before May 15th and tell me what you hear and which device recording sounded better. There are no wrong answers and I think for those who take part, the experience will be all the more interesting once I unveil the DACs used, and you can say you've been involved in a blind test at some point in your audiophile career with the results posted for future reference for audiophile "colleagues". 🙋‍♂️

Hope you're enjoying the music, audiophiles!


  1. Thanks for your blog, and in this case, for the updates on multichannel. I would be interested to return to multichannel, as soon as there are reasonable solutions where most speakers can be connected wirelessly to the processor. Wireless self powered speakers were not ubiquitous when I set my first multich rig, year 2000, and in a small-ish appartment it was an ugly mess. It was not justifiable when most hearing was in stereo, so the upgrade path was clear. Multichannel might have a second chance if it could also be an add-on to quality stereo rigs: one extra box, some wireless speakers around, software optimising the setup.

    1. A pleasure anibal,
      Definitely multichannel can be messy without the appropriate space. It's inevitable and I agree that wireless can go a long way to cleaning things up so long as the power outlets are conveniently located for amp/powered speakers.

      Wireless will of course also bring with it potential complications like latency that would need to be addressed as well as making sure the quality is as good as possible (24/96 lossless recommended!). Nothing insurmountable I trust!

      Regarding space and multichannel, while I'm sure companies will continue to work on smaller devices like sound bars and things that work such as using DSP beam-steering, better headphone "spatial" processing, there's just no substitute for space and proper placement.

      It's like subwoofers. No matter how much we wish we could have a 1' cube sub that can hit 20Hz, it won't happen; not clean and without distortion! Just a matter of physics... Not until the day we can plug our brains directly into the ultimate virtual-reality device!

    2. Thank you again for another wonderful article!

  2. The modern-day tweaker has a problem:
    The parts of the system he likes to fiddle with are audibly transparent if you use well-engineered gear. Digital sources, DAC, amp - all mature technology.
    The parts of the system where optimizations are to be had (speakers + room) are not easily tweakable in the way the tweaker likes, i.e. purchase a new gadget, connect and then sit back to listen the definitive improvement the expense brought.
    Speakers are a major investment, and the partner (if there is one) might notice, plus all the audiophile stuff weighs a ton and cannot easily be maneuvered. Room treatment can be done incrementally (though it really makes most sense when seen holistically), but it's not electronics and maybe too like home decorating (and, again, the partner may notice and object). EQ would represent the possibility to fiddle endlessly, but does not offer the endorphin kick of having made a new purchase, and probably feels like cheating since you adding "just the right smidgen more of bass" to the system would be trivial.
    So the tweaker resorts to valuing subjective impressions over valid science, to pseudo-scientific explanations and esoteric concepts. This allows him to believe that his source chain is forever shy of perfection and there are still endless improvments to be had, if only he spends the money and gets the perfect upgrade.

    1. Great point and valid perspective gzost,
      With the ongoing pace of progress around digital and computer audio, there's almost nothing left objectively to "tweak". To me this is great because this is exactly what is supposed to happen with technology improving.

      Tweakers could always look elsewhere like putting their energies into assembling Raspberry Pi's, exploring DSP, or figuring out how to measure for room correction, etc. Stuff that actually could make a difference rather than just buying things.

      Perhaps more "painful" for the "high end" tweaking cottage industry. Yeah, Ted Denney of Synergistic can continue to sell (pink?) fuses, hock $50,000 power conditioners, push his Level 4 EFT UEF Quantum Transducer Tuning Bullets or whatever, but IMO this will progressively look ridiculous to more and more audiophiles versed in the technology. We'll see whether the hobby needs this many audiophile cable companies as well - of course I already believe there is simply one too many Synergistic Research.

      There seems to be an inverse correlation between things that work vs. what's sexy to buy. Room treatments are not sexy but they work. Fancy cables are sexy but for the most part do not "work" (as in making the sound better).

      Just one of the many paradoxes of the human psyche, I suppose!

      Hope you're enjoying the music gzost.

    2. Listening to some Mahler on my pair of Dan Clark E3 and definitely enjoying the music. Getting these was an audio purchase well worth it. It shows that Dan Clark designs based on measurements and science! I now consider my search for a "critical listening" headphone done (and it doesn't even need EQ!)

      Synergistic Research - well, they truly are a piece of work. When looking at their Web site I was constantly torn between amazement at the brazenness of the claims, despair at how obviously and utterly insane it all is, and anger that credulous people are parted with so much money.

    3. Nice stuff, those Dan Clark headphones! I had a listen not long ago but am pretty sure not the E3. Congrats!

      Oi, Synergistic. An episode from "Strange But True"; to think that this stuff persists all these years in audiophilia... I guess it's still one tiny step down from the psychosis that is Machina Dynamica! 🫣

  3. Yo Arch! Thanks for the ongoing audiophile commentary and voice of reason.

    When I talk to other audiophiles friends, I often recommend that they look at this blog. You've covered so much over the years and I think this is probably the most comprehensive overview of audiophile topics without pulling punches consistently coming from one person. Keep up the great work.

    Darko recently posted that he will be chatting with Steve Wilson and "I am 100% a convert to the Dolby Atmos listening experience, less so to the amount of new hardware required to bring it home, the inconvenience of that hardware’s installation and the paucity of Atmos content, especially in a lossless format. I will be raising these concerns with Steven Wilson when I sit down with him in Munich." Thoughts?

    I just submitted my listening results. Fingers crossed my hearing's still decent! :)

    1. Just remembered a couplr of things I wanted to say.

      Thanks for talking about age. Reviewers write about what they hear all the time and I look at them on Youtube and thing to myself how this is possible when some of them are just so *old*! I'm thinking of 'The Audiophiliac' as an example.

      Also can you tell us what $200 XLR cable you used in the graph compared to the $17 one?

    2. Thanks for the note JScull.

      I must admit that I would never have guessed that I'd still have this blog running if anyone were to ask me 10 years back! I guess one thing led to another and topics just opened up over the years to talk about. Looking back, I'm glad that I've put my thoughts here so I can easily link to the writings and articles over time. Otherwise, I would have just been writing a lot of this stuff on forums, most of it disappearing into various deep threads!

      Hmmm, it will be interesting to read what Steven Wilson has to say to Darko about Atmos, I suppose. IMO, high bitrate lossy multichannel sounds good already yet I think we can all agree that at some point it would be nice to stream TrueHD-Atmos lossless. Physical media like Blurays are great but best reserved for collectors' editions than typical music consumption. In the world of video, lossy encoding is the norm regardless of whether streamed or played off physical media. I don't think there's anything wrong with accepting that high-bitrate lossy multichannel streams are also just fine the vast majority of the time.

      As for the inconvenience with the multiple speakers/amps/hardware - Wilson should just say "go rent a bigger apartment with room for the necessary speakers you need, John". Or something like that... No apologies! If Darko doesn't have the space then that's just unfortunate and he needs to listen to Atmos processed over headphones, I guess. Lots of people don't have room for even a decent 2-channel speaker system; no need to whine about it or call anything "madness". 🥺

      We can ruminate about expensive DACs, amps, even speakers all we want, but really the most important thing to own has always been a good sound room, which provides the freedom to turn up the volume and not disturb neighbors, or do things like multichannel/Atmos.

      As for the age issue, I don't think there's any need to beat around the bush. I notice that some of the most expensive high-end gear reviews in magazines like Stereophile are given to the most "senior" writers. Guys like Michael Fremer in the past, JV Serinus, maybe even Herb Reichert. Yet these rather old guys probably are also the most compromised hearing-wise as "subjective only" reviewers. Clearly, the "instrument" they use to adjudicate sound (ie. the "golden ears") has well passed their best-before dates. At least John Atkinson produces measurements. So too with the likes of Robert Harley of TAS, or Alan Sircom of HiFi+... Yeah, Guttenberg "The Audiophiliac" looks to be over 70 as well. Maybe with the years of experience, these guys can express their thoughts well, but if they can barely hear a fair chunk of the audible 20-20kHz spectrum, what good is their opinion of state-of-the-art audio products?!

      I rarely take subjective hardware reviews especially from guys of this "vintage" seriously and most of the time am only looking at the albums they're using to maybe try out some unfamiliar music.

      Let me keep the brand name of the $200 XLR cable anonymous for now. I'll talk about it at a later point. 🤫

      Take care man, and enjoy the tunes!

  4. I have been following Archimago's blog for many years just as I read some famous audiophile websites of various colours and tastes. The different approaches become more evident from time to time when some heated discussions arise on exotic equipment. Spending thousands of dollars for a few metres of cable is beyond my comprehension regardless of one's financial ability to pay that amount. It looks so pathetic to me to see that some intelligent, knowledgeable and reasonable people struggle so much to persuade audiophile society around the world to stay sane and accept the scientific methodology to evaluate some playback equipment used to enjoy music at home.
    I live in Istanbul and write some articles as a hobby on a local online hi-fi magazine. This is the google translation of an article that might sound relevant to some readers.
    Thank you Archimago for defending reason over superstition on this wonderful hobby of creating musical reality at our homes.

    1. Hey there Aykut,
      Thanks for the link and the discussions! Good to see rational discussions in the Turkish blogosphere :-).

      While sensational claims about thousands of dollars "worth" of cables might turn heads and get some people excited, I hope in time audiophiles recognize that this stuff was always too good to be true. Flash-in-the-pan fiction like comic books or superhero stories we might imagine when we were younger (but at least with those things we consciously suspend reality-testing).

      Unless we personally enjoy "being fooled" all the time, I would hope that eventually we all become reality-based rather than always seeking out fantasies. I see it as a matter of maturity.

      The fact that we have 60-year old Ted Denney and full-on geriatric Reichert prancing like they can hear "things" is all the more silly. 😂

  5. Egads, I should not have watched any of that OCD Hi-Fi guy interview after eating! I actually watch Mikey's channel sometimes just because he shows some interesting gear. But it's tough making the way through his personality, which seems to be a combination of every audiophile blowhard salesman I'd ever met. He casts himself as a truth-teller, bravely railing against B.S. in high end audio, while at the same time promulgating tons of utter Golden Ear B.S.

    In an earlier video he had expressed his deep admiration for the guy he's interviewing, basically just on the grounds of his canniness and ruthless will to make money. That told me all I needed to know about Mikey himself as well. Blech.

    1. Well said Vaal,
      Likewise, I find the "No Snake Oil" stance he claims to take (along with that logo in some of the videos) like Orwellian Newspeak; classic "blackwhite". LOL.

      It's entertaining nonetheless watching some of these videos - sorta like sitting in a café "people watching", I guess... Very much a caricature of a certain kind of audio salesman.

      Admiration for people like Denney would be grossly misplaced and speaks of a "birds of a feather" association if they can't see the obvious antisocial features.

  6. Archimago, thanks for all the good stuff you've been delivering lately!

    For 2-channel listening in my main system, it's actually all digital, with a streamer connected to digital inputs on the speakers. Apart from the convenience, it also gives me some peace of mind, not really having to worry about cables at all. Obviously, for surround, I still have countless analog cables...

    As Darko points out, there are certainly some valid "concerns" about Atmos, for example system complexity, physical space requirements, music availability etc. It's not for everyone. But madness - surely not!

    1. For sure Freddie,
      No way to escape from the added complexity of multichannel (just as stereo doubled the speakers, amp channels, cables, space requirements over mono). Certainly will not be for everyone just as I think "head-fi" with some of the high-end headphones will not be for everyone.

      I think as an audiophile who prefers speakers, I would love to see the day when the attitude (online and in magazines) is that multichannel is recognized as aspirational for those who have the room and want to pursue immersive realism (of acoustic recordings) plus reproduce the immersive creativity (of synthetic soundscapes).

  7. Hi Arch-
    1. Darko: I don't get his whole campaign against ATMOS. He admits when he heard it, it sound great. So what's the problem?
    Expensive and DIYish? No one is forcing us to get an multichannel system. It's choice. If you don't want one or don't have room for it, don't get one and continue listening in stereo.
    That's what I do and it doesn't bother me that other people have multichannel - good for them.
    I also think his technical arguments about multichannel are pointless. Like any setup, you need to compensate for room effects.
    2. Age: I'm 67 and certainly hearing compromised in the high frequencies. I also have hearing aids which give me good hearing up to 10,000 hz.
    I absolutely can't hear really high frequencies. That dog whistle at the end of Sgt. Pepper (about 17,000 hz) - can't hear it anymore.
    I assume there are some low level things like extreme cymbal decay that I don't hear anymore either.
    But you know what? I've found it's irrelevant. I enjoy listening just as much as ever. The truth is that that the amount of musical material on recordings in that high end isn't much, and doesn't seem to make any difference in enjoying listening.

    When I listen to a good jazz drummer, for instance, I can still tell that he's doing all sorts of with the cymbals and percussion. You don't need to hear at 15Khz for that.
    I can still hear all sorts of subtleties in recordings. Some of my younger friends can't. That shows it's not all about hearing - it's also about listening skills. They aren't the same thing. My younger friends are physically capable of hearing everything, but they don't know how to listen, so their brain/perception is closed to them and they don't "hear" some of what I do with my compromised hearing.

    Listening is a learned skill.
    That said, I agree that all of those old reviewers should be very careful about telling us about how great the high end detail is in what they are listening to. I'd certainly trust their general impressions of the quality of speakers, for instance, but not all sorts of comments about how well a system produces some of the really high end frequencies and tiny detail.

    1. Totally respect that Danny,
      Yes, there's certainly skill that has been accumulated over the years listening to music, even anticipating the sounds so that we can be attentive and actually register things that those without experience would miss such as your appreciation of jazz.

      And I appreciate your openness about age, using hearing aids to improve perception to 10kHz. That's of course totally normal. A recent paper about prevalence of hearing loss estimated that 65% of those over 71 had hearing loss.

      The idea that a 70+ year old dude can hear the difference between speaker cables is obviously ridiculous. No different than a 70 year old claiming he can run a 100m sprint in less than 10 seconds (unlikely he could even do it ever in his life). If indeed he can, let's time that sprint, and show us that he can pass a blind test between $25 zip chords and that "Kangai-level" wire.

  8. Expensive magic-woo cables are only a part of the equation needed to attain sonic nirvana, and (AFAIK) you've failed to address the overwhelming importance of equipment supports in reaching the vertiginous heights of audio excellence. For an example, we need look no further than the latest issue of Stereophile, in which Jason Victor Serinus reviews the (objectively excellent, though very pricey) Linn Solo 800 and declares, "As much as I liked the warmth and solidity that Linn's attached footers brought to the midrange, the Pedestals widened and deepened the soundstage, enhancing my listening pleasure." At $2500 for a set of 3 small lumps of steel and rubber, the Wilson Audio Pedestals are clearly a huge bargain!

    Of course, regular Stereophile readers with any sense will have long-since realised that JVS is the sort of person a 'high-end' salesman can see coming a mile off:

    1. Hey Charles,
      Fascinating isn't it? Once we start accepting "magic-woo", the net widens naturally and we must consider the possibility of everything else being imbued with these magical dimensions as well!

      Wow, $2500 for the steel/rubber feet/lumps! And only 3 - must be some majikal numerology involved in that decision. As I recall, Linn's streamers and turntables I thought always had 4 feet.

      Anyhow, as for Jason Victor Serinus (aka J. Guy Nassberg), based on public sources, he's 78 years old now. So I think it's important to mull over how much of his testimony we accept based on what he believes he heard. I've met him a couple of times already and shared pleasantries out at RMAF and PAF over the years. Nice enough guy, but I do have some concerns about what he believes he hears, and what he can actually hear.

      These days, many of the guys we read and see on YouTube are old. John Atkinson is around 76, Michael Fremer approaching 77, I'm guessing Steve Guttenberg is over 70 as well. There can be wisdom in age of course and certain claims might be true. But I don't think wisdom (or just plain reality-testing) was applied when JVS wrote that description of how sound changed using those Linn "Pedestals". 🤣

      LOL, nice skit. Something I've always wondered about has been whether these guys truly believe in cables and tweaks or are they just saying these things for the sake of the advertising in article, magazine, or eyeballs on their website/videos? Do they for example honestly believe Ted Denney's products achieve what they claim? Or that they would have no trouble telling the sound difference between the $9000 speaker cable and something good but generic? (Basically anything expensive from Nordost, AudioQuest, Furutech, Crystal Cable, Kimber, Cardas, Shunyata, etc. including plugs, fuses, power conditioners should be closely examined.)

      I would be very concerned if these guys don't have any reservations about their own listening abilities at their age! *That* would not be wise nor even remotely show self-awareness.

  9. "whether these guys truly believe in cables and tweaks or are they just saying these things "
    Unfortunately, like most audiophiles - maybe even more so - I think these guys believe they have golden ears.
    There is one veteran reviewer who points out in reviews that he can't hear over
    13, 000 hz, so his readers can take that into account.

    That said, I 'm sure many of them do have very good listening skills and can hear all sorts of subtle aspects of recordings.
    But none of them seem to ever take the existence of sighted listening bias into account, especially when describing dramatic changes made by tweaks and cables.

    1. Hey Danny,
      Yup... Maybe "imperviousness to biases" is one of the defining characteristics of the Golden Ear vs. just the standard audiophile with merely "good ears"! 😉

      Just as a note that even if a veteran reviewing claims to have hearing to 13kHz, worth asking how far down in hearing was that upper frequency. Sure, he could hear it but possibly something like -30dB compared to 1kHz and the signal really had to be boosted meaning that in normal music, in practice still unlikely able to appreciate those higher frequencies well...

  10. I have recently been in a discussion, on Audiogon (I know, crazy) and it was about DBT testing, with most on that forum saying that I don't have trained ears. What hogwash, who trains them? Is it similar to sommelier training? I left the discussion with people saying that I was the issue. No wonder younger people are not coming into this hobby. Too many have fallen down the rabbit hole.

    I am lucky, I am 61 and can still hear to 13K in one ear and 16K in the other. I wonder how many of the Audiogon 'golden ears' have had theirs tested.

    Thank you for a reasonable blog and opinion.


    1. LOL botrytis,
      Gotta be careful on forums... What was the discussion about with DBT? Were you talking about cables and snake oil tweaks? (And presumably some of the denizens claiming they could hear "things"?)

      Interesting you bring up the sommelier training... We should talk about the link between subjective appreciation of wine vs. audiophilia. I don't think there's too much similarity! A good topic to consider for next weekend maybe...

    2. Trained ears: Philips and Harman used to have listening training apps. I don't know if they still exist, but they actually train you differentiate between all sorts of audio phenomenon and small differences between them.
      It's a learned skill. Some people have managed to train themselves informally over the years.
      Most audiophiles wouldn't pass the listening tests in those apps before the training. They actually don't have the golden ears and listening skills they assume they have. Of course, they don't know that, as they've never tested themselves to see if they actually can hear/differentiate all the things they claim to be able to.