1/05/2012

How to recognize pretentious audiophiles

I'm personally of the opinion that audiophilia is a good hobby to spent your free time (and money) on. However I can't help but be sickened by the people who take this hobby one step too far. This hobby should be about science, and not about pursuing psuedoscientific myths as some people think. The problem is however that most professional audiophile magazines and websites claim that things such as $1,000 cables really do make a difference. Novice audiophiles then also start believing this kind of rubbish, as they believe such authority figures don't lie. The couldn't be more wrong.


To start off is the use of vague or completely meaningless terms. Here's a list:
PRaT: Pace Rythm and Timing. Sometimes people claim that the transducer (or even other components) have an effect on this vague term. That doesn't even make sense, since it's a quality of music and has nothing to do whatsoever with how the music is reproduced. If the transducer had any influence on these factors then that means the transducer has time domain distortions, which seems rather absurd to me.
Musical: What does it even mean when something sounds 'Musical'? There isn't even a general consensus on what this term even means in terms of sound quality or signature.
Analytical/detailed: Unless there is some serious distortion, everything should sound equally detailed. People use this term to describe a sense of increased detail. But this is usually just caused by a bright sound signature. Unless people are talking about a detailed soundstage, but in that case they should simply say they are talking about the soundstage.
Fun: This usually just means colored or distorted in an enjoyable way. This term is not necessarily wrong, but it still annoys me since it's better to simply state what it is that makes it 'fun' to listen to.
Sterile: This is a negative adjective used to describe a flat FR. I don't understand how the FR can be too flat. It would be better to say the sound is boring, or not engaging. It should be noted that a 'boring' sound is not caused by a flat FR, but rather by other factors.


Then there are also the people who believe that spending more money on certain components makes a difference, despite many ABX's showing otherwise. These components include everything except for the speakers/headphones and room acoustics.This excludes analogue sources, as that is a whole different story.
Cables: I don't even understand why people believe cables would make a difference. A piece of copper is a piece of copper. Unless you are running into serious issues such as too high capacitance, impedance, inductance or pickup of external noise, the difference in cables is only theoretical.
Amplifiers: Amplifiers do make a difference, up to a certain point that is. Once the characteristics of an amplifier are adequate then there is no improvement over more expensive amplifiers (except for maybe feature set). Of course a transparent (i.e. having no audible effect on the sound) amplifier of enough power can still be relatively expensive, but there is no reason a $10,000 would outperform a $500 one.
DAC's: Same as with amplifiers, as long as the DAC is transparent, no improvement should be heard with more expensive models.
Bitrates and wordlenghts: Some people like to believe that SACD's sound better than normal CD's. They don't. From my experience there is no audible difference in sound quality between MPR V0 (~256 kbps) and 24/96 FLAC.
Nonsense acoustical treatments: I think most people, even some of the worst audiophiles, recognize these: acoustical treatments that operate on the premise of magic. With that I mean stuff such as magic stones you put on components, boxes that ionize the air or racks made out of 'microporous' materials to improve the quality of an amplifier. The usually don't even show any scientific evidence to back up their outlandish claims. To be honest I wonder how there can be people walking this earth that buy stuff like that.
Power conditioning: I've seen claims that you need to 'clean' your AC mains before it goes into your power supply. Why? Because a perfect sine wave improves the voltage stability of your power supply, and protects it from spikes. While this is actually true, a good power supply should be designed such that it doesn't matter that the AC is a little imperfect.


If you ever see fitting the description of a pretentious audiophile I tried to highlight in this article, feel free to hit them in the face. They should grow up and learn to appreciate science, instead of religion.

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