LP - why is it so good ?

johnny p. -- Sat, 03/12/2011 - 23:12

I am a "digital" audiophile - and have been for a long time. But recently, I spent time with the new Origin Live reference deck and was stunned. With recordings of jazz and classic rock from the 60s and 70s, the ease and natural decay of the music was something digital can't do, in my experience. Top-deck CD systems reportedly have closed the gap - but they are way beyond my price range.
My question - to those who understand the process - is why ? Why should LP be this good - if there's a big reduction in (audio) quality with LP production, then problems galore on playback ? How much do we lose in LP production ? And isn't true that LPs are cut at one vector (angle) but played-back at another ? Has it overcome this ?
Thanks !

gmgraves -- Tue, 03/22/2011 - 18:26

Don't be too hasty to condemn CD. It doesn't have to sound bad, even on $150 player. It's just that most modern CDs sound lousy. Too much compression, too many engineers playing with their electronic toys and getting in the way of the music.

Ded Frag -- Tue, 03/22/2011 - 19:36

True indeed but idiotic, tone deaf recording & mastering techniques that frequently plague CD's are now often being transposed to LP's and the results can be just as nasty. As to any $150 CD player being musical I've yet to hear one that can do so through a revealing system. Played through a less transparent system or 'warmed up' with second harmonic distortion from inferior valve/tube amps maybe, but let's be careful we're not comparing apples with oranges. On the other hand it takes a lot of faffing around, significant amounts of money and lots of care and dedication to get LP's to sound anywhere near as good as the best of today's mid-priced CD players running well recorded Redbook CD.
What's really bizarre are the number of people, who decades ago, believed they were already being given 'perfect sound forever' from the CD medium.

johnny p. -- Tue, 03/22/2011 - 19:53

Mr. Graves is not an audiophile - if anyone hasn't realized by now. No audiophile on Earth would make such ludicrous claims.

gmgraves -- Tue, 03/22/2011 - 21:03

"Mr. Graves is not an audiophile..."

No, of course I'm not. I just love the sound of music reproduced as accurately as possible. I've just spent most of my life listening to recorded music through the best equipment available, making high-quality recordings, designing equipment, testing equipment, evaluating components, etc. No, I'm not an audiophile, I just have 2000+ LPs, and almost as many CDs, SACDs and and DVD-As. No, I've just reviewed equipment for most of the magazines the rest of you read, and numbered Gordon Holt among my very closest friends (audiophiles or not).

No I'm not an audiophile by Mr. Allisio's standards because I disagree with his Kool-aid drinking, slavish devotion to the audiophile industry mythology that plagues this hobby today. No, I'm not an audiophile, and if his unexamined prejudice and misconceptions are a prerequisite to BE an audiophile, then I thank my lucky stars that I'm NOT one.

johnny p. -- Tue, 03/22/2011 - 21:38

I too, have thousands of LPs and CDs...and have spent many thousands $$ on audio playback equipment.

....and so did J. Gordon Holt - who never in his life said that "all components sound the same". He knew better.. He knew there were differences in equipment - hence his founding and publishing a *subjective* review magazine !!

The "mythology" here is gmgraves - who stands virtually alone in the serious-listening world to believe what he does. Anyone that actually *listens* to audio components, at realistic levels, that's not past 80, knows damn-well they sound different - level-matched or not.

gmgraves must be flat-out lying about comparing a stock power cord to one costing 2-3k. Anyone that has done this knows that expensive cords help our equipment perform (sound) better - sometimes a *lot* better.......

We are all wasting our time with this guy !!!

gmgraves -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 00:36

"We are all wasting our time with this guy !"

Well obviously you are wasting your time, because your mind is closed. You pick the parts of people's debates that you want to diss and ignore the rest of the points. You seem to be a classic cultist; brainwashed, inflexible, unable to see any side of an argument but your own, and totally incapable of providing any salient points to back-up your "religious" beliefs.

Oh, yes, and about the power cord thing? If you haven't compared this $2000 power cord (obscene!) to a standard IEC power cord in a DBT or ABX then YOU "havent done this" at all.

johnny p. -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 10:18

Again, only you and a few others in the world can't hear differences.

You are the *only one* in this discussion who claims that components sound the same.

Who's "inflexible" when they hold viewpoints in the extreme minority ? YOU.

gmgraves -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 14:50

" too, have thousands of LPs and CDs...and have spent many thousands $$ on audio playback equipment."

Good for you. That's something we have in common, then.

"....and so did J. Gordon Holt - who never in his life said that "all components sound the same". He knew better.. He knew there were differences in equipment - hence his founding and publishing a *subjective* review magazine !!"

The question is "when" he "never said that all components sound the same". When Gordon started Stereophile, everything sounded different, and he said so. But in the last few years he realized that it was becoming harder and harder to tell components apart. In his last years, he had come to view reviewing audio equipment as somewhat boring because most of it was getting to the point where it sounded "more alike than different". After Gordon left Stereophile, he focused on home theater and surround sound, leaving the world of two-channel audio, for the most part, behind.

"The "mythology" here is gmgraves - who stands virtually alone in the serious-listening world to believe what he does. Anyone that actually *listens* to audio components, at realistic levels, that's not past 80, knows damn-well they sound different - level-matched or not".

Again, I'm not sure that the entire "serious listening world" appreciates you characterizing their thoughts for them and it's pretty presumptuous and terribly unfair of you to do so. The only components that I have said sound the same are CD players and DACs. and if you're going to paint me with a wide brush like that, I'd appreciate it if you at least picked the correct color.

"gmgraves must be flat-out lying about comparing a stock power cord to one costing 2-3k. Anyone that has done this knows that expensive cords help our equipment perform (sound) better - sometimes a *lot* better......."

OK. You explain to me the physics behind how a six-foot length of wire, carrying mains current, can undo all the damage done to the AC by virtue of it's long trip from the generating plant to your audio component.

Of course, he won't answer because he doesn't have the slightest clue. And if he does try, it will be pure balderdash, because there is no physics, no science, and no engineering behind such an assertion. Don't you think that if there was something to this power cord nonsense that the use of them would have spread to other fields where power supply noise might be a problem? Fields such as neutrino research, seismic monitoring, medical testing, radio astronomy, etc., etc., etc.? The fact that it hasn't spread to those fields speaks volumes about the "science" behind it. It's hogwash, and most scientifically enlightened people in this world seem to realize it.

A funny anecdote about expensive power cords which pretty much shows how ridiculous the entire proposition is. A stereo store owner acquaintance of mine had an $800 power cord with cable as big as a baby's arm to use on a new phono preamp he was selling. He was waxing poetic about how much better records sounded since fitting this expensive new power cord. "Wait a minute." Says I. "Isn't this phono preamp battery powered?"
"Yes", he says, "but the batteries are recharged from the wall AC every time the unit is turned off"
"So what you are telling me", says I, "is that the power cord makes a difference in the sound, even though it is NEVER powering the preamp directly, it's just recharging the batteries?"
"Uh Huh!, I swear, the difference is simply amazing,"

Somehow the DC charge on the batteries is a "better sounding" DC charge when powered by an $800 power cord than it is when powered by a standard IEC cord. Yeah, I buy that. Don't you? Ridiculous. But no more ridiculous than the notion that a power cord could make any difference in any component. Electronics work on DC. The DC is fed from the filter capacitors in the power supply and those are isolated from the mains supply by both the diode bridge and the power transformer which, itself, acts as an extremely efficient filter for any electronic garbage above 60 Hz. The notion that a length of power cord does anything other than carry the mains current to the component in question is ludicrous.

johnny p. -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 16:42

CD players do *not* sound the same. Your inflexibility is becoming legend on this forum as the only one who asserts such rubbage.

The entire audiophile world knows this - except you...and a few other objectivists.......

Ditto for power cords - you have not compared cheap vs. expensive. Or you can't hear - it's that simple. Everyone hears differences - except you.

Einstein's Law of Gravity had no science behind it (no tests or experiments) but every scientist accepted it. The same went for quantum physics - math-only at first - but it worked later in practice.

Gordon Holt, later in his life, was more into home-cinema than music. And besides Holt, I don't know of any audiophile who replaced his (music) hobby with cinema. Yes, Holt still listened to music. But from every report I've read, he spent most of his time with cinema. Makes you wonder just how committed he was....

gmgraves -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 19:45

The word you are trying to use is "rubbish", sir. There is no word "rubbage".

Again, you presume to speak for the entire world.

Again I ask you tell me what characteristics (other than your over-active imagination) a power cord could possibly have that would cause a difference in the sound of a component. And again, you fail to do so. Show me what's going on in this "wire" that gives it the magical mystical properties of which you speak. I'm ready and willing to be educated.

Einstein's Law of Gravity? You're joking, right?

Yes, Gordon was into home theater (as I said above), but he still recorded around Boulder CO., where he lived. In fact I have copies of a number of his recordings of the Boulder Symphony. He just saw little use to try to review equipment that he realized was so transparent as to be almost futile to characterize.

I still like "Einstein's Law of Gravity." That's a hoot!

johnny p. -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 20:25

Rubbage - rubbish - it's all the same: No-one has come forth claiming that power cords don't matter - at least not in the last 10 years.

...except you....

DBX studies (comparing components) are not published. How can we examine their results ?

That's not science....

Then, as others have stated on this thread, DBX tests aren't done right, anyway. But you're invited to go back to your (little) make-believe world....

And I note that many times in history there was *no evidence* for observed phenomena. I mentioned 2 examples - you can laugh at them all you want. But I will add one more: scientists - using math in the early 1900s - said that a heavier-than-air vehicle could *not* fly. It did.

Finally, I find it funny that thousands of serious listeners, besides Gordon Holt, heard noticeable improvements in audio equipment in the past 15 years. LP and CD were standouts, in particular.

And also love how you are speaking for Holt. He never said components aren't improving - at least not since the mid-1990s. He *did* say it in 1987 (I have the issue on hand). But can you cite where he said it since ?

gmgraves -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 20:45

"Rubbage - rubbish - it's all the same:"

I guess it would be to an illiterate

"DBX studies (comparing components) are not published."
Since I've never heard of a DBX study, I wouldn't know. But ABX studies and DBT studies are regularly published I even gave you a URL to one, and if you are willing to spend the money, there are hundreds of such studies from the AES, JAES and EAES available here:


"Many times in history there was no evidence for observed phenomena. I mentioned 2 examples - you can laugh at them all you want."

I'm sorry, I was laughing at your ignorance, not at any observed phenomena. You see Einstein didn't discover gravity, that was Isaac Newton about 300 years earlier! Einstein was the guy with relativity theory, you know: E= MC squared?

"Finally, it's funny that many other serious-listeners, besides Gordon Holt, saw noticeable improvements in audio equipment in the past 15 years. And also love how you are talking for him. He never said this about components during this period.

We've all seen noticeable improvements in audio equipment in the past 15 years. In fact stuff has improved so much, that it's all converging on transparency. That's what I've been saying here all along! (Christ, it's frustrating trying to have a conversation with this guy).

15 years ago, differences in equipment were still pretty wide.

"He *did* say it in 1987 (I have the issue on hand). But you can you cite where he said this since ?"

How about to me personally, about three months before he died. I will repeat, Gordon was a close friend of mine and I miss him greatly.

Look, It's obvious to me that you have no interest in actually discussing these matters, and from some of the things you have said, it's obvious that you've never had any interest in learning anything either and therefore haven't. Only a complete ignoramus wouldn't know that it was Newton, not Einstein who came up with concept of gravity, and only an illiterate would use a non-word like "rubbage".

You have failed to present any arguments to support your assertions, just insults and general statements about how all the listeners in the world agree with you, and how I'm alone in my beliefs (the provenance of which you cannot possibly know).

I'm done with you, Mr. Allisio. I have wasted far to much of my time on someone who has nothing to add to the conversation other than to endlessly repeat his uninformed (audio) religious beliefs.

johnny p. -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 23:49

Judging by the number of friends you made here - you won't be missed....

There are not "hundreds" of ABX studies - far from it. Then, they aren't done right anyway.

I have roughly 200,000 people in my corner who hear differences in audio components. Audiophiles worldwide. You have about 1/1000th of this - as far as serious listeners are concerned.

I never said Einstein "discovered gravity". Where did you get this from ?

I gave an example of how observed phenomena (airplanes) had *no explanation* when first demonstrated. I should have thrown in super-conductivity. Your ignorance of power cords (on this thread) will become legend.....

And if there *has* been noticeable improvements in components in recent years, where was J. Gordon Holt ? Watching movies. Dis-interested in audio. Right when his first love jumped ahead - CD, LP, solid-state circuits, horns - you name it.

Bye Bye !!!!!!

gmgraves -- Thu, 03/24/2011 - 09:39

"I never said Einstein "discovered gravity". Where did you get this from ?"

Your own words. In your post of 3/23/2011, you said: "Einstein's Law of Gravity had no science behind it..."
It's not Einstein's law of gravity, it's NEWTON'S Law of Gravity. Every 7th grader in the land should know that, but you don't.

By the way, I'm not "going" anywhere. I just won't respond to ignoramuses any more. I won't name-call, but if the shoe fits....

johnny p. -- Thu, 03/24/2011 - 15:32

Check any science textbook - Einstein's General Relativity is a theory (or law) of gravity !!

It was the first (major) theory of gravity since Issac Newton's. It explained the orbit of Mercury and the bending of light waves around massive cellestial bodies.

You have made an ass of yourself in this discussion - with your quixotic belief that all CD players "sound the same" and that differences between preamps and power amps are "negligible".

This would have made sense had you meant "all same technology, same *priced* units sound the same". By not doing this - you were automatically suggesting that cheap (mass-market) products sound the same as $20,000 separates.

And stating that (expensive) after-market power cords are "snake oil".

We know better...........

Ded Frag -- Tue, 03/22/2011 - 22:11

Why is it that whenever the reproduction of music in the home is referred to as a 'hobby' I want to object?

gmgraves -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 00:33

"Why is it that whenever the reproduction of music in the home is referred to as a 'hobby' I want to object?"

I dunno. It certainly meets the criteria of a hobby: "an activity done regularly in one's leisure time for pleasure; an avocation, an interest or activity that falls outside of one's vocational pursuits."

Ded Frag -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 07:13

A valid definition for those for whom it's true. However, the enjoyment of recorded music for many is just a part of life, not a hobby. Portraying Hi-Fi or Home Theatre as a hobby gives the impression to the general public that any such pursuit requires a high level of devotion, skill and time. Just the kind of idea that's frightened away millions from attempting to learn even the basics. OK, if the smell of solder turns you on fair enough, but portraying the enjoyment of music in the home as a hobby, and nothing else, has worked against this industry for far, far too long.

gmgraves -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 12:59

It's not really important to the industry how those within the avocation see it, It's mostly important how those outside of the avocation and the industry built around it see it.

rossop -- Tue, 03/22/2011 - 20:21

Try comparing (the Cisco Music) Jennifer Warnes "The Well" SACD(cd layer) and vinyl on two similar priced rigs. The cd is wonderful but the vinyl, even with its faults, has a greater "goose bump" factor by far, in my opinion.

gmgraves -- Tue, 03/22/2011 - 20:44

Can't argue with that.

Ded Frag -- Tue, 03/22/2011 - 22:16

I have no reason to doubt your reaction but wonder if that's simply a difference induced at the mastering stage or an innate difference in the media themselves? How can we tell?

gmgraves -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 00:42

"How can we tell?"

Without access to the master, I don't see how we can tell. It's like walking into an appliance store where a wall full of display TV sets are all showing the same program. A red car drives onto the stage and you look at this wall of TVs and notice that the color red on this car is different on every set. Some it's like an Italian racing red, others show it as more of rose color, still others have a orange cast to it. Which is the real red of the car? Without the car being there, you have no way of knowing. Same with this example. If you don't know what the master sounds like, you don't know which rendition is closest to the master.

Ded Frag -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 07:04

Mr Graves, with all due respect you're missing something here. Harry Pearson titled his magazine "Absolute Sound" decades ago to signify that the reference against which Hi-Fi gear should be judged is the sound of acoustic instruments heard playing live in a known acoustic.
Granted, if you haven't heard the master of a studio incubated mess of synthesized, gated, compressed garbage and assorted unknown electronic effects you'll never know what on earth it's supposed to sound like. Often I get the impression that the people who produce such stuff don't either.

gmgraves -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 13:13

"Harry Pearson titled his magazine "Absolute Sound" decades ago to signify that the reference against which Hi-Fi gear should be judged is the sound of acoustic instruments heard playing live in a known acoustic."

Yes, I agree heartily with that approach. It is necessary to listen to as much live music as possible in order to stay on track. If one doesn't ground one's self in the reality of the "Absolute Sound" by re-calibrating one's ears regularly, one is apt to start going with what "sounds good" to them rather than what sounds real. This is fine if this is your goal, but if your goal is the sound of live, unamplified music played in real space, you need a reference and that reference, as HP has always said, is the real thing.

I'm not sure why you think I'm missing something here. I responded to the question "how does one know which sounds more like the real event?" By stating that if one doesn't have access to the master tape, one will never know whether it is the CD or the LP that sounds closest to the live performance - we certainly can't go back and recreate the actual performance and compare that to the CD and the LP, now can we? But ostensibly, the master tape does exist. We just don't have access to it. Ideally, the CD is a direct copy of that master tape, but for reasons which have nothing to do with fidelity (as you mention, above) they usually aren't direct copies of the master tape.

joe.crowe -- Thu, 04/07/2011 - 19:36

You weren't doing too badly up till now but you finally blew it young fella. I say young fella because of your ability to present 50 year old arguments and bafflegab like bright shiny newly minted coins which you just found (maybe you did). I say you blew it because "the CD is a direct copy of that master tape" shows your true dearth of insight. The CD is a "direct" copy of whatever fell out of the arse of whatever A/D was employed. Yes "direct" if the master was digital but that just moves the A/D upstream a rung or two. Glossing over such an obvious and important point explains much of what has gone before. Forums such as this usually devolve into a short arm competition between the "there is no difference" crowd and the "the smaller the difference the more significant" camp. Each are nuts in their own special ways but the former are irritating because of their arrogance while the latter are irritating due to their sincerity. People "prove" there is no difference in a variety of ways but the most common are; if you can't measure it, it doesn't exist or the oh so precious appeal to expertise. This usually takes the form of, cables can't make a difference because I'm a physicist and that proves it or power supplies can't affect sound because I'm an electrician and that proves it or I make recordings so what I say is law (sound familiar?). What makes this so George Carlinesque is that these people are always contradicting someone with at least equal and usually superior qualifications who's opinions aren't worth the air they're carried on. Julian Hirsch always contended if you can't measure it, it doesn't exist and he had egg on his face so many times they could have buried him in it. But enough said, I think I've made my point. My hat is off to you however. You have managed to turn a simple and genuine query a about why LPs sound better into a personal soap box for your half stirred gumbo of good ideas, valid insights and pure BS regarding audio. Seldom have I seen the Titanic so skillfully steered. As to your devotion to DBT I suggest looking out some really old issues of TAS and examine the issues discussed regarding whether true A - B testing can ever occur and if it did would it be as valid as we instinctively suppose. Anyway, keep the faith you have managed to grow a simple question into a moderately interesting if somwhat derivative conversation.

Zach -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 13:46

I haven't condemned CD. Most of my music collection is on that formant, of which I often listen to through my $150 CD player. My point is that to my knowledge there is a greater musicality in LP rather than a similarly priced CD player. I'm young (19yrs.) so I have a spend my earnings wisely. LP was a superior performer to similarly priced CD players that I auditioned. I never described CD sounding bad, just not as good as LP in my situation. I ended up purchasing the Clearaudio Concept TT. The best Hi Fi purchase I have ever made.

TheArt (not verified) -- Thu, 04/07/2011 - 14:51

Zach, that's comparing two piles of crap to figure out whicdh one smells most like a rose. Get yourself a decent player, and then you'll hear what digital media CAN sound like. You'll get better dynamics, more frequency extension (high & especially low), and a much lower noise-floor (which brings more detail too).

And a player with a tubed outpt stage (expensive: EAR, less so: Jolida) will give you all the warmth, soul, and weight you ever got from an LP.

What you did is test-drive a Yugo and decide that you prefer your horse.

TheArt (not verified) -- Tue, 09/04/2012 - 10:25

Zach, You still haven't heard a really good digital source. The first SACD I heard was on the original Sony SCD-1. I was flabbergasted! The next one I heard was ona $250 Sony player, and it was crap. Sadly, it's hard to find a decent sounding CDP without spending a few grand. But Jolida makes a nice one for under $1K - tubed output stage too! And if you can still find a Sony XA-5400ES ($1,500 list), wow!

Enjoy your LPs! But don't think that digital cannot give you that soul. It's out there .

Happy Listening, Art

paskinn -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 02:54

   Mr Graves is very confident, but such confidence has a long history in science of being overthrown ...I repeat that dbts have not only 'proved' that people cannot hear (for example) the difference between cd players, they have equally 'proved' that people can't even hear gross differences...which, in truth,  sceptics accept that in real-life they certainly can. The point here is that the extreme artificiality of the double blind test environment is a powerful factor in affecting the outcome....in other words, the very circumstances of the test can falsify it. Put it another way, I think a good number of pyschologists would expect 'failure' in such strange and unnatural circumstances.  And for Mr Graves to point-out that such dbts have 'proved' his point in many many tests is an entirely circular argument....if the premise is flawed, the outcome will be flawed, and if you do many such tests you simple get equally many flawed results. I repeat, he is over confident .....he might be right, he might not, either way, it won't be weird 'dbts' that finally settle this matter (assuming ti can be...)

Ded Frag -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 06:54

Is or isn't double blind testing necessary for the logical development and evaluation of audio gear? It's an argument that's raged on audio forums and news groups (remember them?) for decades without either side ever converting the other.
From my perspective I'm happy if manufacturers and reviewers use DBT to achieve their aims but participation in such tests is not available to the majority of us. So, I try to get by with a mongrel mix of subjective forum gossip, a few magazine reviews, listening to friends systems, auditioning at Hi-Fi retailers and audio clubs, and if I'm very lucky , listening to a loaned component on my system in my room. This method is how I've put together a collection of gear that gives me more musical joy that I would have imagined possible, even ten years ago. So, in the end I'm neither for or against DBT - it just has little relevance to people like me when making purchase decisions.
If that makes me an irrational subjectivist, so be it.

imickey503@gmail.com -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 06:30


The LP vs CD vs Digital is just out of the door obnoxious now.

Every Audiophile that claims that This or that makes a world of difference. WONDERFUL! But it has to suck being an audiophile.

Who has the time to really do all this stuff with a LP? I don't even have room for my CD's

To make matters worse, the music that I fancy has to be mastered by a Heroine junky looking for his next fix, then pressed by apes.

Even the shanty like stock car audio system blow out the errors like Drunk woman ranting about her x boyfriend.

Wall of shame Has to go to WarpTour 2010 by "SideoneDummy-records"

1. How can you encode SKIPPING on a commercial disk?
2. So loud clips the DA convertor
3. The disk is starting to ROT before my eyes!

Now imagine hearing this disk on any speakers (let alone play back equipment) and hearing this Garbage!

What on EARTH are people smoking!

Now imagine me trying to take this disk back to best buy and tell them the disk is FUBAR.. Guess what I will hear.

DaveC -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 12:08

In terms of double blind testing for audio equipment differences, there is an extensive discussion elsewhere on this site. It's obvious from this discussion that independent objective validation of what is essentially an opinion is very important to some people. Sonic memory is fragile and evanescent. Psychoacoustic perception is influenced by myriad variables, among them tactile and visual cues. The entire listening experience is subjective, irregularly reproducible, and self reported.  The double blind methodology  is not readily applicable given these multiple variables. Controlling for such variables is difficult if not impossible and may require hundreds of test subjects to generate statistical significance. Finally, the general superiority of DBT as an experimental methodology does not directly translate to its proper applicability to any given experimental question.  As an example,  the best controlled DBT methodology for a human study may be unethical in practice.

gmgraves -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 13:27

While you might be correct here (I've an open mind on the subject), how do you propose to eliminate the reality that "Psychoacoustic perception is influenced by myriad variables, among them tactile and visual cues." without eliminating from the test those tactile and visual cues (expectational and sighted biases). If we agree that what it is that we're trying to do here is to decide, on purely aural grounds, which component is the best, or that there is indeed any sonic difference between two candidates, then how do we eliminate the extraneous influence of sighted bias? Biases which many listeners (as can be seen by some of the articles posted here over the last week or so) won't even admit exists.

DaveC -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 14:16

Actually I'm not trying to decide which component is best, in fact  I don't subscribe to the proposition that such a goal is even desirable, let alone possible, for all the reasons you list.  I suggest that in order to validate personal choices individuals look for whatever means available to achieve that goal, whether or not those means are themselves valid. The two most common examples are  the purportedly objective analysis w/ DBT, claimed to be superior due to the methodology itself, or the admittedly subjective analysis w/ "golden ear" consensus, which is claimed to be inherently superior due to the talents of the evaluators. Both approaches are in fact no more than opinion which can be accepted or rejected based on one's own inclinations. I can equally accept your statements as well as those who disagree with you in this thread as both are based on individual observation and experience and can stand alone on that basis. 

gmgraves -- Wed, 03/23/2011 - 15:16

I dunno about that. DBT is considered the "gold standard" in scientific testing. It is used solely to eliminate expectational bias. In audio, other than the fact that the listeners don't know, at any given instant, WHICH of the two components that they are listening to, DBT and ABX tests are remarkably like any other listening tests. In the ones to which I have been a participant, we could listen as long as we like, go back and listen again, switch between the two on request, and select the music (from that available) to which we wish to listen. Again, these tests differ from regular listening sessions only in that we didn't know which of the two test components we were hearing at any given time. With the sound of the components divorced from their physical being, we can be assured that the evaluation was only on the SOUND and not on any other consideration. And DBT is not about which is better either (although it can do that, which is "better" is often a matter of individual taste) but rather whether the differences heard by many between components are real of imagined (as a result of expectational bias).

polowhoto -- Thu, 03/24/2011 - 14:51

Mr Graves, thank you for cogently making your case. I am a long-time spender-of-far-too-much-money-on-audio-stuff, and I would LOVE to be able to beat the addiction through a series of well-designed DBTs (and possibly some electric shock therapy).
For what it's worth, as a power systems engineer I am well and truly in your camp with respect to power cables. In a word, horsesh*t.

rossop -- Thu, 03/24/2011 - 15:37

I had a "special" JPS digital AC cable on my DAC. At higher volume levels the sound got harsh and edgy. I could not figure it out. I tried all sorts of things but could not fix it. As a last resort I tried an old PS Audio power cable I had and, suprise, suprise, it fixed the problem I was having. I did not think an AC cable would have made so much difference but it did.

As stated before I think AC cables are important but not as important as just about everything else.

gmgraves -- Thu, 03/24/2011 - 15:45

There are certain things that Audio Mythology would have us believe, that physics tells us are just not possible. insulator lifts to raise our speaker cables off of the floor, myrtlewood blocks sitting on top of our equipment, the last six-feet of cable between the wall socket and our components, green pens on the edges of our CDs, or that electronically identical interconnects or speaker cables all sound different (and even if they did, "sound different", how would anybody ever either decide which were "best", or even define what "best" is unless they had access to all of them? The back story to that mythology must be that the more the wire costs, the better!) and now the latest, that the material from which your wall-outlet covers were made influence the sound of your system (wood is best, then plastic, with metal being worst!). Shades of Auntie Enid (may she rest in peace).

TheArt (not verified) -- Thu, 04/07/2011 - 15:34

As a power systems engineer, believe what you like. Have you actually compared several different power cords on your system (biggest bang is usually on the source component)? I have. TRY IT!

Forget what you 'know' about A/C and let your ears tell you (but clean out the horsesh*t first).

polowhoto -- Thu, 04/07/2011 - 17:53

Hmmm - I'm not the one basing an opinion on belief.

Look, I can't say with any certainty that you can't hear what you say you can hear. And I don't necessarily agree with Mr Graves re all CD players sounding the same. But the power supply is different. At best (and this is a hypothetical best that I have never come across in practice), your local distribution transformer is at the gate of your house (say 25 metres away) you are the only connection to it, you are next door to a big power station (meaning that the high voltage side of the distribution transfer is effectively an infinite bus) and you have your hifi power supply circuit isolated from the rest of your house (a separate LV feeder from the transformer). This means that the last two metres (i.e. the cable connecting your component) represents 8% of the connection to an "ideal" power supply. In practice, you are probably one of 10 houses connected to the local distribution transformer that's 100 metres away (depending on which country you live in and whether you're rural or urban), and you only have a single LV feeder to your house. The local distribution transformer might, in turn, be tens or hundreds of miles from a "stiff" source. This means you can influence maybe 0.1% of the quality of the power supply to your components by changing the cable. Once you've accepted this FACT, it really doesn't matter what attributes you ascribe to the power supply (based in science or otherwise), your ability to influence them is tiny.

Of course it's important to ensure that your component(s) receive an adequate power supply. But your house would be supplied with cable that costs maybe $30,000 per km and there's no point in rating your cable higher than the supply to your house. That's $30 per metre.

TheArt (not verified) -- Thu, 04/07/2011 - 18:23

I'm not basing my findings on belief. I'm basing them on what I can hear. And also on science. Read on...

You've got the science all wrong. Power cords and A/C conditioners work on a proximity effect. Of course, you cannot clean the entire line back to the generator. But you don't need to! All you need to do is clean it as well as possible, as close as possible to the power supplies of your components.
At least, that is the best you can do without regenerating the A/C, as the PS Audio product and some others do.

But your notion that the length of a power cord compared to the entire path of the power is significant... well, that's not science, or even engineering. It's just plain wrong. As anyone who truly understands this will tell you, the power cord is NOT the "last six feet" of the path. It is the FIRST six feet that your component's power supply sees. It doesn't care at all where the power has been or what's going on back up the wires.

Well, that's not exactly true. The cleaner power you start with, the better. But a good cord and will still KEEP it clean by rejecting RFI and EMI along it's own length.

Years ago, I BELIEVED that power supplies would clean this all up themselves as they convert A/C to D/C. But I've learned through empirical evidence and experience that power supplies can do a much better job if they start with cleaner A/C. I've heard this in any number of systems, and in my own. In fact, power cords differ enough that you can actually 'tune' a component slightly to the warm or bright side by using the right cord. I've heard this done, and I'm sure you would too. It's not subtle.

To sum up... your central FACT (you know, the one in all caps) is actually an oversimplified misconception. It's what you and many others BELIEVE - that the power into your system is the sum total of miles and miles of cable, and cannot be cleaned without fixing the entire grid. It's nonsense. I can prove that, and you would HEAR it.

Sorry to come on so strong. I hope you'll get the chance to compare power cords someday, or have this demonstrated to you. I promise, you don't know what you're missing.

Happy Listening, Art

polowhoto -- Thu, 04/07/2011 - 19:12

Ah, but now you're talking about AC conditioners. That's different. I've no disagreement with you there.

"As anyone who truly understands will tell you". A PhD (in power systems harmonics coincidentally) doesn't qualify me? Of course I oversimplified, but this is not the forum for an academic discourse on power systems.

One thing that I think (hope?) we agree on is that the power cord must be "fit for purpose". I would define this as adequate current rating and sufficiently shielded. I just don't think you need to spend more than $30 or so to achieve that.

Coming on strong? Nah, just a healthy debate! And one that neither of us can win..... All in good fun (I hope).


TheArt (not verified) -- Thu, 04/07/2011 - 19:25

I'm glad we agree on power conditioning. I was once a skeptic on that as well. But if you will (or can) ever TRY comparing power cords, I am pretty sure you'll change your mind. I'm only asking you to open your mind - and your ears - and TRY it. If you can hear what a good A/C conditioner does, I am confident you'll hear the sonic differences of good power cords as well.

I've been lucky enough to have access to 3 or 4 different cords at a time (price range: $125 - $2K), and have heard that each one sounds distinctly different from the others...and all much better than a 'stock' cord. (BTW, the priciest ones are not always best.) But I wouldn't have believed that without hearing it myself, and I don't expect you to. But if you TRY it...

Now, this is going to make you think I'm really crazy! But here's the latest in A/C cord technology - vibration control. It turns out that the vibration in the connectors caused by the 60Hz A/C can affect sonics.
I KNOW it sounds nuts, but you'll soon see lots of connectors plugged with polymers, carbon fiber, even ceramics, to absorb vibration. Fututech and Oyaide have already come out with them. I have one cord using the Furutech connectors on my (EAR Acute) CDP, and the sonic improvement is dramatic - lower noise floor, bigger soundstage, wider dynamic range. Anyone - even 'gmgraves' - would be impressed.

So once again, I hope you'll find out what you've been missing, especially if you have a reasonably revealing system. Remember to test on your source - CDP or Turntable - first. That's usually where you hear the biggest effect. Look at it this way; I'm trying to turn you on to something that can improve your system and increase your enjoyment. It has nothing to do with being right or wrong. I'm just trying to share the fun.

Happy Listening, Art

polowhoto -- Thu, 04/07/2011 - 19:44

Audible 120 Hz vibration from power cables (it'll be twice the frequency of the AC I think)? Bloody hell! That's... out there.

TheArt (not verified) -- Fri, 04/08/2011 - 10:55

It's not the vibration itself that's audible, but it's effect on the power, I guess. YES, it seems a little nutty. I heard the cord before I knew what was in the connectors, and read the techno-babble later, if that's any help. If I'd read about it first, I'd have been skeptical too. But they're clearly on to something.

That's the cool part about audio technology (and all science). It's constantly on the move; We're always learning more and getting closer to the truth.

The downside, of course, is that new technology is usually expensive, and this is no exception. But in time, less expensive products tend to adopt the same ideas, saving themselves the R&D costs.

Ded Frag -- Fri, 04/08/2011 - 17:09

"That's the cool part about audio technology (and all science). It's constantly on the move; We're always learning more and getting closer to the truth." Not if you take nuclear physics as an example. For some years now both experimentation and theory in the sub-atomic realm have gained us two things. More apparent information and more confusion. At this point in time nobody knows where the truth is about something as fundamental as the size of the proton (New Scientist No 2805 26th March 2011) and we've spent billions achiving that level of uncertainty. If I was religious, which I'm not, I'd say God was playing tricks with us.
What appears unique about the attitude of some audiophiles is the peculiar assumption that the science is perfect and all the facts are in. That and the other kind of audiophile's refusal to believe how suggestible we all can be when 'evaluating' equipment. Personally none of this concerns me. If I hear a component I sense is better and I can afford it I put down my hard earned cash not bothering to wonder if I'm being deluded - so long and the 'delusion' continues to give me pleasure. Strangely it usually does. Those who want to imagine everything concerning audio reproduction is fully understood are I suggest sticking to such a belief out of a profound psychological need for total certainty. A kind of religion in itself. Now, can we all get back to just enjoying the music?

TheArt (not verified) -- Fri, 04/08/2011 - 17:52

Fred, you and i are in pretty much total agreement. The one thing I would pointout is that finding out what you DON'T know (esp. when you thought you DID) is progress. Confusion is the first stage of better understanding; Uncertainty leads to discovery.

And that is where your first point comes in. Any scientist knows that science is NOT truth, in ny absolute sense - it is "the truth for now" - more of a working hypothesis than an absolute. But many audiophiles have that dangerous "little bit of knowledge", and think they "understand the science". In my experience, they are often convincing themselves that something they cannot afford is really a scam - classic 'sour grapes'!

However, that other group deserves a few words too. There's no doubt that psychology can and DOES distort our evaluations. That's why dealers use soft lighting. And placebo effect is there too. If we WANT to hear something, we often think we DO hear it. My answer to that is careful & repeated listening. Placebo effect doesn't last, and psychological factors give way to actual perception over time. There's also the fact that something which sounds good to you in the first few minutes may reveal fatal flaws over time.

This is important to me, because I can't afford many mistakes, and I never want to be constantly selling gear on Audiogon so I can afford to try something new. I actually like to keep my system stable and spend my time listening to music. So I only evaluate new gear when I really need to upgrade, or when someone I really trust tells me, "You've gotta hear this!"

TheArt (not verified) -- Thu, 04/07/2011 - 15:28

Mr. Graves,  You seem like an intelligent guy, who has given audio a lot of thought.But if you are saying that all digital players sound the same and power cords have no effect on sound... well, you just haven't listened enough.  Or maybe the rest of your system is not reveal;ing enough, or maybe your hearring isn't vrery acute.  Please understand that I am not trying to insult you.  I simply cannot understand why you don't hear these differences.
Or maybe I DO understand, because I was similarly skeptical until I HEARD these differences myself. 
But once experienced, they are not at all subtle!  In fact, they are often HUGE - 'day and night' - differences, fully apparent to even the most 'untrained' listeners.
Now, let's talk about what "the physics tells us".  Physics tells us that it is an ever-expanding science (like all science, really), and that our knowledge of it at any time is limited.  The same goes for engineering - our understanding, development, and use of technology.  When CDs were invented, nobody had ever heard of 'jitter'.  By the same token, when LPs went commercial, nobody knew about 'skating' either.  Now it's becoming apparent that we 'sense' frequencies much higher than we can consciously 'hear'.  
My point being that what physics tell us mostly is that currently know so little of it that "anything is possible", and that we should all keep open minds.
BTW... it also tells us that in audio - as in all of science - EVERYTHING makes a difference.
Once again, I mean no insult.  But I urge you get get a listen to different CDPs, and power cords, and interconnects, and HEAR for yourself that all these components DO make an audible difference - some subtle, and some enormous.  SAuntie Enid was a little nutty, but so was Julian Hirsch.
Happy listening...and PEACE!     Art

Keladrin -- Mon, 09/03/2012 - 11:03

The ‘science is still developing so we don’t necessarily understand everything about the science of sound production’ and hence audio improvements are being achieved that are outside current science. Anyone see the huge flaw in this typical audio-zombie argument? It’s saying there are established commercial audio developments that have no basis in any known current science.

A company sells a power lead, for instance that seems to defy science in that it sounds better than a standard cord – then why haven’t they re-written the science book, where are the patents and independent white papers? Perhaps they are just hoping that by not publishing the science that they are keeping their chance discoveries secret? Sorry it doesn’t work like this - science never lags behind commercial developments, it precedes them. Patents are used to protect scientific breakthroughs, proper scientific papers explain them and sound science is the basis behind any commercial hi-fi development that there has ever been. We are talking about witchcraft here (power cables), not science. Think about it – does your CD player contain any technology that we just don’t know how it works? Does your TV contain a black box that some company put in that magically improves the picture, without that company working out exactly how it does it using established scientific methods?

Mr Graves. I am full agreement with your viewpoint and essentially all CD players are indistinguishable when tested double –blind. The same is true for amps that do not tweak the response curve, are used within their normal working parameters and have been balanced to a volume within 0.5 db. And yes the blind studies do exist to support this. Example here:


Art , I can see you just won’t agree here. I say prove your audio skills by doing the Richard Clark challenge and put your money where your mouth is (and make a packet into the bargain). Come back when you have taken the test:


You need to take a long look at science yourself; the science of the psychology of listening. Read up on blind-trials.

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