I Just Don't Hear It - I wish I did


I am frustrated because I am an audiophile who cannot discern details from so many of the methods praised by other audiophiles. I joke about not having golden ears. That said, I can easily discern and appreciate good soundstage, image, balance, tone, timbre, transparency and even the synergy of a system. I am however unable to hear the improvements that result from, say a piece of Teflon tape or a $5.00 item from the plumbing aisle at Home Depot. Furthermore, I think it is grossly unfair that I must pay in multiples of one hundred, or even one thousand just to gain relatively slight improvements in transparency, detail, timbre soundstage, etc., when other audiophiles can gain the same level of details from a ten dollar tweak. In an effort to sooth my frustration, I tell myself that my fellow audiophiles are experiencing a placebo effect of some sort. Does anyone else struggle to hear….no wait; does anyone else struggle to comprehend how someone else can hear the perceived benefits gained by the inclusion of any number of highly touted tweaks/gimmicks (brass screws, copper couplers, Teflon tape, maple hardwood, racquet balls, etc.) I mean, the claims are that these methods actually result in improved soundstage, image, detail (“blacker backgrounds”), clarity, bass definition, etc.
Am I alone in my frustration here?
2chnlben
I view it quite simply. If I can easily hear it, it is real.
If someone has to tell me what it is or I struggle and struggle and, just maybe, hear a difference, it isn't real.

Hearing is believing. Unfortunately, too many times, believing is hearing.

"I can easily discern and appreciate good soundstage, image, balance, tone, timbre, transparency and even the synergy of a system."

This is all you need to build a nice system and enjoy the music. Most people can't do what you can and, as a result,
audiophiles are a small percentage of the general public.

Wendell
I have to agree, over the years I have come to realize that
as an audiophile, I am subject to the power of suggestion.
Sometimes the difference is so glaring you can't deny it, but other times especially on higher end cables vs. cables in the same price range, I strain to convince myself. Some say snake oil but I am thinking more along the lines of self hypnosis. But the adventure is in seeking those minor improvements, one step at a time.
You're not alone.

Sonic changes from tweaks are often subtle or inaudible to me. Especially when it comes to footers/isolation/coupling devices. I've never tried teflon tape.

I've tried Aurios, Rollerblocks, Boston TuneBlocs, sorbothane, Neuance platforms, Audiopoints, and a few other devices. I could hear subtle diferences between them, but nothing that caused an "Ah-Ha!" moment.

Then, Steve McCormack placed some Grand Prix Audio Apex footers under my preamp, and the "Ah-Ha!" moment happened. Was it because he was in the room, and I just wanted to believe I heard the difference? Honestly, I didn't want to hear the difference. The Apex are fairly expensive. I ended up experimenting with the Apex footers for a few weeks, and ultimately bought two pairs.

No, you're not alone, but sometimes it takes the right tweak to open the door.
I hear some, I don't hear others. Consider yourself very very lucky.

ex. I cannot hear differences in many speaker cables but I can hear many differences in interconnects
Not alone. I rarely hear differences from the small tweaks you mention. Setting my speakers on isolation blocks made a difference but the 2 inches difference in height was probably the reason.
My experience is the opposite of Imin2u's concerning ICs and speaker cables. Very little difference, if any, with ICs, while some speaker cables have made me sit up and notice. Have yet to hear a difference with any power cable change. This I attribute to clean power into my room. One of these days I'm gonna sell the PCs I've collected.
Don't worry some people are more susceptible to the power of suggestion that is all.
Don't worry some people are more susceptible to the power of suggestion that is all.

Shame on you Shadorne.
I think it is important as an audiophile to keep some balance between "the system" and "the music". Yet we seem to treat them differently. We may be frustrated because we don't hear some of what others report are obvious differences in system components and tweeks. At the same time, we a quite comfortable with liking some genres of music that others have no interest in.

I have decided what I hear and like is for me, not others. If a component makes a difference to me, I buy it. If I like a musician's work, I buy it. If not, don't. I have also found that where there is some science behind a tweek which I can understand and appreciate, I am more likely to give it a try. But even then, it might not make a difference which I can appreciate of find worth the cost.

Bottom line is don't fall in the trap of implementing something just because you have read somewhere that it provided a benefit to someone else. And don't feel guilty about it, because as these forums demonstrate, for every person that is promoting a change that makes a difference, there is someone just as deteremined that it does not.
I tend to be very skeptical of the value of many elaborate high cost tweaks and that skepticism has served me well over the years.

Still, I do not doubt that many make a difference of some sort, but not all differences are necessarily "better", just different.

Over the years I have found there are affordable ways to accomplish most of one's listening goals.

There are some fundamental things one can do that are relatively easy if you just do some homework first to understand how the technology and physics behind audio works, like chosing amp and speaker combos that work well together, fitting speakers to the room properly, and assuring good physical and electromagnetic isolation of components.

There are other tweaks that both technically make sense to me that they will affect the sound and I can also hear a difference to confirm it. Simple precautionary power conditioning is one. Different sounding ICs are another.

Just remember that no two things sound exactly the same. However some differences are significant and others are not. The best way to find out is do some homework, experiment with different stuff, and listen carefully.
It's a conspiracy, marketing or both. I am with the OP -- I struggle to understand how feet and other tweaks the night and day differences that I read about, moreover that the component itself was seemingly putting out a fraction of its potential without them. I've decided to take all those testimonials I read about with a lot of salt. Money for me is the determining factor -- beyond what i consider a reasonable expenditure, I won't try it. Any 'real' money is going to be spent on an upgrade, not a tweak.

In general, what I have discerned is that anything I put on brass spikes seems to be lighter in bass, thus sounding more 'airy'. Sorbothane has improved bass slightly in some instances (CD players). No tweak has ever been night and day. And the best tweak I've ever done was not to any component but to the room with acoustic paneling.
The only changes that have been significantly noticable in my system are component changes, modifications to equipment (and sometimes those are iffy) and speaker cable /interconnect changes. I have yet to hear a footer make much, if any, difference, though I do use soft footers under every device (I've yet to uderstand how placing a component on a hard object such as brass or grantite can reduce vibration, though my feable mind can kind of understand how a soft footer could insulate from vibration.) Also, contrary to many here, I have yet to notice significant, if any, improvements from a power cord, though I have tried many hoping something will eventually floor me. I use tube dampers and various CD tweaks, but I'm not sure they make any difference.

The crazy thing is that although I doe not perceive that I can hear the changes from many tweaks, I keep using them, believing that if I take them out of my system it will somehow result in a degradation. On the other hand, I am very happy with my system as it currently stands. Perhaps the cumulative effects of the various tweaks I use do, somehow, make a difference. Or, perhaps I just want to believe.
There are two categories of "tweaks" which based on science must have some effect on how a piece performs:

1) a tweak to anything in the signal path from source to ears
2) a tweak that isolates a piece of equipment whose performance is affected by external vibrations or EM fields.

Turntables are the most susceptible to external vibrations. Other components may be as well but to a much lesser degree I believe.

Low level devices like phono step up devices and phono pre-amps are most susceptible to external EM fields. Line level pre-amps are also but the effects here are often more subtle and harder to hear without an a/b comparison.

You can see that phono setups can have a double whammy working against them so they are probably the part of a system that requires the most "tweaking" to get right. I think that's part of their mystique these days.

Tubes and IC and a few other components are the least expensive devices in the signal chain of a good system to tweak to good effect. I think that is part of the mystique with them for hobbyists as well.
05-24-09: Cruz123
The only changes that have been significantly noticable in my system are component changes, modifications to equipment (and sometimes those are iffy) and speaker cable /interconnect changes. I have yet to hear a footer make much, if any, difference, though I do use soft footers under every device (I've yet to uderstand how placing a component on a hard object such as brass or grantite can reduce vibration, though my feable mind can kind of understand how a soft footer could insulate from vibration.) Also, contrary to many here, I have yet to notice significant, if any, improvements from a power cord, though I have tried many hoping something will eventually floor me. I use tube dampers and various CD tweaks, but I'm not sure they make any difference.

The crazy thing is that although I doe not perceive that I can hear the changes from many tweaks, I keep using them, believing that if I take them out of my system it will somehow result in a degradation. On the other hand, I am very happy with my system as it currently stands. Perhaps the cumulative effects of the various tweaks I use do, somehow, make a difference. Or, perhaps I just want to believe.
Cruz123 (System | Threads | Answers)

My exact experience -- every word.
No doubt some tweaks make a real difference. I can feel the vibrations on the surface below my amp. Isolating it made a distinct difference.
Spent all day yesterday building sound adsorbtion panels, bass traps for room treatment. This morning everything sounded better, in suedo fact my tinitus disappeared.
Was it the addition of the sound traps getting rid of those pesky first relection points or my usual relaxed Sunday listening frame of mind?
BTW, the ringing returned after listening a while and then turning on plasma, DTV box and computer. Maybe i should apply those RMF sheets to the ceiling?

Somedays I hear the differences more than others.
Hard to isolate your self from the process.
Maybe the key is to meditate or self hynotize before applying a new tweak. Alternatively, get a third party skeptic with better ears to confirm and enjoy the change vicariously through their affirmations. :)
The way I see it... If a tweak or even a component makes an audible difference than something was either wrong in the first place or afterward. If we agree that no component is ideal, then no system is ideal but an optimized system would be less sensitive to "tweaks".
A tweak is just a change of small magnitude compared to other more major changes that all together in the end determine how things sound.

The effects of tweaks are cumulative though. Some may have good synergy and improve things, others may have a negative effect, the effect of others may be too small to notice.

All that matters is that in the end your system is tuned to your tastes. Tweaks can help get you there. But if things are out of whack to start with in a big way, minor tweaks may be of little consequence. Get the big things right first, like the room/speaker/amp combo, then tweak away from there to fine tune things if needed.
Consider this...two autos, an American large sedan and a foreign high
performance, exotic sports car (any models of your choice). Would we agree that
the sports car is built and designed to higher tolerances and specifications, and
has a more technical engine, drive train and suspension than the large American
sedan? If we can agree on this point, then doesn't it follow that the sports car
would be more sensitive to "tweaks", eg changes in engine parts,
tires, brakes, shocks, etc?

I believe there are audio components that are analogous to the American large
sedan and to the high performance sports car. Components like the sports car
will display sonic changes when tweaked much more readily than will
components like the American sedan.

Both are fine choices, but they are built to different price points, and for
different automotive experiences.
Marigo Mystery Feet provided an immediate, highly significant and positive audible difference in my system.

Marigo Ultra 5 power cords provided an immediate, highly significant and positive audible difference in my system.

They even let you audition for 30 days money back.

Oh, right, they're not a big-rep audiophile brand. Forget I mentioned it.
You mentioned Maple hardwood. My turntable sounds much better on a 3" thick maple block then on a 70lb granite base. Much too bright and shrill on the stone and more warm and lifelike on the wood. It's not my imagination.
Does anyone else struggle to hear….no wait; does anyone else struggle to comprehend how someone else can hear the perceived benefits gained by the inclusion of any number of highly touted tweaks
2chnlben (System | Threads | Answers)

I have 3 highend, silver PCs made for me by Mel at Crystal Clear Audio Cables. Great guy, solid product. They were all supposed to be 1.5m long, but I had him make two of them shorter, 1m. Over the last three days I have swapped them around and find the 1.5m powerchord makes which ever component it is in sound much better. Finally left it in the preamp for maximum effect, tuner ect., now sound better.
Ive read here that 1.5m length is ideal for power band, so maybe there is a reason for my perception.
Point is if you mess around enough with tweaking here and there you may eventually get a ah-ha moment, and set a new baseline for tuning.
To use Tvad's analogy, once you driven a Ferrari you know what good is suppose to be.
05-24-09: Jimjoyce25
Marigo Mystery Feet provided an immediate, highly significant and positive audible difference in my system.

At $799 for 3, they'd better.
And they do. And money-back if they don't work in your system.
"And money-back if they don't work in your system."

That would make a big difference to me to even consider an expensive tweak.

You need only resolve an issue once, like dirty power, poor matching ICs, etc. So a tweak that adds value in one system may not in another. I would drop that kind of money on anything that is not a sure bet. I might shop for it used though, then if it doesn't work out I can sell hopefully without taking a loss and another can try.
In the case of your example with the copper coupler, I hear no difference. But I have dc charged cables. Certainly the are other examples of tweaks giving very modest or no improvements and even ones that at first I think are improvements only to change my mind. That is all part of the quest. I have tried other tweaks that give great improvements in some instances and great harm in others. An example of this is the Acoustic Revive QR-8 little quartz points.

Your own ears will have to be the judge. As the old warning goes YMMV.
Yes, the price on the Marigo feet is definitely an issue, especially if you find it works in your system.

One set for the preamp, another for the cd player, one more for the phono stage if your's is separate, then one or two more for your amp(s), that's real money. And that's not even mentioning two set of four for your speakers.

So, maybe the best strategy is just to keep Pandora's box shut tight!
I myself hear the differences more when I remove a tweak from my system than when I add it. I think it takes time for the item to break in, for me anyway. Try adding the tweak, wait a week or two then remove it and see if you hear the difference then. If you can not hear the difference then it is not worth it, return it. At Home Depot you can return an item forever.
So, what is the sciene behind the Margigo feet that makes them so good? I looked at the website, but didn't find any explanation. There's one review, but no analysis there either. Do they provide some sort of mechanical response to vibration, or is it the material they're made from?
Look, here's the deal; on so many of these "tweaks" there's no way to do a true A/B comparison. With the copper coupler, at least you can instantaneously compare between - the coupler installed, or uninstalled, by sliding it on or off during the same song (even the same passage in the song - hell, even within the same extended note), same settings, etc. Other tweaks (e.g.: isolation, power cords, this-that-and the other), cannot be compared in a true A/B demo, making memory the only method of determining all of those “huge/noticeable/plain-as –the-nose-on-your-face/night-day” differences. Installing different speakers in a system can make dramatic changes – changes that are clearly discernable via memory alone. If, say…let’s pick on isolation feet, these things make the kind of improvements that are clearly discernable via memory alone, then why even bother replacing the actual equipment. I have no doubt that people truly think they can remember hearing difference in these tweaks, and for those who actually do hear the differences, I really think our country, in this time of uncertainty, could utilize the services of people with such extraordinary skills and abilities….
2chnlben, I thought you were opening a discussion about why some people
hear changes tweaks provide and why some people don't. You received some
honest replies.

I thought you were genuinely open minded on the topic, but it appears I was
mistaken. Your latest post suggests that you are of the opinion that
people who hear changes are kidding themselves...that they
are self delusional.

These threads always end up the same way. Objectivist arguing with
subjectivists, and no one ever meeting in the middle.

I hope that one day you have the good fortune to try a power cord,
interconnect, isolation device, contact paste...something...that allows you to
hear the difference it makes, regardless of whether it's good or bad.
JimJoyce: The Marigo TR/VX footers are the best footers I have used. That includeds stillpoints, aurios pro-bearings, maple-shade brass points, Townshend sinks, Granite surface plates, and so on---Yeah---I have been at it for over 40 years and they are the most musical isolation device I've heard. Best part-try them for 30 days-NG-send them back-but I bet you won't-how can you lose??
Cruz: I don't know that anyone besides the inventor really knows how they work.

My friend (who is a preamp and cd player designer) and I did a direct comparison of the Marigo and Equarack footers (I had previously purchased two sets of the Equaracks, and he had several sets of Marigos).

Based on the manufacturers' explanations of how they worked, he expected the Equarack footers to come out on top, but the Marigos did, and it wasn't close.

He has asked Marigo how they work, and the answers he got didn't make things any clearer.

There's apparently something like 30 parts in each footer, each of which needs to be hand- or machine-finished, which probably explains the high cost.

Full disclosure: Based on his experiences with the Marigo products (cd mat, power cords, footers, tuning dots) my friend became a Marigo dealer (very small-time, no meaningful profit: Since the Marigos work on the equipment he designs, he is able to provide the Marigos to those of his customers who want them). ---However, the reason to try these is because there is no risk---if they don't work out, you get your money back.
Tvad well said!!! Subjectivism has been very very good for me.
I thought you were genuinely open minded on the topic, but it appears I was
mistaken. Your latest post suggests that you are of the opinion that
people who hear changes are kidding themselves...that they
are self delusional.

And here I thought my sarcasm was pretty blatant; just the same, it is merely skepticism and definitely not meant to be insulting.
The placebo effect is very real and a completely normal human occurrence. The power of suggestion has sold more than a few products to very satisfied customers….see a connection between the two!?
Now, although the aforementioned statements are indisputable facts, there undoubtedly exists exceptional products, as well as exceptional people (the golden eared types).
2chnlben, sarcasm is often tricky to convey in print. I understand and relate to your skepticism. I suppose that's why I hold out hope that you will hear a change brought about by a tweak of some kind.
Tvad - I appreciate your hopefulness, but as they say..."don't hold your breath!"

The worst part here, for me, is that I still buy/try the stuff (with limits - no footers costing $266/ea). At least, if I was experiencing the placebo effect, I wouldn't feel frustrated about the purchase.
2chnlben, I am sorry that you are experiencing another placebo effect-not hearing real differences because of your perceptual bias.

I am kind of with "two channel ben" on this one. I hate stuff that makes small differences. I much prefer to hear big differences, much better cd player, big differences in cable etc. When I do make small additions or change things out I just let it play and listen for a couple of days and see if I like it. If it doesn't sound worse I leave it and usually after a time I can decide if it is better then it was. Typically those small incremental changes are slow death. In other words inching your way to a good sound. I rarely A & B those kind of changes with the exceptions for toe in and speaker placement.
Actually, I am like Sounds_real also on this.

I do not sweat changes that make small differences.

I have found some "tweaks" can make a big difference though, often similar in magnitude to a change from one good source or amp to another.

I don't know if I'd say I've ever heard a tweak make as much difference as can be had by changing speakers though.

Tweaks also have smaller downsides when they don't work out for the better than the other bigger changes.
Tbg -

That's not the case. I truly want to hear the differences. Now, it may certainly be possible that I am unable to hear real differences because of...say, poor hearing, inferior electronics, etc. I highly doubt it. For certain though, my NOT hearing a difference with some tweaks has absolutely nothing to do with...as you put it, perceptual bias.
I completely agree that tweaks reslt in small changes when compared to
swapping components or speakers, which usually result in larger changes.

I don't prefer one over the other because I view them as totally different parts
of the process.

I view tweaking as something one does when their components and speakers
are satisfying and no further changes are expected in those areas. Then,
tweaks become fine tuning.

It doesn't make sense to expect tweaks to make large adjustments in a
system's sound. If that's the goal, then either a component or the speakers
need to be changed.

The benefit of buying used accessories, or by utilizing home trial periods is
that the accessory can be resold or returned if it makes no difference in the
system. It's a zero sum game.

Finally, there's no reason to be frustrated by not hearing the differences made
by tweaks. Everyone's system, expectations, and perceptions differ. We're not
clones.
I view tweaking as something one does when their components and speakers
are satisfying and no further changes are expected in those areas. Then,
tweaks become fine tuning.

It doesn't make sense to expect tweaks to make large adjustments in a
system's sound. If that's the goal, then either a component or the speakers
need to be changed.

Spot on Tvad…well said! Yet, there are many who profess to hearing significant changes when incorporating a variety of relatively minor tweaks. Time and time again, we read that someone has improved the soundstage, detail, clarity, transparency, etc.; and furthermore, these same persons combine words like, “huge,” “night-and day,” “immediate,” “very noticeable,” etc., so that the claim is - for example, “a night and day difference in the soundstage, or bass definition.” Really? All from that brass screw, or those expensive footers, cheap coupler, Teflon tape, etc.

For me, that is kind of an insult to my meager intelligence. I just can’t believe that anyone can (significantly) improve soundstage, transparency, inner detail, bass definition, etc. by incorporating some of these minor tweaks. Note, I did not say that it is not possible to enhance a system’s performance by fine-tuning it with tweaks…I say that these so-called really significant improvements cannot be attained by minor tweaking (and, after all, a night-and-day difference in the sound floor, bass control, frequency extension, clarity, transparency, etc., is a HUGE and significant improvement).
2Chlnben,

I spend hours to A/B stuff. I guess I have tin ears like yourself. I try to use a remote to control what I am listening to without having to move. I also use a meter to carefuly match volume levels for comparisons.

My experience is that it is easy to hear a difference but it is very hard to ensure the difference is not simply down to head position, volume level or from a different focus or attention that one inevitably places on the music as one repeats a track or a combination of all of these.

Some differences are distinctly audible. Four corner tri-traps was definitely audible at the listening position (with careful listening) and extremely obvious as you aproach the traps (in the room corners which is not a normal listening position but confirms they do something)

Differences between Benchmark DAC1 and an ordinary CD player were not clearly evident to a friend of mine but they were to me (once I knew what to listen for I could identify which was which). Nevertheless the difference was small compared to the effects of a room or speaker.

I'd recommend Alton Everests "Critical Listening Skills for Audio Professionals" for those who want to hone their skills.
05-26-09: 2chnlben
...there are many who profess to hearing significant changes when incorporating a variety of relatively minor tweaks.

That goes to my statement that we all have different perceptions (and therefore different personal scales of the "wow!" factor).

Look, where I grew up, the most descriptive phrase when something was really good was, "It's fine.". It's fine? Not until I moved away did I experience people who actually got incredibly enthused about something and used exciting, descriptive language to express themselves.

Why let someone's personal perception be an insult to your intelligence? Why not accept that they perceive changes on a different scale than do you? Next time you try a tweak that in your opinion provides little change, and that someone else has described as jaw dropping, you'll know how to weigh that person's sensibilities relative to yours.

As I said, we're not clones. We all sense the world differently.
Not out to insult anyone's intelligence. Not out to offend anyone's sense of what amount is proper or improper to spend on a footer.

The question was asked: Can a tweak make a big difference?

I provided an example of a product that is under most radar, and which offers a money-back trial period. It works for me.

For those who wish to try it, I'd be interested to hear what your experience is.

For those who do not, it's your time, money and belief system. You're entitled!
Time tempers ebullience, and allows the abused wallet to heal.
So many things can change the sonics of a system but, do they acually make it sound better.

That is the ?

Tim
Jimjoyce25, as we used to say, that is damn right of you.
Thanks to all. This was just another pointless thread meant to stir a little healthy debate. Even if we were all in the same room demoing tweaks, we could never say with any certainty whether or not someone really heard a difference, or merely perceived hearing a difference. I remain a doubter, not because I am predisposed to a negative viewpoint, but because I just can’t hear the perceived enhancements that some of these relatively minor tweaks purportedly impart on a given system’s ability to convey music. With that said, what are you going to do, stop obsessing about your system? That’s absurd! It’s all part of the hobby (hobby is a nice word for this neurosis). By the way, I use quite a few tweaks, but I can’t say they make any differences! So, it could well be asked, who’s nuttier, the guy who spends money on something he can hear and appreciate, or the guy who spends money on things he can’t hear? It’s all nuts man!
2chnlben, as I said earlier, I certainly have tried tweaks that made very little, if any impact; I have tried tweaks that initially had an impact that I liked, only to discover later that I liked them out of my system; and I have tried tweaks that have a substantial impact in one place, none in a second place, and do great harm in a third. I don't see how these experiences can be reconciled with the idea that tweaks merely have a perceived impact, especially unless they have "scientific basis." I have much training in science and in research methods. As an undergraduate one of my majors was physics. I certainly know that my training now is quite out-of-date as we know much more about nature's laws than we did in the 1960s. Science doesn't know everything that can affect reproduced music.
People hear differently. Some better than others. Just as some people have better eyesight, sense of smell, and sense of taste. I am steadfast in this belief.

I'm a road bicyclist. Over the years, I have gone through periods of intense training. However, I know that no matter how much I trained, I would never be on the level of riders like Lance Armstrong, or any of the riders in the Grand Tours. Those guys simply have different cardio/pumlinary physiology than do I. Their hearts and lungs can process oxygen better, and their legs can process lactic acid better than mine. We won't get into the doping issue.

Just as a professional cyclist's physiology is better than mine, I am absolutely certain that hearing is different among humans as well. Some have keener, more sensitive ears.

2chnlben, although I know you will resist the notion, you may rest easier knowing that others possess naturally better hearing than you do, and in fact these people will hear differences brought about by tweaks whereas you will not. It will lessen your frustration if you realize and accept this.