Much of what Ethan presents as "fact" is actually "opinion" and quite "totalitarian" in scope. For those that are too lazy to cut and paste, here's a direct link to the website. Since i was the one that "whined" the loudest about wanting to post links, i have to take advantage of having the ability to now : ) Sean
>opinions presented as facts
I have just read the entire Ethan Winer website. I can tell you right now that this man has absolutely no clue. There was not one word on that site that was accurate. His attempt at technical reasoning is pure blather. The only thing I can conclude from his writing, is that he has totally deluded himself(probably to save money on gear), and he posted a website to make himself think that if it is on the internet, it must be true. A true idiot.
TWL and Sean are correct. This guy is clueless. No pun intended to our very own clueless:)
I took just one piece of his so called work which stated that:
Myth: Replacing the resistors and capacitors in preamps and power amps with higher quality units can improve the sound of a system.
Fact: Unless your capacitors are defective (they allow DC current to pass through them), or have changed their value over time due to heat and other environmental factors, you are not likely to improve anything by replacing them. The same goes for replacement metal film resistors. It's true that metal film resistors have lower noise than other types, but that makes a difference only in certain critical circuits, such as the input stage of a high-gain mike preamp. It's also true that different types of capacitors are more or less suitable for different types of circuits. But if you think the designers of your amplifier or mixer are too stupid to have used appropriate components in the first place, why would the rest of the design be good enough to warrant the cost of improved parts? In fairness, extremely old gear often employs carbon composition resistors, and replacing them can make a difference in many audio circuits. But anything manufactured in the past 20 years or so will use carbon film resistors and decent capacitors.
If a mixer or mike preamp is already audibly "transparent" and its specs show nearly unmeasurable distortion with a frequency response flat from DC to light, how can it possibly be made better? Bear in mind that a distortion figure of 0.01 percent means that all of the distortion components, added together, are 80 dB. below the level of the original signal! Indeed, the single best way to maintain transparency is to minimize the number of devices in the audio path.
This is nonsense:
For those of you who don't believe in the value good capacitors etc make in a curcuit I ask you to read the well written special report by Martin Colloms in the July issue of Hi-Fi News regarding their evaluation of Black Gate capacitors. For those of you who can't find it I will be happy to fax it. As an example: We have two transports. Both are exactly the same except one has Black gate caps and other improvements in parts quality. The difference between the two is staggering. Sounds to me like he deals in electrical theory which we all know seems to go by the wayside in audio. I don't know why but it does.
Sean how did you post the link? I like it. I don't know what to think about audio myths, it would be good to hear with / without Black gate caps but not easy to do.
I think you're too harse in your criticism. His biggest faux-pas is presenting opinion as fact, but this a very common failing. That aside, here are a few excerpts I agree with :
"is often accompanied by a resonant peak, which can add ringing and a boost in level at that frequency. Therefore, designing a transducer to respond beyond 20 KHz. is useful because it pushes any inherent resonance past audibility"
"there is nothing inherent in gold that makes it sound better than a clean connection using standard materials"
I would also say to JCaudio, that, often basic theory does not explain all of the strange quirks of audio, but fuller theory, including, most importantly, the effects of real-world constraints and imperfections, will always explain audio effects. I get quite upset when people suggest that we should ignore the theory and use our ears. In fact we should do both ... use our ears then develop the theories, to back them up.
Also we should blind test more often. There are many subtle and unusual effects in audio that have surprised me, but there have been just as many "emperor's new clothes" over the years.
Seandtaylor, I think that just having a couple of non-controversial points in his otherwise ludicrous essay is akin to putting a couple of drops of coffee in your poison to make it taste better. There is such total disregard for known fact in his article, that the 2 things that you mention cannot begin to lend credence to his ramblings.
Seandtaylor, While I tend to agree that theory should be relevant in analyzing certain aspects of audio, my experience has been otherwise. As an example some theorists will say that a power cord brings ac to your component. How can this possibly affect the sound. Who knows, but it does. To a large degree I might add. There are so many things that engineers have tried to convince me that can't possibly make a difference in audio. Ultimately things like cables, transports, power supplies, parts quality etc.etc. do make a huge difference. To dismiss this fact leads me to believe that the system used to evaluate and make such claims is not very revealing.
His article seems more like his experience or opinions with a tiny bit of electrical engineering thrown in to substantiate his arguments. That is his opininon. I can respect that. I have mine also. I guess that is what makes this hobby so interesting is that not everyone hears or cares about the same things. Happy listening.
TWL : agree ... but I'd like to think that we're in the business of critiquing such web pages, not trashing them. In general I find your posts very interesting and I'm quite keen to listen to a low power valve amp with high-efficiency full range drivers (my system is Spica Angelus w/solid state), since I have never had the time or money to play with valves/lowthers. However there are a couple of salient point in that chap's web page so I thought I'd draw them out.
JCAudio. I have never experimented with power cords, and I expect that whether they change the sound of a system is heavily dependant on how transparent the system is. My system may or may not benefit, so I'll try one someday. That said, I think that the effects of RFI, inductance, capacitance, and the filtering of noise which the component drives back out onto the power supply (particularly cheap CD players !) are all factors which could cause a power cord to make an audible difference, and which should be measurable. I'm interested in the postings of P. Qvortrup, since he raises issues I'd never really considered with respect to impedance matching, valve amplification, DAC filtering. However I respect that he raises these issues in a scientific way, pointing to physical, measurable effects.
I am very very skeptical of ANY product that does not explain the physical phenomena in its marketing and I'm convinced that there's plenty of snake oil and fairy dust out there, but equally there are plenty of real second-order effects, not immediately obvious to the pure theorist. I am interested in trying to separate the two, because my budget is very limited, and I don't enjoy being parted from large amounts of cash !
One of the problems I have with web sites and articles such as this, is that they portray the audiophile as a sap, who is just waiting for the next magic trick to sink his hard earned money into. I have found that much the opposite is true. The audiophile is generally an intelligent and informed consumer, and knowledgeable about the subject at hand. Quite often he is not rich, and is very interested in getting good value for his dollar. I can't think of anyone here on this site that would pay good money for a power cord upgrade, if they honestly couldn't hear the difference. So, my point is, that these people are actually "trashing" us. They consider us deluded, obsessive lunatics. I resent that.
Are you saying that if they are not measurable and scientific that our ears are wrong or the findings irrelevant?
I am not a engineer. I am and have been a avid audiophile for 32 years. While I can't explain why power cords make a difference I know they do. Even on the same cd player 9 different cords will probably sound different in every case. In regrads to cheap cd players causing the change from power cords I find the reverse to be true. The better the components the more pronounced the differences.
I just tried new power cords tonight on a system I am intimately familiar. The bass was all but gone. It could be break in. Can you measure break in on a component? I encourage you to try some different power cords, speaker cables etc. Try to measure any difference then use your ears. Did you know most Sony receivers measure better than most of the high end equipment available. Specs mean very little if anything to me. That is just my opinion. I am not trying to take any of your money. Happy Listening (measuring):)
JCAudio .. no I'm not saying that. What I'm saying is that if you can't immediately explain why your ears hear a difference it's because your theory is not good enough.
Take an example ... digital cables. Basic theory says it's just ones and zeros, and that, so long as the cable is not so poor as to cause the two to be mistaken by the DAC then you'll hear no difference.
But we do hear a difference.
So the more advanced theory looks at the eye pattern of the signal, considers jitter, cable bandwidth (limited by capacitance and inductance), RFI, and impedance matching, and shows that the optimal eye pattern (which really means low jitter in lay terms) is actually quite hard to achieve, and will certainly alter the overall sound.
So I think you misunderstood me. I am not saying that we should measure audio by specs .. of course not, we should measure it by grins :-). That said it is important to strive to understand what are the phenomena at work that put the grins on our faces, so we can make those grins wider and available at lower prices.
I'm an engineer, but I'm a practical engineer. Engineering is about optimal performance at the right price. A wonderful sounding HiFi that costs $100,000 is about as much use as a chocolate teapot to the general population. A slightly less wonderful sounding system, that still sounds very good, but retails for $1000 is going to bring much more pleasure to many more people. However it is also a much more challenging engineering task, only accomplished when one has a very sound technical understanding of what makes a hifi work well.
Seandtaylor, I agree wholeheartedly with your point of view in this latest post of yours. And the crux of my agreement is that the consumer/audiophile should be well-versed and informed if he is to be spending his money on this hobby. Since this is a technical hobby, there are many technical reasons why things work the way they do. If you have a correct understanding of these, you can make a more informed decision. This should not supplant using your ears as a guide, but should help you to know what has a chance at working, and what doesn't. We all know that specs don't tell the story, and can be a pitfall to those who don't learn beyond the marketing ploy of specs. But, we also know that certain electrical characteristics of the equipment will make a difference in sound, and performance with other gear in your system. So it should be audible performance AND proper design parameters that should guide your decisions. With practice and listening, you will be able to "predict" with some accuracy, what gear will sound like, just by what designs it uses. For example, most people would be able to tell the difference between an EL-34 PP tube amp and a SET 300B. These tubes and designs have characteristic sounds. If you know these things, you can "know" approximately what amps of this type will sound like even before you audition them. If you know what the characteristic strengths and weaknesses are, you know what to listen for to see how well they do in these areas. This can be a benefit when auditioning. So the technical aspects can guide you, but the proof is in the hearing.
Lastly I cannot believe that there is anything that the ear can discern that is not measurable. The frequency response, dynamic range and phase sensitivities of the human ear are hardly so great as to present problems with measuring equipment.
When people find no measurable effect I suspect they're measuring the wrong thing. e.g. measuring bit errors on digital cables ... of course the bit errors don't change. But the DAC requires timing information along with the bits and timing info. probably does change.