Objective vs. Placebo relating to system changes


I am continually baffled by the number of people that are convinced that changes to power cords, speaker wires, interconnects, etc. in their systems result is objectively real changes. While I won't go so far as saying that making these changes absolutely doesn't make a difference, I would love to have the resources to challenge people prove it to me and test it with my own ears.

Here's what I would do if time and financial resources were no object (I'm visualizing retired millionaires that are audiophiles).

I would build a listening room where the only components in the listening space were the speakers and the speaker cables coming through opening in the wall where the rest of the system was setup. The idea would be to allow the test subject the opportunity to create their system of choice and then have the opportunity to become very familiar with the system by spending hours listening. Then I would let them know when I was going to start changing different components on them on a very random basis and they should report any changes that they heard so we could link the changes to any potential changes on the other side of the wall.

Here's a short list of things that I'd try:

(1) I would replace the upgraded power cord with the stock unit.
(2) I would install or remove isolation (e.g. Nordost sort kones) devices from a component.
(3) I would replace interconnects with basic quailty products.
(4) I would replace well "broken-in" cables with otherwise identical new ones.

Depending on the results of doing these test slowly over a period of time I would consider swapping out some of the more major components to see how obvious a macro change was if the listener wasn't aware that a change had been made.

I can tell the difference between new and broken in speakers (on ones that I'm familiar with) so I know this break-in is very real and would also not be at all surprised with differences from amplifiers and analog sources being obvious. I'm not as sure about digital sources.

So the question is, what components in your system would you be confident enough to bet, say $1,000, that you could identify that something changes if it was swapped out?

In my system I am sure that I could identify a change in amplification or speakers, but highly doubt that I could do the same with any cables, isolation devices, or digital sources. Maybe I just reduced myself to being a non-audiophile with low-fi gear?
mceljo
You do enjoy stirring the pot, don't you?
Stirring up the mice again, eh?

I am confident I can tell when my analog ICs change between the 3 I have tried at least: dnm, MIT, Harmonic Tech. Each is clearly radically different in design. Not all are so much so. I would not say I could always tell a difference, though one might exist.

I have not had much success hearing differences with different digital ICs or even with different digital sources of same resolution into the same DAC.

I think I have heard difference using power conditioner.

I use a decent quality power cord and am done with it. Not looking to hear any differences even if they exist.

That's the extent of my dabbling. Once I have things sounding just right, tend to stop dabbling for the most part and just enjoy listening.
I have to agree. You really don't want an answer. For whatever reason some people just "don't like" certain aspects of high end audio. Don't ask me why. But they go on a crusade of never ending questions that they know can't be answered or dealt with in any real way.

"I would love to have the resources to challenge people prove it to me and test it with my own ears."

No resources will ever be enough for you. There will always be some essential element that you must have, and that you won't be able to attain, in order to conduct a proper test.

"I would build a listening room where the only components in the listening space were the speakers and the speaker cables coming through opening in the wall where the rest of the system was setup."

Why not just hang a curtain (or something similar) in front of your system so you can't see it. Then you can just have a friend swap out components. It will be a lot cheaper than building a whole new room. This is something you should have the resources to do right now.

"Here's what I would do if time and financial resources were no object (I'm visualizing retired millionaires that are audiophiles)."

Here's another example of why you don't want an answer. You need to be a retired millionaire with lots of time on your hands? Well if that's the case, its another way to get you off the hook. If you're not a retired millionaire audiophile, there's no way you can conduct a proper test. I know cables aren't cheap, but how do you think the rest of us non millionaire audiophiles test cables? The answer is simple. We find a way.

"In my system I am sure that I could identify a change in amplification or speakers, but highly doubt that I could do the same with any cables, isolation devices, or digital sources. Maybe I just reduced myself to being a non-audiophile with low-fi gear?"

Or you are just talking yourself out of a way to get some answers. Why try, its hopeless?!! Just think, if you are reduced to being a non-audiophile with low-fi gear, you have no place to go but up.


I could surely tell if my preamp was switched and most likely my CD player as well. Not sure on the rest tho. Speakers seems most obvious 1st choice.
Zd542 - I realize that I'm asking somewhat unanswerable questions, but the intent is to make people think about how sure they are about the difference they hear.

I have Nordost Sort Kones under my SACD player and after several attempts to prove to myself that they did or did not make a difference I left them in and chock up the "improvement" that I convinced myself I heard to being primarily placebo. Even after coming to that conclusion I never took them back for a refund, which I could have done, and have never removed them from my system. What I am convinced about is that if my wife took them out and I couldn't visually tell the difference I'd never know.

I'm also convinced myself that I heard a difference between a $7 pair of hardware store speaker wires and a $2,000 pair something fancy, but it certainly wasn't a $1,997 improvement.

I am an engineer so my gears are always turning and thinking about this stuff.
10-31-13: Mceljo
I am an engineer.

Say no more..nudge, nudge...wink, wink
FWIW I use Cat 5 for speaker cables, and my power cords are DIY from clothes dryer cords just because I figured it can't be worse than a thin stock cord. But I've never sat and listened for more than a few minutes 'cause I have better things to do. I always have several things in mind I'd like to do that I'm pretty sure will have much more impact on sound than PCs, ICs, or SCs.

But - Assuming your system is up to date, maybe the first "test" you might consider is closing your eyes and have someone come in and set it up so there's not a big cart in the middle, and the speakers aren't straight and up against the wall. You'd probably hear that.
In the sort of test you propose, I'd be willing to bet money on hearing the swap of my amp, preamp, phono cartridge, or speakers. The differences between my Luxman and Arcam cd players don't make themselves immediately obvious. Nor do changes to cables and isolation devices. However, over repeated listening to familiar recordings, I discern differences to subtle nuances of recordings with which I am familiar. We can make self deprecating comments about our systems being too low-fi to hear the effects of cable and isolation devices, but there is some truth to that. When I was starting out with Adcom amps, Denon cd players, and Maggie MGA's, I wasn't convinced I could hear that much improvement over cheap freebie cables with the the first set of "audiophile" cables I bought on the Cable Company's recommendation. But, as I got older and had more spare coin to indulge in my hobby, more resolving equipment did allow for easier discernment of the subtle changes cables and other tweaks brought to my system. I've never had any "jaw dropping" revelations with cable upgrades, but I've darn sure heard obvious improvements I didn't want to hear (because I didn't want to accept the fact that more money spent on cables would result in better sound.) I would caution both cable/isolation device skeptics and fanboys to remember none of these things are universally applicable. What works/doesn't work in your system doesn't mean your findings are applicable to a different set of components. I hear a difference when I install a Wireworld power cord on my RCM Sensor phono preamp, but I don't hear a difference between a Harmonic Technology and the stock power cord it came with. If I'd quit experimenting after trying the Harmonic Technology, I could have saved myself some money but I'd have only partially educated my ears.
Audiophiles care a lot about subtle things, a lot of which cannot be easily measured or quantified. It s kind of like The Twilight Zone. Hard to know the difference between what is real and what is not. One hears something, the next does not. A lot is hard to believe. The only way through is to trust ones own ears and proceed with a healthy dose of skepticism.
In some ways I don't really care if I am imagining the improvement - if I have mentally manufactured a better sound because I spent the money and it simply has to be better to justify the cost.

If that's what it takes - spend the money and be fooled by preconceptions colouring perceptions - it doesn't ultimately matter. The music is there; the magic is there; the enjoyment is there.

When I go to a hifi show and listen to the various rooms, there are some I love, some I like and some I don't like as much. And when the show reports come out in the press they don't always line up with what I thought.

But again, it doesn't matter much - it's not a competition. It's just a harmless hobby.

Regards,
I think a lot of my skepticism is directly related from understanding enough of the related science, or having friends that do, to understand how misleading a lot of the "science" manufactures give to support their products. Some of it is just wrong while others use accurate buy totally unrelated stuff.

My best observation at my local shop was to point out that they had a speaker wired backwards because one of my familiar recordings had the guitar in the right channel instead of the left. After a short disagreement, they took a look and found an interconnect swapped on one end. It had nothing to do with sound quality, but it didn't sound right at all to me.
Maybe I just make up stories that sound good. Who cares?
If the op has doubts? GOOD! NOT MY PROBLEM.
I have no need to convice anyone. Nor do I care.
If all the stories around do not give one a sense that something is going on beside trickery.. then no amount of additional 'whatever' will matter.
"I think a lot of my skepticism is directly related from understanding enough of the related science, or having friends that do, to understand how misleading a lot of the "science" manufactures give to support their products."

Yea, that's all part of the high end audio twilight zone. I always hesitate to even mention it, but see most any product from Machina Dynamica for a good example of the kind of nonsense that can and does go on.

The Twilight Zone of high end audio is prime feeding ground for vendors to prey on clients with lots of money and ambitions but little relevant knowledge to go with it.

Also home of those who are trustworthy and with very high standards for sound quality who understand the scientific and engineering fundamentals of producing good quality sound and are likely to be able to set the bar for good sound quality, and are able to communicate intelligently and with good intentions about how to go about it.

THen of course everything in-between, including many diverse views and opinions.

GOtta say that only a fool would tread these waters without being prepared to assert healthy doses of skepticism regularly. Some thick skin can help.

But if good sound and camaraderie with other with like mind and good intentions is your goal, I'd say its worth spending teh time it might take for one to sort through it all.

That's the sign post up ahead....
Mceljo, My friend, with all due respect, I think a lot of us are baffled why some people fail to understand that rejection of and shielding against RFI and EMI can make an audible difference in a high end system. It’s not necessary to invoke metaphysical explanations.

It is also not necessary for everyone to understand all of the science and engineering that may be involved. Sometimes it’s OK to take an Edisonian approach and be guided by empiricism. There are plenty of people who use a toaster without understanding how it works. If that were to be a requirement for use of a toaster, there would be a few people without toast.

If you are in Indianapolis, send me an email and I will demonstrate in 10 minutes that PCs make a difference that is immediately obvious.

At the end of the day, perhaps you may want to entertain the possibility that not all of us are fools. I'm not sure what it is you wish to accomplish with this thread.
"shielding against RFI and EMI can make an audible difference in a high end system"

That's a good one that often relates to ICs.

Encompassing my low level phono set up transformer device with a makeshift external mu metal surround is a clearly audible example of this I can point out in my experience, but the concept extends to even more common line level signals, though the effects at higher levels is surely more subtle. Science accounts for why this would be the case fairly well I would say. Using shielded ICs (like the MITs I use) versus unshielded (the DNMs I use and prefer for this) alone also makes a clear difference in my case.
Definitely maybe.
"not necessary for everyone to understand all of the science and engineering that may be involved."

That's the point - there often ISN'T science and engineering, it's mystical nonsense that's justified by saying that "well, you're system can't resolve to hear the difference sniff, sniff", or "well, maybe YOUR ears can't hear, but mine.....".

So much nonsense and BS, particularly when it comes to things like power cords (and I have $500+ ones in my inventory, btw), with people trying to desperately back into an answer like "well, maybe the power actually starts at the component" - c'mon!

It seems that many who so desperately profess to hear the "mind blowing" differences are also the ones that desperately try to debunk double blind testing as they know they'll get outed to the nonsense.
Mceljo - here's some basics of the science...

In simple terms it's all about conductivity . i.e. how fast a metal can conduct an electrical current.

King of the hill is silver closely followed by copper - everything else pale by comparison.

See -
http://metals.about.com/od/properties/a/Electrical-Conductivity-In-Metals.htm

Alas - not all copper is equal - there are different levels of purity and some providers alloy the copper for price reasons - impurities reduce the effectiveness of the cable resulting in a less dynamic sound

Now that's just conductivity of the base metal. Wire needs insulation between the conductors - making a cable introduces capacitance and inductance into the equation. With an audio signal impedance becomes a factor - it's like resistance except that is frequency dependent.

Some cable may have a high capacitance which can effect the sound e.g. make it bright, or ir can effect the operation of the attached component e.g. Naim amps do not like high capacitance speaker cables - in some amps high capacitance cables can cause their internal circuit to oscillate and then they sound like crap.

So where do power cables fit in - well, they control the flow of current to the amp.

An underated power cable will not be able to supply sufficient current to an amp when it tries to reproduce transient spikes in the audio signal - in that case the voltage in the internal circuit drops ever so slightly which prevents the amp from adequately amplifying the signal, which introduces distortions into the waveform.

Now complicate that with the fact that there are two amps operating and what happens is the distortions in both amps are not exactly the same, which contributes to an imbalance between L/R channels, which effects the spatial image.

This is just the tip of the iceburg - factor in all the other cable discoveries that have been discovered e.g. skin effect etc., and you end up with the cable science we have today

The one common design point you will find in quality components is their substantial power supply. It is designed to allow the component to operate as best it can in a less than perfect power environment. More modestly priced components may actually respond better to a cable upgrade.

Case in point - my neighbour bought a $200 boom box - I replaced the 18 gauge cable with a 14 gauge cable from Home Depot - she could not believe the improvement in dynamics, bass response and clarity - and she is no audiophile.

So, will quality components benefit from good power cables? - you bet they will, but the improvements are often in the area of enhanced micro details that contribute to better instrument isolation and 3D spatial imaging

Will replacing a single power cable make a noticeable difference - maybe not at first, but when you replace other power cables or interconnects on components in the audio chain the improvements may become apparent.

I decided to replace my entire power corridor
- dedicated line from the breaker panel
- quality Pass and Seymour outlets
- silver plated copper plugs and connectors
- quality power cable that I constructed myself

The benefits are very apparent.

I do not expect you to become a convert, but if you are ever in the Toronto area I also will happily demonstrate, like brownsfan, the difference cables made in my modestly priced system - it's very noticeable.

Hope this helps
Some folks appear destined to become avid book collectors or model railroaders. Not thst there's anything wrong with that.
There are many people on the Linn/Naim forums that claim to be able to hear the difference between the two sides of the felt mat. All I can say is that I'm glad my hearing is not as good as theirs. Never assume that because you can't hear something that nobody else can hear it. It's like saying that you can't read fine print so nobody else can. We're all different.
Understanding the 'science' behind something doesn't constitute a bar of sorts on which to judge others perceptions since the beauty of that 'science' is that it is disprovable. This has been discussed here at great length before.

If you have any doubts that others can hear a difference and can't experience it firsthand with others, what is the strength of those doubts and just how far are you willing to go to refute them? By setting up a straw man argument?

Not too long ago there was an article on another audio site that went back to one of the first audio double blind challenges that was revealed to be nothing more than an attempt to embarrass audiophiles by a person with an agenda against audiophiles. That person was quickly forgotten but his methods weren't.

All the best,
Nonoise
I'd love an opportunity to be convinced, but my location is not near either of you that offered. My issues relating to sciece are primarily when the science used to market audio equipment is obviously flawed or just unrelated. I don't expect every product to have a scientificly (I can't spell this word today I guess) sound proof, all that I ask is don't lie to me.

An example is the people that sell gold cables stating that they are the best when silver is proven to be superior. The use of gold is mostly like due to the fact that many people associate gold with being the best and assume that it'll cost a lot. If they simply said that the use of gold as a conductor provided a color to the sound that they preferred to silver or copper, then I wouldn't necessarily call BS on them.

My original question was intended to set a stage "where all other things are equal" as the foundation of the discussion and then find out what changes in the system people are 100% confident people could identify. This goes to the heart of the discussion about the value (i.e. cost vs. improvement vs. I swap things for fun) of upgrading and/or changing equipment.

In my case, I'm perfectly happy with the sound of my system, but purchased a tube integrated (I was given most of the money as a gift) because I just wanted to experience something different than what I have. I won't even be surprised if I prefer the sound of my solid state gear, but only time will tell.

I'm not against changing for the sake of changing, but that should be the reason and not I'm spending an additional $10,000 on an interconnect when I couldn't tell if you swapped it out or not if you didn't tell me.

When I had Nordost Sort Kones demonstrated under a CD player on a system with speakers in the middle of the Focal Utopia line and a Pathos amplifier, I was convinced that I could hear a difference, but was equally convinced that I would never be able to tell if they were in or out if I just walked in and wasn't doing an A/B comparison. And, I still ended up with a pair because curiosity got the better of me.

My first question to the salesman was if they made more of a difference on cheap CD player compared to the $10,000 ones and was suprised that they seemed to work equally. My next question was why a company selling a $10,000 CD player wouldn't either incorporate a similar design or just work out a deal with Nordost to include them with the purchase.
I find it interesting that many of those who come close to being in the position to do such an experiment - namely audio reviewers and editors of audio magazines - say outright that they do not 'believe' in blind testing. Why not? I don't mean to imply that components don't make some difference, but I do think many of those differences are much harder to identify, and that it's even harder to state one is preferable to the other.
"It seems that many who so desperately profess to hear the "mind blowing" differences are also the ones that desperately try to debunk double blind testing as they know they'll get outed to the nonsense.
Snofun3 (System | Threads | Answers | This Thread)"

For years I've been asking the same question every time I read a quote like this: Where can I read the tests that you are referring to? I can't debunk your tests if you keep guys keep them a secret. Not one person has ever produced a test. I wonder why?

I think that John ( Jmcgrogan2 ) and others called you out correctly, plus your last sentence validates that fact.

You're an engineer, so you should be making a decent salary. If you are indeed looking to upgrade, you need to quit looking for excuses and decide to dedicate a fair amount of money towards it. If you're not, just stay where you are and enjoy it.

If you think that some cones and wires are going to make your system sound like it cost $30,000.00, you need a reality check. If you think that some cones and wires will make a $30,000.00 sound better, you're in the ballpark.

It's pretty apparent that you're not even in the mindset to look into upgrading, have any useful plan or commitment even if you wanted to, and you're just looking to stir the pot.
Mceljo,

This really has nothing to do with science. (I'm just responding to your post's, not everyones.)

"I have Nordost Sort Kones under my SACD player and after several attempts to prove to myself that they did or did not make a difference I left them in and chock up the "improvement" that I convinced myself I heard to being primarily placebo. Even after coming to that conclusion I never took them back for a refund, which I could have done, and have never removed them from my system. What I am convinced about is that if my wife took them out and I couldn't visually tell the difference I'd never know."

Thats a psychological issue, and nothing more. It doesen't have a thing to do with audio. If you spent money on those cones that didn't make a difference but didn't return them, that's just silly. You're supporting the same thing your condemning. If the vendor was willing to take them back, they're standing behind what they sell.

"I'm also convinced myself that I heard a difference between a $7 pair of hardware store speaker wires and a $2,000 pair something fancy, but it certainly wasn't a $1,997 improvement."

Same thing here. It has nothing to do with audio. If you didn't see the value in the cable, you shouldn't have bought it. It doesn't take an engineer to figure that one out.
"all that I ask is don't lie to me."

I pretty much agree with that. Trust is the key! Hard to trust liars, charlatans, obfuscators, etc. Luckily, trustworthy people are out there if you are smart enough to be able to find them. High end audio is probably no worse or better than most other "boutique" type industries in this regard, if that is any consolation. At least there is some basis for the products in science and engineering that one can bank on even if it does not ever completely tell the whole story.
" If you are indeed looking to upgrade, you need to quit looking for excuses and decide to dedicate a fair amount of money towards it."

I'd dedicate some time to experiment and learn as needed yourself first. Buy used, look for "value", experiment, keep or move on as needed without taking an unnecessary large financial hit in the process. Throwing money at the problem might work if you have it, but you might find you can do a lot better for less if like anything based on technology you do your homework first.
Zd542 - The point of my admission of sort kones and speakers wires was intended to give some credibility that I don't "condem" people for purchasing upgrades and have myself purchased a few things that I can't even convince myself 100% that it's real vs. placebo.

I realize that I'll never convince you that my sole/primary purpose isn't to stir the pot (admittedly I don't shy away from asking something that I know will stir the pot), but in every thread like this I gain information that I value.
If you think that some cones and wires are going to make your system sound like it cost $30,000.00, you need a reality check. If you think that some cones and wires will make a $30,000.00 sound better, you're in the ballpark.
I agree with Krell man. Will the Nordost Sort Kones or $2000 speaker cables make a difference in a very high end system properly set up in a treated room? Absolutely. Will they make a difference on a shelf system stereo just sitting in a room somewhere? Absolutely Not. A system's overall capability is a definite factor in determining the amount you will hear with a change. Also, the synergy between components, speakers, cables, etc can affect changes, good and bad.

Mceljo, I see in your pictures the speakers are against the back wall. Do you pull them out a couple of feet when you listen? Also, I'll be curious to hear how the tube amp works for you. Your speakers are 8 ohm with a dip to 3 ohm, not the ideal for a tube amp. It is a possibility they may sound better on the 4 ohm tap, so try both 8 and 4.
Mceljo,

I've read through your posts. You do seem well intentioned in that you are at least willing to consider the possibility of some of these products making a difference. I just see an unwillingness to really get to the heart of the matter on your part. Its not as hard as you make it out to be.

There's an easy way to handle cables. If you can hear a difference that you feel is worth the money, then it makes sense to buy them. But if you are not sure, or if you are thinking the placebo effect may be in play, then it would be foolish to buy something. There's nothing wrong with saying you don't hear a difference. That's just the way it goes.

Here's one piece of advice I can give you when shopping for cables/tweeks. You need to be able to hear the difference consistently. If you feel the need to do complicated tests or go through thearapy on threads like this, don't buy the product. If and when you are able to hear differences between things like cables, you'll know. You won't need to be convinced by others. Its fairly easy to hear. But its something you have to experiance for yourself. No one's going to think your a fool if you don't buy cables because you can't hear a difference. But it is foolish if you do buy them without hearing a difference.
Hey Grasshopper, I can hear difference when one eye lash fall out. Same with one hand clapping.
"Cones and wires make my system sound like it cost $30,000?
Hell YES since I spent $30,000 on it.
I spent about 10% on my wires and such stuff.
15% if i include the two conditioners I have.

If the op is worried about 'should i try spending $10,000 on wires.. Well is you system $100,000 plus?
Tls49 - I would love to have my speakers out from the wall, but with two under three in a small house the options are very limited just like my time to critically listen. I have heard my speakers connected to a much better system in a much better room and am generally very happy with my setup.

I picked up the tube amp after work today and am currently listening to it. So far it sounds great and in some ways very different from my solid state receiver, but doesn't have the low end punch that I'm used to. Tonight is easy low volume listening with my wife so it's not really a good test. On Sunday I'll get a chance to air it out a bit more and plan to try ultralinear mode vs. triode mode and also the 4 ohm taps. For now I'm sticking with triode mode and the 8 ohm taps. Only time will tell. I didn't purchase it with the expectation of it being objectively better than my current amplifier. The goal was simply to give tubes a try within a limited budget.
And my room is ever so slightly different now. There is a bookself on the right side on the wall in front of the subwoofer. The small shelf on the left is now gone and the rug is a bigger size of the same. Space is limited. The extra bookshelf is one of two that was necessary when our office/guest room was turned into a second baby room. There are no more rooms...

My wife doesn't consider a listening room when she dreams about building a house, but we're more than a few years from a move.
"That's the point - there often ISN'T science and engineering, it's mystical nonsense that's justified by saying that "well, you're system can't resolve to hear the difference sniff, sniff", or "well, maybe YOUR ears can't hear, but mine....."."

Snofun3, Can you identify specific manufacturers that you know for a fact used no science or engineering in design of their products? And can you share with us how you have come to know this for a fact?

I hope you are not confusing what is disclosed in product marketing with what is used in product design. I also hope you are not demanding that end users of a particular product have deep technical competence in the relevant discipline in order to express a valid opinion regarding the utility or value of that particular product.

I can afford a Porsche, but I drive a Honda. I don't sneer at people who choose to spend 90K on their ride, nor do I suggest that Porsche is run by a bunch of crooked film flam artists who exist only because they prey on naive fools who don't know what they are doing or talking about.

Mceljo expresses skepticism -- I get that. I was also a skeptic until a buddy lent me 3k worth of PCs for 2 weeks while he went on vacation. There are others who seem to have closed their minds to this issue. Fine, that's their prerogative. I just ask people to consider that there are some pretty bright people around here who are on the other side of this issue.

I understand placebos. I've brought stuff in (including PCs and ICs) that made no difference. I've never spent more than 1.5K on a PC or IC.

Well, I guess that's about all I have to say until 2 months from now when someone else starts an essentially identical thread.
Brownsfan.. On the other hand... car-syrup like Vornado intakevair twirlers.. and gas magnets still are sold.
The old conspiracy that cars can run on water, just the petro companies block it from the public... But buy our device...
Wanna buy some muffler bearings?
The problem to me with tweaks, is that just changing a system can make it sound better. I believe we are attuned to changing sensory input, any change may sound better. For example, before I saw the error of my ways and bought an ARC Ref 75, I used 2 very good integrated amps. Whenever I switched from one to the other, it sounded better, whichever one I changed to.

Accepting this and the desire, hope that there will be an improvement,so you hear one, then this is where I hear a difference. I would say in all the major components, amps, CD players, speakers etc. All the elements of a wiring loom, including PCs, I am sure I can hear a real difference. Knowing if it is better or just different, can be more difficult. I am sure, cones, supports make a real difference, distinguishing them, more difficult. Cone A and B both help, which is better, I really find difficulty with.

As others have said, With some caveats and qualifications, if it sounds better, it is better and don't lose sleep over it.
Elizabeth, The muffler bearings are on my list but first I need to get my headlight fluid changed before winter. I thought Hondas were supposed to be reliable, but it seems like its one thing after the other.

No doubt there are film-flam artists and others who are untrustworthy for a variety of reasons in audio. It has been my experience that the crowd around here is pretty good on exposing these folks.

Think study think study read think study then think some more! It has been almost 10 years since I bought anything that wasn't a clear improvement, not the sort of thing David is talking about above.

Things are good enough now that apart from tube rolling etc, everything that comes in will be used so that what comes in is on a trial basis. My ICs and PCs in particular, were the last element in getting me there. Interestingly, as I replaced more of the cabling, I found that I could remove a good bit of my room treatment. I must surmise that the RFI/EMi was contributing to the high end nasties that I thought was inherent to Maggies or my listening room.
Cars do run on water (actually hydrogen) in Iceland. The issue isn't technology, instead it is infrastructure as they have very special "fuel" stations making it a similar problem to going all electric. I don't know about hydrogen, but in some places the electricity to charge a car can cost more than the gasoline and if the electricity is coal generated it isn't really an improvement overall for the environment. At this point the cost keeps people from getting excited about going away from Dino cars. Eventually, one of these cars will get a Bose stereo and this post will be back on topic.
When you get to the point that you do not hear a difference (or can't afford the next step), stop. Of course, that point will be different for different folks. I like music; but I view audio as a drug addiction. Every so often I must raise the bar to get that reproduced music rush. I upgraded my cables one step at a time as I saved up the money and got over my reticence to let go of my cash. Each time my hope was that I would not hear a large difference and could send the component back. Then I could listen with satisfaction and be richer for it. I was not so lucky and much to my disappointment, even the expensive power cord on my CD player made a significant improvement. I don't want to come off as poor me, I just get a much bigger kick out of the cheap tweaks that work but I can't rest knowing something could be improved.
The underlying and often understated meme here is the expense of trying things. If one was financially set then it would be nothing more than a matter of trying things to see if one could hear a difference that resulted in a better outcome. One wouldn't entertain the cost unless extravagant.

I always notice qualifiers when folk speak of how far they would go, as do I.
It wouldn't be too much for me to state that deep pockets are the luxury of those who can afford to see just how much, or little, an improvement can be made for much, or little outlay.

As far as I'm concerned, what one can and can't hear is totally up to ones ears and no one else. As far as advertisement goes, it's a given that hype and spin will be used by some but not all, so generalities are just that, generalities, and have no place as the sole point in an argument about efficacy of tweaks, cables and the like.

All the best,
Nonoise
****I am an engineer so my gears are always turning and thinking about this stuff.****

Mceljo, I am sincerely trying to understand where you are coming from and not simply trying to take you to task, so please, explain how your above comment jibes with your comments in this other thread. IOW, why does an engineer need to (or feel he needs to) ask these other questions? Because you are an engineer, I would not be surprised at your skepticism re the subject of this thread, but seems to me an engineer would not have to ask the following questions:

http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?aamps&1383190688&&&/How-do-I-break-in-a-tube-amplifier-
Maybe he is a Civil Engineer (my first area of study). We learnt physics and applied maths and basic electrical engineering.

Could have an "engineering mind" without specific knowledge of electronics.

Regards,
My engineering degree is a general engineering degree with an emphasis in civil engineering and I tailored my classes towards structural stuff. I am almost always thinking about something and it is audio stuff right now. It ranges to cars, religion, etc. I don't claim to know everything and am willing to get the opinion of others. As for the science related to audio I have a little bit of general knowledge and will run things that don't make sense to me by my EE that is also into audio. He does his best to explain things to me, but it usually takes a few tries. Neither of us has ever owned a tube amp so asked the question knowing I would get a wide range of answers so that I could evaluate where I want to be.
My engineering degree is a general engineering degree with an emphasis in civil engineering

There you go - I guessed correctly.

Regards,
No matter how much discussing, arguing, theorizing or amount of skepticism, some truths will always be truths:

- wether because of natural ability, or training and willingness to be open-minded, not every listener will posses the same level of hearing acuity.

- the sound of music and the electronic signals that it is converted to for our convenience are so complex, and hence fragile, that just about anything you do will affect the audible characteristics TO SOME DEGREE. Wether any given listener is capable of hearing those effects is a different story.

- of course there's quackery and placebo; so what?, it doesn't change the above.
Mceljo - I'd love an opportunity to be convinced, but my location is not near either of you that offered.

Are you close to Los Angeles downtown, California? I can demo and show you what cables and isolation of component make difference in sound system. I welcome everyone.
Well said Frogman.
How many times have some of us sat with friends discussing wine only to discover that they claim that they cannot tell the difference between diffent reds/merlots/cabernets, etc. Many times I found it was because they never really cared or tried to determine the differences in the first place. To many, a red is a red. And mostly because they haven't really ever tasted a really good wine in the first place. So all wines taste the same to them. Same is true for audio equipment and sound. I don't try to tell people what they like. That to me is the very definition of a snob. I try to find out what they know first. Do they have any knowledge or experience with sound, musical instruments, etc.? Do they know what a real cymbal, violin (yes, they all sound different), piano, really sound like or are they used to digitized musical machine sound. Do they know depth, dimension, soundstage? real questions. When demostrating equipment, one must make sure that the gain level is absolutely the same so that diffenences can't be simply caused by a change in volume or gain. My Daughter is a classical dancer, and I played classical violin, oboe, sax, etc. I was first chair violinist. I know what the instruments are supposed to sound like. I know what a real concert live sound like. When I demo equipment, I use her young ears to help me determine differences. I play music with dimension, soundstage, multiple instruments and depth. I ask her where the artist are on the stage, how deep in her mind the soundstage is, etc. Then I change the piece of equipment and make sure the gain is the same and play the same music and we listen deeply. She has become very good at determining differences or no differences as it were. What I don't know is what the recording engineering and sound engineer actually recorded and mastered. Which may be totally different that what I expected. My point is, do the people we are dealing with actually know what they are suppose to hear in the first place. many times one must be educated in this. Wine, cars, music, audio, etc. Everything is a science. I have been part of and have also done demonstrations where simple changes in interconect cables were made and there were as I am sceptics in the crowd and we heard dramatic differences in sound. Apples to apples. proper costs point in auditioning equipment, making sure the gains are matched before critical listening and agreeing on what we are trying to identify. Just grabbing someone off the street for a quick demonstration may not be an accurate way to do it either. My questions above still apply. Do they know what they are listening for? Are they raised on compressed digital music from drum machines and digital reproduction of music instruments? So that when they hear the real thing, they prefer the artifical sound over the real because that is all they know? Have they very heard a sound stage or dimensions in reproduction? I take comments about cables, and differences in equipment with a grain of salt. I don't the person talking and don't know their background enough to determine if they can tell the differences. Time with that person or back and forth about known equipment, cables, sound, or music gives us common ground. Better yet. Going to a store, sitting in the same room, listening to the same equipment and music and comparing notes, works wonders. But, cables unfortunately do make a difference. Until cable manufactures make cables with zero impedance over the frequency range, there will be differences. And yes, they are getting close with the extremely expensive cables that have electronic R-L=C filter networks designed to cancel the inductance and capacitance impedances over a frequency range. Stupidly expensive.

enjoy