Audio myths

February 15, 2016
 by Paul McGowan

How many myths does it take to equal truth? It took hundreds of years and a lot of people passing away before the myth the earth is flat could be put to rest.

But, myths come in all flavors. Take for example this website entitled Dispelling Popular Audio Myths. Posted nearly 17 years ago, this calm and educated writer claims to debunk myths common amongst Audiophiles:

  • Frequency response greater than 20kHz is important
  • Digital audio sounds worse than analog
  • Gold-plated connectors sound better than connectors made with tin or nickel
  • Using audiophile speaker cables improves the sound
  • Amplifiers based on vacuum tubes sound better than solid state designs
  • Replacing the resistors and capacitors in preamps and power amps with higher quality units can improve the sound of a system
  • Absolute microphone or speaker polarity makes an audible difference

And many other gems the author wants to help dispel and set the record straight.

One last fact he wishes to share with us:

It is difficult to prove or disprove issues like those I have presented here because human auditory perception is so fragile and our memory is so short. With A/B testing – where you switch between one version of a signal and another to audition the difference – it is mandatory that the switch be performed very quickly. If it takes you fifteen minutes to hook up a replacement amplifier, it will be very hard to tell if there truly was a difference, compared to being able to switch between the two amps in less than a second. Even when switching quickly, it is important that both amplifiers be set to exactly the same volume level.

Starting tomorrow I’d like to present the other side of each of these points, one at time.

Stay tuned.

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11 comments on “Audio myths”

  1. Little children trust their parents and believe in fairy tales and myths they are told. Getting older they learn at school to trust in what their priests and teachers tell them and what is written in textbooks. But as adults they also should have learned that things are not true because they are printed in newspapers or books or even presented in photos or videos. Instead they learn from Immanuel Kant “sapere aude!” And as scientists they learn to try first to reproduce a new published findings before they implement them into their view of the world. Take home message: the proof of the pudding is in the eating! Or. trust your own ears!

  2. Not once have I seen anything that mentions having clear eustachian tubes when listening to music . But a never ending stream of counter pointed arguments. A beginner like me doesn’t stand a chance..
    Nice to see some grounded facts for a change..

    1. A good rule of thumb Themidtm is: If it sounds like snake oil, it probably is.
      Don’t let peer pressure convince you that you can’t hear or your system doesn’t have enough resolution.

  3. I bought Real Traps for my room from his company. I also know that he was thrown off the Stereophile Forum some years ago for getting into monumental arguments with other posters. Perhaps there was more to that. Regardless, the traps work great.

  4. Is the earth round or flat. Don’t be so sure you know the full answer. This is not about crazies in the Flat Earth Society. Watch this ten minute video through to the end and it will give you some food for thought that the answer is not nearly as clear as you think it is.

    Be careful. Sweeping generalizations, partial truths that ignore the perspective of the whole and other false arguments can lead to the wrong answer. Is audiophile cable better than ordinary wire? In Stereo Review’s infamous article explaining their scientifically acceptable test methodology, Monster cable WAS distinguishable and superior to 18 gage speaker wire but indistinguishable (results of guesses no better than a coin toss) compared to 16 gage zip cord. Even how you ask the question can determine what the right answer is so be careful. When the question is qualitative such as which is better, the reaction should be how do you define better? By what criteria? In whose judgement?

    1. That is an excellent video, and Fenyman frequently tells his students such things, but they invariably end up as engineers that think they know. The video goes a bit astray at the end where it starts anthropomorphizing protons. It’s amazing how many times I hear Fourier analysis or information sampling theory misused and misunderstood, even in textbooks. In ancient times they calculated how far away from Earth the Moon was (approximately). Today, some people think that the Earth is round or that its gravity is uniform. The reality is that it is still unknown how closely the gravity distribution experienced in the sky matches that on the surface, or how constant it is over time, and there is ongoing scientific research on the matter, and there is serious money to be made in such knowledge.

    2. Soundmind,

      this is what I would suggest:

      Just do what NASA and ESA did as well as others – start a rocket and take a view from above.
      It is always a good thing to take a view at the whole scene even in audio.


  5. After reading your post, I thought back to the evening many, many years ago that I attended a speech by Julian Hirsch. It was laughable at best back then and this new website seems like Hirsch’s Ghost has returned. What a joke. I think that we’ve come too far in our understanding “Audio Truths” to take this BS seriously.

    As Yogi Berra said. “It’s Deja Vu all over again.

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