Changing minds

March 16, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

Changing a tire makes sense. The car won't go much further on a flat tire.

Changing a mind is nearly impossible. Imagine being asked to believe in a different religion, lifestyle, political view, stereo opinion, subjective vs. measurement-based, etc.

Recently, a generous forum member posted snapshots showing the image improvements on his LCD television when powered by a Power Plant.

It wasn't long before an equally generous forum member pointed out that the methodology used wasn't all that scientific and thus might be more convincing if done differently.

The battle lines had already been drawn.

Both posters were right. The first was doing his best to show what he was seeing. He's not a scientist. He's someone doing his level best to share with us what he sees (or hears).

The second person pointed out that it wasn't scientific and thus the subjective review didn't resonate with him.

The difference in image quality was apparent and obvious to the first. That attacks the worldview of the second.

Let me share a story with you that illustrates what I am referring to.

A decade ago when we used to participate in CEDIA (an industry-only home theater tradeshow), we were trying to demonstrate the same differences as the first poster showing his photos. We bought two identical big screen TVs at Best Buy, set them up side by side, did our best to make sure both their settings were identical, used an HDMI splitter to feed them both the identical image from a DVD player. We powered one from the AC power in the booth, the other with a Power Plant. The difference in the image was obvious to anyone walking by.

We didn't announce which was what. We simply asked which was better, then pointed to the back of the TV so they could see the setup.

Of course, the self-proclaimed experts (you think audiophiles are bad, try changing the mind of a CEDIA-certified video expert) who could not wrap their head around the idea a power supply could make a visible (or audible) difference came by. Of course, they saw the difference. But, it didn't make sense to them because it didn't line up with their worldview (how could AC power matter?).

It challenged what they believed to be true.

When that happens, we humans typically turn to one of several main avenues of dismissal: the test wasn't conducted in a properly controlled environment, it was performed by amateurs, or the more common, it was rigged.

I mean, think about it. We all do this regardless of which side of the fence our belief system lies. Either the data is incorrect (or inadequate), we're too stupid to get it, or we're being fooled. (note, the idea we might be wrong almost never enters the picture).

Over time, a few open minded folks (open minded typically means you haven't yet formed a strong opinion) came by and were fascinated by the display, asked good questions, collected info, and moved on.

Near the last day, a return contingent of about 6 arm-folded video experts came back to the booth demanding that we provide proof (after all, we were the outliers challenging their industry). Stymied for a moment because the "proof" was right in front of their eyes, I suggested we swap monitors on the fly. Simple. If one was rigged then the good image should stay with the rigged set.

I am sure you know where this is going. The better image was clearly visible on the other set. It had moved with its power source. Out of the 6, only one looked like a lightbulb had gone off. The other 5 stood there, arms folded, and said they had been fooled by the quickness of the test and the bias inherent in knowing which would be "expected" to be better. In other words, it wasn't a blind AB performed by a neutral party.

I share all this simply to point out that the idea of changing someone's mind about what they believe is nearly impossible. As open minded as we believe each of us to be (me included), the truth is it's nearly impossible. We're so imaginative and resourceful when it comes to explaining and defending our worldview that even with hard evidence from people we trust we still don't switch.

A more generous approach for us all would be to try our best to be a bit more welcoming of counter viewpoints and opinions.

It's hard, but perhaps valuable.

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72 comments on “Changing minds”

  1. Paul, I has happened again. I am the first to comment here. I did NOT get an email about this post. My guess is neither did anyone else. I found the post by refreshing yesterday's post and using the link at the bottom of it.

  2. If the proof is there, I'll change my mind.
    For many years I believed that 3D soundstaging & pinpoint imaging from a home-
    audio rig was a load of audiophile BS...until I heard it; & then I changed my mind.

  3. Quoting my favorite science fiction author, who appeared to not only be able to spin a good yarn, but to be able to speak truth and prophesies the future:

    "You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic."
    ― Robert A. Heinlein, ‘Revolt in 2100’.

    PS. Thank you Tony for forwarding the link for today’s post.

  4. I did not get an email.
    AC power is not consistent day to day, socket to socket. Its dirty, it sags, it gets modulated, carries noise, etc. I can't tell you how many times I have found a home or business wired incorrectly and improperly grounded. My experience has been the union crews are better trained, follow code and use higher quality materials by far (I'm not union - never have been union). I always suspect wire pullers wearing tennis shoes...

  5. I'd probably find it difficult to get Paul to accept that my audio benefits from a mains conditioner, but not from a regenerator. I remember him being influenced by something in the late 1990s and not changing his mind since. (I think it was in his little blue book, now deleted from my Kindle.)

    Paul also seems to be completely closed to the idea of fully integrated systems (I think why I deleted the Kindle book), called them jack of all trades master of none, ignoring the many benefits of integration. For example, the Devialet SAM system, making use of integrated processing and amplification, is a sort of digital version of the servo system that was in the Genesis speakers that PSA tried to put into their new speakers (and failed).

    My general impression is that most people just get more rigid in their views with age. This causes my father a problem because some of his views seem fixed in the 1960s, which his grandchildren find offensive.

    What's more, if I were younger I might care about my TV picture, but even still in my 50s I can't say I really care.

    1. I honestly find it hard to accept, but the last thing I remember reading about how views change with age is that the deepest beliefs don’t change. A “child of the 60’s” remains one. It’s the next generation that has changed. I don’t remember the source, but it was pretty credible. I have a friend whose motto for years has been “surprisingly liberal for someone my age.” I, on the other hand, seem a perpetual middle-of-the-reader.

  6. Since I have a huge 4K LCD screen people appearing on the screen have aged for decades! This increase in resolution and screen size now reveals every wrinkle and skin impurity. I never had this dramatic and jaw dropping effect when listening to high-rez tracks compared to downsampled RBCD 16/44.1 tracks from the same recording. What is wrong here?

      1. Wasn’t there an audio product named “digital lens”? 🙂 Did it make a soft-lens effect? Or was it kind of a wide-angle lens for enlarged soundstage? 🙂

    1. PS, Humans have evolved to be highly visual creatures as opposed to using a combination of sight, hearing and smell the way many other mammals do. Thus when you have a doubling of video resolution it is shock to you.

  7. Having read the post a few times, the problem seems to be individual belief systems.
    One can see that in almost all aspects of life.

    The reluctance of change by many, or the disruption in anyone’s preconceived notions or routines are quite often met with outright disgust and vehemently so. (One can witness the immovable opinion quite often just by reading here)

    Being skeptical is a defense mechanism to keep one from looking at themselves as a fool. In many cases the audio industry (and others) and their representatives have done nothing but promote that skepticism and create divides.

    It’s not a matter of just science, or just ears. The choices made are based upon individual biases and perceptions.

    Being open enough to experiment and draw a conclusion based on your own experience and those you trust is commendable. The issues arise in the presentation to, and acceptance of beliefs by others.

    1. If you didn't measure the sky to be blue, then it wasn't blue at all, and you must have imagined that the sky was blue because of a pre-conceived notion that the sky was blue 😉

  8. Of the six, one was a scientist.
    Hypothesis, test, record results.
    The other five? Dogmatic believers to one degree or another.
    The next thing would be to tell them, OK, this guy will stay in here and randomly change the feed to the two sets ten times. You five go outside while he does it then come back in and record your evaluations ten times in a row. Then we'll check the results.
    Challenging them to a blind test? I bet most would walk away without taking you up on it. But it gives you a chance to test them and maybe win a few more converts.

  9. I'm a video editor who has spent decades in front of TVs and computer monitors, and who has supervised hundreds of color-correction sessions in million-dollar studios with professional monitors that are calibrated regularly. I'm also an audiophile who believes that powerline noise can make a difference. I'm sympathetic to both sides of this debate.

    I understand why the skeptics wish the poster had conducted a more rigorous test. By the way, the poster's close-up shots are misleading because they are "screen captures after zooming in as far as I can zoom." I think the hideous patterns on the close-ups without the P12 are largely -- but not entirely -- artifacts of the screen capture. I blew up his jpegs myself in Photoshop on a new Apple retina display and the results look completely different. The photos of the screen with the P12 do look smoother when I blow them up, but it's not nearly as dramatic a difference.

    I'm convinced that in his A/V system, on his LG monitor, given the settings he used, he saw a real difference. However, this needs to be investigated much more rigorously. There are people who do lab tests of TV monitors for accuracy and sharpness; they do it for a living and have the tools. I'd love to see a real test with a variety of calibrated monitors with the artificial enhancement for sharpness turned off. The results might be surprising, and certainly valuable. And if the results come out as Paul would expect, it would be a great marketing tool.

    1. The photos were taken, in an unofficial manner, by standing in the same spot of an area rug that has a chessboard-type grid pattern, and trying to hold my arms in the same position. The photos, while taken in automatic mode, actually ended up having the same aperture and shutter speed for each different color image that was displayed. I took the photos after several people, on a different thread on the forum, were completely convinced that it was physically impossible for any differences to exist. While I am not an official testing agency, the photos I took clearly show that differences do indeed exist.

  10. It has become difficult in today's world for people to distinguish between a difference of opinion ( I like apple pie and you like cherry pie ) and fact ( F = ma, as long the velocity of the matter ( m ) is not approaching the velocity of light ). I chose these to examples to make it obvious what is the difference between opinion and fact.

    In Paul's example the difference that the power regeneration unit was making was obvious to most who viewed it. However, people who were indoctrinated in a disciple that did not allow for the quality of the electrical power coming from the wall socket to be a factor in the performance of the video screen display assumed that Paul had manipulated the demonstration to sell his product. Indoctrination can be a very dangerous thing.

  11. I experienced a much lesser difference when I moved my old Monster power strip/conditioner to our main TV, a really good Sony. Just a little better image, nothing else changed. At the time it occurred to me that it was an interesting illustration of the value of cleaner power.

    Along the same lines, I’ve sometimes wondered if Paul’s point can be illustrated with another thought experiment. A devout religious believer and a non-believer scientist are each shown an envelope. Inside each envelope, they are told, is information that will completely change your worldview. Then they are asked, “Is that possible?” The ones that say “no” are true believers. The ones that say “yes” are scientists.

      1. Nope. Is it possible? Can there be information , facts, something totally credible that is contrary to what you believed before. Hard to imagine, but that’s the point. In science, it’s possible. In religion, it’s not possible.

  12. Concerning the changing of minds, well, I would agree for some it is hard to do. As stated by others it's a defense mechanism. But what I wished is, during the discourse over a given subject, that the battle lines of extremes were not drawn as we so oft see.

    There is no question to those who have owned and experienced the advantages that a PowerPlant can bring would argue that they don't actually experience it. However, some who have examined just didn't like the results, but they don't discount that there is a difference.

  13. Interesting note: there've been numerous studies showing that if you confront someone with facts that counter some deeply held belief, they'll dig in harder rather than change their mind. Paul just got a real world confirmation of those studies.

    It's something I deal with all the time, even in a very technical field. Someone has "decided" the issue is X, and then I get to spend hours, days, or weeks proving that the issue is actually Y. It's fun.

  14. Paul, a great illustration of our modern political climate...

    But, throught my career as a school administrator I held the axiom "people change with glacial haste" and worked hard not to be the glacier!!

  15. It never ceases to amaze me that people will deny what their own senses are telling them under the notion of observer or expectation bias. They clearly don't understand how these forms of bias work. In the case of these experts at CEDIA, their bias was clearly against the evidence of their own senses, so if anything, it would lead them to not see a difference. I've had this happen many times comparing cables or vinyl vs. digital with people who were strongly biased against what was pretty clearly evident from their own senses.

  16. For people who think this is all about "indoctrination," I disagree. You should read a book called "Suggestible You" by Erik Vance.

    The reason we need objective evidence in addition to our subjective experience is that our senses fool us ALL THE TIME. This is not controversial. Those who think that we should never deny what our senses tell should understand that we do not have direct access to sensory input. Our brains interpret the input and make available to our consciousness a version of reality, not reality itself.

    Wine reviewers and sommeliers understand that wines must be tasted blind for a serious comparison to be valid but audiophiles reject blind testing (and other forms of objective testing). I don't understand the unwillingness to believe that our senses fool us. When I've brought this up with audiophile friends, the usual response is, "I'm experienced and also aware of the pitfalls of bias, so while normal people might be fooled, it doesn't happen to me." Not true!

    Again, I think powerline noise can make a sonic and visual difference, but I don't necessarily trust subjective reports and I am skeptical -- but not dismissive -- of my own subjective evaluations. If it's true, it should be easy enough to find objective evidence.

    1. eatapc, I respect your knowledge about video, but I do not accept your dogmatic statement that our senses fool us all the time. If that were the case we would all be dead. If your senses did not accurately tell you where the cliff edge is you would fall to your death. Also, how would suggest we receive direct sensory input without it going to our brain? A color blind person cannot strip the image off of their cornea and realize they are color blind.

      When it comes to blind tasting, listening or viewing humans tend to notice the one that stands out because it is brighter, louder, has more contrast, or is more fruit forward. Subtle differences are hard to notice in blind testing. Thus choices made from blind testing often it up being fatigue when seen, heard or tasted over longer time span.

      1. I'm not accusing anyone in particular of being foolish, but if your think you can "trust your ears," then you're wrong. Beyond that, if anyone thinks their senses are infallible, then yes, they are fools.

        But experience counts. I'm certainly not dismissing the abilities of experts to see, hear, taste and feel things that might not be obvious to most people. Without experience, looking at a crime scene, I wouldn't notice what's significant like a detective would. I shouldn't be trusted. As a car nut who has had track lessons, I still don't come close to feeling the limits of a car like a professional driver. My evaluation of a car's suspension might be in the right direction, but an engineer shouldn't trust my opinion. And even professionals can be proven wrong. That's why F1 teams show elaborate data to their drivers. A racing driver these days who trusts the seat of his pants over the team's data is an ex-driver.

        Likewise, when I taste a wine I don't notice what a certified sommelier would notice -- in spite of my years of wine drinking and in spite of the wine-tasting classes I've attended. But still, a certified sommelier understands that wines need to be tasted blind when serious judgments are called for; anyone can be fooled by sighted expectations, even experts. I don't understand the fear subjectivists have in correlating their subjective evaluations with objective tests. Whether something is obvious or subtle, there ought to be an attempt to figure out objectively what's going on, because the cause might not be what we think it is.

        1. eatapc,
          Here's the big picture:
          Whether your believe that your ears fool you or not,
          they are all that you've got to listen to music with.
          I don't listen to music with an electronic measuring device.

  17. There is no true value in a belief, they only exist in our minds to assuage the fears we have about not being able to explain the various contradictions and complexity that represent life itself. Once you see that it is easy to see why we cling to them...facing fears of the unknown is a huge challenge to the mind/ego.

    1. There is no true value in a belief is what the children in the USSR and China was taught.
      Totalitarian systems destroy beliefs and punish dissent in order to control mass populations.

      1. I see what you are saying and agree, yet also from my perspective totalitarian systems themselves are just another belief system that works to forcibly replace other belief systems.

  18. And this is PRECISELY WHY I just purchased TWO (2) PP15's.......the first I connected to my home theater (the whole theater, because it has plenty of power for the whole thing)........the difference was so noticeable that my mother (with the beginnings of cataracts) immediately asked why on earth I had purchased a new TV (and could she have the old one)....ha!..........the second was ordered a few days later, and was just delivered two days will immediately go into my reference two-channel system (again with what I suspect is PLENTY of power for the whole rig)........including my 700-watt class D monoblocks..........the fact that the PP15's are on sale just sweetened the deal.......wish I had done this 30 (nay 40) years ago.........(not sure if they were made that long ago)..........Steve B.

  19. I just want to point out here that Paul's comments are universal. Many examples exist, where even physical evidence is shunned by minds, that refuse to accept reality. Reality, that which can be ignored, but whose consequences cannot.

  20. I posted this link I believe last week regarding the P 12

    Amir from (Audio Science Review) felt the P 12 did not measure well. It did not impress him. My question to Paul is how would he challenge Amir’s findings?

    For me personally. AC regeneration works. Now maybe I have horrible mains power from living in an apartment building, but my personal experience with the P3 changed my sound for the better. Did I measure it like Amir? Absolutely not. I heard a difference and that is what matters most. However, I do appreciate Amir technically going through various measures to test the validity of the P 12

    1. Neph,
      Why waste your time challenging Amir's findings?
      Amir has just done a review on the Marantz - 'SA10' which has
      garnered much praise from reviewers & five stars for it's SOUND...
      just about everything that Amir has said about it is negative.
      Maybe it's Amir who needs to be reviewed.

      1. Martin. Hi. 🙂

        I did watch that review as well on the Marantz. Now for me personally, I’m not challenging anything. I just wanna hear proper discourse from Paul on Amir’s technically minded measurements that apparently are based around the pure science of measuring audio performance.

        I’m not taking sides. I purely want education and if Paul or anyone else on here can tell me what or how Amir’s findings are false or irrelevant to his feelings towards the P 12 I’m all ears. 🙂

        I’m here to learn. After all we are all family on here. 🙂

        1. Here to learn, eh!
          Ok, learn this:
          Some things are not worth spending (wasting) your time on, & this includes why some home-audio gear doesn't measure well but sounds really good.
          Maybe once 'the experts' can unlock that great secret, then us mere mortals will be able to find out too 😉

          1. Okay. I appreciate your feelings on that, but if I may ask what about Amir’s testing methods do you feel is false or maybe even folklore for that matter? In other words what has he done wrong?
            Again Martin. I don’t know. This is more on the specialized tech side with lab like testing that most of us don’t understand or have access to.

            I think we need Acuvox. Send in the VOX!! Help!


            1. Why is Amir testing home-audio gear that was
              already tested at the point of design & production?
              What's the point?
              Once said home-audio gear comes out of it's
              packaging & is hooked up all that matters is
              how it sounds, since that is it's primary function.
              I do not understand this whole 'testing with
              machines' mentality.

              1. Yeah you are right in a lot of ways where hearing is believing.
                I definitely have that with my P3. Now this makes me think of Paul’s post a couple of weeks back about “Hearing what we cannot measure.”

                Maybe I have this with my P3?
                It is possible, since I cannot measure its performance like Amir does, however Amir’s argument maybe valid where his findings of various data should be known to the consumer when they open the box of their AC regenerators.
                I know I would, but again not everyone gives two shits about the technical jargon of charts and graphs. Let alone how to read them. 😉

                1. Neph,
                  Would you get more enjoyment from your headphones, your amplifier or your streamer,
                  if some guy on YouTube told you that they measure really well?
                  Or, conversely, if you were really happy with the above mentioned items of home-audio gear that you owned & the same guy, on YouTube, told you that they measured badly...would you really give a sh!t, or would you just continue to enjoy those/that piece of audio gear, relying on your ears as you did when you auditioned & bought said items of home-audio gear?

                  I know that I wouldn't give a crap what some guy on YouTube reckons, if I'm hearing golden sounds...but maybe that's just me 😎

        2. I think those are valid questions and I will be preparing a video reply to Amir. He got much right, and what he got wrong we'll correct for him and show him the proper way to do it on the video.

          Amir is a smart guy and sometimes performs a good service to the industry. We need people to measure and do the testing. What rubs people (including me) the wrong way is his conclusions and his bit of a nasty streak that oozes out of him. I get it. Without being a bit abrasive and challenging he won't build up an audience (people love a good taunt and fight).

          I hope to provide some assistance to him and straighten out some of what he got wrong. Of course, I don't much agree with his conclusions, but his skill as a measurement person is very good (in general).

          1. Well I really look forward to what you have to say and for all of us to get a better understanding of Amir’s findings in relationship to the PS Audio findings/conclusions. With Amir’s various measurement performances, he seems incredibly confident for what he has found and I’m extremely interested for how you, Paul will set some of the record straight.

            Thanks for all that you do, Paul. And a small FYI, I’m still loving my P3 and feel/hear it’s importance everyday. 🙂
            Hearing is believing and I’m thankful I have that easy going sense. 🙂

            1. Neph,
              Amir has only negative things to say about the PS Audio
              gear that he reviews.
              He has some sort of axe to grind.
              Maybe his life is in the toilet at the moment...who knows.
              When he reviewed the PS Audio - 'P12' he complained
              that he cut his finger on the underside of the casework
              of the P12 that he was reviewing...what a dipsh!t.

              In 45 years of me being an audio-enthusiast, 6 years of being an audiophile & 22 years of being in Hi-Fi retail, wherein I handled (moved or repacked or unpacked) hundreds of items of home-audio electronics gear, I was never so stupid as to run my hands, or fingers, along the underside of any piece of home-audio gear (whether it was heavy or light in weight) knowing that there could be the sharp ends (tips) of screws poking out along the surface that could scratch my hands...Amir the space-cadet.
              Did he hold his injured finger up to the camera to show all of us the damage that it sustained from his incredibly naive & stupid act?
              No he didn' we have no proof that he is not talking out of his arse (ass).
              But what he did do was to expose to us what a thoughtless twat he really is.

              I rest my case.

    2. Yes mine works so what in the method of Amir is wrong. Because there must be something.

      I postulate in (very) layman’s terms: because of the P3’s very low output impedance it tops up my amplifier’s power supply better from its storage capacitor than the unregulated ac is able.
      Eg in Mahler 2 a Tumultuous drum thwack! Lights up the PS (indicating drawing down) as the light flashes a transient rescue is happening.

  21. It hasn't been hard for me to change my political mind. My Democrat party left me when they turned woke. Most people don't want to hear the other side of things once they are brainwashed to believe something. I give my opinion and then move on, like Paul Revere who couldn't waste his time going house to house trying to convince people the British are coming. You alert people to the truth. People wake up on their own when it hits home.

  22. So I try to always come at something with an open mind. The key here is wanting to possibly learn something. People with closed minds are stupid and can’t grow quite frankly. I have opinions like the next but - I like sitting back and listening. It’s a lost art don’t you know? People feel empowered when they speak. Try shutting up for a second and listen. The world opens up.

  23. Sorry to be so late to this post, but it's been a busy day watching the
    Federal Reserve make fools of themselves.
    Anyway, regarding Paul's comments about TV reception at CEDIA, in my experience trade shows have terrible mains voltage. Many years ago, at a CES show in Vegas, a fellow demonstrated a significant improvement in a TV picture by substituting one of his speciality cables. It happened to be an audio cable, and he was one of the true pioneers of specialty audio cables, but the improvement was genuine and I have no idea why, nor do I care.
    What I do believe is that, if power supplies are already good enough, a regenerator or conditioner is apt to do more harm than good. But, the reverse is also true, and testers generally fail to take this factor into account. Similarly, if amplifiers and loudspeakers are already optimally matched electronically and situated fairly close together, there is a point beyond which cables become electronic components as opposed to optimal delivery systems; that is, through capacitance and other means, they actually change the frequency response of the system. Some like it; some do not.
    Have fun and enjoy the music.

  24. A long, long time ago, i was one of those who always had made his mind up. In advance, because nobody fooled me!
    I know better now. I do my best to keep a open mind about new things, and you will be rewarded when you allow another opinion in your mindset.

    I 've been a professional tech for as long as i can remember. I've learned now that the best way to prove a point, is to try it out. The list of improvements in my system is long. From masterclocks, to fast recovery diodes, to non magnetic bolts. Etc. Bolts for mounting toroidal transformers. The latest adition to my vintage set is a P500 powerplant, which i restored and fixed. And also replaced both bolts to non magnetic ones, from the two toroidal transformers. Which gave a noticeable improvement in the sound. Better soundstage, it sounds more musical and entertaining.

    Off course i don't tell this to my friends. They would shake their heads and think: one for the madhouse, here we come! But i know it works, because i had an open mind, and tried it out...

    1. Definitely reclockers make a difference, but bolts around the toroidal transformer? Wow. No wonder we are all nuts here.

      You wanna know something. I changed the fuse in my amplifier and it freaking made a small difference. Lol.
      Being technically minded makes you experiment and I really like your post here. Nice to meet you as well. 😉

      1. Hi Nephilim,

        Thanks for the nice welcome. Yes non ferrous bolts inside a toroidal transformer make a noticeable difference. The reason is simple. They are positioned in the hart of the transformers, thats a place where you don't want interference in the magnetic field.
        I've done the same trick to my dac, and amp. With great results.
        Yes, it's official. I'm a tech nerd....

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