Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Vibration isolation products are snake oil

We’ve saved perhaps the best for last. “Best” because this is a subject that genuinely gets the hairs on the back of some necks to stand at stiff attention, yet there’s ample proof that it works.

Some weeks ago I published this video of a vibration control product demonstration I saw while at RMAF. Nearly 30,000 people have viewed this video and the number of commenters is one of the highest of all my many videos. Passions run high and I think I know why. The idea that reducing vibrations has an audible impact runs so counter to what we consider normal as to inflame emotions often to the burning point. “It just doesn’t make any sense!” is a rallying cry to get the tar heated up and the feathers collected. Yet, the differences are easy to hear.

Few knowledgeable people would dispute that quieting vibration prone equipment matters: turntables, vacuum tubes would come to mind right away. Perhaps less obvious are capacitors that proliferate within equipment, but these are generally accepted by even the propellerhead measurementists. No, what really freaks people out is speakers.

Speakers make the noise we hear in our rooms and systems. They generate sound pressure and should be immune to their own vibrations, dammit!

Ahh, but sadly, the boxes that hold our speakers add to the melee of sound in the room. At the same time they radiate sound waves those same boxes add time audible vibrations through the floor. As well, some would claim those same floor vibrations are reflected back up into the box to muddle the music even more. If you have the time to closely look at the graphs Dave Morrison shows at the end of the video you’ll gain a better understanding of how isolation products—legit isolation products, that is—actually contribute to good sound.

Is there snake oil in accessories? Oh my, yes. Claims and counterclaims that match Carter and his little pills abound with abandon. Yet, I would encourage the person interested in good sound to wade through the bullcrap to find the truth.

As in any of these Fact or Fiction questions, there’s truth to be found if you’re interested in finding it.

Good hunting!

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Interconnects and speaker cables matter

Yikes. After yesterday’s brave venture into the hornet’s nest of opinion about power cables and how they matter I can only just imagine the brouhaha today’s post is likely to elicit.

Fact or fiction: interconnects and speaker cables matter. As in yesterday’s post, you already know my answer. But, there are several burning questions.

Do they always matter? How come some people simply do not hear differences? Are audiophiles the only group that buys into the idea of cables making a sonic difference?

Let’s start with the last question first. No, certainly audiophiles are not the only people concerned with cable quality. At a minimum, engineers, recordists, and scientists pay close attention to the quality of their cables in an effort to get the lowest noise results. Proper shielding, balanced, and well-built connectors are a must for any serious pro. Do they also worry about the type of conductors and geometry of the design? Not many, but they do want to make sure they don’t muck up a job because of a noisy or broken cable.

And why do some not hear a difference? In my experience, it’s all about setup, system, and intent. While at RMAF a young group of fellow YouTube channel contributors approached me with folded arms and a challenge. They had purchased at Best Buy the cheapest USB cable they could find. Their challenge to me was to prove to them a difference between their cable and my high-performance cable mattered.

“No problem,” said I and invited them to Music Room One after the show. Within the first 30 seconds of the comparison the looks of shock on their faces was a sheer joy to me. Here were four bright young men intent on being right that cables cannot matter, yet open-minded enough to actually give it a try. After demonstrating the differences I left the room and their leader proceeded to test them with blind ABs and the group fared well: 70% accurate choices. Not bad for inexperienced listeners. (Yes, listening is a learned skill).

Do they always matter? No, they do not. I have had numerous experiences with systems that seem agnostic to the signal cables attached to them and I am not certain why. I’ve heard Bill Low’s Audioquest Boombox comparison of cables and the differences are stark and clear. Yet, I have also worked with in-home setups using good speakers where we could not tell the differences between zip cord and high-performance wire. My guess is that the room and setup were masking subtle differences normally heard.

Whatever the case, it’s obvious to me that for the most part cables—interconnects and speaker—matter.

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