Tag Archives: High End Audio

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.

Paul writes here about the Placebo Effect in high end audio and I agree with most of what he says, 100%.

I think in the large majority of times, if you give someone expectations of what they will hear,  chances are pretty good that they will hear what is described to them. I’ve seen this a lot.

Bias backfire

We’re conditioned by our culture to believe that bias affects opinion. That if we’re told something’s going to be a certain way that’s what we’ll experience.

I would argue that’s true only in some circumstances.

If I tell you to try on a shirt because it’ll look great, you’ll have an expectation that biases you. If I am right, that’s wonderful. But if I am not, will you be fooled into believing what’s not true? Unlikely.

“Here, take a bite of this. It’s wonderful.” Sometimes yes, often times no.

If we’re told a new audio cable or audio equipment sounds a certain way we’re likely to have that expectation going into a listening session. Yet, if it sounds the opposite we reject it even harder than if we hadn’t been biased.

Now we’ve been fooled.

So where does this notion of bias falsely swaying people come from? The Placebo Effect.  Placebos work for two reasons: our belief in them and their ineffectiveness. You can’t have an effective placebo without both conditions. If I tell you a spoonful of lemon tastes sweet, no amount of belief is going to change your pucker factor. But, if I tell you you’ll have fewer aches and pains by taking this little yellow pill with a neutral agent inside, you might well feel less pain.

The point of this post is simple. Bias changes opinions when the differences between devices under test are either non-existent or minimal.

When there is an actual difference between two devices or services, a bias in any one direction will not sway the outcome.

It’s easy to make sweeping judgments but they are not always right.


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.

Not my feelings at all, but I guess not all folks think alike when it comes to high end audio.


I sometimes get the craziest comments. Following the recent upgrades to DirectStream a flood of people smelling a conspiratorial cover-up have emerged.

Weird, right?

The general line goes something like this: “If you know how to improve the DAC’s performance why didn’t you just release it like that in the beginning? You’re purposefully holding back on the product so you can charge us more money.”

Of course, this is absurd. Since DirectStream’s introduction in 2014, there has been a tremendous amount of progress and learning going on. We’ve shared these improvements with the thousands of DirectStream owners for free.

But, that’s not the point of this post. I don’t feel the need to defend what we’ve done or where we’re going.

No, this post wants to riff on conspiracy theories. How the little voices in our heads can sometimes take a sharp turn towards evil plots to explain what we cannot.

I think we all can be guilty of crafting conspiracies to explain the world around us—at least at one time or another. Did you ever think your grade school teacher must have been an alien creature with eyes in the back of her head? How else to explain how she knew you were the one talking? Or how did mom know it was you that ate the cookies? Did you believe she was a mind reader?

It is natural for us to want to build explanations of how the world works. That’s how we make sense of the complexities around us.

But when your explanation starts to suspect conspiracies either on your own or buying into the imaginations of others, I would caution restraint and encourage questioning.

Conspiracies might make for good novels but they are extremely rare in real life.

The truth is, most of us are working without a master plan. We move through daily life dealing with what’s presented to us as it comes our way.

Doesn’t that describe you pretty well?

Don’t for a moment think you’re unusual in that regard.

I’ll bet we’re all pretty much the same.