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Dilemma: Should I not believe any reviewers who talk about cables or just ignore that section of their review?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by dnzgamer, May 5, 2012.
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  1. DNZGamer
    Ever since I got linked to that whole "cables" topic and read the ridiculous number of sources repeating that from basically regular listeners all the way to top audio engineers and reviewers could not distinguish cables in blind testing, I have been highly conflicted about reviews on this site.

    Recently just read a review about another IEM and in it, the cables are being mentioned as enhancing the bass, helping with soundstage and imaging. Sounds like a big difference...
    But these are $200 cables while audio professionals can't tell the difference between $10 cables and $1000 cables or even coat hangers in the most extreme case...
    So then should I believe the rest of what these people say or is it just as likely to be as inaccurate? Or do cables still make a difference beyond just peoples imaginations?
    The dilemma here is that if I was to take these reviewers seriously, it would mean that I believe in cables making a difference despite all the empirical and scientific findings... If I don't believe that cables make a difference, then I am assuming they are talking out of their ass when it comes to sound and that anything they say is probably worthless!
    Someone tell me what to believe and make it simple!
  2. Magick Man
    Usually when I see lots of hyperbole about cables in a review I stop reading.
  3. Kernmac
    You seem to have already formed an opinion regarding cables and therefore reliable/credible reviews.  As for empirical and scientific "proof", religions have been doing fine for thousands of years without the need.
    Take most reviews with a grain of salt regardless of whether they rely upon cable change or not.  As for cables, you already know there is no proof (measurable or subjective opinion through blind testing under controlled situations) of them making any difference; however "credible" posters report that they hear a difference.  Maybe they do and maybe they suffer from some type of McGurk/placebo effect, however I think it is safe to conclude that significant improvement is a crock, and that very subtle change may occur at best.  If cables change FR then why can't it be measured?  Maybe they "open the sound stage" or have some other slight impact, but change a headphone from something "sibilant" to "tamed" or increase bass quality/quantity etc. to make a headphone change from "didn't like" to just short of perfect?
    Don't ask people to tell you what you should believe, that isn't credible and will almost always result in differing opinions.
    jheck, ForShure, drovid and 1 other person like this.
  4. Anaxilus
    You must be joking.  That's shameful.
    jheck likes this.
  5. wakibaki
    Trust your instincts and reasoning.
    If people are writing unsupportable (in evidence terms) stuff about cables, the chances are very high that the rest of what they write is unsupportable (worthless).
    There are large numbers of essentially meaningless words which are used in audio reviews. A favourite put-down applied when the author can find nothing substantial to criticize in a piece of equipment's performance is to say that it was 'uninvolving'. Another is to say that it was 'fatigueing'.
    Since the whole point of a review is to nail down specific failings in a piece of equipment, anyone using words like these automatically disqualifies themselves as a credible reviewer.
    If you find sections in a review that you find hard to attribute a concrete meaning to, this is not a failing on your part, it's just part of an industry and a pastime that generates a lot of copy (written material) that sounds superficially impressive but means very little.
    Since it usually sounds like it was written with absolute conviction, It's very easy for a person without much exposure to such material to be be misled by it and to question their own judgement.
    eucariote and drovid like this.
  6. anetode
    Audio journalists are directly funded both by cable manufacturers and audio retailers. Any positive review of cables has a clear profit motive. If an audio journalist claims to hear a difference with a more expensive cable, they are either lying, self-deluded or stupid. I will note, however, that I for one would accept money to lie to people I don't know.
    Kaffeemann, Murder Mike and Cat Face like this.
  7. anetode

    On the contrary, I respect this level of honesty.
  8. DNZGamer
    Seems like you are disqualifying the majority of the reviewers I have been reading. The natural question would be, who do you find credible? Is there a last bastion of Audio Sanity? Which reviewers moderate the amount of catch phrases that overtake content?
    That I believe, but I am talking about a lot of the reviewers here. In fact, the reports of cables are strangely sometimes consistent amongst different reviewers hinting at possibility of slight truth?
    Was mostly meant to be light hearted and highlight the fact that I get pretty confused when reading peoples reviews and am finding it hard to find good, solid reviews that give me a frame of reference. Don't take it literally. As someone who reads lots of movie reviews, music reviews, game reviews, restaurant reviews and all sorts of other reviews, I find audio reviews to be lacking coherency. How do I know a headphone really has a great soundstage and bass when someone says there wasn't great soundstage and bass before a cable upgrade? But these are respected members of the Head-Fi forums or respected reviewers in general. 

    All reviews hold personal bias but in other forms of media, I have been able to recognize why someone held certain opinions. It is \harder for me to extract the relevant information from audio gear reviews though. 
  9. liamstrain
    Expectation bias is strong. We have no way to know if there was marketing material that suggested a particular change, or if multiple reviewers did their reviews after reading someone else's (unconsciously biasing theirs). 
    When there is a conflict between subjective observation and measured/objective observation, it is rarely the objective that should be discarded. 
  10. mikeaj
    There's a lot of group think, that's for sure.  A good amount of audiophile mythology has a basis in reality though, but a lot doesn't.
    I don't think that kooky language, discussions on audio quality of cables, etc. should be considered as disqualifying factors when looking at a review as opposed to another.  I mean, a lot more people would be reporting differences in cables if they tried listening themselves, if they already didn't know that the idea was ridiculous (because people are inclined to hear differences in general).  There's just a difference in expectations and the filtering and processing of one's thoughts, between members of the two camps—not anything like some fundamental difference in aural acuity or trustworthiness.
    You can get some useful information if you think critically and don't take anything at face value.
    chrislangley4253 likes this.
  11. EthanWiner
    Exactly. These people would have us believe we should trust their ears, since we're not present to hear what they're hearing. So if they "hear wires" that tells me their hearing is not as good as mine, and that they are delusional too.
  12. TheGrumpyOldMan
    In the end, why make it a matter of belief in -other- people's opinion: if this bugs you, keep an eye out for the next headfi-type meet in your area, go there and -listen for yourself-! I'm sure there will be plenty of high-end equipment, connected by equally high-end cabling. Now they won't necessarily let you swap cables, but there may be someone with equipment you are familiar with, using fancy cables, for a comparison. And generally, the whole thing should be fun either way.
    I would think that IF cables do make a difference, the most obvious place for that would be the ones going straight to the headphone, which is also where the strongest statements, bordering on potentially verifiably audible, are made (ex.: silver cabling enhances treble, makes headphones "brighter") Maybe bring your own favorite headphones that are familiar-sounding, and see if you can try a pair of upgraded ones, or if yours have removable cabling, ask to swap.
    Generally, since I joined Head-Fi, I have read (and learned!) a lot to put things in perspective, and read between the lines of flowery prose for info that would be relevant to my listening experience. I also spent quite some money -_-;; on pretty decent equipment  (which I do enjoy a lot) to have a point of comparison when I read reviews or comments, and how much of a difference it would make to my own experience (Hint: at a certain price point, the difference will ALWAYS be (very) subtle, even or especially if somebody writes that the equipment (or cable) "wipes the floor" with every other similar piece... [​IMG]) And like others wrote: similar opinions are not necessarily a reliable indication of the cable's performance...
    I personally have some upgraded cabling, for a number of reasons, but a change in sound quality isn't one of them. After many hours of listening, I still cannot hear any difference.
    However, since sound perception is a function of how the brain processes it, and if spending $$$$ makes one's brain think it sounds better and thus enjoy music more, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. But I think it IS wrong to give people on a budget the impression that it's worth spending money on cables when they're better off putting it into components that have a -measurable- influence (Headphones first and foremost!!!, amps, DACs to a lesser extent...) or worse make them think that they can fix shortcomings in their current setup by swapping any cable in the chain... unless these are perceived, in which case the cable-swap may change that perception...
  13. chrislangley4253
    false, false, false. It's not just people who are out to make a dollar that claim to hear a difference.
  14. wakibaki
    Try googling 'objective audio equipment reviews', or look for 'The Audio Critic'. Unfortunately the vast majority of contemporary reviewers are not credible, in my opinion. You could view Ethan Winer's (the same Ethan who has replied to your thread) AES Audio Myths Workshop on YouTube:- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYTlN6wjcvQ. This doesn't consist of reviews, but the material provides a sound basis for evaluating reviews and reviewers.
  15. jgray91
    IMO "fatiguing" still counts if it's in a review. I don't know about you wakibaki, but for some that are sensitive to treble, me including, using a treble forward can tire their ears, and sometimes are painful. Maybe I should word that better to indicate only me. I am still learning a lot, and would be happy to be proved wrong in a polite manner. :wink:
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