Hot glue, garden hose and iron filings: Only $195!

From a reader:

$150 [I think the list price is actually $US195!] audiophile cable revealed to be a piece of crap!

Audiophile power plug

I actually knew they were made of house wiring like that before (someone found out in 2002, but was ignored).

Here's one of the many, many audiophiles who thought this PC sounded better than something else (if you read through the later pages in that thread, you can find more).

This is funny.

Yep, that thing's made from string and baling wire.

But it doesn't matter.

I mean, look at the charmingly hand-made Nautilus Master Technology power cable page - which is full of weird and wonderful electron-movers based on technologies unknown to science - and they tell you right up front about the standard electronics-store components and unremarkable wire in the Power Three (or Power 3; they can't quite decide what it's called).

OK, the feline-assisted autopsy on the cable makes clear that it doesn't really have "4 layers of shielding"; it's got four layers of insulation if you count the braid on the outside and the garden hose (!) on the inside, but insulation and shielding are quite different things.

But did Nautilus say specifically that they were talking about boring old electrical shielding, which everybody knows is pointless for a power cable feeding any kind of remotely-well-designed power supply?

No! This is VIBRATION shielding, and LIGHT shielding, and homeopathic reiki aura shielding, of course!

And then there's "Level 1 Dynamic Filtering", "ProTecX Treatment" and "Cryogenic Treatment", all of which are I'm sure enormously important yet, regrettably, completely unquantifiable and undetectable in blinded tests, but which I suppose had something to do with the iron filings hiding inside the cable. (Which, if one were uncharitable, one might think were just in there to make it impressively heavy.)

And yes, many customers are immensely impressed by all this, using all of the usual wine-taster-ish adjectives. And they absolutely will not be told that it's possible that the people working on supercomputers, atom smashers and communication satellites might possibly have noticed all of these readily audible differences that come from replacing a simple wire that isn't even in the signal path... if those differences were really there.

Human ears can only barely discern a 1dB level change, yet technical hardware with literally billions of times the sensitivity to a wide variety of signal characteristics that human ears can't detect at all will not respond differently in any way if you replace a normal $3 IEC lead with a $2000 "audiophile" one. Well, provided you can keep the thing connected - the more impressive audiophile power cords, apparently including this Nautilus one, tend to be so heavy that they unplug themselves.

Nonetheless, every one of these guys (I presume there's a woman or two in the fringe audiophile ranks, but I've never seen concrete evidence of one) believes himself to be the only human on the face of the earth who was born with the same IEEE-calibrated broadband admissible-in-court hearing system that was fitted to Commander Data.

Oddly enough, the fringe audiophiles never seem to have trotted over to a hearing test lab to see if the psychoacoustic tricks that work on... everyone... work on them too. But they're still sure that power cords with three split conductors inside a big crinkly plastic condom (which, incidentally, are probably technically illegal to sell for electrical-code reasons...) are very impressive, and absolutely not actually as relevant to audio system performance as spinning rims are to racing-car lap times.

It's unfair to tar every hi-fi hobbyist with the nutty audiophile brush; there are many audiophiles who remain within the bounds of empirical reality, or at least don't hand over thousands of dollars to every company with a shiny talisman to sell.

But this does not change the fact that you don't get to say something that contradicts a long list of well-accepted scientific facts without backing it up with proper empirical evidence. Unblinded listening tests - often even with caveats about how the cable needed to "break in" for hours or even weeks before revealing its true beauty, completely ignoring the fact that people change their response to sounds over mere minutes - do not make the cut.

I have, thus far, reviewed three devices whose stated methods of operation imply a major upheaval in basic science. The EMPower Modulator, Batterylife Activator and Wine Clip all have vocal proponents who haven't actually tested them properly.

I did test them properly, and I found they didn't work.

12 Responses to “Hot glue, garden hose and iron filings: Only $195!”

  1. Chazzozz Says:

    I've got 30m of Big W's finest reinforced garden hose (a bargain at only $29.95!) lying around in the back yard right now. I'll never look at it the same way again...

  2. bruzie Says:

    I went to the Nautilis web site. I kept looking for the "this is a parody" message. I cannot believe that these guys are serious. Unless of course the point is that it's a big joke against the freaks who would spend up to $1k on a power cable.

  3. Kagato Says:

    Man... reading those forum posts was just depressing.

  4. ZekeSulastin Says:

    Wow. You'd think that after being confronted with the facts users like iPodDJ would just pull their heads from their rear. All this over a single POWER CABLE?! What does a special cable even do for your equipment?

    I first found this site years ago due to a scam article, and they are still as entertaining and saddening as they were then :X

  5. ZekeSulastin Says:

    ... sorry for the double post, but I wasn't entirely through the thread. Look for the posts by AcousticChef ... damn.

  6. Ash Says:

    I'd set up my own site selling audiophile-quality leads given that I am quite capable of constructing something of similar quality to the picture (my 5-yo nephew is probably capable), but I have to sleep at night.

    Plus I'd have to put up with Dan skewering me with rapier commentary from time to time.

  7. Chazzozz Says:

    Plus I’d have to put up with Dan skewering me with rapier commentary from time to time.

    Heh. I reckon it'd be worth it...imagine how Dan's contributions would pull your Google pagerank up. :D

  8. corinoco Says:

    The more I think about it, the fewer problems I have with 'Audiophile' gear. I'm not going to buy it; I understand basic high-school physics, and have read enough higher-level stuff (and understand scientific method) to know that it's all tosh.

    There are many items for sale openly in the market place that make all sorts of spurious pseudo-scientific claims, including but not limited to: washing powders, detergents, shampoos, sports drinks, cars, politcal & social economics systems and self-help books. Audiophile gear is a slightly obvious example, due to the extreme cost-of-production / sale-price ratio, but no worse than Gatorade claiming that a salty drink full of colouring will 'improve your performance' or that 'aloe vera' is inherently better for your hair/skin/eyes/tonsils than, er, anything else (strong acids, alkalis & posions excluded, of course).

    If anything, audiophile gear looks to be an excellent method of seperating complete fools from the cash they would otherwise spend on someone else's audiophile tat. The advantage is that I can put the money can to better use; such as buying a house, or more Lego.

    As for Dan occasionally criticising my fine platinum-class audiophile products (as used by DARPA, NASA, SPECTRE, KAOS & Nasti-Person), I'm pretty certain no true audiophile would pollute their nano-forged duplex-modulation iridium-doped-bromide aircraft-grade UV-optical organic-aluminium interconnects with Dan's site; you could get bit rot in the cables, and you know what that does to the upper-register frequencies!

    In short, yes, I could sleep very soundly at night making and selling audiophile gear; I would just need the motivation to actually do it. The last bit is actually the biggest hurdle in the scheme; just like art, you must get noticed first (collect underpants), then build up some whuffie in your chosen field (...) , finally sit back and rake in cash (profit!).

  9. pondscum Says:

    Just what sort of wiring do these idiots have 'in the wall'? Do they rewire the whole house (right back to the power station).

  10. Coderer Says:

    Dan, I really, really hope that you're already selling boatloads of this stuff under a pseudonym and socking it away in a retirement fund. If not, uh, get cracking. You clearly know at least as much about these scams as the people currently running them, and I for one (like #8 above) would have absolutely no qualms about taking idiots' money -- I can certainly use it better than they would. Of course, do it, but don't *admit* to doing it.

  11. sockatume Says:

    The Nautalus Audio website has mysteriously disappeared. Curious, huh?

  12. Bits, batteries and BS | Says:

    [...] world. Never mind the pure frauds like expensive audiophile cables that turn out to be made from garden hoses and hot glue. Look, for instance, at this highly-regarded little amplifier, which is actually very badly [...]

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