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Audiophile Controversy

The debate over the effects of speaker & interconnect wire

The golden age of hi/fi began in the late 1940’s & early 1950’s. One of the first record review magazines (if not the first) of these magazines was Gramophone Magazine first published in 1923, mainly concerned with classicalmusic. Radio brought music to the masses in the 1920’s. The film industry created the popular music market, with it’s many musical productions featuring Byng Crosby, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin. I was exposed to these performers as a child in the 1950’s. Record collecting was a common hobby my uncle’s wind up phonograph & 78 rpm record collection are proof of this. (he was not a rich man)
Hi/Fi as we know it grew out of the diy community, People who had received electronics training during WWII, realized that they could build their own speakers, radio receivers, etc. People who couldn’t afford to buy a radio could afford a kit of some kind. Popular mechanics, etc. published plans for all kinds of hi/fi products. When Joe Average was exposed to how good these diy products sounded compared to what he could afford and wondered how he might acquire such a system, the light bulb went off in a few enterprising veterans minds and what was to become the Golden Age of Hi/Fi was born. People like Saul Marantz, David Hafler, Frank McIntosh, began marketing their designs, McIntosh offered a kit, David Hafler of Dynaco fame also offered kits, as well as HeathKit, Eico, Knight etc. These first diy hi/fi systems evolved through modification to become the hi/end. Enterprising people eg. Bill Johnson’s, mod of the Dynaco ST-70 evolved to become the Audio Research line of audio electronics.

n any given day you can find 2 different species of human being crossing paths in an Audio store, the first is the audiophile: A person who pursues the best sounding system at all costs. Their record collection typically consists of 10 or 15 recommended recordings designed to hi/lite the virtues of their audio system. The audiophile could be described as one who loves the equipment. He usually owns fewer than 100 recordings.

The second species the music lover is one who places the music first. He too has a good system however his love of music tempers his desire for the next best gadget to make his system sound better. An example of the differrent mindset of these individuals is the choice each would make
between a pre/amp with tone controls and reasonably priced neutral sounding speaker & interconnect wire, or choosing a purist pre/amp design (no tone controls) requiring expensive interconnect & speaker wire to voice the system ( a much more expensive option ) The music lover would choose (a.) The audiophile would choose (B.) and sneer at the music lovers choice. The music lover tends to be more frugal in his equipment choice & more likely to want to build a kit especially when they found that their diy effort sounded better than the store bought competition.

From this meillieu came the 2nd golden age of audio. Enterprising minds like Bob Schmalle, Paul Joppa (bottlehead), Steve Deckert (Decware), Lyn Olson Nutshell Hi/Fi, Don Garber (fi
) brought the single ended DHT concept to the masses.

...... on an internet chatroom (audiocircle) one person ("E")mused all that speaker cables, & interconnect wire really do is "act like tone controls."  She made another interesting point  ......  "as purist pre/amp designs came to be more in vogue; speaker & interconnect connection products began to become popular in audiophile circles, to the point that today it's almost impossible to find tone controls on any pre/amp or integrated amp with hi end pretensions.".......When one looks back over the last 20 years, one can see the parallel between the increase in cable sales, & the decline of tone control circuits in purist pre/amp & integrated amp designs. I suspect that audio marketing strategies coupled with our own gullibility has conspired to create a market (initially for wire), followed by audiophile grade powerline filters, audiophile grade receptacles, power cords, fuses, to the realm of the ridiculous, m'pingo dots, crystals taped to speaker cables ad nauseum. Click on this link to a you tube viedeo of an audio myths workshop from the 2009 AES convention in NYC, a panel discussion chaired by Ethan Winer.  When you look at the way we hear & see it's very easy to see how it's possible to be manipulated while shopping for that next piece of gear.

Ethan Winer