• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required. There are many reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

Audiophile hobby is a scam?

Chrispy

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 7, 2020
Messages
8,258
Likes
6,292
Location
PNW
No it does not. For an engineer.

For a scientist, it actually does. And same as 'perfect' and 'done', 'solved' should not belong to a scientist's vocabulary. And least no yet. From a scientific perspective, those words belongs to the not-even-wrong category.

This is a Science site and that is what I expect. But it can also be that I am too "pretentious" :)
If your goal is distortion below audibility then nothing wrong with using a term like "solved" for much audio gear, particularly electronics (perhaps not as much for transducers?).
 

radix

Major Contributor
Joined
Aug 1, 2021
Messages
1,440
Likes
1,409
A McIntosh amp is rivaled/even bettered by lesser priced competitors but so long as it performs to published spec, I do not consider it a scam in any way.
I think McIntosh conservatively spec's their gear to beyond human audible. You pay the premium for service, features, integration, made-in-usa, etc.. I think those are all valid soft-power price components. It's not the 0.005% THD vs 0.0001% THD. It's expensive, and while I don't think I'd pay their new prices, I have bought vintage mac gear and like it. I don't consider it a scam either, they are not misleading or selling voodoo technology.
 

kemmler3D

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Aug 25, 2022
Messages
3,948
Likes
7,981
Location
San Francisco
I can see what you mean .. also can agree with much of that perspective.

OTOH, I do not think any of us gets to redefine terms like perfect/done/solved. Talking about your distortion example, there is only one perfect/done/solved in engineering/math terms: zero distortion. And not only at one frequency but at "all" of them.
And that's only "perfect in engineering/math terms" because many ears/brains/people may not agree at all. But let's not even talk about that :D

As about "inaudible", I do not see that in the same category as perfect/done/solved. That threshhold is not even clearly defined. And it's a can of worms cause anyone can re-define "inaudible for me".

It's fine for someone to say "amps are a solved issues for me". About any device. But to proclaim that "amplification was solved, everyone move along" is quite different. IMO, that's a case of Pauli's not-even-wrong.

Anyway .. mine is not exactly a popular oppinion and it does not have to be .. and not sure what is the topic of this thread but we are surely off :)
I at least appreciate your commitment to semantics and pedantry. :)

I guess for you, "solved" or "perfect" represent infinitely perfected performance, and so those terms should actually never be used. A valid point of view. I don't totally disagree but I think it makes discussion a little trickier than it needs to be.

The pragmatic point of view is that for any physical electronic audio circuit, noise and distortion can never be zero... at least outside of a lab or a giant void in deep space at ~0K. Quantum mechanics makes such a device physically impossible, among other things.

So at that point you have to wonder if there can be a more useful / relevant definition of "perfect". I think the one most people use here is the one I mentioned earlier... an audio device that has no plausibly audible defect when used for its intended purpose.

Granted, a much weaker definition, but one that gives us permission to stop worrying about irrelevant improvements. For example, bumping amp SINAD from 95 to 105 to 115dB will basically never improve the listening experience.

I do think that considering the idea of "perfection" when it comes to speakers is interesting, though. It forces us to wrangle with what a perfect mix / recording might capture, and how one might reproduce that at home. And, thinking along those lines does make it clear that although stereo can be very nice and is very practical, it's far from any concept of "ultimate perfection" we might care to discuss.
 
Last edited:

radix

Major Contributor
Joined
Aug 1, 2021
Messages
1,440
Likes
1,409
I do think that considering the idea of "perfection" when it comes to speakers is interesting, though. It forces us to wrangle with what a perfect mix / recording might capture, and how one might reproduce that at home. And, thinking along those lines does make it clear that although stereo can be very nice and is very practical, it's far from any concept of "ultimate perfection" we might care to discuss.

I don't really get why people get so bent out of shape about amps, preamps, cd players, dacs, streamers, cables, fuses, etc. As long as one has sufficient power and well-matched line levels, and a competently engineered device (by modern standards), they just are not a factor from a performance point of view (usability, looks, warranties, etc., aside). Compared to speakers, subs, and the room, those electronic pieces are all vanishingly small factors in the reproduction of a recording.

If you want to bicker over what "perfect" means, knock yourself out. It's really irrelevant. I doubt most people have speakers and room that make "perfect" even remotely relevant.
 

Hammeredklavier

Active Member
Joined
Feb 25, 2019
Messages
117
Likes
128
Of course it's a scam, but what would we do if we listened to the science facts and stop buying stuff we love? it means death for the hobby.
Sadly, that's probably true. Without a healthy supply of people who're convinced they can 'hear the difference', what's left of the hi-fi industry would probably die!

Even so, I think it's necessary to bear down on the cynically exploitative side of things. Foo mains leads that isolate vibration, weird wibbly equipment racks, bizarre speaker cables and so on. The bottom fell out of my interest in the hobby ~20 years ago when Naim started selling silly kettle leads for about £500 or something daft, and there were people on the forums adamant that they were making night and day, jaw dropping, trouser flapping differences! I thought to myself, nah, I'm out, this is just silliness.
 

Mr Swing King

Member
Joined
Dec 27, 2023
Messages
87
Likes
223
Location
Jutland
I’m not sure I’d call it a scam…more like a hobby where manufacturers take advantage of the ignorance of their customers.
This happens everywhere though.
 

DLS79

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Dec 31, 2019
Messages
818
Likes
1,067
Location
United States
I’m not sure I’d call it a scam…more like a hobby where manufacturers take advantage of the ignorance of their customers.
This happens everywhere though.

I think there is a lot less ignorance in other hobbies, and a lot less grey area for manufactures to make ludicrous claims.
 
Last edited:

Ghostofmerlin

Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 16, 2024
Messages
64
Likes
93
I’m not sure I’d call it a scam…more like a hobby where manufacturers take advantage of the ignorance of their customers.
This happens everywhere though.
Sucker born every minute........

So maybe at least part of it is a scam? Like the too small basketball hoops and screwed down milk bottles at the county fair?
 

Joe Smith

Major Contributor
Joined
Jan 4, 2019
Messages
1,069
Likes
1,106
I continue to just enjoy good sound at a ridiculously low price, and leave the "butterfly wing aural differences" to others...
 

Anton D

Major Contributor
Joined
Mar 17, 2021
Messages
1,052
Likes
1,263
Sucker born every minute........

So maybe at least part of it is a scam? Like the too small basketball hoops and screwed down milk bottles at the county fair?
This is tough.

Our hobby has so many "My desktop system that cost me under 150 dollars is as good as audio can get and everyone else is an audiofool" types that that part can grow kinda stale.
 
Last edited:

kemmler3D

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Aug 25, 2022
Messages
3,948
Likes
7,981
Location
San Francisco
I think there is a lot less ignorance in other hobbies, and a lot less grey area for manufactures to make ludicrous claims.
Yep. To counter @Ron Texas 's point - I snowboard, and while the basic price of admission for decent equipment is not cheap for your average joe, the difference between the cheapest snowboard you can buy new, and the most expensive, is around 10x, not 100x or 1000x.

Why?

  • The impact of placebo effect on one's snowboarding experience will be much smaller than it is in audio, so snake oil claims won't work
  • Nobody is impressed if you have an expensive board, they're impressed if you can ride well
  • Boards wear out, keeping one around as a status symbol is not part of "the hobby".
I guess that other hobbies with direct physical/tangible output from the gear (woodworking? others?) probably shows a similar pattern. A lathe that's built with exotic wiring or metals won't cut any better, and that will tend to be immediately obvious.

e: In favor of Ron's point though, I think hobbies/goods where the goal is sensory input other than visual (wine, fine dining, audio) or is completely subjective or intangible (status-symbol fashion) you see the wide price disparities and snake oil-like marketing.
 
Last edited:

DLS79

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Dec 31, 2019
Messages
818
Likes
1,067
Location
United States
I guess that other hobbies with direct physical output from the gear (woodworking? others?) probably shows a similar pattern. A lathe that's built with exotic wiring or metals won't cut any better, and that will tend to be immediately obvious.

Yep, hobbies that involve the user actively doing something don't seem to have this problem.

Hobbies of mine where this is true:
  • woodworking
  • machining
  • welding
  • videography
  • photography
 
Last edited:

muza_1

Active Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2020
Messages
237
Likes
363
Location
Mexico City
I for one wouldn't care if the Hi-Fi industry disappears as such and becomes a commodity, being in this hobby for more than 30 years and spending a lot of money in worthless equipment before the science became wildly available I say good riddance. Non of my later purchases are "High-End" but all of them are low-cost and transparent (and some of them are being used daily for years without any problems).

I personally stop caring abut country of origin, reputation and technology claims a long time ago, as long as the gear is well made, functional and transparent I will go for the lowest cost available that fit my needs (that includes aesthetics), for me there is no worth in audio jewelry anymore I already spent (more like throw away) hundreds of thousands that after the pandemic I would rather have back but hey I learned my lesson, is up to me to do the research, audio companies are businesses and in this industry apparently they are not obligated to deliver on what they promise.

About electronics being a solved problem why are some people choosing to be obtuse? Being a solved problem doesn't mean every AMP and DAC from now on is going to be transparent and cheap it means that the technology is there and if a company choose to they can make use of it and add all the functionality they want on top, is up to the consumer to do the research (which today is fast and easy with a lot of reliable sources) and choose a product that fit their needs and budget and works as is supposed to do.

On a side note, the Headphone industry (IEMs, DACs, DAPs, et al) is lagging behind in investigation and becoming the new "High-End" in the audiophile community, there are lots wild claims and blatantly transparent scams.

To me personally this hobby is not about having fun or the equipment, I love music and all I want is a natural and transparent reproduction I don't care about infinitesimal details or the most advanced, moderen and good looking piece of equipment, for me is all about the music and I know it could be very different for others, this are just my own views.
 

ads_cft222

Active Member
Joined
Aug 11, 2023
Messages
143
Likes
36
Well, If you go to high end Munich expo showrooms and it sounds the same as your home stereo …
 

muza_1

Active Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2020
Messages
237
Likes
363
Location
Mexico City
Well, If you go to high end Munich expo showrooms and it sounds the same as your home stereo …

A pair (or multiple) studio monitors or neutral speakers ranging from $1,000 to around $4,000 depending on the size of the room (not a really big room though) plus a one or two decent subwoofers and low cost digital amplification (in case of speakers) is not considered expensive and yes it can easy sound way better than some expo showrooms and some really expensive rooms on audiophiles homes.
You just have to do some research and put a little effort where it counts (room, speaker selection and optimization).
 
Last edited:

allmanfan

Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2024
Messages
48
Likes
14
Sadly, that's probably true. Without a healthy supply of people who're convinced they can 'hear the difference', what's left of the hi-fi industry would probably die!

Even so, I think it's necessary to bear down on the cynically exploitative side of things. Foo mains leads that isolate vibration, weird wibbly equipment racks, bizarre speaker cables and so on. The bottom fell out of my interest in the hobby ~20 years ago when Naim started selling silly kettle leads for about £500 or something daft, and there were people on the forums adamant that they were making night and day, jaw dropping, trouser flapping differences! I thought to myself, nah, I'm out, this is just silliness.
big difference between debates about power cables and headphone cables...or DAC's and AMPs and HP's etc
 

kemmler3D

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Aug 25, 2022
Messages
3,948
Likes
7,981
Location
San Francisco
All hobbies are ultimately irrational, and hence open to scam. Nothing special about audio there.
Rationality is limited to the information / knowledge a person has available to make a decision. So that means someone can behave rationally and still get scammed... because they don't know better. People who take homeopathic remedies are absolutely scam victims, but most of them don't have the background to realize that either way, and so (based on what they know) are behaving rationally when they take 10,000x diluted duck liver, or whatever.

I think this basically applies to a lot of subjectivist audiophiles, too. I said some harsh things in another thread that might contradict this, but a lot of them ARE behaving rationally (in a sense) when they buy an expensive cable or something, because they genuinely believe it will deliver an audible benefit commensurate with the expense. They are acting on the best information at their disposal, it just happens to be crap information. What they don't realize is that sound quality is not nearly as obscure and hard to define as they think.

Break the curse of knowledge: Pretend that you are unable to make heads or tails of any measurement shown to you. SPL might as well stand for Spaghetti Plate Lunch. Specs are effectively a foreign language to you. In that case, how do you decide what to buy? You have to take someone's word for it. That is still rational, but it leads to results that (with the knowledge we have) seem wildly irrational.
 
Top Bottom