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Ethan Winer Builds a Wire Null Tester

solderdude

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(From Paul's website see link above)
If our goal is to understand why we hear a difference then it’s incumbent on us to dig deeper. Our hypothesis didn’t give us the results we were looking for. Our ears detect a difference our meters and methods fail to uncover. The proper conclusion is not to stop there but to march forward until it can be satisfactorily explained.
Or simply accept the most logical explanation... but I applaud those who won't stop and keep (eternally) trying to find another plausible conclusion.
Maybe someone finally discovers the long awaited 'unknown signal' for which we haven't invented a measurement method yet.


Garth Powell of Audioquest proposed a method that just might have some answers. Since the change we hear comes out of the loudspeakers and affects the entire audio chain, it’s only logical we measure the entire chain to seek differences. This would involve using a microphone to capture the output of the system and then comparing the recorded files to find the differences. It’s essentially the same test I have done any number of times with the microphone in my iPhone which more than adequately picks up differences.
Yes, one can suggest all day long but why haven't they yet... seems to be the most logical step for a cable manufacturer to prove this once and for all and definitive.
I can make a guess as to why this is never tested this way.
Where are the iphone results ?
Or the 'more official' tests ? Afterall he did it so many times and even his phone could pick it up (probably in a slightly different position), yet no evidence anywhere.

I haven’t the time nor the interest in performing these tests with any scientific rigor, but perhaps someone else wants to grab the flag and climb the mountain. It would have to be performed on a system where we actually do hear a difference.

Proving what we already know might be valuable to someone.

Just not me.
It looks like he KNOWS he is talking crap and this way you can't prove a thing so makes a quick and not explained escape that he won't.
If he REALLY thought it was that easy he could have already shown it in one of his vids.
 
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svart-hvitt

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I think McGowan has no interest in psychology as an academic discipline. So he doesn’t ask if differences are real (physics) or perceived by the complex which is man.

He has no interest in the scientific method either.

No wonder he has a large group of followers.
 

GGroch

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OK, but.

Paul and Garth Powell seem to be suggesting an objective scientific test that uses measurement to determine whether cables make a difference.

It appears to be similar to Ethan's null tester in concept, except that a loudspeaker's output is measured instead of the cable's output.
If correctly set up, this test should be a valid measurable objective test...right?

Paul goes further saying he regularly does this...and huge differences are measurable...even using the mic on his I-Phone.

Garth Powell did a sighted/subjective version of this test at CES last year "proving" that AC power cords impact sound....using a camcorder mic as the recording device. Analog Planet's Michael Fremer writes: "The differences were critical and easily heard by all in attendance. It was no more "conformational bias" than would be showing a color and black and white photo and asking which was which."

So, what slight of hand is being used here? And, how could an objective scientifically valid test measuring the differences in a signal recorded from speaker outputs be made?
 

solderdude

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OK, but.

Paul and Garth Powell seem to be suggesting an objective scientific test that uses measurement to determine whether cables make a difference.

It appears to be similar to Ethan's null tester in concept, except that a loudspeaker's output is measured instead of the cable's output.
If correctly set up, this test should be a valid measurable objective test...right?

Paul goes further saying he regularly does this...and huge differences are measurable...even using the mic on his I-Phone.

Garth Powell did a sighted/subjective version of this test at CES last year "proving" that AC power cords impact sound....using a camcorder mic as the recording device. Analog Planet's Michael Fremer writes: "The differences were critical and easily heard by all in attendance. It was no more "conformational bias" than would be showing a color and black and white photo and asking which was which."

So, what slight of hand is being used here? And, how could an objective scientifically valid test measuring the differences in a signal recorded from speaker outputs be made?
The problem with this test is that if the mic. even moves an inch the measurements will differ yet have nothing to do with any cable but with acoustics.
It also isn't a null test by a long shot.

When someone repeats this test where only an interlink is changed in an anechoic room with fixed microphone and speakers settings and the anechoic chamber untouched it becomes a valid test.
It will show no differences.

When this is done with loudspeaker cables small differences are measurable (as they will also be at the end of a cable and with null testing) depending on the resistance of the cable.

The power cable test is already debunked on this site. (I believe this is what you meant).
 

Kal Rubinson

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Paul begins his commentary with: "Since we know that changing input cables—a high-end version vs. a dimestore copy—on a power amplifier in a highly resolving system is easy to hear, the null test should show the difference." (Underline added for emphasis.) That initial premise indicates his bias. Where is the proof that the premise is true or is he really positing something based on his bias?

He concludes his commentary with: "I haven’t the time nor the interest in performing these tests with any scientific rigor, but perhaps someone else wants to grab the flag and climb the mountain. It would have to be performed on a system where we actually do hear a difference. " (Underline added for emphasis.) This last pointiindicates his unwillingness to examine his presumption.
 

DonH56

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"It would have to be performed on a system where we actually do hear a difference. "
It also provides the usual outs: he can always say you don't hear well enough to hear the difference and/or your system is not good enough to present the difference.
 

tmtomh

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I think McGowan actually proposes something potentially reasonable here: Measure the output from the speakers.

Of course the margin for error is greater: You'd have to record multiple run-throughs of the identical sound source with the same interconnects first, to get a baseline measurement of what the variation level is.

Then, you could swap interconnects, run several more trials with the new interconnects, and compare. If you could find a statistically significant difference between the recordings of each interconnect - in other words, if the difference between the interconnects were greater than the differences between different trial runs of the same interconnects, then you could claim to have found evidence for a difference.

However, neither McGowan nor his allies are going to do that of course - here's the most telling part of his post:

"I haven’t the time nor the interest in performing these tests with any scientific rigor, but perhaps someone else wants to grab the flag and climb the mountain. It would have to be performed on a system where we actually do hear a difference."

It's the same old BS: (1) "I'm going to forever propose scenarios that might explain why the products I sell/buy might sound better to me, but I'm never going to actually determine if these scenarios are true"; and (2) If you can't support my claims, it's not because my claims lack support but rather because your system/ears are insufficient."

It's so very tiresome.

(EDIT: Didn't realize I wasn't looking at the most recent posts; I see some others already made some of these points above. Thanks, and I agree!)
 

GGroch

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I think you could use the existing null tester to take into account any hitherto unknown and mysterious speaker properties.

What if you inserted the null tester between 2 speakers using a Hafler circuit. Put the magic audio cable on one channel, standard cable on the other of a stereo amp. Then play a mono signal, and measure any current/signal flow between the 2 channels. You could just put a speaker between the channels.

If their is no current or signal, (or if the speaker is silent) then the cables have no impact on the sound, measured after the speakers.
 

invaderzim

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I think McGowan has no interest in psychology as an academic discipline. So he doesn’t ask if differences are real (physics) or perceived by the complex which is man.

He has no interest in the scientific method either.

No wonder he has a large group of followers.
It is the combination of "if you hear a difference then there is a difference" and "if you don't hear a difference then either your system isn't good enough or your ears aren't good enough. I really do feel sorry for you that you are missing out".

<snip> Paul goes further saying he regularly does this...and huge differences are measurable...even using the mic on his I-Phone.
<snip>
And I had tea with bigfoot last night but didn't bother to document it in any way so you'll just have to take my word on it.

<snip> He concludes his commentary with: "I haven’t the time nor the interest in performing these tests with any scientific rigor, <snip>
Which is fine, except he has lots of time and interest in perpetuating the myths about the same subject. You can't have it both ways by spending all sorts of effort convincing people they make a difference and then say you don't have the time to invest any effort into testing it. Then it just becomes "I don't want to be proven wrong because I sell expensive power cables and my friends (and likely me someday) sell crazy expensive interconnects and speaker wire."

Reading through this, I don't think PS Audio will ever see a hard earned dollar from me.
I used to enjoy his videos but I have to agree with you on this.
 
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Frank Dernie

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I rejoice in the fact that my ears are so leaden and my system so unresolving that I can't hear the difference between the sensible cables I have tried. It saves me a fortune.
It is a pity they are not leaden enough for me to fail the hear the difference between speakers, recorders, microphones, microphone position and record players :(
 

Blumlein 88

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Look McGowan is full of it. If you want to test the whole system response, the place to do it is the speaker terminals. The speakers output is due to the speaker input. If there is a sound difference in the air, there is a signal difference at the input. Testing with a microphone is fine, but you've introduced additional imprecision and sources of interfering noise. If your claim is there are things we can't measure, but we can hear this is a stupid suggestion. You've just suggested a far less precise method of measurement. I don't think this is without forethought on his part to misdirect. He's suggesting a much more muddled testing regime (which he won't deign to do) because it will provide cover for his BS. I've given such people the benefit of the doubt, but the more direct information you hear from him it is obvious he doesn't deserve it. He knows what he is doing and that is spouting misinformation and attempting to muddy the water.

A company making many products, supposedly investing much time to improve them and having a highly resolving reference system, but one that has a principal that easily sees the difference with iPhone recordings, but can't be bothered to go further? Yeah, right. Can I make you an offer on that Golden Gate bridge you own? Oh and if we have trouble measuring these differences how is it the iPhone easily picks it up? His line of bull isn't even consistent with itself.
 
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solderdude

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I think you could use the existing null tester to take into account any hitherto unknown and mysterious speaker properties.

What if you inserted the null tester between 2 speakers using a Hafler circuit. Put the magic audio cable on one channel, standard cable on the other of a stereo amp. Then play a mono signal, and measure any current/signal flow between the 2 channels. You could just put a speaker between the channels.

If their is no current or signal, (or if the speaker is silent) then the cables have no impact on the sound, measured after the speakers.
Yes, one could.
Grab the flag and climb the mountain !
 

tmtomh

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Look McGowan is full of it. If you want to test the whole system response, the place to do it is the speaker terminals. The speakers output is due to the speaker input. If there is a sound difference in the air, there is a signal difference at the input. Testing with a microphone is fine, but you've introduced additional imprecision and sources of interfering noise. If your claim is there are things we can't measure, but we can hear this is a stupid suggestion. You've just suggested a far less precise method of measurement. I don't think this is without forethought on his part to misdirect. He's suggesting a much more muddled testing regime (which he won't deign to do) because it will provide cover for his BS. I've given such people the benefit of the doubt, but the more direct information you hear from him it is obvious he doesn't deserve it. He knows what he is doing and that is spouting misinformation and attempting to muddy the water.
Spot on. The speakers-to-microphone piece is part of his proposal purely to preserve some wiggle room for what he claims to hear. It has zero scientific validity, and as you note, it introduces a level of imprecision that makes it much harder, perhaps impossible, to draw any firm conclusions from such a test. And that's precisely what he wants, both because it preserves his ability to sell product, and also IMHO because he does genuinely believe what he's saying, at least to an extent.
 
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JJB70

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I know I probably sound like a record with a scratch, but Paul McGowan is an artist when it comes to peddling BS and snake oil, as much as I hate what he is trying to do I have to take my hat off to the way he can carry off that avuncular and eminently reasonable delivery style he has.
 

Killingbeans

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Spot on. The speakers-to-microphone piece in his proposal purely to preserve some wiggle room for what he claims to hear. It has zero scientific validity, and as you note, it introduces a level of imprecision that makes it much harder, perhaps impossible, to draw any firm conclusions from such a test. And that's precisely what he wants, both because it preserves his ability to sell product, and also IMHO because he does genuinely believe what he's saying, at least to an extent.
Yes, even if a near infallible test was designed and carried out in a near perfect anechoic chamber, he'd still claim it was somehow faulty.
 

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