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Why are there so many Snake Oil in this business?

Baldo

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Jun 7, 2024
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I know for sure that we have all come across this. We can't be in an Audiophile for long before we come across products that are just Snake Oil. And in the past maybe some of us fell for them. I recall at one stage there were those green pens for coating the sides of a CD. I think I might even have fallen for one!!

But why does this business have so much Snake Oil in it? Some things clearly will have an impact on the sound but some things are nothing but pure Voodoo.

Our hobby has enough engineers with a solid scientific background so why are they not able to weed out the charletons?

And how do you recognise something as being snake oil rather than making an actual difference. I use to think that a cable used to carry a digital signal is just a cable and makes no difference only to learn recently that even the various formats S/PDIF, Toslink, USB, I2S can all have an effect on the final analogue sound that we hear.

This is just a general discussion for my understanding. No flame wars please. I am new here and dont want to get booted off within a week of being here.

Many thanks
 
But why does this business have so much Snake Oil in it?

Because electricity and electronics are mysterious and/or magical to the under-informed.
 
For some consumers, the looks/bling/style, etc. and maybe a romantic story surrounding the gear are the products they are buying, not so much the performance of the underlying hardware.
 
I know for sure that we have all come across this. We can't be in an Audiophile for long before we come across products that are just Snake Oil. And in the past maybe some of us fell for them. I recall at one stage there were those green pens for coating the sides of a CD. I think I might even have fallen for one!!

But why does this business have so much Snake Oil in it? Some things clearly will have an impact on the sound but some things are nothing but pure Voodoo.

Our hobby has enough engineers with a solid scientific background so why are they not able to weed out the charletons?

And how do you recognise something as being snake oil rather than making an actual difference. I use to think that a cable used to carry a digital signal is just a cable and makes no difference only to learn recently that even the various formats S/PDIF, Toslink, USB, I2S can all have an effect on the final analogue sound that we hear.

This is just a general discussion for my understanding. No flame wars please. I am new here and dont want to get booted off within a week of being here.

Many thanks
There are people with mental illnesses, people with personality disorders, charlatans and greedy people to name a few that take up the snake oil business.

As per your comment of, "S/PDIF, Toslink, USB, I2S can all have an effect on the final analogue sound that we hear."
They do not have a effect on the analogue signal. Get that rubbish idea out of your head...
 
The physiology and psychoacoustics around human hearing make people susceptible to false impressions. Producers of snake oil - and indeed many perfectly functional audio products - take advantage of this weakness to support dubious or meaningless claims. ASR is unique in the field (I wouldn't dignify much of what goes on in audiophile circles as a "hobby") due to its focus on science.
 
Producers of snake oil - and indeed many perfectly functional audio products - take advantage of this weakness to support dubious or meaningless claims.
Mostly the snake oil sellers are supporting their need for cash...
 
It's easier to peddle snake oil in an area of endeavor where proof is secondary to illusion. Audio is one; vitamins and supplements is another, cosmetics as a third.

Just imagine what the backlash would be if scammers tried this kind of crap with cell phones, eyeglasses or computers; the reaction would be instantaneous. :eek:

Jim
 
vitamins and supplements
I estimate that I have met a dozen people peddling those pyramid scheme vitamins and supplements pills... By the 3rd one I was rolling my eyes and watching the peddler guy swallow a fairly large mound of pills because he believed in the product...
 
But why does this business have so much Snake Oil in it?

Music has a close tie to human emotions, and so, people have a hard time breaking that connection when dealing with audio reproduction.

It's any snake-oil vendor's wet dream.
 
As soon as the bank gets involved, everything is ruined.
What banks have to do with audio snake oil eludes me.
 
why does this business have so much Snake Oil in it?
Mainly because cognitive effects play a big role in what you hear. I started a thread with examples here: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...-placebo-effect-anecdotes.55067/#post-1999428

A surefire way to create an expectation of hearing a difference is to buy something (especially something expensive) and put it into your system. This works whether or not it actually changes the sound.

As a result, some brands end up drinking their own kool-aid and ignore this important phenomenon, other brands are well aware of it and exploit it dishonestly, hence all the snake oil. They make "better" products with lots of features that sound good in their marketing materials, but actually do nothing.
Our hobby has enough engineers with a solid scientific background so why are they not able to weed out the charletons?
Most consumers don't know a watt from a volt, can't read frequency response charts, don't know how harmonics work, etc. This is irrespective of how much money they spend on audio.

For a variety of reasons, some of these people steadfastly refuse to listen to the engineers who are trying to save them money and improve their sound.

And how do you recognise something as being snake oil rather than making an actual difference. I use to think that a cable used to carry a digital signal is just a cable and makes no difference only to learn recently that even the various formats S/PDIF, Toslink, USB, I2S can all have an effect on the final analogue sound that we hear.
The most reliable way is to look at how the electrical output of a system changes, and whether any of those changes rise to the level of being audible. With your example of the different digital formats, they can change the analog output, but actually almost never to the degree that you could hear the change.
 
With your example of the different digital formats, they can change the analog output, but actually almost never to the degree that you could hear the change.
There is no change in the analogue signal due to the digital termination method used in this application. Zilch...
 
There is no change in the analogue signal due to the digital termination method used in this application. Zilch...
Couldn't you measure either more/less jitter among different digital standards, or (in the case of S/PDIF vs. USB offering different maximum sampling rates) more ultrasonics? Things you could measure but not hear, in other words.
 
Couldn't you measure either more/less jitter among different digital standards, or (in the case of S/PDIF vs. USB offering different maximum sampling rates) more ultrasonics? Things you could measure but not hear, in other words.
Of course stuff can be measured at some level of resolution. We are talking about totally inaudible stuff.
 
Of course stuff can be measured at some level of resolution. We are talking about totally inaudible stuff.
Right, that was my point. You can measure small changes from different digital formats, sometimes, but if you can hear it, something has gone terribly wrong. The point I wanted to make was to stay away from snake oil, you want to be able to measure an effect AND have some confidence that it's audible.

All too often, people have the latter and ignore the former entirely, or have the former and immediately assume the latter. Around here we insist on both. :)
 
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