Field of Science

Skeptics save money on audio-equipment

Great little article in eSkeptic this week on Audiophoolery: pseudoscience in consumer audio
Some audio scams are so blatant you wonder how anyone could fall for them, like a replacement volume control knob that sells for $485. The ad copy proclaims, “The new knobs are custom made with beech wood and bronze … How can this make a difference??? Well, hearing is believing as we always say. The sound becomes much more open and free flowing with a nice improvement in resolution. Dynamics are better and overall naturalness is improved.” Yes, I bet that’s just what they always say. Wood is a common theme among audiophile scams, falsely implying a relation to a fine old violin where the wood’s vibration really is a part of the sound. But a volume control knob?

Indeed, a volume control knob made of wood improves the sound of your stereo? For nearly 500 dollars? Pulease. No one falls for that. Really? Who?

The article list loads of other scams that people need to be aware of if they are out to spend money trying to improve the quality of their audio-equipment.

Incidentally, when I was waay younger I played a gig with a band at a private party. Unfortunately, the wine was free, and I had too much before we played, and the drummer was pissed. As we finished, the sound of my amplifier suddenly disappeared. It was, apparently, quite dead, without even a hiss left over. The band broke up after this, and no one ever really told me why.


I took my amp to repairs (at a place on Åboulevarden in Copenhagen, in case that means anything to you), and they told me the pap was broken (the thing that makes up the vibrating part of the speaker), and I paid approximately $500 for the repairs. Too bad, because I had next to no money at that time (now I have somewhat less).

Then much later I was playing in a new band sharing a room for practice with another band. One day my amp was again completely dead in exactly the same way as before. But this time I noticed that the electrical fuse was gone and had been used elsewhere by someone from the other band. Once reinserted, the amp was fine.

The rest is theory: The drummer in the first band removed the fuse to shut me up, and never deigned to tell me [and, if this guy should be reading this: Fuck you, asshole!]. Then, at the repair shop, I was totally scammed. What they told me was a complete lie. If the pap had been broken, there would still have been an electrical hiss audible - it would not have totally silenced the amp. All they did was replace the fuse and make up a story to earn free money from an unsuspecting twenty-year-old.

I think that place went out of business. Good. I never heard from that drummer again. Good.

In between those two bands I played for a while with three guys who eventually threw me out because I wasn't grown up enough for them, or something. It was a really ambitious band with our own material, and we had been practicing forever to get out and play live when they offed me. The singer called me first and told me not to panic, but not why I should or shouldn't. Then they came to my home and told me the news.

Years later I met the drummer of that band in a bar, and when I asked he told me that the band broke up some time after I left, because they were unable to find a replacement bass player.

What would be an appropriate comment to end with?


  1. We have a vacuum cleaner which has a reputation for being a great value, but for easily snapping belts. Before I found out the latter, I paid $35 to have it repaired at a shop. The next time it snapped, I spent about 60 seconds putting in a new $2 belt from Amazon.

    In fairness to the repair shop, they wrote "Replaced belt" on the invoice -- otherwise I may not have figured it out.

    Re: The wood volume knob... the text almost sounds to me like they are joking. Almost a sort of J. Peterman catalog sort of marketing. It sounds to me like they are selling an aesthetic luxury for the obscenely rich (don't tell me a nice hardwood volume knob wouldn't at least look cool) and are being sarcastic about how it actually doesn't effect the sound at all.

    If not, then that's even more crazy than the $20 magnets you put on your carburettor to allegedly improve fuel efficiency...!

  2. If not, then that's even more crazy than the $20 magnets you put on your carburettor to allegedly improve fuel efficiency...!

    Hold on! Where can I get one of those?


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