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November 27, 2010

“We live underground. We speak with our hands.”
Posted by Patrick at 09:22 PM *

Hilariously expensive speaker cables. ($6,800 “& eligible for free shipping with Amazon Prime.” Not a misprint—as the manufacturer assures us, “Dielectric Bias System (DBS) (US patent 7,126,055): Greatly improved performance is made possible by a constant 72 volt charge on all K2’s insulation. Similar to how the earth’s magnetic field makes all compasses point north, the AQ DBS system creates an electrostatic field which causes the molecules of the insulation to all point in the same direction. This minimizes the multiple nonlinear time-delays. Sound appears from a surprisingly black background with unexpected detail and dynamic contrast.” Uh, right.)

Inevitably: multiple brilliant Amazon reviews. Most recently, a concise work of short SF:

Somewhere in our brave new century, somebody actually pays nearly $1,000 a foot for speaker cable. And somewhere else, people toil anonymously to write things like that review. One can see the rough emerging outlines of Eloi and Morlocks—but not which is which.

(Thanks to Olga Nunes on Twitter.)

Comments on "We live underground. We speak with our hands.":
#1 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2010, 09:47 PM:

I have no speakers and I must groove!

#2 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2010, 09:57 PM:

Shhhh! I hear the voices -- they're coming closer! AAAAAIIIIIIIIGH - no, no - the horror is

#3 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2010, 10:07 PM:

The same companies that make overpriced speaker cables (but not as ridiculously priced as the ones up above) now make overpriced HDMI signal cables.

Because you want your bits to be as precisely defined as possible, I guess . . .

#4 ::: Cathy ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2010, 10:08 PM:

For $6,800 couldn't you get a live performance?

#5 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2010, 10:11 PM:

Hell, for $6,800 I'll personally fly to your house and cover whatever music you meant to play.

#6 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2010, 10:12 PM:

"Somewhere in our brave new century, somebody actually pays nearly $1,000 a foot for speaker cable. And somewhere else, people toil anonymously to write things like that review. One can see the rough emerging outlines of Eloi and Morlocks—but not which is which. "

*gapes in awe*

#7 ::: Steve Halter ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2010, 10:21 PM:

Best (Amazon) comment series ever.

#9 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2010, 11:09 PM:

I'm with Patrick. And: Are you f-kng sh@tting ME?

if I had $6,800 bucks to spare I'd spend more and fly all of Whisperado here to play at some venue. And hire the venue.


#10 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2010, 11:18 PM:

The reviews are probably better than the cables.
(Certainly they're less expensive.)

#11 ::: Jordin ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2010, 11:53 PM:

Sadly, these aren't even exceptional among absurdly high-end stereo gear (other than in the quality of the reviews). One can easily spend similar amounts of money buying a *power cord* for your absurdly expensive sound system. Nor are the technology claims unusual -- I recently ran across liquid metal speaker cables (yes, actual room temperature liquid metal, other than mercury -- it's a gallium alloy). From the site: "TEO's Liquid Cable interconnect cables are best characterized by their absence of character. When you replace your existing interconnect cables with Liquid Cable, different recordings simply sound more different and, consequently, more like themselves." Despite its best efforts to sound like one, the site is not a parody; they really sell these things.

But that wasn't bad enough! After that, also by accident, I found a manufacturer who thinks liquid metals just aren't good enough -- they use *liquid ceramic* conductors. AKA, mud. (But budget hunters take note: they're a "mid-priced" alternative for speaker cables -- only $995 per 8' pair)

#12 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 12:03 AM:

8 feet long? Oh, dear me, no, that won't do at all. There's no way you could connect the Eloi and the Morlocks with only 8 feet of cable. Someone is going to have to wear good running shoes and go back and forth carrying the sounds. Very quickly.

#13 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 12:30 AM:

Patrick, #5: "Hell, for $6,800 I'll personally fly to your house and cover whatever music you meant to play."

Really?
Would you cover the Archies' "Sugar Sugar"?
Would you cover Bobby Goldsboro's "Honey"?

Not that I would want to hear those songs ever again, in any form, in my entire life or afterlife or any of an infinite number of reincarnations, but I was just curious what your personal limits would be for $6,800.

#14 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 12:40 AM:

If I were to get cables that expensive, they had durned well better feature quantum tunneling.

#15 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 01:00 AM:

Have the customers checked their ears lately?

(They might be trying to eliminate an internal echo, I suppose.)

#16 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 01:30 AM:

"Causes all the molecules of the insulation to point in the same direction"? I do not think these words mean what they think they mean.... I wonder how the Mythbusters people would handle these cables?

One of the purposes of expensive connectors seems to be to reduce noise at the connection point. How much would it cost to have someone come in and solder silver cables directly to one's speaker and one's amp, on the inside, so there's no connector loss?

#17 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 01:54 AM:

This is a fun game to play, when you find a product worth laughing at. My last "review" was for Vacation in a Bottle (which actually comes in a can).

Amazon.com is full of pinatas.

#18 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 01:57 AM:

I want to cry. That's almost as good as something from Dr. Science.

Only serious.

#19 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 03:42 AM:

This does remind me of the old prank from the law firm I worked in in the 90's, when one of the attorneys had a keyboard with a coiled cord. Someone* had explained that computer data was all 1's and 0's, and though the 0's, being rounded, could negotiate the coils easily, the 1's tended to get stuck and clog the whole thing up, which is why his machine was slow**. The way to get things to go faster was to straighten the cord from time to time to clear up these little electronic logjams.

Walking by his office, watching him carefully stretch the cord to let the little 1's go through...priceless.

-----
* Not me, honest. All I did was convince a technophobic secretary that someone had set the copier to recognize her ID code† and break down when she used it. She had a quirk of paper placement that could make the sheet sorter spit paper across the room. In retrospect, it was cruel, but it was also the fastest way to have her ask me to use my ID, her customer number, and set things up myself‡.

† All photocopying was billable, so you needed an ID code and a customer number to use the copiers

‡ Because I am an Electrostatic Reproduction Machine Whisperer

** It was slow because it was so primitive that its CPU part identifier was a negative number

#20 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 04:05 AM:

Messing my coworker:

"You know why the platter turns in the microwave oven?"

Dubious look. "No, why?"

Lean closer, lower voice conspiratorially, "It's to stir the microwaves."

"...uh...yeah."

"No, really!"

"Look, lady, I was born in the night, but I wasn't born last night."

#21 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 04:47 AM:

Abi @19 - I used to use something similar to explain to people why I wanted them to unplug their network cables, swap the ends around, and replug it when I was working tech support for a large government agency here in .au. The actual reason was because the most usual reason for "I can't log in" was that their network cable had come unplugged, but if I asked them whether the blasted thing was plugged in, they'd just say "yes" without checking. By asking them to do something, they actually did check, and often found their network cable had become unplugged... strange that. And yeah, if I got asked for a technical reason, I'd mumble something about the polarity of the neutron flows or similar.

#22 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 05:02 AM:

Meg Thornton @21:

Ah, now you remind me of an occasion when I was working for a large accountancy firm. A partner in the firm was showing a client his new laptop, but the darned thing wasn't working. Nothing on the display, no response to the keyboard, but it was plugged in and the battery light was showing. So something worked.

So he called the office techie, who bent over it (body-blocking it from the assembled nabobs), did things for a minute or two, and then let them at the now-working machine.

"What was the matter?" asked the partner (who came off like Jack Aubrey, but wasn't really that bright)
"Oh, it's complicated. Technical," said the techie, clearly wanting to leave the room as quickly as possible.
"Ah, come on, we're all technicologically up-to-date here; you can explain it."
"Well, um...it helps if you turn it on."

The techie fled the stunned silence that filled the room. Since he was my source for the story, I don't know what happened next.

#23 ::: Omega ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 05:43 AM:

"I wonder how the Mythbusters people would handle these cables?"

You don't need to wonder how the Mythbusters people would handle them. You just need to wonder how much C4 it will take...

#24 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 06:39 AM:

I suppose that the quality of materials does matter, but by the time you're carrying the speaker signal there are enough volts and amps to overwhelm most imperfections.And something such as OFC (oxygen-free copper) is laughable, but might be part of a high-quality package.

Quality matters far more on the input side. The signal from a microphone is low enough that the noise sources matter. Although we could sell these guys a pre-amp with cryogenic cooling.

Hmm, start with adapting some of the CPU-cooling tech out there. Water-cooled power transistors on a high-end amplifier almost makes sense.

#25 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 07:01 AM:

Omega @24: I draw a webcomic (embryonic though it is). In that world, "MythBusters" is called "BSU".

Officially it's "Bad Science Unit", but everyone including the hosts calls it "Blowing Stuff Up".

#26 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 08:30 AM:

Bruce Arthurs: I heard Patrick sing the first line of "Sugar Sugar" last weekend. For free!

#27 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 08:33 AM:

"Amazon Prime" sounds like a Roger Corman movie starring Sybil Danning.

#28 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 08:36 AM:

A few weeks ago, we ordered a pizza, with sausage on half of it, and they asked on which half. Of course they did it on the wrong half, but we decided to rotate the pizza until the sausage was on the correct half.

#29 ::: jnh ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 09:12 AM:

At a much lower level of "sophistication" and cost, I once had a Radio Shack "associate" try to get me to upgrade to gold-plated connectors* on my audio cables, he claimed he could hear the difference. He then proceeded to tell me that he had ripped all of his CDs to MP3s.

*Which might make sense if they were plugging into gold-plated sockets. Might.

Jacque @20:
[...]"You know why the platter turns in the microwave oven?"
[...] "It's to stir the microwaves."

That is why the microwaves are frequently bounced off of the spinning blades of the exhaust fan. Where "stir" means to "disperse more evenly".

Serge @28:

A few weeks ago, we ordered a pizza, with sausage on half of it, and they asked on which half. Of course they did it on the wrong half, but we decided to rotate the pizza until the sausage was on the correct half.

You had a choice of three axes that you could have rotated the pizza around to fix their error, and you chose the one that left the pizza right side up, FTW!

#30 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 10:03 AM:

jnh @ 29... Had we rotated the pizza along the Third Dimension, it would have drawn the attention of our own Hounds of Tyndalos. The floor would not have remained messy for (Frank Belknap) long.

#31 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 10:03 AM:

Jacque #20:

Every fule kno that microwaves need to be shaken, not stirred.

#32 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 10:10 AM:

At a recent barbecue with friends, I saw one fellow ask another to please turn the hamburger that he had designated as his...the other guy, standing on the north side of the grill, put the tool under the burger, lifted it slightly, walked around to the south side of the grill, and set it down again...
I too would love to see the Mythbusters people take on high-end stereo stuff. I could tell them that the story about speakers blowing out candles is entirely true.

#33 ::: Lyle Hopwood ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 10:11 AM:

Some years ago we had problems with our cable internet connection and phoned the Cox Cable tech line. Among the many bright ideas the tech had was, "Sometimes static builds up in the cable. Can you pull it out and blow down it to clear it?" We tried telling him that was hardly likely to be the case, but he insisted, and to make him move on to the next idea, we complied.

I assumed he'd been laughing about the Lusers blowing down the cable for as long as we've been laughing about the techie who thought static build up was likely to a) be a problem and b) be reduced by blowing down it.

Then I read Meg's comment above and just realized this may have been his way of making sure the end-user was actually checking the cable was plugged in. Southern Californians might not react properly to a request to check the connection but "pull it out, blow down it and reconnect it" might just work.

Nah...on second thoughts...it was probably his first day there and they played a prank on him.

#34 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 10:46 AM:

Bruce Arthurs: Would you cover the Archies' "Sugar Sugar"?

Bringing to mind the first line of my favorite review ever done in Rolling Stone magazine, which was of that Archies album: "Herein are contained sixteen strong arguments against the capitalist system."

#35 ::: Sarah E ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 11:23 AM:

Wrong! It was not the cables that brought the horrid whispers, it was the moon-rock needle - and that which was brought back with it from the Sea of Desolation!

#36 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 11:37 AM:

abi @ 19 -

Reminds me of the time way back when I was a computer operator. We had a regular job where a person came from data entry with a mag tape. We ran a simple job that loaded it to a disk file.

It always ran in a matter of seconds. One time the woman who brought it down said, "Are you sure it's in? That was awfully quick."

I went over to the drive, powered it down, and lifted the platters after screwing in the cover. "Yeah, it worked. It's considerably heavier now."

She nodded, then saw my grin, and said, "Oh, you!"

Another time another co-worker watched as I activated a tape drive with a DVCUP command (Device Up). She asked, "What's a dv cup?".

My mouth always led a wild and free life, and I replied, "A very large bra size."

#37 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 11:58 AM:

Does the old-fashioned hi-fi buff, with his (rarely 'her') carefully-matched separate turntable/amp/CD player/speakers, actually exist any more? I knew a few, once upon a time, but now everyone seems to just play music from the computer or the docking station, and it sounds OK to me. Then again, I'm told it's different if you're a classical music fan with a good ear. (A while ago the BBC lowered the bitrate of the terrestrial digital signal for Radio 3, thinking the classical fans wouldn't notice. They did notice and complained until it was changed back).

I wonder what kind of music you listen to on your $6,800-speaker-cabled system.

For some reason the Archies' Sugar Sugar makes me think not of 'our' late 60s, but of the late 60s of Dick's Radio Free Albemuth, and I always start to feel paranoid when I hear it.

#38 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 12:00 PM:

Terry Karney @18: Let's ask Filko! Got a quarter?

Fragano Ledgister @31: Where do you get 'shaken' or 'stirred' from 'microwave'? You use more microwaves. For the best model of such, observe Peter Sellers as the Grand Duchess of Grand Fenwick, holding the tiller of her ancient motorcar with one hand and graciously microwaving with the other.

Lyle Hopwood @33: H. Allen Smith recounts the tale of pranksters who would call rural folk in the early days of table phones and tell them that the phone company needed to blow out their lines, so they should put a cloth or a bag over the phone for the next couple of hours to protect against detritus. Looking at the phones of the time, with their lily-like protrusions, this almost verges on the credible. It also reports that witnesses report seeing the folk sitting near the phone, waiting to see the stuff come blowing out of the mouthpiece, which begins to strain my own credulity.

#39 ::: Branko Collin ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 12:09 PM:

"A few weeks ago, we ordered a pizza, with sausage on half of it, and they asked on which half."

The one facing away from Mecca?

#40 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 12:17 PM:

Steve with a book @ 37... My 7-year-old laptop has better sound quality than our 10-year-old TV/soundsystem/video setup. We noticed that last Christmas when we popped in "LoTR" and found it nearly impossible to hear what people were saying whenever there was a lot of background noise, a very frequent occurence in the trilogy.

Regarding the MythBusters and the effects of sound... They showed that the human voice can shatter glass. I don't remember if the use of a huge sound system confirmed that the Brown Note can work as the myth goes, nor do I really want to know.

#41 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 12:26 PM:

abi, #19: The world is made up of 10 kinds of people, those who understand binary and those who don't.

Steve w/b, #37: My partner claims to be able to hear all kinds of (IMO illusory) differences on recordings, mostly having to do with what kind of equipment was used to make the recording. As he also claims NOT to be able to hear the difference between a jig and a reel, I'm dubious.

Pranks: this reminds me of my favorite old answering-machine message, sadly no longer usable since we have a home-based business:

"The number you have reached, NNN-MMMM, is imaginary. Please rotate your phone 90 degrees and try your call again. If you feel that you have reached this message in error, please leave your name and number at the sound of the tone."

In my best imitation of the artificial voice used for the "disconnected" message. It amused my friends no end, and generally got rid of telemarketers. And once or twice, someone actually left a message to the effect of, "This was a wrong number, but I just had to say that I LOVE your message!"

#42 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 12:28 PM:

Serge@40: No Depends were stained during the "Brown Note" Experiment.

Adam Savage has never been the same since, though.

#43 ::: jnh ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 12:48 PM:

Steve with a book @37:

I wonder what kind of music you listen to on your $6,800-speaker-cabled system.
A system like that isn't meant to be used, any current running through that cable would change its characteristics.

I have a cousin that makes a very good living installing very-high-end stereo and video systems in Silly Valley. I expect that he has customers that spec'd cables like this.
"A Fool and his Money are soon Parted" makes for a pretty decent marketing plan, if you find the right fools.

#44 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 01:35 PM:

On Not Understanding Electricity: I'm reading Denis Norden's autobiography Clips from a Life (recommended), and just came across this: Back in the cradle days of Television, its sprinkling of viewers entertained some eccentric notions about their new acquisition. According to the letters they wrote to the BBC, many believed their TV set weighed more when it was switched on than it did when the screen was unoccupied. Some claimed to have conducted tests proving this, others confirmed it by quoting the maker's instruction manual, which advised that the set should always be switched off before attempting to move it.

#45 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 01:53 PM:

Jo Walton, #26: "I heard Patrick sing the first line of "Sugar Sugar" last weekend. For free!"

That sounds like it was worth every penny. Who stopped him from singing the second line?

#46 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 01:54 PM:

Bruce, 45: That's the part that cost $50.

#47 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 02:06 PM:

I had a housemate in college who was a bit of an audiophile, but he was into classical music, and he'd found that his midpriced stereo was good enough that he could pretty much hear what the orchestras were playing, and spending more money tweaking the last bits of distortion out of the stereo wasn't going to help as much as buying records from better orchestras with better conductors. If he wanted a recording by Stokoswki or Toscanini, his system would have less distortion than the technology used to make the record. We were redoing the walkway out front that year, so we did build him a turntable stand out of six-inch-thick slate.

Jacque@20, actually that is the main reason for the fan in the microwave, because otherwise the waves would end up in a stable pattern in the metal box and not cook evenly. It doesn't do a perfect job, which is why rotating the food also helps.

#48 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 02:15 PM:

Bruce Arthurs @45:

Jo Walton, #26: "I heard Patrick sing the first line of "Sugar Sugar" last weekend. For free!"
Bruce:That sounds like it was worth every penny. Who stopped him from singing the second line?
Talk about cheap, Bruce.

#49 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 02:22 PM:

You can tell the second line from the first one?

#50 ::: Nathaniel ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 02:25 PM:

Oh, come now. Those cables are a bargain - they're 20% off list price!

#51 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 02:25 PM:

I would think the fact that the singer had already started singing would help in the diagnostic process.

#52 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 02:41 PM:

Lee #41 equipment used to make the recording does make a big difference, especially microphones, but also tape machines if it's pre-digital. My first job in 1988 was as an engineer in BBC Mobile Audio, where we got to maintain and check the Nagra tape recorders and mics the location sound recordists used all over the world.
One aspect of the Nagras was that they had a 'soft' clipping characteristic, so if you overdrove them it didn't sound as bad as a transistor amp does. Keeping good location audio above the tape's noise floor, but coping with transient loud noises was a key part of the recordists skill, and they had different approaches to this.
At the time we were introducing DAT recorders, and I had to evaluate what the right level to set as zero was on them. If you used the same headroom as on the Nagra, any transients would clip horribly. However, as their signal to noise was far better, we could set the zero level 15db lower and get a clearer recording - except we needed to up the gain in the headphones for the recordists to be happy. Many of them preferred the familiar sound of the Nagra's clipping to the clearer digital sound.

On the original topic, a colleague there who worked in mixing bought a 6ft sample of every cable sold by Maplin Electronics, soldered RCA jacks onto them and listened to them. He decided which one sounded best, bought a reel of that cable, and made several and sold them at a huge markup through hifi hobbyist magazines (I don't think it was a double-blind listening test).

#53 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 03:58 PM:

On workplace pranks: Newbies in the Navy teletype comm ctr would be sent to the supply room for boxes of carriage returns and line feeds.

You'd think that the 14-week Radioman Class A school they had to pass prior to their first duty station would enlighten them, but we usually got 1 in 4 to bite on it.

#54 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 04:02 PM:

You dropped a computer mag tape on the floor, you had to go get a broom and sweep up all the spilled bits.

#55 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 04:04 PM:

We live under ground
We speak with our hands
Strange wires connect us
To dying lands

Sounds and visions
Fill up the space
The death apocalypse
Of an alien race

Audiophiles
Can hear the difference
And slowly grow mad
From the voice in the distance

We live under ground
We speak with our hands
With higher quality madness
Than the less expensive brand

#56 ::: Mikael Vejdemo-Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 04:06 PM:

More than these, I love and adore the insanely expensive gold cables for use with digital high end audio equipment. Because, y'know, it matters deeply with that last epsilon of signal transmission when you're using an error-correcting digital protocol…

My father-in-law is quite an audiophile, and while I don't know how much his cables cost, he regularly mentions gold-plated things in his equipment stack.

#57 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 04:07 PM:

Erik Nelson @55:

Wow.

#58 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 04:25 PM:

Steve with a book @ 37: "I wonder what kind of music you listen to on your $6,800-speaker-cabled system."

You don't--you just turn it on and listen to the surprisingly black background. It makes the sound of your breathing unexpectedly dynamic!

#59 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 04:27 PM:

Having read Whisper's review many, many times, I have decided that my favorite word in the whole story is the "the" in "We wear the earplugs all our lives." I chortle quietly every time I read it.

#60 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 04:29 PM:

A few days ago Adam Savage tweeted a link to a 2-meter cable being sold at Best Buy for the bargain price of $695.99 (free shipping!), so they're aware of this sort of thing.

You do wonder how well this works. Are there really enough rich suckers to fall for this?

#61 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 04:35 PM:

60
The hardcore audiophiles may go for it.

There are people out there who are willing to try making their own vacuum tubes, because they don't think solid-state devices have the right sound quality.

#62 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 04:43 PM:

man making his own vacuum tubes:
http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2008/01/make_your_own_vacuum_tube.html

#63 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 05:05 PM:

jnh @29: That is why the microwaves are frequently bounced off of the spinning blades of the exhaust fan. Where "stir" means to "disperse more evenly".

Well, yes, but if you tell your victim that, not only do their eyes glaze over, but it sounds technical enough to be plausible, and they'll just nod and take your word for it.

My way, you get all the fun of pulling their leg, for none of the effort.

#64 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 05:20 PM:

Meg @21: I had that reversed-polarity problem with the gas line running from a boat's tank to the outboard motor. Boy did I feel stupid when we rowed into the marina. I can understand people believing that the cables only allow the electrons to flow one way.

#65 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 05:21 PM:

Bill Stewart @47: the main reason for the fan in the microwave, because otherwise the waves would end up in a stable pattern in the metal box and not cook evenly.

...Resulting in one of my favorite phenomena from the early days of microwave ovens: nice, warm, chocolate chip cookies that look yummy...until you bite into them and discover the carbonized core.

On the topic of cables: I'm currently fighting a cheap ethernet cable of dubious provenance. Its little tabby-do that's supposed to hold it into the socket is, shall we say, insufficient unto the purpose. If you think at it hard, it slips loose. I wish I could remember if this is the one I bought from Radio Shack....

#66 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 05:36 PM:

"Somewhere in our brave new century, somebody actually pays nearly $1,000 a foot for speaker cable"

There may be a few folks who do, but I suspect the bigger effect in most stores that carry the ~$7000 cables is that they sell more $70 cables, which no longer seem quite so outlandish as they otherwise would be. The anchor pricing effect can be quite persistent, even when you know there's no sensible basis for the anchor.

#67 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 06:23 PM:

Patrick @49

At least it wasn't HFCS.

#68 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 06:26 PM:

I used to blame Sugar Sugar for how it is harder to learn new things as I get older—the neurons with the lyrics permanently burned in are unavailable for forming new memories. But a while back I listened to the entire 4 minutes and concluded that the effect must not be as big as I had thought—the lyrics are extremely compressible.

Although the second line is not identical to the first line (sorry, Patrick), it's just a different sequence of the same tokens in your compression dictionary.

(And I bet Bruce A. is sorry he mentioned that song. But since no one has followed up on the other song he mentioned, here is The Smothers Brothers' parody of it.)

#69 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 06:43 PM:

" I recently ran across liquid metal speaker cables (yes, actual room temperature liquid metal, other than mercury -- it's a gallium alloy)."

I'll believe it's liquid metal if a salesman takes a randomly chosen box off the shelf and cuts the insulation and pours the liquid metal out.

Same with the 'liquid ceramic'.

#70 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 07:09 PM:

John H. @69, when I hear "liquid ceramic," I think "mud."

Are there rich suckers out there? You betcha. Consider the unfortunate participants at that sweat lodge in Sedona.

#71 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 07:09 PM:

This is just to say
I have siphoned out the metal
that was in your liquid cables,

and which you were probably
planning to return for a refund.

Forgive me? At least I saved you from
Sugar, Sugar and Honey

#72 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 07:13 PM:

heresiarch, #58: One of the most interesting things about our Western Parks trip last year was that every so often we'd get out of the car to look at something and there would be SILENCE. Not even much in the way of bird or insect sounds, and nothing man-made except our breathing and our footsteps. It was awesome. That's why I know this product is bullshit; you can't get a perfect-silence background in a house to begin with, and the sounds you live with would drown out any level of improvement this cable might offer.

JMO, #66: And that anchor point can be amazingly sticky. At the Quilt Show here a couple of years ago, there was a hammer-dulcimer performer selling CDs for $16. He was probably picking up a lot of sales from people who are used to $20 CDs in the retail store -- but I walked away because the price point in my head for direct-from-the-artist CDs is $15, and my immediate reaction was "Too high." There might have been less sales resistance if he'd been doing something significantly different from every other hammer-dulcimer player in my collection, but he wasn't.

#73 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 07:40 PM:

Lee @ 72:
if he'd been doing something significantly different from every other hammer-dulcimer player

He wasn't a Quaddie?

#74 ::: Steff Z ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 07:41 PM:

thomas @#71 FTW! Beautiful.

#75 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 07:41 PM:

A NYTimes article on an interesting SEO approach: collect as many negative reviews as possible. Fortunately, linking to the story won't give the fellow more direct publicity....

Fits here because of the "online review" theme, IMO, if anyone was wondering.

#76 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 07:52 PM:

I tried to quit high-end audio when I was 22 and realized that some Bang and Olufsen thing sounded REALLY GOOD but it cost more than my car did. It was a couple thousand dollar car. (At one point I came close to having a Fibonacci Car Series, where each one would cost more than the two before it. Something like $400, $600, $2200, $300[1], $4000, $18 000.)

If I had an extremely spare $6,800 [2] I would probably commission a punk rock song, to contain the lines "We live underground/ We speak with our hands/ We wear the earplugs all our lives". Sorry, Patrick.

[1] I sold that car for $500. Maybe we could consider it an investment?

[2]I don't even know how rich I'd have to be to do that. But it goes to show that anyone who says "So much money I wouldn't know what to do with it" has insufficient imagination. I haven't updated the list of Things To Do With That Much Money for a while, because it still has "pay three different people who don't know her to throw pies at [person X]."

#77 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 07:54 PM:

Kip @ 38: He's channeling Bond (James Bond), whose martinis are always shaken not stirred.

#78 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 08:02 PM:

OK, this is very, very sophomoric of me, but I'm tremendously amused that (currently) the #2 product listed as Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed for these cables is Male Testicular Exam Model Anatomy. If you'd like to mess with Amazon's product correlations a bit, do feel free to go click on the Anatomy link.

#79 ::: Eric K ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 08:06 PM:

The James Randi Educational Foundation offers a $1 million prize for anybody who could demonstrate "paranormal" powers in a controlled setting. This prize has rather famously gone unclaimed for a good many years now.

Several years ago, James Randi declared that the marketing claims of many audiophile products qualified as "paranormal", and started offering the prize to manufacturers and reviewers who made those claims.

Various fallout here and here.

#80 ::: John D. Berry ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 08:31 PM:

I kept hoping it was in pesos, which also use the dollar-sign ($). But they would still be very expensive cables.

John

#81 ::: Branko Collin ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 08:54 PM:

How about 525 dollar axes? The NYC Bike Snob has been having fun with these.

#82 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 09:30 PM:

Sandy B., #76: If I had an extremely spare $6,800 [2] I would probably commission a punk rock song, to contain the lines "We live underground/ We speak with our hands/ We wear the earplugs all our lives". Sorry, Patrick.

By strange coincidence, I just paid to commission a couple of songs on the lyrical theme of my choosing (they were donated by a student to my college's charity auction, and it was only $40), so I actually may steal your idea, Sandy, and do just that. We haven't finalized the details yet, but I requested that the songs be made available under a Creative Commons license, so I should be able to share the end result with the Fluorosphere.

#83 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 10:36 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden at #26: "Talk about cheap, Bruce."

I was denigrating the song, not the singer, Teresa.

I don't think I've ever actually heard Patrick sing. (I've listened to a couple of Whisperado tracks, but I don't remember Patrick being one of the vocalists on them.)

#84 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2010, 10:38 PM:

D'oh! That should be Teresa at #48, not 26.

#85 ::: VictorS ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 12:37 AM:

Steve @37 -- Yes, old-fashioned "listening to wire" audiophiles still exist. Very much so. I had a co-worker a few years back -- an intelligent and erudite fellow with a working PhD in the sciences -- who insisted on using silver interconnects for his audio system. And his wasn't by any means the most extreme case; in the Boston area alone I know of a number of six-figure stereos. That's just electronics; the purpose-built room costs extra, as does the house you put it in.

I got into observational position on this phenomenon by researching and purchasing some high-quality headphones -- which were good value and have given years of pleasure. But I certainly saw the rest of the pool from the shallow end.

As others here have pointed out, the equipment used by recording studios can be orders of magnitude less expensive than audiophile stuff. If you're researching an audio purchase over a couple hundred dollars, you'd do well to at least glance at the recording-professional catalogues; at a minimum, you'll be anchoring to a more reasonable set of numbers.

#86 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 12:54 AM:

In #13, Bruce D. Arthurs responds to Patrick:

Patrick, #5: "Hell, for $6,800 I'll personally fly to your house and cover whatever music you meant to play."

Really?
Would you cover the Archies' "Sugar Sugar"?
Would you cover Bobby Goldsboro's "Honey"?

Not that I would want to hear those songs ever again, in any form, in my entire life or afterlife or any of an infinite number of reincarnations, but I was just curious what your personal limits would be for $6,800.

I have no trouble believing that PNH would be willing to cover "Honey" for $6,800.

But I'd bet he would demand considerably more cash if you insist that he perform it unironically.

#87 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 01:09 AM:

Bill Higgins@86, I think if you want it sung unironically, cash won't do it - you'll have to pay in advance with ethanol or reasonable equivalents.

Jacque@65, I've got one of that kind of ethernet cables at work also. I'd replace it, but it's 50 feet long (requiring purchasing paperwork as opposed to just getting one out of the bin) and I'd have to string the replacement behind a lot of furniture, and it's not one I use that often.

#88 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 01:11 AM:

Bill Stewart, Jacque

Find a friendly sysadmin/geek/cable jockey and borrow their crimp tool. There are websites and websites on wire order and connectors are cheap.

#89 ::: Rob T. ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 02:12 AM:

I think my very favorite thing about this screengrabbed review is the note at the top: "97 of 103 people found the following review helpful:". (Immediately before posting I checked it again, and the latest figures are 2,549 of 2,566.)

As for what umpteen-thousand-dollar stereo cables are good for, I imagine they make those elusive pensato notes jump right out of the speakers. ("Pensato note" = you don't play the note, you just think it. A marking allegedly invented specifically for the music of Anton Webern, which is usually cerebral and often quiet.)

#90 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 02:58 AM:

Lee @ 41: My partner claims to be able to hear all kinds of (IMO illusory) differences on recordings, mostly having to do with what kind of equipment was used to make the recording.

P J Evans @ 61: There are people out there who are willing to try making their own vacuum tubes, because they don't think solid-state devices have the right sound quality.

The human ear is really good at hearing differences in sound, and the human brain is really good at imagining differences in sound, so it can be quite difficult to tease out (or eliminate) significant factors.

Recording equipment definitely matters; I'm confident, Lee, that if I were to play you recordings of something you were familiar with (say, your partner's voice) made with different types of microphone (e.g. dynamic vs. condenser) on my studio monitors, you would have no trouble telling them apart, even though both microphones were "professional." Hearing the difference in a fully-mixed recording on your home system is another matter, but I certainly wouldn't assume that your partner couldn't do it. (My wife likes to tell the story of when she was sitting in the studio with me and a collaborator, and we both jumped in our chairs and went "what was that?" as we were making a final dub. It was a dropout a few samples long that she couldn't hear at all.)

Other things are more subtle, but definitely audible in the right context when you know what to listen for; tubes vs. transistors falls into this category, but of course it isn't that simple, since you can't just swap one for the other without redesigning the rest of the circuit. The difference, essentially, is that tubes tend to distort more, but the distortion is less offensive.

Cables (above a reasonable quality threshold) don't seem to matter, but it's understandable that people would be susceptible to thinking they do, given the complexity and general air of mystery surrounding the subject of audio, and the ability of the bring to fool itself into hearing differences that don't exist--up to a point, anyway. The posted ad is well beyond that point.

#91 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 03:07 AM:

P.J. Evans @61: In all fairness, solid state electronics don't sound anything at all like vacuum tube electronics. My housemate has a vacuum tube radio he restored himself, and it is gorgeous, smooth and warm. That's even empirically verifiable -- you can look at the frequency response on a good 'scope and see how the electronics change the input waveform.

Not even solid state electronics are immune -- some acquaintances of mine compared the parts in an old synthesizer to everything available from modern manufacturers in an effort to build a replica synth with the same response characteristics as the original.

When I've heard MIT-educated audiophiles preaching the gospel of gold connectors (and an MIT education does many things but it doesn't necessarily disabuse you of all your foolish ideas), the justification they gave was that current loops in the connectors were setting up some kind of filtering, which was minimized with the use of gold. Frankly this sounds plausible the way so much pseudoscience sounds plausible, but I'm not enough of an analog EE person to be 100% sure they're wrong.

And if you want weird resonance and filtering behavior, analog EE is full of it (and all EE is analog EE, when you get down to it). The professor that taught the class which had my housemate repairing a tube radio could tell you stories for hours with all of the weirdness he'd encountered. The early radio pioneers were an impressive bunch, and they did a lot of things they maybe didn't understand, even though those things worked. (Early versions of the "magic-more magic" switch story.) The physical world is a messy place, and our abstractions can only take the edge off that, not actually tame it.

A $6800 cable isn't going to take the edge off much messiness, though, except maybe a messy wallet with too much money in it.

#92 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 04:31 AM:

Meg Thornton @21:

Joel Spolsky at Fog Creek Software says he trains his support people to ask the customer to unplug the cables, blow the dust out of the connectors, and plug them back in.

#93 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 04:48 AM:

I think I'll wait for a full sensorium cyberlink.

#94 ::: Madeley ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 04:56 AM:

Back in the day, me and my band used to do a medley that consisted of "Sugar Sugar" plus "Sugar and Spice" and "Sweets for my Sweet" by the Searchers.

Unironically.

#95 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 06:34 AM:

What story was it where they used the living brains and spinal cords of death row criminals for super-high-end audio cables?

#96 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 08:18 AM:

Something weird just happened, hence the bizarre placing of my last comment...

#97 ::: Cadbury Moose wondered if Dave Bell intended to post it here instead ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 08:37 AM:

Then again, the diversion did flag up the wonderful lightbulb joke in the Spelling Demonology thread, so all is not lost.

#98 ::: cleek ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 09:37 AM:

most expensive cables i've seen are the Open MM SC, which start at $33,000.

#99 ::: cleek ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 09:38 AM:

and by "Open", i mean "Opus".
because it's Monday.

#100 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 10:01 AM:

Kevin Riggle:

I really loved this line, which is deeply true and very quotable: The physical world is a messy place, and our abstractions can only take the edge off that, not actually tame it.

And this whole audiophile discussion is making me think of perhaps my favorite fluorosphere quote, from Bruce Cohen: Any sufficiently unreliable technology is indistinguishable from superstition.

#101 ::: iucounu ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 10:28 AM:

My dad tells a (possibly apocryphal) story about an audiophile acquaintance who had spent decades / thousands of pounds on his Perfect Hi-Fi Setup. A friend of his remarked that if he really wanted to know how good it was, he ought to get a perfectly silent record - one with nothing in the grooves at all.

He obtained such a record, put it on the turntable and listened very carefully; there, just at the edge of hearing, was a faint hiss.

He hanged himself.

#102 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 12:06 PM:

Patrick, #5: "Hell, for $6,800 I'll personally fly to your house and cover whatever music you meant to play."

Wonderful. I was hoping to listen to Bach's "St Matthew Passion". You might need some backing singers.

#103 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 12:08 PM:

Also, of course:

All the highest notes, neither sharp nor flat:
The ear can't hear as high as that,
Still I ought to please any passing bat
With my High Fidelity.

#104 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 12:18 PM:

Vaguely relevant -- we just sold (by Craigslist) my boss's vintage radio receiver. (This was a Fisher 400, with speakers thrown in for free. Sold for $200.) I have to admit that when I turned that baby on to test it, I was blown away... I'd never heard sound like that from a radio!

#105 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 12:19 PM:

ajay #102: Also, LOL!

#106 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 01:22 PM:

One of the things about those old wireless sets is that they're so big. So they have room for a nice, big, speaker to carry the bass. The rated frequency response of the bulky, simple, boxes I bought 30 years ago, with a "music centre", goes lower than some subwoofer boxes I see advertised today.

And the wireless set can look so cool.

#107 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 02:06 PM:

Earl @ 93
With this interconnect, your sensorium will seem even more real than reality itself.

#108 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 03:09 PM:

ajay #103.

From the same sources:

"He lives underground with a lamp in his hat
And he sings far too loud, far too often, and FLAT"

#109 ::: tnv ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 05:06 PM:

Once upon a midnight dreary, as I pondered, weak and weary,
Many bruises to my budget from things on Amazon I've found,
As I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a rapping
I heard not from cables crappy - but with these ones, oh, the sound!
It could tell me of the visitor who came from underground,
From the nether depths profound.

Lost in sounds that I was hearing, long I stood there, wondering, fearing,
As the Morlock with big earplugs tried to make me understand.
His hands fluttered, vainly signing, but I knew not his designing,
As myself I caught the whispers coming from some ancient land.
Whispers...whispers...oh, the whispers! And the things that they command
Through eight feet of cable strand!

It is gone; I hear no longer; for the Morlock proved the stronger
As his claws destroyed my eardrums while he grinned his rictus grin.
Yet my hands still vainly flutter for cantatas and sonatas,
Reaching, clawing for the cables, the black sounds that ring within -
Black - as my soul's nights begin!

#110 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 05:26 PM:

Another "We live underground" review, this time of a $10K Cat-5 ethernet cable:

http://www.amazon.com/review/R273H6FER3R5L3/ref=cm_cr_dp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B000I1X6PM&nodeID=172282&tag=&linkCode=

#111 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 07:14 PM:

Ginger #77: Young people these days are sadly unacquainted with the classics.

#112 ::: Lin D ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 07:59 PM:

Amazon lists
"1 refurbished from $4,999.99"

#113 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 09:13 PM:

Earl Cooley III @95: What story was it where they used the living brains and spinal cords of death row criminals for super-high-end audio cables?

That happened to a character in 'Noir', by K. W. Jeter. However, it wasn't done to a death row criminal, but a copyright violator.

#114 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 09:22 PM:

Fragano @ 111...

"Vodka-martini."
"Shaken or stirred?"
"Do I look like I give a damn?"
- from 2006's Casino Royale

#115 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 09:26 PM:

Angiportus @32: At a recent barbecue with friends, I saw one fellow ask another to please turn the hamburger that he had designated as his...

Years ago I was painting a house, and witnessed this next door.

A guy was in the middle of the backyard with the grill, with the rest of the party on the deck.

From the deck: "Honey, could you turn the grill around? The smoke is getting in our eyes."

#116 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 09:27 PM:

I can almost understand the obsession with gold connectors, having worked in electronics assembly. Gold doesn't corrode as easily as other metals, and it conducts nicely. (I worked with gold-flashed parts, not gold-plated.)

#117 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 10:13 PM:

My husband and I visited a Powerball state when the jackpot was more than $180 million. We bought a ticket, just to say we had. One of the things we agreed on as we daydreamed about winning was that somebody needed to smack us with a clue bat if we ever turned into people who were willing to buy stuff like, well, this.

Also, I think it is extremely cool that this thread contains filk (or is it fan poetry?) of "We Live Underground, We Speak With Our Hands." This may be a record.

#118 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2010, 10:50 PM:

The Rainmakers have a song called "I Talk With My Hands" on the Tornado album. While not exactly relevant to this context, it's a very SFnal song, about living in the world after the bombs came down. Sadly, I can't find an audio clip or even a set of lyrics online.

#119 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2010, 12:22 AM:

The right setup can make a difference... to a point. I am reminded of when I was working at a bookstore, and we had a CD of classic American songs by somebody whose name I should really remember. At any rate, I asked, "Who is the woman who is singing on this track?" and the reply came back that it was the male famous artist. The funny part was that the guy who had loaded the CD would not believe that it really sounded like a woman over the speakers until I polled the entire staff.

I am also reminded that for years I couldn't recognize Evil Rob on the phone because telephones strip certain frequencies out of the transmission, and his voice apparently is very much defined in those ranges.

But that's substandard setups. Right now we're listening to our $250 system with the bulk speaker wire you get from the hardware store... and it's lovely, really it is. If I want top-quality music, I'm going to see it live.

Sandy B. #76: Evil Rob says it's not punk, it's progressive. Possibly progressive metal. "We wear the earplugs all our lives" is a line that demands an epic.

#120 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2010, 12:37 AM:

On the consequences of perfection


It was the music born in Eden, played
On dulcimers of choice chalcedony,
Poured out in flowing streams of gold for me
By many an Abyssinian maid.
With porphyry and pearl it was inlaid
And Grecian goldsmiths fashioned jewellery
To signal its perfected harmony,
Not to adorn; for it was perfect made.

I heard, and knew I'd never hear again
A distant bell but think it dull; that I'll
Perceive the wind's soft whisper in the grain
And hear in it the scraping of a file.
Despaired, looked up, and overhead, without
A fuss, (of course!) the stars were going out.

#121 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2010, 12:40 AM:

Ah, thank you to Evil Rob, who says the Famous Musician in question was Rod Stewart.

"Why do you remember that?" "Because it was funny."

#122 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2010, 12:46 AM:

Damn. Line's missing a foot.

Line four should read:

"By many a queenly Abyssinian maid"

Sorry.

#123 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2010, 01:15 AM:

The line scans just fine if you make sure to say "Ab-iss-in-i-an" and not "Ab-iss-in-yan". The latter makes it too short; adding "queenly" makes it too long, whichever way you pronounce it.

This is nitpickery: that was a wonderful sonnet.

#124 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2010, 01:32 AM:

B. Durbin: Evil Rob says it's not punk, it's progressive. Possibly progressive metal. "We wear the earplugs all our lives" is a line that demands an epic.

Oh, I get it. It's the tragic sequel to 2112.

#125 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2010, 02:11 AM:

Dave L, #120: Very nice! Asimov touched on that concept in one of his George & Azazel stories, so the Clarke reference at the end feels especially poignant.

B. Durbin, #121: Actually, I have no trouble believing that, because Rod Stewart and Kim Carnes sound very much alike in the first place. I've mistaken her for him more than once; it doesn't surprise me that you might have mistaken him for her.

David G, #123: I can't make it scan right the way you suggest; it messes with the emphases. But my musician's mind is perfectly happy to compress two syllables into one foot, and read it as "by MAny a QUEENly ABySINnian MAID".


#126 ::: chris y ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2010, 06:11 AM:

Hell, for $6,800 I'll personally fly to your house and cover whatever music you meant to play.

Hee! Yes, please. I'd like this, if you'd be so kind.

#127 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2010, 07:32 AM:

Dave Luckett #120: Wonderful!

#128 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2010, 09:04 AM:

We live underground. We speak with our hands.
Our voices are frozen beneath shifting sands.
For crimes best unuttered we are on remand.
We live underground. We speak with our hands.

The wailing. The keening. They cut us like knives.
The screams of our children, our husbands, our wives.
There was no recourse: for us to survive
We must wear the earplugs for all of our lives.

The death of our red sun deprived us of light.
By sound it was sundered, plunging us into night.
We are doomed to remember but cannot put things right:
The cables we wrought are too laden with spite.

We live underground. We speak with our hands.
Forever we stay here beneath shifting sands.
With treacle and sugar and honey so grand.
We live underground. We speak with our hands.

#129 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2010, 11:50 AM:

Pendrift, #128: Oh, wow -- that actually scans pretty well TTTO the Rainmakers song I mentioned @118, which means that I'm "hearing" it in the very distinctive voice of their lead singer.

#130 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2010, 07:22 PM:

iucounu #101: On the subject of silent recordings, the Cage Against The Machine campaign is aiming to make 4'33" the UK Christmas Number One (to follow last years success in getting Rage Against The Machine to keep the Simon Cowell record out).

There is something wonderful about this idea,especially when the BBC have to play it on the chart show...

#131 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2010, 08:01 PM:

In my head it sounds something like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPsdjlPVaJU

#132 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2010, 10:51 PM:

What kind of video cable does Aristophanes use?

#133 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2010, 10:53 PM:

Erik, 132: ohhhhhhh my poor head. I'm going to send that to everybody I know.

#134 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2010, 12:26 AM:

@132:

No fair, Erik; that's been bouncing around in my head since I read "The Frogs" at 18 back when I had a ham radio license. Now it will never go away, and it's all your fault!

#135 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2010, 04:45 PM:

#132 - of course, there's a Star Trek reference to that, too.

#136 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2010, 08:16 PM:

Erik@132, in a filk circle a few years ago (probably at Consonance?), Nancy Louise Freeman started her turn by chanting brekekex koax koax, and I was pleased and surprised to see at least half the people join in immediately. At this point I forget what she did with it, probably adding a layer of song over top of the croaking chorus.

#137 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2010, 09:50 PM:

Bringing two subthreads together, 4' 33" compresses much more than Sugar Sugar.

#138 ::: Susie ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2010, 11:10 AM:

ajay @103: The part that always cracked me up when I listened to this as a child was (from memory):

I'm surprised they let you have it in this room, anyway; the acoustics [pronounced a-cow-sticks] are all wrong. If you raise the ceiling four feet, put the fireplace on that wall to that wall, you still aren't going to get any stereophonic effect if you sit in the bottom of that cupboard.

#139 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2010, 12:46 AM:

Bill Stewart@136: Nancy's a friend of mine, and it's great fun to watch her as we all join in on her solo performance pieces which have all become sing-alongs.

#140 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2010, 01:12 PM:

Dave Luckett 120: belated, very loud applause. (Was on a different continent when you posted.)

Pendrift 128: also loud applause. Shades of Edward Lear?

#141 ::: Unistrut ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2010, 09:25 PM:

Gold connectors do have a use - they don't corrode, and when you're dealing with a millivolt level signal coming off a microphone that is useful.

Somewhere there is a lovely article where someone's cat chewed on one of those horrible audiophile power cords and they found that their $300 power cable was ordinary 14 gua. wire fed through a piece of garden hose to bulk it up.

http://gizmodo.com/371536/300-audiophile-grade-power-cable-is-really-worth-15

(Thank you, Google. Thoogle.)

#142 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2010, 12:45 AM:

Kevin Marks @ #130:

It is a matter of record that at one point John Cage considered offering to license 4' 33" to the Muzak corporation. I do not know whether he ever actually made the attempt, nor if so what Muzak's reaction was.

#143 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2010, 05:40 AM:

Allan Beatty #137: Bringing two subthreads together, 4' 33" compresses much more than Sugar Sugar.

Not necessarily: part of the complexity of that piece derives from the ambient soundscape in which it is performed. A performance at the Korean DMZ during a WW3 artillery barrage would compress differently than a performance in a sports stadium full of final-stand refugees during a zombie apocalypse, for example.

I was a performer of Imaginary Landscape No. 4 for 12 radios back in college, by the way. It was fun and interesting.

#144 ::: Serge sees SPAM ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2010, 02:11 PM:

Evil Mister Potter vs George Bailey?

#145 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2010, 08:32 PM:

Earl Cooley III, #143, I was in state chorus when I was a teen and one year we did a piece where we echoed the audience. We just sat there until we heard a cough, maybe, and then we gave the cough back. It didn't take too long for the audience to figure out what was happening.

#146 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2010, 08:41 PM:

I performed in two Cage pieces while in grad school: Credo In Us and Lecture On The Weather. Good times.

#147 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2010, 10:02 PM:

Dave Luckett, that was a great bit of poetry, I'm going to snag it to look at once in a while (not to share, just look at).

My Best Cat of All, Melisande Anastasia, was a Queenly Abyssinian maid who came into a home of two warring adult cats as a kitten and Made Peace by her force of presence and an occasional smack down once she got big enough.

She basically told them that was Not Catlike Behavior and I WILL NOT TOLERATE IT. And I'm the QUEEN, what do you want to make of it?

#148 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2010, 12:01 AM:

Speaking of cats getting along, here's this...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3iFhLdWjqc&feature=player_embedded

#149 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 01:54 PM:

Another gem on Amazon at:

http://www.amazon.com/Wattgate-Audio-Grade-Duplex-Socket/dp/B000930W4M/ref=pd_sbs_gro_19

because if you've just spent $6,800 on your speaker cables, you wouldn't want to plug your stereo into just an ordinary power outlet - you need one which is screwed into the wall with gold-plated oxygen-free copper tabs!

"Upon arriving home from work, I found the package containing the outlets to be hovering a few inches off of the porch. Nervous at first, I remembered from previous reviews that this was normal behavior for these outlets. Unlike the other reviews though, my package seemed to be covered in a dark red substance. I found this was because the package had dismembered my delivery driver, and had stored his (her?) remains underneath our glider rocker. Nervously, I brought the package into my house. Thank God my wife and kids weren't home at the time.

When I tore the package open, the outlets demanded a sacrifice before bestowing their audio goodness upon my household. Reluctantly, I offered them our dog Patches. They instantly devoured the dogs flesh and soul. It was horrific to say the least, but unbeknownst to them, Patches was old and cancer-riddled anyways, so it was a win-win.

After the sacrifice was completed, the outlets went to work, not only installing themselves into our brick wall, but also making blood begin to flow up our walls. They said that this improved the voltage, but I still have my doubts."

#150 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 03:54 PM:

"Are you dedicated to true audio quality? Then why are you listening to music using the same electricity that you use to light your house and cook your food? Studies have shown that long-distance power transmission degrades the analogue characteristics of electricity's quantum signature, giving your power--and therefore your music--a subtle grainy texture. Listen. You can hear it, can't you? I knew you could. You're special. Only SOUNDAMAX HiFi-3000X Series Generators can allow your stereo system to capture the pellucid, crystalline tones it's been obsessively crafted to produce.

SOUNDAMAX HiFi-3000X Series Generators are handbuilt by elves to minimize oblique refraction of the cable matrix's quantum quantum handwave, allowing you to luxuriate in the polyphonic bliss of maximal harmonic intensity--all for only $4,499. When your audiophile friends/competitors see the SOUNDAMAX generator purring* in the middle of your living room, they'll literally explode in a cloud of jealous rage, and your other friends will burst out with laughter--the laughter of awe.

SOUNDAMAX is especially excited to announce the release of the HiFi-3082SP, our first coal-powered model! Now you can finally hear those great blues masters the way they were meant to be heard--over the sound of hacking coughs. Log on to soundamaxhifi.com and order today!

* This is perfectly normal. SOUNDAMAX generators produce a slight growl as a part of their normal function of providing you with utterly perfect, untrammeled audio ear-gasms."

#151 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 06:14 PM:

heresiarch @ 151:
they'll literally explode in a cloud of jealous rage

And for only $199.98 extra we'll include the SOUNDAMAX MO-1300 Mop and Bucket combination, to help clean up.

#152 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 08:06 PM:

Clifton #150: Now that's a malign power!

All: Next time you need a unicorn chaser, just look at this picture.

(Fuller, but still-sweet explanations from Neil and Amanda.)

#153 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 08:11 PM:

On a less pleasant note: The WikiLeaks cables rope in the Pope.

#154 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2010, 08:12 PM:

Um.. I guess those should have gone to the open thread. Got careless with my tabs...

#155 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2010, 12:32 PM:

David Harmon @153: Awwwww!! That's almost as cute as baby guinea pigs!

#156 ::: Yvonne Rowse ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 03:45 PM:

Jacque @ 156
Cute, yes, but an order of magnitude less cute than baby guinea pigs.
Thank you all for providing me with fun on a phlegmy fluy afternoon.

#157 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 06:07 PM:

Yvonne Rowse @157: Well, yes, but then baby guinea pigs are the cutest things on this earth. (But then, I'm prejudiced.)

#158 ::: David Harmon sees gun-control spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 07:59 PM:

Indeed, that pic has me thinking about drawing again. Neil Gaiman's face would be pretty challenging to draw properly (it's all character!), but by the same token, "if I can draw him, I can draw anybody".

#159 ::: David Harmon forgot to change his name ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2010, 08:04 PM:

Sorry...

#161 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2010, 07:43 AM:

Lee #161: Bah, you beat me to that. :-)

#162 ::: Edgar lo Siento ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2010, 03:35 PM:

Re: gold plated interconnects.
I have it on good authority from another electrical engineer that silver plated interconnects are the way to go because:
a. they are cheaper
b. silver tarnish conducts electricity every bit as well as untarnished silver.
Said electrical engineer habitually worked with amplifying very very low power analog signals.* It is left as an exercise for the the reader why audiophiles would not get excited about silver interconnects.

*some record (phonograph) player cartridges give pretty darn weak signals. This is probably the origin of the interconnect mystique.

#163 ::: Jasper Janssen ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 04:21 PM:

Moving Coil phono cartridges tend to be better quality than Moving magnet, but they produce 1-2 mV full-scale instead of 50 mV, so there is often a pre-preamplifier needed. At that sort of level, a minute contact resistance will make a difference.

#164 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 10:54 AM:

Price is now up to $8450.

#165 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2011, 11:12 AM:

4999.99 refurbished.

Choose:
Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

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