Anjouic Main
James Randi har i mange år gått hardt ut mot produsentene av ulike “audio-duppeditter” som visstnok skal gi bedre lyd i høyttalere, forsterker, CD-spillere osv. Markedsføringen av disse duppedittene bruker som regel et kvasi-vitenskapelig språk med mer eller mindre absurde forklaringsmekanismer. Randi har også kritisert en del HiFi-magasiner som gir positiv omtale til disse dingsene, basert på subjektive “lyttetester” uten noe blindtesting eller andre kontrollmekanismer.

Noen eksempler på Randis utspill kan man lese her, her, her og her:

That magazine, Stereophile, has published articles that make most pseudoscience look pale. The “Tate Clock,” a regular Radio Shack digital clock treated with liquid nitrogen and a “secret process” to align electrons in the power supply (?) is only one of the products it tested and approved, as well as $1800 speaker cables marked with arrows to indicate in which direction the electricity should travel. But, as with all obsessions, these are items that afficionados simply must have, because they’re expensive and “in.”

Nå har han valgt å bruke JREFs Million Dollar Challengesaken:

Several readers alerted us to yet another hilarious and preposterous situation in the “audiophile” business, which we have referred to frequently simply because if some of their claims were true, they would be paranormal. Here’s another such.

Monster Cable – a company that turns out a fine line of products, but not untinged with the woo-woo flavor, sells a set of $80 HDMI [High Definition Multimedia Interface] cables, designed to handle new signals brought about by the advent of High Definition TV. I thought that was a heavy price to be asking – no, I didn’t invest! – but now we see that the Pear Cable company is advertising a pair of 12-foot “Anjou” audio cables for $7,250; that’s $302 a foot! And, as expected, “experts” were approached for their opinions on the performance of these wonders. Excerpts:

…way better than anything I have heard…Simply put these are very danceable cables. Music playing through them results in the proverbial foot-tapping scene with the need or desire to get up and move. Great swing and pace – these cables smack that right on the nose big time.

…simply way better than anything I have heard prior to their audition.

Well, we at the JREF are willing to be shown that these “no-compromise” cables perform better than, say, the equivalent Monster cables. While Pear rattles on about “capacitance,” “inductance,” “skin effect,” “mechanical integrity” and “radio frequency interface,” – all real qualities and concerns, and adored by the hi-fi nut-cases – we naively believe that a product should be judged by its actual performance, not by qualities that can only be perceived by attentive dogs or by hi-tech instrumentation. That said, we offer the JREF million-dollar prize to – for example – Dave Clark, Editor of the audio review publication Positive Feedback Online, who provided the above rave review. If Mr. Clark should choose to apply for the prize, he would be unlike John Atkinson of Stereophile Magazine – see randi.org/jr/121004science.html#11 – who made great noises about being ready to snap up the million, then got distracted by things such as gullible readers who accepted his claimed abilities, and backed out. But we’ll see…

Spennende. Den originale anmeldelsen av kablene kan du lese her. Noen utdrag:

When I first heard them, the Anjou cables sounded seriously rolled off at both ends. A quick email to Adam Blake confirmed that they had only had two hours of use, and needed to settle, as he described it. I found that they finally settled after around 200 hours, much of that using a Purist Audio burn-in CD.

Må man “spille inn” kabler også nå? Hvordan forklarer de dette rent fysisk? Må gullatomene justere seg for å slippe elektronene lettere gjennom, eller hva prøver de å si? Vel, uansett forklaring, det er ikke måte på hvor bra lyden blir når kablene er spilt inn:

By “organic,” I mean the sense of fullness and texture in an instrument or voice, but only when coupled with a sense of fluidity and togetherness. When a note struck on a nylon guitar string has great attack, blooms into a large picture with pure tone and color, and decays rapidly, leaving the sense of reverberation in the listening space, and does so in one cohesive movement, that is organic. Taken literally, it means “constituting an integral part of a whole.” I haven’t heard this so starkly from any other cables. […] With the Anjou cables in my system, music sounded natural, and so close to how I expect instruments to sound that it couldn’t be anything other than right.

Utfordringen diskuteres selvsagt heftig i ulike HiFi-forum. Jeg leste litt i et forum, AVS Forum, og det slo meg at det var nøyaktig som å lese diskusjoner på f.eks. paranormal.no eller andre diskusjoner av typen skeptikere vs troende. De troende har en overdreven tro på sin egen evne til å gjøre vurderinger og ser ikke ut til å ane at “placeboeffekten” spiller inn, nøyaktig som troende av ulike alternative behandlingsformer. Eller så kjenner de godt til forventingseffekter og andre hjernetriks, men mener selvsagt at det bare gjelder andre mens de selv har hørt forskjellen på kabel A vs kabel B som er 5 ganger dyrere. Frustrerende lesning for en med en noe mer kritisk innstilling.

Nå er det viktig å forstå at Randis utfordring ikke er en vitenskapelig test for å avgjøre om kabel A er bedre enn kabel B. Testen går derimot ut på å teste om en person som hevder å kunne høre betydelig forskjell på kabel A vs kabel B faktisk kan det når testen utføres på en dobbelblind kontrollert måte. På samme måte som at hans Million Dollar Challenge ikke dreier seg om å finne ut om f.eks. telepati som fenomen er reellt, men derimot å teste om personer som hevder å være telepatiske kan utføre spesifikke oppgaver av paranormal karakter som de selv hevder å kunne gjøre.

IT-avisen skriver at testen gjelder høyttalerkabler, noe som ikke er korrekt. Slik jeg forstår det dreier testen seg om en kabel for å koble sammen komponenter i et HiFi-system, noe som er en litt annen sak. Men vi snakker her om en kabel som koster nesten 10.000 kroner for 1 meter! Ikke rart at Randi reagerer.

Det blir moro å se om journalisten Michael Fremer i Stereophile, som har tatt Randis utfordring, lykkes. Jeg holder en knapp på at han feiler, men tiden vil vise…