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Beyond the bull: Audio

That doesn’t sound right

Audio devices, like headphones and speakers, are no different when it comes to marketing spiel. From performance grades that make no real difference to meaningless descriptors, it might take a while to go beyond all the bull that exists in the world of audio technology. So without further ado, here we go.


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When it comes to audio equipment, nothing fools audiophiles more than the cables. Of course, it makes sense to have decent equipment, and dirt cheap cables can potentially fry your system or sound horrible, but there is no justification for the ridiculous prices that some companies charge for their cables. Power cables, speaker cables and interconnects are all different parts of a setup that is up for exploitation. It is just straight up fleecing, and it is not like the experts do not know it. Enthusiasts have ripped apart expensive audiophile grade power cables to find cheap, basic components inside.

All cables are equal

One of the biggest offenders is oxygen free copper cables. These are not even gold or silver cables. They are regular copper cables that have oxygen stripped from them. Even experts agree that the theoretical difference in any properties that might contribute to a better audio experience is insignificant. In plain language, that means that they are in no way better than ordinary copper cables. There are even audiophile grade Ethernet cables! Ridiculous, because it’s not like they’re going to add any data to the digital signal being sent down them. Does spending triple the price on an Ethernet cable add a few ones or zeroes?

Audiophile grade

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Be wary of any product that charges a premium for being an “audiophile grade” product. We cannot even begin to complain about all the ridiculous gimmicks used by the marketers to sell these products. Suffice to say that if you reach a point where you’re listening to the sound more than the music, your life must be pretty miserable! You have a right to burn your money and derive more pleasure from the equipment itself, but realise that you’re just crapping in an overflowing public loo with a non-functioning flush, and adding to the existing problem. Heck, some people listen to music they abhor, just to show off various properties of their magical setup, to themselves!

Cushion Soft ear tips

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Low-cost earphones, for some bizarre reason, try to compare their ear tips to the softness of cushions. Their bulk is a big part of what makes cushions soft. It is very unlikely that a similar sized mass of silicon ear tips would be as soft. While these are outright lies, some earphones go ahead and claim that these mass manufactured ear tips are actually designed to ergonomically fit the unique contours of your individual ears. Yeah, right.

‘Cushion soft’

Analog vs digital

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This is a debate that is raging in audio enthusiast circles (we don’t like the word audiophile) since the advent of digital music. There are two camps, one that insists that analog audio quality is better, and another that insists that digital music is at least as good, if not better. Theoretically, digital sources should be able to more accurately represent the sound that the producers intended you to hear.

Vinyl tends to degrade over repeated use

There are some other advantages to digital music though. It is easy to replicate the files and listen to them on multiple sources, without a degradation of the quality. Vinyl or cassettes tend to degrade over repeated use and are also susceptible to wear and tear. In the early days of digital audio, it was true that there was a lower sound quality as compared to analog, but that is no longer the case.

CD Quality Music

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Some speakers claim to output “CD quality music”. This is not a tested standard. In fact, there is very little, if any discernable difference between the data actually in audio CDs and higher bitrate MP3s. Besides, it depends on the source. If you use a low-quality source, your CD Quality speakers are going to sound like a pocket radio!

Multimedia ready

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Desktop speakers claim to be multimedia ready. Apparently, this is an attempt to tell you that you can watch and enjoy movies and TV shows through these speakers. The truth is that these speakers will just not provide the same quality of audio experience as a proper home theatre system. Most of these so-called multimedia speakers are just sold in pairs. Without a separate sub-woofer, you will not get the booming lows that you expect when watching a movie.

Not multimedia

In fact, with movies having ever-increasing background tracks where background scores and the sound effects of the movie itself are all playing together, a good quality speaker is needed to faithfully reproduce that. With most movies being recorded in at least 5.1 audio, you need discrete channels to be able to properly enjoy the movie experience, and “multimedia-ready” speakers will just not cut it.

Meaningless descriptions

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Four turds for all of the marketing terms that are used to wax eloquent about audio equipment. Look, if you mean to say “excellent sound quality”, just say it, instead of pooping out ridiculous terms such as “flexible sound”, “perfect sound”, “pure and elegant audio”, or “mellow and clear quality”. Then there are the cases where the use of superlatives is confusing. “Enhanced sound” or “unsurpassed effect” seemingly indicate that they are messing with the sound, and artificially interfering with how the audio is supposed to sound!

Aditya Madanapalle

Aditya Madanapalle

An avid reader of the magazine, who ended up working at Digit after studying journalism, game design and ancient runes. When not egging on arguments in the Digit forum, can be found playing with LEGO sets meant for 9 to 14-year-olds.