|Elliott Sound Products||Editorial Archives - I Am Still As Mad As Hell !|
Welcome to the editorial archives. There is a good reason to keep these around for a while yet, since the problems have not gone away. In case you were wondering, I still have had not a single useful response from anyone mentioned (nor anyone else for that matter) that gives any conclusive evidence that the products mentioned actually work.
In contrast to my other articles, my editorial names names. Do not buy any product from these companies until they publicly apologise to the hi-fi world, and refund all money spent on the products described herein. These are examples of exploitation of the worst kind, using big words and small mindedness to defraud the public.
Since the original publication of these articles, I have had no response from any of the lunatics named. This (of course) does not surprise me in the least.
We all know that the mains lead from the wall receptacle to the equipment is very ordinary. So ordinary in fact that we tend not to think too much about it - just plug it in and forget it, right?
Well, according to some, WRONG. The sound from your system will be enhanced by spending US$650 (and no, that is not a misprint) for a "Super" mains lead. Maybe (if you have far more money than sense) you would rather pay US$3000 - yes, three thousand US dollars - this will really help. This company is called NBS (as in No BS (?)) - well I have to tell you that this is even worse BS than the Gryphon Exorcist.
What amazes me is that people (such as reviewers) fall for this, and having told the unsuspecting public, those with less sense than God gave a tree believe them. I am more than amazed, I am astonished beyond belief.
Let's have a clinical (sorry, cynical) look at the claim. If the cable supplied were to have zero ohms resistance, no inductance or capacitance (or perhaps quite a lot of both - I can't decide which would be more sonically pure - ), what would be its contribution to the overall AC mains signal coming from the power station? The answer is of course NONE, or to qualify this a little better NONE WHATSOEVER! What about the internal wiring of the house?
Ah, but this has been replaced (at great expense) with pure silver, and all mains outlets are gold plated to prevent corrosion. This would only cost about $10,000 for the essential wiring, but we might have a small problem with the power company ...
Hi-Fi Nut: "I would like you to ensure that only the best quality oxygen free copper is used between the substation and my house please."
Power Co.: "Certainly sir, no problem at all. This will cost you ... (sounds of furious calculating) $150,000 for materials and labour. Do you want to pay for this now, or shall we put it on your bill?"
HFN: "Oh, just put it on the bill, thanks."
PC: "Now sir (giggle), what about the substation itself? This uses very ordinary copper for the transformer, and the steel used in the laminations is not Hi-Fi grade. Would you want these replaced too? (snigger). Oh, yes, I nearly forgot that the transformer oil we use for cooling is just the ordinary stuff, you would want the 'Swinheimer 2000 Plus', that is very fine sounding transformer oil."
HFN: "Yeah, that sounds pretty good, but isn't the 'Soundmaster dB' oil better?"
PC: "(Grin) Well yes, but it is rather expensive I'm afraid. About $40 per litre if I remember correctly."
HFN: "No that's fine. I want the very best. So how much will this cost?"
PC: "We should be able (chortle) to manage that for only $780,000 all up (choke). Now, what about the pylons back to the power station? Most of them are mild steel, and are zinc plated to stop rust. They sound awful (laughs loudly). We could have them removed and replaced with gold plated ones for a mere $23,576,000 if you like."
HFN: "Wow. Go for it. This will sound awesome."
PC: (Howling with uncontrollable laughter) "Thank (grunt) you (snorph) sir (hahaha). We will organise this (howl) within three working lifetimes (moan, hahaha, 'my sides hurt', snort). Bye" (and promptly pees himself and collapses on floor with severe abdominal pain from so much laughing. "All this fun, and they PAY me too." he says when he recovers enough to speak.)
I could go on, but I won't (I can see a short story in this). So, what do YOU think? Let me (and the manufacturers below) know. Since I have already been chastised for only mentioning these two manufacturers, let me point out that they came to my attention quite accidentally. There are many others out there doing exactly the same, and I consider them to be charlatans, too.
Signature II AC Power Cable
Manufactured by NBS Audio Cables
155 Fifth Avenue South, Suite 150, Minneapolis, MN, 55401, USA
web: http://www.nbscables.com, e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org
Price: US$650.00 for a four or six foot length
PowerTap AC Power Cable
Manufactured by Audiodyne
P.O. Box 34210, Las Vegas, NV, 89133-4210, USA
web: http://www.audiodyne.com, e-mail:email@example.com
Price: US$125.00 for a six foot length
The above is not an endorsement in any way, shape or form. Quite the opposite, I am disgusted with the gall and audacity of these companies, and deplore their hype and BS. I am also disgusted with the stupidity of reviewers who claim that this nonsense actually works - someone must be handing them some serious cash !
Why would I not be as mad as hell?
As a matter of interest, I have conducted many tests on many amplifiers, with all manner of different power leads (and ancillary outboard equipment such as a variable voltage transformer). The only measurable difference is a tiny (less than one watt) power difference. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that a mains lead can influence the "openness" of the high frequencies, or the "authority" of the bass. Electrically speaking, the transformer is a far greater offender, having much greater resistance than even the cheapest mains lead, and will also have leakage inductance and inter-winding capacitance.
I know for a fact (because I measured it) that the resistance (impedance) of the mains wiring to my workbench is about 0.8 Ohms (240V nominal supply voltage at 50Hz). This includes the house wiring, main switchboard, and the power company's cabling back to the power station. I also know that this varies from minute to minute depending on demand (which causes more or less heating, so the resistance changes). According to these idiots, if I spend some vast amount of money for a mains lead, it will somehow negate the contribution of all of this -perhaps a total of 50km or more by the time it arrives at my home from the power station. At various locations, the voltage is stepped up for long distance transmission (which often uses aluminium cable - not oxygen free or anything!), stepped back down again for local transmission, then finally reduced to 240V at a local substation or pole transformer.
With 0.8 Ohms series impedance, a 2400W heater causes a drop of 8V RMS when connected, representing a 3.3% regulation. By comparison, the regulation of a typical Hi-Fi system transformer will be in the order of 10% to 15%. Not because the transformer is especially bad, but because of the very high peak diode current in the rectifier circuit. No mains lead will (or can) prevent this, regardless of cost.
I have sent an e-mail to both the companies listed above asking for documentary proof of their claims, and at the time of this update have one reply (see below).
The first response is from Audiodyne, and he does have a point - albeit a pointless one! I have mentioned the ones I know of from stuff I have seen - I do not actively seek out this nonsense, and don't intend to start now.
(A correction was made (10 Apr 2000) - I had somehow managed to miss the decimal point, so 0.8 Ohm became 8 Ohms. My apologies if this misled anyone.)
|Response From Audiodyne:|
Let's suppose you are right about power cords, that they have no effect, and you do have a right to your opinion. You are unfair to single us and NBS out. To be fair to your readers you need to list all high-end audio companies that make power cords.
|----- Original Message -----
From: Rod Elliott
Sent: Sunday, November 21, 1999 3:45 AM
Subject: Powertap cables ??
How do you people sleep at night - laughing your heads off is my guess. What justification is there to hoodwink the unsuspecting buyers into paying $115 to $190 for a mains lead?
Perhaps you would like to have a look at an editorial (and yes, you are named) on the web, denouncing the drivel you people are claiming as "fact". There are no facts to support a single claim that a power cable has any effect on the sound, unless it is 300 metres long and made from bell wire.
My page can be found at
I would be most interested in any supporting documentation you have. If you can convince me, I will publish a retraction - but it had better be good. For example, I would like an explanation as to how 1.8 metres (6') or so of cable changes the characteristics of perhaps 100km of power company's electricity supply ("ordinary" copper or aluminium cable being quite typical). I await your response.
|Not exactly a wealth of information supporting the claim, just a plaintive little cry that I am unfair, because I did not name all the "High End" mains lead makers. As stated above, I do not go around seeking this info, but will complain when I find it. If David Edleman really wants me to name all makers, perhaps he could send me a list of names. It might also have been nice if he spelled my name properly.|
As a result of a rather furious debate at the AudioAsylum, I did learn that the mains in the US are often rather nasty, and that filters and power conditioners can have a beneficial effect. I don't have a problem with that, and the new information is in the article "The Truth About Cables, Interconnects and Audio in General", which although some may take offence, is pretty much the way it is - especially since no-one has offered any proof to the contrary.
The Gryphon Exorcist
Ok, so what else am I so angry about? I read a review of a device called the Gryphon Exorcist (manufactured by the Danish company Gryphon Audio Designs), and the description claims that small amounts of residual magnetism in connectors or cables degrade the sound quality. The degradation "manifests itself as a 'whiteness' during intertransient silences". Gryphon apparently conducted subjective tests to "prove" this so-called theory - no objective testing appears to have been done, so it is of course completely unproven.
What utter and complete rubbish. I have never in all my life heard anything so blatantly nonsensical (with the possible exception of any given political speech). That these $#&**% can charge real money (this piece of excrement (oops, I meant exorcist - really) costs AU$100) to sell an electronic magic potion to the unsuspecting public really gets up my nose.
To be quite honest, I thought for a moment I was in a time warp, and it was really April - I had to check the date of publication a couple of times before I was convinced that they were actually serious.
Let's have a look at the basic claim first. If my connectors or other signal carrying components are magnetised, I will be able to detect a degradation of the sound. What about my speakers - perhaps I'd better demagnetise them, because they have really strong magnets. I'm sure that will sound much better, although somewhat quieter, too. What bliss - a completely noiseless hi-fi at all power levels.
Damn, I nearly forgot my moving coil pickup for my vinyl collection - that too is sure to sound better without the magnetism - not !
Furthermore, if you believe this drivel, you will find that copper cables can also become magnetised (since when? - supposedly due to impurities in the copper), along with printed circuit tracks, and presumably capacitor, resistor, transistor and IC leads (many of which use a ferrous alloy. It is of no consequence, but these latter components did not get a mention in the review. Passing a "magic signal" through your system will have absolutely no effect on any of these items, regardless of whether they are magnetised or not.
We are supposed to plug this "thing" into the line input connector on the preamp and set the volume for the "highest normal SPL", where it produces a 1kHz tone that gradually diminishes (over a period of 35 seconds or so) to ensure that "the residual magnetism in all connectors is reduced to zero". Assuming that the output level is about 1 Volt, and the input impedance of a preamp is perhaps 50k, this means that a maximum demagnetising current of 20 microamps is available - 20 microamps - that is incapable of causing any deflection on even a sensitive magnetic compass when simply passed through a wire or a connector (I know - I tried it!). Demagnetise the connector? Not a chance. (Even if it did make a difference - more on this later.)
As a test, I magnetised a connector - far more strongly than Gryphon claim will happen due to capacitor leakage (why not add "asymmetrical signal waveforms") encountered in your hi-fi, even in the speaker connectors. I then passed an AC current of 5 Amps (to simulate a 200 Watt amp at full power), through it and gradually reduced the current to zero over a period of 90 seconds (I used 50Hz as the source, just like real demagnetisers do). Guess what?
Did you guess that the connector was just as strongly magnetised as it was before the "treatment"? If so, you are 100% correct. Bear in mind that I used a current 250,000 times greater than the Gryphon, and it made no difference whatsoever. To demagnetise the connector, I needed to subject it to a diminishing magnetic field, as is used in display monitors and TV picture tubes. These use a degaussing coil around the tube, and it is activated each time the monitor is powered on. I could (and did) use a tape head demagnetiser, and was able to demagnetise the connector quite readily. The latter is a real tool, with a real use (for audio and video tape heads), and serves a real function.
Even if the speaker terminals were to be magnetised, I used 5 Amps to no avail - this is the equivalent of 200 Watts RMS into an 8 Ohm load. Somehow I don't think that too many audiophiles will really want to listen to a diminishing 200 Watts (per channel) of 1 kHz, and they would be foolish indeed to subject their speakers to such treatment - assuming of course that they could even stay in the room with it. I personally doubt that anyone would use this device at anything above a couple of watts because of the ear-splitting nature of such a tone.
So magnetised connectors will degrade the sound, will they? I connected my noise and distortion meter via a connector to an audio oscillator, and used the averaging capability of my oscilloscope to eliminate the (always present) random noise component. While observing the residual signal from the distortion meter (equivalent to a distortion of about 0.0015%), I then placed a very powerful magnet right on top of the connector. (By comparison, a tape head with such a strong field will give up completely, and only a low level distorted signal will remain.)
There was a very small disturbance created as the magnetic field generated a voltage when I moved the magnet, but once it was settled - nothing. Not a sausage, zero, zilch. I had just created a magnetised connector thousands of times more powerful than the earth's magnetic field could have done, let alone 20 microamps or so of asymmetrical music signal just passing through.
If we were talking about tape recorder heads, then yes, I agree that residual magnetism in the heads will indeed degrade the sound. At a real stretch we could even call it a 'whiteness' during intertransient silences or just simple white noise that is there all the time. This is a real phenomenon, caused by the alignment of magnetic particles by a magnetised tape head. During the heyday of tape, people used tape head demagnetisers to combat this problem. I have never heard of or seen any evidence that enough current could be passed through the head itself to demagnetise it, without the real risk of burning out the coil. Demagnetising connectors and copper tracks with a few measly microamps at 1kHz - I don't think so.
One assumes that the folks at Gryphon are presently working on a system to combat the earth's magnetic field, because this is far more invasive than a few microamps of leakage current through an electrolytic capacitor, or a nanoamp of leakage across a printed circuit board (this is supposedly how your connectors and conductors become magnetised in the first place, in case you were wondering).
Do not buy this product, and demand that your hi-hi dealer remove it from stock or you will go elsewhere. This sort of rubbish gives the hi-fi fraternity a bad name (Hey, these guys are so gullible they will buy anything - watch this one !!).
Even if the basic premise were true, and a magnetised connector did create a "whiteness" (whatever that is supposed to mean), this device - or any similar device - will not remove it. This is false advertising, and as such is illegal in Australia (and yes, I am forwarding a copy of this to the NSW Department of Fair Trading).
If you want to test the possible validity of the claims made by Gryphon, you could (see warning, below) use a tape head demagnetiser on all of the connectors in the system with the power off (stay well away from pickup cartridges!). While you are at it, you should also demagnetise IC and transistor leads, as well as the passive components. Many people use magnetised tools to hold screws, and if a magnetised screwdriver comes into contact with lead cutters, some residual magnetism will be passed on to these leads. Please tell me if you detect any sonic difference after the treatment - I doubt that you will, but I am always open to new ideas and there are many things that we do not fully understand.
WARNING: If you happen to damage components with the strong field from a demagnetiser the responsibility is entirely yours, and the author will accept no responsibility for any damage, loss of performance, loss of life or anything else that is the result of your actions. I do not recommend that you even attempt a complete demagnetisation of your equipment, because the claims are fallacious (not to mention farcical).
The reviewer said in closing "I was very disappointed that the Gryphon Exorcist did not improve the sound of my system, because I am always looking for ways to improve its sound." Well, now you know why CC (the reviewer's initials - I will spare him the embarrassment of naming names since he only reviewed it).
Feel free to print this article and show it to your dealer. It's time that we got together and stopped this sort of nonsense once and for all.
I am forwarding a copy of this to the NSW Department of Fair Trading (in Australia), the manufacturer and the magazine that published the review. I will let you know what transpires.
An update: As of many months later, I have still not been able to contact the manufacturer, but I did receive a couple of e-mails from the magazine publisher asking for some more information on how I conducted the tests. Nothing since.
I also spoke to someone from the local distributor, who was interested in what I had to say, and said he would look at my editorial and send me an e-mail. He completely failed to do so.
The local Department of Fair Trading was less than enthusiastic about doing anything - "If it is advertised locally we might be able to stop them." - or words to that effect.
So it looks as if it is up to us, as Hi-Fi enthusiasts, to stop this ourselves.
|Copyright Notice. This article, including but not limited to all text and diagrams, is the intellectual property of Rod Elliott, and is Copyright (c) 1999. Reproduction or re-publication by any means whatsoever, whether electronic, mechanical or electro-mechanical, is strictly prohibited under International Copyright laws. The author (Rod Elliott) grants the reader the right to use this information for personal use only, and further allows that one (1) copy may be made for reference. Commercial use is prohibited without express written authorisation from Rod Elliott.|