Literally beating an actual dead horse might be more entertaining.
A Case Study in Applying an Audioholics A/V Education to Identify Marketing Drivel. In this follow-up to our initial article, we will look at Pear Cable as a case study in evaluating exaggerated marketing claims about the audio performance improvements attributed to cables. We will use known science, established engineering principles, and the educated opinions of well known audio engineering practitioners to look for contradictory statements, mistakes and misuse of engineering knowledge, and exaggeration of the audible significance to certain aspects of audio performance.
Discuss "Pear Cable Redux: How to Combat Scam with Science" here. Read the article.
Literally beating an actual dead horse might be more entertaining.
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I generally agree with the article, and for the most part I should probably not comment because I am a "competitor" of Pear (though I doubt very many people are sitting on the fence between buying our product and theirs--their direct competition is more in the pricey audiophile sector), but I did want to point out something which I found objectionable in this article.
There's no reason to heap scorn on the American Radio Relay League, or upon Radio Amateurs in general. Ham radio has been responsible for introducing a lot of people to electronics, including many, many electrical engineers I have known. I am a ham myself, licensed since the 1970s (WB7WRR at first; AC7RL later, now N7BN), and I would not be in the cable business, nor would I have the technical background to support what I do now, if it were not for ham radio. The ARRL is a great organization, and ham radio (or "amateur radio"--the terms are interchangeable) is a great hobby.
The Pear Cable citation to the ARRL was a very broad, general, nonspecific cite--no article or other publication was mentioned. Who knows what he was thinking of? I feel very sure, though, that you could browse through every issue of QST (the monthly magazine of the ARRL) since its inception nearly a hundred years ago, and through all of the ARRL's publications (a HUGE pile, in which you would find a vast amount of useful, reliable technical material), without finding a single paragraph that could be said to lend aid or comfort to claims of extravagant speaker cable performance. In fact, I think you'd find, if you go speak with some hams, that they are much less likely to "buy" cable voodoo theories than are the general public. Why? Well, hams actually have to know something about cables. Transmission line theory is fundamental stuff to anybody running a radio transmitter, and there's enough power going down some ham transmission lines to badly burn a person, so sound technical knowledge is important.
There is something admittedly a bit peculiar about referring to the ARRL as a "professional" organization when it is an organization of "amateurs." But that's splitting hairs, really. Many of the people who write ARRL publications are professionals, working, among other things, in the production and design of the radio equipment which is sold for amateur radio usage.
What Pear cites ARRL for, in fact, is really a rather uncontroversial proposition which lends Pear little if any support. He says RFI "can still be a problem in audio applications." Indeed it can, and that's especially true for ham radio operators who have powerful radio transmitters in their homes, mere feet away from their audio equipment. But the product in question here is a speaker cable, and RFI problems in speaker cable are rare, especially if you're not running a 2KW RF linear amp output close by. The amplitude would have to be ridiculously high to move the speaker cone, or the circuit has to be badly designed such that the speaker cable acts as an antenna and feeds RFI back into the amp to be rectified. My point, though, is that all he says ARRL has said is that RFI can be a problem. Even if there were an ARRL publication cited which said those words, those words are clearly true; it is the concusion which Pear seeks to draw which is unwarranted.
Anyhow: if the effect is to give the impression that ARRL is a proponent of audio voodoo, I think that's regrettable. ARRL is an excellent organization and is a tremendous resource for hobbyists who are trying to become literate and capable in electronics. It doesn't deserve the implication that it's somehow promoting strange speaker-cable theories, nor does it deserve to be sneered at as though technical information from the ARRL is somehow dubious or useless.
N7BN (Extra Class, since 2002; licensed about 30 years total)
Blue Jeans Cable
Last edited by KurtBJC; 05-11-2008 at 10:02 PM.
Last edited by gliz; 05-12-2008 at 11:42 AM.
"A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have." -- Gerald Rudolph Ford
I am pleased that you otherwise agreed with what I had to say in the article, but I would like to take this opportunity to clear up what seems to be a misunderstanding regarding statements I made in the article that involved Pear Cable's citation of the Amateur Radio Relay League.
In actuality, the section that makes mention of the ARRL is very small in context of the overall work and it would seem that too much might have been read into those very short statements.
The intent of my comments was not in any way to disparage the ARRL or to put into question their reputability or competency per se. The point of the comments was to put into question the appropriateness and the accuracy of the citation by Pear Cable.
The issue at hand is that the gentleman who runs Pear Cable claims a formal mechanical engineering degree and through this implies that his company and product designs are rooted in sound engineering principles.
While I am quite sure that the quality of the technical information supplied by the ARRL is in general accurate and is primarily distilled from published formal scientific and engineering research, source material from an amateur group would not be suitable for direct reference in professional research or as a basis for supporting formal engineering opinion. An engineer wishing to cite scientific knowledge supplied by the ARRL would be better served to go back to the original published source material from which they draw.
Think of it as analogous to going into court and citing the opinion of a legal layman, someone off the street, however well informed or educated, as the basis for a legal interpretation or argument rather than going to the statutes and subsequent case law to establish support for a legal position. It is not sure footing for any professional to do as such, lawyer, doctor, or engineer.
To make matters worse, the citation of the ARRL is overly broad and misapplied, as you have pointed out. This is very questionable, ethically, for an engineer to do so, and certainly to do so for a layman audience with the goal of pursuading that audience to purchase expensive products that the engineer in question just happens to sell.
The ARRL has indeed drawn some to pursue formal training in engineering and taught many others basic electronic principles, and I am glad that they brought this knowledge to you, but they are an amateur association, and by definition not a direct basis to support the professional opinion of someone claiming to be an engineer. This is all I meant to say with regard to the organization; nothing more, nothing less.
It is unfortunate that someone laying claim to being an engineer attempted to use his status to fool consumers and used the ARRL in this way to suggest something untrue to sell expensive products with dubious claims. It is damaging to both the perception of the ARRL as well as to the engineering profession.
Last edited by DavidW; 05-12-2008 at 01:49 PM.
Thanks for the response. I get where you're coming from, but my sense of it is that the article is disparaging toward ARRL. I think you allowed some hostility toward the vendor here to spill over onto others. Consider this quote:
"One nameless measurement, a bunch of ham radio amateurs, and some guy named Richard; quite a list of heavy hitters from the scientific, engineering, and R&D communities."
I think that you have, whether you intended it or not, ridiculed the ARRL, and the ham radio hobby, here by lumping it in with others in a list of what you clearly view as completely unreliable sources. There are some goofs which suggest to me that you are not familiar with ARRL or what it does, in particular, your use of the term "ham radio amateurs," which is redundant. In fact, you suggest that to say amateurs are professionals is an "oxymoron by definition" which, apart from also being redundant as stated, is not entirely true as applied here. ARRL is not a "professional organization" but many of the authors of ARRL publications are professionals.
It would have been sufficient criticism of the claim under review to simply note that Pear has not cited a specific source, and that therefore the nature and validity of the claims of that source, and their applicability to the claims made by Pear, cannot be evaluated. The failure to cite sources properly is often the mark of someone who is trying to make it appear that he has good authority on his side but who does not wish that authority to be scrutinized, and that's all that needed to be said.
As for myself, I will say that while ARRL itself is not really an author, and therefore not a good source to cite in and of itself, the quality of the materials published by ARRL is very high and I would not hesitate to rely upon ARRL publications on an issue like RFI, which is of constant concern to ARRL's membership who must deal with cranky-neighbor RFI claims. The fact that it is not strictly a "professional organization" as indicated by Pear is really beside the point, and I think that your remarks are disparaging. I appreciate that that was probably not your intent, but it is how the words come across.
Blue Jeans Cable
I know a lot of engineers who refer to the ARRL handbook for a number of things, including the construction of cables.
I am also going to suggest that some editing be applied to the present article so your refernece to the ARRL will not be misinterpreted as "amateur"
Other than that Dave it was a good article.
I was an audiophile until I found out what they were doing in the recording studio.
First off, I understand that the ARRL is not an author, but publishes works of its membership, and yes, I understand the term ham radio amateur is technically redundant but not every reader may be aware of that fact.
Now that we are finished splitting hairs as you say, let me reiterate, the publications of an amateur technical organization are not proper material for citation to support the validity of scientific and engineering conclusions presented by a formally educated, practicing engineer.
I do not doubt that the information published by the ARRL is of high quality and some of the published work may be by people who practice electrical engineering by day. Nevertheless, this is irrelevant because an amateur publication is not subjected to the scrutiny and peer review process that gives formal scientific literature its credibility.
Nor are its members required to hold certain educational credentials, or in the case of engineering, certain legal credentials. The skill level required of an amateur radio license is that of a technician, and while there is nothing wrong with being a technician, training as such is based on practical understanding of the subject matter but provides limited understanding of the underlying theoretical basis. This is not the same thing as formal scientific or engineering training. Furthermore, to be considered a Professional Engineer and legally use the title requires licensure with an extensive list of credentials including a minimum of a four year ABET accredited degree, minimum work experience under another licensed engineer in responsible charge of engineering work, and several examinations even though in certain unregulated fields of practice, including consumer electronics, the term engineer is often used as well as sometimes interchanged with the term technician.
I have no problem with amateur radio or the quality of their publications and training, but it is unfortunately not a suitable source for formal scientific and engineering reference.
I hope this clears up why I said what I did and that you are able to see the distinction I am making as well as why and do not take offense.