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The Nazi Air Marker Hoax, 1942
The disumbrationist art hoax, 1924
The Great Electric Sugar Swindle, 1884
Fake Photos of Very Large Animals
Stotham, Massachusetts: the town that didn't exist, 1920
Jean Gauntt, the Immortal Baby, 1939
The Man-Eating Tree of Madagascar Hoax, 1874
Sober Sue, the woman who never smiled, 1907
Adolf Hitler Baby Photo Hoax, 1933
The Hitler Diary Hoax, 1983
The Pear Cable Challenge
Last week James Randi heard about some high-end audio cables being sold by the Pear Cable company for $7250 -- $302 a foot. This prompted him to extend his million-dollar challenge (which for years he's been offering to anyone who can prove the existence of the paranormal) to anyone who could detect a difference in sound quality to the human ear between Pear's cables and similar cables sold for only $80 by Monster Cable.

The CEO of Pear Cable has now responded (though not directly to Randi), calling the offer a hoax:
Unfortunately, like most offers of $1 million this one is a hoax. While James Randi is claiming to offer a $1 million dollar prize to differentiate between these speaker cables, by reading the official rules of the challenge, it becomes immediately clear that the offer is not valid. One must be able to "demonstrate any psychic, supernatural or paranormal ability" in order to qualify. Since there is a wealth of scientific information explaining the differences between speaker cables, the offer is not a valid one (and James Randi knows it).
I've posted about ridiculous over-priced products sold to gullible audiophiles in the past. And ILikeJam has an amusing list of Really Stupid Audiophile Products, such as the Audioprism CD Stop Light Pen. (It's a magic marker that you're supposed to use to color in the edges of your CDs, because this will somehow make them sound better.)

Of course, because expectation and suggestion play such a huge role in sensory perception, the Pear Cables probably really do sound better to the people who buy them. But I'm also sure that no difference would be detectable to the human ear in double-blind testing.
Categories: Technology
Posted by The Curator on Sat Oct 06, 2007
Comments (12)
How would you 'prove' you could tell the difference?
Posted by Sharruma  in  capable of finishing a coherent  on  Sat Oct 06, 2007  at  09:02 PM
I got Paradigm speakers on my stereo ($5,000 for the pair)... 600watt per channel Yamaha receiver... Standard copper wire cables... this system kicks @ss!!! Copper is just fine, and being an audiophile myself, I can't tell the difference... I do high end entertainment system installation where I work... copper wire is all we ever use... You wanna know THE BEST and cheapest speaker wire you can buy? 12/2 or 14/2 Romex (same stuff your whole house is wired with). Being an electrician, I can guarantee you, electricity is blind... resistance is the ONLY thing that slows it up in ANY conductor!!!
Posted by Christopher Bath  in  Joplin, Missouri  on  Sat Oct 06, 2007  at  10:14 PM
Sharruma, you prove it by running a series of tests. You play the same piece of music over the two sets of wires, with the wires being the only difference and the testee not knowing which wire is being used for any specific test, and the testee states which is better. After a dozen or more tests, if the testee selects the high priced wire more often than chance would indicate, then you have proven that the high priced wire is better. I have heard of this sort of test being done on a limited basis, just a few tests, and the testee can never show that he / she can tell the difference. Me, I don't care. I spent so long on the flightline around jet engines that even if there was a difference that a human could detect, my hearing is probably damaged enough so that I couldn't tell.
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Sat Oct 06, 2007  at  10:35 PM
Just so you know, I was the one who sent the link to the original Gizmodo entry about the Pear cables to Randi. He acknowledged getting it from me in a return email.

It's funny, Randi has extended the Million Dollar Challenge offer to other ridiculously-overpriced stereo stuff in the past but this time, for some reason, it's getting a lot of attention.

I'm really enjoying watching the guy from Pear try to squirm out of taking the Challenge. If he thinks Randi is lying about offering the money, the best way to prove that would be call Randi's bluff, wouldn't it?

Sharruma, the way the test would be conducted would be to have stereo equipment behind a curtain or in another room from the testee (the speakers would, of course, be where they could hear them). It would be connected to both the expensive cables and cheaper cables with a switch that allows the audio to be switched between them.

The testee, of course, doesn't know which cables the system is using at any given moment. They are asked which way it sounds better (with many repetitions) and their answers are noted.

The choice of cables is determined by a coin flip or the equivalent, so that no pattern can be detected by the testee.

Basically, that's it. A testee will be right about 50% of the time, based just on chance. If a person can really tell the difference, they should do a lot better than 50%.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Sat Oct 06, 2007  at  10:44 PM
Even the $80 cables are a total rip-off. They wouldn't work any better than lamp cord.
Posted by Captain Al  in  Vancouver Island, Canada  on  Sun Oct 07, 2007  at  12:43 AM
You got that right, Cap. Monster Cable has made a name for itself as a kind of low-rent Pear, selling their stuff for $80. If I remember correctly, they, too, have ducked actual testing.

You have to ask yourself why a company making such a demonstrably superior product wouldn't want to take a simple test that wouldn't take up more than an afternoon when a million dollars was on the line. Why, it's almost as if they know their claims are bogus!
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Sun Oct 07, 2007  at  03:28 AM
More on this sot of thing:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2006/jan/07/badscience.uknews
Posted by Mr Henderson  in  London, UK  on  Sun Oct 07, 2007  at  10:40 AM
Excellent article Mr. Henderson. Of course the fellow that wrote the article makes the same point I do... The cheapest AND best speaker cables you can buy are the same ones your house is already wired with... Romex 12/2 or 14/2.
Posted by Christopher  in  Joplin, Missouri  on  Sun Oct 07, 2007  at  03:01 PM
Got this link from someone else's post on Slashdot when this was announced last week, but supposedly one of the best ways to test this sort of subjective thing is with a "ABX Test", as detailed on Wikpedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABX_test
Posted by TexasAndroid  on  Mon Oct 08, 2007  at  02:58 PM
I have to agree in part with Christopher, as far as the theory about resistance. A large solid conductor has a low resistance. However, since the signal that is input to the speakers is AC a reactive component is created.

The frequencies of audio are low enough that you would need a very long peice of wire before a quarter wavelegnth would be reached and cause a noticeble degration of the sound quality due to the impedance mismatch.

Middle A is a frequency of 440Hz. The electrical wavelength for middle A is 682 meters, or more than two football fields. The higher frequencies would be affected first, but would still need long lengths of cable.

The advertised cable is probably impedance matched for these long lengths, but would be a waste of money for anyone who owns a home entertainment system with speakers less than 200 feet away.

The romex cable will work well for home use. As the length of the romex increases the ground wire would pick up electrical signals. Those signals might cause distortion.
Posted by Matt  in  Baltimore  on  Tue Oct 09, 2007  at  11:43 PM
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120044692027492991.html.html?mod=technology_main_promo_left
Posted by Michael Fremer  on  Wed Jan 16, 2008  at  02:05 PM
What a embllishing this site is very nice The Pear Cable Challenge for me wish he all the best.
Posted by Martina  in  Australia  on  Wed Sep 03, 2008  at  12:54 AM
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