The Audiophile’s Dilemma: Strangers Can’t Identify $340 Cables, Either

Ars Technica:

After calling out the audiophile cable gods, I’d come to settle the score. I’d brought a $340 “audiophile grade” Ethernet cable, and I was ready to put it to the test with the assistance of the James Randi Educational Foundation in front of a live audience of several hundred people. The goal was to find out if (this) cable made any difference when you’re using it to connect a computer to a NAS on which music was stored. To all common sense and science, the answer was “no,” but that hasn’t stopped a certain subset of audiophiles from believing in them—and from other silliness like decrying the efficacy of the scientific method when it comes to audio testing.

JREF agreed to the proposed collaboration for several reasons. One is that the foundation regarded the claims being made—that the Ethernet cables can make a “plain as day” difference in audio quality—as pseudoscientific, and therefore worthy of testing. Also, one of the foundational principles of scientific skepticism is consumer protection; the JREF says that this is why it engages in debunking other similar pseudoscientific claims of homeopathy or of “power band” bracelets (a version of which the JREF has tested at past events).

But, what if an audience of skeptics—some of whom potentially might see the cable’s failure as a validation of the skeptical point of view—were themselves predisposed to believe they heard no difference?

This is a compelling article that not only addresses the (spoiler alert) fallacy of the $340 Ethernet cable, but also goes into interesting detail on the process and complexity of staging a fair testing environment for something like this.

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