I'm not big into voodoo. Forgive me. With music gear, I like to be able to see the reasoning and scientific explanation of an audio process or device, and I don't think I'm alone.
Check out Reddit's audiophile community to see the extreme of this stance. Those guys and girls represent the new generational approach to purchasing: The posters are very skeptical of claims that expensive power cables make a difference or that the quality of circuitry of a DAC (digital-to-analog converter) has an effect on the resulting sound. With digital music, "bits are bits," they say, implying that what you receive is an exact replica of what was sent.
Like I said, I'm not a voodoo practitioner, but I do have a problem with their stance. See, I've actually heard a difference between power cables and DACs. Especially DACs. And there's a lot of good science and reasoning behind it. When I dig down, much of what I read on Reddit is the blind leading the blind.
While we're here, why would 6 feet of power cable from the wall to your gear make a difference to the electricity that traveled many miles to get to your home? For one thing, it has to do with the environment in which we live, and the fact that the power cable creates an antenna for electromagnetic interference (EMI) or radio frequency interference to enter the amplifier and thus the signal. Shielding and arrangement of conductors can block or cancel out this added noise very effectively.
And why do I believe strongly in the quality differences among DACs? Again, it's because I've heard it — many times. As they say in the audio business, the best computer for audio analysis is the one between your ears.
What these Redditors should seek out is access to lots of equipment. What they really need is to live here in Boulder, because we're lucky enough to be a stone's throw from the biggest annual consumer high-end audio trade show in the country, and it happens to be coming up next month.
Here for its 12th year, Rocky Mountain Audio Fest will go on in Denver at the DTC Marriott from Oct. 7 through 9.
Let me set the scene a little bit. Upon entering, you hear all kinds of music around you and see many booths and tables sporting state-of-the art speakers and equipment, and that's just the lobby. Venture left into the back of the first floor and you'll witness a mini festival within the festival, called CanJam. It's a true Mecca for portable music playback — every good headphone made in the last 10 years is there for your review, for example. Retreat back to the main audio fest, and you'll want to visit every room on every floor to see this flamboyant horn system from Denmark or that electrostatic headphone amplifier from Japan. You'll realize you need all three days to see and hear everything.
Go inform your inner skeptic next month. It's a unique opportunity we have, and it's here for just a fleeting three days per year.