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Potential Audioquest Rigged HDMI Demo Exposed

by February 01, 2016
Contributors:
AudioQuest employee David Ellington appeared in the demo video.

AudioQuest employee David Ellington appeared in the demo video.

Audiophile drama is unfolding as an Audioquest HDMI cable demo, featuring an Audioquest employee, and showing unrealistic changes in sound, was seemingly debunked as fraudulent by Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, in a recent blog post.  A subsequent "Open Letter" from Audioquest owner William Low admitted he heard the video a year ago, found the audio difference "unbelievable", but did not ask to have the video removed until after Mark Waldrep published his findings a year later.  If the audio was manipulated to show a difference where there was none in the hopes misrepresenting the actual difference and selling more cables, this is fraud.  Is this an isolated incident, or just the latest in a string of misleading behavior perpetuated in the high-end cable industry?

Before reading the article, we recommend watching our recently added YouTube Video discussion on Audioquest and other questionable demo practices we've experienced.

 Potential Audioquest Rigged HDMI Demo YouTube Video Discussion

Summary of Events

Let's start with a summary of events.  Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, is the company founder and Chief Engineer of AIX Records and one of the leading advocates for true HD-Audio.  He recently came across a YouTube video, hosted by Home Entertainment by D-Tronics and featuring AudioQuest Regional Sales Manager David Ellington, which purported to show the audible difference of replacing a generic HDMI cable with AudioQuest Pearl, Forest, and Chocolate HDMI cables by playing a sound clip recorded through each cable.  Mark measured the sound clips from the YouTube video, which you can see in his blog post.

The measurements were subsequently confirmed by user "amirm" in this forum post.

Each successive AudioQuest cable was louder by several dB and toned-shaped in a way that simply couldn't have come from switching cables alone, implying purposeful manipulation with the intent of convincing customers to buy a cable that did not do what it was advertised to do.

While we saw the video several days ago, we can't link it for you as it was removed once this story started picking up steam.  AudioQuest claims that they do not have a copy.  Mark Waldrep claims that he does have a copy, and will be willing to provide it to AudioQuest if they are unable to secure a copy from D-Tronics.

Editorial Note About HDMI

It's important to note that HDMI cables transmit digital signals, NOT an analog waveform.  This means the cable either works or doesn't.  There is NO scientific proof that an HDMI cable can alter the sound of the signal being transmitted.  Good cables pass the entire signal uneventful.  Bad cables will either cause an interruption in audio (aka. audio drop out, or a snowy picture).  We covered this in great detail in our detailed article: The Truth vs Hype in HDMI Cables and related YouTube Video embedded within the article.  As a result, we place very little credibility in manufacturers that claim otherwise and you should as well if your goal is pursuing the truth in audio and video NOT deceptive marketing practices.

unless an HDMI cable is damaged there will be NO audible  difference

Our Perspective

To our knowledge, no one has ever produced test results showing measured, audible results coming from different HDMI cables, or any digital cable, for that matter.  The position here at Audioholics on digital cables is clear; from a performance perspective, unless the cable is damaged or otherwise failing, there will be no audible or visual difference.  When there is damage or the cable is otherwise failing, the results are not subtle and can be clearly shown as we did in this video (check the 0:40 mark).

We have to agree with Mark's assessment; the results in the AudioQuest/D-Tronics video could only have been attained by fraudulently manipulating the recording or process.  The question is, who committed the fraud?

Audioquest HDMI levels vs frequency

Figure 1 – The spectra of the tune played in the AudioQuest promotional video on YouTube courtesy of realhd-audio.com

Note: it's impossible for an HDMI cable alone to cause a level shift in signal.

AudioQuest Chocolate HDMIAudioQuest Owner William Low has responded with an open letter published on their facebook page.  In the letter, he acknowledges that, approximately a year ago, he heard the the "unbelievable" video, but was assured that it was legitimate by D-Tronics, and subsequently, did not ask to have the video removed until after Mark Waldrep published his findings a year later.  In his letter, William Low squarely points the finger at D-Tronics for manipulating the audio. 

William Low has also made subsequent posts in the comments section on a Stereophile page republishing the open letter under the username "WELquest".  He acknowledges that the advertising is fraudulent, but re-asserts, "neither David nor AudioQuest had any part in the decision to make a video, or in the production of the video."  He also states that, "because in person, the cable differences are subjectively obvious, the very surprising video, while seeming dubious, did not seem completely implausible."  Again, the audio clips in the video had differences of 8dB between the generic and "Chocolate" cables between 4kHz-17kHz according to Mark Weldrep's measurements.  Again we must reiterate an HDMI cable alone CANNOT be responsible for a level difference!

The Home Entertainment by D-Tronics store have not responded.  It remains to be seen whether they will deny the manipulation and stick to their claim that the sound differences were due to cable switching alone, whether they will point the finger back at AudioQuest and claim the AudioQuest was aware of the manipulation, or take the blame on entirely themselves.  Or, as their lawyers are likely advising them, they'll just NOT address the issue at all and hope it goes away.

AudioQuest has a long history of using psychological trickery in their demos.  We've documented these practices in their Boombox Demo, shed light on their questionable science, and given them ample room on our website to make their argument for trusting your ears over test equipment.  That said, going beyond simple bias and suggestion to the point of actually manipulating demos to give the preferred results is not something we've seen AudioQuest do before, and if we had, we certainly would have told you in our pursuit of truth in Audio and Video. 

Conclusion

Audioquest DBS System

From where we sit, denial letter or not, things don't look good for AudioQuest given their history of demo trickery and pseudo-science.  Let's not forget, this is the same company that slaps a battery on the dieletric of their premium cables as some newfound science that allegedly transforms the audio experience.  If Home Entertainment by D-Tronics takes the blame, and AudioQuest is vindicated in the case of this fraudulent video, we hope that they change their marketing practices going forward, quit relying on deceptive demos, and focus on making good quality products that back up their price tags with real, not imagined, performance that can be backed up with real-world tests.   Pretty looking, expensive cables may have their place for those that love audio jewelry and want to dress up their system. But, in this day and age, psuedoscience should not be the primary driving force to sell the products to the uninitiated.

Tell us what you think about this situation in our forum and vote in our poll whether Audioquest or D-Tronics is to blame for these cable shenanigans.

Also, feel free to give Audioquest Direct Feedback about this situation on their Facebook page.

 

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About the author:

Marshall is an Educator by trade, and currently lives in Oregon. He was lucky enough to grow up in a musical household, and though the AV equipment wasn't the greatest, it was always on. His dad introduced him to Queen, Paul Simon, and Sgt. Pepper's, and his mom played Lionel Richie and Disney Soundtracks. When Marshall was 14, his uncle passed down a pair of JBL towers and Marshall finally had his own system. Having enjoyed podcasting and video production over the past 10 years, Marshall is happy to be contributing at Audioholics.

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Recent Forum Posts:

William Lemmerhirt posts on April 20, 2019 10:03
highfigh, post: 1312202, member: 36433
I have a paper strip printer with a slot in the back of my head, for data.
highfigh posts on April 20, 2019 08:30
William Lemmerhirt, post: 1312178, member: 81215
Lmfao!!! Objective listening tests…
Sure. I’m objectively subjective.

I have a paper strip printer with a slot in the back of my head, for data.
William Lemmerhirt posts on April 19, 2019 23:30
highfigh, post: 1311613, member: 36433
With this as the first statement on their site, yes

“Wireworld Cable Technology was founded with the unique mission of perfecting audio cables through objective listening tests.”

There's no such thing as an ‘objective’ listening test'.

Lmfao!!! Objective listening tests…
Sure. I’m objectively subjective.
highfigh posts on April 18, 2019 08:29
yodog, post: 1311468, member: 88453
Do you guys think Wireworld cables are a similar type of snake oil BS like Audioquest cables are?

With this as the first statement on their site, yes

“Wireworld Cable Technology was founded with the unique mission of perfecting audio cables through objective listening tests.”

There's no such thing as an ‘objective’ listening test'.
lovinthehd posts on April 17, 2019 14:50
yodog, post: 1311468, member: 88453
Do you guys think Wireworld cables are a similar type of snake oil BS like Audioquest cables are?

Most definitely, and from what I can glean David Salz is a believer himself. I had a brief conversation with him once over a Customs drawback documentation issue he was having (our firm did some exporting of his and other products to an audiophool supplier in Russia and he was applying for refunds on duties paid on importation of wire from China).
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