Posts Tagged ‘Snake oil’

Machina Dynamica : audiophools or master trolls?

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

In my first entry, I mentioned that among the more ridiculous hi-fi products are “bags of magic rocks that enhance your system’s sound”. These special stones are Brilliant Pebbles, one of the fine products offered by Machina Dynamica, a company with an infamous reputation in the online audiophile community. They specialize in intensely dubious “tweaks” backed by incomprehensible pseudoscience, such as a chip that upgrades the sound of CDs with the power of quantum physics, a Casio clock radio that affects A/V equipment through the aether, and my personal favorite, the “teleportation tweak”, where you pay sixty bucks to call MD up and have them play a 20 second series of “sharp, mechanical pulses” over the phone (your gear doesn’t even need to be on, but it helps!).

Anyone with a functioning brain stem would naturally be skeptical of these extraordinary claims, so we might go ahead and assume this is all one big troll; a jab at some of the more bizarre thing audiophiles really do to their system (like cable elevators or cryogenically treated speaker wire ). The Machina Dynamica website doesn’t make it easy to actually to purchase their products; you must manually enter the item and price into a PayPal form. Additionally, the product descriptions are full of  absurd technobabble and the site’s proprietor lists his credentials as:

Education: Aerospace Engineering (theoretical fluid dynamics, propulsion, statistical thermodynamics, nuclear physics, indeterminate structures). Undergrad thesis: Design of propulsion system for interplanetary travel utilizing momentum transfer mechanisms in highly magnetic metal crystal bombarded by high-energy ions. Work experience: NASA satellite operations & radar data analysis; aerodynamics of high-performance aircraft; reentry vehicle dynamics; radio and satellite communications; spread spectrum communications. He incorporated Machina Dynamica in 1998.

An hilarious troll, right? Maybe not. This guy actually sells this stuff, and people buy it. Hi-fi sites have reviewed the products and his Audiogon profile is full of positive feedback. If this is a joke, this guy is laughing en route to the bank.

Someday (when I have the cash to waste and I am drunk enough to make it seem like a good idea) I just might buy those Brilliant Pebbles and test the power of the placebo effect. If I spent over 100 dollars on a jar of aquarium gravel , you better believe I’m gonna delude myself into hearing an improvement. If I like them, maybe i’ll get a rock tumbler and start my own tweak business.

An introduction

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

I guess it’s appropriate for my first ever blog post to explain what this thing is all about. I created this site with the idea of promoting hi-fi audio as something anyone can afford and enjoy. Hence the tongue-in-cheek name “hi-fi hipster”, as i’ll cover equipment that one could afford with, say, their trust fund money or Starbucks paychecks (i’m half-kidding here).

Too often hi-fi and the audiophile world is ridiculed as the anal-retentive hobby of aging white males with too much money. People scoff, and with good reason, at turntables that cost more than a Mercedes E-Class, $485 volume knobs, and bags of magic rocks that enhance your system’s sound..somehow. How could these possibly be better, they say? Isn’t an iPod good enough?

Indeed, most of this stuff can be chalked up to placebo effect, conspicuous consumption, confirmation bias, and “the rule of cool” (and these are all topics that i’ll cover in future posts). But in a world where people are mostly content with listening to their music through the medium of 96kbit/s MP3s ripped from overcompressed CDs, good 2-channel stereo sound is a sadly dying art. This is why I decided to make this blog; to prove that enjoyable sound can be had for a reasonable price.

This blog is also a learning journey for myself, as I only got into hi-fi about 5 years ago. My current system is modest and my LP collection remains fairly small. I plan to document any changes to to my equipment I make, as well as reviewing new recordings that I get (as well as old favorites). I think this will present an unique perspective, as I’m not a seasoned audiophile like professional reviewers, who have listened to millions of dollars worth of high end equipment.

And since I haven’t been at this for very long, I make no claims of being an expert. At this point, I could barely tell you what a decibel or signal-to-noise ratio is. But I have learned a few things, and I can give recommendations appropriate for anyone getting into this hobby. If you take exception to anything I post, feel free to leave a comment, so I can learn, and so others may too.