Kettle Lead

January 9th, 2006 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, bad science, Hi-Fi | 78 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Saturday January 7, 2006
The Guardian

My new year resolution is to have more Johnny Ball home science experiment moments. Which brings me on to reader David Stafford. “Today, I received a catalogue from a UK hi fi company called Russ Andrews,” he begins. You can find their web site at www.russandrews.com. On the front page is a power cable that costs £29.95. “If anyone buys this,” he says, “they will need their heads examined.”

The American philosopher George Gale identifies two types of science: “cookbook science”, which works out, perhaps by trial and error, whether something does work; and “explanatory science”, which seeks to offer explanations and mechanisms for the observed generalisations of the cookbook stuff.

The “YellO Power” is indeed a 30 quid power cable, of the type that you might colloquially identify as a kettle lead. It’s about a metre long and has a 3 pin 240v plug. This is their claim for efficacy, verbatim: “Replacing the mains cable to any of your hi-fi or home cinema components means they perform better, giving you less distortion, clearer pictures, and more musicality, so that you enjoy your music and movies even more!”

So how do they reckon it works? “The key to the success of the Russ Andrews mains cables is the unique Kimber cable weave. The woven mains cable has been proven to dramatically reduce sound-degrading radio frequency interference on the mains supply and to reject further pick up of RFI.”

Let’s think about how electricity gets from the national grid to that wall socket, where you plug in the kettle lead that powers your stereo. It zooms along huge cables between big pylons (at very high voltages, because higher voltages can get down long lines with less waste) and then gets turned into 240v at your local substation. Then it travels a fairly long distance from the substation to your house before it comes through the metering stuff. Then the power has got to go up the stairs, around the walls and under the floor to the socket next to your stereo. All of these voyages are fabulous opportunities for the cable to act as an antenna, and pick up radio frequencies that could present themselves as noise in the final sound coming out of your speakers. The cable might stop the last metre or so from picking up radio noise, but if radio noise really is a problem, it will probably be there already, from the huge length of preceding cables. I can’t imagine how this expensive kettle lead is going to filter it out.

I’m told that Russ Andrews is away but that he will show me measured proof on his return. If I’m wrong I’ll eat my hat, but I am unaware of any published evidence that an expensive power cable can make your hi-fi sound better. If I’m correct, and such evidence does not exist, then what we have here is an important gap in the research literature. More important, possibly, than both a cure for malaria and a fix for global warming. So I have a challenge: if there is somebody out there, somebody who sells power cables for £30 perhaps, or who works for a hi-fi magazine, and they reckon they can tell the difference, significantly more consistently than would be expected by chance, in a robust, double blind, randomised trial, head to head, of these expensive power leads, up against a normal cheap-o kettle lead which I shall provide, then let them come forward.

James Randi has a million dollars on offer for anyone who can demonstrate empirical evidence for their incredible claims under laboratory conditions. If you can spot the difference here, under sitting room conditions, I’m offering you the glory, the warm glow that comes from contributing empirical data to the sum of human knowledge, and a free bogus PhD in the subject of your choice, as long as I can find one cheap enough. I’m absolutely serious and I’m itching to be proved wrong. Please send your bad science to bad.science@guardian.co.uk

(incidentally, i’m a bit surprised by the headline the paper gave this, i’m in a position of dubious open mindedness on this one with no hat eating to be done; and sorry for delay again in posting article on the blog, still away from computers, and this article seems to have generated about a million emails already…)


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78 Responses



  1. Fontwell said,

    January 13, 2006 at 6:48 pm

    John Hankinson –

    “…but of course a little bit of EQ should fix that. I’ve often wondered if cheaper speakers with a little bit of careful EQ could be made to sound like more expensive ones for a given situation.”

    Nice idea but I would tend to think not. I have played bass guitar for many years and one thing I discovered was that if you swap to a different speaker, say another brand, but keep everything else the same, no amount of ferkling with EQ can get you same sound. I do this swapping around because I have a big heavy speaker for gigs and a little one for carting around to friends houses but everything else is the same. I actually prefer the sound of the smaller one. But even at low volumes the big one always has what I would subjectively call a ‘metallic’ quality to it. If I try to cut out the higher frequencies (which I think cause this sound) it just turns into a muffled metallic sound.

    I daresay that a complex bit of Digital Signal Processing would be able to make two different speakers sound similar but that would probably be just as expensive as buying better speakers.

    As to the kettle lead, when I read the article it did occur to me that filtering out RF is probably not that hard to do in a lead, although the best place to do it (in a lead) might be in the lumpy bit at the end which plugs into the equipment and using normal components rather than in the ‘weave’. There also may be a slightly rational point to filtering out RF, because the modulation used by LW and AM radio stations basically works by modulating the RF amplitude at audio frequency – remember the entirely passive cat’s whisker style radio receiver that can pick up the World Service? – and this is best kept out of the power supply. Although, on second thoughts, the signal levels are so tiny I can’t imagine you would ever hear them, so ignore that bit.

    Let’s face it, even if it were possible and useful to make a WonderLead, this guy is selling kettle leads for £30 a shot and laughing all the way to Currys.

  2. JohnHankinson said,

    January 13, 2006 at 9:44 pm

    Fontwell – you’re probably right – but it does depend what sort of EQ you’re talking about. I also have a dark past playing the bass and often you’ve only got a 3-band or 5-band EQ or possibly a parametric EQ on a bass amp, not to mention a highly specialised low frequency range driver (try putting an oscillator through a bass driver and see what freq. its response drops off – its quite low for obvious reasons really – a larger cone as in your bigger unit will be worse than a smaller one for this). I’m not saying it would be possible, but i think with two sets of hi-fi speakers the right EQ and a lot time you could do a half decent job of matching them. Pure conjecture on my part though!

    Ben – the £1800 Valhalla power cable is the one ABX tested by the audiophiles in the link I posted above. Here it is again:

    www.hometheaterhifi.com/volume_11_4/feature-article-blind-test-power-cords-12-2004.html

    Note that they couldn’t detect a difference – although they rather backed away from making any firm conclusions from this.

    Lets be honest, this is basically these guys (and they are almost exclusively male) religion. Of course they’re defensive about it – if I believed anything that much I’d be defensive too!

  3. JohnHankinson said,

    January 13, 2006 at 11:27 pm

    Ben: RE: the hifiwigwam thread, I note that half the posts are from fairly skeptical regular posters to that forum. There is a definite split amongst the audiophiles between the cable believers and the unbelievers – as I said previously, I have always been intruiged by the fact that people I know to be rational about psychic powers, alternative medicine and the such like, have a bit of a weakness for audiophilia.

    The other point I’d make is that maybe you’d like to send them a link to your excellent article on the placebo effect and how we just don’t understand it. Some of the posters seem quite insulted by the idea that they could be deluding themselves with respect to the effect of these cables. I can’t help but feel they’re being a bit hard on themselves really.

    Something else that is interesting is where the people on the forum describe they’re using the power cables. Some in their amps, some in their CD players etc. I’m sorry, but when it comes to using a special power lead for a digital source like a CD player (assuming it is connected to the preamp using a digital link) is pure and utter bollocks.

  4. JohnHankinson said,

    January 13, 2006 at 11:54 pm

    Ben: just read the reply that James Palmer sent to your e-mail (I note he didn’t bother quoting the whole thing).

    I have some personal favourite quotes:

    “those of us that clearly hear a difference are fed up with scientists -that cannot satisfactorily explain the difference- telling us we are deluded.” – just like the moon landing conspiracists

    “It may be purely psychological, a great big placebo, but that would not explain why I[b], as a former sceptic[/b] like you, have recently invested in a silver power chord for my amp. Equally the “desire to believe effect” does not explain why there are times when I (and a friend of mine) both preferred a cheap kettle lead to an expensive chord. (This depended on the music played and the amp used).” – a complete misunderstanding of the nature of personal and group psychological pressures on perception I would suggest – you can’t sceptic-ise the placebo effect easily – that’s kind of the point.

    “as an intelligent (152 IQ for what it’s worth) adult” – oh dear – he also believes in IQ tests

    Ben – if I were you I’d back away from this one – you can’t win and although there is the whiff of Bad Science here for sure, its really not as dangerous as homeopathy, psychics, conspiracists and the so forth.

    (Sorry I’ve hijacked the comments – nothing from me for a while I promise).

  5. Frank said,

    January 14, 2006 at 10:41 am

    I am an electrical engineer with an additional training in technical acoustics. I used to measure that stuff – and laugh my ass of about all the snake oil claims.

    There are things you can measure, and there are things which don’t exist. Of the things you can measure many are not relevant at all, because the effects they cause are neglectable compared to other bigger issues. The snake oil sales men either claim that an irrelevant effect is not irrelevant, or they claim that there is a large grey zone between what you can measure and what doesn’t exist. And that their stuff is working in that grey zone of unmeasurable but allegedly existing things. The twilight zone, where the known laws of physics don’t apply or there are new laws of physics at work, unknown to the rest of mankind.

    The only thing is, when they claim that something is working, that claim is equivalent to that they claim there is an effect. An effect humans can recognize. So there should be something to measure (e.g. with a double-blind hearing test or good old instruments). But there is simply nothing. At least not when doing the measurement in a controlled environment. This is when the big lies start.

  6. JohnHankinson said,

    January 14, 2006 at 11:45 am

    Frank: Great post, succinctly put.

    “The twilight zone, where the known laws of physics don’t apply or there are new laws of physics at work, unknown to the rest of mankind.”

    This is the same domain that the energised water merchants, homeopaths, accupuncturists, spoon benders, psychics and other… ahem… *interesting* people live!

    If I hear “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” one more time I’ll run somebody down on my pink unicorn (go on, prove I haven’t got one!).

  7. JohnHankinson said,

    January 14, 2006 at 12:28 pm

    Sorry – forget everything sceptical I’ve posted up to now. This audiophile stuff is all quantum physics and UFO grade materials science…

    www.machinadynamica.com/machina64.htm

    How could I not have seen the light till now…?

  8. Delster said,

    January 17, 2006 at 11:40 am

    simple rules for good sound

    1. good speakers (i like Lynn myself)
    2. shielded speaker cable (no good getting rid of RFi at power stage if speaker cable picks it up!)
    3. Good amp
    4. Keep power cable away from speaker cable.
    5. don;’t spend $480 odd on a wooden volume knob!

  9. mishgosh said,

    January 19, 2006 at 2:07 pm

    I was wondering…in, say, medicine, if you had a tiny effect (as I believe aspirin prophylaxis in reducing heart attacks/strokes was), you can just do a gigantic study and it will show up.

    If, say, a bit of hi-fi kit had a minor effect, that was below the threshold of human perception, then no matter how big the study, you wouldn’t ever see it.

    But…little baby steps make big strides, if you add them up.

    Yes, a certain capacitor here, an up-rated DAC there…you could swap them individually and not notice the difference, perhaps, but if they were all swapped for rubbish, it would fall within the threshold, and get picked up by a human ABX test.

    And it is also true that a spectral analyser doesn’t “hear” any more than a computer “thinks”. How can you look at a frequency plot and decide what is better? What is better? It’s a personal preference, isn’t it? The idea that you want the stereo to make the same noise as the artists comitted to vinyl/CD is on a hiding to nothing, unless you listened to it on the same equipment they did. Oh, and borrowed their ears and brain…

    So, erm, what to do? Small improvements matter, because enough small improvements lead to an audible one. But you can’t ABX the small improvements. Damn. Best spend your money on something else then.

    Oh, and my vote- I’d have to see this cable to pass judgement on it, but what they said doesn’t sound convincing. Ethernet cables have a specific twist rate to the different pairs of wires, but then that’s to reduce cross-talk, not to attenuate RF, so it doesn’t apply. I agree you *could* make a mains lead that would make a difference, but I think it would show the difference more prominently on *cheap* equipment, where they had skimped on the filtering.

    PS, yes yes, I know I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I wanted to join in anyway.

  10. Andy said,

    January 19, 2006 at 5:55 pm

    Delster,

    Shielded speaker cables should only matter if your speaker cable is running next to other noisy cables or if you are in an electrically very noisy enviroment. Generally the amount of energy picked up on a cable is very low, far less than your amp is putting out and so not noticable.
    The areas where shielding is important are the outputs from the playback devices to the amplifier, any noise picked up at that point will also be amplified. Also unlike the mains input there are limits to the filtering that can be used on those inputs without having a negative impact on the sound quality. Fortunatly those cables are always shielded even on cheap systems.

  11. TickledPink said,

    January 21, 2006 at 9:04 pm

    Lots about price and specifications – but what about age (of cables, not ears), or efficiency of phono plug connections perhaps?
    Seem to have improvement from CD/amp interconnects (retail c. £90) but they were new replacing a £20 pair a few years old. I got them thrown in as a sweetener so not much of a placebo effect, although I did have to put in the effort of fitting them. (Yes, I did get used to the new bits for a month before changing the cables.)

    MAIN POINT: respected hifi manufacturer scores speakers 100 to electronics 10 to cables 0.1 (!!) – and includes article on kettle leads. Worth reading, as quite thorough (experiments include tea from Fortnums and Tetley):

    www.avihifi.co.uk/Important/Important.html

    On that 100 to .1 scale, what do layout and furnishings score?

  12. David Knell said,

    February 4, 2006 at 7:07 am

    I bought one of these £30 kettle leads, and it’s vividly enhanced the depth of the warmth of my tea with an extraordinary effect on the clarity of separation of perception of colour and feel along with a surprising shift in balance from the lows to the highs.

    Or maybe that’s the mushrooms.

    Dave

  13. Enough with the speculations! said,

    February 4, 2006 at 1:58 pm

    @JohnHankinson: Sound frequencies beyond the range of normal human hearing, although cannot directly be heard, DO affect the frequencies that can be heard and can also be picked up through different senses. It isn’t unreasonable to think that these sounds may affect how music is percieved.

  14. serial catowner said,

    February 4, 2006 at 2:52 pm

    Unbelievable. When the mains power goes into your set, it goes to the “power supply” which converts it to the type of power used by the set. Whatever comes out the other side here will depend entirely on the quality of the “power supply” (normally it drops the voltage).

    If you could affect other people’s power by beaming radio waves at a transmission line, high school boys would do it as a prank and other people would use it as a weapon. Doesn’t happen.

    At one time I was designing a house and became quite interested in this. Basically, you have to design the room to fit the sound source, the room ideally has no windows or very small windows symmetrically distributed, exterior ambient noise is not admitted, the room is panelled in wood that, like Goldilock’s porridge, is not too hard and not too soft, and finally, after all is completed, the finest ears must fine-tune the room with the odd bit of carpet to soak up unwanted echoes and reverbations.

    It’s an interesting subject, but one in which the power lead plays no part.

  15. serial catowner said,

    February 4, 2006 at 3:01 pm

    Incidentally, I finally decided that the surest and easist path to hearing the fine tones of the violin was to learn to play one myself. So I did.

  16. mardler said,

    April 10, 2006 at 7:09 pm

    I have just stumbled upon this thread (and the other one) whilst looking for something else and haven’t laughed so much for years. Or been so annoyed or so insulted.

    What a bunch of ignorant, closed minded, people!

    Let me explain:-

    I am a crusty old fart who just happens to enjoy music; we go to as many live gigs and concerts as we can. Our love of music lead us to build a fairly good main sound system plus we also have a ghetto blaster in the dining room, various portable radios and two guitar amplification systems.

    As a kid, I also built radios and amplifiers, so learned a lot of theory much of which I have kept up to date.

    So. Mains leads, eh? I’ll return to them but what has amazed me is the way in which virtually all contributors have rubbished people who buy hi-fi. Now, I agree that there is a lunatic fringe and frankly, I wonder if some of them may be bonkers – but I haven’t heard their systems, so I shan’t say that they are until I do, unlike you people here.

    Then, there are the so-called “experts”, one especially, a John Hankinson. Very funny, JH, albeit unwittingly. Damned rude, too. He rails against all things hi-fi or audio, even insulting me by assuming that I am also into crackpot pseudo science such as crystals etc. What is galling is that he has demonstrated a quite unacceptable lack of understanding of audio and (some of) the accompanying physics. If you don’t understand a topic, don’t criticise it. I won’t go into detail but JH illuminated his fundamental lack of understanding when talking about LP v. CD and the stuff that happens to enable proper LP replay.

    His suggestion that because some relation worked in or around the electronics business, he therefore has the ultimate knowledge about what he believes to be true is as laughable as the studio people who say that they get along with this or that ancient , or cheap, equipment because they can’t tell the difference. Well, pay attention – some people can! Obviously, you aren’t aware of studios that HAVE adopted audiophile standards and the stunning results they have achieved but then you wouldn’t want to because it would threaten, if not destroy, your belief system.

    To basics.

    In the 70s, a turntable and later, amplifier, manufacturer came along who postulated the idea, which sensible people already knew (but the then hi-fi establishment refused to admit) that different, properly designed, amplifiers, for instance, sounded different. Heresy! Today, it is accepted by all bar an outmoded “objectivist only” minority that preamps, power amps, interconnects, pickups, CD players et al, can and do, sound different.

    Yet, right up to his death, Peter Walker of QUAD (whose 44/404 amp sounded absolutely dreadful, for rational, circuit design, reasons) steadfastly refused to believe that this was true. His dictum was “if I can’t measure it, it does not exist”. Pure baloney that the scientists among us scoffed at. A scientist, presented with phenomena that he cannot (presently) measure, will do his darndest to find ways to measure the effects. The upshot of this ostrich like belief is that QUAD products failed to keep pace with sonic development, sales fell and the company is now foreign owned. Shades of the British motor industry.

    Sonic improvement is precisely what happened. Designers improved measuring (and listening) capabilities and sure enough many hitherto unknown, or unsuspected, distortion artefacts were recognised and understood. Amplifier design is a complicated science with not a little art and the market today, at the higher end, is served well.

    Far from the audiophile being ostrich-like, it is everyone who has posted here rubbishing a subject they patently don’t understand who are the ignorant, inward looking, flat earth, crystal and homeopathy wannabees.

    Wake up, listen and understand.

    Just to make you even more upset, I have conducted blind tests ABX style, if not double blind. Four integrated amps were used, 3 from the same stable (of which two were the SAME model) and another. I was able to identify each within 30 seconds of an LP track with 100% accuracy, over a number of weekends – this because my friends (who achieved roughly 50 – 75% accuracy) couldn’t believe it. A few could hear absolutely no difference at all and that is fine, too: I didn’t criticise them for having cloth ears..

    I took my present amp to a dealer about 5 years ago, thinking I might upgrade it. No way. The 1980 amp blew away the new (and very expensive) pair that we listened to on all counts; yes, stereo staging, bass depth, mid clarity and clean but extended treble (all the hi-fi descriptors you guys hate) but mainly a sense of accuracy and “being there”. During this demo., the manager was in the shop not the demo room but came rushing into the room when my amp was first played saying, “What on earth is that? It’s superb!”. All amps, of course, sound the same…

    Now you’ll really get wound up. Every few months I clean all of the system’s connections: interconnects, speaker cable ends and wait for it….. the mains plug pins and fuse!!! The difference in sound is remarkable. Once, whilst my wife was out (and not having told her) I did the “spring clean” and on her return was playing a CD. She put her head round the door & said, “You’ve cleaned the cables, haven’t you?”. But cables make no difference….

    Cable directionality. Bullshit you all say and so did I and quite honestly I can’t hear any difference. What is intriguing though (and this will anoy you even more) is that not only have designers now understood this phenomenom but it can be measured and explained in not too difficult terms. So, a scientific explanation but I still can’t hear it! The difference is this – if one of you said that you could hear it, I would accept that at face value not belittle you.

    By your dogma all cables sound the same, amps sound the same and solid state must always sound the same . Well, how do you explain a new CD player that on installation sounded excruciatingly bad, to the point that my wife came into the room and said she reckoned we’d been had. I was so appalled I called the dealer next day. He assured me that it was normal and explained what in his experience I was hearing – spot on! All those nasty hi-fi words like “hard”, “glassy” and “muddy” – they were perfect descriptors of the sound. I was assured that after a few hundred hours burn-in, the sound would improve and this proved so, in spades. Of course this cannot happen and you lot will now rampage on this thread telling me what a fool I am.

    So, if you do not understand the terminology of others DON’T rubbish it, try to understand it, you may just learn something to your benefit.

    Furthermore, please understand that I (and others) can hear these differences very clearly. If you can’t, or will not, it isn’t a problem unless you rubbish those who can hear such things.

    What has really annoyed me about these two threads is the Luddite approach to anything that you don’t understand, from the self confessed ignorami to those masquerading as having expert knowledge (but whose writing confirms their ignorance) you have done rational debate a huge disservice but obviously rationality isn’t within your ambit.

    And now to the $64,000 question: do I think expensive mains cables work? I haven’t a clue because I don’t possess one. The joke is that, apart from just possibly inner city locations, I am very, very, sceptical about them. In fact, I seriously doubt their efficacy and am concerned about those who sell such things as Valhalla being charlatans as most of you think. However, where I differ from those “who know they’re right” is that, until I have heard these cables for myself, I shall remain sceptical but I shall NOT say that they do not or cannot work. There are perfectly rational scientific reasons why, in some conditions, they may work along with mains conditioners and regenerators (but I won’t go there!).

    Finally, my biggest disappointment was to be insulted by the pseud JH for being a music lover and hi-fi buyer which makes me, according to him, a follower of the hoaxers, charlatans and idiots who peddle crystal therapies and the like. I came to this site because I was searching for the lowdown on the utterly dangerous Harry Oldfield and here, got lumped in with him!!! I’d demand an apology but I know it won’t be forthcoming from such biased and unpleasant people.

    I now expect to be removed from this board for having the temerity to suggest that you adopt reasoned debate, sound judgement, a modicum of knowledge and that you do not rubbish or insult others when, clearly, you haven’t a clue what you are talking about.

    Grow up!

  17. Karl’s Asylum » Blog Archive » Oh good lord… said,

    May 15, 2006 at 12:26 pm

    […] […]

  18. SciencePunk » Blog Archive » Machina Dynamica’s Brilliant Pebbles said,

    October 6, 2006 at 3:27 pm

    […] In other words, Brilliant Pebbles work best when you’re the type of chump who just spent £5000 on a hi-fi, $199 on a clock, £500 on a crocodile clip, £30 on a power cable, and would gladly pay £10 for a punch in the face if you were told it would make your stereo sound better. […]

  19. chris@ca1 said,

    May 21, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    Now hear my first ever blog……..if you want to know if the expensive after market cables work then all you need to is apply the same logic with all expensive aftermarket kit……….look at the financial accounts of the manufacturers and distributors. We live in a capatilist world. Most ( not all) of the people spending upwards of say £10,000 on CD players etc do so with one important consideration….they can afford to do so. It is a fair assumption that they arrived at this position by not being too stupid or influenced by advertisng etc etc…ie they have a mind of their own. So the manufactuer and distributor has to convience these people to part with say £30 to £150 for a power lead.If they fail to do so they will stop making the product.They obviously succeeded in conviencing enough people to buy them.
    Those of you that argue all of these people are stupid enough to be swayed by HiFi media hype into wasting money on a pointless cable upgrade are just jealous that they are not in a position to do so. So lets try to knock it all by using some science….which not all can agree on any way.As regards all the sound tests etc etc….you might as well have a sound test to decide whether the lastest “Busks Fizz” album is better than the first Beatles album……it is a matter of opinion…….for me neither …….I’m listening to Madeleine Peyroux using an expensive after market cable connecting the CD plyer to the amp…….do you think I care if somebody else thinks it was a waste of money??????…..some of us talk and some of us do!!!!!!!!

  20. Nick Grant said,

    June 28, 2007 at 8:40 am

    I posted this comment on the Voodo Hi Fi thread months ago but it remains the last comment so I’m re posting here as I don’t think anyone else has made the same point:

    ‘Have really enjoyed skimming through this and following up some links but didn’t spot any mention of Backmasking which gives a very very powerful demonstration of the power of suggestion over what we hear. Good way to prove that the Voodoo people are right, blind listening doesnt work!!! You need to know what you will hear then it works.
    jeffmilner.com/backmasking.htm
    Is a good start and you can make your own experiments in minutes without expensive leads etc just by playing tracks backwards to people with and without the words showing. Stairway to Heaven backwards is the classic! I saw Simon Singh do this at Hay Festival. Played it backwards, asked if anyone could hear anything, no, anyone hear the word Satan? Couple of hands in big audience went up. Then played it again with words on the screen, wow! Just try it.
    Most web threads argue whether it was Led Zep or the Devil himself that did this, given the limited technology at the time :-) . One lecturer at Leeds (from memory) tried it on his students but with different words.
    I have tried it on an opera singer and ‘tone deaf ‘ people with 100% result, no stats analysis needed with this experiment.
    My suggestion is that Hi-Fi shops should have a sign saying ‘this sounds great’ visible when demonstrating expensive kettle leads and oxygen free sexed cables, or they could do as now and just tell people….
    Problem I have is I want to buy a new amp and speakers, how do I avoid self and salesperson deception.

    This doesn’t prove kettle leads are bullocks but it is pretty conclusive evidence of the need for blind testing for those who still believe they can be objective.

    BTW there is a difference between subjectivity, such as liking ABBA and suggestion, hearing a kettle sing Waterloo.

    So in response to last poster, go do, check out Stairway to Heaven!

  21. John hififan said,

    September 6, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Music is one of the great pleasures in life, everyone listens to it in one form or another. From the first caveman beating a log, to music in the space station. People play music and dance to music, its enjoyable. So in your life of what 80 years, how much resource are you going to devote to music? £50 £500 maybe £15000. How much resource have you devoted to your car, your watch, your stamp collection? My point is that music is worth a lot and a £30 punt on a cable isn’t a big deal when it could(will) improve your life.

    Anyway back to the subject, I do have these cables and I can hear a difference and it was worth the risk. In short you owe it to yourself to at least give it a go. One thing Russ Andrews does offer is a money back guarantee if you don’t think it makes a difference.
    Quite appart from RFI, the cables are actually rated at 13 amps, and will carry more. The bog standard freebie cables are mosty 5amps if your lucky. Now before anyone says music doesnt require more than 5amps, it takes a lot of power to really grip a speaker cone of any size, it may just be for a microsecond but I bet you could hear that. Anything less and all the transients are being averaged out. Most people can tell the difference between a tinny radio sound and a live concert. On the subject of RFI, how good is your earth connection, if there’s a slight resistance there, maybe 1 ohm, all your mains cables will be picking up RFI quite nicely, your amp will be poluted by it, and it will get into the feedback circuits to your amp, ok its rfi and you can’t hear it, but your speakers and crossover circuits are being corrupted by it and that could impact what you hear. Ok a lot of vague terminology above.

    If you dont listen to music much have you thought that it may be because its had the life, rythm, timing etc removed from it by RFI, and it distorts which is the thing that makes you grimace and turn it down. Spend some real money on hifi and maybe even try the cable, you might find suddenly you start to enjoy music from your hifi again and I hope you do.

  22. clothear said,

    October 9, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    I don’t know if I am around two years late to make a comment,but I’d like to ask John Hankinson a simple question.If you need a double blind ABX test to tell the diference between a good huge speaker and a good miniature speaker,then it is certain that you’ll never be able to tell any diferences between cables,power,interconnect or speaker cable.If cables,amps,cartridges,cd players etc…. make no diference,then why LP’s,cd’s sound sometimes good and other times not so good?If my smelling as a smoker is not good(and that is true)it doesn’t mean that my house is not on fire just because I can’t smell the smoke.Are we sure that our hearing is in peak condition?A friend of mine,agreed with my comments on the diference between power cables after he had his ears cleaned :-)

  23. Kit Homes - Why Choose Vinyl Deck Railing? - The Blog Planet said,

    July 15, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    […] Kettle Lead – Bad Science […]

  24. marktheharp said,

    October 30, 2009 at 10:56 am

    @clothear comment 74

    A year after yours! Just wondering if you understood John Hankinson’s comment or read it properly, but I don’t think you did. What he was saying was that his father tested two different AMPLIFIERS – they were all driving the same model of loudspeaker. People couldn’t tell the difference between the sound produced by the speakers whether they were driven by the expensive or the cheaper amplifiers – they were the same speakers both times!

  25. RationalAtheist said,

    December 15, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    I am an electronics engineer, and I have had a few debates similar to this over the years with various peddlers of snake-oil magic cables – I see it as a kind of fun sport to see just how much ridiculous nonsense I can make them say.

    I blame education. Science should be compulsory, and maybe then these companies would be able to fool so many people.

    I have a theory of my own regarding why some people might think that magic cables make a difference. What if the mere fact that someone has paid an obscene amount of money for a cable is enough to stimulate certain pleasure hormones in the brain, which increase the listening pleasure. A study could easily be devised using identical cables that are perceived to have a cost difference.

    Another factor is that if you were stupid enough to pay this sort of cash for a cable, then you are very likely to perpetuate the myth in order to not admit being so stupid.

    Yet another factor is that you boast to all you friends that paid ££stupidamount for a cable so that they might think you were wealthy and a serious hi-fi nut – assuming that they too were stupid enough to not realise its a big hoax.

  26. 58bry said,

    October 31, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    Some fellow on a Hi Fi blog was going on about the marvels of a £500 quid kettle lead. I asked him if he’d thought of having a Pylon and substation in his Garden with transformers made of solid 99.9% silver cable.

  27. peter rauchenberg said,

    November 9, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    This is for Ben Goldacre,I am happy to bet £200 that if you come and listen you shall notice a major difference between my admittedly expensive mains cabling and kettle cable or for that matter Russ Andrews’s cheap one,
    I accept fully that there is a very limited logical justification,but I am amazed that you are stating your claim without clearly having tried a subjective test of your belief.
    It is very easy and easily blind tested.
    There are many expensive and in terms of basic physics irrational Hifi items,those that are clearly invalid and ineffective do not survive more than few months.
    As a psychiatrist I am well aware of placebo,halo,suggestion etc.
    However you and I know that to organize blind testing of quality of reproduction of a piece of music is not particularly difficult.
    I stand by my bet,I live in Coventry any time you are willing to put your belief on the line.

  28. phil capes said,

    February 19, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Does one of these cables make the kettle sound better as well?
    I have to confess;-) to making use of these leads. In a back to back listen some of them have made the system sound terrible, others don’t sound much different from the one that comes with the CD or amp, and others provide various degrees of audible improvement.
    They are all expensive – some outrageously so – for what they are. However some retailers do offer a money-back guarantees and home demos so you need not end up lumbered with a duff product.
    When all comes to all the only people that these things have to impress is the purchaser end user. It may well be that that the bits of kit and wire that I choose to use won’t prompt every passer-by to heap praise on the quality of sound. But then life isn’t a competition (is it?) and whose stuff you buy is a personal decision.