Volume VII Number 1
A Cable manufacturer making and selling a device with which to aid you in doing double-blind testing....to hear a difference in cables? Wouldn't this put them out of business? Not if they sell the box for almost $500 with less than $100 in parts! And not if they don't bother to explain how to setup a proper double-blind test!
WireWorld is a company in Ft. Lauderdale, FL that manufactures and sells speaker cables and interconnects via a dealer network. I normally wouldn't get too involved with a cable company but over a period of several years WireWorld advertising has caught my attention. Specifically, the following blurb included in WireWorld's ads for a device called the "Comparator." To wit: Is there any difference at all between interconnect cables? Obviously. Can the value of cables be proven under double-blind test conditions? Certainly. The WireWorld interconnect Comparator is an audiophile-grade switching device which facilitates comparisons between two pairs of interconnects or between one pair of cables and a reference bypass.
Being curious I ordered and tested the claims made for the Comparator. My original review was five pages long (and still growing) when I realized it was becoming a scientific paper, not a source of information for the audiophile consumer. What follows is a short and concise evaluation of the Comparator.
The unit sells for $450. That's what I paid, folks. Only the cable cult reviewers get these things on loan! It's construction, internal circuitry, and parts would indicate to me that it costs less than $100 to build. Three SWITCHCRAFT four pole/double throw (4P2T) slide switches are part of the circuitry. These particular switches priced out in the NEWARK parts catalog at $3.00 each and are inexpensive run-of-the-mill switches with brass contacts. Twelve gold plated RCA jacks are mounted to a ruggedly built metal box. Why gold-plated high-quality RCA jacks, excellent build for the box, and cheap slide switches? Perhaps because the slide switches are hidden inside the box! Oh, a smattering of small gauge wire and soldered connections completes the internal circuitry.
The claim for double-blind testing is an overstatement. A single-blind test could be performed using the Comparator, but before you take this as an endorsement please read on. A surgeon uses a scalpel to perform a brain operation. A cable/interconnect worshipper has a scalpel. Possessing a scalpel qualifies the cable cultist to perform brain operations? I think not. Having an expensive AB switchbox qualifies a dealer/audio salesman to perform blind tests? Even if these guys have the knowledge (which I doubt) there's the obvious problem with someone performing a blind test who will profit financially from one outcome of the test (expensive interconnects "sound" better) and suffer financially from the other outcome (expensive interconnect "sound" is not audibly distinguishable from Radio Shack interconnects)! My requests to WireWorld asking for details of their double-blind testing procedures have gone unanswered.
The Comparator has a minimal component circuit referred to as the reference bypass. Comparing the reference bypass minimal circuitry (neutral) to an interconnect will make obvious the interconnect's influence on the audio signal. So say the ads. I performed several rigorous single-blind tests between the reference bypass and a homemade cable, six foot long, made of assorted wire sizes, and terminated with cheap RCA plugs (Cost: Less than a dollar). No audible difference between the reference bypass and my homemade cable. Continuing the testing I compared a rather expensive $500 (borrowed!) interconnect against the reference bypass. No audible differences. Oh, you can also compare one set of interconnects against a second (different) set of interconnects....I did. No audible difference between the Radio shack interconnect and the expensive interconnect. Get the picture?
I note that the ads for the Comparator are directed toward cable/interconnect dealers and cable cult reviewers. A recent ad (Stereophile/January, 1998) states the following: The Cable Comparator System is the state of the art in cable testing. Hear it reveal the truth about cables in a store near you! I don't have a problem with a dealer selling WireWorld cables, but I do have a problem with the same dealer claiming magical things for WireWorld cables via a supposedly double-blind test. Perhaps it's just me, huh?
On an amusing note the Comparator was reviewed by Robert Harley in the August, 1996 issue of Fi, uh, sorry, I mean Stereophile. I recommend you read the review. The amusing angle is that Harley's unit had a serial number of 00108 and in August of 1997 I received a unit with serial number 00101! I guess WireWorld assigns serial numbers in descending order! I am still waiting for the promised new unit. My unit was supposedly a reviewer's unit and would be replaced as soon as WireWorld could do so....it's five months later and I'm still waiting.
I highly recommend the Comparator....for all WireWorld dealers. For the average audiophile (even the cable cultists) $450 would be better spent on additional CDs! And I wouldn't have a problem if you spent only $404 on CDs and spent the other $46.00 of this money on WireWord's least expensive Solstice II interconnect (3 Meter).
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