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Comments on Cable Challenge. PDF Print E-mail
Latest JREF News
Written by James Randi   

These are comments selected from the Gizmodo site, reflecting the general reaction to the present status of the Pear/Fremer/challenge situation…

Once Pear itself started talking, it was screwed. The only way they could have come out in the clear was by winning the challenge. Now, audiophiles (who may be a little loopy but who are not stupid) will not buy Pear until someone does the test, and Pear wins. In a sense, the publicity from this will be even worse than if Pear had just lost outright right away. The word will spread.

Surely Michael Fremer can find a mere $7,250 to buy the damn cable in order to win the $1 million prize he's so sure he can win.

What I expected: this Pears position is indefensible. They know they are selling a SCAM and this is what SCAM artists do. Any professional audio engineer will tell you that lamp cord is as good as anything. Pear is selling snake oil. I for one will be asking other audio manufacturers (I am one), and will be asking ALMA, as well as AES to shun the snake oil scam artists. I am working to get Monster to take them on head to head. Hell, even Monster has some sense of reason/dignity compared to the scam artists that are Pear.

Try twisting four pairs of cat6 UTP cable and you have $7,250.00 for less than $50.

Unfortunately, I don't think AES can shun a snake oil salesman (they are not in a position to judge), and Monster wouldn't take them on head to head. The stereophile mags have an interest in perpetuating the scam, and while it would be possible to write about this in a pro audio magazine, they don't reach the people who are getting scammed. Hopefully, Pear's chickening out will simply punctuate the results of a genuine 3rd party evaluation of their products. I think that Randi should continue to focus on the true subject of evaluation – Pear Audio cables, NOT Fremer – and go full throttle ahead. (Hey, if he's got a million bucks, he's gotta have $7500. Do these cables have a 30 day return policy?)

That's good advice for most head-to-heads, but not really for this one. The real point of this test is to show that you can only make cable "so good" before you can't tell the difference anymore. Let them send their absolute best cable, that's kind of the point. Just don't let them supply the Monster cable.

Randi: That last comment is bang-on. And I believe that we would supply at least the “reference” cable, as specified.

So the test is just between 2 cables. So that means that randomly guessing the higher priced cable can't be that high of an improbability (even in multiple tests). So for 1 million bucks I will be willing to give it a shot. It is much better than playing the lottery and I don't have to pay for it.

Randi: Au contraire, mon frère! The odds would have to be much better than 50%! I didn’t fall off the apple tree yesterday… I’m better understood by the next commentator:

The test may be between two cables, but I highly doubt Randi is stupid. The person judging the cables will probably have to be able to consistently pick one of them, and specifically the higher priced cable, out of at least a handful of trials, so the 50/50 probability can be detected.

Yes. I recall from my days working at a now defunct PC manufacturer, we had a special lab for putting together review machines – to make sure everything was just so, which was a far cry from the care/diligence of the factory floor assembly line! However by far the largest factor determining how our PC's fared in the review was – I'm sure coincidentally – the amount of advertising we placed with the magazine or publisher.

File in the "put up or shut up" folder, sub folder "shut up." Worst move ever. Just shows that Pear doesn't believe in their product, and more importantly, that they believe that it can't be done. If they were sure that it could be done, then why not do it? I mean, hey, a free 1 million. Big holiday bonus for someone, right? Unless you know the product you sell is total crap and are afraid that someone might call a turd a turd instead of calling it "danceable."

They can't give the guy a cable for a day? Babies, they just don't want anyone to prove their cables aren't anything special. I guess they figure if a tester is forced to spend the $7,250 for the cable to test with, they'll be bound to be biased in thinking they're better.

This is a calculated move. When Fremer fails then they can come up with some excuses such as "Mr. Fremer didn't irrigate his ear, and he didn't use a Kevlar protection shield, and SPF60 sunblock to protect the cable, and he left it in his car for 3 minutes totally unattended with no water, while he's taking it over to the test lab, hence the cable didn't perform as it’s supposed to be" or "We didn't participate in the test so Randi must have rigged it" or some other BS.

Surely he can front a pair of cables. He has a picture of his fricken yacht behind him. Sheesh.

I wonder if they thought someone else would back down first. Sucks to be him.

One of these cables probably costs more than all the cables used to record the music.

Fraud!! I can't believe it has even gone on this long. Blake, pay your daddy back the money you borrowed to start this business and do something meaningful with your life. Driving expensive cars and partying in the Caribbean, living off the salaries of ignorant people will get you nowhere morally in this world.

So this is... not happening? Aw, come on... all that Bravado! All that talk trying to diminish the counterpart! It's one million dollars... do you guys know how difficult it is to get that kind of money... you can use it to make more cables and sell them (you'll be profiting even more from this situation). They have chickened out because it is obviously true that they are selling mirrors and smoke. God Bless Marketing, right?

I'd like to point out that the prize money would have barely covered Pear's shipping and handling cost of $999,999. In the end they would have lost money regardless of the outcome of the experiment. Note: The above is to be considered humor. The characters, companies and products depicted are purely fictitious and bear no resemblance to actual characters, companies or products. Shipping and handling cost was estimated using ouija board and the future ghost of Ron Poleil.

I'm wondering if Fremer was actually earnest in his quest to see if he could tell the difference in the monster cables and Pear Cables. What if Pear Cables couldn't get him to participate in trying to cook the test? Since cables of the same gauge (lamp cord to Monster to Pear) should perform the same or at least inaudibly different, Pear's only option would have been to prep some cables that sound a worse than average, that way they could be distinguishable from the monsters and could be picked out in a test. What if Fremer wouldn't go along with Pear and really wanted to find out if there was a difference?

Randi: we don’t ever assume any intent on anyone’s part to “cook” a test – which in any case we have to protect ourselves against, of course. That’s our obligation.

I've read Fremer and read about Fremer for long enough to believe, absent strong evidence, that he was sincere. I have no idea what that says about the collapse of this particular test and I won't speculate here. But I am happy to see that the JREF has expanded their criteria to include other cables and will talk to other folks willing to take the challenge.

Randi: Umm, I’ve never doubted that Fremer was and is sincere; I’m too familiar with the power of self-delusion. And, as you see, the test has not “collapsed,” since Fremer can and might invest in Pear Anjou cables and proceed with the tests. We’ll see. No, other cables – for this particular test – have not been included. Go back and read the succinct statement, already published here several times…

From Adam Blake’s bio: "I believe that successful cable design evolves from two core elements; sound engineering and scientific principles as well as basic listening tests. As anyone who has worked in a research and development atmosphere will tell you, failure is almost a foregone conclusion if adequate empirical testing and evaluation cannot be accomplished. Listening tests are the fun part of the job, and they are also one of the most vital tools we have. However, you really need to start with the fundamentals to end up with a good final product. Too many cable companies have based their designs solely on trial and error and subjective qualification. Some of the companies have been able to achieve fairly decent results, but they are unlikely to ever really break into that higher plane of performance without a better backbone of science. I think Pear Cable has been able to break into that higher plane."

Randi: Okay, Adam. Let’s see you “break into that higher plane of performance.” We’re waiting…

I may have missed it somewhere but has anyone described the test systems setup or rules around that? I don't mean to sound as if I am on any side of this but on the BS side but imagine the test hardware. Only the absolutely best speakers would do and even then one would surely have to consider the quality of the wire in the cabinets. If it is not up to the same "quality" as that of the cables then game over, right. Does it really matter how good the signal is before it gets to the speaker if it is downgraded at the cabinet? Imagine if they just ran down to Wal-Mart and grabbed a pair of those all-in-one systems for the test? Plastic speaker cabinets and the works. And what about the test material? How about the 1980 cover of The Knack's "My Sharona" by Alvin and the Chipmunks...on 8-track!

Randi: No, you didn’t miss it, because we never got to the stage of designing the protocol. That would call for Fremer – or Blake – supplying his own basic equipment, to satisfy his own needs, and choosing the test subject, which I would insist should be a regular audio recording such as those used by an audiophile. The statistical requirements are also undecided, and would depend on the opinion of a statistician. Until we settle the basics, we cannot move any further…

About the test setup - Check the post by Randi at about the end of all posts the last time this story came up. Basically, Fremer was expected to use his own equipment.

Randi: No, Fremer opted to use his own equipment…

You have to understand that, much like psychic phenomenon, the performance of these cables is heavily dependent on the BELIEF and FAITH of the people in the surrounding area – referred in technical journals as, the Tinkerbell effect. The effect of having a non-believer like Mr. Randi in proximity of the test would obviously have dire consequences on the ability of the Pear cables to perform. It is therefore understandable why Mr. Blake would be reticent about involving his company in a test set up for failure! (God, I hope SOMEONE is laughing)

Randi: aside from this being a joke, I always opt to not be present at such tests, for this very reason – the possibility that I might choose to put out “negative vibes” to inhibit the results. That is actually put forth seriously by the believers. This “blind” provision was a condition I insisted upon for a test of homeopathy done by the BBC in the UK, with the co-operation of the Royal Academy and the cooperation/participation of the homeopathic community for protocol design and implementation. I insisted that (a) I would not be informed of the location nor of the time of the proposed test, and (b) that the results would not be given to me until and unless I was physically present at the studio when those results were formally announced. The results were, as expected, null…