| THE JREF MILLION IS SURELY WON |
Reader Phil Ray, a medical research analyst in Lexington, Kentucky, tells us about some more "high-end" audio flummery he's discovered:
Your mention of the "Tice clock" and other audiophile snake-oil devices got me digging around on the internet for more. I ran across a couple of good sites, but the one that takes the cake is www.belt.demon.co.uk/index.html.
Apparently, according to this site, you can improve all kinds of audio devices or recording media performance just by writing "O.K." on them — or a piece of tape stuck on them — with a "specially treated" marker pen. Writing "NO" makes things sound much worse. There is much more available from "P.W.B. Electronics" as well, that could be eligible for the JREF Prize.
This is the fabulous "Red 'x' Pen" that you can have for a mere US$87! And yes, there sure was more eligible material. For example, I found a glowing review of some mystical P.W.B. sticky foil on that site. It claimed that tiny little scraps of it could improve a wide spectrum of our daily lives:
These shiny little devil-strips are supposed to work their effects just by placing them on pretty much anything in the system — or the house, for that matter. Suggested application included batteries in remote controls, clocks, and calculators, mains plugs on amplifiers, CD players, tuners, televisions, computers, even fax machines, light switches, transformers, auxiliary power sources, central-heating radiators or air-conditioning units, even equipment casings, lids, and LED displays.
Here's an example of how versatile the wondrous P.W.B. Electronics Electret Foil is, as explained by Mrs. May Belt, one of the promoters, retailers, and producers of P.W.B. products. They had been experimenting with improving the sound of their system by applying a scrap of this foil to a CD:
During one set of listening experiments, we had a short coffee break. In the listening room was a small wooden table which had had something spilt on it, causing a nasty stain. Peter decided to treat this stain and applied a chemical to it. No success — the stain was just as bad. Peter shrugged his shoulders and said, "Oh well, we will just have to live with the stain, at least I have tried to remove it."
After the short coffee break we returned to the listening tests. The sound was dreadful, it was absolutely appalling! Peter tried everything he knew but could not get the previous "good" sound back. He knew that the only thing he had done in the past half-hour was to apply a chemical to the stain on the small table. He took the table out of the room and listened again. The "good" sound was back! With the table returned to the room, the sound was dreadful again. Peter remarked, "There is no way we can carry on with our listening tests with that table in the room," so the table was banished to the garage.
We had no explanation for what had happened but we remembered this incident because it was so surprising and startling. It was a few months later that I happened to be reading an article — an article on plants! In the middle of this article it stated "and when the (???) plant is under stress, it produces the chemical ????" — this was the chemical we had applied to the small table!!! I read this article out to Peter and we looked at each other. Here was the chemical we had used being described as a "stress chemical." Peter then began to reason out, "I wonder if it was us (human beings) who were sensing this "stress" chemical and going under tension — and this was the reason why the "sound" was perceived as "dreadful."
I'd find it difficult to comment here, especially since my eyes are full of tears from laughing. Are these simply raving loonies, or is it a very unfunny joke? I wish it were a joke.
I found a glowing review of this magic foil at Greg Weaver's April 1999 Rainbow Foil review and immediately wrote him at firstname.lastname@example.org:
Mr. Weaver: I've been forwarded some comments you made on the "P.W.B. Electronics Electret Foil" and wished to inform you that if you are able to repeat your experiments — double-blind — you would certainly win the JREF million-dollar prize as described at www.randi.org/research/index.html and www.randi.org/research/challenge.html.
Are you interested?
I'm not going to expect a response, of course, but I'll inform you if I get one. Phil has more:
I looked up "Shakti Stones," too, at http://www.shakti-in...com/index.html. They have the added benefit of having an "East Indian" name. They not only make your stereo sound better, but another version improves engine performance and increases horsepower in your car!
I'm so glad to live in the 21st Century — an era when wonders never cease!
The Shakti Stones, fortunately, don't even have to be connected to your sound system, but can be simply placed nearby, to produce wonderful improvements! The instructions simply say:
Use of the Stones could not be simpler, simply place them near power supplies, components or CD/DVD/SACD players, the nearer the transformer the better.
Incredible! One reviewer, "expert" Dick Clark of Audio Journal, ended up with eleven of these stones ($2,530 worth!) placed all over his system, and he raves about the improvements! Phil, I'm an equal-opportunity kind of guy, so I sent this inquiry — via both e-mail and postal mail — to a Mr. Mintz, who had also very enthusiastically endorsed his Shakti stones:
I understand that you have found wonderful results from the use of "Shakti Stones" in conjunction with your sound system! To amplify your delight, I inform you that if you can successfully perform a double-blind test of these stones, as you have described, you can win the million-dollar prize offered by this Foundation. See details at www.randi.org/research/index.html and www.randi.org/research/challenge.html.
I await your response with great interest.
Now, Weaver and Mintz may or may not respond. I'll keep you updated on the matter. Consider: if they do not respond, why did they choose that option? Several possibilities present themselves:
Maybe they now find that they were self-deceived.
Perhaps they are afraid to test their firmly-stated convictions on the matter.
They might be independently wealthy and thus disinterested in the million-dollar prize.
It's even possible that these people are fictional inventions of the vendors of these hi-tech advances in science.
There must be some reason. I am sending out 11 letters to audio reviewers who endorsed this thing, making the same offer.