Placebo effect of systems and alterations

I am interested in the opinions and conversation of others about the Placebo effects that often seems to surround aspects of our hobby.
Be it upgrading black boxes or tinkering with cables, some think we are mad but others swear by associated effects and that the effects are real yet science may well suggest otherwise.

Cheers :beers:



I wonder what your view is? Do you have one?

I do yes, but to what extent I am not sure. What about your self @anon4489532
Am I right in assuming you have done your fair share of tinkering?


After all these years I’m pretty good at working out what’s real and what’s not. If it sounds better, it is better, and I really don’t care what ‘science’ might suggest.


Try suggesting to someone on here that they do a blindfold test re a particular cable or whatever or even better, a double blindfold, and they generally run a mile, so yes, placebo effect is alive and well!


It’s a snowball effect.
You might not notice it at the top of the mountain, but should see a little shudder towards the bottom - unless your caught up in it.
Otherwise, it’s a whole lot of time and money.

I’m still getting over spending months listening into absolutely rubbish albums - recommended by others.
Your ears.

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I certainly know it’s alive and well, hence the topic.
Does a placebo effect matter tho if ultimately you hear an improvement.
Although the improvement maybe more profound or negative depending on ones mood/stress.

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The term is most often used in medical trials and it’s often forgotten that the placebo effect is a real one. Patients do sometimes get objectively beneficial efftects from drugs with no active ingredients if they believe that the drug does actually contain say a new wonder medicine.

Likewise, in the hifi context if someone believes a fancy cable significantly improves the SQ and then hears an improvement, the effect is real no matter what the ‘science’ says, as HH puts it. After all, listening to music is a mental process so it’s reasonable to expect anything affecting one’s state of mind when listening would impact on how one hears and one’s emotional response. I often wonder if the pleasure many get from vinyl is at least partly tied up with the little rituals involved in playing an LP.



Well it matters to me that I might spend a shed load of cash on a fancy cable that actually does sod all, the industry thrives on it, it’s textbook expectation bias, the more you spend the better it is. We all fall for it.


Surely if you trust your own judgement you will make the right decision.

That is certainly the dilemma. If at want point does the better product not actually get any better.
How does one when looking for legitimate improvement look beyond placebo especially when at a dealers or a home demo is in place and you are prepared to part with money. Are you hearing it better just because you want to and have the opportunity to go ahead with it. Or is it the emotional excitement that mentally makes it sound justifiably better.
Very difficult.

Well that’s the whole point, what’s influencing your judgment and can it be trusted?

It’s not difficult at all. It’s really easy. If it sounds better it is better. By ‘better’ I’m looking for something that lets me forget the fact that the music is coming from a pair of speakers and lets me get involved. It needs to sound like real music. Can I get involved in the mood and understand how it all fits together. Does it stir my soul. Using this approach rather than worrying about hifi nonsense makes everything very straightforward.


And that is certainly easier the better the kit. But how do you go back when you have reached the top of the ladder that has the best sound and physical enjoyment like you say and all is left is hearing the music?
I agree with you by the way.

For many things in life, when I spend my hard earned cash I convince myself that I have made the right decision! I always do some research first though this varies from subjective to objective and everything in between.

We all have ‘taste’ when it comes to many things in life which will obviously affect our perceived value.

When it comes to HiFi I try to avoid the law of diminishing returns and accept that my system will never be ‘perfect’ (whose is?).

I often wonder with many ‘upgrades’ if the upgraded item was to be sneakily removed from a system would the owner really be able to tell?

I enjoy my NDX2 and SN2 (soon to be SN3) and often when sitting down to listen, even to familiar tracks, can’t actually visualise (or whatever the auditory equivalent is) the sound that I am about to hear. I know it will be good and am usually pleasantly surprised.

If someone sneakily changed cables or racking, in a blind test I doubt that I would notice.

During comparisons a difference is more obvious and I suppose we make an instant judgement as to which we prefer and a preference translates as better.

I am the same when I open a bottle of my favourite wine (always drink the same one) - I can never predict exactly what I will taste but again am always pleasantly surprised. This doesn’t happen with my pints of Guinness though :thinking:

I also really enjoy my FLAC CD rips in my BMW with Harmon Kardon speakers or tidal Mqa via iPad, chord mojo and Oppo headphones. The sound is obviously very different between each ‘system’ but still very enjoyable all the same.

In conclusion yes, I for one, am prone to the placebo affect and couldn’t pass a blind test if my life depended on it!

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If I recall Frank Albela was ill a couple of years ago. I was just reading some pink fisch material from 2005, and ran across his name. In any event, I wish him well wherever he resides:

"Thanks Frank. I’ll check out the Pink Fish Media site.

I still don’t quite get the “flat earth” reference other than this: I suppose flat earth believers are people who only believe what their senses show/tell them, eg, they believe the earth is flat because to all appearances the world is flat, and they won’t believe otherwise, no matter what science tells them, because they trust only in what they can see and hear for themselves.

I just don’t get why Linn/Naim lovers are like
this. "

BTW, I just paced off the dimensions of my living room and took a level to it!

My world is Flat!

Enjoy Your Music, The Why!

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Frank is sadly no longer with us. He was a lovely man.


I kind of figured that, may he rest in peace and dance in heaven.

Yes he was a lovely man, I will miss him.

Sadly of late …I start off expecting no improvement with the change I make…And in a self fulfilling proficy…There is no improvement


Well as your gear gets better it gets much harder to hear the improvements and we can all get carried away with " o yes it sounds better, better this and better that" if only not to make you look stupid if you can’t hear a difference.
I do side by side comparison if i can as its the only way and there has been quite a few times that i couldn’t tell the difference between items at all. I also believe that in most blind tests just about everyone would struggle once you start to get higher up the hifi ladder.
Speakers are about the only one that are easily defined, with cables the other end.
But as norm you pay your money and off you go and as long as you are happy then whats wrong with that