Quantum Confusion for the Audiophile


I was Farking around the other day and found one of the more questionable technological claims I’ve seen on Gizmodo and on Engadget.Com: the Blackbody, by LessLoss, at http://www.lessloss.com/blackbody-p-200.html . The idea is that this bit of heavyish black plastic gear will make your stereo system sound better just by being placed near it. And how much does it cost? Only a pittance of $959 plus your gullible soul. Let’s see what the company says about this little magic doohickey in their own words…

The Blackbody is a high-tech audio accessory which greatly enhances your audio playback experience by addressing the interaction of your audio gear’s circuitry with ambient electromagnetic phenomena and modifying this interplay. The Blackbody takes advantage of the quantum nature of particle interaction, and is therefore able to permeate metal, plastic, wood, and other barriers to affect the circuitry inside your components. This altered electromagnetic influence results in profoundly improved sound quality.

So far this sounds like the typical examples of the mangling of quantum mechanics that I’ve come to expect on the Web, and that raises a huge red flag to my Troythuluness, but let’s see a bit more…

The Blackbody utilizes particle/wave patterns to work…The device can be thought of as a sort of flashlight which shines at a 35 degree angle from its center.

Particle/wave patterns? This is just more of the nonsense I’ve seen on New Age websites rather than anything that legitimate physicists and engineers would say, but let’s look further…

The “beam of light from a flashlight” analogy is easy to grasp, but the truth is that the opposite is happening. The Blackbody is more akin to an “anti-projector” — in the sense that it is actually the gear which is “shining the light,” and the Blackbody’s 35 degree angle “line of sight” modifies the gear’s “shining” so that it ceases to affect the audio.

Urrgh?? An anti-projector? The fact that they put quotes around it indicates they’re not so sure what that is either. They then employ the disclaimer that it is ‘not sci-fi,’ saying that this little gadget “does not set up a ‘force-field,'” and then going on in to say that it does just that with classic rubber science. A little further down the paragraph, they commit the completely non-scientific usage of the term ‘photon energy’ that would just make scientists cringe.

Further, the quality of the sound from any audio system has nothing to do with ‘ambient reflections of actual EM fields originating from and affecting the gear’ but upon the vibrations of air caused by the speakers…hello, basic high-school electronics shop, anyone?

Could this device possibly work? If so, I suspect not as described, unless almost all of modern quantum mechanics is wrong.

But let’s see them back up their claims for their equipment with double-blinded independent tests, using electronic means of measuring and analyzing the alleged cleanness of the audio quality instead of relying on the notoriously flawed subjective expectation, perception, and assessment of all-too human listeners, and leave the techno-speak to the science-fiction writers and New Age gurus.

But, hey, just poke around the links provided and if you find yourself starting to think that this Wonderful New Technology™ sounds like a good deal, do yourself a favor—be skeptical. Fnord.

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About Troythulu

I seek to learn through this site and others how to better my ability as a person and my skill at using my reason and understanding to best effect. I do fractal artwork as a hobby, and I'm working to develop it to professional levels, though I've a bit to go till I reach that degree of skill! This is a crazy world we're in, but maybe I can do a little, if only that, to make it a bit more sane than it otherwise would be.

Posted on Saturday, 17:51, November 28, 2009, in Skepticism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Ok, just from your description, before I ‘ve actually gone to their web site and decided that I’m being pounded to death by my internal BS warnings, I’ll give them a 1 in 100 of commiting the sin of simple overplay. Having worked with some friends to build a set of ERFB speakers in high school (note: ERFB – excessively really f!@#$%g big), using OMG active amplified crossovers (I think Terry engineered them to be around 1400 watts each so he could get the best response from his 140 watt amplifier), we found that you can distort the sound from the electronics themselves. The transfomers on the crossovers were so large that they were interacting with the drivers in the speakers due to sheer proximity. Trying to balance speakers in 4 ranges when the impedence of the bass and high mid-range speakers are changing from instance to instance, makes for a very interesting day. The two sheets of ferous metal we placed between the components and seperately grounded cost a lot less than this magic box does though. :-)

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