Placebo Effect...a good thing?

I'm just a beginner into the world of the high-end (19 year old EE student), but the more I learn about audio and the entire culture surrounding it, I get more and more confused of the goals around creating the "perfect" sound system. I'm not an idiot, and I know that no matter how close an approximation is to the original event, be it vinyl, SACD, CD, multi-channel, or whatever, it is still only going to be an approximation. So then why try to recreate the original event at all? My best guess, and belief, is to capture the "magic" of that event in your living room. I've been reading a lot of articles by various giants in the audio field, and there has been a lot of talk recently about "snake-oil" in the audio industry. That is, no one can tell the difference in a double-blind test between two similar componenets; their guesses will be no better than chance. The only real differences people hear are due to the Placebo Effect: their brains generate a response, perhaps truthful in their own minds, that two similar products have completely different sounds. My question is, is that a bad thing? My experience from this comes from a power cord dilemma. My father auditioned a power cord from JPS Labs for his CDP. After it had burned-in a little, he asked me to listen to the difference and see what I heard. At first listen, I heard less brightness in the treble, and an overall ease of presentation that was not there before. So he arranged a simple double-blind test. It stumped me. I chose the cheap power cord, although the differences to me were so slight, they were near irrelevant. We discussed it for a while, and he ended up buying the cord anyways. Why? Because HE ENJOYED the system more with it in than out. Maybe it didn't effect the sound. WHO CARES? The point of a stereo is to listen to music. If you buy a 15,000 dollar line stage and you listen to music 15 more minutes a day because of it, isn't that an improvement? That's why I laugh everytime someone makes fun of a "tubehead." "Extremely high even-order distortions" they say. If you listen to music more because of a purchase you made, then you made a good purchase. If you don't, you didn't. PERIOD. I just get a crack out of all this finger pointing. Tubes vs. solid state. Vinyl vs. CD. If you buy a turntable to break out all the LPs you have sitting in your closet, and find you prefer the sound of analogue to digital, GOOD FOR YOU. I delight in people enjoying music, be it through a $500,000 wacko system, or a $150 JVC boom box. And besides, it makes me feel good to have a nice looking set of cables tying up my system. They may not sound any better (which I think they do), but I DO listen to more music because of them. Just a thought.
Hueske: I enjoyed reading your post very much. No comments though (too tired to "pontunacate":-), right now. I wish you the best of times in your continuing education and suspect that (based on your post) you may end up breaking some new ground in the future. I may give this another stab, tomorrow.
Hueske, as Greg said, you write admirably and I also aplaude the widom in one still quite young! In philosophical terms your stand comes close to what Epicuros taught in ancient Greece and in the face of conflicting theories and ideologies, the battle of empiricist against theorist, the pitfalls of double blind testing arrangements, the lack of knowledge how human hearing psychophysically REALLY functions and a market abounding in snakeoil and hype it took me much longer than you to settle, comfortably though not complacent, on a point of view quite similar to your own. This from an old man, who has been victim to audiophilia nervosa easily more than twice the years you walk this earth... and yes Surgarbrie, ANY belief tends to have its placebo effect....(<;
An EE with an open mind. Imagine that! There's hope for the high-end yet. Good luck and all the best, Hueske.
Hey guys, thanks for all the great comments. As for my Dad, I got HIM into audio. Needed a CD player, went to the store, came back with a Marantz CD6000 (great player for the bux!), and plopped it into my dad's office system (he was using the computer as the CDP ). "Hmmm....this is incredibly better! I wonder what an even BETTER one would sound like." The rest is history. I think I got my philosophy on audio because I got really caught up in the whole "tweaking" game. Suspensions, couplings, contact cleaners, Aqua-net on the drivers (on my homemade Voigts, don't go nuts), etc. etc. Then one day, as I was doing a "listening test" on a new pair of cables vs. my old ones, I thought to myself "hey, I need to STOP listening to these dumb cables, and start jamming out on this Clapton!" Duh!

Right now I work for a commerical audio design/installation firm as a CAD draftsman. NONE of these guys believe their ears...just what the LCD screen on their little computers tell them. BUT, I'm learning incredible amounts of info I could never, EVER get sitting in some classroom. Most EE's (in school) could solve a complex circuit diagram for you, but couldn't tell you what a capacitor is used for! Backwards teaching is the name of the game here, folks.

Lak, you have no IDEA how many concerts I've been to that I was appalled at the sound quality of. I live in Austin, TX, and have seen my fair share of great band/poor venue. But I could have cared less when I was going nuts in the mosh pit at the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert. Maybe I'll design some cables that can recreate THAT!

Happy listening,


P.S. I got a "C" in philosophy. My teacher wrote on my papers that I "made up my mind too quickly" on certain subjects (especially Kant...I HATE Kant), and that "perhaps I should study both sides of the issue before passing judgement." That's what I did last night, Teach! I guess my arguments weren't "circular" enough for her taste :)
By the way...what is this Wife Acceptance Factor you're talking about. Ha!

(Try Mom Acceptance Factor.)