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Saturday, 19 November 2011

Locus Designs Snakeoil Cable Rant (first of many)

This is going to be a biased review because I am reviewing a pet love/hate of mine. I hate it because people are ripped off horrendously and I love it for it's comedic value - it's long been a hobby of mine seeking out the idiocy of the common Audiophile and there is no bigger folie in the mind of an audiophile than their belief that a certain cable can improve the transmission of a digital signal over a cheaper cable.

Locus Design was brought to my attention by a friend on KVR forum who wanted to point out their USB cable costing $3,500. it's kind of hard to poke fun at this company as they do it so well themselves. Their opening page comprises of multiple awards they have received over their products. They have mocked up little certificates to illustrate this point. but the funiest thing on this website besides the outrageous claims with scientific sounding bullshit is this little gem copied and pasted directly.

Trial Policy: Any custom Locus Design cable may be returned within 30 days for a refund, if for some odd reason it does not perform as expected in your system. A 20% restocking fee (of the the total price) will be charged and any shipping charges incurred will be the responsibility of the buyer. In order to be eligible for return, the cable must be in 'new' condition (this condition will be evaluated by myself, ie., I will be the judge), returned within 30 days and have a valid RMA attached to the packaging.

So if you get this thing home and it doesn't do anything more than that $5 cable did (which is won't)  they will allow you to return it for a refund minus $710 + the shipping and of course he will be the judge. elsewhere on the site they mentioned that to cut costs to the consumer they don't use any special packaging so quite what this guy will be judging is beyond me and why it will cost him over $700 to put it back on a shelf with all the other bullshit he's got is also beyond me.

So what about the cable itself? I hear you ask. Well the USB is a digital medium, it sends data in binary - it is on or it is off, there is no grey area. either the cable works or it doesn't. So having said that, there is no signal degradation and if the cable is crap (broken) it just won't work. If you've spent thousands on a cable, the data transmitted through it won't be any better. Having gold plated interconnects won't do anything and having it shielded by pixie dust, diamond etc. certainly won't do anything - it is a digital signal.on - off fin.

Then we get to the "testimonials" section of the site which is quite populated however something a little strange stood out to me and that was that, none of the people had full names or even real names, it was either initials or aliases 
of course no testimonial would be complete unless the album "dark side of the moon" had not have been mentioned by some dick still stuck in the 70s. I just don't understand why this album is used as a audiophile reference point to test any piece of "high end" gear, if I were Roger Waters I'd be pretty pissed off. Not only that but engineering in sound has vastly improved since those days and I personally grow weary of the word "analogue" by some old bearded twat with his collection of gatefold special edition vinyl displayed neatly. I do wonder if these people actually enjoy music or not. but I digress.

The next thing that I feel I should point out was the contact page that said this... "by phone: 1-877-849-0400. However, please be aware, we almost never answer the phone" 
well I have to be honest here, I know almost nothing about business practices but the one thing I do know is that if you're charging extortionate amounts for a piece of wire you better answer the bloody phone to your customers.

In conclusion: This company do pretty well everything I've seen other audiophile companies do which is: making claims that audio will be enhanced, clarified, sharpened, smoothed and all those other things they say about sonic fields of shit knows what, they love their buzzwords, their scientific explanations which kind of sound credible if you have no idea how this kind of thing works.
I didn't really mention the "analogue" cables but it's the same kind of thing really in regards to the stuff they try to claim, they will say it's cryogenically frozen (seriously),burned in and all sorts of other things but again as long as the cable in question makes good contact between the signal source and destination then there wouldn't be a problem with a $5 cable in place of their magic cables.
IF it did ever alter your sound then the cables aren't presenting you with a true signal ie it is coloured in some way which then makes the cables unfit for purpose. However this is not the case, if you spend thousands on a single cable the only effect it's likely to have is the placebo effect put in place by your brain after all it's easier than admitting to itself it was stupid enough to fall for this garbage.
   The thing that annoys me most of all about these companies (usually spearheaded by some disillusioned idiot) is that they honestly think they are doing you a massive favour, not only that but they think they are better than you especially if you don't think that data cables need cryogenically freezing and so on.
then there is the "I'll pick up the phone or read your email if I can be arsed" attitude to it all and should you want to return anything he will judge whether you're allowed to or not depending on whether it looks new or not. I would love to see how he gauges the condition of returned "goods" because they don't look all that good anyway and I'm going off the publicity pictures, the pictures that are meant to be the best side of a product.
The Trial policy would be good were it not for this ridiculous "administrative fee" it's almost as if he's as annoyed as his customers that he has to enforce such a big fee but as he is doing so much for the planet and it's audio it is a necessary evil. 

so to the owner; offer a trial period with no restock fee then we'll see how many people keep those waste of money cables when they don't potentially lose $700 for returning them.

I know this "review" was directed more at the business practices than the product itself but there's not much you can say about a piece of wire really, it conducts electricity and sure as hell ain't worth 3 grand and if you think it is then to be honest you deserve to be fleeced of all your money. If you are someone who was tricked into buying this crap with someone throwing confusing words at you or telling you there isn't a cheap alternative (that happens a lot) do everything in your power to get every penny they conned out of you. 

Buzzword Of This Site: Damping


  1. Dude, that site is comedy gold! Like you could not have spewed more BS onto a page if you tried! Just the language they are using:

    "Close attention is paid to mitigating mechanical noise and triboelectric effects. The core of the Herald is a Tri-Complect™ braid of ultra pure DCT-UP-OCC-Cu conductors and Teflon air tubes; this precise, reproducible, and expensive computer controlled Complect™ braid is proprietary and only available from Locus Design. This remarkable geometry is designed to mitigate degradation and interference with/to/of both of the data lines from the VDC line and ground." Air tubes??? What a load of mumbo jumbo. My favourite nugget so far is that it took them 15 MONTHS to develop a firewire cable. I need to find out what this guy's day job is that I can take 15 months to develop a cable. A cable that is made by about 1 bazillion other manufactures. To a very well defined spec. A digital cable mind you. Digital. On-Off.

    Oh my sweet baby Jezus, it just keeps getting better. His RCA cable is $4,450 for 3 feet. Thats $123.6 per inch... I wonder how much that is per gram, i bet they are more expensive by weight than cocaine.

    One last nugget of goodness: "As an aside, all Parable's will be built by me personally, as I am the only one who knows exactly what goes into the cable, and I am not going to share this knowledge with anyone, anytime soon."

    Thanks for the laughs Paul!!

  2. the testimonials make me laugh aswell - the very first one had me in stitches
    Well Lee, I have used a number of the best USB and Digital cables in the world. Then I gradiently plugged in the Digital Core and that increased the bass and transparency. I then added the Cynosure USB and that added a level of solidity and palpable image to the music that gave it a true realism.

    So as you can guess I am very pleased, I definitely feel whatever techniques you use they are at the cutting edge of sound digital reproduction. Z. H. Europe

  3. You know what they say about speaking ill of the dead . . .

    1. no. what do they say about speaking ill of the dead?

  4. Oh my, I just went to the site and couldn't find the USB cable, especially as I was distracted by their new buzzword "Cryofreeze", apparently freezing the cable and components improves the metal quality of the conductor, and, according to the site, metal generally such as golf clubs, swords and knives!!

    While reading your piece, I was laughing and shaking my head, audiophiles will believe anything they are told, and all the testing is subjective, I've never read of any reputable blind A/B testing of any audiophile stuff, even when you read the reviews they are virtually stating they know that component "A" costs more than "B", so that puts in some kind of unconscious bias, especially as when we pay top dollar for something we BELIEVE it is better, we see this in many fields but music seems even more 'infested' with the belief, someone pays 130 quid for a treble booster from a big name luthier, so it has to be better than the one you knock up at home for a tenner, doesn't it?

    The thing is, this USB cable is a digital cable, it sends insanely fast encoded pulses with error correction, the same as most digital and computing stuff, if the technology didn't work and errors were happening all over the place, then we'd have no computers in the first place. I doubt any audiophile-worthy music in the last few decades has been exclusively recorded using analogue, in fact the digital world has allowed mastering of old tracks so exceptionally well, that we could hear a mosquito fart somewhere in the recording, if it happened and if mosquitoes did fart, of course lol

    It is all subjective, I'm as guilty of it as anyone, I have a little box that I once had three treble boosters built into, so I could of A/B/C test them, I was convinced that each TB had its own individual characteristics, and of course they do have, then one day I was playing and went to switch over the TB, only to be surprised that I was already on the setting I THOUGHT I was going to switch to!!

    I was looking at some audio gear online recently, some company was making some multi-thousand pound iPod dock or something, that was built into what looked like a bit of driftwood - the log, apparently, having been chosen for the right acoustic qualities and ambience...

    A fool and their money, huh?

    1. I wouldn't worry about the treble booster thing - we've all been tricked by stuff like that when we started. I remember being convinced that a tubescreamer would sound better if I bought a JRC4558 from the 80's - when that arrived, that was the day I stopped being tricked by that shite but I am lucky in that respect - I have very little value in money so I can judge things like that objectively, even if I spent a lot of money on something. (I couldn't ever bring myself to pay £130 for a bloody treble booster though. I could make one out of an old CF light!)
      treble boosters and things like that can sound different especially if you use old parts but that isn't because of magic it's just cause old components were never that consistent and have drifted alot. I have junk bins full of old 5% carbon comp resistors (the ones everyone seems to love) I tester a few of them and they had all drifted over 20% out of their rated value - I've seen people pay a quid each for those!

      I agree with you about the audiophile music - digital is most certainly better quality. a friends band recorded their album on 16 track reel to reel tapes - it cost about 4 times more than getting it done digitally and sounded bottom mid heavy and frankly terrible.
      you often get people saying stuff like "you can get analogue to sound as good as digital if you do it properly/maintain the tape machines etc" but why bother ?! you can do it quicker, cheaper with digital leaving you more time to focus on writing your music!
      it also annoys me when people go on about the Beatles and trying to get their sound. the Beatles were always about using the newest latest gear to get the best sound they could get. I think John Lennon would be a digital guy if he was here now.

  5. I like your rants. This one and the website are perfect! Just to add a little side note: the name giver of the shop might have German roots: "locus" (or in german "lokus") translates colloquially to "toilet".

    1. first of all - thankyou.
      second of all that has to be the best comment I've ever received

  6. My pleasure, Paul. Is this the right place to thank you for your layouts, ideas and this website in general? Yours is one of four websites I check - and like - daily. Even more since I realised we share the same audiophile allergy.