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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Untruth in A/V Picture-tising

Posted on March 19, 2011 at 3:23 PM

Much like the little digital nips-and-tucks (or sometimes the digital tucks OF nips...Oh, John, you so funny!) or smoothening and de-cellulite-ing and un-bumpening and de-lumpening and Photo-Shoppening touch-ups made to cover girls to make women all the world over feel bad about themselves, magazine ads featuring audio/video systems are notoriously – and equally – untruthful.

Oh, to be sure, the gear is all represented in its true form. And if any Photoshop was to be applied to the gear it would only be to make it look even glossier, the logos more logo-ier, the blue LEDs more LED-ier. Perhaps the milled aluminum faceplate made to appear more heavy and imposing and crafted-from-a-solid-billeting. Or the deep sheen of the 20-coats of hand-rubbed Tiger Blood varnish finish. Or something.

No, the place where magazine ads have always reserved their lying is in the wiring. Because for most people – obviously not Mr. Cooper, who seems to care far more about the girth, caliber and cost of his cables than any other part of his A/V system or for companies that are actually SELLING wiring in the ad – the wiring is the ugly truth that apparently must be hidden at all costs from these component glamour and beauty shots.

Flip through your preferred A/V mags of choice – those ARE Sound + Vision and Residential Systems, right? The ones I write for? Riiiiiight? Yes? Good. – and pay attention to those ads. Those shots showing tower speakers or subwoofers standing in the middle of a tile or hardwood floor, or bookshelf speakers perched so high-up-on-a-pedestal stand. Some component manufacturers prefer to show their gear sitting on open backed, glass-shelved racks looking so magnificent and glistening and gleamening with their techno charms. But what’s missing? The wire. Nary an interconnect, speaker wire or power cable in site.

Apparently the sensibilities of the A/V buying and shopping public are just too delicate to handle the truth. But because I love you and am willing to throw back the covers and share the ugly cruel truths – like Butt-Out! Seriously, you know that your lives are simultaneously both better and far, FAR worse for knowing a product like that exists! Shudder... – I’m going to admit what the component manufacturers don’t want you to know. Ready? Truth is, it takes a ton of cabling to make this stuff work. A TON. Feet, feet and then lots more feet of wire of all different types and styles. Stiff, bendy, straight, coily, white, blue, black, ruby, sapphire...I've got it all. I have SO much speaker, interconnect, power, control and HDMI cabling behind my rack, I seriously think I could secure a fair sized vessel to dock. Or, as the price of copper keeps increasing, I’ll have to start adjusting my AGI to take into account the value of my retirement cables. It’s a big, thick, ropey mass, but if even a single wire were to be remove, some crucial aspect of my system would stop working. Like say the surround-left channel from my Laser Disc’s demodulated AC-3 output. Crucial.

This is nothing new, and probably dates back to the first day that Edison combined to of his latest inventions – a lightbox designed for the specific purpose of capturing and preserving evidence and memories in a photographic manner – with his Perfected Phonographic wax cylindrical recorder/player.

“Hey. Wait! Mr. Watson, come here. I need you!”

“Sir, I keep telling you. Mr. Watson is Dr. Bell’s assistant. My name is Bill. Just plain Bill.”

“Well, then, William my good sir, what is the inspiration’s name are you doing here with my cylinder player?”

“I’m connecting it like you said. So we could take a picture of it.”

“Will, this is why I’m Thomas Alva Edison inventor extraordinaire and you are, and shall be destined to remain, Bill lab cleaner to Thomas Alva Edison. What is it that you think we’re going to take a picture of?”

“The cylinder player thingy. You should know. You made it.”

“Exactly! My phonographic audiophonic recreator on wax phonographic discs! Not all that hideous, Medusa-head, infernal rat's nest of wiring. Rip it out. All of it.”

“But , sir. It is only a single cable."

"I said ALL of it! Every last bit!"

"But, sir, the equipment won’t work without the wiring.”

“Look, Will-I-am-NOT LISTENING, I am the artist, inventor and super-genius here. And I know what’s gonna look good. And what’s NOT gonna look good is all that wiring.”

“But it won’t work...Sir, it''s...a lie!"

“A lie! Damn your tongue, man! Damn it right now! We’re not here to listen to it, man. We’re here to take a picture of it. If you want to listen to something, then you can hum a happy tune while you’re cleaning up! Now, get all that cable and crap out of there and let me work my magic!”

What prompted all of this today was an ad on the back of the March issue of Resi. Here’s a picture: (I admit, the image quality is rather ass in nature; Lady Phone is not a details oriented gal; she’s more big picture and give you an idea of things kinda camera phone. If you want to see the actual image, subscribe to Resi. Seriously. Do that anyhow. Jeremy would love you for it!) (Note: I went back and SCANNED the image in so it would be more ready-for-primetime. Now you can see it in all of its glareless, non Lady Phone limited glory. You're welcome!)

This is an ad for Crestron’s new Sonnex system. Now, the point of the ad is obvious – and great and quite brilliant, saying EVERYTHING an installer would need to know while not really needed to say anything – in that with Sonnex you need less gear – and wire – to do the same job. To quote the ad text, “Sonnex saves rack space and practically eliminates cabling, reducing installation time, labor and material costs.”

OK. Great ad. No question. Great. it true? No. What you have on the right is a pretty picture, but not a working or even similar system. Let’s pick apart the “lies” shall we?

1) The top component is a six-source audio device for either multiple AM/FM, Sirius, XM, or Net Radio. They show the six pair of interconnect cables but there’s no antennas for the 6 separate tuners. (Though to be totally fair, these are ALSO missing from the photo on the left.)

2) Sticking with the top component, there is no Ethernet cable for IP control or Web content. And unless Crestron started communicating with their gear over analog audio cabling – PS: They haven’t – with the omission of Cres-Net (or the Cat-cable) there’s no way to control this. (Ditto the left side rack.)

3) Note the rack on the left...It has THREE separate 16-channel amps. All interconnected and speaker wired. This is enough for 24-pair of speakers. Stack on the right has 8-pair of speakers connected to it. That’s one-third the speakers. Those blue Cat cables leading elsewhere presumably go to TWO MORE of these components to amplify the other 16-pairs of speakers, but the implication of the ad is definitely that small stack replicates big stack. And that’s just not true...

4) See that coil of speaker wire running off the page on left stack? See how it just magically disappears into the bottom of the right rack? Looks a lot cleaner though, doesn’t it?

5) Notice any electricity going into the rack on the right? It is presumably powered on love and beauty and the massive gratitude of the homeowner that he doesn’t have to look at that extra cord.

Really, though, I DO think it’s a brilliant ad. And if the goal was to grab your attention and get you thinking – and talking – then Mission Accomplished! It just plays a little fast and loose with the truth. And sometimes less – like in the case of Concentration Keira there – is NOT always more.

Categories: March 2011, Electronics