The Advanced Audiophile F.A.Q.
it’s not easy being green
As I said elsewhere, I’m not familiar with every advanced audio product made in the last 25 years. I’m not even sure where or what they all are. I only know from my experiences with the PWB products, that I’d be foolish to dismiss any of them out of hand, without first giving them a proper try. Yes, no matter how crazy they sound. When you have finally witnessed for yourself, seemingly impossible practices having an effect on your sound or video, then “crazy” doesn’t seem as important as it once did. I don’t know of any audio product manufacturer that doesn’t believe their product works. So contrary to what you may read from so many venomous and prejudicial audio extremists, of their anti-audiophile sentiments, I don’t believe there are any known audio manufacturers who go to the considerable risk, effort and expense to put an audiophile accessory product to market without testing it, or fraudulently knowing it doesn’t work.
The eternal naysayers on the net simply have no clue as to how difficult it is for most of these small companies to compete in this very challenging niche market. It’s often very difficult to design such products and put them to market, let alone expect to turn enough of a profit to stay in business. Whereas on the other hand, it’s incredibly easy for audio naysayers to then denigrate the products the moment they hear about them. Just because I may not understand how a product works, I will not arrogantly assume that I do know it doesn’t work, as most audio skeptics and even many professional audio journalists (who should know better), will. This attitude does not help our hobby progress one bit! So as an expert of sorts on the Belt phenomenon, somewhere in the mess below, I’m going to try to start out explaining in my own little words, how it works.
the Belt phenomenon
The Belt phenomenon, considered a sham by many who only conjecture about it and have never spent much time, if any, researching it, is actually a little-known scientific phenomenon. Discovered and researched (exclusively, as far as I know), by its founder, Peter Belt. And yes, I’m aware of how implausible that sounds. How unfortunate! I’m sorry to say that just because something sounds implausible, it doesn’t automatically follow that it isn’t true. It became true for me when I did my own extensive forays into researching various aspects of the Belt phenomenon (we’re talking two decades worth at this point), and it might even be said that those who simply use PWB’s products are also advancing the research to some degree. This just to say it hasn’t been given a grant by the NIH Center for Scientific Study. This is not that unusual though. There are many inventors toiling around the world in their personal labs and workshops, working on entirely new and unusual discoveries, that for whatever reasons, have not endeavoured to pursue recognition in the scientific community.
For all kinds of reasons, including personal, financial and purely political ones, not all good ideas that inventors have get recognized by this scientific community at large. There seems to be a perception contrary to this fact by many skeptics, but if you really study the history of scientific discoveries, you may conclude this to be so. Many good discoveries that can benefit mankind don’t get the recognition they deserve. Many audio engineers can’t even put out good products any longer, because its no longer fiscally viable in today’s marketplace, where mediocrity reigns, in 6.1 format. Many truly talented electronics engineers have left the industry for this reason. No wonder many audiophiles today are scrambling to buy what remains of the better designs of the 70’s and 80’s in vintage audio gear on eBay. All this to say, it isn’t always the best ideas that win the popularity contest, and become loved by all. It’s the prettiest or the sexiest girl.
At the moment, for many music lovers, the sexiest girl comes in the form of an iPod. Which is basically a glorified Sony Walkman. I don’t even want to talk about how bad it is with home audio at this moment…. Suffice to say, Mr. Belt, with his Quantum Clip and Magnadiscs, will never be mistaken for a sexy girl, and Joe Lee, with his amber beads, is unlikely to end up in the pages of Vogue. We should all be thankful that, in an age where mediocrity has taken a stranglehold of a once prolific hobby that is high end audio, there are still pioneers quietly striving to expand the limits of our knowledge of the science and art of music reproduction, and create further progress toward ultimate realism in high fidelity sound.
The Belt Phenomenon, or “L’Affaire Belt” as J. Gordon Holt put it, can be classified under the aegis of “Alternative Science”. Alternative Science is whatever hasn’t yet been accepted by Orthodox Science. As Libertarianism, for example, hasn’t yet been accepted by Orthodox Judaism. That doesn’t make Alternative Science any less valid than Orthodox Science, only less popular, if we wish to regard the politics of the scientific establishment as a sort of popularity contest.
In the very simplest of words, and my apologies to PWB for the extensive treatise written on the subject, the phenomenon can be described thusly:
We (human beings), are constantly reacting to objects in our environment, on a purely subconscious level. Or, it might better be said that we are reacting to an unseen energy on or around all objects in our environment.
When you start trying to explain to perpetual skeptics about an “invisible energy”, you can hear the sound of knees immediately jerking out of joint. The Belt phenomenon follow complex concepts that are impossible for some to accept or understand, and simply difficult for others. The principles of quantum mechanics are also difficult to understand, and also deal with invisible energy, in the form of protons,photons, neutrinos, gluons, bosons, etc. It’s also considered one of the pillars of modern physics. Other invisible energy includes “Chi”, the ancient life force as studied by the Chinese, and black holes… as studied by Stephen Hawking.
Black holes are a particularly good analogy for the Belt phenomenon, because while they can’t be seen, they can be detected by the action of energy forces surrounding the holes. This is in fact, how Mr. Belt researches his products, to find more and more effective means of manipulating the energy force that surrounds everyday objects. This energy can’t be seen or measured with objective test instruments (yet), but it can be measured by subjective listening tests, for the simple reason that it happens to have an effect on human senses. I describe later how and why the hypotheses of an invisible energy on environmental objects comes about, and just how it can be observed and even consistently predicted in research, without ever being able to see it or measure it with conventional test instruments.
the emperor’s new clothes
Naysayers point to the fallibility of subjective listening tests to dismiss this entire body of research that has endured over 25 years, simply because it can’t be measured using purely objective means. This is just theory and prejudice getting in the way of practice and results, once again. The Belt products, for many who have actually tested them, show the results of this research, with varying modes of efficacy, depending on the product (as well, the listener of course).
Once you take a critical, hands-on approach to understanding the phenomenon, and you do enough tests, you will come to learn that you can manipulate the energy present on objects, as PWB customers do all the time, by applying their products to objects in the household environment. I’ve confirmed the Belt phenomenon for myself, by applying PWB’s products, as well as my own techniques, upon objects. Armed with the best tool at the audiophile’s disposal, good listening skills, I have been able to “see” and even “measure” this energy across the surface of objects I have tested.
In other words, it isn’t simply a case of “apply a Belt product to the object, sound gets better”. Whether I am applying a PWB product, or simply a Beltist technique to the object, the sonic influence it has will consistently produce different results, depending upon where I choose to place the Beltist device upon the object. Where you choose to place the device is important, because every millimeter of an object can produce a slightly different sound.
There are certain places on an object that consistently produce better qualities of sound improvement than others. I call these “hot spots”. Moreover, my research has shown that similar products exhibit similar sonic patterns at or around these locations. Meaning the “hot spots” are generally in the same locations on similar objects. Take a set of interconnects, for example. In some of my trials, I found Beltist hot spots at either end of the interconnect (just before the plug itself), near the center, about halfway between the center and the end. Each hot spot may produce a difference sonic signature, but sound better than just a random spot on the object. I also talk a bit about hot spots in the Free Tweaks section, as some of those ideas utilize the concept of hot spots of “Beltist energy”.
There is another very peculiar effect under this mysterious force known asThe Belt Phenomenon, which itself is known as the “odd-even rule”. What the odd-even rule describes, is the effect of certain treatments changing in characteristic, depending entirely upon the number of times the application is made. For example, I would apply one Beltist device to an object, sound gets better, but with the next application, sound gets worse (to get a bit “technical” for a second, its actually “worse in some ways, but better in others”). One more application and the sound is better (in all ways), and this pattern repeats itself ad infinitum. Again, only with certain Beltist applications. It should be noted that, following one of the patterns in Belt’s research, I came across the “odd-even rule”, before ever having heard about it! It was only later when I searched the PWB discussion group to see if any other Beltist had any experiences with this unusual event, and found that it was indeed something that Peter himself discovered decades ago in his own research.
In total, I have observed the differences produced by different Belt products on different objects, literally hundreds of times, and have been observing the effects of Belt phenomenon over 20 years. I have applied Belt techniques to a great many variety of audio components and products, and many different audio systems. Both dirt cheap and rather pricey. I have not simply upgraded the sound but completely transformed 1 the sound of my audio system. So I know for myself, that I am not imagining the Belt effect, and that it has nothing whatsoever to do with any silly “snake oil” or “placebo” theories, as the perpetual skeptics allege. Placebos simply do not work this way.
1 (n.b.: Completely transforming an audio system takes a lot of dedication and in my case, weeks or months of dedicated tinkering. That’s okay, it was also a first time learning process for me. It probably can’t be done with free techniques, or at least, not as easily, as quickly, or as effectively as actually using the real Belt products. You are however, welcome to try! I give you many ways to experiment with the phenomenon I describe in this document. Either way, you will learn what you need to learn for the moment).
the advanced audio approach
What I hope to inform my fellow audiophiles on this site, is that today, there is more than one approach to building up a hi-fi system that will bring you years of pleasure. The traditional approach, that most people take, is to upgrade major components. For those who still don’t believe that some of the conventional audio products have an influence on our perception of musical fidelity, such as cables, then the upgrade path will be narrowed to whatever you think has an affect on your sound. Those who limit themselves to say, just the speakers, are limiting themselves from a world of possibilities. Manufacturers will always want you to buy the latest and greatest versions of their products, and audio journals will always encourage this. (It’s no different in the computer industry, where as soon as you buy a computer, its obsolete by the time you take it from the back of the store to the front of the store. Where the magazine rack is located, and you’re expected to read about the very latest and fastest gee-whiz computer you have to buy in the latest PC Magazine!).
The advanced audiophile may upgrade by conventional means of changing components, but he also has other options available to him. Which is to enhance the components he already has with alternative audio treatments. What many Beltists for example, prefer doing when considering an upgrade, is to allow a certain portion for the purchase of an audio component, and use the rest of the budget towards the company’s products for treating that component. Reason being, it’s usually found that the combination of the two approaches produces much superior results to simply using the budget for treating the component toward a costlier component.
Because of the fact that using Belt’s products extensively can have an effect equal to traditional component upgrades, it contradicts the widely-held but misguided belief among audiophiles that “tweaks” such as these, assuming they work at all, are only meant to fine-tune what you already have. That “true” improvements in sound can only be brought about by trading up components. PWB has proven to its customers that this is not the case, and true transformations of a person’s hi-fi system are possible with just these products themselves. In fact, this choice of audio upgrades are preferable to PWB customers, because they aren’t just an alternate means of improving your sound, they improve the sound in alternate ways, not possible by conventional products. So when viewed this way, it should be clear these products are meant to be a significant part of the overall audio budget, in order to have a significant effect on the overall sound. And not just regarded as an afterthought, like shoe wax, once the budget has been totally spent on the latest and greatest conventional audio equipment. Which by the way, will instantly degrade in value from the moment you carry it from the back of the store to the front of the store…
the cost of being avant-garde
Once you do identify that there really is a “Belt Effect”, then you have a problem. How do you tell people about it? Getting to the other side of the Belt “fence”, is not an easy trip for most people. When you do finally get on the “other side”, you see that it isn’t the miserable hell of wailing souls with empty pockets, chained to poverty and a life of deluded doom as the howling skeptics told you it was. But that its rather more like brightly colored scene of warm rolling hills of freshly cut green lawns and clean, sunny meadows, where things are rather relaxing, pleasurable, and the music is addictive. You can still see your friends on the other side from where you are (although they can’t see where you are), and you still often visit them on “their side”.
Now that you’ve discovered that “Beltland” isn’t what you thought it was or what they told you it was, you have a natural desire to want to show it to them, so that they might benefit and hear what you now hear on your hi-fi system. Except you discover you still have this problem. They still can’t see it, they only have their “perceptions” of what it must be like, built out of their prejudices. (Yes, sort of like everyone has a concept of what heaven/hell is or isn’t, but can’t know if they’re right unless they stop living). If you try to explain the effect and what you did to achieve it, nine times out of ten, you’ll either get a reaction like you’re crazy, or attacked with a barrage of mockery. So let’s be sure about one thing: those with open minds who have crossed over and tried advanced audio products or ideas and determined that they do have audible effects, are today’s pioneers. Blazing the trail for the rest of those who have yet to catch up.
“So which side of the fence are you on?
Prick up your ears….”
- “The Magnificent Five”
: Adam & The Ants
the advanced audiophile