The Tao of Beltism
“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” – Confucius
GOD IS IN THE DETAILS
Beltism teaches us that there is a Zen approach necessary, if you are interested in following the path to audio Nirvana. In that sense, Peter Belt is like a solitary Buddhist monk at a mountaintop temple, who’s taken a vow of silence, and is attempting to dispense audio wisdom to a world full of clattering, whining fax machines, honking cars, loud people. His wisdom shouted down before he’s ever had a chance to speak. What he has learned, as have many Beltists, is that its hard to be heard above the din. When you live in a world of desks, and cars, and refrigerators, and tv sets; books and pillows and shoes…. you’re usually not thinking about what’s happening in a world the size of quantum particles. They are smaller than you could imagine. Yet they make up all of the things in this world around us. That’s one reason why God is in the details.
Peter Belt is an audio engineer that pays attention to the details. The kind of details most other audio engineers don’t pay attention to. It’s why he is noted as being a phenomenal expert on being able to improve the sound of nearly any listening room, and has repeatedly demonstrated as much in the homes of audio journalists, the dem rooms of manufacturers, and their listening rooms at hi-fi shows. As the latest article from his wife in Positive Feedback details, he can point to the existence of such seemingly innocuous items in the listening room, such as unconnected cables, cartridges, etc as having an influence on the listening experience. The article goes on to mention electrical items in other rooms connected or disconnected, or people turning on video cameras, mp4 players etc in the house, can all have an infleunce on the listening experience in the listening room.
This wasn’t arrived at by guessing or playing “fishing for new ideas”, but by many years of careful observation. It is supported by my own research into this, and that of many others. It’s not something that most people want to hear, so they shut it out, often before even giving such theories a chance. But that doesn’t change the world at all, Nature’s laws still operate as they do, regardless of whether man wants to believe in them or not. Some of them are being discovered by other researchers, and they show that Nature, at least one part of it, dislikes disorder. Cleanliness really is next to Godliness as some Beltists have found, after cleaning up and organzing their place (not just the listening room), to find the sound improved.
In the 80′s, Ivor Tiefenbrun, the man behind the Linn products who almost singlehandedly created the high end audio industry2, observed that certain passive things in a listening room were having a negative effect on the sound. Such disconnected speakers, LED/LCD watches, telephones. He was of course, denounced as a madman for this by the audio establishment. Nevertheless, he later insisted that all speakers not under demonstration be removed from the room, and all over the world at Linn dealerships, this is what was done. This frustrated a lot of Linn dealers, but, it did help to sell the products because the demonstrations were better for it. Mr. Tiefenbrun however, well meaning as he was, was wrong in his theory about why speakers had to go. Mr. Belt took it further, removing parts of the speaker, and finding the problem remaining, until it was identified as the magnet in the driver. Batteries were also identified as problem devices in a listening room, and all modern watches contain them. Telephones were identified for their magnetic properties.
In the Beltist realm, part of the way the real world operates (according to observational evidence), magnets can have good properties as well as bad. All depending on where they are applied, or whether they are treated or not (to reduce adverse effects). In general, it’s bad, and one of the suggestions PWB advocates is removing them. This includes magnetic tapes in the listening room (see Free Tweaks). I tested this theory out myself once and even though I did not think I’d hear a difference, I was quite amazed at what came out of it. The premise may not make sense to people in the beginning, but armed with keen listening skills, once you start exploring them and finding out that yes indeed, a great many such things have an influence on our sound (including influencing others who have no idea what you did), you can’t help but come to one conclusion about all of this: God is in the details. And Peter Belt knows all about them!
WRITING ON THE SURFACE OF A LAKE
The theory for PWB products, as well as most other advanced audio devices, confounds herd-thinkers most of the time. And no wonder, for the operating principles of PWB products may confound Beltists as well. Because of this lack of an “authority figure” in our society (the scientific establishment in this case), saying to us “Yes, this is edible, you may safely try it”, non-Beltists usually find it impossible to get beyond the unusual ideas and products and simply listen or at least regard them without prejudice. Over an understandable fear of food poisoning I suppose…
Too many are applying 19th century thinking of “snake oil” scams to “rationalize” away new 21st century thinking in audio science. I think to understand all the irrational reactionism to Beltist ideas, you have to look at basic sociology a bit. In our society, there is a marked difference between independent thinkers, and those who follow peers, who themselves follow a higher authority (a “group leader” if you will), which has already beaten a well-worn path for them. This thought pattern is known as herd-thinking, and was indeed necessary for our survival. A very long time ago. The IT’s tend to follow their own paths and make their own independent choices, based on what makes sense to them, and not necessarily what is regarded as “common sense”. This doesn’t imply that IT’s don’t have the ability to think critically, or draw upon shared knowledge, but that they have the choice to think alternatively (in patterns alternative to common group patterns).
Most critics and even many adherents don’t seem to wish to accept what Mr. Belt proposes as the working hypothesis for his own products, from twenty five years of his own research. Even if they’ve never tried any of his devices. So, if they haven’t dismissed them with a sweep of the hand, they offer their own. And I always find it interesting and amusing to hear what people’s interpretation of the Belt phenomenon is, because it says more to me about the observer than the phenomenon they are analyzing (which they may or may not have studied). I’ve heard everything from Chi, to Feng Shui, to ionization of the air, to radionics, to “the diffraction grating somehow re-scattering missing ambience to recreate the original event” and so on, to explain The Belt Effect.
Of course, that’s always more interesting than the predictable audio cynic’s interpretation. Which like the seasons, cycles through the well-worn roster of “placebo, snake oil, expectation effect, effective marketing, self-delusion, auto-suggestion, imagination, mood changes”, etc. Then if they get tired of that, they’ll pull out Occam’s Razor, the sanctity of the DBT, and other tools skeptic’s regularly use to bash new ideas that challenge their world view. All this to conveniently dismiss scientific phenomenon from the comfort of their computer chairs, which they have never in their lives lifted a finger to actually research.
TEACHING THE TIGER TO FLY
The first, and the only thing the naysayers wish to do, is tear the theories apart, just for the fun of it. It seems that in our beleaguered audio community (and perhaps society at large) today, there really isn’t a genuine eagerness to learn new things, so much as there is a genuine eagerness to destroy different ideas that threaten the status quo. So the most popular ideas that win out in any group, such as the myth that speakers are the most important part of the hifi chain and what you should invest most of your funds into, aren’t necessarily the best ones, that will produce the best results. They are merely the ones that survived. Whereas the less popular ideas, that may actually present us with a better way of doing things, remain on the fringes. The end result being, most people’s hifi systems aren’t a fraction of what they could be, with all the proper techniques applied. But you have no idea what you’re missing, when you’ve never had it to begin with.
So no matter what hypotheses someone like Mr. Belt may come up with, if the scientific community doesn’t decide to test and accept it, for the many reasons that may occur, then it isn’t given the “scientific authority” necessary for the rest to “try what is offered”. It would seem that many things haven’t been tested and accepted by this community, such as wires, cables, spikes, amplifiers, cd players, and so on, because even after decades of arguing about it, there are still naysayers who cling to religous interpretations of “science” (ie. audio DBT’s), and claim that all of these devices and more have no effect on our perception of sound. Which is to say, they all sound the same. In this kind of hostile environment it would be an extremely difficult proposition for anyone doing the kind of groundbreaking research and observation that Beltists do, to formulate any hypotheses that would satisfy naysayers. It might be said, naysayers are only satisfied when they’re naysaying!
Nevertheless, during twenty five years of research, Mr. Belt has laid the foundation of many intricate concepts defining his work, and this itself has evolved over time, as more observations were made. No one is saying that any are proven scientific theories. They are in fact challenges of conventional knowledge to the scientific community1, and the scientific community has thus far not accepted the challenge. But anyone who has done the research, confirmed the observations, and feels they have better ideas of what the phenomeon may be based on, is free to put that on the table for discussion. In fact, I created a discussion forum for just this sort of thing: The Advanced Audiophile Discussion Forum.
DOGS BARKING AT A SINGING BIRD
You start off by politely explaining to the uninformed about “energy patterns”, and they just go off like wind up tinker toys… That’s not logical! That’s not using common sense! I’m a reasonable man! Get off my case!!
As I have seen time and again in such “debates”, if we can call it that, the weakness of Beltism is that it does not do “sound bites” well at all. Simple little snippety snippets of information, fed in bite-sized chunks from a baby-sized spoon, that busy (read: lazy) people today require in order to understand anything new. Even degreed scientists and engineers working in audio, do not have the patience for products that require lengthy, complicated explanations like the PWB products do. It’s too long? They write it off. The larger weakness of Beltism is that you have to throw away conventional logic in order to begin to understand them. That doesn’t mean you have to become stupid to accept them, or that all laws of conventional logic fly out the window. They still apply if they applied before. It simply means the same rules of logic that people are familiar with no longer apply to Belt’s products. The reason is because the Belt phenomenon (not Peter Belt himself), does not follow known rules of logic. It is what the phrase “it flies in the face of convention” was designed for.
The more an individual attaches himself to applying conventional logic to everything, the less the Belt devices will make sense to him. This of course,explains why the greatest knee-jerk reactions to Beltism come from scientists and audio engineers. They apply rules of conventional logic to everything, because that is what they have trained themselves to do. If you could go back in time, say 200 years ago, and try to explain to scientists about the double-slit principle and all the strange, quirky, unpredictable laws of quantum mechanics are like,you would get a similar reaction to what Beltism gets today. The old scientists would have little point of reference from their training and scientific knowledge to understand and believe the science of these tiny little particles that are invisible to the naked eye, behave in such strange ways, and yet is all around us in all matter.
If you showed them how to do the experiments, how many would even humour it? If scientific history and the reaction to Beltism is any indication, few would take the challenge, preferring to stand their ground on their old beliefs. This is why we see the vast majority of audiophiles and those trained in the logical sciences like engineering, having the same silly reaction to Belt’s products. They know nothing about the phenomenon, nothing about the products, and are applying only what they do know, their old rules of conventional logic, to understanding them. Conventional logic says it’s not obvious that they do anything, or that they can not possibly do what is claimed for them, therefore, they are a hoax. Therefore, its open season on the products, their inventor, the inventor’s family, and anyone even remotely associated with advocating them – and yes, including those who sent away for the free sample….
In my opinion, to really understand Beltism, first it requires that you undergo the experiments, using the products from PWB. Or to a lesser extent, at least the techniques I’ve given here. Furthermore, not only do you need to be able to hear the effects of the phenomenon during the research, an endeavour which may require decent to good listening skills, but you really need to research it well. Enough to identify that:
a) That there is a consistent change in the sound, identified by a particular sonic signature created by a particular Beltist device. And
b) That this sonic signature changes depending on where you place the device (but once placed in another location, the signature is, again, still consistent).
TALK DOES NOT COOK RICE
True insight comes with experience. So when you start to understand that much from experimental observation, then you can turn to the theories, and they will make more sense. Because you now have a context to place them in. But to understand them in full, the theories require a lot of reading and understanding, in order to make sense of them. Even then, they’re only a working hypotheses, not the parable of God, or even bathroom graffitti from Einstein. However, even if you don’t go outside the site to research say, Schroedinger’s cat or morphogenetic fields, the articles on the site do at least give the Belt’s overview of how this observed energy and the ways we as humans react to it may have come about.
Simply put, because the phenomenon can’t be measured objectively, and because the theories haven’t been challenged in scientific peer-reviewed journals, the empirical evidence under observation is stronger than the theoretical evidence that is intended to support it. Which is why talking to otherwise informed people about “energy patterns that affect our primal fear instincts and in turn our senses” is only going to get that sort of extremist knee-jerk reaction you always see on these boards. It’s like trying to explain what music is about to someone who was born deaf, and barely even heard about the concept. Not talking to them at all about how it works to the audio cynics gets you the other extremist knee-jerk reaction. Which is that it doesn’t work at all, it’s just a placebo invented to exploit gullible people who would otherwise be busy making babies for their cult leader if they didn’t have this to occupy themselves with.
The true audio netnuts will insist that you take an ABX test, requiring a special comparator box, where each DUT is calibrated to 0.1db, and an extensive host of other criteria are met. Who does that?! Not even they do that! But… according to the audiophile zealots, you must do that, otherwise you are fooling yourself. Good argument for all of those second-order ”mild DBT advocates”, who think that you’re fooling yourself if you find differences in products they don’t understand the operating principle for, and haven’t done a DBT. But that you don’t need to go to “ABX extremes” for your DBT. Well I say you do! I mean if you’re going to advocate DBT’s, then I’m sorry, but nothing less than an “in your face ABX test” carried out by a fully qualified ABX test conductor will do! Otherwise, you leave yourself open to criticism about your test methodology, by critics who take the very same tact that you do. Of course, reasonable audiophiles say: forget that! Just listen. And that’s what I say. But the skeptic responds with…..
“No! I can’t do that! Because even if I hear differences, I won’t know if they’re imaginary! I prefer to drop my hard earned dollhairs on stuff that isn’t imaginary!”
And the Advanced Audiophile says….. “Shhhhhhhhhh……”
“…..Sound perceived is sound heard.”
It does not matter in the slightest whether you are fooling yourself or not. It does not matter in the least how an audio device works. All that should matter to the true music lover / audiophile is whether you can hear differences, and continue to do so. The bad thing about placebo’s is that they don’t continue to work in the long term, otherwise people wouldn’t need the pharamceutical companies at all. That’s how you can tell what is real and what is imaginary. End of story.
THE WAY OF THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED
Beltism teaches us that traditional approaches to sound reproduction are outdated, and at the very least, need to be upgraded. Because the only things most audio engineers are willing to accept is that perception of sound is governed by either the signal chain or sound pressure waves. Naturally, that would be the only thing they accept, since its the only thing they understand. To admit there may be other mechanisms at play that affect how we process reproduced sound would mean admitting they don’t know everything about audio, and can no longer pretend to be complete authority figures on the subject.
Peter Belt is an audio engineer and produced leading edge technology in audio when he engineered and sold his own designs in the conventional audio market. But after observing things that conventional audio theory couldn’t explain, he went beyond where most engineers are prepared to go, and asked questions they still aren’t prepared to ask. The answers came in abundance, over a period of more than two decades of research. He developed many products based on this research. None of which operate on the audio signal itself, and all of which affect our perception of sound. This is a point that many of Belt’s detractors get wrong because they don’t understand the basic concept here. Thinking that the products can’t possibly have an effect on our stereo systems, when they are not intended to at all! (Then when you try to explain it, they inevitably mischaracterize, believing that if the products are only designed to affect our perception of sound, then that is an admittance they are only placebos! Yaarrrrgh! Anyway. Moving on….).
In those two and a half decades of research, Belt revealed things about the perception of sound that no one else had discovered. These include:
Human perception has special sensitivities to colour, shapes, symbols, materials, chemicals, images, shared experiences, language (including written words) and many other phenomenon too numerous to describe here. By “sensitive”, I mean that they affect our perception of sight, sound, taste, and reportedly other senses. It might also be argued that it isn’t so much that we are sensitive to these characteristics, but that we are sensitive to the energy on all objects, and this energy is influenced by these characteristics.
Belt proposes that the reason we are sensitive to this energy, is because we have a primal neurological mechanism which we’ve retained since the beginning of the evolution of our species, that programs us to consantly be reading/sensing the environment every second. Hypothetically, this was necessary for our very survival as a species, since we needed a way to communicate with each other and to move out of harm’s way. Otherwise, logically speaking, we would not have survived in order to evolve. We are talking about the very earliest stages of our species, before we would have evolved in order to posess the senses that we do today, such as the sense of hearing, sight or smell. It is speculated that one of our earliest forms of communication, before we evolved enough to speak, may have been through chemicals, as some plants are known to do.
The argument is that we still retain these primal mechanisms, and are on some unconscious level(s), constantly seeking our environment for clues of friendly or adverse energy patterns, as it may have been when we first evolved. It is said that objects in the modern environment trigger these mechanisms, causing us to consantly remain under tension, unless something alters the pattern on the object(s), producing stress chemicals that inhibit our senses. Manipulating the energy patterns of objects in such a way as to make them less adverse to these senses, is said to improve our modern senses of sound, sight etc. So if we retained these primal senses, then we still have a special sensitivity to chemicals, and they can affect our modern senses, ie. perception of sound / vision. I have demonstrated just this to many audiophiles and non-audiophiles alike, by “treating” objects with certain products, and as we could all witness, our perception of sound was affected by the treatment of an object with that chemical product. n.b. The sound wasn’t necessarily improved, but the fact that it had changed was the only important aspect of the experiment! (The result of one of these experiments can be found in “The Colgate Technique”, if you wish to test the hypothesis).
Chemicals aside, let’s now take a look at the aspect of sensitivity to colours. Obviously in our earliest stages of evolution, we did not have the sense of sight, as we know it today. So were we able to see colours? Presumably not, but we may have been able to sense colours. If each colour of the colour spectrum operates on a different frequency, as scientists theorize, and all frequencies of the spectrum are absorbed by an object except the colours we can see, then we may be able to sense that frequency and the characteristics it may have, in ways other than the sense of sight. Which is merely the most apparent way we know of, to sense colour. Since the ’80′s, those who have experimented with colored markers to treat the edges of their CD’s and have reported hearing differences, have been in fact testing out this very Beltian hypothesis. Want to test it out for yourself? I will add a bonus treatment technique that shows you how to properly treat your CD’s and other objects with a marker you can find at any stationary store!
(Almost) All the techniques that I have written about on this site, as you may be able to see, follow one aspect or another of Beltian hypothesis. Once you understand them, they’re really not as weird and crazy as they look! The tricky part is understanding them…. Again, I have very quickly just glossed over the theories to try to fit it in one of those “sound bites” I was talking about. You can find out more by checking out the manufacturer’s website in the menu opposite.
Sad but true fact: It is pretty much impossible to have an open, intelligent, productive discussion today on public internet discussion forums on the subject of any audio products that might fit into the category of alternative audio. Anything else is fine, though, up to and including Bill Clinton’s underwear. And yes, as a reality check, I consulted my calendar, and indeed we have entered the 21st century seven years ago. It appears the Luddites of the 19th century have born children and their spirit permeates the souls of our modern 21st century society, in the neo-Luddites we see in our audio community.
What happens if say, someone dares to advocate advanced audio products or ideas on a web-based audio discussion forum? It’s not pretty. I’ve seen middle aged men shriek hysterically like school girls, upon mentioning some of these products or ideas. You can expect to be slammed with accusations of being a troll, a shill, or even a “plant for a rival audio forum” (yes, I got that one as well). You can be as polite as a shy Buddhist monk, and still expect to be spat upon with all manner of contempt, scorn, derision, ridicule, debasement and other forms of disrespect. You can expect to be pelted with mockery non-stop, from start to finish. Even though the subject may spawn a thread hundreds of pages long, if you try to look for the parts that might resemble a reasonable, rational, intelligent debate among adults on the subject of the advanced audio idea or product, you might be looking for a long, long time. You can make your pleas for reason and discussion without personal attack, but its like reasoning with a pack of wolves who just see you as fresh meat. If the forum has a moderator, the thread will usually end up being locked by the mod, or it may end with your banishment from the group. The subject itself, even though it is about audio (namely, advanced audio products), may be barred from being raised again on that forum.
So, now you know. There are “forbidden subjects” in audio today. I have no problem voicing my opinions on the subject, as Stuart Goddard once told me, “ridicule is nothing to be scared of”. But I have been approached by alternative audiophiles on discussion forums, who’ve told me privately of their unwillingness to start or participate in discussions on such ideas and products, because they don’t wish to be subjected to any of the above that I mentioned. It all reminds me of the plight of homosexuals in American society of the fifties and forties. Another reason for the creation of this site and its sister site in particular, the AA discussion forum, is that I hoped to facilitate free discussion of advanced audio technologies for any of those who wish to do so. In an open and inviting environment, without fear of banishment or persecution just because you happen to experiment with unpopular audio products or ideas, that most of your peers in the community “don’t and won’t get”.
1Only one facet of the scientific community, the medical community, has taken up the challenge. Blind tests were conducted on the effects of one of PWB’s products, the Silver Rainbow Foils, on hearing aids. 75% of respondents reported improved results after Belting. The conservative-minded medical research team never followed through on further testing (the presumption being that it wouldn’t look good for their image to support such fringe research. More details can be found on PWB’s web site).
2Tiefenbrun was no genius he, but he was smart all the same, as he knew the right ideas to steal.
Your life is all-believing overkill
And now you’re disbelieving
I want to take you to the higher hill
Far from the disbelievers
Far from the disbelievers…..”
: Martin Stephenson
the advanced audiophile