P.W.B. Reviews – Print
Keith Howard was the editor of UK’s “Hi-Fi Answers” magazine, and later wrote for “Audiophile”, “Grammophone”, “Hi-Fi News” and other top audio journals. May Belt tells an interesting story of a time in 1987, when Keith Howard and alumni were in a tizzy, dying to do something about the dreadful sound they were experiencing at Hi-Fi Answers demonstration booth at the Bolton Hi-Fi audio show. As a desperate last measure, he called in Peter Belt to help, if he could, save their dem room disaster. Peter treated the space with his perception-oriented techniques so successfully, that Neville Farmer, the editor of Hi-Fi Sound, asked Peter if he could treat their room likewise!
Audiophile, April 1991. Keith Howard. “Between Genius and Madness”.
Jimmy Hughes: Once upon a time, in a land, far far away (from South East Asia), there was a man named Jimmy Hughes. Mr. Jimmy Hughes was an affable, well-regarded audio journalist in the British hifi press before he discovered the audio wizardry of Peter Belt in the 80’s. Like many audio journalists of his time, he was very skeptical of anything Belt had to offer in the domain of “unconventional audio ideas”. During but not after the “Beltian Backlash” that was to come in the early 90’s, Jimmy was introduced to the products of Peter Belt and despite his skepticism was, in a quite normal reaction, completely bowled over by them. Even though he didn’t have a totally open mind about it before listening, he had a totally working set of ears. I say that because, I don’t think we can automatically assume that of all audio journalists (<cough>Holt<cough>).
And so… being an audio journalist, Jimmy felt an impulsive need to write about the amazing discoveries and products produced by this talented audio engineer and independent thinker, named Peter Belt. So he did. He filled up pages and pages of prose on Peter, extolling the virtues of the ideas he learned from Peter, and the products he’d tried. This was during a time of innocence for the British audio press. The Beltian Backlash hadn’t quite yet trickled down to the lowly audio journalist. It was still wending its way throughout the soul of the big audio manufacturers. Which happens to be located smack dab in the middle of their banks (or wherever they put the vault). It seems that somewhere along the way, the sleeping giant had awoken to the idea that if people could improve their present gear with products from PWB, they wouldn’t feel the need to upgrade every six months by buying new gear. With the prospect of audiophiles not buying new gear, the manufacturers of conventional audio gear, who coincidentally just so happen to advertise in these magazines, felt a little “left out” in all this Belt-hoopla the press had been giving space to. And a little math calculation tells us that the more space you give to Belt-ism, the less space you give to buying new gear. Yes, the “buying new gear” ratio is still at about 99% of the magazine. But nevertheless, there’s still 1% of the publications not being taken up by the encouragement to buy new gear.
While the backlash had yet to manifest itself, our fearless reporter, Jimmy Hughes, was still typing away about all sorts of subjects, audio and music-related. But some of them were about Belt’s products. Jimmy was pelted with rocks, tomatoes, bananas and ABX comparator boxes, for his advocation of Belt’s products. Even the magazines he wrote for were attacked, for allowing Jimmy to publish “weird products” that they had never tried before, but simply -knew- by a good hunch, that they were bogus. And then the backlash hit. Hit like a slow tidal wave, and swept across the UK press (the Belt fervour never quite fully made it to the shores of the rest of the world anyway). It came from the top on down, and took poor Jimmy under. He was no longer allowed to report on things that were outside accepted conventions for audio or science. The official byline was, if they weren’t already accepted by conventional audio science, they were fakery. And if you tried to say otherwise in the press, such as writing about what you heard, you too would go under.
Today, sadly, Jimmy no longer writes about Peter Belt. Along with pretty much everyone else in the British press. Rumour has it that he grew a beard so long, he is unrecognizable to himself, and dwells in an underground cave, living off mostly berries and shrubs. If you ever come across him, please don’t mention the “B” word, he might have a violent reaction. I will leave you with these chilling words that Jimmy wrote just about 20 years ago:
”How long Belt’s discoveries continue to be ignored by the hi-fi Establishment will be interesting to observe”.
- Jimmy Hughes, Hi-Fi Answers, Dec. 1988.
Frankly Jimmy, I don’t know if twenty more years of willful ignorance in ignoring the most major revolution to come along since audio was invented, is all that “interesting”.
Paul Benson I find, has a warm, inviting style of writing that makes reading about audio, for me at least, far more interesting than anyone I’ve ever read in the dry, tepid style of Stereophile. I haven’t read much of Paul beyond these articles, however. He writes about an unfortunately very overlooked but very important subject. Namely, Peter’s ideas about audio, apart from the products. Peter’s ideas were not widely adopted by retailers, manufacturers or even public alike because, quite frankly, they made Tiefenbrun’s, who was ridiculed enough for his ideas about how to achieve and maintain good sound in a demonstration room, look very sane in comparison. The unfortunate part is that Peter knew what he was talking about, and those who could listen could learn much from it. Belt showed the world many times that he did know what he was talking about, regardless of how bizarre the ideas sounded, but the world wasn’t ready to listen or simply didn’t care. He demonstrated as much at numerous high end hi-fi congregations, where the rooms he treated were among the best at the show. Even the anti-christ of advanced audio, Mr. Ken Kessler, admitted that Peter’s demonstrations of his ideas proved valid (except he later dismissed it as saying they were only valid when Peter was in the room!).
In yet another validation of Peter’s audio wizardry, Paul Benson tells of a story I’ve heard before (but with another amplifier). Which is the story that Peter brings in a £39 Sanyo amplifier that he treated, and it sounds good enough to make a £2,000 Naim amp nervous! There is no one else on earth who could do this to a £39 amp without touching any of its circuitry. He asks at the end of the first article, why dealers and manufacturers aren’t showing interest in Belt’s products and procedures. He goes on to suggest that it may be due a sort of British prejudice, because Peter doesn’t come from Glasgow or Salisbury, where some of the high end manufacturers (ie. Linn) originate. Perhaps there might be something to that, perhaps not. I really can’t say why there’s been so much resistance to Peter Belt’s ideas. (<cough>big money<cough).
Peter Turner appears to be the sort of audio journalist you would never find in the American magazines. He strikes me as more of a music lover than an audiophile per se. Toying with advanced audio, he seems like a man in an ill-fitting suit to me. He even writes that he had no desire to become involved with the PWB devices. But I’m very grateful for him having written about this subject, because he raised some very interesting points in one of his articles. He talks about the fact that he wasn’t keen on the Peter Belt products and, in fact, did not hear any differences from them. Except for one location, on the water system, where the differences may have just been audible.
Then he wrote off the Belt devices as being ineffective, as I fear many others did, for the reason that the prejudice against them (the idea that they can’t possibly work except perhaps, by way of self-delusion), was strong enough to cloud one’s judgment and result in a false conclusion. Turner writes that he felt ‘safer and happier away from the Belt products’, which is actually quite a common reaction from people in my experience. As I’ve written elsewhere, the fact that they challenge your conventional understanding of things is not welcomed by most people. Just the fact that they may require patience to evaluate is asking too much for many. What changed Turner’s mind about the products was the age-old story of how people in our society look for figures of authority to tell us what is and isn’t “good” (see “The Tao of Beltism”). In his case, it was a factory full of “common sense” engineers who had positively identified the benefits of Belt’s products.
So the difference with Peter Turner and others who dismiss the PWB devices after an ineffective (or no) evaluation, is that Turner gave them a second chance. I suppose you could say his prejudice against the products wasn’t quite strong enough to completely dismiss them forever, and as he writes, he tries to keep an open mind. Which is already more than what we see most audio journalists are willing to do. Another thing that most audio journalists are unwilling to do, is admit they are wrong in print! Peter Turner does just that, after admitting that there is indeed a Belt effect. What’s most interesting I find, is that he says not everyone nor even every system reacts the same way to the same device. And if true, would explain why some can hear The Belt Effect, and some can not.
In his experience, he says the effect ‘switches on’ gently over a period of a few minutes’. I seem to have heard some other Belt experimenters saying the same thing. I do believe however, that if the devices don’t work for some people, it’s generally a matter of experimentation and patience. Some locations you place them in change the sound in ways different than other locations (Beltian hot-spots may be different in different homes). As far as Turner’s idea of them not working in some systems, I’m not sure why he says that, as I don’t know what the conditions were. I only know that I too have recruited many experimenters, and tried them on many, many different systems. I’ve never had one “fail” on me, they have been able to have an effect on all systems great and small.
If that weren’t so, I wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble to create this web site.
“….but once (the Belt effect) is there, it is quite remarkable and well worth any trouble or expense to achieve it”.
- Peter Turner
the advanced audiophile