Stereophile journo may actually accept Randi Challenge

Mike Fremer from Stereophile Magazine has kind of, sort of, mostly accepted James Randi’s Million Dollar Challenge.

The claim Fremer makes is apparently that he can hear an audible difference between the sound quality of Pear’s Anjou speaker cables (at a cool $7,250) and other, similar speaker cables. For Pear to have a viable business model, I also assume it’s not just Mike Fremer who can distinguish the superior cost ahem I mean quality of these cables by ear alone. Pear CEO and co-founder Adam Blake is already calling it a “hoax“, trying to imply that Randi is uneducated (while himself spelling it ‘eductated’), and saying that Randi’s challenge is backed by nothing. However, Fremer is the one who has said he will take up the challenge, although his acceptance communications leave something to be desired. Some extracts for your interest:


I am easily found on the internet but no one has come to me with whatever the hell this “challenge” is. Instead, the bitter, little Randi chooses to issue some kind of lame “challenge,” into the ether and because I don’t know about it, he feels empowered to attack me for not responding?


and also

I will take the annoying Randi’s cable challenge once we agree to the protocol and I find it intended to be truly scientific and not designed to produce confusion. I am more than well qualified to participate and am willing to do so despite the fact that the annoying Randi attacked me personally on his site by using a clownish photo of me that I generously allowed to be taken for the cover of a magazine because A) unlike the annoying Randi I have a sense of humor and B) unlike the annoying Randi I have a sense of humor.

and here comes the whiney ‘it’s all going to be a trick’ set-up:

I do this despite having participated in an AES (Audio Engineering Society) sponsored double blind test designed to see if AES members and members of the press could hear differences among audio amplifiers. This was in response to a different David Clark, one who contends there are no audible differences among well designed amplifiers.

I took the test and got 5 out of 5 identifications correct. John Atkinson, my editor, who the annoying Randi also derides, got 4 of 5 correct. However, as the overall population of engineers produced a statistically insignificant result, I was told that I was a “lucky coin,” and my result was thrown out! Just as you would expect from a good bunch of collectivist commies! Had I been challenged to do 100 push ups and done them but the average number of pushups produced by the group was 20, my 100 would have been thrown out!

I say he has only mostly accepted, because he appears to still be haggling over whether his claims are ‘paranormal’ in nature. It appears that Fremer fancies himself a scientist, and doesn’t want to be lumped together with the woo crowd. However, ‘paranormal’, as relevant to the James Randi prize, is “an event or a phenomenon that can actually be shown to occur, but has no explanation within scientific reasoning”. Since science tells us that the measurable difference between Pear cables and other, similar cables is below the range of human hearing, the claim that someone can hear the difference is, by definition, paranormal. If he could, science would not be able to explain it. However, at the time this week’s SWIFT went to press, Fremer was still haggling:

The word “paranormal” is loaded. I don’t like it. If I pass this test I will be declared to have “paranormal” abilities, which I deny. It will be like the “lucky coin” business with the amplifiers. I also don’t claim to have “golden ears.” Most who listen beyond the casual level can hear differences. I want this to be an experiment not a side show, with the results, should I be successful, indicating something other than ESP, paranormality, etc

It looks to me like what’s going on is that Fremer, an avid stereophile, has swallowed Pear’s sales pitch hook, line and sinker, and has subjectively convinced himself that the cables are superior and he can definitely hear a difference. I would too if I’d just forked over $7,250 for some copper wire. He is so convinced that he’s ready to take up the challenge to prove it, although a tiny voice in his head is wondering if he isn’t just imagining it and maybe he’d better lay out some excuses now… just in case.

On the other hand, we have Blake, who knows his claims are a bunch of spin-doctored claptrap used to justify a ridiculously overpriced product, knows there’s no way in hell that Fremer can pass a fair test to prove you can hear any difference at all, and is already starting with the pre-emptive strikes to soften the fact that he’s probably going to have a quiet word with Fremer and tell him to drop it… while at the same time maintaining a public semblance of co-operation so no-one can accuse him of getting in the way.

At least, that’s my opinion. I guess we will all just have to wait and see.

(tip o’ the headphones to Salman)

4 Responses to “Stereophile journo may actually accept Randi Challenge”

  1. I symphathise with ol’ Mikey there. There used to be a time when I was convinced that I could taste the difference between white and pink marshmallows. It turns out I couldn’t.

  2. Oh great – Santa doesn’t exist, and now you say there is no taste difference between white and pink marshmallows?

    Great post moonflake. I first saw this on Slashdot ( – truly danceable.

  3. residentRSole Says:

    We all know how this will end. They’ll fight over the test protocol for at least six months and no agreement will ever be reached. This is what almost always happens when some tosser takes the Challenge.

  4. Dean Richards Says:

    i can tell the difference between pink and white marshmallows. does anyone have randi’s phone number?

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