You're freakin' kidding, right?

>> Thursday, April 16, 2009

Boing Boing recently had a piece on a CNET review of, no, I'm not making this up, $39.00 gold-plated fuses for audiophiles from some company called "Isoclean".

That's right. For thirty-nine bucks you can get a gold-plated disposable component that's designed to self-destruct to prevent electrical overloads from damaging the parts of your sound system that are actually supposed to be worth something. Further proof that some people have more dollars than sense. I mean, seriously: what. The. Fuck?

Wait, wait, wait. It actually gets better. CNET reviewer Steve Guttenberg (no, not the guy from Police Academy, tho' I'll bet he gets that all the time) writes:

Also noteworthy is the fuses' glass body, marked with a direction arrow. Isoclean recommends experimenting with reversing the direction of the fuse to see which direction sounds better (turn the gear off when reversing the fuses).

(emphasis added)

Although it has to be noted that another reviewer, Albert Porter of Positive Feedback Online, writes:

Each fuse is marked with an arrow, indicating the direction the current should flow. Take care to not reverse these, as it harms the sound.

No! Don't reverse the polarities! It's bad! Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light! And God help you if you have your Isoclean fuses running in opposite directions on various components! God help you, sir, God help you indeed.

I shit you not. Isoclean apparently contends that electricity flows through a fuse differently depending on whether the element is running left-to-right or right-to-left.

I truly went into the wrong line of work. I could be a wealthy, wealthy man if only I'd been born without any conscience or scruples and the ability to keep a straight face in any and all circumstances.

It doesn't bespeak well for audiophiles when one--this is Mr. Porter again, and not Mr. Guttenberg, just to be clear--is reviewing the glass tubing encasing a fuse:

Isoclean fuses are precision products; this was evident from the moment I cut away the plastic seal and held it up to the light. I was struck by the jewel-like slow blow element; viewing was easy as the glass housing is exceptionally clean and clear, and, of course, the ends are gold plated.

Yes, Isoclean fuses are precision-engineered so that you can tell whether or not the fusing element has melted, just by looking. That's the kind of fine craftsmanship that one associates with high-end... erm... high-end Hong Kong engineering. I'm trying to decide if that's funnier than it would have been if I could have typed "German engineering," just because "German engineering" is, you know, kind of a cliché, but there you are.

For fuck's sake, they're fuses. They blow. You throw them away. And then you put new ones in.

My brain. It hurts.


Jeri Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 1:26:00 AM EDT  

Gosh, I need to get inventing. The Wi-Fi air clear is already taken. Sigh.

vince Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 9:00:00 AM EDT  

They're for audiophiles. Audiophiles want the best. When I was in the Air Force, a friend of mine who was an audiophile had as his reel-to-reel deck one that had come out of a recording studio when the studio upgraded. His speakers were five feet tall, and were extremely unusual in that they were made of wire rather than standard speakers (too lazy to go find them but I'm sure given time I could find them on Google). For Steve, everything was critical. Yeah, it was a hell of a system he had, and I'm sure he would love these fuses.

Nathan Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 9:24:00 AM EDT  

Pardon me sir, but I believe that Swiss Precision is preferable to German Engineering. Go ahead. Just try to prove me wrong.

And another piece of helpful information. It's very rare to be able to see when the little filament has blown because the glass usually TURNS BLACK when that happens.

Eric Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 11:34:00 AM EDT  

Unfortunately, Vince, audiophiles set themselves up for this kind of thing. Fancy speaker cables are for audiophiles, too, and yet double blind and mechanical tests consistently fail to show any difference between cable types. Indeed, at one point the James Randi Educational Foundation was offering the same million-dollar prize to anybody who could prove a difference between fancy cables and Radio Shack that the JREF was offering dowsers, remote viewers, homeopaths, and faith healers. (If I'm not mistaken, the million-dollar-prize has been withdrawn across the board for purely administrative reasons.)

Physically, there's absolutely no reason current would flow differently through a fuse one way or another. There's little-to-no reason for gold plating to make any difference (indeed, gold's higher resistance seems like it would have a detrimental effect, if it had any at all). And if the gold connectors on the fuses did make a difference (and there's no evidence it does), then it seems probable that any benefit is negligible when there doesn't appear to be anything special about the composition of the fusing element itself.

Ultimately, what an audiophile is paying for with these fuses is a $40/fuse placebo effect. While admitting that a placebo effect may be substantial, it also seems kinda dumb, doesn't it? Especially when it's being packaged in that much hooey.

I flirted with audiophilism when I was younger. Fortunately, I was too poor to do more than spend too much money on speaker wire. Sadly, one factor in my "recovery" was the realization that I probably killed a few frequencies cranking up the headphones in high school. These days, I have to admit I don't think I'd be able to tell a decently-ripped MP3 from a CD, much less a CD from vinyl (an ability I would have claimed up through college, I think.) (All of that said, I would probably still envy Steve's reel-to-reel deck.)

Anyway: yeah, this scam (like similar scams) is directed at audiophiles, but it's still a scam. :-)

MWT Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 2:53:00 PM EDT  

That sounds exactly like the sort of thing my mother would buy. T.T

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