Music-related "snake oil"?

I’m not trying to talk trash, but I saw an ad for these “silicone in-ear wave guides” that claim to remove in-ear distortion and upgrade a normal pair of headphones to an audiophile experience. Feels real weird to me – I get that they claim to attenuate the frequencies to which we have an increased response (see fletcher-munson curve) but is that really removing distortion? And can this actually make a pair of Beats sound like Grados? I don’t really want to give them clicks so here’s a few screenshots of some of their claims… Anyways thought it would be interesting to have a thread about other things that make questionable claims about improving musical and aesthetic experiences. Disclaimer: I have no experience with this product and am merely voicing skepticism, not attempting to slander its quality or refute its scientific claims without evidence.


I can’t comment on the product, but I was served an ad for them on Instagram directly after reading this post. What a world!


I bought them based on reading a couple of people on… amazon maybe?.. who said it seemed to help with their tinnitus. And out of curiosity. I have zero faith that they turn “any headphones” into an “audiophile experience” but I’m interested in all aspects of hearing and curious how they might even distort sound. Or do nothing.
I have really, as my doctor puts it, “weird ears”. (She was referring to the physical structure of what she could see with the ear probe thing while I was being examined after a particularly horrible airplane/ear pressure incident that left me almost deaf in one ear and with distorted sound in the other for about a month). This probably makes me more gullible to stuff like this.
Same company also made ear filters before this (similar to hearts / eargasm etc).
Will report back re whether these do anything at all in my case once they arrive.


Well, based on their own paid for report from the Univ. of Southhampton’s ISVR (never heard of them before this, but they seem to be a small univ. research group near the manufacturer)… Calmer is basically an approx. 5 db attenuation above 2k Hz. That’s it.

Now, how that could reduce distortion is totally unclear, and seems pretty unlikely, since your normal hearing range will well over 50 db of range. So… If you’re listening to headphones at a volume where a mere 5 db drop is the make or break for hearing distortion - I’d say you’ve got way bigger problems by listening to anything that loud.

“Reduces stress trigger frequencies without muffling sound” seems like total “you can’t prove it” marketing copy. It’s not like there are specific “stress trigger” frequencies in the human ear. As for not “muffling”… Sure, a 5db drop at 2k Hz and above, once you’re acclimated to the curve (a few minutes) won’t sound muffling. Just like listening to your favorite album on your car’s crummy speakers doesn’t sound any less great once you’re used to it.

So basically- they are almost do nothing silicone ear plugs for $26 USD. Meh… Save the money for a take out meal, and just turn your headphones down a skosh. — And once COVID-19 is behind us, buy a pair of ETY Plugs ER20XS for half that amount, and do your ears some real protection at the next loud show you go to.


My favourite example of music snake oil are pedals that promise “through hole components only” or “original lm308” for ungodly amounts of money hahaha


In guitar pedals some rare parts like germanium transistors in fuzzes or chips in rats make a big difference that you can hear.

I can agree that for modern components smt and through hole can only differ by a form factor

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My examples of snake oil i music:

  1. marketing words like “full analog path” in synth with digital oscs in it.
  2. some authentic/legendary technologies which were famous in past but now there are only names/brands

the differences between silicon and germanium semiconductors are so significant, they really shouldn’t belong to a “snake oil” discussion :slight_smile:

In noise-critical or (non-)linearity-critical paths it’s reasonable to question and compare noise, capacitance, inductance, thermal and other characteristics of both surface mount and through-hole components — they are not equal. I can imagine historical designs integrating characteristics from through-hole technology, to sound different when implemented with SMT (not necessarily worse or better). Enough so to warrant design revisions. Again, not necessarily snake oil. Some details here and here.

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anything to do with cables - wowsers or “hi-fi” in general
Distortion boxes or analog warmers , warm up your mix ect - most of those boxes are riffs on very well known circuits smothered in epoxy usually to hide this fact, have look inside some of these boxes and there is a giant PCB with very little on it (bar epoxied resin :slight_smile: ) - DIYRE colours are a killer bargain for this reason,
THT vs SMT - its more a maintenance hassle as they’re the same parts in smaller/different packages…
Loops - premade loops. Why the fuck bother really


I remember seeing a $500 wooden hifi volume knob that you replaced your cheap plastic one with to reduce the vibrations that are ruining your audio experience.

But there’s audio cleaner crystals and $40,000 interconnects

WAT Hi Fi used to chronicle this stuff


Gold-plated optical cable connectors.


If you read forums for high-end audio systems like Naim or Linn people are convinced the sound changes for the worse with every software update and that the devices only reach their peak after months of breaking in. I think it is more likely to be mood, music choice and volume but it does make me laugh.

Extreme diminishing returns in that world!


oh wow! Wat HiFi is a goldmine :sweat_smile:


:sweat_smile: :sweat_smile: :sweat_smile:


I have a really uncomfortable middle ear myoclonus (ear spasms) which is triggered by high frequencies when I’m stressed, so this actually sounds like a decent premise? Perhaps there wasn’t enough of a market in tinnitus sufferers so they decided to make up some garbage about reducing distortion…

Not sure this is as popular any longer, but anything with a visible glowing tube that doesn’t actually do anything drives me crazy. Waste of a good tube, too!

I worked for a hifi cable manufacturer at a few points over the last couple decades, but was a cable believer before that. One of those things that doesn’t make sense on paper necessarily but can make very noticeable differences in a listening setup.

Ooh, ooh, I’ve got one. Music doesn’t feel as dramatic and dynamic as in the good old days? Drums thin and lifeless? Try new EarOpener[^1]: Botox® for your tensor tympani muscles. Removes in-ear distortion to let those transients hit as hard as they were meant to hit. Ask about our installment plan and don’t ask what the disclaimer says.

[^1]: Name tentative. We can workshop it.


It’s not about difference between Ge and Si but between different Ge transistors. They sound so different. Some units are discontinued after lack of components (like JAM pedals fuzz, many BBD pedals like Moog 104 delay).
Some devices are hard to repair like old rack devices that sound so good but to components to repair.

Sometimes the difference is subtle but I like to hear this:)


On that note. Analogman has soundclips comparing the sound of Alkaline batteries Vs Brownstone

Battery differences

Battery comparison: same NKT275 pedal. Starts with Alkaline Duracell (twice), Cheap General Purpose type (twice) then Duracell (twice again) on a Les Paul. Listen to the high end change. DURACELL2.MP3

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Here’s snakeoil that amuses me:

  1. Digital apps that offer authentic analog sound
  2. It gets worse: I just saw a digital compressor plug-in that described itself as Class-A


To that point I suppose I should also mention this one:

  1. Class-A Components in general as a justification in inflating cost x10 on anything - A friend once said he preferred it because Class-A sounds “Classy”

I was going to mention this as my go to example of audio snake oil. But I also enjoy sharing the article comparing speakers cables vs coat hangers: