Great marketing = bread and meat on the table!
The problem - and danger - I sense here is that it really isn't my place to criticise a swathe of audio accessories. Those products you mention, even though I doubt you could find an expert technical witness to defend them objectively in court (and there was a court case in the UK about the indefensibility of speaker cable claim just a year or two ago) do provide satisfaction to their users, and put a meal on the dealer's table and that of the manufacturers too. And it would be wrong to whip away that satisfaction and nourishment solely so that we could occupy the intellectual high ground. Would it change 'audiophile' consumption habits? No. Would it reduce foot-fall and 'churn' in audio retailing? Yes. Would it strain the financial viability of the few remaining independent audio dealers? Yes. They need sales of that 'stuff' and moreover, they rely on those sales. The margins for mainstream audio separates wouldn't keep a chicken alive for long.
But it's not just exotic audio accessories that catch the attention of a certain consumer. Remembering that human hair is a lifeless cellular material, do you realise how vast the hair-care market is? I'd guess that globally its sales are 100 times greater than specialist audio and it's profits 1000 times greater. Does it harm anyone to believe that they can be more alluring if they use a certain shampoo? No, and it does create direct and indirect employment in factories, logistics, retailing and advertising agencies around the world. No harm in that.
So what's the real objection from our side then? Our real beef is the use of pseudo-science to hoodwink the consumer into making the purchase. The very fact that you listed in your post a range of products which - as far as I can see - cannot in this universe be based on any solid science tells me that the gap between junior school science and today's consumer is frighteningly wide. And that vast gulf is fertile hunting grounds for marketeers, just as Elmer Gantry was a hundred years ago in the Wild West. How do I know? Because fundamentally I am a marketing person and I recognise great marketing when I see it. And because I'm paid to know how marketing works - in our case to incrementally build the Harbeth brand over a generation - I can see the tell-tale signs of others building their accessory empires with your cash. And good luck to them. If the consumer is daft enough to believe in the wild claims then clearly he has money to burn. The consumer's expenditure is the seller's income - that's the wheel of commerce!
Nobody needs to justify art, or whisky or a beautiful face. They are to be savoured, enjoyed whilst they last. But to cloak them in scientific mumbo-jumbo is inappropriate and indefensible (to me) even if it is ace marketing. But pseudo-science does fool a lot of people who do not have any innate sense of discrimination through laziness, education or time pressure. If you abrogate your consumer responsibilities to others, you will be led by the nose - that's a certainty because that compliant position is what marketing strives hard to hold you in, when you are at your most vulnerable and easily manipulated. But many folk really do enjoy being led, as the Apple miracle confirms by the millions.
Alan A. Shaw
Harbeth Audio UK