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Page history last edited by Andrew Alder 3 years, 2 months ago

Likely to be an unpopular essay


I recently made a friend quite angry. 


Angry at first with his audio shop, then with me, and then with the whole audio industry. In that order.


You see, both he and the audio shop had been cynically and competently conned. As have many, many others, including much if not most of the consumer audio industry.



The fraud


My friend had been sold some signal cables that were sold as being

  • OFHC copper
  • Top quality
  • The finest and most expensive available

and all of these things were probably true.


But he'd bought them because both he and the sales staff thought that OFHC meant that they were better than other, cheaper cables. And that was not true. 


Confused? Yes, its a very good con. It gets better.


OFHC stands for oxygen free high conductivity. Copper for electrical work must be OFHC. For example, if the copper busbars in an electrical switchboard were not OFHC, there would be voltage drop, and overheating, and probably eventually a fire. And it has happened.


Copper bars are available in various grades, including OFHC, and OFHC is more expensive of course, and required by the regulations that cover electrical switchgear. So far so good.


But  all copper wire is OFHC. That's what the salesperson did not know. Copper containing just a little oxygen is not ductile, meaning that it can't be drawn into wire.


Well, perhaps nothing is impossible. But it would be so difficult, and therefore expensive, that everyone just uses OFHC copper for all wire production and probably always will.



The consequences


I explained all of this, or so I thought, to my friend. So he got angry with the shop, at which he had spent a lot of money over the years, and took them back. (An action I had not suggested. They were good cables!)


And they laughed and showed him article after article in audio magazines and explained what an ignorant fool I was.  And he got quite embarrassed, understandably, and avoided me for the next few days.  And then he blew his top and called me some nasty names.


But when he calmed down I showed him some metallurgy textbooks and offered to introduce him to a metallurgist. And he got even quieter. It scared me a bit. He was now even angrier.


As I expect will some of you be if you do a little homework. Especially if you work in audio and have been in good faith defrauding your customers on behalf of those perpetrating this con.





I do not know whether my friend still goes to that audio shop. I suspect not, and regret that if so, because they are one of the better ones.


But years ago another friend, who runs a very good and successful music shop, told me I worked out at the start that if I tried to run a good music shop I'd probably make money, but if I tried to make money I'd probably never run a good music shop.


There are people like that in audio too. You just need to find them, and be them.


So if you're one of them, don't take the "OFHC" cables off display. They are probably good stuff, just misrepresented and perhaps a little overpriced. Maybe put up a sign that says (accurately) ALL OF OUR COPPER AUDIO CABLES ARE OFHC. That should be enough.


But it might get you into lots of trouble and not a few arguments. So maybe take it down when you know one of the shonkier reps is going to call! That's your call entirely.


More important, have your answer ready when a customer wants to argue with it. I'm afraid I suggest that sometimes it may be best to commit a sin of omission. You don't need to actually lie to them. Just tell them that yes, many people say or imply that there are non-OFHC cables out there, but that you agree that they are inferior and that you choose not to stock them at all. It's not your job to educate them if they do not want to know, after all. The customer is always right/


It will be a lot trickier if a customer buys a cable and then angrily brings it back saying it's not OFHC because it would be marked as such if it were, or worse takes one off the stand and wants to argue that it's not OFHC because it's not so marked. The only way to prevent the first scenario is to point out at the time of purchase that it's not so marked, but that seems overkill and won't be 100% effective anyway. Maybe keep the unmarked cables behind the counter? That seems overkill too, and still won't work when a visitor to their home later wants to show off his superior knowledge and tells them what terrible cables they are using. 


My experience is, the more ignorant a person is, the more they like to argue. No, that's not a lot of help.


But definitely keep selling these "OFHC" cables to those that want cables of that quality at that price. The ones I've seen have been a good heavy gauge with many strands, with high-quality insulation and connectors. And that's what you should be paying for.

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