Click to viewWhen we first criticized the $7,250 Pear Anjou speaker cables, little did we know it would stir up such a hornet's nest of controversy. James Randi, former magician and professional debunker, responded to our post by offering $1 million from his James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) to anyone who could scientifically prove in double-blind testing that those exotic cables sound any better than run-of-the-mill Monster cables. Next, Pear Cable CEO Adam Blake stepped up, calling Randi's offer a hoax. Later, he announced that audiophile journalist Michael Fremer, senior contributing editor of Stereophile Magazine, was willing to undergo the double-blind testing in an attempt to prove there is difference between Pear Anjou cables and those Monster cables that cost about $7,100 less. Then, things got complicated. We interviewed James Randi, Michael Fremer and Pear CEO Adam Blake, trying to understand why this test may not even take place at all.
Soon after Adam Blake announced Michael Fremer's challenge to Randi, Fremer and James Randi began negotiating the details of the test. Even though Randi taunted Fremer with trash talk and ridicule, Randi stated clearly that the tests would only take place if they both agreed on the parameters. Fremer offered possibilities for the test, one of which included an offer for Fremer to use his own $15,000 Tara Labs cables for the testing. Randi said he would pose those possibilities to his advisors. But Randi says his advisors later ruled against that idea. "We're not going to go for [Fremer's] reference cables," Randi told us in an exclusive interview. "We're testing Pear Anjou cables. That was the original test. We're going to assess them to see if they perform better than the much cheaper Monster cables. And if he wants to go to his reference cables, we'll do that next if that's what he wants. It's his test, you see? He has to make the terms himself."
We asked Randi why he and his advisors were against the idea of Fremer using his own cables. Could cables be tampered with? If Fremer used his own cables, did Randi think there would be some sort of marker or sound that he would be able to discern between that and Monster cables? "Oh yes, that can be done, there's no question about that," answered Randi. "I can picture all kinds of scenarios where things can be implanted in a cable that could give out a signal, it can even give out a tone, a pulse of some kind that can be picked up easily on an earpiece, or by any means, even by a meter in your hand. I'm magician by trade, I know how these things are done."
Meanwhile, in the midst of the negotiations between Randi and Fremer, Pear CEO Adam Blake emailed Fremer, saying he would no longer be willing to provide the Pear Anjou cables for the testing. When Randi received word of Pear's withdrawal of the offer to furnish the test cables, Randi announced the challenge closed. When this happened, Fremer said he felt he had been left in the lurch by Pear Cable, especially since he and Randi were both still willing to test the cables. Fremer told Gizmodo, "When the guy [Adam Blake] backed out—and I don't know him from a hole in the wall—I said, 'Why are you backing out? It's going to make you look bad.'"
Randi and Fremer had agreed that Fremer would compare the cables beforehand, and if he couldn't hear the difference in his own informal testing, he would return the cables to Pear without undergoing the scientific double-blind tests. Fremer continued, "I said, 'First of all, the first part of this procedure, according to Randi and according to me, is ... I'll get your cables. I'll do some listening, informal listening at first. Then I'll decide whether I can hear differences between your cable and the Monster cable. If I can't, I'll say to [Randi], 'I couldn't hear a difference.'"
We asked Pear Cable's Adam Blake why Pear decided to pull out of the Randi test. "There is absolutely no reason why Pear Cable needs to be involved for Michael Fremer to conduct his test," Blake replied. "It is our belief that not only is the $1 million not winnable (because James Randi can delete challenger's tests), but that Mr. Randi will attempt to smear Pear Cable even if Michael Fremer attempts in good faith to take Mr. Randi's test. James Randi has validated this concern by already attempting to do exactly that. Why would someone participate in an excercise [sic] if they felt they would be attacked even if they could do what they claim? All James Randi has to do is prevent the test from happening (which he already attempted) and he will claim that he is correct. At this point, I believe I have accurately articulated our position for those who care to consider it."
That didn't sound to us like an answer, but more a criticism of Randi and doubt of his trustworthiness, which was expressed by Pear Cable from the start. What had changed? After we asked Blake a few more times for a reason why he withdrew his cables from a challenge he announced himself via a press release sent to Gizmodo two weeks earlier, Blake continued to point to Randi, disbelieving that Randi would allow a legitimate test to occur. "The test was not just for Pear Cable. James Randi challenged someone with a media presence to differentiate between Pear Cable OR Transparent cable and an entry level cable. Michael Fremer (not Pear Cable) offered to take the challenge and presented James Randi with 3 cable options, his own Tara Labs cables, the Pear Cables, or the Transparent Cables. We offered to loan Michael Fremer some cable IF he wanted to use it for the test."
After those three options were presented to Randi by Fremer, Randi at first said he liked the third option of using Fremer's Tara Labs cables, but wanted to check with his advisors before agreeing to the idea. This is where Blake changed the story around to fit his company's devices: "James Randi suggested that Fremer use his own cable (subject to advisors), and then Pear Cable decided not to participate for the reasons already stated." According to Randi and Fremer, this is not what happened. It was Fremer who posited this idea to Randi, who hadn't accepted it yet when Pear withdrew from the challenge.
Blake also characterized the million dollar offer as Randi's challenge, but Randi never claims to challenge anyone with his offer. It's the person who makes the extraordinary claims who must provide the extraordinary proof, and the testing only occurs when both the challenger and Randi have signed sworn affidavits that both agree to the test protocols.
Although it was Fremer's challenge to Randi, it was Blake who first announced it and agreed to provide the Pear Anjou cables for the test. And it was Blake who withdrew from the testing. Randi still invites Blake to provide his Pear Anjou cables for the test. He said, "It's all up to him [Adam Blake]. I'm 100% willing, always have been. I did not say that I was backing out. He could be saying that I'm backing out of it. No. It was very evident from the nature of the withdrawal of the Pear Anjou manufacturers, that they weren't going to provide the cables. I'm damned if I'm going to buy the cables. And Fremer says that he wasn't willing to, either. He wanted to borrow them."
Whether Adam Blake believed Randi and Fremer would come to agreeable terms or not, his explanation of why he withdrew his Pear Anjou cables from the challenge was evasive. Blake already stated at the beginning that he believed Randi was not trustworthy, alleging that Randi was a fraud who didn't even have a million dollars to give away. He later acknowledged that Randi indeed does have the million dollars after Randi pointed to its existence in his Educational Foundation's account held by Goldman Sachs.
As it stands now, both Michael Fremer and James Randi are still willing to perform the double-blind testing if they can be loaned a pair of Pear Anjou cables. Fremer has offered his audiophile system as a test bed, and Randi has offered a preliminary set of protocols for the test, suggesting between 20 and 40 rounds of random comparisons between the Pear Anjou cables and Monster cables that Fremer has already received from Monster Cable, Inc. The only missing element is the Pear Anjou cables, those $7250 pieces of copper around which this entire controversy erupted in the first place. We're left to think the following: If Pear Cable was so sure that Pear Anjou cables were as good as the company claims, and if those pieces of copper wire were truly worth $7250, the company would have stood behind that product, offering it up for any test, by anyone, any time.