This really should not be difficult at all: In a nutshell, ?ultra premium cables? are the snake oil of the consumer electronics business. Nothing more than an attempt to separate you from more of your money.
Go to www.monoprice.com and buy your AV cables there. You will, in some cases, pay less than 10% of what some comparable cables will cost from some other sources. I mean this literally, some of the cables that some outlets and retail stores sell for more than $100 can be bought for $10-$20, with quality that is just as good (including gold plated connectors). Yes, SOME $15 cables are as good as --and in a few cases may even be better than-- SOME $100 cables.
Some other places that I use (I have not found these to be as good as monoprice for AV cables, but they are as good for some other types of cables, including network cables) include:
www.stanleysupplyservices.com (used to be Contact East)
I will add that while the ?super premium? cables are, in my view, nothing but a scam, there definitely are ?junk? cables that you need to avoid. However, paying $100+ for a $10 cable isn?t the way to do it.
By the way, about my qualifications: I?m a degreed Electronics Engineer. I also have a number of computer certifications, including CompTIA A+ and Network+. I teach college courses in computers and networking. I got my amateur radio license in 1963 (at age 13), and my FCC 1st Class commercial license in 1966, and I worked as a radio and TV broadcast engineer while in high school and college. I?ve been in the electronics industry my entire life, and working with all kinds of cables for a long, long time. The rip-off that I see just about daily from the makers of ?ginormous? cables offends me no end. It takes all the restraint I can muster when I?m in the ?Greatest Purchase? or the ?Electronics Metropolis? retail stores not to scream at them when they try to sell a customer an HDMI cable for $100+ (sometimes a very big plus) that can readily be bought online for $15-$20. You have better things to spend your money on than ultra-premium cables which are no better than what you get from the sources that I listed above.
[You might now want to ask how to avoid the real ?junk? cables, and I can?t give you a good answer. The problem is that you can?t see the internal construction of a cable. The good news, however, is that excluding analog video, cables that are so badly made that they impact performance (especially without failing totally) are not all that common. As for total failures, although it doesn?t help the inconvenience, the warranty, at least up to a year or so, is a good guide to what you can expect.]
Two other comments:
Analog cables are actually [far] more critical than digital cables, especially for video. A digital video cable (for example HDMI or DVI) generally either works or it doesn?t; the cable generally doesn't (can't, really) degrade the image quality, as long as it?s working. But an analog video cable (say a 15-pin VGA cable) CAN degrade the video quality and cause ringing, ghosting and smearing, and, frankly, a lot (most) of the analog computer video cables are pretty bad. But it?s usually fairly easy to judge these: The diameter of the cable is very nearly directly related to the quality of the cable (the fatter the cable the better ... you want a big, fat cable). So definitely avoid thin, slender cheap feeling cables for analog applications (and note that component video cables are analog, not digital). But, that said, the bandwidth of "old style" [NTSC or SDTV] composite video cables (yellow RCA cables and even S-Video cables) is low enough that in short lengths the quality does not have a big impact. It's another matter, however, for computer video cables (analog VGA) and for HDTV component video cables (although if at all possible, these should be avoided entirely in favor of HDMI or DVI digital video cables).
Also, there is a difference between a cable that is subject to continuous motion (say a headphone or microphone cable as about the worst case) and a cable that, once installed, will just about never be subject to any mechanical motion or stress at all (the cables interconnecting your components from the rear, tucked away way deep in your dusty but otherwise untouched equipment cabinet). I?ll pay a little more for a good headphone extension cord (or, perhaps more relevantly, a good warranty on the cord), because being subject to constant motion and physical strain, it?s physical construction is a bit more relevant. Mechanical construction of many other cables is far less critical; once you install them, they may not be subject to much in the way of mechanical stress.
Still, the AV cables I?ve gotten from monoprice (with whom I have no connection other than as a mail order retail customer) have been top-drawer in quality and bottom drawer in price, and I?ve had no need to even look at other sources.