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Home audio and video: Premium vs. generic cables

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / May 31, 2007 9:58 AM PDT
Question:

Alright, so I've been trying to become involved in the high-definition era for a few years now. As far as I'm concerned, picking the right cables can be controversial. Whenever you go buy a new HDTV or an accessory component, the salesmen always ask if you have the appropriate connections. Then they always ask if you have "the best" connections that will provide the optimal picture and sound. So is there? Is a $15 cable going to provide equivalent performance to a $100 cable of the same type? And does this question have a different answer for analog and digital cables? I'd love to get the facts straight once and for all. Thanks!

--Submitted by Derek M.

Answer voted most helpful by our members:

HDTV Cabling

Cables and connections for stereo, HDTV, or any electronic media can be compared to hoses for moving water around your house. If you have a pump that will deliver 50 gallons of water per minute and you need to deliver 75 gallons per minute to some plants or a fountain--sorry, it will deliver 50 gallons max and your fountain will not chirp merrily, it will just slog along.

Cables have a maximum delivery capability and if you don't meet or exceed that your media will suffer. But on the same line of thought, if your plumbing will deliver 200 gallons of water and your pump will supply 100, you have wasted a lot of capability (which you paid for and will never get). Same with some of the monster cables that are around today, they are built to deliver ear shattering amount of wattage to speakers that if you did deliver, would soon reduce your ability to hear it to deafness.

The idea behind HDTV is that they are now sliding more data down the channels, and you can't do that with the old cables (maybe 25 gallon pipes). Same with HD DVD, Blu Ray and all the new things. You need to have a pipe that will deliver the amount that is being sent. You definitely need HDMI or better when using any HD device. You can use the other cabling (component, s-type, etc) but there is a difference. Some things won't even work without the proper cable, like upconversion to an HD set.

As for the price, that is something else entirely. Just because you pay $100 for a hose, doesn't mean it is made to stand the pressure of delivery. It is almost a matter of 'You get what you pay for', but not quite. There are connections at both ends of the hose and there are connections at both ends that belong to the other components, like your TV and the HD DVD. They are just as critical as the cable, they could be below par so that needs to be checked in the buying phase. I will say that buying cable from a reputable source has always made sense (when money is no object). I have however, bought from many different sources and compared and find that workmanship, and a quality product is not guaranteed by price.

What I have done is buy a great cable at a high price (you are going to need many cables by the way) and then bought a few from other sources at reasonable prices and compared them. Most have a return policy anyway, so the ones that didn't perform, I just sent back. Some times the ones that went back were the high priced ones. If you can't see or hear the difference, what are you paying for?

http://forums.cnet.com/5208-10149_102-0.html?forumID=7&threadID=250288&messageID=2504006#2504006

--Submitted by the_shelton

If you have additional opinions, advice, or recommendations for Derek, let's hear them. Click on the "Reply" link to post. Please be detailed as possible in your answer and list all options available. Thanks!
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Cable price is not directly proportional to signal quality.
by letmepicyou / June 1, 2007 2:14 PM PDT

Expensive cables are about as necessary as 106 octane racing gas in a Ford Focus. Monster Cable might be sending their "wise guys" to my house to beat on me now, but it's the plain truth. The ONLY time I recommend an expensive cable is if you happen to require one that is shielded, and the only time you need a shielded cable is if you have a source of EMI (electromagnetic interference). At the same time, I don't recommend using "Dollar Store" .99 cent cables as they're typically of poor quality. Just get decent average cables from wal-mart and you can save your money, putting it towards a decent UPS to run your AV equipment off of. Surge protectors don't really protect worth diddly, not to the extent even a lower-priced UPS will. I'd save money on cables and stick with a nice mid-range UPS. It'll protect your equipment WAY more than a power-strip or surge-protector ever could, and filter the incoming power as well.

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UPS Protection
by Psyclone / June 8, 2007 11:56 AM PDT

A UPS will presumably protect your equipment from lightning strikes, power surges and power outages, but what provisions do they have in their design to assure you that failure modes of the UPS itself doesn't result in serious damage to your equipment?

I don't mean to hijack this thread, but as a avionics design engineer that has to deal with failure effects, I wonder if a UPS is designed with these considerations in mind.

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UPS Output Protection
by MilTech / June 11, 2007 2:17 AM PDT
In reply to: UPS Protection

An UPS is designed as an inverter supply that completly isolates its output from the mains input. Because of this, the output voltage and waveform is "recreated" to be a precise representation of the input. I have found that the APC UPS typically maintains an output of 120VAC at 60 Hertz (+ or - 0.5 Hertz.) I am quite sure that those distributed in Europe meet the same specifications for 50 Hertz power.

Because the output of an UPS is remanufactured, it is closely monitored. An inverter supply will fail completly if design parameters are not met. This means that the output power just drops. It will not introduce frequency changes or wild fluctions in voltage.

The newer UPS will monitor voltage, frequency, battery condition, temperature, and float voltage for charge circuitry. The battery supply is always "on line" so that the inverter always will see a DC input even if the mains supply only fluctuates. If fluctuations in input voltage are minor, the sensitivity of most UPS may be reduced so that it is not cycling continuously.

I have never encountered damage to equipment connected to a moderatly maintained UPS. I service UPS from building size to 450 Watt personal computer size. Service normally dictates keeping them clean and load testing the batteries after 3 or more years of use.

I hope this answers your question and reduces your fears somewhat.

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UPS?
by cmabps / June 9, 2007 7:38 AM PDT

OK, thanks for the advise, but some of us are not electro-gearheads, and UPS mean United Parcel Service. care to clarify?

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UPS?
by purpleheathbug / June 16, 2007 5:55 AM PDT
In reply to: UPS?

UPS=Uninterruptable Power Supply

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ups devices
by lucerne / June 16, 2007 5:43 AM PDT

am I to understand that a powered ups hub cradles the power frenzies more than a protected power strip ?

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Derek ... about cable quality
by Watzman / June 1, 2007 2:33 PM PDT

Derek,

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.pimfg.com
www.computergate.com
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.

Regards,
Barry Watzman
Watzman@neo.rr.com

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Beautiful Dollar Store Cables
by edge_bit / June 8, 2007 12:23 PM PDT

I've purchased cables for $2 at the thrift store that were thick in gague and great in tested levels of noise.

The resulting picture and sound is perfect too.

The main thing with audio cables is the gague. If it's huge gague cable, then you're bound to have a positive result, period.

Also, these cables are most likely bulk Chinese imports as I am near Toronto.

$2 CDN == 14.4353 CNY, which pretty much makes sense for the price of a cable. Ah the wonders of the exchange rate. :3

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Re: Audio cable guage
by Watzman / June 9, 2007 2:51 AM PDT

Re: "The main thing with audio cables is the gague"

Yes but ..... ONLY for speaker cables. Guage is totally irrelevant for low-level high impedance audio cables (most cables connecting various pieces of equipment to each other), but for speakers guage is quite important.

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cable quality
by findeis1 / June 8, 2007 2:43 PM PDT

O.K. heres how i look at it.ive been into anolog music for a long time and my experience is thus.for anolog audio i use medium quality cables.but yes there is a but,keep the quality of the signal in mind.read the specs on the the product your trying to install.good specs spend a little more.bad specs spend a little less.no need to go overboard on a unit you just spent 200 or 300 hundred buck on.if you have bad signal to begin with no matter how much you spend on cables the quality wont change.next keep it real buy what you can afford.with video analog i tend to spend more. the thicker the cable the better its shielded.hope i was of help

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Cable quality, etc
by Rosalind Katz / June 8, 2007 3:01 PM PDT

Derek
When I look at the list of responses to Cnet questions yours is always the one I go to first. I don't always understand all the technical details but I do find your answers to be intelligent, detailed, clear and helpful.
I so appreciate the time and effort you take to help members of this community. Thank you.
Just thought you might be interested in knowing what one Cnet member thinks.

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Great answer
by BillR / June 8, 2007 10:21 PM PDT

I found that the so-called "Premium" cables of digital quality are not always so "Premium". I agree with Watzman on this and I think his answer will cover just about anything one could question on cables. BTW, I do use headphones on my PC a lot and have defected quite a few sets over the years when you have to start "shaking" and "wiggling" the cord to get both channels to play at the same time. Great answer Watzman.

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Very Well Said
by shumwaygord / June 9, 2007 2:06 PM PDT

I agree with everything you said - a new manager at a former employer tried to get me to sell premium cables for all the wrong reasons - he threw all the "Greatest Purchase" (his own former employer) reasons at me and I calmly countered every one of them essentially using your arguments. He gave me the employee of the month award for my "technical knowledge and honesty", but a year later I was in his office being given an exit interview for various minor violations. The bottom line is that after 12 years I was not making the Max for the Office store as far as profit. I will pay for premium gear that is worth the money, but not for equipment sold with half (or less) truths and smoke and mirrors. Bravo for telling it like it is.

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Video Cable, beach front property and snake oil salesmen all
by pkipnis / June 1, 2007 3:30 PM PDT

Not that I wish to deprive electronics dealers of a much needed profit source but I do take exception to the myth that digital sources need special cables. Fact is that the gauge of the cable is more important than if it's oxygen free copper (OFC) or a magical alloy. Digital signals are limited by length due to internal resistance. The IEEE spec for HDMI is 2 meters, DVI 3 meters. This spec takes into account the cable's resistance and connector limitations. Some companies market fancy jacked mega cables but before laying out silver, check the copper gauge. While Audio "experts" claim they can hear the difference between different copper or silver ($$$$) cables, Video signals have too may variables. For longer runs, beyoned 30 feet, go fiber. CAT 5 solutions are quickly becoming affordable for home use, but still expensive unless you're designing it into new construction. I would point out that most of the cables that are packaged with any electronic device (except power cords) should be tossed as they usually are the cheapest that can be had. Finally keeping your AC cables and other RFI/EMI sources as far away from your video and audio sources as possible will do more for you that any "ogre" cable will do.

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Monster cables at Monster prices
by lt x / December 23, 2007 1:58 AM PST

Here's the short story:

I've had two home theatre sound systems in the past year. One system was in the $350 range and my present system is in the $1700 range. I tried Monster cables and Radio Shack cables on both systems. The digital signals between dvd player and the amp/converter (and subwoofer) was no more than six feet. There is no sound difference between using $90 Monster cables vs $24 RS cables. I've even used the cables that were provided by the manufacturer of the subwoofers and the amp/dolby converters. No quality of sound difference between using the expensive Monster cables and the cheap looking cables that the manufacturers provided. The final test in sound systems are your ears and not digital graphics provided by Monster Labs. I conclude that the expensive cables that are being pushed by the Sales Associates at box stores such as Best Buy exist to improve profits and not necessarily performance.

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What to look for
by vdblu / June 1, 2007 3:32 PM PDT

Price is not necessarily an indication to the quality of cables. However, as another poster said, those cables you can buy from the %0.99 store probably won't do good either.

You need to find balance. Balance between your wallet and quality that YOU are looking for. Just remember, when buying cables, make sure they have gold contact points. Also, shielded cables will give you better quality but it's one of those intangible things. Some people know just by the picture if a cable is shielded, others can't. If you're the latter, then shielded isn't necessary (though keep in mind, you live near powerlines, shielded would probably be a good idea).

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Simple answer
by baran220 / June 8, 2007 12:39 PM PDT
In reply to: What to look for

Cheap cables $20.00 give you poor quality, expensive cables $100.00 are a rip off for most home theater systems, unless you have a 60,000 watt virtual movie theater in your house but then you can also afford gold plated cables with diamonds.

The expensive cable is what most high-end A/V shops will try to sell you. Not because they really feel it works better but to cover them selves from having to make a return visit with a better cable because you think the picture is not what you expected. And of course they want to make more money.

I bought $20.00 HDMI cables just to get me started and set up my AV system. I have a fairly high end AV unit with an HD/DVR cable box and 46"" LCD. I use HDMI cables through out no composite at all except for the DVD player where I use optical and composite.

Though I had a decent picture, for the heck of it I went out a bought $60.00 cables just to see. Big difference, I did not realize I was losing picture quality with the cheaper cables until I changed them out.

Bottom line; buy a brand name cable like monster but stay in the middle price range and you will have what will work excellently without buying what you don?t need.

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Check this out
by Watzman / June 9, 2007 2:58 AM PDT
In reply to: Simple answer

I just got a reply from someone who bought (and after reading my answer was returning) a "Monster" (brand) 6 meter HDMI to HDMI cable that he had paid $120 for.

Monoprice has two 6 foot HDMI-to-HDMI cables; their premium cable is $15.44 (their item #2219), their budget cable (item 2412) is $4.79. I've used these cables, and there is nothing wrong with them. These are the kinds of price differences we are talking about.

MIND YOU, THE MONOPRICE "BUDGET" CABLE IS GOLD PLATED AND HAS FERRITE NOISE REDUCTION CORES.

Get It?

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Analog Cable from Sat Box...
by Gregarious1 / June 15, 2007 7:37 PM PDT
In reply to: Check this out

Thanx webfoot...re the control...I was just planning on running up to the house to change it. Are you saying there is a way to control it from my place? How? Oh, and I want to mention, you know Michael Schenker, from AC/DC? The supposed 'god of guitar'? Well, his 'wife' and kids came down and spent a few days with us, and a friend of hers came over to visit, her not us. He was talking about how they got cable from military subs, made out of silver, not the color-the metal, and used it for electric guitars. Awesome sound, and then they rewired the guitars with silver, too. Classy. ;D

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long analog cable
by webfooted_willie / June 15, 2007 10:27 PM PDT

What satellite box do you use? Make and model. You may be able to control it via the coaxial link - if not, there may be a wireless device with enough range.
Or, if no one in the house uses the satellite box could you move it into your mobile home if all else fails? I have a friend with 70 foot cable from dish to receiver and no problems. Some authorities say maximum length 70 METRE! But others say 100 feet (see http://cablemaster.com/SatelliteTip.HTM) It's worth a try, and if the signal is too weak (most receivers will tell you) you can install an inline amplifier in the house.
Alternatively move the dish too? Solves all your problems.
Sorry, no comment on silver cables.

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Analog Cable...
by Gregarious1 / June 15, 2007 4:48 PM PDT
In reply to: Simple answer

I live on a ranch, in a mobile home about 125' away from the main ranch house. I want to run a cable to my standard tv set, from the satellite box. No EMR worries. But I have been wondering if I need one of those, what's it called, a refresh box? To strengthen the signal after some distance? I am not too worried about quality, anything is better than what I have now. Zippo. What is that 'box' called, and do I need it?
And if I buy 100' roll, and add the remainder, do the connections degrade the signal? Thanx, David

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Analog cable from satellite box
by webfooted_willie / June 15, 2007 6:57 PM PDT
In reply to: Analog Cable...

As no one seems to be answering:-

I am using 127 foot coaxial cable from satellite box to standard TV (Panasonic 20 inch) which I tested before installation and could detect no difference from using a 1 metre cable. There was also little difference from using a 1 metre SCART connector.

My cable also involves a male and female pair of coax connectors as I did not have a long enough continuous length.

You do not say how you intend to remotely control the satellite box: mine is controlled by 9V DC signals via the coaxial cable.

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Yes and No
by mikeinHB / June 1, 2007 3:55 PM PDT

In my experience, digital cables can be the cheapos and analog should be better grade. Now, that doesn't mean you need to spend a ton of money on a set of BRAND name cables that we all see at the big box stores. While those cables are of a good quality (probably even in the top tier), there are cables with less of a bling factor that do just as good a job. Search around the internet for information forums that contain brands and experiences, don't just take the replies here for gospel. In my home theater I have HDTV, HD-DVD, Blu-Ray, and HD-DVR. That's alot of acronyms, but you get the idea that I like my tv and movies in high def. Now, my screen is of top notch quality, my speakers also, and my sources are of great quality. By no means is it a 30k setup, but it's no slouch. I've been in the position where my newest component I've just bought was so expensive that I really didn't want to nor could I afford the big dollar cables, so I opted for the cheapos, with the intention of buying the more expensive ones when I could. I'll tell you that the analogs made a big difference in sound and video quality, but the digitals were all snake oil. That's using my blue-collar worker's ears that are probably not as audiophile-esque as some, but no noticeable change nonetheless. In terms of analog, I bought the gold plated, bling-style cables that were 90 bucks for a 3ft. cable and then had the 30 dollar cable when I discovered that 3ft wasn't long enough for the new entertainment center. No difference again! Except for the 'monster' pricetag.
As a final note to this, I will tell you that the power conditioners are NOT snake oil. Many will tell you their setups work just fine without them, and that their picture is just great without it. I will tell you that living in a home with older wiring and a city grid that's overloaded (southern CA), I noticed the difference as soon as I powered it all back up! Plus, my insurance may not have to cover my losses if there is a problem and any of my equipment fries. Get one just for the 200 dollar insurance policy on a 3 thousand dollar TV!

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Analog cables
by Update_3 / June 1, 2007 4:05 PM PDT

Can't say I have noticed too much difference with my digital cables Derek. However, the difference with low quality and high quality analog cables is marked. I used to use the cables that came with my gear. A mate assured me of the performance improvement with his speaker cables, and it got me interested. We moved house, and I was interested to upgrade our sound system, but it was only about a year old. So I purchased some better speaker cable, and *WOW* - the change was amazing - I was so happy with the sound improvement from the speakers - greater tone, clarity and richness.

As we were moving I went out and bought some other analog cables that connect to the AV Amplifier. I used Monster Cables as they were in my price range and widely available. There are other brands, but Monster's quality and price made them a good choice for me. The improvement was amazing and seriously, has kept me so happy with my existing kit I have not needed to upgrade. I later bought even better speaker cable (which is actually a good investment as you can use it over and again when you eventually change speakers) and it was a worthwhile incremental improvement.

I have only one original equipment cable left, that connects my DVD recorder to the analog cable tv box. The performance in terms of colour, clarity and sound is pathetic, but I am too damn lazy to pull all the equipment off the wall to make the change now!

Good luck with your decision Derek!

AlexB

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Speaker cables .....
by Watzman / June 8, 2007 12:20 PM PDT
In reply to: Analog cables

With speaker cables, it's not so much "quality" that matters as wire guage. A system delivering 100 watts to a 4 ohm speaker system is going to be putting 5 amps through the speaker wiring. That's significant current, so you do need some good heavy wire (more so if the length is long as well). But given the guage that you need, there is still a big price difference between "plain old wire" and "premium wire", while I will contend that it makes no difference in sound quality (using a smaller guage wire, however, can degrade sound quality). And all that said, speakers are about the only cable application where wire guage matters ... they are about the only application carrying significant current. Just as computer analog video (not TV, not digital video) is about the only application where cable capacitance and crosstalk really becomes significant (but VERY significant).

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Speaker Wires
by ralphieflaff / June 9, 2007 12:55 AM PDT
In reply to: Speaker cables .....

I agree, speaker wires are the only place I have ever noticed a big difference in quality depending on what kind of connecting wire you use, especially if you have a high powered system with long lengths of speaker wire. The only other recommendation I can make is to keep connecting points clean by occasionally using something like noxon. Poor connections and using really cheap line level RCA type cords with poor shielding can affect signal quality.

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Speaker cable quality..
by rchaisse / June 9, 2007 3:25 AM PDT
In reply to: Speaker cables .....

I have to respond to Watzman's statement.. 'With speaker cables, it's not so much "quality" that matters as wire guage'.

You're right about guage being important. There is a lot of power (amperage) that is sent to the speakers. However, the quality of the wire is very important for a couple of reasons.
1. most copper wire fatigues. after a period, it needs to be re-tightened. ( you can check this yourself ) Some speaker cables use an alloy that has less fatigue, but also, is more efficient in allowing more of that power to reach the speakers.
2. the capacitance of the wire significantly effects the slew rate (rise time) of the signal. A low-capacitance cable permits the sparkle to come through. With a high-capacitance wire, the sound is dull and nothing that you can do with any of your components or audio cables will change that. The best design is wire that is twisted inside an outer jacket.

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Reply .....
by Watzman / June 11, 2007 2:10 PM PDT

As to your point 1, I don't know what you've been drinking (smoking?) but that's some good stuff. Fatigue is only an issue in terms of mechanical failure to a wire subject to frequent movement (most are not). And, within broad limits, fatigue is a function of guage (copper is copper .....).

As to your point 2, your point is technically correct but really not relevant at audio frequencies, and only a bit relevant at composite video frequencies. It is, however, VERY relevant at the frequencies used by computer monitors and HDTV monitors driven with analog signals (e.g. component video).

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Save your money
by tim63 / June 1, 2007 4:26 PM PDT

For analog signals like component video, cables can make a difference, up to a point. Tests have shown there is no difference in picture quality between moderately priced cables and the most expensive, especially for short distances.

Digital cables (HDMI and DVI) have become one of the biggest scams in the industry. Even the cheapest cable will deliver the same digital bits as the most expensive one. Only on very long cables, heavier gage wire will reduce the possibility of signal loss. Don't pay monsterous prices for a cable that does the same job as a printer or USB cable. Some stores carry only overpriced cables, so customers have no choice but to shell out or go elsewhere.

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Don't waste you money on expensive cables!
by AudioMaximus / June 1, 2007 5:00 PM PDT

Most audio & video cables today are much better made than they were years ago. You can find many brands of $15 cables today with gold plated jacks and quality braid type shielding. The real tricks to obtain the best video & audio quality are:

#1 - Use interconnect cables that are as short as possible. The shorter the better. That will insure the least chance of the cables picking up stray noise.

#2 - If there is no way around using cables that are too long, stretch them out as best as possible - don't coil them up as that may induce inductance that could increase video and/or audio noise.

#3 - If at all possible, always run your audio & video cables perpendicular (NOT parallel) with any power wires. Equipment power cords are one of the biggest causes of audio & video noise.

#4 - If you have 2 or more different components in your system, try strapping the metal cabinets together with a separate wire (Common case ground). The improvment in video and/or audio quality could be anything from mild to unbelievable.

Analog & Digital (coaxial) cables are pretty much made the same way. However, if you have Digital Optical abilities with your equipment, use of Optical interconnects eliminate the wire all together, and thus won't pick up any electrical noise.

As far as speaker wires go, I know a professional person with a multi-thousand dollar audio system who has more electrical & electronic degrees than we have fingers and toes. He uses nothing more than lamp cord to his expensive speakers! (You do however need to look at your power output & the length of the cord to determine the necessary wire guage) The trick to keep noise pickup down in speaker wires is to twist the stereo pair one full turn (I believe) every couple of feet.

So you see, it isn't the price of the cords and interconnects you use to keep noise in your entertainment system at a minimum. It's HOW you use them.

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Smartphone tip

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