Does cable/ cable price always matter?
I am assuming that there are 101 different opinions about this topic out there but I am curious what people think as I am slowly improving my set-up. Do you think that there is a difference between a $10 hdmi cable or a $200 monster cable? What about component video or s-video cables? I am guessing that in a two-channel setup the shorter cable is preferred but what about brand or does using banana plugs vrs method "b" work any better? All thoughts and comments are welcome!
Yes, there are many different opinion and heated discussion that can be had about cables.
Here's what I've learned first hand since I launched the magazine about 5 years ago:
Personally, I have not heard or seen any difference between affordable and high-end digital cables - HDMI specifically. I've used both a $15 and a $200 cable and the picture looks exactly the same.
In fact, I wrote a very interesting article about how Monster Cable tried to "dupe" us at a media event into thinking that their cables were better than other brands. You can read the article here:
I still can't believe they tried to pull this on us. It's just insulting...
The long of the short - a cable that's rated to trasmitt a 1080p signal should do so without deteriorating the signal at all. If it does deteriorate the signal the cable should be considered to be defective. The only time that the quality of a cable might make a difference is in a long cable run (usually to a projector).
Analogue cables on the other hand are a different story. Different types of cable cores, winding type and shielding will influence the performance of a cable. From my experience, upgrading power cables can result in the most audible performance improvement. Then interconnect cables and then speaker cables...
The power cables that from the wall to the TV or receiver or subwoofer? I have never heard that before!?! Where do you find after market power cables for AV equipment?
I would suggest upgrading the power cable of your AV receiver first, and then the subwoofer. I can't say that I've seen a performance improvement by upgrading the power cable for a TV (but that's just from personal experience).
Of course in order to upgrade any power cable, the componet must have a removable power cord. After market power cables are available from many different manufacturers (Ultralink, GutWire, Furutech, Nordost just to mention a few). If you're a DIY kind-of-guy, you could build your own power cord using Furutech components - check out http://www.audiyo.com - the Canadian distributor.
Another way to possibly improve performance in your HT, would be to introduce a power coditioner - have you thought of this?
I have been thinking about either buying a powerstrip/conditioner from the store or installing one on the breakers my av equipment uses. My father-in-law found an outfit in the US that makes such a product. What has been your experience with power conditioners? Is the change in sound very noticable?
I have a Monster Power conditioner for my HT, I've got a Transparent PowerLink Plus cord for the pre/pro and I'm not sure it makes a big difference but I feel better
I have seen significant differences in S-Video cables and used that very visible difference to convince my spouse that cables do make a difference so she wouldn't bug me too much about a $300 power cord :-) of which I have 2
I have also heard differences with analogue interconnect cables but mostly subtle EXCEPT for one case where the difference was like night and day.
When I had my Linn setup it came with Linn cables but they didn't "look" like they were of high quality, just skinny little cables with a basic looking RCA plug... So.... I moved residences and setup the Linn with my spare "expensive" Audio Quest cables. The Linn sounded compressed not at all like it usually sounded with the Linn cables. I had a hard time believing it was the cables and tried a few other things, speaker placement, etc but nothing brought back the clean open dynamics until I put the Linn cables back in the system and then all was right with the world..
From my experience cables can make a difference but in general it's often subtle unless your system is being constrained somehow by the current cables AND you then find the right cable for the setup you have.
"Exploring" cables is a costly experiment unless the vendor will let you try them out before settling on what works in your system..
And for me that is the crux of the issue, one can easily by cables that are not suited to your system... so I buy a decent quality cable and hope for the best LOL!! If it turns out bad I give them to someone I don't like and try another set
Every home theatre should be protected at least by a good surge protector.
A step up would be to use a surge protector/power conditioner which adjusts the incoming voltage. I've tested a few of these in the past and they can make a slight improvement in the audio and video performance, although the improvement is usually very subtle. The more important aspect of these is that they will protect your equipment from failing prematurely.
I'm all for power conditioners and although I don't currently own one, I plan to buy one in the next few months.
i did a computer install at a customers house a few weeks ago...he had a home theatre installer mount an LCD on his wall and bury speakers in the walls etc...he bought a new imac from me and wanted to connect it to the TV so he could watch his daughters university hockey games online..
i got a 45' DVI-HDMI cable from monoprice for him for less than half the price the HT place was quoting him...even going from the imac to a mini displayport-DVI adapter the cable worked perfectly over that long a run..
moral of the story? i would always try the cheap stuff first..if it works, great..if not send it back, get your $ back and then go buy the expensive stuff you were thinking about buying anyway...
Interesting topic....to have the means to prove out all types of cabling quality, to compare without doubt connectivity grades between manufactures, would put
many suppliers out of business..........having connected 100's of STB's, I could
never see any difference between composite and S-video connections. More visual
complaints have come from the source.....crappy push-on RF cables, cheapo splitters
that are improperly cascaded. Start with the signal, at the source, and work forward.
When you obtain optimal signal at the set, you are ready to experiment with cabling !
With the HD STB's, I honestly cannot see any difference in HDMI quality between 6'
to 8' -to 12' from any manufacturer......but have not worked with anything longer.
I've switched all my RCA interconnects to quad shielded RG6 coax, with gold crimp-on connectors. I have noticed a slight improvement in sound.....but only at high volume levels......
You're perfectly right 70srocker - when swapping out cables the diiferences in picture or sound quality are often difficult to see or hear. To use your example, the difference between composite or s-video cables is very subtle (if noticable at all in some cases). Not that anyone should be using these connections anymore... In regards to RF connections, yes there is definitely a big difference in picture quality between using a "dollar store" splitter and a $20 gold-plated splitter from The Source.
From my experience, all short (under 25') HDMI cables should deliver the same performance. Only on a couple of occasions I've encoutered HDMI cables that introduce some noise but I've considered these to be defective cables.
In the analog world, upgrading cables can certainly improve sound performance although often times this can be very subtle and you may notice it only after numerous listening sessions and at higher volume levels. As 70srocker said start with the source signal and work forward. The higher quality your audio equipment is, the more likely you are to hear a difference when upgrading cables. I've found that upgrading power cables for the amp, pre-amp and CD player can result in a significant improvement. Then the interconnects and then speaker cables.