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Should I Spend That Much on Exotic Audio Cables!?

by July 16, 2016
Ask Dr. A

Ask Dr. A

We seem to get more emails about cables than virtually any other topic in audio. A particular email caught our attention when one of our readers was concerned about spending as much money on interconnects as their AV processor.  These type of situations may sound absurd to the uninitiated but sales and marketing are very powerful tools often used to dupe consumers into parting with their hard earned cash in any field whether it's for some promised miracle cure or fix to allegedly improve the sonics of your hi-fi system. 

Check out our YouTube video discussions below on this very topic.

 Audio Interconnect & Cable Myths Revealed

Q: Hi - I currently have Martin Logan XT Series surround sound speaker setup (11.1) and just ordered the Anthem AVM 60 pre/pro and their matching MCA amps.  I need about 10ft of XLR cables for this setup. I was looking at Audioquest Carbons and Tributaries Series 8, but getting 11 cables cost as much as the Anthem Receiver. Do you recommend any type of XLR Balanced Cables with a 10 foot run?

snake oilA:  Sounds like you've got some nice equipment there. We don't recommend wasting your money on snake oil cables unless your sole purpose is to dress up your system aesthetically. Even then, realize that most of your cables will be behind your equipment and out of visible sight.  Most exotic cables are nothing more than audio jewelry in a fancy package wrapped in hyperbole. This is especially true of companies that promise some sort of audio magic by slapping a battery on the dielectric or soaking them in Kosher chicken fat blessed by a Rabi. In fact, many of them measure no better, and often worse, than the inexpensive generic stuff. 

When choosing interconnects and speaker cables, we seek out brands that don't promote pseudoscience and instead embrace provable engineering principles.  The truth is it doesn't take a lot to make quality cables and we have numerous articles on our site that define what makes a quality cable.  Cables should only represent a very small percentage (5% or less) of total system budget so if you spent $10k on your equipment, don't spend more than $500 for the interconnects and speaker cables.

If your looking for inexpensive, quality brands to buy from, check out cables from Bluejeans Cable or Monoprice to name a couple.  You can then put the money you saved into adding a 2nd subwoofer to improve the bass across all your seats or better optimize your room acoustics.  There are so many other areas to spend money on that can yield much better sonic returns than cables.


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About the author:

Gene manages this organization, establishes relations with manufacturers and keeps Audioholics a well oiled machine. His goal is to educate about home theater and develop more standards in the industry to eliminate consumer confusion clouded by industry snake oil.

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Recent Forum Posts:

Speedskater posts on August 01, 2016 15:21
“their mass will block some of the energy”
Still no.
highfigh posts on August 01, 2016 08:36
Speedskater, post: 1147961, member: 63798

I should have written “touching the plug”, but yes, it can make a difference. Guitars and amps often have noise and it can stop as soon as the plug or any grounded part is touched and sometimes, when someone comes near. Typically, it's bad grounding, somewhere, that causes this particular problem and it's usually the cable from the guitar to the amp or between effect pedals.
lovinthehd posts on July 31, 2016 11:26
My only experience with hum was with a supposedly heavily shielded cable with the poor termination, which was the cause of the only hum I've experienced, even over extremely thin interconnects (but didn't dissect either to compare shielding).
Speedskater posts on July 31, 2016 09:23
highfigh, post: 1147956, member: 36433
A person's hand coming near the plug can influence hum because the their mass will block some of the energy causing the problem.

If the connection is actually intermittent, the cable should be repaired or replaced, anyway.
highfigh posts on July 31, 2016 08:32
lovinthehd, post: 1147924, member: 61636
Yes, but think my issues were how well the ground and rca connectors were physically connected…such as hum cutting in and out depending how you manipulated the cable at the connector….but I could have it backwards…

A person's hand coming near the plug can influence hum because the their mass will block some of the energy causing the problem. If the connection is actually intermittent, the cable should be repaired or replaced, anyway.
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