Do you find yourself increasingly dubious about cable manufacturers' performance claims? Has this affected your spending habits?

Do you find yourself increasingly dubious about cable manufacturers' performance claims? Has this affected your spending habits?
Yes I study the claims closely
41% (106 votes)
I take a brief look
30% (78 votes)
I never look at the claims
29% (74 votes)
Total votes: 258

There are an increasing number of articles on the Web regarding cables/speaker wire and their sonic properties. Combine this with some "blind" listening sessions (like the one substituting a coat hanger) and any sensible person has reason to pause. Do you find yourself more dubious about manufacturers' performance claims? Has this affected your spending habits?

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COMMENTS
Jim's picture

That this "debate" exists shows the lack of physics education in the country/world.

Andres Cruzat's picture

Placebo effect. The emperor's new clothes. Whatever the analogy, I have wasted serious money on cables and will admit that I cannot hear the difference between reasonably sized cables. The emperor is naked!

G.C.  Van Winkle's picture

I used to read that stuff, but got tired of the psuedo-science. I thought that the inexpensive Kimber products (Timbre interconnect & 8TC speaker wire) were good values in my earlier system. In my current system I'm happy with the entry-level DH Labs interconnects as recommended by JM. My own single-blind listening tests done years ago showed that trained listeners can hear differences in cables, but that does not justify the insane pricing some vendors are charging.

dirk.de.taey@telenet.be's picture

I am just in the process of trying out some new cables in my current set-up, with initial focus on speaker cables. I would never have thought I would be willing to accept (let alone admit) the difference cables can make. As a golden rule, I was not prepared to spend more on cables then about 20% of my speakers' value. With my experience today, I am prepared to go up to 25-30% of the total setup value on cables. The only issue I have problems with is cable length, or at least the importance of it. Reference cables are not to be found under (at least) 5' lenghts. If I would upgrade to mono power amplifiers I would only need 2' of cable length. So, my main question remains : do I go for a stereo power amp and reference cables, or do I spend more money on mono power amps with shorter (less expensive) cables. Any advice would be welcome by the way.

macksman's picture

I listen and buy (or not) based on what I hear. You can probably read any and everything on the web, but it means nothing versus what you hear. If you hear differently, okay.

Glenn Bennett's picture

Of course. The main reason is the huge profit manufactuers and dealers make on each sale. A good reliable reasonably priced cable from a brand name company can save you a bundle. They're trying to rip us off now with HDMI cables for home video.

Lionel's picture

I have never seen any evidence that any specification or claim other than a cable's resistance, inductance, or capacitance has any effect on the sound. That's not to say that cables don't have sound-modifying capabilities, but it's a lot less significant and a lot more predictable than the cable manufacturers would have you believe. (I've never spent more than $30-$40 on an interconnect, or about $50 on speaker cable)

Hale Burnside's picture

Look inside your speakers. You may be shocked to see the speakers wired with zip cord.I have seen this on a number of quality speakers. Thus why use gold wire to attach to tin wire inside the speaker.

Jared Gerlach's picture

As a scientist, I think most of the cable claims are make-believe. To be clear, I don't think using the lowest quality option is a good idea, but I have yet to hear a real difference between low-level signal cables of respectable construction and very rarely have I heard differences in speaker cable with electrically neutral (limited resistance and capacitance) behavior. Don't get me started about AC cables...that's nothing short of fairy dust.

Mike Miller's picture

I prefer listening to pro-audio high-quality powered monitors. Speaker wire/cables? Caveat Emptor. It's your money, spend it any way you like.

John P.'s picture

I take a brief look at an audio cable manufacturer's performance claims, then I examine very closely the physical design they say makes for such magical results. The more conspicuously clever or unconventional the design, the less I believe the cables will perform well, and the more I believe that company's customers are being fooled into wasting money. Still, I have owned some very good sounding audio cables, e. the old AudioQuest Diamond x2, some lower priced copper AQs, and Taras that were a fine value within their price range, Kimber PBJ both unbalanced and balanced, Kimber Silver Streak, all-silver Kimber interconnects and digital link, and Kimber 8TC speaker cables. Yes, I'm a big fan of low-capacitance braided cables. My biggest disappointment with an audio cable's performance was a circa 1995 Theta 1m digital coax. As mediocre as many Monster products have been, let's not forget that the 1980's overgrown lamp cord Monster speaker cables served as a few of us music nuts' introduction to the very idea that cables matter.

Kirk Spencer's picture

I am very dubious about such claims, though like many exagerations, there is a kernal of truth at the center. My brother, an engineer, is about to retire from a 35 year career working for a defense contractor, for whom he built or oversaw the building of very complex electronics. I asked him about the cable issue, and he affirms that wires do matter and can affect the performance of equipment. This, however, does not change two facts: 1) some cable vendors do appear to be making false or erroneous claims; and 2) charging hundreds or thousands of dollars for cables insults our intelligence. When I bought my Bryston 4B SST, I bought interconnects and speaker cables from Bryston at what I believe was a fair price; however, I would have a hard time convincing myself to pay any more than what I paid for the Bryston cables.

R.  Marquis's picture

I am very cautious about these unbelievable claims. You could also mention power cords. The law of diminishing returns is very steep in this hi-fi business.

Anonymous's picture

For analog there is a difference between cables, but it's subtle. You don't have to spend a lot of money to get a good analog cable. For digital, it's all the same

Ron Ramsey's picture

Whoa! Wait a goldurn minute here! This compound question implies that someone could make claims about a product—the truth or validity of which are not backed up by empirical evidence, data and objective first hand eyewitness testimony? The implications are staggering! You mean blondes don't have more fun? Things don't go better with Coke? You cannot own a piece of the Rock—because there is no Rock? By that standard, the unspeakable is possible: eg, NBA playoffs games might be "fixed." Or even a Presidential election could be rigged. This is too terrible to contemplate. It is a "reevaluate everything you know" moment. Did the Founding Fathers intend: "Nothing is true—everything is permitted"?

S.  Chapman's picture

Back in the day when manufacturers put "tone controls" on their equipment, cables mattered less. Now that most high-end gear doesn't come with tone controls, audiophiles are forced to resort to cables to tune their systems. Sad but true, cables do make a difference and are mostly used to make up for deficiencies or cover up unpleasant faults in the other components.

Alain Charles's picture

These type of claims, supported by deceitful reviews of $20k cables have indeed changed my behaviour. I have stopped buying high-end stuff and wonder whether I too, have been taken for (an expensive) ride.

Dimitris Gogas's picture

You have to take everything in hi-fi "cum grano salis", the same for cables.

Cihangir Güzey's picture

It is better not to spend money on an item if you can not find a suitable reason to do so. If I will feel bad after the purchase (as an engineer), I don't make the purchase at all (for not feeling like an idiot). It is for sure that in the hi-fi world, most money has been (is being) made by the cable manufacturers. I even have jokes for it. Here is one: -How much have you paid for this pair of cable? -18.000-USD. It is 9kg/each. It is thick as a wrist as you see. It is filled with the finest sand. That finest sand is derived from the thongs of virgins who had sunbathed in Copa Cabana beach. That makes the sound really COOOOOOL! IMHO, be logical and don't make anyone laugh at you. If money is itching you, get yourself other hobbies which sucks much more money than cables. At least you don't bury pocketful of money to the handful of copper which doesn't cost more than a few dollars.

David Manfreda's picture

Let your ears do the talking: read, listen, choose.

Steve Rogers's picture

i use generic cables. I think cable claims are a scam.

yongning's picture

Neither do I bother to buy any expensive cables.

Bob D's picture

I've been an avid listener for more than 10 years and have found very little reason to take cable claims seriously. Granted, I don't have megabuck equipment, so playing with expensive cables just doesn't make financial sense to me. I'd far rather spend $500 on records than cables. From what I've read and heard cables/interconnects are what you start getting nuts about when you've got the speakers, amp(s) and source(s) you want. I have not reached that point yet. For the record: I have an electrocompaniet pre, a pair of custom-built 250W monos, EAD digital source, Rega/Goldring phono source, Studer phono amplification and AE speakers. My cables? Cable Talk speaker and Plain Jane RCA cables, Monster Digital (only expensive cable I own). Does it sound good? Yes. Can it sound better? Yes. Do I want to spend $1K on cables or on CDs and vinyl? What?

Drumguy's picture

How many best ways of making a cable can there be?

Chris Warburton's picture

I can believe that high value cables make a difference in the analog signal chain, but as an IT professional I find it hard to swallow the claims made about cables for digital—as long as they satisfy basic quality standards, 1s & 0s are 1s & 0s:end of!

bogdanweiss@gmail.com's picture

I'm an electrical engineer & an audiophile & I've been watching the industry take a huge nose dive since the introduction of CD, as technology & know-how in other fields advances forward. The cablephilia snake oil merchants have caused irrepairable damage to the entire industry. & I knew one of the greats ( Mathew Bond ) of Tara labs, before he went to the US & became one of your darlings. His first loudspeaker cable was 1mm solid core copper, used for household light wiring! Made by a local company & still carried the MM Cable letters on the insulation sleeve. The buy price was $1/m for 2x1mm cores > Mathew was using 2pairs, twisted, ie $2/m ( this is in retail quantities ) He would then sell this $2/m cable for $15/m branded as a loudspeaker cable!!! Should I go on ?

Soren O Iversen's picture

I have always tried to stay clear of the worst snake oil. Have used Kimber, MIT, and VDH, but have finally settled on Analysis Plus which gives the most sensible claims and don't cost an arm and a leg.

Richard's picture

This market scam is an insult to the field.

ender21's picture

I inherently don't trust speaker/cable manufacturers who charget exorbitant amounts of money. If they truly do sound different, then they're coloring the sound, which I want to limit as much as possible, not encourage.

Michael Rinus's picture

I choose cables by listening results, since cables behave like spice in a soup and do not always work as proposed.

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