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
Woody Battle's picture

The problem is that both sides are right. There are very good cables out there that really do make a significant difference. The are also very high-priced cables that are actually worse than the cheap cables included with every consumer audio product. Most blind listening tests are poorly designed and so are no help.

Doug's picture

There's obviously a good deal of snake oil out there, both on the sellers' part and the debunkers.

Ryan's picture

I look to see what they claim, and then quickly dismiss it as rubbish.

scuz's picture

Stereophile seems to have the technical capability, so why not measure their effects on a signal—frequency response, phase and dynamic linearity, noise isolation. Unless proven otherwise, I will continue to view exotic cables (speaker or interconnects) as little more than insanely priced, subtle, fixed tone controls that may improve or detract from any given system. Spend the money on digital room correction instead. I look forward to the day when high-end systems are completely digital with wireless signal transmission to powered speakers and eliminate wire altogether.

John Rau's picture

In my opinion, the high-end wire industry is the biggest fraud in the field of audio . I have yet to have one dealer offer to demonstrate to me that there is an audible difference between their garden hose and a piece of 14 ga. wire that can be purchased at Home Depot. As long as there is no more than a certain amount of resistance per foot, the 14 ga. wire should sound no different than the garden hose.

Richards's picture

Claims are claims—mostly just interesting sidebars. What matters to me is, "do I hear a difference, is it an improvement, and what's it worth to me?" For the record, I sometimes hear substantial differences in cables IMS, but (generally) not nearly as much as with components. But every now and then.... Last year I brought a well-regarded $300 digital cable to a local audio meet and on this (expensive) equipment, it sounded noticeably thin and harsh. Another $300 cable sounded much better—smoother, fuller,better layered—and a $2K one was even better. Was it worth $2k? Not to someone with a budget, but if one has the money to pay for incremental improvements for listening pleasure, why not? At the same meet we listened to half a dozen speaker cables. Everyone there heard differences. Everyone disagreed on how vast or important the differences were. I'm less bothered by manufacturer claims (even when they seem 'stretched' than I am by folks who claim there are no differences but don't bother to listen (with an open mind) on good equipment. Some equipment is likely to show differences more than others, some will mate exceptionally well with certain cables, and some people will value the differences more, some less. But once you hear it, it makes a lasting impression.

Dave's picture

I have never been able to tell the difference between good cables and something I would have to trade my first-born for. The only time I have really noticed a difference was when a friend changed out some old oxidized cheap cables for some inexpensive cables with gold plating and some decent 12 gauge speaker wire.

doug from the show-me state's picture

When it comes to performance claims made for expensive wire, you've got to show me, and so far, no one has. All I've seen is purely subjective opinions. I do appreciate quality construction and design, but I don't really expect the wire to sound significantly better because of it. Basically, it either works or it doesn't.

criag's picture

Yes. I don't.

JH's picture

If you cannot identify this as the biggest scam in audio, you have to question your sanity. I would love to see somebody going legally after their claims as they do in other industries. My cables are reasonably-priced, if a bit pricier than the absolute low end ,and thats based purely on construction quality/durability than anything else.

Chet's picture

Yes, I no longer spend thousands on cables as I once did. Most cables are over-hyped and over-priced. I would rather spend the money on better electronics and speakers.

Laura in Spokane's picture

While I read the manufacturers' performance claims, and reviews when available, I trust my ears more when it comes to interconnects, speaker cables and power cords. I heard a definite sonic improvement when I upgraded my interconnects from AudioQuest Sidewinders to Panthers (a more than 10 fold increase in price, but well worth it). I also upgraded to after market power cords on all my components and heard a sonic improvement over the stock cords that came with the units. A performance claim, a review, or a recommendation from a friend or dealer might pique my interest in a certain cable, but it is my ears that will tell me whether it is worth spending the money on a new cable.

John M's picture

The astronomical retail prices for some cable just cannot be justified on technical merit. If you like the way it sounds in your system, that's really all you need. The most concerning claim I've seen has to do with "articulation" plotted as a function of frequency. While there are many things that can be plotted as a function of frequency, I have never seen "articulation" defined (and the curves look so much like frequency response curves that I feel these ads are deceptively implying greater frequency extension). I don't wish to take away from the manufacturers' efforts to create good sounding cable, but some of the claims are just too much. Moreover, we have to be honest with ourselves... can I really hear a difference? or, do I just like the way these look connected to my amp? I think that once we got away from 18 guage zip cord twisted around our 18 guage power cables and 24 guage RCA's with oxidized ends, we made an enormous difference. Clean, non-oxidized contacts make an enourmous difference. Decently constructed, well shielded, non-oxidizing cables with which to make clean connections made a difference. Further refinement of cable beyond these fundamental basics yeilds incremental improvements. Try this on for size (if you don't suffer from RFI): use TV antenna wire as your RCA cable (be sure to solder the ends well since poor soldering results in poor contacts) and prepare to be surprised at how well it performs. Try short runs of heavy duty ROMEX (10 guage) for speaker cable and see what you think (it is unweildingly stiff but works again surprisingly well...as if you've welded the amp to the speaker). On the otherhand, if some cable sounds good and the purchase seems to be a worthy investment regardless of the claims, buy it, be happy and never look back. If you're basing decisions on the difference between 99.999 and 99.9999% pure copper, or 300 yd crystals vs 450 yd crystals, you might wish to reconsider. In general, I think cable manufacturers are trying to deliver the goods. I also think that they realize there will be an unavoidable attraction to outrageously priced cable, mostly due to the price (how could they charge so much for it if it wasn't somehow better?). The fact that there exists such divergence in both theory and construction alone suggests that devoted as they are, there is a missing component to the science providing a foundation for design.

Andrew Edmonds's picture

Two words: diminishing returns. A $200 cable may be audibly be slightly better than zip cord but $2000 cable is only minutely better than $200 cable in all but top-end systems.

Harold Lay's picture

There is lots of info about cables that does not come from the manufacturer that is much more accurate out there. The independent tester has nothing to gain/lose. Don't believe the hype.

Greg Abarr's picture

Last year I bought a major cable manufacturer's cable and hooked it up to my left speaker. I hooked the same lenght cable on my other speaker. This was cable I bought at Wal Mart for $14 for 50 feet. After a year I can tell no difference between the two. I also ask people that come over for a listen which speaker sounds best. So far everyone say's there is no difference between the speakers. So much for bogus claims by the cable manufacturers.

Perry's picture

Anytime someone, a vender, has an interest in my money, I get very skeptical about performance claims that cannot be difinitively measured. So I look very closely, and study long.

Peter's picture

I trust my ears first, then the science, and finally the cable manufacturer's statements.

Dave Bennett's picture

Cables do make a difference, but the difference is usually quite small and not worth the huge prices that are charged. Also the "science" behind most cables is questionable at best. Some science is real, for instance air is the best dielectric, and manufacturing a cable with mostly air as the dielectric such as the Nordost cables is obviously very expensive. Some of the other science, however . . . . Having said this, I do not own any Nordost cable as the price is just crazy!

Gary Woodsmith's picture

Cables are based around electrical engineering principles, so that means that there is no room for any nonsense claims, period.

Xanthia's picture

I don't look at their claims, and don't care. I spend a little on cable, but not (never) a great amount. I figure I'm better off spending that money on traditional component upgrades. Sure, cable makes a difference, but it's not worth spending much money on when you can spend that same money on, say, an upgraded amplifier and get a much bigger bang for your buck.

Engineer - Mike S.'s picture

Snake oil.

Brankin's picture

It's somewhat amusing to read and follow the info and new claims. I'm dubious, but no more so than I am about many other products for sale today. Folks may spend their money as they wish on what gives them pleasure - no need to save the world here! The largest sonic differences I've ever heard have been between speakers and turntables! Wires are near the bottom, but I don't doubt differences exist. Just not in the quantity I'd spend money to obtain.

Peter T's picture

Digital is digital. The claims are BS.

Gregg's picture

I'm very dubious of manufacturers’ claims regarding high-end cables. The math and measurements just don’t support their positions; especially when the impact of supposed differences is well below the limits of human hearing.

ty sproul's picture

I'm extremely suspicious of manufacturers' claims regarding their cables. I use good quality but mid-priced cables and am very satisfied. The prices being charged for so-called "statement cables" are simply insane!

Mark L.'s picture

I laugh each time I read someone extolling the virtues of one cable over others. I read the claims only for entertainment value knowing that some audiophiles will get suckered into buying into the claim. I once went to my local audio boutique to audition three well-known cables (copper vs silver vs hybrid, different braid geometries and shielding). With some convincing by the dealer, I thought I heard a difference and went with my preference. I then went through double-blind exercises with a few music-loving friends to see if we could tell the difference sans any bias. We could not. I was bummed—but I know better now.

DAB, Pacific Palisades, CA's picture

As always, my ears are the final barometer. Pay $12k for cables? Not in this, or any other lifetime.

indabiz's picture

Hobbyists will spend what they want to advance their mania. That's no problem. Its their dough—they can burn it as they see fit. That doesn't excuse the sciencey claims and flooby dust that is sprayed around by marketing dinks. Remember boys and girls, if a simple concept like " This one sounds better than that one" can't be explained or demonstrated succinctly, then it's time to grab your wallet and move towards the door.

John M's picture

The astronomical retail prices for some cables just cannot be justified on technical merit. If you like the way it sounds in your system, that's really all you need. The most concerning claim I've seen has to do with "articulation" plotted as a function of frequency. While there are many things that can be plotted as a function of frequency, I have never seen "articulation" defined (and the curves look so much like frequency response curves that I feel these ads are deceptively implying greater frequency extension). I don't wish to take away from the manufacturers' efforts to create good sounding cable, but some of the claims are just too much. Moreover, we have to be honest with ourselves... can I really hear a difference? or, do I just like the way these look connected to my amp? I think that once we got away from 18 guage zip cord twisted around our 18 guage power cables and 24 guage RCA's with oxidized ends, we made an enormous difference. Clean, non-oxidized contacts make an enourmous difference. Decently constructed, well shielded, non-oxidizing cables with which to make clean connections made a difference. Further refinement of cable beyond these fundamental basics yeilds incremental improvements. Try this on for size (if you don't suffer from RFI): use TV antenna wire as your RCA cable (be sure to solder the ends well since poor soldering results in poor contacts) and prepare to be surprised at how well it performs. Try short runs of heavy duty ROMEX (10 guage) for speaker cable and see what you think (it is unweildingly stiff but works again surprisingly well...as if you've welded the amp to the speaker). On the otherhand, if some cable sounds good and the purchase seems to be a worthy investment regardless of the claims, buy it, be happy and never look back. If you're basing decisions on the difference between 99.999 and 99.9999% pure copper, or, 300 yd crystals vs. 450yd crystals...you might wish to reconsider. In general, I think cable manufacturers are trying to deliver the goods. I also think that they realize there will be an unavoidable attraction to outrageously priced cable...mostly due to the price (how could they charge so much for it if it wasn't somehow better?). The fact that there exists such divergence in both theory and construction alone suggests that devoted as they are, there is a missing component to the science providing a foundation for design.

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