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Blind tests can save you money!

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5 replies to this topic

#1 of 6 OFFLINE   trey-m


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Posted May 17 2005 - 11:28 AM

David K's thread on "do cables matter" reminded me of a funny story that happened last year. About a year ago very good friend of mine had just purchased a brand new TV. I agreed to help him carry it from his garage into his living room and place it into his entertainment system. Ripped pants, sore arms, and 15 minutes later we got it in place. (The darn thing weighed over 250 lbs.) Then he pulls out a $100 monster component cable that he bought. He asked me if it would be good, and I told him sure, although I wasn't convinced if it would be worth $100 or not. (This is before I purchased my canare cable tools, so I could have made him some sweet(er?) component cables for under $25, but I digress.) I told him he should get some cheaper component cables from radio shack and compare them to see if he thought the monster's were worth it or not. But to at least show him the improvement over, say, a composite cable, I decided to test it. So we plugged in the 25 cent yellow composite cable that came with his DVD player, and also the $100 component cable. Then we switched the TV input and Voila, he said, "That's so much better". I wasn't convinced though. It was certainly better, but I was a foot away from the TV and I didn't think it was "SO" much better. Blind Test Time. I got out 2 pieces of paper (one for him and one for his wife), and asked them to sit in their normal sitting position. I then had them make 2 columns, and then I switched back and forth between the 2 cables 10 times (not alternating of course). My friend's wife got only exactly 50% correct, and my friend split 60/40, actually preferring the composite cable 60% of the time!! They were very happy to return the cable and save the $100. I will admit, that I, and likely they, could have had a much better score if we sat up very close- but why spend the money to see something you'll never see? Another thing to keep in mind, most chain retailers have outstanding return policies. If you are trying to decide between a $20 component cable and a $60 cable at Best Buy, get both and see if you can tell the difference. Just return the one you don't want. (Of course longevity issues could come into play, although usually that is negligible, since you can go through 3 of the cheaper cable before you'd equal the price of the more expensive one.) I actually did this when I purchased my projector. I bought 2! (On my credit card of course, and returned the $700 more expensive one later that day- because the cheaper one was actually better! I was so convinced that I even called Infocus and they confirmed that the cheaper one was indeed better.) However, Passing a Blind Test can cost you money too, for it enables you to rationalize spending more. Once you get into big screens- video cable quality really starts to come into play. With my projector I blind tested using a cheap red/white/yellow A/V cable as a component cable against my nice canare component cable. Very small gain, but noticeable, and in this case I thought it was worth it. (Or just convinced myself that it was.) I also did blind testing with S-video (interlaced) against component cable (progressive on my projector). Turned out it was too easy- 100% accuracy because the color separation was so much better with component. But, the component was so pixelated that I actually preferred the look of the S-video. I later found out that the problem was that my $60 Toshiba DVD player had a crappy progressive scan output which is why the component cable was so pixelated. A new DVD player fixed the problem. So in this case, blind testing "cost" me money by proving that I needed better than a $60 DVD player. Another friend of mine just bought a pair of B&W 602S3 and I have the 602S1, so you can bet a blind test be coming soon! (We're still fighting over who gets to host...) I'll update after it occurs. Enjoy.
"I used to think I was indecisive, but now I'm not so sure."

#2 of 6 OFFLINE   trey-m


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Posted May 17 2005 - 11:41 AM

I just wanted to add something to the comment I made about buying multiple similar items from a store for comparison purposes and returning the ones you don't want. I think this could be a little bit of a moral issue, because if everyone did this the retailers might be forced to change their policy. As a general rule, because I do this on a regular basis, I like to try to "even it out" by always selecting the ripped or open package when I buy things. (I'm talking cables, connectors, small stuff. I'd be hesitant to deliberately choose a TV whose box looks like it's been dropped.)
"I used to think I was indecisive, but now I'm not so sure."

#3 of 6 OFFLINE   RobWil


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Posted May 25 2005 - 10:21 AM

I think that all the test you conducted on your friend proves is that Monster cables suck. I wonder what the results would have been with a nice cable from Blue Jean Cables or Heartland vs the freebies. And any cable you get from Best Buy, regardless of the price, should be suspect right off the bat.
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#4 of 6 OFFLINE   Ted Lee

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Posted May 26 2005 - 09:12 AM

Posted Image why?

#5 of 6 OFFLINE   trey-m


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Posted May 26 2005 - 09:24 AM

Rob, I think you missed my point. It might be true that Monster cables suck, or even that any cable from Best Buy does too, but neither of those were proved by my test. What was proved, was that on that particular setup viewed by those particular people the cables did not make a noticeable difference. To give some extreme examples, a Nascar driver probably shouldn't bother to put racing fuel in his pickup truck, and a blind person shouldn't bother to upgrade his black and white TV. But that doesn't mean that racing fuel or a color TV isn't "worth it" in the right situation....
"I used to think I was indecisive, but now I'm not so sure."

#6 of 6 OFFLINE   Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Posted May 27 2005 - 09:08 AM

Great thread, Trey. However, I think I would have told your friends to go ahead and get the Rat Shack cables instead of using the cheapies that came with the DVD player. The build quality and added reliability of even RS’s bottom-of-the-line Gold series is worth the upgrade over the cheesy stock cables. Regards, Wayne A. Pflughaupt
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