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Help with Interconnect Cable Selection


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#1 of 6 OFFLINE   Paul D. K.

Paul D. K.

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Posted November 27 2002 - 09:16 PM

I need some help making some decisions and am hoping to get some advice. Within the last 6 months I’ve purchased some very expensive equipment (for me) and am trying to decide what interconnects and speaker cables I should be going with. I’ve been holding off making the commitment to a specific brand, etc. until I got some independent advice. My local dealer used to sell Monster products and pushed them until they dropped the line. They are now selling IXOS and Audio/Videoquest.

Equipment List:

B & K AVR 307
Pioneer Elite DV-47A DVD Player
Pioneer Elite PRO-720HD HDTV Projection Monitor
B & W Nautilus 803 Speakers (Pair) for Front
B & W Nautilus HTM1 Center Speaker
B & W Rock Solid Speakers (Pair) for Rear (left over from previous system)
B & W ASW4000 Sub-woofer (Future Purchase when I finish paying for the rest)
Monster HTS 7000 – Power Center
Mitsubishi S-Video HS-U778 VCR

My desire is to identify the approximate quality level and style of cables and then try (if possible) a few alternatives. However, I don’t have an unlimited budget. What I don’t want to do is spend too little and not take advantage of my equipment – I’m hoping there is a “sweet spot” where quality and value come together.

So here are my questions:

What brand and/or style of interconnect cables should I be buying that will have the least effect on the output of my equipment, but are a good value? For instance, is Monster Cable’s M1000 series a good line of interconnect cables or is there more cost effective solutions that will yield better or similar results? Do I need to increase my price point? Would solutions from IXOS and/or Audio/VideoQuest be any better?

Should I be getting connectors that are silver or gold plated?

Is Optical or Coaxial Digital Cables better? Should the cable have silver or gold plated connectors?

As I’ve started to research the topic of speaker cables it seems that there are a lot of opinions as to how they should be constructed, what type of material should be used (silver, oxygen free copper with silver plating, etc.), etc. HOW DOES A PERSON KNOW WHAT IS AND ISN’T IMPORTANT? And, if it’s all important, how does one prioritize? Any recommendations?

#2 of 6 OFFLINE   Bob McElfresh

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Posted November 28 2002 - 05:52 AM

Hi Paul. Welcome to HTF!

Yes, the cable quandry is tough. One of the first suggestions to avoid over-buying is to budget 10% of the equipment cost you are connecting for the wires/cables.

So if that Pioneer TV cost $5,000 then $500 would not be out-of-line for a video cable. (Dont worry, we can do much better than that. Posted Image)

Quote:
Monster Cable’s M1000 series a good line of interconnect cables or is there more cost effective solutions that will yield better or similar results?

As yourself: what do the production studios use? You know, the ones that create and duplicate the DVD's. Or how about the professional broadcast equipment? Hint: They dont buy Monster/IXOS/Audio Quest.

They have technicians that have spools of Canare or Belden coax and they custom-wire all the equipment.

There are several web sites that will do the same for you. You can get Component, coaxial-digital and SVideo cables made with professional quality coax and connectors for a good bit less than Monster. (Let alone IXOS/Audio Quest prices).

For example: the high-end Monster component cables are the ZX300 that sell for about $220 at Good Guys. You can go to www.bettercables.com and get the same length in a silver-coated cable for about $140. There are several other sites that can sell you Canare cables for even less.

These sites have another advantage: they are small, craftsman shops who are very concerned about their reputations. When there are problems (and sometimes there are), they usually fix them within a day or so. Many of the site owners are members of HTF so they stay aware of issues.

Note: our rules prevent them from answering your posts to solicate your business.

Lets go through your cables:

Video: This is where I suggest you go high-end for that equipment. You want HD rated cables and go straight from the DVD player to the TV. You will also want to do this for a HD decoder box. Hit www.bettercables.com and get a quote for a Silver Serpent cable.

For your other sources, they can also get you a good SVideo cable. I would suggest running SVideo from EVERYTHING through the receiver to make the system easy to operate.

Interconnects: You only need a video cable to connect between the DVD and receiver for audio. The designers for the connection had this in mind. The digital signals are very insensitive to the cable. But as long as you are hitting the custom cable sites, they will all sell you a good cable. But dont spend $$$ on this, $50-60 would be the max I would suggest for this cable.

You can also get 3 good SVideo cables (one from the VCR, one from the DVD player, one between the receiver & TV) from the custom sites.

Subwoofer Cable: (This is controversial advice) I prefer to save money here. Because of the low-frequencies involved, nearly any good coaxial cable will work IMHO. Even CATV coax with good connectors have been used. But CATV coax is ugly, hard to work with. Once again, check the custom sites for long subwoofer cables. It will save you money.

Speaker Wires: Ok, your equipment is sensitive enough that the speaker wire will have an effect.

But telling you that Brand X speaker wire is the best is like telling you how much salt to put in your food.

Since funds are tight (you are still paying for stuff), my first suggestion would be to buy budget, oxygen-free 12 ga speaker wire. Places like www.partsexpress.com will sell it for a good price. Buy a spool and use it for all your speakers.

This will get you to 90-95% of the potential of your system for very little money. And it gives you a good base-line for comparison. Later, when you have the funds you can audition higher-end speaker wires and decide for yourself if the change in tone is worth the money. Once again, the custom sites are great for this as many of them have a generous return policy for auditions.

The final tally:

Using BetterCables as a source, here is a rough shopping list:

(1) Component Video cable (3 Meter): $140
(2) 2 Meter SVideo Cables: $70 ea : $140
(1) 3 Meter SVideo Cable: $80
(1) 2 Meter Digital Coax: $90


So for about $450 you get some fairly high-end custom cables. Just add speaker wire and you have a complete system for a fraction of that equipment cost.

Hope this helps.

#3 of 6 OFFLINE   Bob McElfresh

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Posted November 28 2002 - 10:47 AM

Quote:
And, if it’s all important, how does one prioritize?

Now that I re-read your post, I realize I jumped into a recomendation rather than discuss the issues. Let me try and fix this:

Coaxial vs Optical: I have used both and noticed no difference in audio quality. Home Theater magazine did a blind-test and concluded that all the coaxial cables sounded nearly alike, but one or two of the optical cables sounded different. This was never explained. My personal theory is that the funny-sounding optical cables had been damaged by bending and shoving them into blister packs for store shelves.

My recomendation: go with the coaxial cable. It's cheaper, easier, more robust than the optical.

Should connectors be gold or silver plated The plating does 3 things: prevent oxidization, provide a better surface-to-surface contact, and makes the cable look better.

Most good cables have a gold-wash. I've never even heard the most rabid audiphile tell me he could hear the difference between identical cables if one was gold or silver.

My education tells me that for subwoofer, audio frequencies - it does not really matter. For RF signals .. it's a bit more important. For video, Progressive Video and HD video - it's more likely to make a difference.

My recomendation: dont make a buy/dont buy decision based on this. It does not appear to be a critical feature with one being obviously superior to the other.

Speaker Wire: First question is usually "how thick"?

Several speaker sites recommend the following based on run-length:

1-10 ft: 16 ga
11-20 ft: 14 ga
21+ ft: 12 ga

So you need THICKER wire for the long runs. Most of us buy a spool of good 12 ga wire and use it everywhere. It does not hurt to use it for the short runs and it would be a pain to buy short lengths of 16/14 for shorter runs.

Yes, Oxygen Free is desirable. This means a neutral gas was injected into the machine when the wire was melted and cooled. This reduces the ammount of oxygen that may start to oxidize the copper while it was liquid. Most good speaker wire is oxygen free. If not, the copper would be brown when it arrives at the stores.

Silver vs Copper: With your system, you will likely hear a difference between silver and copper speaker wires.

Some people feel silver is automatically better because it costs more. In truth, it has different/better electrical properties. Does this mean it sounds better? Some people think so.

I'd suggest you stick with what 95% of us do and use copper for speaker wires. For audio - not a big issue. For RF, a bit more. When you get to Video .. there is arguments that a silver-coated coax can give a better picture. It takes someone with very sensitive systems (say a front projector with line-quaduplers going to a 100" screen) to tell the difference.

My Recomendation: only consider silver for your component video cable. And only use these from a high-quality source. The BetterCables cable I suggested above IS a silver-coated coax.

Does this help?

#4 of 6 OFFLINE   Paul D. K.

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Posted November 28 2002 - 03:54 PM

Bob -
Yes, your responses do help. I've heard the 10% rule before and am hoping that I don't meet or exceed that limit. You've suggested $$ levels that don't scare me. I will have to investigate the sights that you mention.

Thanks,

Paul

#5 of 6 OFFLINE   Rory

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Posted November 28 2002 - 11:55 PM

Hi Paul,

I'm a relative newbie myself that went through all the issues you had. I thought I'd recommend one other site for you to check out to buy your cables. This is where I ended up buying mine. To my mind, they had the best quality for the best price. Check 'em out.

Blue Jeans Cables at: bluejeanscable.com

Cheers!

#6 of 6 OFFLINE   Aaron Baker

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Posted April 05 2003 - 02:43 PM

Hello,
I just thought I would let you know a bit about my experience with Bettercables.com. Their service was very impressive. I had emailed them a few questions and I received a very prompt reply. In fact, i'd say the reply was educational. I paid for my order and received it VERY fast. I was very impressed with the quality of the cable when I examined it. I purchased a coax and their blue truths bullet plugs. I spent a bit on my equipment and I really liked what I felt the bullet plugs would do. I liked the fact that it isn't held to the inputs via metal. For me I DID notice a difference in sound. But again, I was so impressed with their customer service.

I am still awaiting Monsters reply.

Oh, another thing that I was impressed with, Bettercables actually give you technical info. You can actually compare the stats of their cables before making a decision. Cables aren't cheap and a company that really believes in their product should IMO should display their specs for all to see. After all they should be proud of what is in their product.

For me Monster basically just said "our are just the best".

Get all the info you can, make a well informed decision.
Well, guess I am dragging on a bit. Just wanted to give my 2 cents.





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