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OK--which cables REALLY matter?

Discussion in 'Accessories, Cables, and Remotes' started by Stephen Gladwin, Oct 17, 2005.

  1. Stephen Gladwin

    Stephen Gladwin Stunt Coordinator

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    I've been wondering this for a while: what are the cables in a HT system that REALLY make a difference and should be the best quality one can afford? Now, I've been told unanimously that speaker wire is much hyped and the moderately priced stuff really doesn't sound any different than the fancy stuff costing $100s per foot. Now, I've also been told that most $ should be spent on interconnects. So does that mean stuff like component video cables and digital coaxial cables for sound? Right now I'm using a cheap (around $16) pair of component cables for connection to my 27" direct-view Toshiba TV. For sound, I'm using the generic coax cable that came with my Sony htib. It's now running from my Denon receiver to my DVD player.

    I have JBL speakers all around--E80s for fronts, E10s for surrounds, EC35 for center, and an SVS PB10 for sub. **Would upgrading my interconnects significantly improve the quality of my audio/video, considering my gear? If so, which brands do you guys recommend? Thanks!
     
  2. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

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    Hi Stephen.

    First - digital signals are fairly insensitive to the cable. As long as your generic coax cable is really coax, and is proper 75 ohm, you wont notice any difference with an 'upgrade'.

    Because of this - I tend to recommend people push up to a decent component video cable. But - for a modest screen size and pushing standard video - a inexpensive $20-$30 component cable tends to work great. If you get into the 40" or more display size and/or HD Video, then I push for HD rated component cables from a custom place. These start at about $40.

    My favorite guideline for wires is: "Budget 10% of the cost of the things you are hooking up for the wires". Dont go above this or you are over-buying.

    Unless you have already done so, I'd spend my time using a SPL meter to level adjust your speakers, use the laser-pointer trick to play with the alignments, spend some time with a setup DVD like Video Essentials and Avia to adjust your television image, etc. There are a ton of tweeks and optimizations you can do that tend to be very low cost but produce great results.

    Hope this helps.
     
  3. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    I disagree with the oft-quoted "10%" rule, I think it's ridiculous. If your equipment is not giving you problems you're fine. Cable is so ridiculuously overhyped it's not even funny. My favorite cable supplier is www.cablesforless.com . Unless you're having specific problems: either dropouts or distortion on audio, or interference on video, you don't need anything more expensive than they sell at that web site.

    Audio and video cables are one of the biggest shams in the whole retail world. Don't buy into the stupidity.
     
  4. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

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    While there's some truth to Philips assesement there can be fairly discernable differences seen with video cables on mid to larger sized TV's. Like Bob i'd recomend upgrading your video runs to a decently built coax video cable and then reasses if you want to upgrade the audio side later. In my case I custom build my own cables from quality coax cable to keep costs reasonable and reduce clutter from cables that are too long. I've also built a few for friends etc so if you want drop me an email and I could likely build you some out of my parts bin for the cost of the parts and shipping.
     
  5. chris_everett

    chris_everett Second Unit

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    Digital cables either work or don't. If the cable works, don't change it. Not working will give you drop-outs, pops, or other major problems.

    Speaker cable: My guidline is if it's less than 14awg, the buy 12 gauge, but 14 or better is fine for any application in home audio. In fact, 16 is probably fine 95% of the time.

    Audio Interconnects: For normal length (less than 6') Pretty much anything will work. For longer I would recommend coax 75ohm "video" cable" Even that's overkill 99% of the time

    Video: For short length, mid-size set stuff, any 75ohm coax cable will work. Don't get a (lot) longer one than you need. However, if you have a long run, especially to a projector, I would spend a couple of bucks more. I bought my long s-video cable from blue-jeans cable, and I bought my long HD-15 "component" cable from a place called network tech inc. who specialize in computer applications.

    One thing to remember is to buy _one_ cable to reach the whold distance. Splicing or connecting two cables together is almost always bad.
     
  6. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

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    Hey Stephen - did you get all your questions answered?
     
  7. Shane Martin

    Shane Martin Producer

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    Can you say money bias? Some folks love to push their financial beliefs(what they feel is too expensive for them is too expnensive for everyone etc etc). It's comical.

    One main thing you should do is support our sponsors. Places like cablesforless do not support us.
     
  8. Stephen Gladwin

    Stephen Gladwin Stunt Coordinator

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    Yes Bob, I did indeed have my questions answered. HTF comes to the rescue again! Thanks everyone for your expertise. I think I'll just keep my cables and not spend anything more!
     
  9. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    Never mind basic electrical physics, right? [​IMG]
     
  10. Gary.S

    Gary.S Extra

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    Regarding audio, I've found that the cables can make quite a difference in sound quality, but I can't make many generalizations, especially since some amplifiers/preamps/receivers seem to be more sensitive than others to the cables being used. I've bought and used some pricy cables, both speaker cables and interconnects, and have sold most all of them. One of the speaker wires I like best is a cable a friend of mine bought as surplus. It appears to be some sort of aerospace or military-application cable, stranded copper, insulated with teflon, 14-gauge. I use it unterminated--in other words, no spades, no banana plugs, just the bare wire cleaned with Caig Pro Gold antioxidant. For audio interconnects, I use a small gauge, teflon-insulated cable. My friend has had good experience with the teflon-insulated cable, and I have just pretty much gone with his suggestions, and with good results.

    So in summary, I'd say, yeah, there are some good but expensive cables out there, but there are some good, relatively inexpensive cables, too. Also in my experience, spades and banana plugs can be convenient, but in most cases they've been an unnecessary expense. As for the speaker cable I discussed above, I tried it with spades and without. It sounds better without spades.
     
  11. Shane Martin

    Shane Martin Producer

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    I didn't say that. You specifically addressed PRICE which is a huge bias.

    Bob's post is dead on good advice.
     
  12. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

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    Ok guys .. settle down. Strong feelings on this topic does not mean we attack each other. Please remember you guys are the ones who help others, even if we dont totally agree amongst ourselves.
     

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