SCREEN SHOTS: 4 Brands Of Component Video Cable Compared....

Discussion in 'Accessories, Cables, and Remotes' started by Rich H, Jan 15, 2005.

  1. Rich H

    Rich H Second Unit

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    Hey guys, I did this on another forum and people seemed to enjoy it (and the results were fascinating), so I thought I'd bring it here too.

    I am posting a link to a gallery of screen shots. The shots compare the performance of 4 different brands of component video cables in my system. These are DVD images on my Panasonic 42" ED plasma. I used freeze-frame images and switched between the 4 brands of cable, taking a screen shot of each.

    In the gallery, for each DVD image, you'll find 4 uncompressed file screen shots - one of each cable brand image - and then those same screen shots "ZOOMED IN" or enlarged via photo editing software, so you can look for more fine details.

    Before I reveal which brand is which, this will be a "blind test" poll with each brand only represented by A,B,C or D. Please view the shots and then post your vote for the Cable that seemed to produce the best images. (Cable A, B, C, D..or if you can't tell a difference between them please say so). Also, please post any comments you have about the images. I will reveal the identity of each cable in the screen shots after the poll (maybe after a day or so).

    I've found two methods are good for comparing the shots. One is to click on the first shot in a sequence (make sure ORIGINAL SIZE is indicated below the image, if not select original size and all subsequent shots will open up in original size). Then, to the top right of the image just click on "Next" to switch to the next screen shot. Alternatively you could open up the shots in separate browser windows...or whatever.



    Here Is The Link To The Cable Comparison Screen Shots

    Obviously there is nothing definitive about this, but I figured I'd share the fun (pain, actually) of my own comparison with the folks here.

    The 1 Meter Length Component Cables I used were these 4 brands:


    XLO ER DVD3 Component Cables. ($170 Canadian)



    Ultra Link Challenger Home Theater Series. The cheapest cables at $40 CDN a meter.


    Canare V3-3C Component Cables. These cost me about $70 CDN to have professionally made locally.

    Nordost Optix Video Cables. Top of the line boutique cables. These are always reviewed as about the top performance you can buy for video cables. 1 meter costs $360 CDN.


    BACKGROUND / DISCUSSION

    As a long time audiophile and more recently videophile (hideous labels, but what the heck) I am well steeped in the issue of Cable Wars: how much if any difference do various brands of cables make in terms of perceptible differences in performance. I've done the rounds with audio cables and power cables many times, including blind testing. It's only been the past couple years that I've started comparing video cables. The part of me that is an inveterate tweaker wants cables to make a difference, because I always want more performance out of my system. My rational, scientific side says the basic facts of engineering say that, any competently made cable, appropriately deployed (e.g. at a length at which it performs properly, and not in an abnormally "noisy" interference environment) SHOULD look indistinguishable from another competent cable. My wallet also does not want to see a really expensive cable outperform one I can afford.

    I had to re-cable a bit of my system recently and whished to purchase 17 ft of cable from my video switcher to my 42" Panasonic Plasma. I wanted a known quantity, a professional-grade cable well made. After agonizing of the specs of RG6 cables from Belden and Canare I ended up "letting go" of my specs infatuation in order to get the more flexible Canare LV-61S cables. These seemed a good choice because they have some bending and twisty routes, including attaching to my plasma, which I move about on it's articulated arm mount. I also had a 4 foot length of Canare V3-3C (included in the test images) made up to go from my DVD player to my Inday Video Switcher. While the specs aren't as impressive as the Canare and Belden RG6-based cables, my Canare cables are in engineering terms supposed to easily meet the needs of HD transmission (at the lengths I'm using) and be way over-kill for Progressive DVD. After all, this is the stuff - Canare and Belden - typically used in the professional studios that are actually making the content we view.

    But of course each boutique cable manufacturer makes it's claim to how their cable affects the images on your display. "Clearer, sharper, richer color than the other brand." We see reviews mentioning "smoother, lower picture noise, more vivid reds, more dimensional etc." Now, it would be one thing if these claims were associated with really, really long runs of cable (for instance, you might start looking for trouble with some cables after the propagation of one video wave length which I think is about 66 feet). However, these claims are generally made for comparisons between short lengths of cable - 1 or two meters for instance. At which point many Electrical Engineers will tend to scoff that one would see any performance difference between decent cables.

    So, out of curiosity I did my own little shoot out between the fairly low cost Ultra Link cables up through to the most lauded Nordost video cables to see if I could see a difference. I didn't have anyone to help me so it wasn't a blind test, just me trying to spot differences. Now, it might be protested that DVD on a 42" ED plasma wouldn't be good enough to spot cable differences. I would counter that with: The cable makers and reviewers make claims that one WILL see differences on set-ups like mine. Secondly, the resolution of 480p (progressive scan DVD) is way below any frequency limitations one should find in a decent cable. And it's not like an ED plasma doesn't have enough resolution - it has plenty of resolution for the limits of DVD.

    Now, while the screen shots represent 4 brands of cable at about 1 meter length each, my own testing went beyond that to testing my 16 ft length of Canare against those shorter-length cables too, and also testing my Inday Video Switcher for any visible degradation. At one point I compared my DVD playing through the meter of Canare V3-3C cable, into the Inday switcher, out the 16 foot length to the plasma, against the Nordost 1m length of cable directly into my plasma. Unfortunately I'll have to elaborate on what I saw after the Poll is done here.

    Have fun.
     
  2. Matt_Smi

    Matt_Smi Second Unit

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    Ok I consider myself to have good eyes and have always wondered if cables really do make a difference, so this is very interesting to me and I just spent a good amount of time with these photo’s, I opened one at a time in separate browser windows and then switched between them. First off all of the cables look very similar, so similar that I would never sweat the minute differences between them and just go with whichever was the cheapest. I spent a lot of time with the first picture in the gallery, from what I can see when comparing Cable D to cable B, cable D seemed to be slightly more detailed/shaper than cable B and colors and flesh tones seemed to look a little bit better, I guess I would say the picture with Cable B was a bit softer, honestly though there is very little difference between the two, like I said so small that I would never worry about it. I could not even tell a difference worth mentioning between Cable D and the others.

    I next looked at the third picture down in the gallery. I could tell a noticeable difference here between cable D and B esp. on the zoomed pic, mostly with the text that reads “World Unity Festival”, again Cable D looked sharper and the text was more pronounced while the text on Cable B was softer and looked more blurred. Same with the blue globe, cable D seemed to have more of a "pop" than B and looked sharper. Again the difference between Cable D and the other two where not as great however I would still give the nod to Cable D, although C and D look almost identical to my eyes.

    Then there are pics like the last one of Kirsten Dunst where I could not tell any difference worth noting between the cables.

    Overall I guess my favorite cable would be Cable D although it looks just about identical to Cable C, next would be Cable A, followed by Cable B (Which was usually the only one that stood out as being different from the others.) Although like I stated the difference between them all is so small to my eyes that if Cable D turned out to be the most expensive and Cable B the cheapest, there is no way the extra cost of Cable D would be justified. I look forward to seeing the results of this!
     
  3. Alf S

    Alf S Cinematographer

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    Ahhh yeah... as has been said by a few individuals (me inlcluded)it is almost impossible to see ANY difference between boutique cables.

    Like you said they (boutiques) always tout how amazing their cable is over someone elses, but the pictures are proof that to the naked eye the differences are negligible.

    Sure if you stare long enough at the STILL frames you MAY see a TINY difference somewhere, but when the movie is in full mothion you could NEVER pick out one cable over the other.

    Awesome test and it's much appreciated.

    I for one think they all look fine and there is NO clear stand out winner.

    Alfer

    p.s. It would have been fun to toss in a WalMart Phillips branded component cable for shits and giggles. [​IMG]
     
  4. Mike Knapp

    Mike Knapp Supporting Actor

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    To my eye cable D has a consistently superior image. This is most apparent in the final shots of Kirsten Dunst. Look at her upper left forehead (her left not your left) where the hairline begins.

    With cable one there are almost no stray hairs visible on the forehead, but with cable D they are clearly visible.

    The same is observed in the facial detail of the background fireman in the set of Spiderman images.

    In my opinion a Plasma set is not a really good choice of displays for this test as they cannot produce black correctly, some of the shadow detail may be lost by the inherent nature of the display rather than the cable quality.

    Thank you very much for your effort. It will be interesting to find out which cable is which.

    Mike
     
  5. Rich H

    Rich H Second Unit

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    Thanks for the replies so far. Check back on this thread in the next day or so as you may be surprised [​IMG]

    Mike wrote: "In my opinion a Plasma set is not a really good choice of displays for this test as they cannot produce black correctly, some of the shadow detail may be lost by the inherent nature of the display rather than the cable quality."

    No worries with the Panasonic plasma I use. It has black levels into CRT territory (pretty much the only plasma that can make that claim, although the new generations of some plasmas coming out now may challenge it). Black levels and shadow detail are fantastic on the display.
    Any loss of shadow detail in the screen shots is due to the photograph and not the display. But it's not really a factor here. If one cable produces a clearer, more vivid or more color-rich image you'll see it in the screen shots.
     
  6. Chris Craft

    Chris Craft Auditioning

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    good thread
    I don't see any difference
     
  7. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    First I will say that my computer monitor (2003 eMac CRT) has never been professionaly calibrated.

    Now then. I cannot see any difference between any of CLOSEUPS.

    But, on the regular shots, Cable A, Cable B, and Cable C appear identical. Cable D appears slightly different. VERY slightly different. maybe less than 1% of a difference. Its hard to describe, but I'd say with Cable D the colour is just slightly less vibrant.

    Cable D make actually be the most accurate and the others are causing artifically enhanced color blooming. [​IMG]

    In Conclusion: Expensive cables aren't worth it.
     
  8. Adil M

    Adil M Supporting Actor

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    I did not spend long comparing, but B seemed the worst. For reference I am comparing these on my business laptop.
    A,C, and D were very close.
    I think I liked C, b/c it ended up being my reference.
    They are too close to care.

    Cable A had some weird vertical banding in the grain on the Dunst Picture. None of the others had this. Some would say it had the cleanest grain. Maybe it's the best.

    I've narrowed it to C and D. I might like D better, but it seems to depend on the picture.
     
  9. Lev-S

    Lev-S Second Unit

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    The real question is not how much of a visual difference, but rather a monetary one: Is the Nordost cable worth spending $320 more than the budget cable? I think that the results speak for themselves. The screenshots are so close to being identical, its disturbing to think that where I used to work, I used to see people with too much money and too little knowledge buying http://www.monstercable.com/thx/prod...0Interconnects when they could have bought http://www.radioshack.com/product.as...5Fid=15%2D1563. If a group of home theater enthusiasts who grumble about edge enhancement, moire patterns, screen geometry, grayscale, red push, bad flagging, and every other video issue can barely, if at all see a difference, than the average person can't possibly see any difference! Its all psychological: More money, cooler looking cable, higher chance of getting a better picture regardless of degree of improvement or noticability.
     
  10. Allan Jayne

    Allan Jayne Cinematographer

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    You would want to compare the cable performance using progressive scan from the DVD player, with:

    200 TVL test pattern on AVIA (Video Essentials horizontal resolution test does not go high enough)
    A grid pattern on AVIA or Video Essentials, looking for ghosting on the upright lines.

    Video hints:
    http://members.aol.com/ajaynejr/video.htm

    I did a test with some cables a few years ago (these were VGA cables, not video cables with RCA plugs) degradation showed up only when I was doing 768p and above.
     
  11. Shane Martin

    Shane Martin Producer

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    A couple of points:

    1. We don't know for sure if Rich is trying to fool us. Perhaps they all are the same cable. I kind of doubt this though as that would be questionable.

    2. We are comparing these things on our usually non calibrated monitors and seeing screenshots. Alot different than an in person a/b test(even blind).

    3. All the cables used are not cheapo deapos which is unusual to say the least. The Canare being used might as well be labeled as "Bettercables, custom cable house etc etc".

    4. We're talking about making comparisons on a 42" TV. To me the differences in video quality are not that much on smaller sets and I consider anything >50" a small set. I would say "EE doesn't exist yadda yadda". Now I'm seeing these things at a much larger screen size. Things get even more interesting if I was to go 100" Wide.

    That said D is better to my eyes. I would like to see HD compared at 1080I on 100" screen to really say definitely "Expensive is baloney". I think alot of the Expensive is baloney can also be attributed to our each own money bias.
    Actually on a large set 55" or so or more, its even more obvious. Just because it's a reference picture(to me) at 55" doesn't mean its going to stay that way once blown up to 100". If a picture is reference at that size, its purely reference.
     
  12. Kevin_F

    Kevin_F Stunt Coordinator

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    I personally am unable to tell the difference between any of the 4 cables. Based on this, it makes me wonder if it is really necessary to spend hundreds of dollars more on one cable compared to another? I don't know about the rest of you, but if you have to look that in depth to see a difference between any of the 4 pictures across, it is unlikely that you will see any difference when you are watching a program on your tv.

    Thanks for doing this comparison Rich, I am not saying that I am going to now buy the cheapest of the cheap cables, I believe that the benefit is seen in other places besides how the picture looks (how long the consistency of the picture lasts for example), but I will probably now just buy middle of the run cables instead of the "best". I can now use the money I save on the cables for something else. [​IMG]
     
  13. ScottCHI

    ScottCHI Screenwriter

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    how did you take the "screenshots", rich?
     
  14. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    I think Radio Shack sponsors these threads secretly......[​IMG]
     
  15. Lev-S

    Lev-S Second Unit

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    There is one of these threads in the Display section of the forum and everyone posting there is swearing by C! This really shows just how little difference there is!
     
  16. Rich H

    Rich H Second Unit

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    Ok guys, I won't keep you in suspense as long as I did for the folks over at the AVSforum.

    Here is the identity of the cables in the screen shots:

    Cable A = Canare
    Cable B = Nordost
    Cable C = Ultra Link
    Cable D = XLO

    We let this blind test go on longer at the other forum with a running poll for people to choose which cable image looked "best." The results (so far) are:

    186 votes.

    16 votes (8.6 %) for Canare
    23 votes ( 12%) for Nordost
    28 votes ( 15%) for UltraLink
    17 votes (9%) for XLO
    102 votes (55%) for "Can't see any difference between them."

    Typical null results: Essentially what one would expect if there were no difference between the performance of the cable.

    As for my own experience, in my direct comparisons of these cables on my display I could tell no difference between them. I looked at resolution patterns, test patterns, DVD images looped, frozen, the whole deal.
    In fact, at one point I compared all the cables agains my DVD player running through a meter of Canare, into my Inday video switcher, out through 16 feet of Canare to my plasma. Still no detectable difference compared to the other meter-lengthed cables patched straight in. FWIW.

    As to the screen shots at first I thought I was detecting a pattern. But when I started looking at them really studiously in a kind of "blind" test, I couldn't reliably see any pattern of one being better than another.

    I've done quite a bit of blind testing - cables, power cables, CD players/DACs, even speakers. It's always fascinating.

    Thanks for your feedback and I hope this doesn't mean the end of comments on this little test. It's interesting reading people's views.

    Cheers,
     
  17. Rich H

    Rich H Second Unit

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    Shane wrote: "We're talking about making comparisons on a 42" TV. To me the differences in video quality are not that much on smaller sets and I consider anything >50" a small set. I would say "EE doesn't exist yadda yadda".

    Shane, that's obviously a consideration. However, the first thing is this was really a test to see if these cables would make a difference in my system. And then I figured, since I'd gotten pretty good with screen shots, perhaps it could be fun or valuable for others to be able to take a virtual look at the test too.

    Of course, manufacturers, reviewers and salespeople wax poetic about the differences rendered by various video cables "better color, sharper image, deeper blacks, smoother, more dimensional, better contrast" etc. And it's not like they are saying this only about their use in projection set-ups. The cables are supposed to increase the quality in any relatively high-quality display device.
    I'd say that if there were indeed such differences in the performances of those cables (and I've heard the Nordost continually lauded by critics for it's clear, visible superiority over other brands) then it would show up on my plasma. I mean, one tiny tick up or down on my color, sharpness, contrast or brightness control (steps between -30 to +30) is clearly visible. It would seem awfully strange that a cable could render distinct, rave-worthy differences in any set-up and somehow fail to produce a result less distinguishable than a click on any of my picture controls.

    As to the size thing you mention, again there is a certain validity to that for sure. I mean, the bigger the image the more you "stress" the source material. However, for the last several years I've taken my reference DVDs around to every display imagineable - most plasmas, most RPTVs, many Front Projectors - and I've found the image on my plasma to be a very accurate indicator of the transfer quality, in terms of what shows up on a bigger screen.

    My .2 cents.

    Thanks for the comments!
     
  18. Lev-S

    Lev-S Second Unit

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    This thread should be stickied.
     
  19. Matt_Smi

    Matt_Smi Second Unit

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    Ha-Ha I somehow knew that cable B, my least favorite would end up being the most expensive cable. Yes this test may not be 100% accurate but it is close enough for me to determine that buying expensive cables in not worth the money. I will still not buy the cheapest thing I can find (I think it would have been really interesting if an “in the box cable” was included in the test) just because I like having a cable with quality connecters that will last forever. But I honestly think that as long as a cable meets a minimum set of standards it will past a signal as good as any other. Blind tests really are the way to go, thanks for an interesting thread.

    BTW I can not find this thread at AVS, mind posting a link?
     
  20. ScottCHI

    ScottCHI Screenwriter

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    how do you take the "screenshots"?
     

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