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Overpriced Cabling

The customer reviews for these 8000 dollar audio cables on Amazon are hilarious. But this phenomena isn’t limited to Amazon. Best Buy, who has never met a cable they wouldn’t like to overcharge you for, has an HDMI cable by the same company for sale with similar humorous reviews.

I’m not sure how the people at AudioQuest sleep at night, knowing they are essentially ripping people off. HDMI is a digital signal. Either the display it’s attached to receives it, or it doesn’t. A bad cable could give you a high error rate, but you’d probably notice that. The spec wouldn’t have been designed to require a 600 dollar cable to get error free transmission. I’d also be surprised if the speaker cable sold at Amazon doesn’t perform any better than other audio cables sold at a fraction of the price, if you ran each through a distortion analyzer over the range of human hearing.

See this technical paper from AudioQuest:

Conventional use of the above formula falsely assumes that it is acceptable to have a 63% reduction in current flow and an 86% reduction in power density at the center of a conductor. However, this formula does not by itself describe at what depth audible distortion begins. Listening (empirical evidence) shows that audible distortion begins at somewhat lesser depths.

The human ear is actually a pretty poor instrument. The question is whether these claims stand up to the harsh truth of the distortion analyzer. All this sounds like a lot of inapplicable technical detail meant to try to sell you an overpriced cable.

22 Responses to “Overpriced Cabling”

  1. FatWhiteMan says:

    And I was complaining because I had to pay $10 at Lowe’s for a Composite RCA cable to hook my kids’ new DVD player to an old TV.

  2. Ash says:

    Audiophiles will pay over $1000 for fancy power cords. The companies know exactly what they are doing.

    It’s become the rich nerds version of building a rice burner, and has nothing to do with audio quality beyond perception and prestige.

  3. Bram says:

    The gauge of speaker wires can matter if they are far from the source. The fancy makes are a rip-off, however.

    I go to monoprice.com for wires. Nobody beats their prices.

  4. LC Scotty says:

    Calling that a “technical paper” is an insult to papers everywhere.

  5. flighterdoc says:

    LOL, the economy MUST be getting better if fools like anyone buying those cables are walking the earth

  6. SayUncle says:

    I laugh when people spend more than $3 on hdmi cables.

  7. flighterdoc says:

    And people say marketing doesn’t affect them…..tell it to Monster and these guys;

  8. Jacob says:

    6′ HDMI cable. BestBuy price $29.99. Brand new off ebay, $1.89 with free shipping.

    6′ DVI cable. BestBuy price $24.99. Brand new off ebay $3.74 with free shipping.

  9. Bram says:

    If you running surround sound or 3D, make sure you get (cheap) HDMI cables with the right certification.

  10. Sigivald says:

    I bet nobody can tell the difference with an ABX test.

    (And me, I buy $1.00 HDMI cables from Monoprice, and they work great.

    My big four-way speakers with the 12″ drivers are run off of… old Radio Shack wire.

    They sound better than any source material I possess.)

  11. SidViscous says:

    That’s not even close to the extreme stupidity.

    $14,900 for a pair of interconnect cables http://www.stereophile.com/cables/1206tara/

    $500 Network cable to ge the most out of your digital audio http://usa.denon.com/us/Product/Pages/Product-Detail.aspx?Catid=5840d55c-4077-4d9e-9421-36f204fb4587&SubId=85958de8-a123-4213-8ae1-bb6afaee9a97&ProductId=f7d26b3a-05a6-4724-a5c1-2a63642a6206#

    $43,000 speaker cables http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/home-entertainment/transparent-opus-speaker-cables-bring-you-audio-nirvana-for-43000-a-pair-303825.php but they are 25 feet long so that’s only $1,720 a foot.

    And once you have that all hooked up, make sure you ge the $500 wooden volume knob. http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/notag/the-500-wooden-knob-31918.php

    What’s even better is when you do look at these higher end cables on a frequency analyzer, the exspensive ones perform worse than regular old Home Depot wire. Granted in a freq range no one can hear. But in the range you can hear, not enough of a difference to care, or notice. http://theaudiocritic.com/back_issues/The_Audio_Critic_16_r.pdf

  12. DevsAdvocate says:

    I’m an idiot. I paid $70 for my HDTV wallmount… Monoprice has it for $20… In terms of ammunition, I just wasted 5 boxes of 9mm…

  13. Stranger says:

    The loss in audio cable is virtually I²R or resistance losses.

    There is a certain small amount of power loss between the amplifier output and the loudspeaker input, where voltages are low and currents are high, even the conventional 600 ohm audio lines have low currents, comparatively high voltages, and power levels typically at the sub milliwatt level. Higher impedance audio lines – 70.7V paging lines for an example, feature high voltages, lower currents, and virtually no loss.

    Bottom line? Those who cannot pick up even an elementary electronics text and check out resistance and skin effect deserve to be overcharged.

    Stranger

  14. Stranger says:

    The loss in audio cable is virtually all I²R or resistance losses.

    There is a certain small amount of power loss between the amplifier output and the loudspeaker input because voltages are low and currents are high. But even the conventional 600 ohm low level audio lines have low currents, comparatively high voltages, and power levels typically at the sub milliwatt level.

    Higher impedance audio lines – 70.7V paging lines for an example, feature high voltages, lower currents, and virtually no loss.

    Bottom line? Those who pick up an elementary electronics text and run very high powered amplifiers use #8 or larger speaker wire. Those who reach for their wallet first deserve to be overcharged for their wimpy paired #22 high dollar oxygen free unobtanium insulated speaker wires..

    Stranger

  15. Alpheus says:

    I know everyone is knocking the price, and I’m enjoying the reviews as much as the next guy…but what if they are a real bargain? They may just be pre-marked for the inflation that’s going to be hitting soon.

    Mark my words: in a couple of days, purchasers of these cables will be mocking you for paying $18,900 for that “cheap” cable!

    Either that, or these cables are going to be costing $84,500,000 in a couple of days…

    :-)

  16. I think Best Buy’s brick and mortar model is based on those customers that need a cable in a short time frame. If you need a cable to plug in your TV this weekend, then gritting your teeth and paying $30 for a $5 cable is still cheaper than paying for overnight next day delivery from Amazon (although just barely).

    I don’t understand why they’d try the same tactic on their website.

  17. Roberta X says:

    The extent to which people will sell themselves on overpriced — but working — components is simply insane.

    However, as the late John W. Campbell pointed out when he dreamed up his own pet phase splitter for a hifi amp and inadvertently invented an active device that operated on the very edge of oscillation across most of the audible frequencies, test equipment will tell you a whole lot about how the gear responds to single frequency tones of various, regular waveshapes, or to more complex things like an intermod test signal — but it won;t tell you what it will sound like. John’s “hi-fi” amplifer made beautiful, lovely, pure, low-noise sine waves out of whatever you fed into it. It sounded *awful* if you played music through it.

    Flip side, RCA’s Harry Olsen built some huge mechanical low-pass filters and did A/B tests with a band behind a curtain. Host listeners either heard no difference or preferred the sound with a 5 kHz low-pass filter between them and the musicians (as opposed to no filter at all). That would hardly count as “high-fidelity.”

    Bottom line: if is sounds right to you, it’s okay. If you need to spend $5K on speaker cables to feel good about your sound, then you do — but 12-gauge SJ cable would probably do just as well.

  18. Ash says:

    Audiophiles (audiofools) in general reject A/B tests. Almost all of the high end audiophile mags make their $$$ from advertisers pushing this junk, so doing an A/B test is not in their corporate interests either.

    Audiophiles will pay hundreds of dollars for magic pebbles that when placed on a CD player ‘improve’ the sound, or $300 for a $30 Radio Shack clock that ‘cleanses’ the power circuit.

  19. wfgodbold says:

    Truly, there is a /Penny Arcade strip (NSFW, I suppose; it is PA, after all) for every situation.

  20. Nomen Nescio says:

    […] power density at the center of a conductor […]

    these dweebs have some objection to the skin effect?

  21. Jeff says:

    I’m an audio Engineer and I’m here to tell you its all crap. I refuse to buy monster. I get $3.99 HDMI cables from Newegg, you just have to make sure they are compliant with the latest HDMI standard.

  22. Timmy says:

    I accidentally read a comment thread of audiophiles discussing the difference in sound between music coming off a hard drive and music coming off a solid state disk. Audiophiles are mostly halfwits and deserve derision.

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