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Community Newsletter: Q&A forum: Home audio and video: Premium vs. generic cables

by: Lee Koo (ADMIN) May 31, 2007 4:58 PM PDT

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Home audio and video: Premium vs. generic cables

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) ModeratorCNET staff - 5/31/07 4:58 PM


Alright, so I've been trying to become involved in the high-definition era for a few years now. As far as I'm concerned, picking the right cables can be controversial. Whenever you go buy a new HDTV or an accessory component, the salesmen always ask if you have the appropriate connections. Then they always ask if you have "the best" connections that will provide the optimal picture and sound. So is there? Is a $15 cable going to provide equivalent performance to a $100 cable of the same type? And does this question have a different answer for analog and digital cables? I'd love to get the facts straight once and for all. Thanks!

--Submitted by Derek M.

Answer voted most helpful by our members:

HDTV Cabling

Cables and connections for stereo, HDTV, or any electronic media can be compared to hoses for moving water around your house. If you have a pump that will deliver 50 gallons of water per minute and you need to deliver 75 gallons per minute to some plants or a fountain--sorry, it will deliver 50 gallons max and your fountain will not chirp merrily, it will just slog along.

Cables have a maximum delivery capability and if you don't meet or exceed that your media will suffer. But on the same line of thought, if your plumbing will deliver 200 gallons of water and your pump will supply 100, you have wasted a lot of capability (which you paid for and will never get). Same with some of the monster cables that are around today, they are built to deliver ear shattering amount of wattage to speakers that if you did deliver, would soon reduce your ability to hear it to deafness.

The idea behind HDTV is that they are now sliding more data down the channels, and you can't do that with the old cables (maybe 25 gallon pipes). Same with HD DVD, Blu Ray and all the new things. You need to have a pipe that will deliver the amount that is being sent. You definitely need HDMI or better when using any HD device. You can use the other cabling (component, s-type, etc) but there is a difference. Some things won't even work without the proper cable, like upconversion to an HD set.

As for the price, that is something else entirely. Just because you pay $100 for a hose, doesn't mean it is made to stand the pressure of delivery. It is almost a matter of 'You get what you pay for', but not quite. There are connections at both ends of the hose and there are connections at both ends that belong to the other components, like your TV and the HD DVD. They are just as critical as the cable, they could be below par so that needs to be checked in the buying phase. I will say that buying cable from a reputable source has always made sense (when money is no object). I have however, bought from many different sources and compared and find that workmanship, and a quality product is not guaranteed by price.

What I have done is buy a great cable at a high price (you are going to need many cables by the way) and then bought a few from other sources at reasonable prices and compared them. Most have a return policy anyway, so the ones that didn't perform, I just sent back. Some times the ones that went back were the high priced ones. If you can't see or hear the difference, what are you paying for?

--Submitted by the_shelton

If you have additional opinions, advice, or recommendations for Derek, let's hear them. Click on the "Reply" link to post. Please be detailed as possible in your answer and list all options available. Thanks!

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