On Audio Cables

Stereotypes exist because they’re true for a substantial proportion of the group about whom they are generalizing. The stereotype about audiophiles is that they’re people who spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on cables because they delude themselves into believing they hear a difference. The word audiophile is so polluted with stereotypes that I prefer not to identify as one. There are, of course, plenty of audio enthusiasts who don’t subscribe to that nonsense. I, for one, have never claimed to hear a difference between cables, but I still care about cables as I care about any aspect of my signal flow.

 

I won’t just buy the cheapest cable I can find. I want my cables to demonstrate a solid build quality. They need to be aesthetically pleasing, too. Ultimately, it all boils down to bang for your buck. I have always been a bang-for-your-buck guy, even when I spend exorbitant amounts of money on things just to see if I can detect any meaningful gains. I own two pairs of $1,400 headphones, but the headphones I use on a daily basis cost less than half that. I own a $1,400 output transformerless tube amplifier, but the headphone amplifiers I actually use on a daily basis go for $500 MSRP. $600 headphones and $500 amplifiers aren’t exactly cheap, but they’re well within the realm of reason, especially at a time when PC gamers are dropping $1K on a monitor and spending several times more on custom keycaps than the average person spends on their whole keyboard.

 

When it comes to cables for audio and computing, there are nine brands I stand by above all: AmazonBasics, Emotiva, Impact Audio, Micca, Monoprice, Schiit, SVS, Tripp Lite, and V-MODA. Connecting my $1,250 DAC (I don’t ever recommend spending that much money on a DAC, by the way) to my PC is a two-meter Emotiva USB cable that was so cheap it was almost free. Connecting my DAC and two headphone amplifiers is a pair of $9 AmazonBasics four-foot RCA cables. Connecting my stereo amplifier to the line outs on my beyerdynamic A20 is another $9 AmazonBasics four-foot RCA cable. Connecting my passive bookshelf speakers to my speaker amplifier is a $20 pair of two-meter Micca speaker wires. I do also have a custom braided cable for my beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro since I usually find stock cables too long. At two meters, the custom Impact Audio cable with Eidolic 6.35mm termination set me back $85, but that’s still a fraction of what you’d have to pay for most custom headphone cables.

 

My most expensive cables are my SVS speaker wires in my home theater setup. My home theater includes two four-meter SVS SoundPath Ultra speaker wires with banana plugs, one two-meter SVS SoundPath Ultra speaker wire with banana plugs, and a three-meter RCA subwoofer cable. The thirteen meters of cabling cost me just short of $200. Again, this is pocket change compared to what you could spend.

 

Let’s not talk about what you could spend though. Let’s talk about what you should spend. As I’ve discovered, you don’t need to spend exorbitant amounts of money to get stunning build quality and gorgeous aesthetics.  In this post, I’m going to list off a variety of different cable types and which cables within that category I recommend. You’ll thank me later because, seriously, AmazonBasics, Monoprice, and the rest of these brands make cables that put cables dozens of times their price to shame. Without further ado though, let’s get started…

 

 

3.5mm Male to Male

  • AmazonBasics
    • Available in 2-foot ($5.50), 4-foot ($5.80), and 8-foot ($7) lengths
    • Great in the car
    • Flexible
  • V-MODA
    • $12 each
    • Available in 175cm and 200cm (black only)
    • Available in black, dark gray, purple, and red
    • Great as a replacement cable for compatible headphones (e.g., the Fostex T50RP)
    • Flexible
    • Durable (V-MODA claims it can withstand over 1 million bends, 100 times the industry standard)

 

RCA

  • AmazonBasics
    • Available in 4-foot ($9), 8-foot ($10), and 15-foot ($12) lengths
    • Best bang for your buck
    • Flexible
    • The best RCAs
  • Schiit PYST
    • Available only in 6″ ($20) lengths
    • Straight Wire rebrands
    • Intended for connecting an adjacent DAC and amp (typically stacked)
    • Stiff

 

RCA to 3.5mm

  • AmazonBasics
    • Available in 4-foot ($7), 8-foot ($8), 15-foot ($10), and 25-foot ($11) lengths
    • Flexible
    • The best RCA to 3.5mm
  • Monoprice
    • Available in 1.5-foot ($1.88), 3-foot ($2.20), 6-foot ($2.97), 10-foot ($3.78), 15-foot ($5.12), 25-foot ($7), 35-foot ($8.83), and 50-foot ($11.31) lengths
    • Cheaper if purchased in bulk
    • Widest variety of lengths

 

Speaker Wire

  • Micca
    • Available in 2-meter pairs ($20) and 4-meter pairs ($35)
    • Best bang for your buck
    • Cannot purchase a single wire (pairs only)
    • 14AWG w/ banana plugs
    • Flexible
  • Monoprice Affinity
    • Available in 3-foot ($11), 6-foot ($12.24), and 10-foot ($16.49) lengths
    • Sold individually (no pairs)
    • Cheaper if purchased in bulk
    • 14AWG w/ banana plugs
    • Stiff
  • SVS SoundPath Ultra
    • Available in 4-foot ($44), 6-foot ($46), 8-foot ($48), 10-foot ($50), 12-foot ($55), fifteen-foot ($60), 20-foot ($65), 25-foot ($70), 30-foot ($75), 35-foot ($80), 40-foot ($85), 45-foot ($90), and 50-foot ($95) lengths
    • Sold individually or in pairs (pricing above is for individual cables)
    • Widest variety of available lengths
    • 12AWG w/ banana plugs and/or spades
    • SVS Bill of Rights
    • Free shipping and return shipping
    • Supreme quality
    • Supreme customer service
    • Stiff
    • I still think SVS subwoofers are wildly overrated.

 

Subwoofer Cables

  • AmazonBasics
    • Available in 8-foot ($8),15-foot ($9), 25-foot ($10), 35-foot ($13), and 50-foot ($16) lengths
    • Best bang for your buck
    • Flexible
  • SVS SoundPath Ultra
    • Available in 1-meter ($25), 2-meter ($30), 3-meter ($35), 5-meter ($40), 8-meter ($45), 12-meter ($50), and 15-meter lengths ($60)
    • SVS Bill of Rights
    • Free shipping and return shipping
    • Supreme quality
    • Supreme customer service
    • Stiff
    • I still think SVS subwoofers are wildly overrated.

 

TOSLINK

  • AmazonBasics
    • Available in 1-meter ($5), 2-meter ($5.50), and 3-meter ($6.50) lengths
    • Flexible
  • Micca
    • Available in 1-meter ($7) and 2-meter ($10) lengths
  • Monoprice
    • Available in 18″ ($4), 3-foot ($4.23), 6-foot ($5), 10-foot ($6), 12-foot ($6), 15-foot ($8), 25-foot ($9), 35-foot ($10.21), 50-foot ($14), 75-foot ($25), and 100-foot ($37) lengths
    • Cheaper if purchased in bulk
    • Best bang for your buck
    • Widest variety of available lengths
    • Gorgeous metal mesh jacket
    • Gorgeous, heavy duty, premium metal connector heads
    • The best TOSLINK cables

 

USB A/B

  • Schiit PYST
    • Available only in 1-meter ($20) lengths
    • Straight Wire rebrand
    • Stiff
    • Great for short runs
  • Tripp Lite
    • Available in 1-meter and 2-meter lengths
    • Prices fluctuate substantially
    • Average pricing for the 1-meter length is $5.27 and, for the 2-meter length, $6.24
    • Best bang for your buck
    • Ferrite chokes on either end
    • Well shielded
    • Cheapest quality USB cables money can buy

 

 

I could go on, but I decided to only include cable types where I feel there’s more than a single viable option. For everything else, just check AmazonBasics and Monoprice.

One thought on “On Audio Cables

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s