Expensive audio cables. Are they worth it?

June 1, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

21 comments on “Expensive audio cables. Are they worth it?”

  1. Good video. Absolutely agree. And we all know you got the cables on industry discount for much less, but still a high price. But, you paid the price for your car. My Nordost Valhalla 2s were expensive but I got them almost new from my dealer; traded in on their Nordost Uber cables. Boy do they sound great. If you are luck enough to have the assets… enjoy the benefits. You do a great deal for this industry and your employees. So well deserved.

  2. I’m with you , Paul . AudioQuest did a nifty demo at the Munich Audio Show . Started with garden variety Mogami and moved up their cable line just replacing the cable connecting the Dac and preamp . They played the same piece over and over again , several times with cable selling for five figures . The difference was easily discernible and ought to dispel any electrical engineering arguments that cable are irrelevant . I proved it to myself years ago when I replaced all my cables with Transparent Reference XL .

    Why weren’t you there with your new speaker ? Come to think of it , why weren’t you in Chicago a few weeks ago ? Come on , time to get back in the saddle .

  3. This really didn’t hit the nail on the head as far as answering the core question. I suppose the better question might be; what is the tipping point where diminishing returns become a thing?

    I’ve always taken considerable issue with the whole USB cable question. How is it that a cable manufacturer can charge upward to 1000.00 or more for a simple data cable. Its insane and I would challenge anyone to tell me what they hear between a 20.00 USB cable and 1000.00 cable that justifies the added expense.. Its a scam.

    1. It’s only a “scam” if you can’t hear an improvement or if you do and don’t think it’s worth it. But if you rule out the possibility of a difference out of hand for whatever reasons that have nothing to do with experienced listening, e.g., for theoretical reasons or money envy, then that’s a different matter.

  4. Hubbman, you may be looking at this from the wrong perspective. At this level it becomes a financial comfort issue not a value issue. High end audio is a luxury purchase decision. If there is only the slightest benefit, then you want that difference and will simply buy the product as it doesn’t really matter to your financial well being. Does anyone question the financial ratio of owning a Ferrari? Everyone’s threshold of financial pain is a bit different.

  5. I have certainly been chided for my acquisition of over-priced cable for the system I put together. I have studied the qualities of the conductors and wire geometry and have gone as far as to make my own to see if I could do it the same for cheaper. The answer becomes, “no” it isn’t that simple. You can certainly get the parts and put your own cable together, but it won’t be as cheap as you’d want it to be, and it won’t sound quite as good.

    What is never taken into account with premium and expensive cables, is the effort it takes to get all the materials and put them together. Cable geometry isn’t as simple as getting a couple of strands of wire and connecting them to a connector and wa-la. They have to be twisted at specific and exacting intervals. That’s very hard to do by hand. Most companies use a machine that weaves the cables at an exact rate. Also, the conductors are purchased at bulk rates and many of them are custom made. You can’t just waltz over to Belkin and purchase solid core silver wire in FEP hollow tubes. No, this has to be ordered from whatever company.

    It boils to this. If you knew how to build a cable…and you realized that people wanted to buy those cables from you….you’re telling me you WOULDN’T increase the price to earn a profit over the materials you spent to make it? OF course you would. Now, what if you had to spend $100,000 on spools of custom made wire and custom molded copper connectors that are plated in gold or rhodium. Now, someone wants 1000 cables made. Now you have to hire people to build these cables. What about boxes to put them in? You’re not going to feel you got your money’s worth if it shows up in a plastic zip lock bag from the super market. So you spend a few more thousand dollars getting a custom box created and graphics.

    In the end, I can certainly see why the cables are “over priced.” You’re paying a premium for convenience not having to make the cable yourself. That said, $21,000 seems like gouging. There is no amount of materials that cost that much or amount of hours needed to make it that would cost that much in labor. It’s about ego at that point.

    1. I view it this way: if the cable is actually capable of achieving a sufficient improvement to the system’s performance over multitudes of audiophile systems, then the value added by the cable is worth it to those who discern the audible improvements, so the companies maximize their profit margins based on that: it is how many are willing to spend that amount for the improvements. The cables are probably worth a lot less factoring only the materials/machining/labor/etc., but the improvements are such for a large segment of the audiophile world that the companies can charge way more than what is really justified. Such is Capitalism.

      1. Yes, I concur. If you want the improvements bad enough, you’ll pay their price because they know you can’t get it anywhere else cheaper.

        Although, I have discovered that some of what they offer can be made in a DIY situation for much cheaper. For example, I was not going to fork out $500 – $2000 for an Earth-Ground box to stabilize the electric current going to my speakers/equipment. So, I built my own for around $89.00 USD. I also built my own ground cables and one IEC C7 power cable. I know that with these level of parts, there is only so far I can go in achieving audiophile fidelity. I would need to get better materials, like pure silver wire and teflon/FEP dielectrics, pure, solid copper core connectors, etc.

          1. Yeah, I have a lot of Audioquest. They use solid core copper wire….but….they also do some shifty things like using what they call, “purple copper.” This is copper that has been mixed with Sulfur. Sulfur is not a good conductor of electricity. Therefore, this type of material is designed to purposely reduce the performance of audio. Audioquest uses “purple copper” connectors in lower model wire to ensure that this wire does not exceed the performance of models that are above it. Especially when the lower model uses the same geometry and solid core copper wire. 😉

            That doesn’t mean Audioquest is bad or “snake oil.” It does mean that you will get what you pay for within their line. Their higher end does have impressive materials and geometry; but they charge a very high premium for it.

            1. Mine is ‘Furukawa’ (Japan) 7N Super-PCOCC solid core.
              0.85mm diameter interconnect & 1.5mm diameter loudspeaker wire (cable)
              In nearly thirty years I haven’t heard anything better for the price.

              1. In my reference system I use Synergistic Research Foundation and Atmosphere Lv1 for interconnects and speaker cable. For power, I use a Shunyata Venom V16 power distributor, using their Alpha power cable. The speakers I use are powered, and for those I use the Kimber Kable Summit Palladian. On my subwoofer, I use a cable I built myself. It uses three 10awg OFC copper coiled around a hollow air tube. Then, on the ground wire, I grafted in a 24awg solid copper wire that I coiled over the entire length of the cable, before heatshrinking the entire cable. I used Monosaudio solid copper NEMA & IEC C7 connectors.

                I might research Furukawa. 🙂

                1. Don’t bother Brandon, as the high-end audio cable arm of Furukawa Corp. ceased over ten years ago.
                  You may be lucky enough to find some of their pre-loved cables for sale around the world.

                  My interconnect is: ‘FA-11S’, they were Furukawa’s flagship model.
                  There may be a 1 metre set on ‘Carousell’ for US$130 in Singapore…you can Google it.

  6. Put simply, it depends upon:
    a) how much you are willing to spend on wires (Cables) &
    b) whether your home-audio rig is resolving enough to warrant such expense.

      1. Good afternoon Paul!
        I’m on my lunch brake right now, I have to be back in a few minutes.
        But do you remember the cables I told you about 2 years ago?
        They sound every bit as good as those pricier cables.
        They really ame them at the recording studio guies, but they work just as well in home stereo systems.
        They are made by a company that goes by the name Hosa.
        And they won’t brake the bank.
        Give those cables a listen!

  7. Great video Paul, I spent 3500.00 on Kimber Cable speaker cables and at the time I questioned my sanity but then I heard what they did for my system and I was blown away. Were the cables worth that much? I don’t think they were but in the end how much are you willing to pay for better sound.

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