Cheap Vs Expensive Cables Question


Blue Jeans Cable uses this exact Belden cable for some of the speaker cables they sell. They ultrasonically weld the termination you need (banana plugs in my case). It’s a very good sound reasonably priced cable. It sounds great in my system. I’m using the 10 gauge variant BJC sells.


Agree with many of the responses, Roy. For good or ill, you have Asked the Dreaded Cable Question ; )

Have only had experience with the sub-$1k Audioquests, and have never found that tier to be a “value” sonically, though they look nice, are available at Best Buy, and have lots of cute names. I love coffee, so my AQ Coffee HDMI is a fave ; ) (joking). They make so many, it’s hard to keep track. Really hard to imagine there is a significant sonic difference between any of the many models you can buy at Best Buy/Magnolia. Sorta doubt Paul uses those.

Reminds me of many moons ago when I got into Transparent Cables (who also have a lot of tiers and models within tiers), and my dealer said, “Given your front end, don’t bother with anything below Super”.

Clearly could have been a naked sales ploy, but subsequently I’ve come to feel that there’s usually somewhere in a cable line where Whatever they Do Well starts to “happen” in a clearly audible way - Depending on the System. I think it may be the level below Super in their case (at least a decade or so ago). Don’t know what it is for AQ. Trickle-down design doesn’t always trickle that far down, nor does the sonic benefit reveal itself in a given system. Paying as much for cables as your speakers is not great math. The usual deal is 10% of your system cost for cable, though that certainly varies, and given the current evolution of systems to streaming, etc., it gets harder to have some sort of hard and fast Rule.

Good quality, straight up copper wire works really well. Of course, the definition of “good quality” varies. Home Depot Lamp Cord? No less than Five Nines Copper? Lotta space in between.

As a then-installer dude, I bought a spool of Transparent’s in-wall cable, “The Wall” 12ga. (intended to be terminated with their “Brick” ends, which I don’t care for, so I just terminate the bare wire to the posts) and have been happily using it off and on for longer runs ever since (along with other speaker wires). One of the things I’ve noticed about “good” copper wire is the ends tend not to tarnish much over time.

As awesome of a bang for the buck as ELAC the speakers are (I’ve had the top foot of those towers in their two-way form), they are not ones that are likely to be super picky or “revealing” of cables. Save your money, and eventually buy better speakers. Maybe try used ones that are considered classics. It’s the Journey, not the Destination ; )


Yo, Dude. Boulder’s really seepin in!
Gotta dip, man. (just learned that one from a 23 year old)


I wan’t going to respond to this because the snobbery it implies makes me so angry but I payed $500 each for my speakers, $1000 a pair. I knew for sure somebody was going to get on a soapbox and say…those speakers are not resolving enough. Well, you are wrong. Andrew Jones is a legendary designer. The Uni Fi speakers are renown and respected by many reviewers. They are highly resolving speakers regardless the price. Don’t be snobs. And the rest of my system is tremendously resolving. So please do not write any more comments regarding this.

Besides, an audiophile friend of mine owns several sets of mega priced speakers including Bower and Wilson, Sonus Faber and a 10K pair of Martin Logan electrostats. Honestly, I think my Elacs sound better than all his speakers. I compared my cheap and expensive cables on his system, which is a Mark Levinson, and I still could not hear a difference between them. However, he said he easily heard the difference.

At this point I do believe the problem is exactly what the wise Ted Smith says. I need to only listen to the new cables for a few days or week then switch back to the old cables. If I don’t hear a difference doing this then I will return them. Yet I assure everyone my system is plenty resolving enough so enough with that elitist nonsense. You don’t need 5K speakers to hear a difference in cables. In fact, Audioquest demos their cables vs cheap ones using very low end unresolving gear from what I read online. They do this to prove their cables improve even a modest system and my system is certainly not modest at 12K minus the sources and Furman power conditioner.


@Roy8731 Just FWIW if you don’t hear a difference then there isn’t a difference. :grin: I think a lot of the really high end peripheral stuff is between 90% and 100% of the holy grail and its really easy to get to 90%. I call it the 90/10 rule. It applies to all hobbies. It takes 10% of the money to get 90% there. The last 10% of the goal costs 90% of the money. If you are enjoying the fruits of your labor then that’s all that can be expected. It sounds like you have a really nice system.


Often I have found we try and do too much at once. Further, we use the wrong kind off music. Lastly, our speakers are often set up incorrectly.

Let’s start with just listening to differences in interconnects.

First things first, using the selector switch between inputs on the McIntosh is not a good idea. The DS doesn’t appreciate RCA and XLR connected at the same time. For another thing, if the McIntosh is producing the same volume level on XLR and
RCA then I would suspect the McIntosh is squashing the sound and that may be a big problem for you (more on that in a while). A proper amplifier input will be 6dB louder on XLR than on RCA. I have seen designs where the amplifier ignores the true benefits
of XLR and maybe the McIntosh is doing that.

Can you borrow or go on Amazon and buy a cheap pair of XLR cables? Amazon’s pretty gracious about returns. Once you do that, physically swap cables one for the other.

Once you’re ready select some music with simple content like a voice and acoustic guitar. Complex music’s hard to hear differences when you’re just getting started. You might try Keith
Greeninger & Dayan Kai, Looking for a Home
: or True Loves Ways

If you still don’t hear a difference when manually swapping XLR cables after listening to about 1/2 of each track, then going back and repeating the track, then we might have to think about how to get you a different amp.


Um, that would be an indication that the wire might be an alloy, as pure copper will visibly oxidize, based on humidity, salt and sulfur content in the air, and temperature.


So I should not have my DSJ’s XLR connected to headphone amp, and the RCA connected
to my integrated amp at the same time?


Well, then I hope your Wick was Properly Wetted.


Um, ok. Certainly my Revere Ware copper bottomed pan I got from my mom has tarnished, but I don’t usually put my audio cables on the flame.

A lot of cheap stranded copper cable I have had turns black anually. That has not been my experience with “better” bare cable. Has it been your experience that high purity copper wires turn black on the exposed areas every year? That is - you see tarnish as an indicator of Good/Better Copper? Like Paul, I’m willing to learn. Not kidding.


@Paul - Shouldn’t the person evaluating the differences in cables listen to what they normally listen to? When I go listen to gear I only evaluate things based on music I know and listen to. For example I don’t listen to classical so why would I want to evaluate something based on how a classical CD/LP sound? Seems they should listen to music they know.


Thanks for the laugh, ya goof but “gotta dip” means, according to said 23 year old, “gotta be going”; wick not withstanding…


Get hip, oldster, it also can refer to dipping other things : )

Though I’m sure your 23 year old has not gone there ; )


will somebody answer that damn phone!!!


Roy - feel ya. But it is not snobbery. It’s an ongoing problem in this hobby. I am 62 years old and have been through loads of pro and consumer gear over my life. We’re not making this shit up. For $1k, those are amazing speakers, no question. Possibly among the best $1k speakers (in adjusted monies) Ever Made. But they do not resolve differences in cables like the 5x more expensive speakers from Andy, or anyone else.

And, yes - Ted is correct. Which does not have to do with the above. What we are long-windedly trying to say is, don’t worry about your cables.

Like I said earlier - you done Opened Pandora’s Box, bruh : )


I agree, no snobbery was intended, it’s just the way it is. That being said, I heard a small powered Elac speakers at RMAF, that knocked my socks off, considering their cost. I remember thinking these speakers are going to make it difficult for other manufactures to justify some of their prices for models costing 2 to 3 times as much. No doubt some of the best for the money.


Or as Dirk reminded me in another thread:

“I never get involved in any discussions about religion, politics and audio cables. That’s how wars start.!”


Re. copper, I’m not a metallurgist, but when I’ve seen pure un-oxidized five-nines copper (Jena Labs), the stuff is a pinkish salmon-color, not the orangey-metal color we usually mean when we say copper-colored like a new penny.
I have seen some high-purity wire turning dull and brownish near the ends where the jacket allowed a little air to intrude.
I’m guessing the orange-colored stuff is either slightly oxidized or alloyed, changing the pure metal color.
However, for all of that, I’m not sure it’s a huge deal, because any decent connection will either cut into fresh metal, pressure-weld, or solder the strands, thus gasses might find it difficult to penetrate into the actual joint between metals. I do know that contact enhancers on removable connections can make an audible difference, lending some credence to oxidation.


Your system is more than good enough to let you hear sonic changes/differences in cables assuming there is any… You are familiar with the performance of your system regardless of its monetary value and you are the person who knows it inside-out…

I do exactly the same as Ted suggested in that I connect up a new cable or component and play it for 10 days or so then I retry the original cable again … A-B/X back and forth tells you nada, just confuses the mind… If you were buying a new TV from a shop and you wanted to compare it against another make on display - both makes would be playing side by side so you could assess picture quality, sound, etc. imagine trying to do that if one TV was switched off and there was a delay swapping over TV’s then watching one TV at a time … It would be impossible. Just a 50/50 guess.
My system is very expensive but I still build my own mains cables and interconnects… I bought all the speaker cables.


Roy I don’t think anyone is trying to be insulting although I can certainly understand how the comments might make anyone feel.
That said, it’s a silly notion to think that the higher the price, the better the product automatically.
I used to have speakers that cost $1,000/pair, that sound incredibly good. When I upgraded, I gave them to my son and he loves them. They’re Zu Audio Omen Mk2, DW and they blow away some speakers I’ve heard costing ten times that amount.
As for the cables, I find the best way to audition anything is to listen to the same tracks over and over with the new cable and then go back to the old one. If you hear no difference, then there isn’t any.