A Mess Of Audio Cables

Hackaday has spent several months in this series journeying through the world of audio. Now it’s time to descend into one of the simplest yet most controversial areas of audio reproduction. Every audio component, whether digital or analogue, must be connected into whatever system it is part of, and this is the job of audio cables, sometimes referred to as interconnects.

They are probably the single component most susceptible to tenuous claims about their performance, with audiophiles prepared to spend vast sums on cables claimed to deliver that extra bit of listening performance.

Is there something in it, or are they all the same bits of wire with the expensive ones being a scam? Time to take a look.

Know Audio: A Mess Of Cables



  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Do Audio Cables Matter? YES, But Not for the Reason You Might Expect! – High-End Audio Myths

    In this video, I want to talk about audio cables. Speaker cables, RCA Cables…excuse me, I mean interconnects ;-).

    Viewer comments:

    For speaker cables, low resistance is the priority and gauge (diameter) matters if the length exceeds ten feet (about three meters), for line-level unbalanced signal cables (e.g. “RCA”) the priorities are shielding effectiveness and shunt capacitance (the lower the better), so thicker is not necessarily better electrically. It should be mentioned that at the usual home stereo speaker cable lengths of under ten feet, the wire gauge is almost irrelevant — anything 22 AWG or thicker is going to sound pretty much exactly the same unless human psychology in the form of confirmation bias is involved, e.g. “I paid so much for this cable that I’m not going to admit there’s no improvement — even to myself.” As for banana plugs, if they’re not of good quality they can actually be worse than stripped wire ends on (well-tightened!) binding posts or even those dreaded spring terminals you find on low-end speakers — IOW, don’t bother with them unless you’re prepared to go for the good stuff, because their shape can give them a pretty narrow, unreliable contact area if they’re not made to the correct dimensions with the right kind of properly plated spring steel. Remember, a stripped (and preferably “tinned” with solder) wire end has only one potential failure point, while any kind of plug has at least two — one where the plug contacts the socket, and one where the conductor is attached to the plug!


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