7500 for USED cables? Are they joking?

I've been out of high-end audio for about 8 years, and the thing I am most struck by on my return is the apparent acceptance of power cables, interconnects and speaker cables that cost as much or more than heavy-duty high-end components.

As a now-outsider of sorts, this really looks like the Emperor's New Clothes big-time. Especially power cords, considering the Romex that delivers the A/C to the outlet isn't exactly audiophile quality.

Are people really paying $500 and up for wire? Is this foolishness of the highest order, or is this what people now believe it takes to extract the last percent or two of definition from their components?

What happened? Even buyers of what are now considered "modestly priced" cables would be laughed out of the professional audio world, so why do audiophiles think they need something better than was used to make the original recording? MOST professional recording engineers scoff at the difference between microphone cables that cost $19.95 vs. those that cost $49.95 -- most anything higher is rarely considered at all (the most expensive microphone cable might be $125 for a 20 foot run, and it's laughed at by most of the pros).

I'm not criticizing -- I'm too stunned to draw any conclusions -- I just wondered if anyone has given this much thought.

(At least I understand the home theater revolution -- thank heavens something came along to save the high end manufacturers, although it makes me chuckle to think of someone spending $30,000 to watch the Terminator. It's OK with me.)

Thank you for your consideration,

Mark Hubbard
Eureka, CA
Ag insider logo xs@2xmark_hubbard
The cable market IS ridiculous. No mistake there. I agree with you whole-heartedly. As the old saying goes: A fool and his money are quickly parted.
when the stuff goes over $500 or so I have to wonder too.. I bought used Cardas Golden Cross at about 1/2 price, I would never spend $800-$1000 on an interconnect.. Imagine how many LIVE symphonic events you could attend, with good seats too, for the amount of money spent on cables.. $2000 for a power cord to my amp? my $250 or so TICE power cord is good enough.
My question exactly! what is the difference between Pro Mic Cables and Audio Interconnects?
For all of the obvious things that there are to say about the ludicrously high markup on cables, I've heard quite a few stories now about recording engineers exposed for the first time to good cables - and being both unbelieving and suprised at the sound differences. How many recording engineers have really a/b'd cables? What would the result be if they did, apart from the cost factors. Recall that the small high end labels do generally use high end gear, including cables, in recording.
I guess some of us fools do hear the value in certain cables and pay attention to their offerings and characteristics. And some of us are just happy with a cable.

BTW, that 1%-2%, some people thrive for it and pay dearly to get it.

I do agree there are some in the market that have gone off the deep end, I personally know a cable manufacturer that it takes him 4-6 hrs per Power cord... and I have the sound to prove it !!

All the best

As far as power and electricity goes, it seems that power cables and transformers, etc. outside of your home have a lot to do with the quality of electricity that ultimately is fed into your gear. If your neighborhood has older parts for wires and boxes, then there's only so much you can improve on that in my experience.
And the whole cable issue is completely outrageous. I own a pretty decent system - costing me well over 10K for the components alone. The cables/interconnects were the last thing I upgraded, from the Audioquest $40 jobbies I was using before, to the Cardas Cross/Quadlinks I'm using now. Now I've been into hi-end gear for about 15 years - and I'm not kidding when I say I can't tell the difference, except for the fact that the Cardas look a lot more elegant. A complete placebo effect if you ask me. Try this - ask a friend to hook up your system with sub $50 cables and then with $400+ cables without telling you which was which. If the cable market is correct, you should be able to unequivocally tell the difference 10 out of 10 times, which I'm sure anyone would be hard pressed to do.
Cables do make a difference in better systems. You can hear it. When you consider the cost of materials and labor some brands can justify the price although $7500 is a bit steep. I think <$1000 for interconnects is all you have to pay if you find a good brand. The Nordost, Siltech, and Transparent folks are laughing all the way to the bank.
Mark admits to being out of audio for eight years. How many cell phones have been sold in that time? We are being bombarded DAILY with increasing amounts of rfi! I have found in my system the single ended cables sound as different from each other as components do. When using balanced, the difference is minimal. I have a/b'd $100.00 monster mic cables with $10,000.00 nordost Valhalla balanced in a $80k system. Barely percievable was the difference. Blindfolded doubt I could tell. Single ended anyone should be able to tell. -and while your ac is limited by the romax in the wall, what's the first thing your component sees? The cord coming out of it. Haven't we all see what happens to the TV when someone in the house using a different circuit turns on a vacumn or micro wave? I for one don't want that pollution getting to my stereo. Speaker cables as well are very suseptable to rfi.
Now, are these "tiffany cables" stupidly over priced? ABSOLUTELY! Some are quite costly to make, but by the time the distributer and retailer double and re-double the price it is totally out of line, there's NEVER a sale, or any nogotiation. Which is not to say these companies don't deserve to make a living. I like to physically see and hear a product in a store first. But perhaps if there were more direct sales manufacturers, the retail prices would experience downward pressure.
I have a fair amount of top monster cable products, while they aren't "fashionable", they do most of what the best cables are capable of, and I can justify the price, as they are aimed at the mass market. Another hi performing resonable price line is Custom Cable Company, they really blow away competitors for a fraction of the $.
For the record, I worked 20+ years as a live & studio engineer and performer, in the US & internationally. While I never got wealthy, I do spring for good cables in my home recording studio (16 track 2inch analog) as have an increasing number of my associates. Glass fiber optic cables for digital studios, etc.
Bottom line: we all have to live w/in our tax bracets, but to ignore the science of interference causing audiable artifacts and robbing fidelity from those who care about it is dening yourself greater enjoyment!
The $7500 price is outragest.
Very few items are in that price range, so you are talking extremes.
Don't discard something until you try it, Or in this case listen to it.
Suprising, Power cords on good equipment can make a large difference in the pleasure obtained listening to the equipment.
Power cords such as the Whale Elite and many , many interconnects cables allow the Components to sound as closly as they were designed.
Remenber, the phrase "it is only as good as the weakest link ?
I don't think you should run on about cables and their ridiculous prices until you have had them in your system. How do you know that their value only represents 1-2% if you have never experienced this first hand. Sure if you are running a system with modest components then 7500.00 for cables seems foolish. The right cables can take a sytem over the top
Mark Hubbard, it is called the Voodoo...

Good cables do make a difference, but you do not need to spend thousands of dollars. Buy concert tickets instead. As I previously have posted, the people who are into the real thing fly to concerts. All this wiring extravaganza and Voodoo is for the wannabes.

There IS scientific basis for proper cabling, so here's a few links for you to use as reference:

1) http://www.geocities.com/jonrisch/index2.htm

2) http://www.geocities.com/venhaus1/index.html

3) http://tnt-audio.com/clinica/tweaks.html

mark: since i, myself, have only just awakened after spending these past 20 years in a coma, i quite understand your concerns. my two sons, who were but grade-schoolers as i remember them, now each earn in just a year what it took me a decade to realize! my modest tract house that my wife and i scrimped and saved for to purchase for $40,000 is now assessed for $300,000! when i replaced my beloved BMW this year, my new one cost ten times more than its predecessor! and food! don't even talk about it. please. how can anyone afford to live in these times? and, my god, look how tastes have changed! my hero, lawrence welk, is now replaced by someone named "snoop doggy dog"? playboy magazine now shows, ahem, pubic hair? i'm with you, mark. i'm sticking with zip cord. thin zip cord. the wildly expensive wire is just more, ahem, pubic hair. and i still refuse to look at it! who would care to get close enough to listen to it?!

r. vanwinkle.
As far as pros go fewer and fewer are scoffing at quality cables because once you hear how much better your U67 sounds with even a $130 monster cable, you can't help but hear the improvement over a $20 pos cable. If the doubters stopped their chuckling and actually listened maybe they would churn out better sounding records.

P.S. Many major mastering facilities use high quality "audiophile" cables (Audioquest/MIT/Monster/AlphaCore/etc.) in their studios.
Well, Mark, as you can see from the many responses you got, there are a sizeable number of audiophiles who believe in the value of high-end cables. They believe because they have listened to different cables, and those cables have sounded different to them. And if you listened to the various brands of cables out there, they might sound different to you, too. That doesn't mean they are different. It just means that you're as susceptible as other humans to the brain's proven tendency to hear things that are not there.

So welcome back to the hobby. Keep on the lookout for snake oil. There's a lot of it about these days.
QUESTION, Ever given any thought to the poor guy who puts out $ 25,000 for a Bass Boat, & another 2 or 3 thousand for all that gear he needs. Then has to buy the latest 4 wheel drive truck to get it to the water. mmmmmmmmmmm Sounds like a $ 60,000.00 plus investment to me. Then if he is lucky he gets to go fishing 2 , 3 if he is single, times a month. Point is, we have hobbies. What ever makes it fun & pleasurable to you is what is important. Having fun can be expensive!!! Whew, now pass the day old bread & the can of beans while I wait for my New Nordost Valhalla cables to arrive!!!

Good Thread,

Good listening to all,
To All,

This was educational on several levels. I expected more defensiveness and hostility, and instead received supportive and intelligent responses on both sides of the issue (sometimes from the same person). I also enjoyed the humor of "Rip Van Winkle" who thankfully stopped short of suggesting that I must have been incarcerated to have been out of touch for so long.

I certainly hear differences in single-ended cables (to which my experience is limited). Yes, even ten years ago we had choices in wiring, and as often as not a steep increase in cost reflected a marked decrease in sound quality (I'm remembering some expensive offerings from Tara Labs in particular that worked horribly in a friend's high end ARC/Genesis system). So in the last eight years, I take it that cables have not exactly become a science?

Certainly grungy mains, overloaded circuits and stray RF have the potential to degrade sound quality, but how much can shielding cost? There is a certain perverse logic in separating the transport from the D/A converter, for instance, only to require connecting the two with an expensive external "digital" cable instead of building the two components into the same chassis to begin with (and let's not get into outboard "jitter reducers," "naturalness restorers," stick-on discs and magic bricks, all of which admittedly affect the sound somehow).

I recently bought a $30 analog Mitsubishi MGA tuner in a plastic cabinet with fake heat-sink ridging on the sides and cheap built-in interconnects that looks like it might have been sold by Sears in 1971 for about what I just paid for it. The whole component must weigh close to four pounds and has a power cord so thin I wondered if I should shorten it. Yet the honest-to-goodness truth is that it completely blows away any other tuner I've ever owned, including the venerable Luxman T-117, which rose to Stereophile Class B, where it remained for as long as it was in production. It's scary how good this Mitsu is, especially when you start considering the *possibility* that our components could be designed to sound great using virtually any conductor of relatively nominal cost.

I appreciate the suggestions you have made, and I'll look into the more reasonably priced models you've mentioned. If you have other suggestions for wire that is priced at least somewhat proportionately to the components with which they'll be used, I'd love to hear about them. I was heartened to hear that people still buy Monster products, for instance.

By the way, a "high-end" reference mic cable that several studios are using is the B.L.U.E. Kiwi, which is the cable I referred to that costs $49.95. Lynn Fuston and 12 other engineers used it for their mic and mic preamp shootout CDs (3 CD set $110 delivered from 3DAudioinc.com). I don't know anything about "balanced" when it comes to playback -- is there any difference between a mic cable and a balanced interconnect?

Also -- another one you correctly identified -- the $125 mic cable I referred to is indeed made by Monster.

I'll tell you this -- I think a whole lot of intelligent, thoughtful people have joined the hobby in the last 8 years. You all are a cut above what I remember from the "letters" pages of Stereophile in the early 90s!

Again, thank you for the links and the advice, and for your patient and kind responses.


Mark Hubbard
Examine any hobby and you will see extremes. Some of the Pros are starting to come around. While they're not about to install the mega-buck wire, some are considering the mid-stream stuff, from a very recent TAS or Stereophile issue. My rule is, if you can't hear a positive difference, not just a difference, don't buy it. All wires act as a band-pass filter to some degree, change the impedance of the link to some degree, and many contain RFI/EMI sensitive designs to reduce noise. I have an EE background and I too scoffed, but I was sensible enough to test the claim, borrow some I/Cs from my local shop and compare. I have also had others who really don't care, listen, don't know what I am doing back there, listen and hear a difference. System resolution and noise are notable factors. Again, if you can't hear it, don't buy it.

The bass boat analogy is a bit off. Mark did not question the logic of high dollar gear (speakers, amps, etc.), just the merit of high priced cables. Thus, expensive boats and trucks to haul them with may be extravagances, but necessary extravangances if one wants to catch bass.

Now if we're talking about some moron paying $3,000 for $8.95 worth of fishing line, then I think that the analogy works
$7,500 for used cables is ridulous! You can get a half-way decent pair of 18" new ones for that!

I remain,
I was just kidding in my last post about the $3,000 fishing line. The truth is since I've migrated from using $8.95 fishing line to using $3,000 fishing line, a magical transformation has taken place. Whereas before I was simply going through the process of fishing, now I have become one with the fish.

I have also noticed that the bass that I catch are much more full bodied yet without any hint of being tubby. Moreover, they hit my line with far greater slam and jaw-dropping authority.

Now for those of you that do not regularly use $3,000 fishing line, yet feel entitled to make a reasoned judgement as to the merit of my claims, WRONG! You are simply slobs and Phillistines that are just not open to the experience. I vascillate between pity and scorn for you :-)
Since we are on the subject, let me add to the "snake oil" side of the debate.

Just picked up a new power cord that was absolutely raved about in a couple of reviews. I bought it used, so the price was not as bad as buying new. I did this even though i have seen the insides of more than a few "commercial" built cords and about threw up after hearing the price. Well, this cord was no different. Even paying list price for everything, this cord has about $40 - $60 ( at the VERY most ) in raw parts. The only reason that it costs that much would be that fancy "snakeskin" sheathing and the hospital grade plug. Even though selling price of this cord is nearly half a grand, it uses standard "industrial grade" mass produced wiring in it.

This specific power cord is not any different than most of the other "tweaky" power cords that i've seen either. The reviewers might have found this out if they took it apart. Only problem is that the manufacturer GLUED, used shrink wrap and "potted" the insides of the connectors to hide their "top secret" design. Did they do this because they didn't want someone else to steal the design from them ? Or did they do it because they didn't want you to know that they were stealing from you ???

To answer your question, NO, i haven't tried it yet. Yes, it might sound different than another cord, but NO, it is not worth that kind of money. After all, ANYBODY can put "high grade" connectors on industrial grade $2 - $3 per foot power cabling and call it something fancy. The scariest thing is that this cord is considered to be a GREAT "bargain" amongst those that have reviewed and used it.

I will say that wires DO make a difference. With that in mind, there is next to nothing that a "wire company" can put together that you can't do yourself. That goes for selection of parts, ferrite's, impedance compensation networks, fancy geometries, "burning in", cryogenics, radiation treatments from plasma powered UFO's, etc... As such, i say long live "DIY" and those that are willing to learn and get their hands dirty. Death to "shysters" and those that aid them. They are the prime reason that high end is in the state that it currently is.

Why bother trying to achieve "high end results" when you can't even afford ONE cable ? Instead, the mass majority will purchase a complete system with half a dozen speakers for the cost of ONE cable. Now tell me which "components" ( one cable or an entire surround system with a dvd player, tuner, preamp, power amp, speakers, etc... ) took more research, development, parts, labor, tooling, machining, and marketing to produce ? Then ask yourself why you support "shysters" with shady business ethics ?

If you've got money to burn or throw away, that is your prerogative. Other than that, all i can say is "a fool and his money are soon parted". I've been that fool and i hope that i've learned a lesson ( again ). Most "reviewers" are nothing more than "false prophets" with most audiophiles worshiping a golden calf when it comes to wires. Sean

PS... This is MY personal opinion and is not aimed at anyone in specific. I may not agree with you ( a LOT of you ), you may not agree with me. I'm sorry if you feel that i kicked you in the "nuts". You're more than welcome to kick me in the head and knock some sense into me with an intelligent rebuttal. With that in mind, I hope that we can still share different points of view and respect each other in the morning : )
Sean-I enjoy being kicked in the nuts ;) and those of us who know you at all will know their is no chance to "knock some sense" into you-its a lost cause :)

I agree $7500 is a lot for cables but $70000 is a lot for speakers(to me any way) so in audio everything is relative. Some people may find what I have to be frivolous others find it to be humble, way it goes. Reminds me of a saying "shit or get off the pot"
Doc: Have you tried spiking your boat? Awesome bass!
For the record, I really really hate getting kicked in the nuts! I was a wire skeptic and still am to some degree but I have tried different interconnects and found subtle differences that were worth changing from one brand to another. All within reason. I'm with Sean on this one, spending more than $200 on a used interconnect is not the best way to tweak a system. DIY makes sense assuming you're handy with a soldering iron and have the time. Power cords...nope, no real difference from what I can tell (and I do own Synergistic, YBA, ProAc, and MIT). The wire market is catering to those who seek the final frontier at all costs, logic and intuition be damned. I'm very curious who buys interconnects and power cords at MSRP in the first place? Want that last 1% improvement? Run dedicated lines so your household appliances don't compete with your source components for yer juice. Roll your tubes! Better yet, tweak your listening room.
I think Sean said it all.

Wire is not wire and we cannot measure everything that makes a system sound good at this point, but the price put on cables cannot survive any intelligent look at their design parameters. Too many folk look at cables as some mystery tweak when there is less "mystery" in cables than any other part of the audio circuit. What is especially unfortunate is that in the cable discussions so many throw up their hands and argue that measurements and numbers don't matter at all. This is throwing out the design with the bathwater, so to speak, and moves us all in the wrong direction as far as improvements in audio are concerned and leaves everyone even more available for the endless marketing hype. Just recently there was a post where a guy was advised to buy $3,500 worth of wire when his cd player and speakers totaled 5k. I'd never walk in that store again.

Sincerely, I remain
Remember the Absolute Power Cord? What happened when it was introduced about a year ago? The Voodoo priests went ballistic! How could a cheap Chinese made cord outperform them expensive cables? What a riot!
Since I replaced the lead sinkers on my fishing line with high quality ferrites I've caught more fish and bigger fish. More importantly, they taste fresher, without any haze or glare to obscure the fine nuances of flavor. Overall grain and harshness are reduced, as well. Where I used to reach for the tartar sauce, I now use only a spritz of lemon.

And don't tell me to ABX them, either. I know what my taste buds can taste!

Happy cabling!

Will (who uses good but not terribly expensive cables)
I am playing devil's advocate here -
What about running the numbers, that is, the real ones on running a small business within a niche market. If your main business is cables, and you have to pay engineers, marketing people, distributors, factory upkeep, expensive measurement and assembly equipment, test room construction etc, how many cables would you have to sell at a realistic pricepoint (say $200) in order to break even. Now what if you increase the price to $7000?
It seems worthwhile to me that someone stays in this business to research cable issues. What may have happened is that competition for the small number of audiophile customers has been driven too strongly by too many 'manufacturers' seeing too much profit available for too little research effort.
I would lookup into US history rather than critisize such absurd with the cables.

It is all come from here where the all freedom marketing and business begins. Understand me right that marketing business advances and it's all about how to sell. You might manufacture or buy somewhere(in most cases) a piece of $hit product, invest money into the advertising and sell or re-sell it as a greatest stuff in the world -- just have a guts to skillfully describe it, place it in the nice box use the right colours etc...! People learned in US to sell promises and hopes that initially cost nothing(no building materials used or spent). This is the country where the real business was born.

In our addiction environment believe it or not wires are the most profitable components if skillfully sold on the market. It's done by psychologically convinsing people that they improve the sound and/or it's done in terms of fasion.

As to HT Someday I would want to get a cut from that business since to my knowledge rich folks spending arround 5K to the specialist just to assemble components that cost far more than $30k. It's kind of a fasion right now rather than someone's addiction(fasion by definition is the first derivative of market) to assemble a $100k HT system in the new house's dedicated room.

For those who likes math:

d/dy(market) = fasion

So folks if you spend $10k for a wire, it's OK because it's a fasion just like you buy Armani suit, BMW and it's cool!:)

...and DD adict guy -- this isn't a VOODOO it's quite real to me.
Sean; you can't say "nuts" on Audiogon-- well, it depends on context maybe-- perhaps "family jewels"?. However it's much safer than saying "wires".

Doc; your fishing line analogy, observations and comments are great.

........gotta' love these "wire" threads. Cheers. Craig
Just out of curiosity, beyond poorly designed cables that clearly do something wrong, what part of a recording not captured by a $19.95 mic cable or any of the plain vanilla cheap copper cables used by recording engineers is re-created by those designer cables?

What part of the signal now realized through the Valhalla was left out by those cheap cables used by recording engineers in the "Golden Age of Stereo" before they knew any better?

Of course they're joking.
Oh c'mon. The cables in your system are aimed at phase and time alignment between your source components and your speakers. The a/c cables in your system are aimed at controlling power distortions in your house. Their purpose is to preserve the original signal on the disc as best possible, period.
Flex, if you think most esoteric cable manufacturers have engineers, RD depts, human resource depts, water coolers, company picniks, and the weekly payday meetings, I think you may be sadly disappointed. Maybe after selling 5000 power cords may they have proper facilities, many cable makers are hobbyist/audiophiles/marketers working out of a garage. Cables companies dont make cable, they use off the shelf parts and construct them in some shape or form. I couldnt agree with Sean more, someone earlier said it must have taken 5-6 hours to produce that $2xxx powercord. there may be $60 in parts in that cord on a good day, Thats quite a racket. There has to be a line drawn, a common sense line in my opinion on cable pricing, there is no guarantee that a $7500 cable will sound better than a $500 cable, quite possibly in the application used, the $500 cable could be superior. People often use the excuse that since you've spent $100k on gear, you need to spend a good deal on wires. In my opinion,what you need to do is spend the time listening to different wire that best suits your gear. Price does not equal better sound.
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There is no doubt that people hear differences, usually improvements, when using expensive/well regarded/designer cable as compared to something more reasonably priced/frowned apon/generic. It has alos been well established (extensivly, with many variations) that these differences disapear when you don't know for sure whether the cable/cord in question is in the system.
It's really a matter of personal outlook what you make of this (or whether you deny one of the points and start tying yourself in knots arguing test protocols and epistemology.)
IMO the only reason this is an issue is that people will pay the...agressive...prices you mentioned.
I find it amazing all the people on various posts who claim to have demo'd Nordost Vahalla and OEM grade cables and hear no difference. I assume you're dishonest. Who would honestly do this type of comparison as a serious demo? Did you acutally buy both cables? If not, then which Nordost dealer did you piss-off by having them do the switching in their store?? I doubt they would accomodate you.

I've heard many many poorly engineered recordings; so who
ever said a recording engineer is an expert?
The recording engineers I know are very frugal types. They are just too cheap to spend more than $20 on a cable. When they make a recording only technical issues matter to them to the detriment of musical considerations. If they had two takes of a song, one perfect technically that are dead musically and the other a musical masterpiece with a few technical glitches, they would choose the technically perfect one to put on the CD everytime. The musical masterpiece is lost to history.
We seem to have a failure to communicate. Did anyone up there say he compared the Valhalla to "OEM grade cables"?

The point wasnt that recording engineers are experts. It was that there is no more detail, information, air, whatever it is you're looking for from a designer cable than got onto the recording through the ratty old cheap cables the recording engineer used to make the recording.
Paul, you take for granted that all studios are "plummed" with "generic" cables, crappy electronics and use JBL's to mix and master their recordings. That is just not so. While they may not be using the most "expensive" or "technologically advanced" wiring, some studios do actually use "audiophile grade" wiring and audiophile grade equipment to listen to and mix their recordings.

Just for sake of clarity ( and i think that most "regulars" here already know that i feel this way ), i am not saying that "wire is wire". It sure ain't. I'm just saying that what we you pay for and what we get ( especially in this specific area of audio ) may not balance out too well.

As to Tim's comments about me being an "old dog" and not being able to be taught any new tricks, that may be "partially correct". I do have my "beliefs" and think that they are well founded, BUT i am always open to learning. If you don't believe this, go back a few years to Audio Review and dig through the archives. Ozzy ( a regular at AA ) and i went round and round about power cords. He was preaching and i was denying. There were something like 60 posts made between a small group of us within a matter of half a day. I am now a believer that power cords can make a difference, so some things can change. I may be like a piece of "stone" in some ways, but it is at least "soft" stone. Some things DO "sink in" after a while : ) Sean

PS... if something does "sink in" and make a permanent impression after a long period of time, would that make me a "fossil" ???
I want to address your last post specifically. Anyone who has ever worked in recording knows that the sound available at the recording/mastering level is frequently FAR superior to what eventually appears on the release format.
The ratty cables used in many pro audio venues do indeed contribute to the progressive loss of detail and quality from the original sound. The cables used by consumers only serve to preserve what is encoded on the disc as well as possible - not to recreate what is already lost.
But as many above say, the better the recording equipment in the first place, the better the disc quality.
Really? Typical, and ridiculous. I said nothing about "all" studios, and nothing about electronics or speakers. I made specific reference to the "Golden Age of Stereo" (not my own idea by the way but one stolen from an anonymous source). Sure, some studios and engineers pay attention to cable, but right now, the vast majority of recording engineers still rely on generic cable.

My question stands. How is it that designer cables improve what goes into a recording via cheap generic cable? But this is just food for thought. I really don't have an answer, or for that matter a dog in this fight.

I did not address that question to you Sean, and I have no interest whatsoever in your point of view, so I'd appreciate your ignoring my posts.
Good point Flex. Actually, many many cds and records are terrible, and I'll trust you if you say some of the really good ones are made with better cables. So if cables in consumers' systems make any difference, you say, they function to minimize further loss.

What about those great old recordings?
Cables are all about losses, IMO. No cable can put more info back into the signal. A better cable should allow MORE of the original signal to pass, without adding its own signature.

Yes, according to my experience some cables sound better (to me) that other cables in my system. And yes, the prices are out-of-wack for all cables. You'd think the best single-ended interconnect 'in the world' _should_ only cost $100 for 1.0m. Sadly this is not true.
Paulwp: not talking about you (the OEM/Vahalla comment).
See Fizgig above; and I am referring to other posts as well.

You'll never prevail with the "fishing-line-is-fishing-line/wire-is-wire" crowd ... casting pearl before swine.
Doc: My favorite is Mike Vansevers. He is an engineer who was a non-believer. When he discovered he was mistaken, he did so much research to figure out why cables and AC power have a sound, he ended up going into the Cable and Power Conditioning business. He has lots of discussion on his "new" theories. Http://www.vansevers.com/
Signal interference is the key word here. You are asking the wrong question!

>>>My question stands. How is it that designer cables improve what goes into a recording via cheap generic cable? But this is just food for thought. I really don't have an answer, or for that matter a dog in this fight.><

It is true that no cable can improve what the sound engineer messed up or not, but this is not the job a cable is supposed to do in the first place.
The job of a cable is to the transmit the signal as pure as possible and do this with the least possible amount of loss or interference. So it simple words: An inferior cable will interfere and degrade the sound to a greater extend than a superior one.
Without wanting to promote HMS cables her, Mr. Strassner of HMS, who like "vanservers" is an engineer and holds a PHD in atomphysics, discovered, that i.e. the magnetic field plays an enormous role, how pure the signal is being transmitted inside a speaker cable. The more the magnetic field has a chance to escape, the more the sound will degrade on its way to the speakers.
So some of his designs have to do with containing this magnetic field inside the cables. You can imagine that a cable like this will be much more expensive just to build, than taking a few feets of Radio Shack wire. And this is only one of many factors he has dicovered, which play a vital role in cable design.
Its not so much what goes into a cable, but what comes out of it and what has happened to the signal inside the cable.
Compare it to your own body: There is a disease which will interfere with how well food inside your guts is being absorbed. Two persons eating the same food, one will stay healthy, while one will die.
And you need the necessary resolution of system to display these differences also
Let me give you another example:
Let us say you have one of the high resolution digital cameras, which will give an incredible detail richness. Now you plan to print the picture and you have a cheap printer with limited resolution and a high-res printer. The photo file is the signal and the printer is the cable. So, altough in both cases you have the same photo file (signal), the print (sound) will be much more detailed when you print it with the high-res printer (cable)
So, at one point, it really makes sense to think about buying better cables for a system. But I agree, some of the prices are outrageous, which led me to my personal cable quest and ended in having found the HMS cables, with a wonderful price-performance ratio. The HMS cables are not cheap, but they do not carry these gigantic price tags, some of the companies carry, either.
One company recently came out with a new alloy, which is used in Germany for teeth fillings (because its so cheap) and their 8 ft speaker wire will cost you $15.000,00. Now this is a stiff price tag, if on the other hand, you can get a wonderful cable with mind blowing performance for one fith of this price, as I have personally discovered. That is the only reason I even dared to become an importer of said cables. But even this is a lot of money, but alas, good quality will never come cheap, but it does not need to cost so much either, that you have to apply for a second mortgage, when planing to buy a set of high-res audiophile cables.
The only advice I can really give you is, to ask any cable manufacturer for a money back guarantee.
Try to narrow your choice down to a maximum of 3 different brands and then try them out, in your system and be your own judge.
I mean, it will be your ears listening to your new cables and not the manufacturer's ears. And if these guys are honest traders, they will give you back your money and you havn't lost anything, but gained valuable experience by auditioning different cables.
I have listened to almost 50 brands of cables during my quest and over the months I was really able, with the help of Chesky Records test cd's, to improve the ability of my audiophile hearing. And I really mean a lot. And believe it or not (btw, we have a Ripley's "Believe it or Not" museum her in the FL-Keys) there are differences in how cables sound. So there should be some examples on display there for people who still will not believe it...or not???
Tekunda: Your analogy to digital printing assumes that there is such a thing as a "high-res" cable. But there isn't. Cables can differ in their impact on frequency response, but except at the extremes that impact falls below the known thresholds of human detection. Interference can be a problem, though I wonder how common it really is. And bad connections make a big difference, although quality of connections is not what the cable "industry" emphasizes, since even zipcord is capable of a high-quality connection.
Are there hi-res cables? I think there are cables with a high resolution factor. On Chesky's sytem test disk, there is one track called the high resolution test. Shakers in the background are supposed to sound differently with every shake performed.
With my HMS cables and the Valhalla, there was no problem detecting this minute sound differences.
Then I went to another cable, which was not cheap ($850) but now it was almost impossible to detect the differences in detail.
Not only was the high-resolution gone, but also the mid- range purity had kind of suffered, the other cable sounded somewhat somber and dark, veiled if you like.
Mr. Strassner of HMS was a big doubter himself, believing that every cable with reasonable performance will deliver, but one day he was given the chance to listen to an excellent cable in an excellent system. That was the day of revelation, and according to him, he set out, with the help of his technical expertise, to see what was causing these differences.
His whole design ideas are created around the knowledge of the impact of the magnetic field and interference of EMI/RFI and some other discoveries regarding the dielectric. The impact on frequency responses is only one of many factors.
Basically one of his biggest inventions is to keep the magnetic forces, which are created in every electric conductor, inside of the cable. He does this with ferrite blocks made out of a special alloy.
Well, he has his ideas, Nordost with the Valhalla have their secrets, but in the right system, both cables make an incredible difference.