Cables 101 for a beginner

Let's say you don't use any fancy interconnects, power conditioners or power cords...

... what should you start out with? Is there a priority? Are there general rules of thumb?

(right now I've got a pair of Martin Logan Aerius i, a VTL integrated amp that's almost here!, and I'm hoping to upgrade my CD player to something in the 1-1.5K range, and some MIT terminator4 speaker cables)

look into making your own. audio asylum and other sites. you will be able to match most everything in the 500 to 1k price range for very little money; time and expertise.

In my opinion, the speaker cables are most important. In your case, since you only need speaker cables and one interconnect, you can easily buy quality stuff, like Cardas Neutral Reference.

As far as power cords, conditioners, etc. go, I'd forget all of them and spend the money on two dedicated 20 AMP circuits. One to plug your speakers into, and one to plug your components into. You can even have voltage regulation and surge suppression built into these circuits for a nominal cost. This will make WAY more difference than expensive power cords and conditioners.
Off the top of my head...
01. If you live in-or-near a large urban area, use shielded cable. RF (radio frequencies) make music hard and bright.
02. Use shortest length possible (1 meter or less).
03. Silver is a better conductor of electricity than copper and remains so even after it oxidizes.
04. If using copper wire, use single crystal (like harmonic Technology) or, at least, use the most "nines" pure you can afford (i.e. .999999 pure, etc.).
05. Stay in a wire "family". I.E., don't mix same-purpose interconnects from different makers.
Welcome aboard!
First thing you do is forget about the terminator 4's. I've owned a lot of MIT and the bare minimum IMO would be MH-750 CVT's which can be had for around $250.00 per pair right here at a-gon. Try to find some 330 interconnects too ($150.00 per pair used) and you'll be set up for awhile. Later we can upgrade you to their reference line or even Oracles.
There is a plethora of opinions on the subject of cables so we can't cover them all quickly. My 2 rules of thumb that I try and go by are:

1."Try before you buy" if you can. If you can't then buy used - helps if you have to or want to re-sell.

2."What is lost at the beginning cannot be recovered." I always try my best cable at my source to preamp link to ensure I've maximized the signal at the outset. This doesn't mean that your "most expensive" cable has to be the one that goes there but its always a good place to start.

You can always audition cables via an outfit called the Cable Co. or maybe its where for a fee they will loan you a number of cables and the fee can be applied against the purchase price if you decide to buy.
Lots of great suggestions, thank you.

RE: losing the MIT terminator 4; I already own these. I could sell them and replace them, but I'm not sure how important that would be.

Finding a place that will loan out cables to test (for a fee) sounds too good to be true! I went to, and emailed them. We'll see what they say. I couldn't find any reference to a "loan" policy on their site.

RE: getting two 20 amp dedicated circuits, that sounds like a good idea. I realize power is important, I work on computers, and many people don't realize how important the power supply is for computer performance. However, I live in a condo building, so I'm not sure I would be allowed to make that kind of electrical change. At the very least, I'd have to have it approved by the board. What about a power supply? Would that do the same thing?

Shielded cables sounds important... I have a feeling there is a lot of interference where I live (I'm in downtown DC).
... OOPS, spoke too soon. does have a "library" policy...
Hey Dennis,
I'm in downtown DC also, whereabouts are you neighborhood wise. I'm in Logan Circle. Also, my .02 cents, buy the best wires you can afford they really do make a difference. I've had good luck with Stealth cables, which you can usually find on here used at good prices. But if you can experiment, do, it's all about system synergy. Happy Listening!
I was in the same situation as you in January of 2002. I heard some after market power cords and high quality cables and was hooked. At the time the company Virtual Dynamics was just starting to get popular here on Audiogon and their prices seemed fair so I tried out some of their cables. To make a long story short, I now have my full system cabled with their product. Where you are now in your system evolution I would go for their Audition package which comes with IC's, Speaker cables and power cords. This way you have the chance to hear the difference each upgrade makes. I also believe they have some sort of return policy there. Their website is
The owner 'Rick' has been so good in dealing with me that I have to take the time to recommend the company. BTW I have compared their cables with the Cardas Golder Cross, DIY pure Silver cables and picked the Virtual Dynamics over both.
My system consists of:
Rogue Audio Magnum M120 Monoblocs
EAD Ultradisk 2000 CDP
Virtual Dynamics Reference and Audition Cabling
Magnum Dynalab Etude 2001 Tuner
Cliffhanger Audio CHS-2 W2
You can see system pictures at:

My System
Do the fatwyre library, Dennis, and the interconnect and speaker cables in one shot. When you get the chance to experiment you may come to find that there are more misnomers than rules of thumb.
Retain the T4 at least for now; that's the best thing you have at the moment cable-wise. MIT makes some better stuff too, but that can come later. Get some decent interconnects to experiment with. When that's settled, then try out some decent upgrade AC cords, starting with source component. Forget about a dedicated AC line until you get the basics right. Then try out line conditioners & eventually a dedicated line.
The key here is to start with clean power. first install dedicated 20 amp Ac lines with seperate copper ground rods. then install good quality sockets such as the FIM. next add a high quality power strip and good power cords. lastly install good intercon.'s and speaker cables.
Read my Audio FAQ and white-papers page at:

These will give you some insights on the relative performance of the different cables. I prefer to upgrade IC's first, then speaker cables, then power cords.
Well, I heard back from the Cable Co. They really do have a library policy, allowing anyone to check out cords. All you need to give them is 10% of the cost. They will later credit this back to your next purchase. (you pick of the shipping cost of loaners, they pay for shipping purchases)

They also recommend cables for your system (mine consists of Aerius i, VTL IT85, AudioAero Prima or another tubed CD player.. haven't yet decided!, a Technics 1200 turntable, and a Numark mixer). The brands they said I should look into include:

for interconnects:
--Discovery Cable
--Synergistic Research
--Harmonic Technology

and for speaker cables:
--Synergistic Research
--Harmonic Technology

I also think I'm going to get a few Acoustic Zen. This is going to be great! I'll get a chance to get a bunch of cables, ranging in brand and price, and really see what sounds best, and how much of a difference cables can really make!!
Audioengr ... Just read your Audio FAQ. It was pretty intense. Definitely helped me to understand some cable questions I had, and I can see going back to your FAQ as a reference source... lot of hard work looks like, thank you!