I use cables to get the final tuning on my system, I don't think there is a hard budget number for cable expenditures. I use the cable my system needs and that is often an affordable cable.
27 responses Add your response
You get what you pay for, but price is not a perfect indicator of overall quality. You don't have to spend big on cables in order to get high quality performance. If you want state of the art, that's a whole other situation. Cables make a difference, but it's more along the lines of holding back a system rather than elevating one.
Been saying for years wire is every bit as important as any other component. The essential components of a high end system are source, amp, speaker, and wire. Four equally essential components. My rule of thumb, 25% on each.
The thing is, the correlation between cost and sound quality is entirely hypothetical. There can come a point where for example with a Townshend F1 you can spend 5X and not have much to show for it, ditto Tekton Moab. That kind of thing. But in general yes it is penny wise and pound foolish to have a $30k system with $300 wire. Nuts. But a lot of guys still have yet to figure this out.
Nope …. Not necessarily …..
(1) High end prices on cables are no assurance of any audio performance improvements or system synergy.
(2) the improvements and benefits of cables are entirely system dependent in the 2nd part.For example, uber high-end Harbeth speakers expressly say just buy good wire but don’t overspend.... In fact, their own head honcho guru and chief designer expressly preaches that cheap 79-strand speaker wire is all you need you even with any of their speaker models including their $24K top end 40.3 standmounts.
(3) The effects of your own bespoke listening arena’s bespoke warts and compromises can - and usually will - adversely trump any improvements of an expensive cables array. Identical systems can sound entirely different in different listening rooms.
(4) Unfortunately this is the kind of generalized posture as one for which you will never get any satisfactory buy-in. For a start you have omitted the kind of music that one likes, , and widely differing basic tastes in sound…= one size NEVER fits all. What sounds “good” depends upon a very subjective taste and someone else’s subjective conflicting taste may not be yours.
FWIW. I am an “audiophool” with a $40K+ 2-channel system with my NORDOST cables comprising ~ $4K therein. And I even have expensive HARBETH speakers too, BUT I don’t belong to the cheap as you can go speaker wires believer cohort either.
My full $$$ NORDOST cables loom did step up the audio performance in MY system in MY bespoke room (… emphasis added …) …. BUT …and its a big “BUT”…. I would never preach that same mantra as a generalization , full stop.
About 50% of the forum readers will likely always disagree with the pro-cables types , Fine with me …
OP, I take your point as that it is wrong to "cheap out" meaning cut corners on quality given a fair amount of care and expenditure elsewhere. The amount of money might not be a lot. I know some expert speaker makers who are fine with relatively inexpensive wire, but it's not because they've cheaped out but because if they don't hear a difference with a cable, there's no reason to waste money there.
An "audiofool" can be someone who spends a lot or a little, but the common denominator is that they don't learn to listen.
OP, Sounds like spending $2 -3K is likely to benefit you. I recommend you rent, or borrow and verify they are worth it to you. If not, don’t waste the money until your system gets good enough for you to hear the benefit. Interconnect and cables should always supply an improvement of greater value than if you used that money to upgrade a component.
After testing and buying interconnects and cables for my systems for over four decades I think there are some generalities that makes sense. In rare instances interconnects and cables can have a “component level” effect on performance ( I have experienced it twice). But typically in systems over $20K or so they should represent 10 - 20% the cost of components to get the highest cost effectiveness (this is not guaranteed, you have to do the work) . My components on average cost about $20K per box, and my interconnects are around $3,500 each. Seldom will the benefit be enough to justify $3.5K on a $5K component... the money would be better spent on upgrading the component. Having said that I did buy three sets of interconnects costing $2K each about 25 years ago for my $3.5K components and it was absolutely worth it (Nirvana SX-1 interconnect... yeah, they were that good).
Low end systems don’t benefit much from interconnects because they are not that sensitive... so, work on upgrading components.
When you start spending over $1K per pair you should listen and verify before purchase. This is me, life is too short... on my office system... I just didn’t wan’t to waste the time... components only cost a couple grand each... I just read reviews and bought them.
Using interconnects and cables for tone adjustment can be a tool for moderate priced system... say < $40K... plus or minus $30K. As you get higher, your components have less eccentricities to be adjusted. For example, early in my audio life my components were too trebly and slightly harsh, exacerbated by my ribbon speakers. So, I artificially warmed them up... I used Cardas Gold Cross. .
As my systems got better, I needed interconnects and cables that were just more transparent... that did not have a sound of there own. At these levels very small changes in interconnects can have substantial effects on your system because it is so sensitive. But the same rule applies... I don’t think putting $15K interconnect on a $20K component... get a $40K component... then when you recover the expense (and upgrading all your other components) upgrade to $10K interconnects (obviously have your vendor lend you a pair to verify your are going to get the improvement appropriate .
You wouldn't believe the number of "thrifty" audiophiles who do just that. The end up with mediocre sound, all the while thinking they are genius. Worse, they mix cables ad hoc and figure they're oh, so smart. The community is stuffed with very smart, but also very arrogant people who think they can ignore manufacturer's recommendations and designs pertaining to cables, and magically they will find the optimum set. :(
Nirvana SX-1 are famous cables, I didn't try them, though. I think, Chesky Records used them as microphone cables. That alone says a lot. What happened to Nirvana company ?
Yeah, not in absolute terms, but really good cables make a big difference.
$5k interconnects between two $5k each active components ? Instead of upgrading one or both of those. I don't know, on case by case basis, I would say. Also depends on what cables you already have.
But signal transmission is extremely important, this is hard to question.
We all know that sensibly designed and well built cables improve system performance, but it is interesting to to see that some members who own systems that are quite nice refuse to use even moderately priced cables.
It reminds me of how surprised I was a couple of years ago when I was reading a speaker review by Art Dudley (whom I very much liked) in Stereophile, and he made a casual comment to the effect that he would not be bothering using any footers under the speakers under review, and that it was basically nonsense.
I was really shocked that a reviewer of his experience could actually believe that, but there you go.
Douglas-I agree with you. MC is a prime example of this. Dump down/cheap down on components and think they have the best sounding system on the west coast.
Jason-wire is wire? Then an amp is an amp? Speaker is a speaker? Cartridge is a cartridge? Where does this nonsense stop? So you buy a low budget cable from a good manufacturer and it sounds like sh$t, SO? That tells me nothing. I can buy a cheap pirelli tire but does that tel me what their $5000 tire is like? 1 more icee of your nonsense, you bring up the quality of your ears. I listen to music with my ears, you listen to music thru your charts and wallet.
Seriously though, I don't think trying to budget by price is the right way to go.
While cables matter, they are super subtle, sometimes bad, changes to a system. A higher price should not encourage you. Build your own if you want to start at the high end on a budget. Pure silver interconnects should be everyone's baseline, and you can get there in DIY land for a fraction of what you can in the commercial space.
If you start with those you are going to have a very very difficult time spending megabucks with commercial ICs.
Trust your own ears and experience...in the end, you are the only person that need convincing.That’s far too sensible for some,
Do no harm to a signal! Does this mean..... | Audiogon Discussion Forum