Cables that cost more than the speakers?

I was reading TAS tonight and noticed that several of their recommended systems utilized speaker cable that retails more than the speakers or amp to which they were connected. One was using the Purist Dominous and another the Kimber KS3038. These are both GREAT cables, but it seems strange to me to hook up a $13k cable to $9.5k speakers.

I guess there will be those that say "Whatever sounds best.", but it is still strange. Does anybody here have a similar SC to speaker ratio? FYI: I'm using Kimber KS-3033s ($2200) with my Talon Khorus($14k).
Close. I have a pair of B&W P5. They listed for $1500 but have the same drivers as the Matrix series. I preferred them against the Matrix 804 and 805 when tested in my home. I use $650 pair of cables, but the real difference is actually in the amplification and other cables. My amp and preamp (which I bought used) have a combined list price of $4400 and I have a Nordost Quattro linking them $1600. I started with a CJ Sonographe combo ($2200) and Blue Heaven as a link. Each time I have gotten better amplification and links the speakers have been up to the task, so I have not changed them yet. Adding a REL Storm III to the mix also helped. Next time it will be the speakers; thinking about the Nautilus 803 or 804. (I am a big B&W fan). The P5 were never popular in the USA. I consider them one of the biggest steals in audio. Used mint they usually sell for only $700 a pair and blow the better known CDM series away.
Not that this little story means much, but a few years back when Wes Phillips was writing for Stereophile he ran into a similar situation. He was doing a review for a relatively inexpensive B & W stand mounted moniter. At that time the only speaker cable he had in the house (he claimed) was the top of the line Kimber. I don't remember the model name of the cable, but like the TAS article it cost several magnitudes of order more than the speakers. As WP told the story, John Atkinson stopped by during the review period and commented about the disparity between the cost of cable and the cost of the speaker. WP then played some music and JA was apparently awed. I probably don't have the story exact, but the idea is right and the whole idea is amusing to say the least.

I think that these guys get this stuff in their homes and often times their is a disparity in what they are reviewing. To me, it of takes the theory of a reviewers "reference system" and throws it out the window. I try to evaluate one thing at a time. These guys seem to be able to evaluate two or three things at the same time. Cheers, Doug
I just remembered a demo show by a B&W sales rep at my local B&W dealer back home around the time the original DM602 came out. The show was really to discuss and show off the Silver Signature, Matrix and CDM speakers, but at the end of the evening the Rep hooked up the 602 to the same high end system they were using for the other speakers to show off what $550 would buy. I remember everyone was impressed.
I'll admit that I have some power cords that retail for more than many of my components. The total retail cost of my cables (power, interconnect, and speaker) probably equals the retail value of all my amps. I only paid a fraction of those prices, however, thanks to the used market and such.

Doug is right, these reviewers who have 5 pieces of new eqipment that they review all at once are morons. Even worse is people who listen to their reviews, and don't think that these guys have a whole bunch of new components, yet are talking about the capabilities of just one of those five pieces.
In my experience, which is limited, I have noticed a couple of anomalies: 1) great electronics can make a crappy speaker sound better than you would think. 2) sometimes inserting a superior component in your system, even if it is a mismatch dollar-wise, may have a greater impact in a marginal system . This "revelation" came to me as I have been without several key components at various times due to upgrading or repairing something. While doing without my normal components I would have to substitute with inferior quality pieces. Even though the sound was not as good it was still enjoyable because of the other superior components remaining in the system. Does this make sense?
Yes. The notion of a chain being only as strong as its weakest link does not really apply to audio systems, in my experience. Because it seems that you can always improve the sound of the system by strengthening ANY of the key links, even the strongest one. ----dan
Metaphysics, I too found that particular issue of Absolute Sound very bizarre. Then I realised my speaker cables cost mearly as much as my speakers too, the difference being I bought the cables on eBay for 10% of what I paid for the speakers. And I would not like to go back to a lesser cable.
Another question: Would most of you agree that better performance would likely be had in an otherwise identical system with ~$17,000 speakers and ~$3,000 cable rather than $8000 speaker and $12,000 cable. I know it always depends on the specific system but who would start out with the latter configuration?
I don't think you can use any formulas because the retail cost of cable has little to do with what it costs to make and almost nothing to do with how "good" it is or how it sounds. They charge simply what the market will bear or what they can get away with. In addition, cable is so highly system dependent that, in any particular system, it is easy to see how a $400 cable can clearly outperform a $2000 cable. Given the above, I don't see how super expensive cables are almost ever worth it. Even when one finds one which performs well, there is probably another which is significantly cheaper that will perform just as well.
you have to consider that new cables are typically discounted to a much higher degree than new speakers. i am guilty of having transparent opus mm speaker cable ($23,500 list) and wilson watt/puppy 6 ($20,000 list). but i got full list trade-in ($9800) on my ref.xl ss speaker cable i had purchased for $3000 and a discount from there. so what i really paid for the cable was far less than the speakers. btw, the cables were more than worth the money for the performance improvement. it was more performance improvement than any electronics i have upgraded.

i believe you have look at performance improvement for the dollars not what you are spending it on. if the result doesn't justify the investment then don't do it. but don't get hung up on what component you are spending the dollars on.
Metaphysics, I doubt that anyone would begin with a budget that has a higher dollar amount allocated to cables. Mainly because of system synergy. I think that most people choose their favorite speaker (within their budget) and proceed from there. My cables cost about 65% of what my system costs, but through bartering, trade ins and buying through Audiogon I would estimate that I spent about 20% of system cost. My goal was to get the best synergy possible. If I could have easy access to say... 15 brands of cable, and time to try every one, perhaps I might have found a less expensive cable that sounds as good or better, but that is impractical. I relied on tips from members, and magazine articles to narrow my choices to four or five brands. I must say that given a choice I would pick the expensive cables I have any day, but if I had to pay full price retail for every one I would probably have settled for a lesser cable (for a while). Hail Audigon!
guess my spell checker can't spell Audiogon.
Metaphysics: Are you guys kidding from absolute sound? Would you people out there buy a BMW for $90,000. and then buy 4 new tires for $130,000. so it would ride even smoother. I think not, the michelins that come with it are fine. This is the exact ratio that they are trying to sell to us on cables with your speakers. These people get caried away from REALITY. You can't put an exact % of cost on cables because each company make differant kinds that look and sound better to you than others. But a fair rule of thumb to start would be 10%-20% of your speakers. Your quality of products are #1 or the best cables in the world won't help if you own cheap goods. Let your eyes & ears choose for you, just because it is expensive doesn't mean it's the best.

Wow. Even with the credit you got due to the cable you traded in, that is an awful lot of money. I don't know how much of a discount you got on top of the generous trade-in allowance, but isn't it interesting that the dealer could afford to do it for you? This indicates his mark-up is huge as is everyone's along the chain towards selling one of these high-end cables. He probably still made a ton of money on the deal even though he was able to give you these huge concessions. I haven't heard the Transparent cables which you speak of, but I have heard or owned a fair number of expensive interconnects up to the retail price of about $3000. None are totally neutral. None are even nearly perfect. They all have flaws. None works in every system. And any change in any component might make any of these cables unusable in the system in which it was installed. I respect the right of everyone to make their own decisions regarding how and where to allocate their money, but given all of the flaws, weaknesses and risks of obsolescence using these cables, I think it makes it hard to justify purchasing a cable which is priced like an automobile unless you are sure to recoup your money when and if the cable no longer works for you. I find it especially difficult to justify those kind of outlays when I know the cost to make these cables doesn't relate at all to what they cost, even with the "generous" discounts.
It's time to stop comparing auto to audio! The relationship is flawed and the comparisons always sound so stupid. Has anyone seen a $130,000 tire?

My speaker cables retail for 3 times the retail of my speakers. I would never recommend doing that and the actual cost was more in line with 1/3 cable and 2/3 speaker. It sure sounds good though!
rayhall, i respect your comments and spent 6 months considering alternatives after i first heard the opus before i finally purchased it. in the context of my system they made a larger performance increase than any change i have made. i would simply recommend that until a person hears what a product can do they refrain from assumeing that "it can't be worth the money". would you think $40k for speakers would be unthinkable. if these cables make more difference than additional money for speakers wouldn't they be equally as valuable? or is it more politically correct to buy more expensive speakers?

an analogy i would use to describe the special quality of the opus speaker cable would be that comparing it to the next best cable i have heard (nordost valhalla) it is like going from a darkened room to full natural sunshine. no other component has ever done that at any price.

i remember when i first heard about a $300 set of speaker cables; i thought that the idea of $300 for cables was laughable. over time i have come to appreciate what enjoyment my system can bring me and how cables affect performance. there is no right and wrong on this issue; only context, perspective, and taste.
Jadem6: It's time to stop comparing your feelings on an EXAMPLE. And if you read the entire article that's what it was, with [4] tires not 1. That's just how out of whack the price would be on those cables. Hey remember it's just all of our humble opinions. Just relax, have a couple of beers, and go night-night. A new day tomorrow.
Metaphysics: I believe alot of people are trying to help you with there opinions. There is no perfect solution of ratio, or the best cable. Try them out, they are all differant. But to have cables that are way more than your speakers- I don't think so. And the person Jademo6 needs a major dose of PROZAC. Relax Dude.
Couldn't someone on this site cut apart a cable and I.D. the materials?Should some of us chip in to buy one,or does anyone have one collecting dust?I know we can't quantify sound as we all have different ears,but i would really like to know what is in there on a physical level.I have seen sites for DIY cables and they talk about going to Home Depot for supplies!!What do you think?Thanks,Bob
Oh my Mr. builder dude. I must have touched a nerve, two "new members" with such strong reactions. I guess has alot of like minded people who just happen to tune in now. I can see your pissed but you could use your own name next time, but you'ld hate to have people think poorly of you, right?
It sure as eggs defies logic, but go try a set of cables that add up to the total cost of your whole system or more, and have a listen. I'm not going to advocate spending half your budget on cables, but till you've heard it you won't realise how viable such an allocation of funds can be. It's quite unlike the car analogy, where all you get is better road-holding, but not better handling. Trying some great cables can make you stop and reconsider how very good your components really are, in all ways.
Rayhall, you make some really good points that I tend to agree with. Red, makes just as valid a point though.
I often wondered if the $3000.00 interconnect scene would vanish if no one supported it. What I mean is , would these products then be released at,say $500.00? It's only a reworking of geometry, dielectric and conductors right?
There really is nothing MATERIAL wise to make a cable (copper) cost this much is there? Am I out of line here?.......Frank
Frap, I agree, but presumably R&D and marketing are a large percentage of overall cost - certainly if you wanted to break into what is a very crowded market. If not, then you or I could re-badge some Belden, slap a $3,000 sticker on it and retire - no such luck methinks.
I find these questions fascinating, I've done the work with a $400,000 array of cables, first forming an opinion of a couple of lines that are the best you can get for your money at every price point.

Many seem to think there is a limit to the cable cost to comonent issue. A great $3000 speaker will sound better with whatever top echelon cable you want because it's a matter of the speaker being able to be judged on what it can do as opposed to what an inferior cable limits it to.

A cable can be looked at as a limiter, the lower quality limits huge amounts of detail, depth, ambience, etc. $25000 speakers won't sound anything like what they can and should sound like if the cables are trashing the sound and poor cables will color and distort the sound. If cables damage and limit the signal being fed into the speakers how can great speakers fix it or make it sound good? No equipment no matter how good it is compensates for cable limitations. Use good cable on decent equipment and it sounds way better.

Trust me when I say that if you want to make a $3000 speaker sound magical it's with great cable, everything follows that. Take a $12000 speaker and choke it down with mediocre wire and there is no way to make it sound good. The $3000 speaker isn't going to perform any better and since it wasn't as good as the higher priced one it will suffer more.

Whatever limitations are there from cable that's it.
There is a couple of interesting statements you made and you are close but formed an opinion too soon. You said there are no truly neutral cables out there, there are a couple. You also said that one cable won't work with everything and you are right when talking about the ones that aren't neutral. Use the neutral ones and they not only work in everything but they work best in everything unless using a cable flaw to correct equipment deficiencies. By the way the best interconnect cable I know of in the neutral category is $800 unless balanced and then it's $1300. The $800 will replace Valhalla as an improvement. I always try to point out that the more expensive is not the best.
>>Whatever limitations are there from cable that's it<<

I'll take my chances with a pair of $12,000 speakers and mediocre cables as opposed to a $3,000 pair of speakers and super cables.
You know what's way stranger is $12,000 speakers and cable that costs a few hundred dollars, that's not strange that's dumb. A speaker cannot reveal detail and resolution that is not there because the cable isn't capable of letting it through.

The nature of cable quality is one of different levels of signal strength loss, it's what it's called in electrical terms. It is exactly that, it is losing detail through loss of signal strength and detail is the first to go since it's the weakest. You can have $100,000 speakers and they will not have the detail that the cable loses. Go the other way and put high caliber audiophile cables on a $3000 speaker and it will perform to the limits of it's components full specs, if the low level resolution is present it will play it. It will have character that the more expensive one doesn't have the chance to show.

The only equation comes down to one of keeping the money put into a perspective in terms of keeping well balanced performance with everything in the system.

I downsized to a set of things I liked from several hundred thousand dollars worth of my stores demo systems. I kept the very best wire I had that went into systems out at $100k. I am using $5000 speakers but there is over $20,000 in wire, two Aluminata power cords and a kaptovator, the full boat. But damn those speakers sound better than anyone has ever had them sound. I can use any speakers alive out to ruthless monsters like Wilson Audio is known to be and it's all good.

I would not ever suggest that anyone take cable out to that level in a modest system but the point is that the equipment can't perform if it doesn't get good wire connections. Money in wire first then equipment and it makes everything better as you go than the other way around. It's guys who have a lot of money in components and speakers that get the most carried away with equipment upgrades, it's because they are looking for the more that they think their system should be doing. If they had done cable right first they would have heard a higher degree of improvement with each component upgrade. There are cables out at the Valhalla category that cost about a fifth of what those do that are equal or so close that it doesn't have to cost silly amounts for the right cable. If you buy expensive speakers make sure you are using them to their ability or way cheaper ones with better cables will be embarassing you. One of the best bi-wire cables I know of is $1100 and I've used them with Watts Puppys.

The focus can't be on the speaker cables, the interconnects have to be brought up in equal balance or great speaker cables will reveal coloration caused by them. It's a balance of performance levels and focusing best quality in the most important spots. The cd to preamp interconnect can be much better than the preamp to amp, in fact it should be the best cable in the system because it handles the weakest but most intact signal in the system. Preserving it goes a long way to getting lots of extra resolution through to the speakers.

Hope that makes logical sense and helps
>>Money in wire first, then equipment ...<<

No, that's just plain wrong. You have it backwards.

Equipment first and wire last. You'll find 9 out of 10 knowledgable audiophiles follow that path.

And that's the name of that tune.
You are the Ivor Tiefenbrun of cables!

Care to tell us what those "cables out at the Valhalla category that cost about a fifth of what those do" are?
I agree with Aintitgr8. Anyway, I like being the 1 out of 10 that is different. We should start our own club and only let in members that then can prove they spent more on their cables than their components or on the other side just start a cables anomalous. ;-)
You know what's way stranger is $12,000 speakers and cable that costs a few hundred dollars, that's not strange that's dumb. A speaker cannot reveal detail and resolution that is not there because the cable isn't capable of letting it through.

By this definition, I am dumb (along with most musicians, guitar players and pro studios).

My speaker cables are not even close to $100 dollars, more like $30 bucks....plain 'ol shielded 1/4" cables that they use to hook up studio microphones, patch panels, guitars etc. (bought at the local guitar/music store)

The speaker drivers in most high end Hi-Fi systems cost less than the speaker cables....yikes!
I'm in....
Wow, a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Shame on you.

Click on Aint's moniker and then his/her ad for bunker down bulk cable.
I see. Quite an impressive ad, but I get your point. He says he writing a book about system synergy.