Do you really need ultra expensive cables?

I was always told that you need to spend about 30-40% overall budget on cables to have good sounds. To some equiqment manufractures, that is not the case.

For those of you who visited McIntosh at HE 2003. What do you think about their Stereo set-up? Do you reallized that they spend less than 3% on cables? Not that they can't afford them. But their arguement was that if your equiqments are so nice, and so musical, why do you have to depends on cables to improve sounds. What do you think of that?

I don't think the cables improve the sound but rather don't degrade the sound being transfered.
On good equipment such as McIntosh cables don't make a difference(if used proper gauge).
On crappy equipment you can spend 50% on cabling with no success.
I think 5% is nearer the mark, especially if you make your own.
Like anything else, imperfect cabling strips away the sonics of the music. Since there is no such thing as a 'perfect' cable, amp, etc., some strive for the cable that is closest to perfect.

As Brian pointed out above, cabling itself does not or should not improve the sound. However, if you install a nearer to perfect cable in place of a very poorly designed cable, there is almost always a definite improvement.

My guess is those that claim one should spend 30 - 40 percent on cables, simply haven't done their homework, or their bank accounts are large enough that they need not have to do their homework.

For example, the Nordost Valhalla speaker cable (which some consider the cable to beat) costs something like $4000 for a 2 meter pair. (not sure of exact costs).

I did some research and found that the Audience Au24 speaker cable is preferred by some to many (including Stereophile) as being better than the Valhallas. And they retail for about 1/4th the price of the Valhallas.

I've never listened to the Valhallas critically, but I can say that the Audience Au24 has done wonders in my system toward minimizing/eliminating much time-smear, lack of grain, etc.. And I paid less than the retail price.

There is a saying in this hobby: "You have to spend a lot of many in this hobby to realize you don't have to spend a lot of money."

Those that make such claims as you state above are simply still in the process of spending a lot of money.

I don't mean that as a slam. I mean if somebody has the money, by all means go spend it and help the economy.

But just because $50k worth of cabling bettered a system's sonics does not mean that the spender just discovered that everybody else must also spend $50k on cabling to realize the same performance.

Simply because there's always $5k worth of cabling out there somewhere that will run circles around the $50k cables.

Wish Krell, Mark Levinson would built a BOOM BOX so you wouldn't need any cables!

I would include Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval in comparison to the Au24 or Valhalla.
Clarks are comfortable shoes, but not as nice as Kenneth Cole Reaction shoes that excell in both. I personally wear Kenneth Kole Reaction but some may prefere Clarks. Same reasoning I have towards v.s. Levis and Jordache jeans with certainly personal preference to Kenneth Cole that I found nicer looking, more comfortable and even cheaper priced than Diesel that I also have already weared out (now good only for fishing:-)) acquired for $100+. Hey, I'm a city boy what'u expect? Almost identical story with my wife, a citi-girl by default.

In sence of wires I'd only care of comfort and would realy care less about looks and/or reviews where class A usually stands for nice looking and higly priced just like in fassion magazines where you see these beautiful clothes on famous actors indeed.

Well don't know how others prefere, but le'me just save nice look and reviews on the wires for nice looks on my clothes where it matters a-bit more indeed.
Isn't the same story could be told with Rolex? Timex shows the time with the same precision but...
Listening to my system I notice that Cables have effects like Decay of Cymbals lasting longer with certain cables than others.Vocals can sound veiled at low listening levels with certain IC's.Snap and Pop of drums are not right with others.

Things like this showup when the synergy in cables to system parts is not correct.

I wish I had the $$ to try some of the more expensive Cables,but looking for the least expensive choices I decided to try 47Labs OTA Cable and do my whole system with it.I recently had my speakers internally wired with it.

The only place I was unable to use it was as a digital cable and decided to use cryo treated Beldan between Transport and DAC.

Results have been good.The speakers are a pain to breakin though as they are Metal Drivers and the OTA takes around 200 hrs to breakin.At the 100Hr. level at present.

The best Cable I have had a chance to hear was Transparent which went for $2800 for the Speaker Cable & IC's.To much for my pocket.
It seems to me, not like I was at HE, the 3% cables was partially motivated by marketing. And I like what Brianmgrarcom posted. Anyone can use cheap cables and make it nice and musical (la-di-da), but why would anyone care to have their cables be the bottleneck of the system? I also think that 30-40% is usually much too much, but 3% or 40%, suit yourself.
The Valhalla as being the "reference standard" is fading, IMO. Many lower cost brands are besting it. Even Nordost is realizing this, see Nordost News:

"Nordost is pleased to announce the release of the newest member to the micro mono-filament cable family! The Valkyrja has a lavender mono-filament wrapped around each individual conductor yielding the nearly the same performance as its predecessor, the Valhalla at a fraction of the cost. Through extensive redesigning techniques, Nordost has been able at long last to create a series of cables quite comparable to the Valhalla, while keeping the costs at a minimum."
I feel sorry for anyone whose cost of cables is 30% to 40% of their total system. They could have had so much more music for their money had they spent it more wisely.
No. None of us really NEED any of this stuff. It's a hobby and it's supposed to be fun. If spending the big bucks on cables makes you freak, then don't so it. If you think that's where the payoff is, then why not? Opinions differ as do the ears that hold them.
It's pretty clear that most of you (including myself) believe that cables do not improve sounds. But why there are so many people still paying big bucks for them. I just don't get it :(

For those of you who are courious, Mcintosh's set up was all Tributaries Cables. It was a brand that I never pay attention before. Is it a cable company that is recommended by Mcintosh? Obviously, there is no Yes/No anwser from them. Have you guys heard or audition these cables? I believe Mcintosh just don't easily pick-up any cable company to demo their products.

Look Rodney, there is a difference between saying that cables don't improve the sound, and that cables don't make the system sound better. They can make the system sound better. The cables that corrupt the signal the least, and mate the best with the components that are being connected by the cables, will make the system sound better. Technically, the cable cannot improve the signal, but it can degrade it less than another cable might, and therefore the overall performance of the system can be improved.

The amount that anyone wants to pay for a set of cables is a personal choice, but I can tell you, and others will tell you that if you audition a cable that sounds significantly better in your system than what you already have, you WILL want that cable. Even if it costs alot of money. This is the reason why people pay alot for a cable. Once they hear what it does, they want it, whether it is expensive or not. My advise is, if you don't want to spend alot for cables, then don't audition the expensive ones, because you just might find that you don't want to live without it, after you hear it.
When I listened to a system with expensive Transparent Cable the thing I noticed was that it was just allowing the music to come through .I thought this was what neutral ,eant .There was no coloration except for what the system had in it for components.

The downside of it was there was a veiling of vocals which I interpreted to be from the amplificatio.Beside that fact I thought the system to be highly musical,but I could never live with that signature of vocals which I assotiate with Mif-Fi gear.

Neutrality I thoink should be what is aimed for in cables.If you can accomplish that then you can pickup where there might be component problems which can be eliminated.

At $3000 for the cables that is what I would like from cables and if I can find that in less expensive alternatives then I want them.Within reason that is.

The Cables I am using at present are neutral ,but I feel there might be better where Bass is concerned,but I will narrow the reason that is down.Getting closer everyday.

The Mids and Treble regions are spot on.Decay is the best I have experienced yet in my system. I think slight lack in Bass is due to my amp.Will know more when my new amps get here.
You don't need expensive cables, but you do need good cables. Unfortunatley, the good ones tend to be pricey.
I've owned $100 pair of Tributaries silver coated copper ICs. I found them to have good bandwidth, quality on par with PBJ, but very warm and slow to be quite forgiving. In resolution if nothing else, they were no match for AQ Ruby or my other more expensive ICs, at least in my crappy, cable-dependent system. I suppose most people's systems are pretty crappy too. Twl, do you think Tributaries would sound the same as Sistrum in your crappy system? There's a lot of overpriced cables, for sure, but there is better and not as good.
Cables are a necessary evil and I see way too many people spending big bucks on cables that would be better spent on a better CDP or speakers....10% is a good round number for wires....
Ohlala, I don't know for sure what the Tributaries would sound like in my system. I do know that the Sonoran sounds very neutral and detailed, without the unnatural warmth of some other cables I tried. As for the price, the Sonoran is not real cheap, but not real high either. I think it is a pretty good value for a cable.
Sorry, rhetorical question that has little to do with Tributaries specifically. Just take it as a minor compliment.
No need for ultra expensive cables. You just need well designed cables that use quality ingredients and proper assembly techniques. If you stick with low capacitance designs for interconnects, high capacitance designs for speaker cables and high capacitance designs for power cords, you'll be ahead in both time and money.

As a general rule, solid core conductors are preferred but some stranded designs can sound quite good also. Conductor shapes and geometries do come into play. One should avoid designs that suffer from skin effect, use low grade "lossy" dielectrics or mass quantities of any dielectric. All cables benefit from time spent on some type of a "cable burner". Cables that are "burned in" tend to sound better than an identical cable that hasn't been burned, even if the un-burned cable has hundreds of hours of actual in-system use. Sean
IMHO, I don't think we "need" anything in any hobby. But, I do think that some people just want the ultra "good for the job" cables. As we all know that the price is somewhat related to the quality (and also marketing, blah, blah, blah..) of the cables, getting the ultra "good for the job" can mean getting the ultra expensive cables.

Since cable is a passive component, it depends heavily on the components it connects. Having said that, you can make any cable "comparable" to the others. But, if you fix with a good pair of components to connect, I really believe that you'll have a better chance to get a better quality by randomly picking an expensive one rather than a cheap one. How far better chance? It depends on how far the price difference is. This might be another reason to make this hoppy fun. To beat the chances, :). If you can beat that chance by very far, you can hold your head so high that everyone else would want to kick you (or do something similar).
Cables make a HUGE difference. Even power cords.

You don't "need" to spend any particular percentage on cables and you may well find a low cost cable family that suits your system quite well.

But they do make a huge difference.

You might want to use the Cable Company's rental service to experiment with different cables. You can try out the family sound of different brands, and you can determine for yourself what is the most effective price point. The staff at Cable Company (unless they have had turnover recently) get a LOT of feedback about cables and have a wealth of knowlege to advise you. Call 1-800-FAT-WYRE.

I guess I should disclaimer - I don't benefit from Cable Company's success, other than as an audiophile seeing others in the hobby prosper.

Pbb said it all...
And i'll repeat it: NO.
It depends on what is meant by "no". :)
why all the knocks on expensive cables lately?
rodney ... you completely misinterpreted the responses, mine included. Cables make a difference ... but you don't have to spend a bunch to get reasonably good ones.
But they do make a difference.
need no! however if you want a chance to bring your system
to the next level the answer is yes cables do make a differrence if your system is high resolution
is relative so your investment is obviously a personal decision and boy is it hard to swallow look at how much all your gear cost and decide what its worth not having cables holding you back from nirvana the "holy Grail" is out their trust me but he aint no panhandler thanks ted
Great answer Drubin. I agree. I'm guessing that the non-audiophile corporate suits that work for McIntosh couldn't tell a difference between various cabling. Most small audio companies employ those that are into the hobby, that have hearing. In my experience, most corporate audio companies hire those without. Need proof? Walk through the Las Vegas Convention Center next CES, there are examples standing everywhere. Besides, I'd rather rely on my own judgement, rather than trust someone else.

Since we are on the subject of McIntosh, did you know that their car audio is sub-contracted out from Clarion? If you want that "McIntosh" sound in your vehicle, you need go no further than your local Clarion dealer. (I mention this because McIntosh had quite the car audio display at 2003 CES. I wondered why they would have a car audio system on display just outside of the "zoo", next to the pool, rather than in the Convention Center). After all, when did car audio become worthy of a high end audio exhibit? When did Clarion become worthy?
Clarion has had what were probably the best auto tuners and cassette sections ( possibly Nak beat them on these, but... ) for many, many years. Since Clarion never used distributors to push their products and had complete control over what dealers sold their proudcts, they were open for derision from other dealers that didn't carry the product and / or were turned down for a dealership. Don't know how the stuff is any more, but it used to be VERY good quality stuff several years ago. At least their head units, that is. Sean
Many would dispute that one, Sean. Clarion was mid line at best. The few gents that I know that are still into car audio tell me that Clarion hasn't changed.

What the heck, though. Many high end manufacturers buy products from the orient, place their placard on it, and charge a high mark up. Maybe it's okay. Afterall, it works for Mark Levinson and McIntosh.
Clarion is one of two car audio companies that makes listenable head units. The other is Japanese, Eclipse. So, unless McIntosh wants to have off-shore suppliers, Clarion is their only OEM supplier.

The question is, however, why would McIntosh enter the car audio arena at all. Yet, I certainly can picture hardcore McIntosh fans installing a full blown McIntosh system in their other pride in joy, their cars. But, I surmise this is but a very small handful/niche market.
Personally, the main reason why I haven't upgraded my car stereo since the early 90's is because of the type of sound that car audio enthusiasts consider "quality."
I agree with you, Viggen. And if you had heard the McIntosh BMW at CES, you would have questioned what they consider "quality". That remains my point.
define ultra expensive...3k..1k...$500?...Im pretty fruegal...I allocated roughly $200 or 10% of my budget on cables...and for the moment I am content...I am able to distinguish between electronics,speakers,etc with my current cables...which is good enough for some point boredom will set in...and Im sure I will investigate more expensive ones...this hobby is a financial curse... There are some that will dispute anything that i say. As such, i don't worry about such trivial things. People can either agree with me or be wrong. It's their option : ) Sean

PS... I "had" to use that one. I saw a t-shirt that said "There are two kinds of people on this Earth. Those that agree with me and those that are wrong" : )
People with cancer should be discouraged from seeking out quack cures, because this may delay or prevent effective treatment by conventional medicine. Likewise, audiophiles should be discouraged from spending their money on "magic" wires, because this may prevent them from purchasing better loudspeakers.
Brianmgrarcom, as in rape cases: no means no.
Do you mean no? Cables matter to those who hear the difference.
My cables costed me more than the gears.
Sean, that one reminds me of my dad's favorite expression: "If I want your opinion, I'll give it to you."
IMO. Cables can make a difference good and bad . Before laying out big bucks on cables make sure you have the front end , amp , and speakers you really want. Then once you do, experimenting with cables can be interesting, especially here on the gon where you can pretty much buy and sell used , with very little money lost on the switching, until you find sonic nirvana . But my point is get the equipment you really want 1st, save the cable money for the end.
I apologize Sean. I had assumed that you were not vain enough as to consider my posts as a personal attack. I merely stated my opinion, which differs greatly from yours.

P.S. I had listened to the McIntosh 540 BMW at 2003 CES. I wasn't impressed, not at all. I had investigated from whom they sub-contracted to and found out it is Clarion. My suspicions were confirmed. Once again, Sean, I am only stating my opinion. I'm sorry that you took this the wrong way. I'll try to avoid posting if my opinion differs ...
Would I be wrong in saying 80-90% of the sound in car audio is dependent on the installer/installation?
Installation skills certainly play a role in car audio as do they in home audio. Component matching, proper isolation, etc. all play a role.

In short, Viggen, you add support to my first post on this thread where I mention that most large corporations are full of those not really into the hobby, that have questionable skills, and hearing. If, as you state, proper installation equates to such a high percentage of car audio final performance, one can assume that the negative result of the 540 BMW at 2003 CES was an indication of the skill level of McIntosh's personell on this important project. This said, their statement that they spend less than 3% on cabling also makes sense.

After all, as Drubin stated, "You don't need expensive cables, but you do need good cables. Unfortunately, the good ones tend to be pricey".

Actually, what I meant to say is, before words are being further added into my mouth, that car audio hobbyist are not after the same sound audiophiles are after despite the best intentions of otherwise higher end audio companies.

And, let me reemphasize, it is the people who are really into car audio that screws up the sound not the corporate people in their ivory towers.
I agree with you, Viggen. Wouldn't you assume that an audiophile company that displays their latest car audio products boldly, at the footsteps of the High End Audio exhibits at CES, to maybe raise the bar somewhat? To produce something that betters the typical car system that annoys us at the stoplight? (One note bass, etc.)

And, in the case of McIntosh's CES exhibits, aren't the corporate guys calling the shots? Don't they have the power to decide what they want to display? If they have the choice of component matching and installers (which you give 90% credit to), one could assume that they would place their best foot forward. This is no different criticism that the high end audio manufacturers endure. If someone has a decent sounding room at CES, it is because they have proper system integration, proper placement, proper use of room treatments, etc., however, they also have to start with decent sounding products. Correct?

In this case, it was the corporate guys at McIntosh calling the shots. The typical teenager that hangs out at the local car stereo shop did not decide to re-brand a Clarion with a McIntosh placard. Nor did they chose system components/installers/displaying where they had at CES. This remains my point.

No one is arguing that it is the suits at either Clarion or McIntosh wanted to choose the other as their OEM. Stop making this THE argument.

And, I do NOT assume a company such as McIntosh would proudly or boldly show off their new over-sized portable boom box. They are catering to the target market who are the car audio enthusiasts who happens to be the "typical" teenagers.

Please stop twisting my words. Thanks.