Interconnects:Dazed and Confused

I am fairly new to the high end audio world. I am switching from an integrated amp to separates, so I am in the market for new interconnects. I have been reading reviews by professionals, and cable threads on audiogon and audio asylum.
I would appreciate some comments from those more experienced than I.
I read reviews and comments about IC’s that cost under $900 made by Shunyata, Luminous, TG Audio and others and people rave about them. I then read about IC’s that cost between $3,000-$10,000 made by Nordost, Jena Labs and others and people rave about them.
I have not had the pleasure of auditioning a $5,000 IC. I am wondering if the people who rave about the less expensive IC’s got a chance to try several of the high price models would they be willing to go back to their lower priced cables if cost were no object; or would they hear such a difference that they could never go back?
I know everything is system dependent, but I guess I am wondering if a $500 interconnect could be just as satisfying as a $5,000 one. Does a great review for a $500 IC mean for this money this is great or does it mean I don’t want a Jena Labs Pathfinder ($6,000) this is it as far as sound is concerned?
Thanks for your thoughts
The law of diminishing returns applies to interconnects and cable. Cost no object cables may or may not work pure magic for someone in their specific system, but there are any number of cables in the $500-1,000 area that offer very high quality sound performance. Personally, I would recommend that anyone new to high end audio stay away from the mega-buck cables. They are icing on the cake for those who really know what they're doing.
Before you do anything, get acquainted with your new separates. REAL ACQUAINTED! Pick a moderately priced IC, that you've read some good press. Now moderation, of course, is a relative word, and can go as deep or shallow as your pocketbook will let you rationalize . Moderate to me is (now) $500. Use to be less, however. Listen to your tunes with this IC. See how you feel over the long haul. Then go from there. Used, always better than new as far as $$ go. If you're not happy you can sell it back for, usually, what you've paid, plus or minus. I would think that you would have some experience with ICs as far as your, present, source material is concerned. This is the beginning of the usual plethora of IC lingo and sugestions. Always trust your tympanics. I know it's difficult for a neophyte, because you, like all of us at one time, are/were insecure (distrusting of) about what you hear especially related to $$$.. Time/listening experience, will give you the security to make good, personal choices. Relax and enjoy your tunes. Make your changes slowly so you can fully appreciate which addition to your system is affecting the sound..... FWIW...much more to come from my fellow audiophools. peace, warren
Excellent advice from both of the prior posters. I'd just add that the more expensive interconnects in a company's line generally do less "damage" to a signal than the less expensive offerings, but will consequently be more revealing of flaws in source material and source components and may wind up less musically satisfying. I would never advise anyone to get interconnects that are vastly above the quality of the rest of their system for that reason--you should listen to music rather than what's wrong with your equipment or the recording. Start simple and moderate, get used to your components as Warren says, and then experiment if you really need to, but I think you'll find that well-designed, modestly priced cables will more than suffice.
You should try to establish a relationship with a local audio dealer. They can loan you broken-in cables to take home and you can actually MAKE UP YOUR OWN MIND. Differences should be immediately discernible. Some people call high-end cables "tone controls" and there's truth to that. You might prefer copper over silver, for example. It's not about right or wrong. If you're going to lay out the serious bucks on cables, you should be happy about what you get!
One thing that you should know. The market dynamics are changin due to the internet. Small companies that sell direct are not only have the best values, but sometimes their products also have the best performance.

Aside from this, I would recommend high-purity silver for interconnects. There are several companies that make good ones. Beware, cheap silver cables can have significant high-frequency sibilance, often confused with "brightness". Avoid these. Also, with interconnects, the lower the capacitance per foot, the better. You can hit the top of the performance curve at about $500-$800 per 1 meter pair, but beware the companies that spend a ton on advertising. You are mostly paying for advertising with these guys.
Good advice from the "seasoned audiophiles" above. I would only add that as a neophyte, it is easy to confuse "different" as being "better". As such, the advice to become familiar with what is taking place is very important. Many folks mistake "highly coloured but exciting", "highly coloured but extremely detailed" or "highly coloured but very warm and smooth" as being "better" upon initial introduction. While cables of this nature can come in "handy" for specific situations, knowingly going into a specific colouration is a personal decision that should be made with all the variables considered. One component or cable change down the road could now make the "colourization" no longer such a good deal.

I would also encourage doing as much reading, learning and experimentation as you can regarding DIY ( Do It Yourself ) audio. A little research and elbow grease can pay off in big dividends with DIY, especially when it comes to cabling.

Having said all of that, buy and use what sounds good to you and helps you to enjoy your music and system. Having a bunch of fancy crap and big brand names is no good if you can't enjoy it. Having a "trophy" to show off and talk about is cool and all, but most of the time, all they do is collect dust and take up space. Since the mass majority of audio gear only goes down in value, taking such an approach is neither enjoyable nor monetarily wise. Sean

If you can, get a few cables your interested in, determine areas of performance or asthetics you want to evaluate, list them out on a pad and keep your pen handy. Then have someone a/b blind switch them while you record your impressions and preferences, and then compare your notes and final grade for each. Only then have the other person tell you what you've been listening to. The results of this kind of testing are always pretty surprising.
Since there is absolutely no substitute for in home trial of interconnects, consider contacting the vendors mentioned by Audiogon members where a money back guarantee is available. One such vendor who has recently sent me his product for home audition is Gregg Straley reached at In my systems, his interconnects bested top of the line Mapleshade's, and even my Marigo's, although there it was more a matter of taste. To one who is "fairly new" the concept of personal taste about interconnects may seem strange, but it is your ears that matter. Gregg's moderate prices make the comparisons "no contest" if you are just starting your quest, and do want to combine economy with quality. Home trial with some break in time is the key to your personal satisfaction. Other posters should weigh in with their favorites, but I think Gregg may be your "best buy" after all is said and done. Among other benefits, his interconnects taught me the meaning of microdynamics, and unveiled a pure, black silence between the notes.
The best direct Internet "value added" companies are:

Pure Note
Empirical Audio
Silver Audio
TG Audio
and many more...
Yo Sonic Genius! TG is not a direct company and never has been and I don't even have a website, but do have about 25 dealers scattered around.......I do have another company, CTC Builders, that sells a very expensive preamp on a custom order basis.....

Back to interconnects lots of good ones out there, but quite a few have serious flaws as well......Just try them until you find something you like and no rush on this at all as interconnects make much less difference than speaker wire and power cords......
If your separates are new you'll want to make sure they are thoroughly burned in before you evaluate ICs. This usually takes more than 100 hours. Depending on usage, it can takes months. Of course leaving your system on continuously will shorten the time frame considerably.
Sorry Bob. Your prices are so good I forgot about that. :)
No problem whatsoever Sonic Genius! I don't advertise which essentially cuts my pricing in half from those that advertise. I built up my dealer base over twenty years and most manufacturers don't have time for that and either go with a web retailer, like Cable Company, Galen Carol or others, or go direct......I like little retailers who normally specialize in tubes and analog and offer decent advice and service. Set-up is so important and advice over the internet is normally flawed that it takes a decent retailer spending time getting things right at the customer's house to get the most out of a system. Guess I'm old fashioned, but like to see my retailers do more than sell boxes.....
Bob's right. It's a challenge to help customers over the internet. You never know what level of sound quality they are really at. They may be at level 5 and you are at level 10. Or you both may be at level 10... Sending out demo units helps.

It would be great to have some hard metrics for comparison, like for instance the clock alarm sequence in Dark Side of the Moon. With my system, I can tell how large the room was that the clocks were in and which clock is mounted on which of the three walls of the room. Most people are shocked when I say this. I have not found a customer that has this type of resolution yet.
Home trial is extremely important as many have pointed out, and knowing what works well together is, too. It is too easy for people to buy stuff online without ever listening to it first, and to make purchasing decisions based upon reviews and price is foolhardy. After you've been around the block a few times and have spent a lot of time and money changing stuff either because it doesn't work as well as you thought it would or because there's a new-and-improved version (some small time vendors are especially guilty of this), you get tired of it and realize you would have been better off buying something you know works very well because you've tried it and that it will not be quickly outmoded by the next new toy or version that comes along. Buying something sight unseen and unheard with the promise of money back if you're not satisfied is, in my biased opinion, not the right thing to do for several reasons. You may not find the right thing the first time around, and most people are reluctant to return something. You're not getting the chance to audition it before plunking down your money. Advice and service are important. Why spend $50 several times over instead of spending $200 once on something you know is the correct solution? The commoditization of the industry is surely the path to its demise.
Dark Side is child's play......Go get "After the Dance" by Bert Jansch and John Renbourn on Shanachie label (99006) and note the dog barking in the other end of the house from the recording venue. This was recorded on tracks 4, 12 & 15......On track 4, Goodbye Porkpie Hat, there is a doorbell at 1:57 into the cut and the dog goes to the door and at 2:11-2:25 and there is commotion with the dog coming from likely fifty feet away at the front door through good English lath and plaster.....Most systems will not reproduce much of this and doubt the mastering folks even heard it or they would have done a retake.....Track 12 has two dog barks and track 15 has three and suggest Q-Tips before listening to these tracks....Oh, the CD has better dog barks and the analog has a better door bell if one could find the vinyl......Great test of low level resolution on any system.....If everything is working then sounds like the dog is next door outside the listening room on track 4..........Tracks 12 and 15 are very subtle BTW......
Thanks for the advice and suggestions. The message I am getting is big money doesn't necessarily mean better music.I will take some time to audition some reasonably priced IC's.
Essentialaudio, don't you think, that for those that are not in the know, you should mention that you're a dealer?
Bob - I have one for you. It's Andreas Vollenwider, Trilogy two-disk set. One of the tracks has several dogs barking, but one is actually behind you. Only well-tuned systems put the dog behind you in 2-channel stereo. Quite convincing though.

Also lots of tinkling glass and canoe paddles in water on these disks. Not a superb recording, but not bad.
Dealer? Why does this matter? Essential audio is not advertising here. IMO, it's really charitable that dealers are willing to share their wisdom with us....
Yes, have the Vollenweider and they spliced in the cuts of squirrels, dogs etc...One disc is reversed phase and the other is normal phase as I recall...After the Dance is a test for low level resolution, nothing more......

Essentialaudio, I couldn't agree more.......Guess you must be old fashioned as well......
Audioengr, I agree that is good that dealers are willing to share their wisdom, but, the contents of Essentialaudio's post certainly could be considerd compromised by the fact that it portrays a recommendation (regardless of its merits) that profits his chosen profession. All I ask for is a disclaimer. I welcome the contribution.
Essentialaudio is big on audition,I agree Brian audition
is a must.Brian is not a dealer of who will push his
product to you, but he will tell you whats important.
I talked to him, 3 days ago.You will like him, if you
talked to Him.Maybe if He is recommending his product
He should mention He is a dealer, in this case He is not.
Unsound, I apologize if my post offended you and anyone else. As others expressed, I did not mention any products I sell, nor was the purpose of my post to promote them. You and others are of course free to do as you wish - buy new, used, or DIY. My background is mainly as a longtime (30 years) audiophile and music lover, and only a year or so ago I became a dealer, so please accept my remarks in the constructive manner they're intended. For what it's worth, I figured my moniker here makes my affiliation obvious. And when I post anything related to a product I sell, naming names and such, I do my best to divulge my interests. Perhaps you would care to reveal your name as well as your moniker?

Brian Walsh
Essential Audio
Barrington, Illinois
Jayctoy, maybe it's me, but, I think he's recommending more than auditioning, he's recommending a manner of doing business. The manner of which, might be profitable to his type of business. Geesh, I'm not attacking the man. I'm not suggesting that he is being duplicitas. Heck, I haven't even disagreed with him. I'm merely suggesting that considering the nature of this forum, perhaps we should all divulge anything that might be PERCEIVED as having an alternate agenda. Doing so, goes a long way to negate any suspicions of impropriety and maintaining the integrity of this forum. Let me be very clear about this, I have no axe to grind with Essentialaudio, and welcome his and other professionals contributions.
Essential Audio, I was not offended. I personaly believe that your post was with the sincerest of intentions. I assumed that you thought your moniker was descriptive, but, there was a real possibilty that some might not have recognized it as such. This has been blown way out of proportion. It was just a cautionary suggestion. With all do respect, while some people here know my true identity, I prefer to maintain my privacy.