Which cable is most important to spend money on...

Speaker cable, source interconnect or power cords?

I'm trying to figure out which tends to be the most important to upgrade for a high-end system. I know, I know, ideally all of them. But in which order?

Allocate funds for all three, because once you start upgrading, you're going to upgrade them all anyway. Determine the price level at which you can afford to purchase interconnects and speaker cable at the same time, and add power cords later...after dedicated AC lines and room treatments.
The basic idea here is to first upgrade the cable(s) that will reveal the true sonic change(s) due to subsequent upgrades (if that makes sense ;--)

So with that in mind, I'd first put a heavy duty (10 AWG wire gauge) shielded power cord on the amp and (if you have one) the power conditioner/regenerator.

Next a good quality pair of ICs between amp and preamp. Regardless of the preamp location, I believe it best to have the amp(s) close to the speakers, so speaker cable can be short -- especially with tube amps which need to be close to the speakers in order to deliver as much damping control as they can deliver. But this means the amp to preamp ICs could be long, so you want those to be the next quality acquisition.

Next, the sources. Good PCs (first) and ICs (next). Why PCs first? So you can then confidently evaluate different ICs. Some tips: PCs for DACs or CDPs should be 10 AWG, and shielded. Also, using balanced (XLR) ICs between DAC/CDP and preamp seem to give best performance, if your components allow that option.

Phono cable from tonearm to preamp (or to phono preamp) next, if you have analog. Especially important not to "cheap out" on these if you are using a MC cartridge with its inherently low output.

And last, speaker cables. Oh, they're very important, but you can evaluate all the other cable selections with comparative accuracy even using mediocre speaker cables. However, trying to evaluate speaker cables before optimising the rest of the system cabling is IMO an exercise in futility ;--)
All of them! A High End System is a matter of balancing....
the HDTV option (usually about $5-8.00 per month) with your local CABLE company!
I've found that power cords are the most important. If you can't get good power to your components it won't matter how much you spend on interconnects and speaker cables.
Well, I think, the opinions are different, but from my experience:
1. Speaker Cable
The amps have to contol the chassis, I think, here you will hear the most.
2. Tonarm Cable
Arm to Phono Preamp
3. Sources to Preamp
4. Preamp to Amp

Happy Listening
Source interconnect, speaker cables, power cord on source.....but first priority overall is room treatment and dedicated lines..
Power cords. As I've found recently, every other change/upgrade you make is affected by your choice of AC components. Dedicated lines first, if possible, and then power cables, interconnects, speaker cables.
I'd also avoid committing alot of money to power conditioners early on, as they usually make hearing component differences even more difficult. A simple, but fairly transparent device like a Balanced Power Tech CPC, or Shunyata Hydra would be my choice.
1. Source to pre
2. Power Cables
3. Amp to pre
4. Speaker
In my past experiences and in my own system, I have to agree with Samzx12.

1. Source to Preamp interconnects
2. Power Cables (on Source/Conditioner, Amp, and then Preamp)
3. Preamp to Power Amp interconnects
4. Speaker cables

Thanks !
You can do EXTREMELY well with inexpensive speaker wire and power cords, but not with interconnects. The important issue is to have power delivery/noise control and room acoustics worked properly prior to auditioning anything. Regarding the *order* in which cables should be upgraded I agree 100% with Thomas Heisig.

As for system ancillary, most definitely a good AC power cord. A well designed AC power cord will let a given piece of gear operate most efficiently as to what the power supply needs or what you want the power supply to do. This is important because when all is said and done, the music you hear out of your loudspeakers is basically the power supplies of your gear being modulated.

As with any piece of gear or cabling, there is one of two approaches you can take with AC power cords:

1.) An AC cord that pleasantly (to your ears and biases) editorializes the basic sonic signature of the piece of gear it's partnered to. From there you can further "tune" with the partnering I/Cs or S/Cs to dial in the "flavor" you're looking for. The power cord serves as the foundation to what you're trying to accomplish.

2.) An AC cord that is fundamentally neutral that offers the least amount of editorial to the gear the cord is partnered to. This approach allows one to more fully appreciate the sonic virtues designed into the gear or, if you will, the electronic designer's intent. Again, the power cord serves as the foundation and further, the I/C and/or S/Cs you choose will finalize what you're trying to accomplish...in this case we'll assume one is not looking to editorialize certain virtues of the gear and thus changing it's signature but rather exploit all the virtues equally.

As the hierarchy continues down the latter, our experience has lead to then address source I/Cs, then pre-amp I/Cs and finally S/Cs. I suppose this isn't "etched in stone" but, based on our "system approach", this has saved the most time and resources to finally get to the music and yielded the most rewarding results.

Hope this helps.


I think of it like a tree with trunk, branches, and leaves. All the energy passes thru the trunk, the power cord, as Robert points out. Next most energy is thru the amp/speaker interface, and next most the preamp/amp connection, and last (the "leaves") between source/pre-amp.

The speaker cables are sort an equivalent "branch" in the hierarchy, to the amp/preamp connection (granted they carry more energy.) So one could theoretically make a case for upgrading the speaker cables right after the PCs. However, I'd argue that even decent gauge but inexpensive zipcord would allow accurate comparisons of cabling on the "input" side of the amp, and because they're not part of that "chain" of components/interconnects, that leaving them for last, after improving everything else, would allow for better hearing comparisons of different speaker cables. Just a thought ;--)
Agree completely with Robert from Ridge Street Audio, and Nsgarch. My ears tell me that there are quite a few reasonably priced interconnects and speaker cables that get passed over because they don't offset the effects of colored power cords and AC products. Also, I don't think you can ever recover dynamics that are lost due to less than optimum AC products.
Well, Robert Ridgestreet's answer is theoretically correct. They day he can implement it (that is, marketing) for the average audiophile he'll become a millionaire! In the real world budget where I live, working on power delivery/noise control using 220V/110V isolation transformers/filters allows me to use much cheaper but still well designed power cords. I *am* waiting to save some money to purchase power cords from a friend who upgraded to Ridge Street throughout his system. He says they're the best--and this is coming from a guy who'll spend $2K on a digital IC. I'll settle for second best...and consider myself fortunate.

What a life!

>>He says they're the best<<

Everything is system dependent. There is no universal "best" cable.
it depends on a few different issues.

where are you now?

if you are at an entry level point and don't already have some fairly good cables then i would start with more quality on power cords (and even power conditioning) as those areas are the areas of biggest shortfall with modestly priced gear and inexpensive interconnects and speaker cables can sound pretty good and not be a severe limitation.

if you already have some quality cables then it gets more complicated. what is your priority (or sonic shortfall)? as your system and room climbs the stairway of higher resolution and coherence it becomes a case of fine tuning instead of fixing problems.

what level of bass performance (how deep will it go and how does your room support it)? if your system does plumb the depths then the priority might be speaker cables. i have found that unfortunately the very best speaker cables handle bass considerably better that the 'very good' speaker cables.....and when your system can 'go there' that last bit of control and articulation in the bass will yield amazing performance gains overall.

at the top level of system performance power cables generally come next as they can significantly influence overall system energy and the 'toe-tapping' factor.

interconnects are generally last at the higher levels of system performance as they sound much more alike as you go to higher levels of performance and price (not that they sound the same just less different than speaker cables or power cords).

i have done maybe 30 whole system cable comparisons and as my system improved the above heirarchy was quite consistent.

get the bass right with the best speaker cables you can afford, get the system energy right with power cords and power conditioning, and then fine tune with interconnects.

i can live with imperfect interconnects; but the speaker cables gotta be right.

note added; i agree with Thomas above about the significance of the tonearm/phono cable. since that cable is dealing with such a tiny signal it will have more significance than any other interconnect and is really a part of your phono stage.
regarding the order of significance of interconnects; there is not one answer. it will depend on a number of factors.

in my case my preamp (the darTZeel NHB-18NS) uses a propriatary BNC 50ohm cable (Zeel) that outperforms any conventional cable when used with the darTZeel amp. i need an 8 meter set of cables between my pre and amps so optimizing that particular interconnect is most significant in my system.

some sources have 'funny' output impedence or need long lengths. digital cables can be very sensitive to lengths. my digital uses 3 ST Optical cables which can be as long as you like with no difference in performance.

the answer here is that in a very general sense i would say that the order of interconnect significance would be;

1. tt to phono stage
2. source to pre
3. pre to amp

but at the highest levels of performance generalizing is not recommended.
If you want to catch the upgrade bug then go buy yourself a set of decent ICs and you will be in total shock with that first jump from the stock cables that come with components.

This, assuming you have components that can handle it......
Ye ole chicken v egg question, oh well, what the hell..

In order to answer your question I'm going to make two assumptions, just because you ask the question in the first place. 1) You are relatively new to audio and have yet to develope audio listening skills which will make auditioning and selection a simple task, and 2)that you are just developing your system and have not yet acquired highly refined equipment.

Regarding power cords - These are highly equipment dependent and the benefits of the different cords can be very subtle. To begin with I would get some inexpensive heavy guage Belden cord to use as a benchmark.

Power conditioners - more important than cords by a mile. Highly recommended if for no other reason to obtain something (filters) to seperate your CDP from your amp/preamp.

IC's - as in power cords the difference between good ones is subtle but there are some which are not subtle and can be used to really act as tone controls (not recommended). As with the P/C's I'd start off with an inexpensive IC noted for neutrality and use it for a bench mark.

Lastly there is speaker cable. This IMHO can produce the most easily audible differences to the tyro, especially as the lengths get longer. I would start off with an excellent low cost heavy guage cable to use as a benchmark which will reveal changes brought by other stuff as you trade up and fine tune your system. I highly recommend Canare 4S11 Star Quad for this purpose.

For a specific answer to your question, starting out I would get a good power conditioner, with a filter for CD power, and speaker cable. Next I would work on IC's and lastly PC's and then revisit speaker cable.

In the final analysis though all of the wiring is important to getting the best results from you system, however this should be consistent with your ability to detect the differences. There is no reason to buy stuff until you can hear the differences. This ability usually only comes with a lot of experience and very careful analysis of the sound of your system.

As in everything wire related, IMHO and YMMV. :-)
>>Everything is system dependent<<

I've learned through experience that phrase is a cliché used to justifiy not so good stuff/choices...or stuff/choices that compensate idiosyncracies/biases.

Robert Ridgestreet has designed his power cords to address something no one has, to date. Please read and or call tha man.


Robert Ridgestreet has designed his power cords to address something no one has, to date. Please read and or call tha man.

Psychicanimal (Threads | Answers)
Bob's one of the best in the business when it comes to customer service and passion for his products. Having said that, I have found other interconnects and power cords that work better in my system than the offerings from Ridge Street Audio. Generally, an opinion like mine will be met with a comment that I need to install all Ridge Street Audio cabling to receive the full benefit of the products. Perhaps this is true. However, the pricing of the RSA wire is prohibitively expensive for me, and my listening impressions of cabling from other companies have been more favorable.

My experience with RSA wire leads me to agree with the system dependent qualifier, correct or not.

The curiosity is killing me; which power conditioner would you suggest to build a system upon? If not one, name a few?
I would like to re-stress the importance of power supply to the house 110 volt outlet. If at all possible, install a "dedicated" circut to that point. This is not as glamorous as super-duper IC, SPK, power cords but can be more important than all the others combined. Iv'e learned this the at the school of hard knocks. If not possible then a good outlet makes a difference. In an apartment situation a good extension cord to a different outlet than you use now sometime helps, if only to separate dirty digital from analog equiptment. Let us know how it all works out, best wishes, Mike.
Mike, you must've read my post about discovering the (unused) 20A garbage disposal circuit in my apartment. There's now a 20 foot 10AWG umbilical running from under my kitchen sink to my ExactPower regenerator :--)

But I have to agree w/ you about the overwhelming gains from implementing a ded. circuit. Even in an apartment, if you can "latch on" to a circuit that is 20A instead of an ordinary lites 'n outlets 15A ct., it can mean a big improvement. In addition to a disposer, you can often find single purpose 20A circuits for microwaves, dish washers, washing machines, and even hair dryers (unfortunately in the bathroom) or steam irons in the ironing board closet. Make a good umbilical to supply your system and just don't use the microwave (or washing machine) while you're listening ;--)
Don't want to shipwreck this thread but, please indulge me in a "Time Out" for a moment. I think this is relevant.
Bob's (edit: Robert's) one of the best in the business when it comes to customer service and passion for his products. Having said that, I have found other interconnects and power cords that work better in my system than the offerings from Ridge Street Audio....

My experience with RSA wire leads me to agree with the system dependent qualifier...

Thanks for the kind words Grant. As for the rest of the quote, I have some issue with and the following is addressed not just to Grant, but all of us. Hope it's worth the read.

The way this is stated, which is all too common with many products - not ours particularly, it sounds like the RSAD cables compromised Grant's system and would most likely compromise most systems. Wouldn't it be a fairer statement to say a given competently designed product, RSAD cabling in this instance, didn't meet your personal tastes instead of the gist "they didn't work well with the system"? I'm sure we agree there's a world of difference between the former and the latter.

The latter would be like me saying the use of maple for drum shells instead of mahogany makes for an inferior drum. That ain't true. Truth is that for the type of sound I wanted out of the drum for the type of music I was playing, maple didn't give what I was looking for. That doesn't make maple bad. Truth be known, maple and mahogany are both very desirable woods for drums but for different reasons that have to do with preferences and priorities. One wood is not superior at the expense of the other being inferior. End of analogy.

In discussions amongst percussionists, rarely do you hear "This wood or that drum head sucks" but rather you hear "my preferences lean toward this wood or that drum head". Wished it were so in audio. In my view, what happens way too often in audio discussions and suggestions is fairly sloppy thinking or communication and instead of accounting for our personal preferences not being met, we communicate in such a manner that implies a given product is bad (or it's the "bestest in the universe(!)" for that matter.). If you think this through, this does a disservice to the enthusiast community and the sincere efforts of those manufactures who are endeavoring and are making a positive difference.

There are many types of playback presentation that requires gear with different and certain design premise and they're all available to discover, enjoy and come to prefer. Some will like 1/32 watt Tubed SETs with 178db efficient Horns and some will like 13 gigabyte watt S.S. amps with 40ft line arrays. Some will prefer Anna Log and others Di Gital. Some like Silver, some will like Copper (this assumes competency in design and performance). They're preferences and should be discussed that way I think. Not only would this facilitate more options for enthusiasts to consider and discover thus broadening the "music in the home" experience, but it would also alleviate a lot of the needless and dumb flaming that happens in many discussions.

So many thoughts here and I could go on but now I'm starting to ramble. How 'bout this:

Instead of "OMG, ****** sounded (Bad Audio Descriptive) and (Another Bad Audio Descriptive). "It" didn't "work" in my system. You'll do better with ****** because it's the bestest in the world.", why not "You know, I tend to prefer a (Good Audio Descriptive), (Another Good Audio Descriptive) sound instead of (Another Audio Descriptive) and (Another Audio Descriptive). ****** does that and fits well with what I want to accomplish but I can see where ****** would work with what you're wanting to accomplish. Let's listen and appreciate each other's efforts and be bestest friends forever."

One last thing I gotta through in. As has been pointed out, there's no broad brush stroke "Best" at the expense of another being broad stroked as "worst". There's at least two camps that audio enthusiasts and manufacturers will fall under: One says "iTune", the other says "iDon't". Both are valid system approaches because, again, they are personal preferences for one reason or another. Not one is right at the expense of another being wrong. As for RSAD, we ascribe to "iDon't". Where do you land? It's important to know not only for yourself but for others also if you want to genuinely help others who are embarking on a journey you've been on and experienced for a while.

Finally, if you were able to make it through this jungle read of a post, let me know and deservedly, I'll leave positive feedback in your profile here!


The way this is stated, which is all too common with many products - not ours particularly, it sounds like the RSAD cables compromised Grant's system and would most likely compromise most systems. Wouldn't it be a fairer statement to say a given competently designed product, RSAD cabling in this instance, didn't meet your personal tastes instead of the gist "they didn't work well with the system"? I'm sure we agree there's a world of difference between the former and the latter.
Ridgestreetaudio (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers)
Yes. That's how I should have phrased it. Thought of changing the tone of the post to that effect, but I didn't.

Sorry if my post came off as unkind, Robert. It was not my intention.

You'll notice I never said RSAD cabling sucks. In fact, I believe just the opposite.
Sorry if my post came off as unkind...
Na...I didn't take it as "unkind". Just a bit careless.
...It was not my intention.
I know.
...I never said RSAD cabling sucks. In fact, I believe just the opposite.
I know. Hmmm...so you believe RSAD cabling skcus? I don't even know what the hell that means!

Onward to the thread topic....


It is not important nor wise to spend serious amounts of money on cables of any sort until you've got the fundamentals (source components, amps, speakers, etc) of your system down. In the interim there are any number of sub $100 interconnects and equally low cost speaker cables and power cords that will more than suffice. As you can tell from the above discussions, once you get past the initial stuff nobody really knows which is most important. There are numerous opinions, but it's really one of those questions that doesn't have a correct answer.