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Are expensive interconnects really worth the extra bucks?


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This is not a dorothy dixa type query but I am always keen to improve the sound I listen to from my system.  I am keen to hear about the experiences from members who have upgraded to expensive (> $250) interconnects between phono / amp / turntable in particular.  Was there a wow moment?

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After spending well over a decade of making cables and trialing expensive cables, in my experience there is a vast difference in sound between cables.  So the answer is yes.    Many nights blind testi

I think I should butt in here    Many of the cables out there are simple bought in commercial cable, throw a bit of techflex on it, call it their own brand and hey presto you can charge what

Isn’t that what SNA is supposed to be about 

Anything is better than what are given away with most products , I like Atlas Equator Mkii for RCA interconnects but they are only $210 a pair for one meter so don't fit your criteria .  They work well with turntables who have rca posts as well. 

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No. I bought them to complete the final finesse on my system, but I think it's much better spending more on electronics. My cable budget is 1% of the total cost of my system.

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I will answer no, they aren't worth the extra bucks if that takes them over my personal test of "reasonable" cost.  I am not saying that having good quality cables does not have real benefits.  It's just that the big bucks asked are over the top in my opinion.  

 

I would use better quality cables, looking for benefits like better shielding, lower capacitance/resistance, general robustness, and even looks.  You can get that cheaper than $250.

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22 hours ago, Hawk66 said:

This is not a dorothy dixa type query but I am always keen to improve the sound I listen to from my system.  I am keen to hear about the experiences from members who have upgraded to expensive (> $250) interconnects between phono / amp / turntable in particular.  Was there a wow moment?

Only when the mrs sees the credit card details... LOL

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It depends on the rest of the system I suppose.

I have recently had a listen to a set of interconnects that had a rrp of $16k, that was a real eye opener. Have never heard a cable change make so much of a difference before.

 

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In general I would say no.  It’s nice to have some fancy cables but I would put my cash elsewhere. Have tried a few different cables and certainly with the kit I have the difference was minimal.  I am also sure there are some systems that there could be differences - esp valve amps with speakers etc.

Edited by Steam
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23 hours ago, Hawk66 said:

 Was there a wow moment?

Definitely yes, when I first plugged n my Aurealis Dragon R1 IC cable, which was on a trial/loan basis from Geoff.

 

Unsurprisingly, it never made the return journey to Brisbane. Payment was made the next day, as it was never going to take even a few days to determine the huge improvement, let alone two or three weeks.

 

Some people  may call it expensive but I will own it alll my life so it's actually cheap in the long run. It is now sold out so I am pleased I got it when I could and IMO, $350 was a stonking bargain.

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23 hours ago, Hawk66 said:

This is not a dorothy dixa type query but I am always keen to improve the sound I listen to from my system.  I am keen to hear about the experiences from members who have upgraded to expensive (> $250) interconnects between phono / amp / turntable in particular.  Was there a wow moment?

The answer is YES for me, but you need to trust your own EARS and not listen to what other people tell you.

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I have a brand name 1m interconnect that I used to sell for $1100 about 15 years ago that I found in as-new condition on gumtree for about a tenth of that. I thought I may as well try it and if i don’t hear a difference I can always sell it for more than I bought it for and put the profit back into the things that “make a difference.”

 

I could really use that profit margin right now to put into the rest of the system but I can’t part with the cable. It sounds immediately and substantially better than the other “pretty good” cables I have (Kimber, VDH, Furutech). I really wish it didn’t, but it does.

 

Take from that what you will ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

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I would like to add that the word expensive  is different for many people.

 

I believe that IC and speaker cables can greatly enhance a decent system and are very worthwhile (but never, ever, power cable) up to a point and the price tag should be three figures, starting with six or less .

Anything over $1K and I lose interest completely and the same goes for cheap crap.

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Just now, rantan said:

 

I would like to add that the word expensive  is different for many people

 

Absolutely agreed.

Different people have different budgets and what they are willing to spend on cables.

 

If the budget is tight like @RankStranger's example buying secondhand can be a great option.

It doesn't matter if the cable is a few years old (as long as the insulation is okay) and you can get a better quality cable than you normally could afford.

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On 10/10/2020 at 7:25 PM, Hawk66 said:

This is not a dorothy dixa type query but I am always keen to improve the sound I listen to from my system.

 

Just fyi --- there really was a 'Dorothy Dix'!  :)  So the adjective (for the noun 'question') is 'Dorothy Dixer' - not 'Dorothy Dixa'.

 

She was a well-known journalist in the US and evidently was known for framing questions herself (rather than using her readers' questions), to allow her to write pre-prepared answers.  Hence the use of the term 'Dorothy Dixer' in Australian politics.

 

Andy

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The relationship between price and quality cannot be easily judged. I had an experience with trying out 2 different RCA interconnects (between pre-amp and power-amp) with the same system. The first set was a Chord entry level RCA interconnect and the second set was a Madison Audio Lab with a Ground Pod. The difference was quite amazing. When one has bought all the gear and try to get extra mileage out of them, then it may not be a bad idea to try a "better" interconnect. Whether the extra cost is worth it or not is personal.

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After spending well over a decade of making cables and trialing expensive cables, in my experience there is a vast difference in sound between cables.  So the answer is yes.    Many nights blind testing cables has 100% confirmed that.  But what I will say, is that price isn’t always the defining parameter.   
 

Fortunately I’ve pulled apart many commercial cables to find out that the cable they use isn’t what they claim or isn’t worth any where near the price they charge.

 

The reason I started making my Affordable yet high quality cables. 

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The 2nd hand phenomenon is funny actually. I’ve got a VDH The Sea cable from DAC to Pre, been sitting there for 5 years, hardly moved(only during dac changes), if anyone was to buy it today at half the price 2nd hand, they have practically bought a new cable. 


2nd hand in regards to looked after cables is the thinking mans option (and no, they aren’t run in, that’s bollocks)

Edited by Sime
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1 minute ago, Sime said:

The 2nd hand phenomenon is funny actually. I’ve got a VDH The Sea cable from DAC to Pre, been sitting there for 5 years, hardly moved(only during dac changes), if anyone was to buy it today at half the price 2nd hand, they have practically bought a new cable. 


2nd hand in regards to looked after cables is the thinking mans option. 

I think your spot on.. anything with a good brand name that comes up for sale seems to sell fairly quickly.

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24 minutes ago, Sime said:

The 2nd hand phenomenon is funny actually. I’ve got a VDH The Sea cable from DAC to Pre, been sitting there for 5 years, hardly moved(only during dac changes), if anyone was to buy it today at half the price 2nd hand, they have practically bought a new cable. 


2nd hand in regards to looked after cables is the thinking mans option (and no, they aren’t run in, that’s bollocks)

I was about to mention they will be already "burnt in" till I saw the last comment.. hehe

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21 hours ago, Ittaku said:

My cable budget is 1% of the total cost of my system.

In my opinion 10% of the total cost of the system should be allotted for cabling and isolation and power. How you spend it is up to you. 

 

Also, higher the cost of a cable does not translate to better sound. Do diff cables sound different? For sure they do. 

 

Also, from my experience, getting to cables should be the last part of the system. 70% of what you hear is your room and your speakers. 20% will be your front end (source/electronics/amps), the 10% will be your cable, isolation, etc etc so get to the cables only once you have done your best in the 90%. I also feel that sticking to the same brand for interconnects and speaker cables gave me the best results. Power cables have the least amount of effect on the sound but they most certainly have an effect. Any power cable is better than the stock cable that comes with your gear. 

 

Also its good to understand the property of the materials used in your cables. Copper/Gold - used to tame a bright system. Silver/Rhodium - Used to bring out some details. There are other exotic materials used but what impact they have, I do not know. 

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On 10/10/2020 at 7:25 PM, Hawk66 said:

This is not a dorothy dixa type query but I am always keen to improve the sound I listen to from my system.  I am keen to hear about the experiences from members who have upgraded to expensive (> $250) interconnects between phono / amp / turntable in particular. 

I don't think $250 qualifies as "expensive" (although I understand that depends very much on your perspective) ... in so far as some people ask thousands for cables.

 

$250 is about the "right" (or the "upper") price for a something which is:

  • well built and well designed
  • made out of components which are manufacturered in relatively low volumes (meaning there is price premium)
  • made by companies who sell relatively low volumes of items (meaning there is a price premium)

 

Cost isn't always a good indicator of quality.... but I say that as you start going over about this ~$200 level..... then diminishing value kicks in  (that is assuming you're buying a good cable for $200.... which you should be).

 

On 10/10/2020 at 7:25 PM, Hawk66 said:

Was there a wow moment?

Yes.... but not in a "good cables are good" way..... as much as a "terrible quality cables are not uncommon"..... and poor quality and poorly terminated cables can make a significant (negative) difference.

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1 hour ago, BrownMagic said:

10% 

I've always disagreed with this type of thinking.

 

If someone has $500 amp and $500 speakers .... I'd say, use a good quality cable.... they cost about $200.

If someone has $2000 amp and $10000 spekers .... I'd say use a good quality cable.... they cost about $200

If someone remotgaged their house to buy speakers .... I'd say use a good quality cable.....  ;) 

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9 minutes ago, davewantsmoore said:

I've always disagreed with this type of thinking.

Dave - You need to take into context what I wrote in its entirety. Not just cables. I said, 10% of  system building budget goes to cables, isolation, power etc which are non core components. There are no hard and fast rules here for sure. I am just sharing my school of thought. 

Also with regards to good quality cables, there are good quality cables at every price point. And if you are inferring that the 200 dollar cable is going to give the same sonic results no matter which system it is deployed in, then this is a diff debate all together 🙂

But if you are saying that one does not need to spend ridiculous amounts of money on cables and expect miraculous results, then id cheers to that. 

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I went from quality silver clad copper coax IC's to Lenehan RibbonTek IC's (Mike's original series) and the difference between them was audibly noticeable and all for the better in every area of the sound.

 

I purchased used, but I think they retailed for over $300 a pair when they were available.

 

Edit: I once tried Aurealis silver Litz IC's in my system and they ware also very audibly better in every way, unfortunately I didn't have the budget to keep them in my system at the time.

 

So best I have personally had in my system are the Lenehan ones and those Aurealis Litz ones.

 

I'd say the Aurealis litz (Dragons) were definitely better, and different also.

 

Mike has released newer series since these RibbonTek ones, and Aurealis have made changes too since the first ones I tried that time, and have a silver litz/copper litz IC and possibly a copper litz variety, and another IC that is said to perform very well.

Edited by muon*
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If you can, find a local retailer that will let you buy some cable to try so that you can see if they make a difference in your system with the agreement that you can return them for a refund if they don’t (suggest already open demo cables so they don’t try to hit you with a “restocking fee”). You’ll be able to tell in a weekend

 

If you can’t, grab a few secondhand out of the classifieds and you can likely resell them for little or no loss if you’re unconvinced.

 

Have fun :) 

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2 hours ago, BrownMagic said:

In my opinion 10% of the total cost of the system should be allotted for cabling and isolation and power. How you spend it is up to you.

So you're recommending I spent $20k on cables, and therefore sacrificed it on my electronics and say bought a Reference 160S stereo amp instead of my Ref 250SE monoblocks and it would have sounded better with the extra $19,000 worth of wire. Uh huh, sure...

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6 minutes ago, Ittaku said:

So you're recommending I spent $20k on cables, and therefore sacrificed it on my electronics and say bought a Reference 160S stereo amp instead of my Ref 250SE monoblocks and it would have sounded better with the extra $19,000 worth of wire. Uh huh, sure...

I suggested that the OP spend 10% on non core which is not your front end and speakers. I did not say you need to spend 10% on just cables. I have mentioned cabling, isolation, power etc. Also the OP is obviously not playing at the same level as your so it would be helpful to be objective here. You have a great rig btw. Cheers

Edited by BrownMagic
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Thanks for all the comments!  This forum is such a great vehicle for getting a good dose of diverse and mixed responses, which is exactly what I was after.  As  a result I have now been introduced to Bill from QLD who is making me some boutique cables that are not going to result in me having to mortgage the house.   Buying from the member network and from Aussie sellers is so satisfying.  Thanks once again for all the passionate comments.

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21 hours ago, rantan said:

Definitely yes, when I first plugged n my Aurealis Dragon R1 IC cable, which was on a trial/loan basis from Geoff.

 

Unsurprisingly, it never made the return journey to Brisbane. Payment was made the next day, as it was never going to take even a few days to determine the huge improvement, let alone two or three weeks.

 

Some people  may call it expensive but I will own it alll my life so it's actually cheap in the long run. It is now sold out so I am pleased I got it when I could and IMO, $350 was a stonking bargain.

 

Yep, I had the same 'moment' with the Aurealis Dragon R1 interconnects. They will remain in my setup for a long, long time.

 

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1 hour ago, davewantsmoore said:

I've always disagreed with this type of thinking.

I also disagree with anyone who quantifies this hobby into any kind of percentage brackets. 

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Without doubt, upgrading from the standard IC sometimes supplied with the product to a good Ic cable brings really noticeable improvement ( hey, I got unsold at my local Hifi store to a Van Den Hull First Ultimate cable and I've never been happier ....  if I could have got this second hand for $200 / $300 I would have been even happier still but I keep my stuff forever so it's fine) ..... but to introduce a sideline .........     getting the right speaker cables is a much more difficult and wilder ride IMO.

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1 hour ago, pete_mac said:

 

Yep, I had the same 'moment' with the Aurealis Dragon R1 interconnects. They will remain in my setup for a long, long time.

 

And the same here until very recently.  And then I borrowed a set of cables from Garry Cawsey when I was at his workshop regarding one of his excellent power boxes.  And that was my undoing.   So now I've got a few sets & I'm very happy with them.  Although it did hurt the bank balance I think they are totally worth it in the scheme of things as they are total 'keepers'.  Not only that, bizarrely has in part sorted out some of my issues with room resonances .... I wasn't expecting that at all - double bonus :)

  

But perhaps the best metric of the improvement in the SQ is the response of the SO.  Previously the WAF for having the volume up a couple of notches was pretty dismissive.  Now its seems it can be quite cranked up and she'll be tapping her foot !   I didn't think I'd ever see that, and I didn't expect it to result from changing a couple of pairs of ICs.  .... BTW I haven't mentioned this observation to her, and i think that it is best that way 😉

 

The key point however has already been made.  Borrow whatever cables you can to try them out in your system - the best way to get their measure, and then figure out of you can justify the cost.

Edited by lumholtzii
typo
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1 hour ago, Hawk66 said:

Thanks for all the comments!  This forum is such a great vehicle for getting a good dose of diverse and mixed responses, which is exactly what I was after.  As  a result I have now been introduced to Bill from QLD who is making me some boutique cables that are not going to result in me having to mortgage the house.   Buying from the member network and from Aussie sellers is so satisfying.  Thanks once again for all the passionate comments.

So Hawk66 its now up to you to report back after you've been "BILLED" to let us all know in return your thoughts and improvements, good luck.

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I would give a big tick to bringing the Aurealis Audio R1 Dragon into an audio system...really excellent! Adding Geoff's speaker cables (mine are the LITZ 303) adds the icing to the cake. I have used mega-expensive interconnects (Shunyata; Nordost Valhalla) and am very happy to be at real-world function.

Cheers

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4 hours ago, 075Congo said:

I would give a big tick to bringing the Aurealis Audio R1 Dragon into an audio system...really excellent! Adding Geoff's speaker cables (mine are the LITZ 303) adds the icing to the cake. I have used mega-expensive interconnects (Shunyata; Nordost Valhalla) and am very happy to be at real-world function.

Cheers

Geoff's Litz speaker cables are excellent too! i agree.

 

Tried some back around the same time I tried the IC's, they were pretty special indeed.

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There are plenty of interesting opinions on this subject. Is anyone aware of a properly conducted blind test where unbiased listeners were consistently able to tell the difference between expensive cables and more modest offerings?

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