$8 vs $48 Cables: What's the Difference?

$8 vs $48 Cables: What's the Difference?

Jesse Leikin
Apr 27, 2011

In the past we have told you were to get cheap prices on cables. Today we are going to dive a bit deeper and let you know what quality and price difference will be for you with the expensive Monster Cable and the cheaper generic brand cables. So next time you make your next big tech purchase for your home theater, you will be armed with the information needed to make the right decision for yourself, and not the sales person.

It is commonly believed that you get what you pay for. Meaning that if you pay more for something, then you will receive better quality and thus greater satisfaction. In the world of cables, this is a half truth. There is no doubt that when it comes to cables that transmit digital signals, there are literally no difference between working cables. Because digital cables such as HDMI cables either transmit data and thus work, or do not transmit any signal and don't work, there is no state at which these type of cables can have a weak signal and transfer a fuzzy quality picture.

Just given the information above, it seems fairly obvious to avoid purchasing expensive digital cables and opt for the cheaper alternative. However, with digital cables there is still one more thing to consider: How durable do your cables need to be? The reason that this question is so important is that despite two perfectly functional cables outputting identical pictures, some cables are undoubtably built better then others. This largely depends on what your use is for the wire. If you do not expect to frequently be adjusting your home theater set up by plugging and unplugging wires, then durability is less of a concern. If you have a cord to hook your laptop up to the TV and frequently adjust it, then higher build quality would probably be something you should look for if you don't feel like having to replace cables.

If you aren't sure what your future use for cables will be, a good rule of thumb is that as long as you are careful and treat your cables well, then even the least expensive cables will do just fine. Another quick caveat is that despite the lack of difference between two working digital and optical cables, more traditional cables such as speaker wire do have have slight differences. Though most people will not notice the difference - mainly because of poor room acoustics - audiophiles will certainly reap the advantage of high quality wire. However, to step into the modern era, many audio lover have moved to optical cables, which have the same all or nothing properties of HDMI cables.

In general, as long as you don't treat your cables poorly, there is no difference between pricey and inexpensive digital/optical cables. With a connection that either works or doesn't, you are now armed with the information you need to make smart cable purchases the next time you upgrade your home theater. And if you a few days to spare, you can save even more by purchasing through great reputable online stores such as Monoprice.com and Amazon.com. You will be hard pressed to find prices anywhere that compare to these online juggernauts.

Now that you have honed your cable expertise, do some reading up on home theater ideas before heading to the store. This way you will be ready for anything, and you'll be sure to get exactly what you are looking for.

Also, if you have any additional questions about cables and wires, be sure to let us know in the comments, and we will be more than happy to answer all your questions.

Home Theater Links:
Home Theater Set-Up
A Modern Home Theater
Four Components to a Living Room Theater

(Images: Flickr user Wicho and Flickr user Waldopepper)

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