Cable is one of the most underestimated part in audio. A lot of people consider to upgrade their CD player, their pre/amplifier, their speaker, or even their room (the accoustic). But they actually forget one of the most important thing: Cable!
I was the one who a little bit pessimistic about audio. I don’t really care about my cable. Yes I do care about audio, I do care about my player, I do care about my amplifier, but I don’t care about my cable.
Until one day, I visit my friend. He changed his interconnect cable (more about this later) and simply ask me which one was better. I did hear the different and the latest one was better. And he told me, that the first one was a cheap cable and the latest was the more expensive one. Started from that day, I did believe in cable. Every cable has their own characteristic.
Before we discuss more about cable, you should know few jargon in this field:
Interconnect cable: is used to connect two low level signal equipments (parts before amplifier). Two to mention is from your CD player to your pre-amplifier or from your pre-amplifier to your amplifier.
Speaker cable: the name has said its function. It’s used to connect your amplifier to your speaker.
Power cable: the name also has said its function. It’s used to connect your equipment (any equipment) to your power source (either direct to wall outlet or to power conditioner/stabilizer).
Digital cable: is used to connect equipment in digital domain. Usually from your CD player to your external Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC). If you don’t use external DAC, usually you don’t need this type of cable.
Like I’ve said before, every cable has their own characteristic. Some cable tend to have a brighter high. Some can have warmer vocal. Some can give you tight bass. That’s from tonal balance aspect only. Cables also have different in terms of staging, layering, musical separation, etc. So hardly to say, choosing a cable is as difficult as choosing your partner in marriage! Pretty or handsome face will not guarantee that he/she will have good attitude that will match with you as his/her partner.
I’m a newbie. So, how do I choose my cable?
First of all, set your budget. Maximum “acceptable” budget for cable is about 20-25% from your total system price. Lower should be ok, but never go higher. It’s useless to spend more than 25%, since you better save your budget and upgrade your CD player or speaker to gain more significant improvement.
Second, the key is matching. Not every cable will suit your system. Let’s say your system tends to have a bright sound (and you don’t really like a bright sound). If this is the case, then never go with silver based cable. Generally, silver cable tends to have a brighter sound, compare to gold or copper based cable. Since your system is bright already, then you should go with more neutral sound cable or perhaps a cable with a little bit dull in high but tighter in low/warm in vocal to make your system better balanced (to reduce the bright side). On the other side, if you want extra bright, you can use silver cable and vice versa (add: not all silver are bright, only most of them in my experience). Of course decision is in your hand. Although you have listened that the silver cable is perfect on the demo/show room, but on your home, you have a different equipment. So, test the cable with your own system and audition it. IMO, this is the best way to buy your new cable.
Third, an expensive cable is not guaranteed to sound better than the cheaper one. The key is matching. On some condition (it happens frequently), a cheaper cable will match on some system rather than the expensive one. But I also often see a lot of good expensive cable. So, it’s not about the price. It’s all about matching problem.
A cable needs break-in period to. Break-in period is a duration before your cable will sound at its maximum potential. Usually, a cable takes 50-200 hours before it will give you the optimum quality. You don’t have to do anything. Just use the cable and playing music. After passing the 50-200 hours period, it will sound better. Believe it or not, but you have to try yourself. For addition, every electronics and audio gear have a break-in period. So, never judge the quality right after you open it from the box. It takes time before it will sound good.
Well, some of the comments below looked don’t agree with me. Well, maybe I’m just a moron anyway 😉 It’s up to you. You may check my signature on the logo on the top of this page: “I don’t expect you to read this. If you do, please do at your own caution!“ I live on country where English is not the common language. So forgive me for that.