If you go to your local home theater store, you may be confronted by a variety of “extreme” sounding names for cabling: Mega Cables, Monster Cables, Uber Cables… the proliferation of “boutique” cabling is always a source of controversy in home theater and audiophile circles. The question is, how much difference do they make, and are they worth it? Well despite the perils involved in even mentioning this topic, I’m going to attempt to add something to the discussion.
The most important thing to recognize is that a cable cannot improve the sound of a home stereo system any more than an electrical wire can create extra electricity when you plug it into the wall. That’s actually a very good example, because when you’re listening to audio for instance, what we’re hearing is an electronic representation of acoustic sounds – that is to say, the actual sounds have not been captured and stuffed into a compact disc like fireflies in a child’s jar – they have been copied, imitated, and a representation stored on the disc as a series of numbers.
These numbers are then read and translated into electronic signals, which are sent to the speakers in order to approximate the actual sounds. With that in mind, it makes sense that poor quality wires don’t physically change the sound – instead it’s like a game of ‘telephone’, in which the band tells the CD, the CD tells the player, the player tells the wires, and the wires tell the speakers, with something being lost at every step so that the message “Aunt Betty baked a pie” is altered to “Fat Eddy wants to cry” or what should be a great live recording sounds tinny, distant, or otherwise just plain wrong.
A good cable will change the signal as little as possible, but all cables do damage your signal a bit – it’s simply a matter of degree. As far as which cables are the best? That’s up to you or your local audio guru to decide – much is up to personal preference, with the rest probably being left up to your budget to decide.