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Expensive Audio and Video Cables - Are They a Rip Off?

by:TBT     2020-07-24
In our line of work, we are presented with many options when it comes to buying Audio/Video cables for connecting Flat Panel TVs. We also present our customers with many options on what cables to purchase. RF Antenna, HDMI, Optical, Scart-Component and Coaxial audio cables - at least one variety of these cables is used in every installation we do.
While we firmly believe that using a different type of cable will yield better results in some set-ups, we differ in opinion to some of the big retailers that spending hundreds of dollars on high-end cables will deliver you better results. There is no argument from us that when using a Blu Ray player for instance, a HDMI cable will be a significant improvement on the Yellow,White,Red composite cables provided in the is a $200 HDMI cable better than a $40-$80 HDMI cable?
Surely there is a difference between products which cost $200 to ones that cost $60?
Some retailers stock HDMI cables from brands such as Monster, Belkin, Sony and Neotech - cables which can be hundreds of dollars each. For anyone who understands the flat panel retail market today - they will understand that there is almost no margin to be made on selling the TVs alone. The market is ultra competitive, the prices have dwindled and the average cost of a TV today is almost half of what it was less than two years ago. So the retailers need to generate their profits elsewhere - and what better add on can there be than expensive, profit loaded cables? If you have shopped for a television at certain retailers in Sydney, or you have employed the services of some installation companies in operation today, then I am almost certain that you have come across a salesperson using this line, or at least a spiel to this effect: 'You're spending $3,000 on your television, it would be silly to use cheap cables! Why would you not want to get the best performance out of your new expensive LED using the best cables? If you bought a Ferrari would you put retread tyres on it?'
Some salespeople play on emotions to make you feel like you're settling for a distinctly inferior product if you don't buy the top of the line, $200-plus priced cables that they have on offer. So the question remains - is there any difference at all?
An article published in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2009 reports that a recent test by Choice magazine has proven that spending hundreds of dollars on high-end AV cables, compared to some much cheaper alternatives, is a waste of money.
Sydney Morning Herald Article: Choice Magazine Article
Our beliefs lie firmly in line with the results Choice has derived from its testing. We do NOT think that a customer will see any difference in performance between a 1.5m HDMI cable costing $60, and a 1.5m HDMI cable costing $200. You may see a slight difference when you are talking about 7m - 10m runs of cable, but the vast majority of home installations would not require anything significantly longer than 3m for wall mounting and 1.5m - 2m for table top connections.
There are some exceptions though. There are different grades of antenna cable available for purchase. In many cases, especially if the signal strength at your wall outlet is average or slightly weak, then using a very cheap grade of RF antenna cable can produce a 'stuttering' or 'blocky' image on your screen - especially if it is being run a long distance across the room. This is where say, a $35 - $45 antenna cable can perform a lot better than a $15 - $25 antenna cable. If your picture is not freezing, distorted or breaking up - then there is no benefit gained by spending $100 plus on any antenna cable!
So, In Summary...
Where applicable, changing the 'type' of cable can produce better results, but cost is NOT always a reflection of quality.
Changing the Scart-Composite (Yellow, White, Red) cable from the back of a non-HD Foxtel box to a Scart - Component (Green, Blue, Red) Cable will give the picture some improvement. Changing a $50 Scart-Component Cable to a $100 plus Scart-Component cable will not result in any discernible difference.
Changing the composite cables form the back of your PS3 console to your Full HD TV to a HDMI cable will provide you with a much better picture. Changing that $50 HDMI cable to a $200 HDMI cable will not do anything.
Changing the white and red L+R audio out cables from the back of your digital TV to your receiver, to an optical cable will allow you to hear clear Dolby Digital Sound. Changing that $30 optical cable to a $100 plus optical cable will not do anything.
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