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The Almighty Buck Hardware Technology

Are 'Monster' Cables Worth It? 415

Posted by Cliff
from the your-cables-may-bite-you dept.
Digitarius asks: "Are "Monster" cables really better, or are they just more expensive? I'm setting up my HDTV, and I can get Component video cables made by Belkin for half the price of the Monster cable equivalents. Are there any actual stats or studies to back up Monster's claims of superiority? So far most people tell me to get the Monster cables, 'just to be sure,' but what's the real truth?"
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Are 'Monster' Cables Worth It?

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  • use any old thing (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mr.Coffee (168480) * <Mr.Coffee@ne w y orkcity.com> on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @11:29AM (#12023853) Homepage
    unless you're looking at a significant length cable run (25 feet or more), i highly doubt you'll notice any difference at all, even between regular patch cords and a "component video" set of cables (which are three patch cords bound together). i have used monster cable speaker cables and signal cables, and you'll not notice a large difference using plain lamp cord and regular cables. as far as component video is concerned, you'll want to make sure the three cables are as similar as possible, and i recommend true coax, with the proper resistance bnc terminated ends (52 ohm i believe). for rca component video, 75 ohm coax terminated in rca plugs works very well, a friend of mine pointed out that for analog audio, this setup works well. for both situations, the components being connected seem to appreciate the higher resistance cable. it helps to curb noise.

    either way, unless you're looking at a long run of cables, pretty much anything will do well. and for digital audio, it dosen't matter what the cable is, if it'll pass the signal, it'll work, (there's no signal loss with digital connecitons)

    all that being said, monster cables sure are purty... i like purty cables...
    • Re:use any old thing (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gl4ss (559668) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @11:45AM (#12024159) Homepage Journal
      the funniest thing I've seen was gold plated optical connector...

      monster cables might be a bit better than the cheapest of cheap.. but the situations where you would benefit from that are very uncommon(AND EVEN THEN THEY'RE NOT WORTH THE MONEY! what you're paying with monstercables is the brand).
      • by jafuser (112236) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:04PM (#12025996)
        Heh. Here's one: Arista Optical Digital Audio Cable [crutchfield.com]

        Is there any point to having 24k gold-plated contacts on an optical cable other than 'bling' factor?
        • I've heard that gold is softer, so the connections mold together better...
      • The funniest thing I've seen was some guy on a TV show who recommended that when putting together a sound system, you should plan to spend 10% of your cost on wiring. So for your $2000 worth of equipment you're hooking up, spend $200 on wiring??? YEAH RIGHT!!!
    • one time the cable went out at my house while some friends and I were watching the superbowl. I pulled the cable out of the back of the cable box (it was digital cable) and stuck the coax on my tongue. I was suprised to see how well I worked like an antenna. It wasn't perfect, but it worked.

      If I worked so well as an antenna I doubt "Monster" cable will do anything for you. The only time I've seen cables make a difference is a friend that had a full kilowatt powering his car amplifiers (for the record i
    • Re:use any old thing (Score:5, Informative)

      by linzeal (197905) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @01:39PM (#12025713) Homepage Journal
      I have had good luck with Trip-Lite [amazon.com] cables, including a beyond the norm 20 foot s-video cable made up of two 10' and a male to male connector.

      When I worked at Fry's electronics an old AV guy told me the best way to tell which is the better cable is to setup a simple graph with price on y axis and the weight per same length on the x axis. He carried one around and usually monster was only 20-30% heavier than the best deals but was at least 100% more expensive.

  • by rogabean (741411) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @11:31AM (#12023896)
    ...with my HTPC/HDTV setup. I have found that I notice no difference between the Monster cables I have and the other brands I have laying around. Only really important thing I can stress is Gold->Gold Silver->Silver. Don't mix and match those for corrosion reasons. Shielded cables are good, but they don't have to be the more expensive Monster cables.

    The above is just my experience... and of course YMMV.
    • In my experience, Monster Cable is very good, but not necessarily the best.

      In high-end Home Theater/Home Audio/etc., cables do matter. NEVER use the cheapo skinny no-brand cables for anything greater than 15" TV set, or any audio setup you spent more than $200 for. There's a huge jump from going to better than junk cables, a much lesser jump going from those to premium brand cables (like Monster, Acoustic Research, etc.)

      Go to a decent (but not too snooty) hi-fi store. Ask them what they recommend for some
    • by DShard (159067) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @12:09PM (#12024518)
      Gold does not corrode readily and silver-oxide is a conductor. gold->silver should not cause either one to corrode differently, instead air contact and dc current (as in any speaker signal) will. on the other hand, both have a different electrical characteristics that will alter the sound. How noticable and whether it is a bad thing is probably a matter of taste and imagination.
  • by Anonymouse Cownerd (754174) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @11:33AM (#12023929) Homepage
    you try monster cable and radio shack cable in your setup. if you can't hear a difference, return the monster cable.

    it doesn't matter if WE can hear a difference, if you cannot then it is not worth the money for you, even if money is not an issue as you claim.

    • Sure thing - unless cables are actually broken then there's basically never an issue on signal wires. Heavy-duty cables to speakers need better cable, yes, but not signal levels (and for speakers, Monster aren't worth it either).

      I'd also like to mention an ethical reason why not to buy Monster. Monster Cables have been methodically sueing every business in the US that uses the word "Monster". Since Monster Cables are large, and most businesses are mom-and-pop operations, the small guys get screwed over
  • by jgardn (539054) <jgardn@alumni.washington.edu> on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @11:34AM (#12023955) Homepage Journal
    As a physicist, I can tell you there are two important qualities for the wires, both of which won't affect the sound quality. Those two factors is how well the wires connect to the posts, and how well the wires transmit the signal.

    If there were some frequency dependencies, then you would see a degradation of sound. But there isn't. If there were some variability of resistance based on current, then there would be a degradation of sound. But there isn't.

    The only benefit your get from monster cables is a perhaps slightly lower resistance. That is all. The higher resistance of standard wires can easily be overcome by "turning up the volume".

    So, Monster Cables are not worth it, strictly speaking. The only reason people get Monster Cables is the same reason people get gold-plated pens. Other than a status symbol, it is meaningless.

    And besides, people who sport jewelry or expensive toys tend to be poorer than those who are more modest. (Case in point: It seems these spinners people buy for their cars are bought by the lower class in my town. Where they get the money for this, yet can't pay for their children's college education, is a question I don't think they'd want to answer.)
    • Oooh, sorry physics dude, you are right about resistance, but you forgot about SHIELDING. Trust me, I used to use cheap cables, and when I upgraded to a Monster video cable I noticed that I had much better colour (indicating that before I was suffering from signal degradation), and the lines displayed by my TV were sharper. Also I noticed when I upgraded to higher quality (not higher gauge) speaker wire I had MUCH better sound. I know a lot of people like to bash expensive cables; but having moved from c
      • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @12:20PM (#12024686) Journal
        I bet your email address rhymes with "at conster fable spot on."

      • by |<amikaze (155975) * on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @01:02PM (#12025273)
        I noticed that I had much better colour (indicating that before I was suffering from signal degradation), and the lines displayed by my TV were sharper.

        My empirical observations have proven your physics theory to be false;

        Do you have those plots handy? What device were you using to measure colour and sharpness? Without hard numbers, it's really difficult to show that you weren't actually just really excited about the really expensive cables you just bought and tricked yourself into thinking that they were better.

        Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the cables might not have a better picture.

        There is also capacitance and inductance to take into account. Video sits around 4MHz (off the top of my head). At frequencies like that you can definitely have cable effects too, which essentially results in a low-pass filter. This would attenuate the more subtle details (edge sharpness for example).

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Does Monster use some sort of super-metal (more metal than metal!) that, when grounded at each end, does a better job of blocking EM fields than other types of metal? It could be that your other set of cables had a real defect (wear and tear, broken shielding, etc.) that, independently of brand, caused your problems.

        Monster == Marketing == You Been Duped
      • by Anonymous Coward
        > My empirical observations have proven your physics theory to be false

        Must be a new kind of science. MONSTER SCIENCE.

        Any decent shielded cable will do

        > can tell you that there definitely is a significant improvement in signal quality (except for digital signals of course; digital is digital)

        Well no, you're wrong there. Cheap ethernet cables can knock you down to 10 megabit when you can't push a fast or gig ethernet signal through a crummy wire. Yet oddly, you don't see people buying Monster et
      • I used to do some work with video equipment. Shielded cable usually has a percentage of covering specified. If you cut apart a piece of cheap coax cable, you will find very thin braid and a lot of open space. Expensive coax looks like a solid layer. So I think your eyes are correct. There is a difference both in signal loss and in pickup of video noise.

        At audio frequencies, the difference is going to be a lot less. I've always used untwisted pair (Radio Shack speaker cable) and never noticed any prob
    • by ctr2sprt (574731) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @12:16PM (#12024620)
      As someone who does a fair bit of plugging together home electronics equipment, it's also important to get quality connectors and shielding.

      The former is important because you will need to unplug those bastards occasionally, and I have some Radio Shack cables that I have to disconnect with a wrench and significant amounts of muscle. I'm concerned about literally breaking the connector from the amount of force I have to apply. From the other direction, if they come off too easily you will have to tape them to the TV or something, which doesn't impair signal quality but is annoying.

      The latter is important not because of interference or anything, but because stuff will happen to the cables. You'll vacuum it, your pets will chew on it, you'll get crap on it, etc. It's a pain in the ass to get behind your TV to replace frayed or broken cables, so you should try to minimize it.

      Note that neither of these considerations imply that you should buy Monster cables, just that you should avoid the extremely inexpensive (read: cheap) ones. So instead of buying the $30 Monster cables or the $5 generic cables, buy the $15 name-brand-but-not-Monster cables. Belkin seems like a pretty good target for that, and you could in fact do better if you find a place that lets you return cables. (You obviously have to open up the package to try them out, and some places don't want to take them back after you do that.)

      I do always laugh when I see the rusted-out '85 Honda Civic with the brand new shiny 20" rims and chrome exhaust tips. "You just spent $2500 on mods, and a Civic is the best you can do?"

    • by Bastian (66383) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @12:17PM (#12024642)
      It is worth pointing out that some of the physcal phenomena that Monster babbles about when talking up their cables do exist. For example, the skin effect can affect the quality of analog signals being transmitted across a stereo cable. . . in the megahertz range.

      But I think the two big things you really need to know about Monster Cable in order to make an informed decision about whether it is worth it have nothing to do with physics. The two things you need to know are:
      1. Recording and video studios don't tend to use Monster Cable.
      2. The wire you find inside your speakers look a whole lot more like cheap $3 a spool bargain bin wire than they do Monster Cable.
      • by drakaan (688386) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @01:04PM (#12025294) Homepage Journal
        Umm...

        Recording and video studios don't tend to use Monster cable because they also don't tend to use RCA cables to patch things together. Too easy for noise to get into the signal path. They tend to use balanced lines so that any noise can be self-cancelling (if you're interested, google "balanced line driver"...that ought to give a few hints).

        The wire you find inside your speakers is specifically designed to maintain it's form, take high heat, and/or lie flat (for the wire wrapped around the former), or to be flexible enough not to come apart (for the wires going from the terminals to the cone/voicecoil). They're typically made much differently from speaker cable.

        If you want to talk to people that know more than a little about pricey cabling (rca cables, at least) talk to a reputable car stereo shop. Home theater environments have only a tiny fraction of the shielding, grounding, impedance-matching, and noise problems that automotive applications do.

        Most of the expensive home theater cables are shortened or rebranded versions of ones that were developed for automotive use. Noise rejection characteristics, signal path length (both parts of the path being equal), shielding type, and overall cable quality (fit, insulation, solder joint quality, etc) are all part of what makes expensive cables cost as much as they do.

        If you're hooking up a TV and a DVD player with connectors 3 feet apart, most of the design features of the expensive cables will be unnecessary simply because there won't be that much chance for noise to enter into the picture. If you have preamps, amps, multiple sources, multiple grounds, noise sources, long cables, etc. the expensive stuff just might make everything work better.

      • by alienw (585907)
        For example, the skin effect can affect the quality of analog signals being transmitted across a stereo cable. . . in the megahertz range.

        Wrong. Skin effect applies to any non-DC signal. It will cause a significant roll-off at frequencies as low as 100KHz. It doesn't matter much for signals in the audio band, though.

        Recording and video studios don't tend to use Monster Cable.

        From what I've heard, many recording engineers are more obsessive about cable quality than the most rabid audiophile. Studio
        • by chriso11 (254041) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:14PM (#12026153) Journal
          I don't know what universe you live in, but skin effect does not cause roll-off at frequencies as low as 100KHz. I am an electrical engineer, and I have to deal with skin effect in RF applications. I have not seen skin effect to be a significant effect until you get over 100MHz. Grounding, resistance, shielding, and matching are much more significant than skin effect below 100MHz, where all audio and video signals are (unless they are modulated).

          There are two types of cables to talk about: patch cables and speaker cables. For speaker cables, it is all about resistance. Shielding is not a big deal, since you have 2 cables, and as long as they run close and parallel, you won't pick up any noticable noise, since the other cable would pick up pretty much the same noise, and the noise would cancel out. As for expensive wire - forget about all that deoxygenated copper and that BS. If you have doubts, measure the resistance. At 20KHz, the high end of human hearing, a wavelength of light is around 10KM, so you don't have to worry about matching cable lengths either (as one of my friends did in his home theater setup).

          As for patch cable, the video applications are more difficult - the higher frequency is more problematic. Even then, shielding is easy. Twisted pair works quite well even up to those vidoe frequencies (if you are reading this over a DSL connection, then you are relying on a more sensitive signal sent over twisted pair).
          You can transmit 100baseT over steel barbed wire.

          If you still want premium cables, buy the cheap cables, sned them to me, and I will pronounce magic words that will make them work just as well as the monster cables. Except for some fancy plastic jacketing, that's all monster does anyway.

        • by James McTavish (244393) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:11PM (#12029116)
          I noticed another electrical engineer responded to this as well, and already explained that the skin effect kicking in at 100KHz is dead wrong. I did my masters in RF engineering, and I had access to very expensive cable testing equipment (It was actually a system designed to test just about anything including amplifiers, but you could use it to test cable). Another grad student was wiring his house, and was pondering the same question, so we put the cables on the machine.

          The Monstster cables did much better, but above 100MHz, way above anything you could ever hear. We tested 16 gauge lamp cord (YES LAMP CORD). It's spectrum was perfectly flat to within 0.1dB out to in excess of 10MHz. This FAR exceeds the 0.02MHz the human ear can hear. For audio purposes, it will work just FINE. As for shelding, the frequencies that you will pick up from that stretch of cable won't be audible. And if you're paranoid, stick an RF choke coil on your cord (you can get them at Radio Shack. You just wrap the cord through it). Those don't kick in until about 50+KHz anyway.

          Video is a different ball of wax though since it deals with much higher frequencies. But after testing several cables, the mid-range stuff was not much different than the high end stuff in the area that counts (below 100MHz). The cheap stuff did start to have some attenuation issues above 10Mhz, but even then it wasn't that severe (1dB or less upto 50+Mhz). However in the higher frequencies, you have to worry about sheilding a little more as the frequencies that it will pick up via radiation could be visible. But any properly grounded coaxial cable will eliminate that.

          As for ecording engineers, they are obsessive, but they aren't stupid enough to use straight cable. They use the same priciple as ethernet and twisted pair communications. They transmit the signal and the inverse of the signal and run them side by side. If one side picks up interference, the other side will too. But when you take the difference between the cables, it will remain exactly the same.
    • You might have a point about speaker cables. However, don't assume that the effect of impurities in the cable is negligible. Oxidation can cause nasty things to happen to your signals, and a cheap cable will not have oxygen-free copper.

      You are 100% wrong when it comes to low-level signals. There, minor differences in cables will have significant effects. Too much capacitance will cause a significant roll-off for high frequencies; skin effect can do the same thing. Poor quality or improperly designed s
  • Go digital (Score:2, Interesting)

    by objekt (232270)
    Why is there an analog part of the signal chain at all?
  • by rask22 (144831) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @11:35AM (#12023976)
    Firingsquad did a test between different brands and different types (rca vs svideo). The results where pretty interesting:

    http://www.firingsquad.com/guides/ps2picture/ [firingsquad.com]
    • Interesting how?

      The zoomed in "screen shots" of the television didn't show any pixels at all. Just a nice smooth image.

      He also could tell the difference between Monster Cable optical cable and generic optical cable while listening to music. Unless I'm off on my optical theory isn't that like saying "Sure, you have ones and I have ones but my ones are more exact ones than yours"?
      • You mean here?

        http://www.firingsquad.com/guides/ps2picture/pag e6 .asp

        There seems to be a difference.
        • They'er on crack. There's two possible ways a crappy optical cable could pass a bitstream poorly:

          1) It fails to pass a bit properly (a 1 becomes a zero, or vice versa)
          2) Frame jitter

          If 1) was an issue, you'd be hearing skipping and popping very loudly in a way that the system would be unlistenable. Though CD's have error-correction built in, the S/PDIF standard doesn't; it just passes 16-bit words; no ECC codes.

          Frame jitter can be corrected REALLY easilly by about a dollar's worth of hardware on the othe
  • by Schezar (249629) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @11:36AM (#12023981) Homepage Journal
    Monster Cables are a giant scam designed to relieve gullible people of their money. Double-blind testing has shown time and time again that you can not physically perceive the difference.

    There is a huge industry around selling useless crap to people. Monster cables will give you about the same results as rocks [audaud.com]. (Yes, people buy those rocks and yes, they think they make their stereos sound better.)

    I highly recommend that you check out the James Randi Educational Foundation [randi.org], and do a site search for "audiophile" or the like.

    Frankly, I don't know what scares me more: the fact that someone will honestly claim that a magic rock will make music sound better, or the fact that people will pay good money for one...
  • by karn096 (807073) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @11:40AM (#12024070)
    I can't say that I did an empirical review to accurately measure differences, but recently I purchased an HDTV and was wondering the very same thing. I tried several different "just normal cables" one being the cable the cable company gave me, one being regular coax, one being a cheap svideo, and one being a top of the line from radio shack, and a component video set from Monster. The coax was the worst of them all, the sideo cable being second worst. Then came the cable company component, which still wasn't that great. Some of the colors seemed a little washed out, and I could see some signal noise, but that was probably due to my setup. Then I finally tried out the Monster cables. I saw an immediate difference over all the previously tried, the signal came in nice and clear, and there was no color bleeding, and no signal noise visible on my screen. But of course results may vary.

    I would personally go to a store, and keep the receipt and just try it out, and see if you notice a difference.
    • You ran svideo to an HDTV?

      Perhaps for non-HDTV channels, that's fine, but to use high definition modes, you have to have DVI, HDMI, VGA, or component. If your HDTV has a built-in HDTV tuner, then coax should work, too.
    • by DavidTC (10147)
      The coax cable wasn't crappy becuase it was poor quality, it was crappy because it was coax. Coax is very succeptable to EMI. And doesn't leave the signals seperated.

      And, really, that's all that goes on. The back of an entertainment center is full of EMI. Shielded cables will stop EMI, and make the signal look better.

      And which cable you use is important, at least which kind of cable. Buy the 'highest' you can to connect any two devices, starting at component (YCrCb), then s-video, then RCA, then coax if t

  • NO (Score:3, Informative)

    by RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @11:43AM (#12024121)
    No. Monster cables are overpriced and unnecessary.

    For digital signals (e.g. DVI or SPDIF audio):
    Use a good-quality cable. It doesn't have to be expensive or elaborate, but you'll want to ensure that the conductor is large enough and the shielding (if it is necessary) is good. Also ensure that the connectors are solid. Most cables meet this criteria.

    For analog signals (e.g. Component Video):
    Follow the rules for digital cables. You may want additional shielding and. Ensure that the cable has the correct impedence. Make sure that the connectors can provide proper RF isolation.

    I've found that the Philips cables found at Wal-Mart are quite sufficcent. They have nice metal connectors and are well-shielded, plus they have strain relief. They run about $15 to $20 for 10ft (component video).
    • Re:NO (Score:5, Informative)

      by alienw (585907) <alienw.slashdot@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @01:18PM (#12025456)
      Let's clear up a few myths. First, there is no such thing as a digital signal. It's an analog signal which encodes digital information. Wrong impedances can cause bad things to happen (such as some of the bits getting corrupted). Depending on the protocol used, this can be very significant.

      SPDIF is a horrible protocol that is sensitive to cables and almost anything else. Though it's nominally a digital signal, it's multiplexed with the system clock (which is as analog as it gets). If your cable distorts the signal (it almost certainly does), the system clock will be jittery and this will cause distortion. On a decent system, this can be audible.

      Analog signals are a whole different ballgame. If you don't think cables can make a difference, pick up an electromagnetics book. Anything from Wal-mart is probably suboptimal -- even if it looks well-made, it probably isn't.
      • Re:NO (Score:3, Informative)

        by node 3 (115640)
        Let's clear up a few myths. First, there is no such thing as a digital signal.

        Yes, there is. It's a logical system.

        Inside your computer, the whole process is literally analog as well, but it models a digital system, and must do so perfectly.

        The cables and wires that transfer hundreds, even thousands of gigabytes a day are far cheaper and far less impressive looking than the snake-oil you get from Monster.

        Cat-5, Serial-ATA, USB, FireWire--these are all high speed, are all digital, and all error-free (wi
  • On this subject... (Score:5, Informative)

    by PhyrePhox (218873) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @11:50AM (#12024230)
    I was recently shopping for a DVI cable for my HDTV, and was blown away by the US$80 AND UP prices I was finding around town. 80 bucks for a bloody 1 meter cable!?!? Thankfully, someone pointed me to http://www.pacificcable.com/ and I found a 1 meter DVI-I Dual Link for $22. (I am not affiliated, just a satisfied customer)
    The Monster-type cables are the profit center for the A/V stores. They have to compete for pricing on the actual gear, where they may get less than 10% markup from their cost. On cables and accessories, they can get up to 40% or more. There is no way that one cable is better than the other, provided the connectors make good contact at the jack. Don't waste your money.
    • The only time you want to pay extra cash for brand-name DVI cables is if it's long. Cheaper cables can degrade the signal and fail occasionally on long (>2 meter) runs.
  • by Welshalian (733176) * <welshalian@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @11:51AM (#12024251)
    .... solidity and good build quality matter just as well. Especially for musicians - as a guitar player, I've lost count of how many times I've tripped on a cheap cable, only to find out I'd ripped one end off or something. Good build quality is something I've paid for in the past and got my money's worth for.
  • by duffbeer703 (177751) * on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @11:54AM (#12024293)
    Produce the highest fidelity output possible.

    Just make sure you use Bose speakers, none of that Sony or Nakamichi junk.
  • by crmartin (98227) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @11:56AM (#12024323)
    Here's a little hint: you don't actually hear much below 20 Hz or above 15kHz (if that: at 20 I could hear the 15kHz horizontal sweep on a TV; at 50 I can't.) Unless you've got perfect pitch and a music degree, you don't hear most of those little details of voicing etc.

    What you --- and everyone else --- does do is react to suggestion. When the audio guy comes in and puts you in the fancy listening room, he gives all sorts of suggestion cues to let you know that the more expensive system "sounds better". And sure enough it does.

    Of course if you're contemplating buying monster cables, you've also probably gotten a multiple thousand dollar system, which means the guy in the audio room already got to you.
  • by Winterblink (575267) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @12:04PM (#12024436) Homepage
    Having good cables won't make a shitty amp sound good, nor will it make your grandfather's hand-me-down speakers sound better. Start with a good amp and set of speakers, then worry about cables. That being said, I think it depends a lot on use. If you're expecting the Balrog roar in Fellowship of the Ring to tear the flesh from your skull because you bought Monster cables, be ready to be disappointed. But if you're a classical music afficionado, the extra clarity might be more apparent.
  • the bigger the physical copper the less resistance the better the signal flow.

    Don't mess with all these zero oxygen, gold etc rubbish. Chrome is fine, just make sure the cable itself is nice and big (not shoestring) and you'll get nice signal flow.

    I know of a professional audio engineer (first name Colin, now unfortunately dead) who wired his speakers to the amp using 15 amp mains cabling. No kidding and a lovely sound he got too.
  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @12:08PM (#12024500) Homepage Journal
    For the physics inclined, have a read here [st-andrews.ac.uk] about skin effect in audio cables.

    The basic idea is that electrons ride the outside of a conductor, not equally through its cross-section. The depth of the 'skin' depends on frequency. You might think that stranded cable would do better then, since there's more surface area, but because the strands aren't insulated they act as a single conductor, providing no skin-effect benefit. There is an exception, cables of 'Litz' construction, where each conductor is individually insulated, creating a virtual cable of effective diameter without skin effect.

    My take-away from the linked article is that skin effect does have a slight effect on sound quality that can be measured and possibly perceived. Swinging back to the topic, Monster does make a Litz speaker cable, but it runs you $1500 per 3-foot cable - this isn't Best-Buy level Monster cable. A Google search on Litz at monstercable.com [google.com] only provides two hits, both 3rd-party write-ups.

    So to achieve top theoretical sound quality, assuming good connections, etc., you can buy thousands of dollars worth of top-quality Monster cables or cheap cables with fat conductors. If gauge and weight are far more important than cost, say on a Space Shuttle or similar, then dropping $10K on speaker cable might be worthwhile.

    This all has me wondering of anybody here has used 10-gauge Romex as speaker cable.

    • This all has me wondering of anybody here has used 10-gauge Romex as speaker cable.

      Yes! My brother who used to run a kW/channel with a pair of Carvers used either #10 or #8 for speaker wire, and 220V/30A twistlocks for connectors. It worked very well. We looked at the instantaneous current waveform, at it was great due to the low resistance of the wire and connectors.

    • This all has me wondering of anybody here has used 10-gauge Romex as speaker cable.

      Why, I was just getting ready to post about that. There are some issues related to wire gage, such that if you have a clean high-power source and matched speakers, using that skinny stuff that contains about 3 hair-thin strands of copper/tin mix can cause signal degradation. You can avoid that by buying appropriately fat. Whether you drop big $ on Monster Cable, or go to your local building supply store is up to you. The ir
  • I Think So (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bios_Hakr (68586) <xptical.gmail@com> on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @12:11PM (#12024549) Homepage
    Just to be a tool, I'm gonna offer an opposing viewpoint from the others here.

    First off, don't ask audiophile questions on /. unless you want to be told that a bit is a bit and how it gets from point A to point B doesn't matter.

    Second, look at your audio rack. How much did you spend there? For my $250 Pioneer and $20 VCR, the cables don't matter. What's the point.

    But if you spend thousands on components, why skimp on a $10 cable vice a $50 one? The price difference is negligable. It's like complaining about a WinXP license on a $20k server. Just buy big and never worry.

    Now, some annecdotal evidince. I recently replaced all the cables from my $250 receiver to my $300 surround speakers. The stock cable was 20 guage aluminum. The new stuff is 12 guage copper. My system now sounds better.

    One poster advised you to "just turn up the volume". That's no good when you start driving the internal components to near their peak output. Turning it up just causes more noise.

    As for the interconnects, I've used everything from RCA solder-type connectors on 26 guage wire to monster cable with no real difference.

    But, if you spend thousands anyway, why skimp on Radio Shack cables?
    • Re:I Think So (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @12:55PM (#12025172)

      But if you spend thousands on components, why skimp on a $10 cable vice a $50 one? The price difference is negligable. It's like complaining about a WinXP license on a $20k server. Just buy big and never worry.

      It's very interesting listening to the difference between scientists and marketers. I work with both. Scientists always want to make a better product, without wasting resources. Marketers always want to make a product seem better while being cheaper to produce. The most common advice from Marketers to scientists is "raise the price."

      For some reason purchasers often assume that a greater price indicates a better product. Often the best way to make your product seem superior in the eyes of consumers is to price it higher than everyone else's. It works too. Otherwise people like you would not describe the quality of their components in terms of how much they cost.

      First off, don't ask audiophile questions on /. unless you want to be told that a bit is a bit and how it gets from point A to point B doesn't matter.

      Yup. Lots of people with scientific minds here. They care about facts and how things work. If you want I can sell you very poorly made components and cables at high prices. You'll probably even think they sound better. (Maybe someone like Monster has beaten me to it.)

      But, if you spend thousands anyway, why skimp on Radio Shack cables?

      The original post said that price was not a concern. The question was about the quality of Monster cables relative to other cables. Are they better or just higher priced? It is a very valid question that you don't really answer.

      It's like complaining about a WinXP license on a $20k server. Just buy big and never worry.

      On Slashdot this has to be a troll. But it is a troll that brings out a very real problem with Linux. The functional value of Linux is often demonstrably better than Windows, especially for servers. Since the price is free, however, people perceive it as less valuable and less useful. Luckily there are plenty of companies ready to charge you money for free things.

    • Re:I Think So (Score:3, Informative)

      by pclminion (145572)
      Now, some annecdotal evidince. I recently replaced all the cables from my $250 receiver to my $300 surround speakers. The stock cable was 20 guage aluminum. The new stuff is 12 guage copper. My system now sounds better.

      That, I can believe. Aluminum has nowhere near the conductivity of copper, and on top of that, it was a thinner wire. The result is a lower voltage at the other end of the cable than you would have had with copper, which means that some component somewhere needs to amplify more. Amplificat

  • Monster is Marketing (Score:4, Informative)

    by gothzilla (676407) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @12:11PM (#12024556)
    I worked on F-15 radar and avionics in the Air Force. Working with radar teaches you a lot about signal loss. Monster cables are pure marketing and nothing else. You can actually hurt the quality of signal by using a cable that's too large or thick.

    Don't buy the cheapest cables you can find, but don't buy the most expensive either. I saw the post below about spending 1/10 the cost of the equipment on cables and that's nothing but marketing also. Cable really is cheap. It's cheap to make and cheap to build. Some cables are expensive because they know they can get away with charging those prices and not because they're any better than the competition. A cable for a $4000 tv is going to be more expensive than a cable for a $150 tv, simply because hell if you're willing to spend $4K on a tv then you're willing to spend $100 on a cable. Just buy decent cables and you'll be all set.
    • As someone who has little knowledge in this area, what is "too much", "too little", and "decent?"

      Lots of people here are talking in relative terms like this without giving anything concrete. I assume the answers are "depends on your setup," but some examples would be nice. Or at least factors which effect ones decisions (length of cable? power output of amp? etc.) and how they effect it (longer cable needs less impedance?).
      • > As someone who has little knowledge in this area, what is "too much", "too little", and "decent?"

        With radar: anything you can measure.

        With audio: anything you can hear.

        If you're recording, you might want to go gonzo, get balanced line drivers and so forth (face it, the cable ain't gonna do much). If you're just listening to music, the only thing that matters is what you can hear. I suffered some pretty bad mid-to-high-range hearing loss in my 20's (untreated ear infection), so I can generally che
  • I was about ready to punch a kid at Best Buy after he first insisted that gold-to-silver is an excellent combination and then demanded that I buy the most expensive brand of fiber optic cable they sold. He swore up and down that the higher priced brand's bits were "cleaner" and that I'd get a better sound.

    Ugh - that's one store I definitely don't miss.

  • The general concensus is a resounding NO. Look here for opinions:
    http://www.hdtvoice.com/voice/index.php
  • I can hear a slight difference. Is that difference worth the extreme difference in cost? No way. Get medium priced cables that are fairly heavy gauge and, I cannot stress this enough, AS SHORT AS YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH. The MOST EFFECTIVE way of improving the sound of your stereo by changing cables is to simply stop using 3m cables wadded up and stuffed behind your stereo. A decent quality 1m or shorter cable will probably cost the same as a cheap 3m cable.

    Thicker gauge cable + shorter length == better soun
    • Also, wipe off the connectors on your stereo equipment and cable ends with isopropyl alcohol and a cotton swab right before you connect them. The odds that oil and dirt well mess up your connection quality are negligible.

      On a tape deck, however.. isoproping the metal bits every time you use it is absolutely key.. as long as you use alcohol of purity no less than 99%.. and you cap the bottle whenever you aren't directly dipping the Q-tip in it.

      But you're absolutely right about speaker position. Speaker
  • If the cables are passing pure analog, maybe. If the cables are passing digital, no. Flat out no.

  • Good quality cables are important, but beyond "meets requirements" there is nothing more to be gained. Monster Cables are for people with more dollars than sense.
  • by avi33 (116048) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @12:24PM (#12024752) Homepage
    I researched this same topic, and it led me to blue jeans cable [bluejeanscable.com], named so because their aim is to be, simply, an unpretentious commoditized version of "name brand" cables.

    As most other posters here seem to be reinforcing, Monster and the like are short on specs and long on "voodoo" - though they look nice. The fact is, using high quality materials, tools, and techniques isn't rocket science.
  • If it really matters that much, maybe you should be going pure digital all the way to each speaker.

    And each speaker would have its own amplifier built-in or very close to built-in.

    If you want to be extreme, you should be reading the position of the speaker cone optically (or some other way - using something like gray code) to 24 bit resolution and at >100K samples a second, and have a very high powered amplifier shove the cone (very very very fast) to the exact position which the digital signal says it
  • by Hulver (5850) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @12:40PM (#12024946) Homepage
    It's common knowledge amoungst audiophiles that you need the best cable to get the best sound.

    Those of your sitting smug with your all digital system should take note as well.

    Just because your signals are digital doesn't mean that the sound isn't going to change because of the quality of your cable.

    Even the brand of hard disk that you use can effect the quality of the audio you get from your system.

    You need to check that your hard-disk is insulated correctly as well. Installing vibration isolators in your computer can effect the sound coming out of it.

    Want proof? This guy [johnvestman.com] is a sound engineer and has performed extensive tests on different hard drives and transport mechanisms. Did you know that the same file played from the CDR can sound different if it's played from a FireWire hard disk?

    • Re:Cables matter (Score:3, Informative)

      by Just Some Guy (3352)
      Here's a buck, kid: go buy a book on signal theory.

      Digital is digital is digital is digital. As long as the carrier can accurately reproduce the stream of bits (hint: pretty much every transport can, especially at the negligible distances we're discussing), the end result will be identical. Not "close", not "almost", but "exactly".

  • I've found that you can do more to effectively improve the sound quality of your stereo system by providing it with a true ground.

    I'm not entirely sure why, and i'm sure someone can explain here, but it's a difference that you can actually hear.
  • by meanfriend (704312) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @12:51PM (#12025122)
    To say that any old cable is the same as the next is not true in my (admittedly limited) experience.

    I have not done quantitative measurements, but recently I bought one of those multi-format DVD player (ie. can read a data CD/DVD and play avi & mpeg files). It came with some cheapo cables that I tried and it was terrible. There was a thin bright line that slowly moved up and down the screen, and there was a persistent hum that could be heard whenever the volume was turned up to any reasonable level.

    On a larf, I went and bought some of the less expensive Monster cables and the problems totally went away. I assume the shielding made the difference here. I dont attribute my observations to some magical Monster pixie dust, as any other brand of decently constructed cable probably would have been an improvement over the crappy cables that came bundled with the DVD player.

    The moral is that from a quality perspective,there is probably no need to go out and pay the premium for Monster cables, but you dont want to use cables from the dollar store either.

    There is another reason to go Monster that no one seems to have mentioned yet, the lifetime warranty. Cables dont really break down, but I was told at the checkout that I can get a replacement *under any circumstances*; even if my dog chews it up. We'll see if they actually honor that 5 years down the road, but that's a benefit that has to be worth at least a little price premium.

  • It's funny that people eek out the "best in audio quality" without examining that most of the music they listen to, or recorded at all, is of mediocre quality to begin with. Want to listen to some awesome jazz from days gone by? then don't worry about speaker cables, room resonance, or other things esoteric. just put it in the mid-level stereo and go make dinner. there *is* value to just having music reside in the background, rather than trying to recreate a headphone-like experience with your house.

    i
  • sigh.

    the consumer market just doesn't get it. but the pro's do.

    in pro audio, they use balanced (differential) analog i/o. there is no shield or ground - each wire is relative to the other. just like POTS phone wires. there is inherent common-mode cancellation and so longer runs don't really bother things, like they do on unbalanced consumer stuff. plus the consumer stuff uses lower voltages and so interference is made worse (nearby fields induce problems with lower signal levels on cables).

    for audio
    • most runs in people's homes aren't worth it and the transformer that should be used to unbalance the signal adds weight and money. That being said, balancing rocks (though I'd probably go TRS over XLR for home use)
    • Balanced "XLR-type" cables are shielded, that's why XLR has 3 pins, 2 for signal and one for shield. The 2 signal wires are a balanced low-impedence circuit with common mode rejection and all that good stuff but the shielding helps too. Also, in a phantom power situation both signal lines are at the same positive potential and the shield is needed to be used as the return.
  • My sage advice (Score:4, Informative)

    by ColaMan (37550) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:05PM (#12029056) Homepage Journal
    Check out this site :

    Reference Audio Mods [referenceaudiomods.com]

    If you feel an urge to buy *any* of the stuff on the page, well then monster cable is definitely for you.

    A 30 watt solid state amplifier , costing 6000 bucks (!), that doesn't come with a power supply - the battery supply (!!) suggested is another 2000.

    Seriously, now - What. The. FUCK.

    Oh, and some nice wooden turned volume knobs for that extra sweetness in the audio (!!!) will only set you back another 500 each, because as we all know "the micro vibrations created by the volume pots and knobs find their way into the delicate signal path and cause degradation (Bad vibrations equal bad sound)."

    I keep this page bookmarked as "Audiophiles are idiots", and send to anyone who asks me about what kind of cabling they should run for their system.
  • by tweedlebait (560901) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @06:30PM (#12029371)
    IMHO Monster cables aren't worth it. I've also seen many forums echoing the same. They're gimmicky and luxury priced, and I've been annoyed before with the extra girth of some of their connectors. I have little doubt that they are over all high quality cables though and I've had them fail like any other cables too. I cackled when I saw monster cables for xbox for $50.

    That being said, I'd go shop where broadcast people shop for such things, since their quality requirements are much more stringent than circuit city's offerings.

    I found these guys a few years ago (their catalog is yummy):

    http://www.markertek.com/CatList.asp?cat=CABLESCON N&subcat=VIDEOCAB&prodClass=&search=0&off=0 [markertek.com]

    monster cable is mysteriously not on their list of cable manufacturers that they stock:

    http://www.markertek.com/MfgList.asp?cat=CABLESCON N&subCat=VIDEOCAB [markertek.com]

    Neither is Belkin. I personally don't like most of belkin's products, and often have found that they're just cheap rebranded stuff, usually overpriced and caused me much pain and woe. Also I always suspected Belkin's name was selected to be confusable with a far superior cable maker, Belden (which also happens to be carried by markertek).

    Best of Luck!
  • by angle_slam (623817) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @07:18PM (#12029929)
    For all of its reputation as being the "expensive" audio cable. Monster isn't even close to being the most expensive cables you can get. Check out Fatwyre [fatwyre.com], which has an extensive listing of cables: up to $6,800 for a 1.5 m power cable! $32,000 for a 10 foot set of speaker cables! $25,000 for a 3 meter interconnect!

    The manufacturer of both of those most expensive cables is Siltech [northamptonaudio.com]. Other notable "high-end" audio cable manufacturers are Kimber Kable [kimber.com], MIT Cables [mitcables.com], Nordost [nordost.com], and AudioQuest [audioquest.com]. Monster Cable isn't even considered "high-end" by most audiophiles. The fact that Monster is synomous with high-end cables is proof of their effective marketing.

    And to answer the question, just buy Radio Shack cables.

  • by Indomitus (578) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @07:55PM (#12030306) Homepage Journal
    For me the most important thing to know about Monster is their recent spate of lawsuits against anyone who has 'monster' in their name. Check out this google search [google.com] for more info. This is absolutely insane and has caused me to personally boycott Monster even though I used to like their cables.
  • Ho-hum (Score:4, Interesting)

    by adolf (21054) * <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Thursday March 24, 2005 @01:29AM (#12032821) Journal
    There's all this talk here about audio cabling and listening and such, but TFA wants to know about video cabling.

    It's just 75-ohm coaxial cable. It's a hand-me-down from the broadcast and defense industries.

    If you were a broadcaster, you'd care about flexibility and long-term durability, and buy good professional-grade stranded-conductor RG-59 from someone like Canare [canare.com], like just about all of the other broadcasters do for their temporary video interconnects. You'd then solder or (preferably) crimp your own connectors on, because then the resultant cables would both the proper length for whatever you're doing and you'd know that they were assembled correctly. Or, you'd have a company like Markertek [marketrek.com] assemble them for you.

    But you're not a broadcaster. Nobody is throwing your wires across the room. Nobody is walking or driving on them. Nobody is using them to rig lights or props with.

    You don't give a whit whether it's stranded or not, because it will be relocated (at most) several times a year - instead of, perhaps, several times per hour in a production studio. You do, however, care if they're assembled correctly.

    And you care about having the proper length - extra cable length is hard to deal with in the typical home theater, and always reduces signal quality.

    You also care about bandwidth, perhaps even more than the broadcasters do. But that's not a huge problem, as NTSC video only goes up to a few MHz.

    RG-59 [1] is typically used at hundreds of MHz (think: cable TV), and is thus way more than sufficient.

    So here's what you do. Buy some good, solid copper RG-59 from Lowe's, Home Depot, your local electrical contractor shop, or wherever. Look for cable that is shielded with foil and a braid, with a foam dielectric. And also buy a crimper [partsexpress.com]. And some connectors [partsexpress.com]. And a rotary stripper [partsexpress.com].

    It's fairly self-explanatory from then on out:

    Measure, cut, strip, mash, crimp. Boneheaded cable installers can do this stuff all day - any Slashdotter can tackle it without episode. Plan on wasting an end or two if you're unsure of yourself, but it really is bloody simple.

    Just try to keep the three component video cables all at the same length, to keep things in sync with eachother. This isn't hyper-critical, given the real-world propagation delay of RG-59, but it's easy to keep things within an inch or so of sameness and so one might as well try.

    You'll spend less on the kit than for a single set of most "Monster" cables, and likely be able to make hundreds of feet worth of custom, high-quality video interconnects with it instead of having just one set of gaudy purple wires that are all the wrong length.

    And since RG-59 is so good that nobody outside of a marketing department has bothered to replace it after numerous decades, you should be good for a long, long time.

    Enjoy.

    [1]: Yep, I said RG-59. There's no cause to use RG-6 with baseband video signals, as there's simply insufficient bandwidth utilization and attenuation to justify the expense and added unmanagibility of RG-6. And it's easy to find reasonably decent copper RG-59, while the RG-6 typically available at retail uses a cheap copper-clad steel center conductor, which operates poorly at these frequencies (but works fine and saves money for satellite installations). And as far as anyone knew, RG-59 was sufficient for all residential video purposes until the advent of DSS, two-way cablevision, and 125-channel tuners. RG-59 is, in fact, overkill for this application. I don't care which one is bigger: RG-6 is just pissing away cash, unless you've already got some on-hand.

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