For audiophiles and cinema enthusiasts alike, sound quality can define an entire entertainment experience. Of course, premium audio equipment is always at the forefront of any sound quality debate, but audio cables, like those found at The Cable Company, arguably have their place in the discussion. Even for the casual listener, high definition (HD) movies may lose their impact if sound quality is poor. What about music: would Pink Floyd’s “The Early Years” box set be worth listening to on a subpar sound system? Here are some considerations for the average consumer when selecting audio cables.
Speaker wire thickness is typically expressed in terms of American Wire Gauge (AWG). The higher the gauge, the thinner the wire. For example, a 12 AWG wire is thicker than a 16 AWG wire. All wire offers resistance to current flow. Expressed in ohms, this resistance can cause degradation in sound quality between an amplifier and speakers. Thicker wires (12 or 14 AWG) offer less resistance and are the better choice for longer runs to low impedance speakers. More cost-effective 16 AWG wire can be used in runs under 50 feet to higher impedance speakers.
Consider the speakers and their arrangement before making any connections. Even if speakers appear relatively close to source equipment, distances can be deceiving so measure with a string for exact lengths. The Cable Company offers DIY and manufactured speaker cables and connectors that will fit most all applications.
Digital or Analog
Another important factor is the type of equipment being used. While most digital equipment may include jacks for analog cable connections, using such cables may affect the system’s performance. Good quality HDMI and optical cables offer superior connections, with minimal to no signal quality drop, for digital equipment. This can be especially important with digital audio sources (i.e., DVDs or Blu-ray Discs) where an audio track is encoded for surround or other playback enhancements. Consult with cable suppliers, such as The Cable Company, for other considerations and options in digital cables.
This is not to say high quality analog cables are without merit, especially for those steadfastly holding onto their vinyl collection. Analog connections offer one feature digital connections cannot: no digital encoding. Analog cables route audio data through the sound system to the speakers in its purest form. If the audio source is a needle on vinyl, the natural sound, with its distinctive hiss and pops, can be lost with digital encoding.
Still Can’t Decide?
The debate behind premium audio quality can be overwhelming, but there is little argument that can be made against hearing for oneself. Listening to audio systems in stores, or even someone else’s home, however, can be deceiving as these are typically optimized for their setting. The best place for determining sound quality is wherever the equipment will be used.
The Cable Company offers a library of cables and components which can be rented before investing hard-earned cash. While doing the research for an audio setup is crucial, nothing will replace experiencing the sound firsthand. They also offer expert consultation to help navigate customers through the highly technical aspects of matching components and cabling.