Sound Advice: Expensive TV cables make for a poorer-performing system

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Question: I was in a big box store shopping for a new 55-inch TV, a Blu-ray player and a sound system to go with them.

Before I even picked out the television the salesman took me over to a wall with colorful boxes containing HDMI cables and stressed the importance of getting good cables. The cables started at around $99 and went up from there. When I protested he showed me some $40 cables but said I would be compromising system performance with these lower priced cables.

Do you think I am OK with the $40 cables?

FRANCIS S.
Bethel Park

Answer: Actually, at $40 each I think you are spending far too much and, contrary to what the salesman told you, expensive cables make for a poorer-performing system. (I will tell you why at the end of the column.)

Given that the holiday season is upon us and many people will be buying HDTVs, Blu-ray players, sound systems and video game consoles, it is a good time to warn everyone of one of the biggest scams -- if not the biggest scam -- in the consumer world: the high-priced cable and wire scam.

The reason the salesperson stressed the cables so strongly is the store makes a ton of money when someone falls for this scam, so he is probably under a lot of pressure to sell them.

How bad is this monstrous rip-off? Imagine going into a grocery store for cereal. You see a box of Lucky Charms for $99. When you say that is too expensive, the grocery store employee walks you over to the Cheerios for $40. Well, Dear Readers, paying $40 or $99 for an HDMI cable is pretty much the same as paying $40 or $99 for a box of cereal, as good quality HDMI cables can be had for around $5. There is actually a bigger difference in the cereal as they are clearly different and anyone with a functioning sense of taste and smell can tell the difference between them. Despite the pseudoscience and claims made on the cable box, there is no functional difference between a $2,000 HDMI cable and a $5 HDMI cable. HDMI is a digital signal, and it either works or it doesn't.

You can get excellent HDMI cables online for less than $10. I have long recommended mycablemart.com and monoprice.com, which have nice cables for less than $5. I also like the BlueRigger cables from Amazon, which have solid connectors and very strong construction that resembles a nylon rope.

If all cables are the same, why does buying expensive cables mean you end up with a system of inferior performance? It comes down to opportunity cost. Let's say you bought four of the $99 cables, for $396. Now, instead of buying $99 cables, let's say you purchased $7 cables, saving you $368. Take that $368 and buy a better television and better speakers and you have noticeably better picture and sound quality for the same money.

interact

Read product reviews by Don Lindich at soundadviceblog.com.


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