Cables of gold

While running cables through the wall for my new TV, the decision about which cables to buy came up again. Every time I hook up any new audio/video equipment, there is always this moment at the electronics store trying to decide if a $200 Monster Cable will really make a difference. First it was the optical fiber, then came the component video, and now the all-inclusive HDMI cable.

Thanks to my good friend Brandon, I subscribed to the online version of Consumer Reports (CR) more than a year ago, which provides all the information from the magazines in a searchable online format. As luck would have it, CR had an article titled “HDMI: the new jack on the box”, and in the article, they strongly recommended against purchasing “premium-grade” cables for hundreds of dollars. Good to know, I thought and headed to local bricks-and-mortar electronics store not wanting to wait for the cables to be shipped.

TV Remote

At ~$200/cable and needing 2-3 cables, the premium grade cables were going to add quite a bit to the project, so I asked the friendly sales rep at Best Buy what he suggested. As you might have guessed, this guy knew more A/V acronyms than I know computer acronyms, and that’s saying a lot. I mentioned the CR recommendation, and he bluntly said that CR was dead wrong. He explained a bunch of experiences with interference and how the TV actually becomes an antenna, attracting even more imperfections for that perfect high definition picture.

Knowing that rewiring all of this was not worth the effort, I caved and bought a fancy HDMI cable and went middle-of-the-road for the other cables. Everything looks great, but I wonder if I was taken or if I got lucky. Thoughts?

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4 Responses to Cables of gold

  1. Brandon says:

    I think you got taken. I have been trying out some cheap HDMI cables and some component cables as well. As best I can tell they all deliver excellent pictures. Given how much money all this home theater stuff costs, I was tempted like you to cave and buy the monster cables. I think monster is just flat out greedy on these things. Sure maybe a 5% or 10% premium would be justifiable. But charging 10 times what other cables cost, it’s just insane, I could NOT do it and went with the cheap stuff. Everything works fine and I have no regrets. The next time you are at best buy you should look and see what cables they are using to hook up their demo TVs. I wonder if it’s all monster…

  2. Mike Lunt says:

    Good question for the Best Buy guy… I asked when I was there, and he said they are using the worst connection possible – standard coax. I hadn’t ever noticed the bad pictures on the TV’s in there until he showed me the lines and details missing. I’m no connoisseur on judging HD pictures, but when you want to really test the details, look at the hair on someone. If it’s a good picture, you’ll see the individual hairs.

    On another note, the reason I question my luckiness is that I may not have any interference, so the expensive cables might not have been needed, and this may be your case. The guy at Best Buy claims they have made more than one house call about lines in the picture, which were all solved by swapping the cables for higher shielding. What would be cool is something that could test for interference before you buy, so you would know whether to buy the more expensive ones.

  3. Andrew says:

    I just found your blog. You got taken. The cables on the link below are sufficient for anything. You can go read about it in avsforum.com, but the bottom line is that high priced cables could only matter on drop lengths 50 feet and up.

    http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=102&cp_id=10240&cs_id=1024004&p_id=2412&seq=1&format=2&style=

  4. Mike Lunt says:

    Interesting… Your comment reminded me of two tidbits that I didn’t mention in the original post. First, most of my drops were 30 ft or more because I was running this through a wall in a somewhat elaborate way. Second, since I didn’t have an electrical outlet in the middle of the wall, I had to run a heavy duty extension cord through the wall as well. The extension cord had to be run along side all of the A/V cables, which increased my fears of interference. In the future, I’ll most likely laugh at someone telling me about Monster cables, but my system is working flawlessly at the moment, so it’s money under the bridge. 🙂

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