There is more that I disagree with here, especially the cable part.
I think interconnects are the most important cables in a system, followed by digital (USB cables), speaker cables and then power cables.
Low level signals are the most sensitive. This includes interconnects, as well as digital cables. I do agree with Paul that balanced cables are best, especially with longer runs.
As long as a speaker cables have low inductance, or are short, or there is a speaker compensation circuit in an amplifier, such as what I have, the importance of speaker cables are less.
My opinion, but I’ve got a lot of experience, listen a lot and have a big box of all sorts of cables just sitting around. Anybody need any cables?
Tying it together
I would be remiss if I didn’t spend a few words on tying our system together with cables: power, interconnect, speaker.
I remember when cables were an afterthought. Zip cord and cheezy RCA drek did the trick until we realized they mattered.
My first encounter with cables came from one of the founders of Schiit Audio, Mike Moffat. Mike worked as a tech at a California stereo shop called Absolute Audio and Stan and I showed up to pitch our first product, the phono stage. I think this must have been around 1974. Mike gave it a listen and was impressed but before we left he turned our world upside down with an A/B between zip cord and Polk Sound wire (then called Cobra Cable – Litz wire) on a pair of Quad electrostats.
Mike wouldn’t tell us what he was doing. It was simple. Listen to this—now listen to the same thing after I make a change. Hear any difference? Holy crap! As I said, it was life changing. Literally.
Cables matter and how much you spend on them really depends on your budget.
During this series, I have emphasized putting limited funds where they matter most. The fundamentals are critical: speakers, source, AC power, amplification.
Somewhere in the mix, you’re going to need to get good cables—and they don’t have to cost a fortune. But, they matter. A lot.
If I had to make a recommendation of the order of importance, it would look something like this:
- Speaker cables
- Audio interconnects (and always go balanced when the equipment permits it)
Get those right and you’ll build a strong foundation supporting the time, effort, and expense you’ve gone through building your system.
It all matters.