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Digital Audio Essentials by Bruce Fries, Marty Fries

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Selecting the Right Cables

The quality of the cables you use can have a noticeable effect on the quality of the sound, whether you’re making an analog or digital connection.

Most stores that sell home entertainment systems will carry decent-quality cables, but it’s difficult to determine quality just by looking at a cable. Monster Cable (http://www.monstercable.com) offers a line of high-quality audio cables that can be purchased online and in most stores that sell stereo equipment. Radio Shack also carries high-quality audio cables.

Following are descriptions of the characteristics that affect the performance of audio cables.

Shielding

Audio interconnect cables have an insulated wire in the center, surrounded by a braided metal or foil shield. Higher-quality interconnect cables have braided shields and are usually thicker than lower-quality cables. Speaker cables are normally unshielded and are not suitable for interconnecting audio equipment.

Warning

Beware of headphone extension cords with 1/8” mini-phone plugs and of speaker cables with RCA connectors. These cables are normally unshielded and will pick up a lot more noise than shielded cables.

Capacitance

The term low capacitance frequently appears in discussions about audio cables, as in “lower is better.” You might be wondering, “What is capacitance anyway, and why should I care?” The short answer is that high-capacitance cables can cause loss of high frequencies (treble) with long cables (over six feet).

The long answer is that capacitance ...

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