Am I Nuts or is Subwoofer Cable a Waste of Money? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 107 Old 01-10-2007, 09:24 PM - Thread Starter
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I admit I'm not an audiophile, but I wonder if I'm wasting money.

I have a 5.1 setup for my home theater and as an experiment, I used regular RCA cable (the kind you get with any random audio component) to connect my subwoofer to the wall jack that is connected ultimately to my receiver. I did several tests and couldn't tell any difference between the subwoofer cable I am currently using and this cheap, thin thing.

To be fair, I wasn't using subwoofer cabler per se. It's from "Gold" audio cable from Radio shack. I'm sure there are subwoofer cables better shielded than this one, but I'm not going to shell out that kind of money.

If I just want a decent home theater experience, is regular, thin, unshielded RCA cable fine? I realize that perhaps the in-wall cable connecting the wall jack to my receiver might suck, and perhaps that prevents "better" subwoofer cable from having any additional positive effect.

Thanks.
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post #2 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 03:00 AM
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Your fine and your RS cable is likely shielded.
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post #3 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 04:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harden View Post

I admit I'm not an audiophile, but I wonder if I'm wasting money.

I have a 5.1 setup for my home theater and as an experiment, I used regular RCA cable (the kind you get with any random audio component) to connect my subwoofer to the wall jack that is connected ultimately to my receiver. I did several tests and couldn't tell any difference between the subwoofer cable I am currently using and this cheap, thin thing.

To be fair, I wasn't using subwoofer cabler per se. It's from "Gold" audio cable from Radio shack. I'm sure there are subwoofer cables better shielded than this one, but I'm not going to shell out that kind of money.

If I just want a decent home theater experience, is regular, thin, unshielded RCA cable fine? I realize that perhaps the in-wall cable connecting the wall jack to my receiver might suck, and perhaps that prevents "better" subwoofer cable from having any additional positive effect.

Thanks.

There is a whole industry out there attempting to convince people that expensive cables make a significant difference in overall sound. They typically have better shielding and good quality, secure fitting connectors.

As for their sonic superiority over your gold RS cables....well...personally I think you are just fine, but I wouldn't be surprised if others disagree.

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post #4 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 05:20 AM
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Actually my Monster Bass 400 was a big improvement in sound quality over other cables.

I'm not one to say "go buy expensive cables"...

But this ONE time it actually made a noticiable difference!

(I did get the cable for 60% off too which didn't hurt )

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post #5 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 05:22 AM - Thread Starter
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But the question is: should cheapo RCA cables (e.g. red/white) work just fine connecting my subwoofer?

While I compared the red RCA cable to my RS Gold, it sounded the exact same to me (sound quality, volume, humming, etc.)

Thanks. No way am I going to buy Monster or some specific subwoofer cable. Just trying to figure out if RCA gold shielded cable is any better than an RCA cable that comes in my DVD box.

Thanks.
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post #6 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 05:29 AM
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If it sounds the same use the cheaper one. No reason to ask if it makes a difference if you can't tell any difference. If you start to hear something in the future that makes the SQ worse, then change cables and see if it makes it better. Just my two pennies.
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post #7 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 05:43 AM
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if you cannot hear a difference that is all that matters since you are the one listening to it and not us

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post #8 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 06:24 AM
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I've noticed that with "Digital Coax" and regular RCA cables too.

I was surprised to say the least.

My System

Denon 2310-Ci
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post #9 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 06:53 AM
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As long as the conductor is thick enough to minimize loss over the cable length, it is shielded well enough for the installation, and the connectors hold securely, then you're all set. The markup on Monster cables is about %500. The connectors are too tight, as plugging/un-plugging the cables can damage jacks. The wires tend to be way to stiff. I like the info about the cable at Blue Jeans Cable.
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post #10 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 11:37 AM - Thread Starter
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That's the thing. I have two cables. One is that skinny black RCA cable that comes with your DVD player.

The other is what I bought: RCA gold cable which supposedly has additional shielding. It is thicker for sure.

When I tested both, it sounded the exact same. Maybe I just don't have an ear for the sound a subwoofer makes.

Does it really matter? Isn't it simply bass that a subwoofer puts out? I'm not trying to be argumentative - just trying to educate myself.

Thanks.
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post #11 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 11:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harden View Post

That's the thing. I have two cables. One is that skinny black RCA cable that comes with your DVD player.

The other is what I bought: RCA gold cable which supposedly has additional shielding. It is thicker for sure.

When I tested both, it sounded the exact same. Maybe I just don't have an ear for the sound a subwoofer makes.

Does it really matter? Isn't it simply bass that a subwoofer puts out? I'm not trying to be argumentative - just trying to educate myself.

Thanks.

You don't necessarily have to buy dedicated sub cables. You can certainly use, (and many audiophile users do), digital satellite/cable coax. The key with this, however, is to make sure that the cable is properly shielded... very important. Most decent grade satellite/cable coax are. Then attach an F adapter at each end, and you are set to go.

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post #12 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 12:05 PM
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You may not hear a difference also if your not running the sub cable on top say a speaker cable or anything that may give off EMF.

The back of my AV rack, I have probably over 30 cables all bunched up at some point, I doubt I can get away with unshielded cables.

But if it ain't broke...

Enjoy
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post #13 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 12:29 PM
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A well shielded ,low loss conductor is all you need to have a proper subwoofer cable,anything more is fun to have for bragging rights.

Signal as limited and low bandwith as the subwoofer channel,you need no expensive cables,good to have to finish the looks of the system.If you have a high end system and have all else dialed.

Ask yourself mortal , do you have as much displacement as me ? The answer is no unless you have a Windmere fan sub.
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post #14 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 01:39 PM
 
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make sure that the cable is properly shielded... very important. Most decent grade satellite/cable coax are.

Do you know of any coax cable that isn't shielded? It wouldn't be coax, without a shield.

Why the concern about "loss"...this is a high impedance connection, very little current flows, very little IIR loss.


Bandwidth isn't an issue either....telephone lines carry 20 times more bandwidth then a subwoofer, over much greater distances.

"Subwoofer cables" are snake oil.
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post #15 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 01:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Targus View Post

Bandwidth isn't an issue either....telephone lines carry 20 times more bandwidth then a subwoofer, over much greater distances.

"Subwoofer cables" are snake oil.

You surely aren't referring to the phone line from the wall to the phone, which is no doubt what the OP envisioned.

Hook a telephone wire to your sub and report back.

Or is that another lack-of-real-world observation/assumption made from a textbook?

The First Clarke Law states, 'If an elderly but distinguished scientist says that something is possible he is almost certainly right, but if he says that it is impossible he is very probably wrong.'
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post #16 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 01:50 PM
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I am using a Rel Stadium in my system with a Monster M1000 Series subwoofer cable...
very happy

Deep Tight Bass

I upgraded from a M550 to the M1000 and there was definitely a noticable difference in detail.
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post #17 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 01:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by schticker View Post

You surely aren't referring to the phone line from the wall to the phone, which is no doubt what the OP envisioned.

Hook a telephone wire to your sub and report back.

Or is that another lack-of-real-world observation/assumption made from a textbook?


That is such great advice Sounds like your using a telephone wire with your system... please report Are you that guy???
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post #18 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 01:54 PM
 
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You surely aren't referring to the phone line from the wall to the phone,

No, I'm not...do you have a point to make?

Quote:


Or is that another lack-of-real-world observation/assumption made from a textbook?

No, it's just another very simple electronics concept, that has obviously gone way over your head...outside of your relm of understanding.
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post #19 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 02:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Targus View Post

Do you know of any coax cable that isn't shielded? It wouldn't be coax, without a shield.

There are different levels of shielding. If you cut apart a half-dozen different cables at different price points, you'll find everything from a loose braid to a high-density spiral wrap to 100% foil coverage. These make a difference in both shielding and capacitance. Given that subs take signals in the same range as 60Hz/120Hz and amplify them (often to potentially very high levels) this is a legitimate concern for a sub cable.

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Why the concern about "loss"...this is a high impedance connection, very little current flows, very little IIR loss.

Right, but high impedance connections are where you begin to get concerned about inductive and capacitive losses. They are also more susceptible to noise.

However, any well-constructed signal cable should cause no loss problems in this frequency range at reasonable distances.
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post #20 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 02:13 PM
 
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Given that subs take signals in the same range as 60Hz/120Hz and amplify them (often to potentially very high levels) this is a legitimate concern for a sub cable.

Except that cable shields are for electrostatic shielding, not electromagnetic. A sheilded cable wont eliminate electromagnetically induced noise...such as from a 60Hz power line.
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post #21 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 02:30 PM
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For my subs I use RG6 quad shileded cables with rca connectors on the end -- it works as well at 40' as the $30 6 foot sub cable that my AV store provided when I bought my previous setup.
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post #22 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 03:14 PM
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im using a $30 monster sub cable, and i cant complain.
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post #23 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 09:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harden View Post

But the question is: should cheapo RCA cables (e.g. red/white) work just fine connecting my subwoofer?

While I compared the red RCA cable to my RS Gold, it sounded the exact same to me (sound quality, volume, humming, etc.)

Thanks. No way am I going to buy Monster or some specific subwoofer cable. Just trying to figure out if RCA gold shielded cable is any better than an RCA cable that comes in my DVD box.

Thanks.

Well, then, it seems you have answered your own question.

If I say I hear a big difference between cables, does that change your mind on what you heard (or didn't hear)?

Just because there is a knob doesn't mean you should turn it.
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post #24 of 107 Old 01-11-2007, 11:33 PM
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I switched from the cheapest imagineable 25ft run of spagetti thin wire with plain metal ends(no nickle no gold) to the high end monoprice "best quality" sub woofer cable. Frankly it made no difference on my system. IMO it's like an optical cable. If the signal gets there it gets there thats what's important. Theres ZERO difference between my $12 RCA brand optical and a $99 monster one.

I just can't imagine anyone spending the money monster asks for cables and then seeing an improvement in sound going from one midrange cable to a slightly higher end cable it just seems bizzare....perhaps the person is looking for a difference to justify monsters rape of the land MSRP's.

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post #25 of 107 Old 01-12-2007, 06:55 AM
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$99 spent on a subwoofer cable can be $99 more subwoofer i.e VTF3-MK3 rather than the VTF2, or SVS PB12 over PB10.

That is what will give you an appreciable difference, not fancy cables.
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post #26 of 107 Old 01-12-2007, 08:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Targus View Post

No, it's just another very simple electronics concept, that has obviously gone way over your head...outside of your relm of understanding.

It's much easier to parrot other cynics than take the time to find the differences. You may be shocked to know that price doesn't necessarily dictate quality improvements in cable. I take issue with the concept that using the cheapest crap is sufficient. Doesn't work in any other category, doesn't work with interconnects either.

Realm, BTW. Spelling over your head?

The First Clarke Law states, 'If an elderly but distinguished scientist says that something is possible he is almost certainly right, but if he says that it is impossible he is very probably wrong.'
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post #27 of 107 Old 01-12-2007, 08:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Sky042 View Post

I switched from the cheapest imagineable 25ft run of spagetti thin wire with plain metal ends(no nickle no gold) to the high end monoprice "best quality" sub woofer cable. Frankly it made no difference on my system. IMO it's like an optical cable. If the signal gets there it gets there thats what's important. Theres ZERO difference between my $12 RCA brand optical and a $99 monster one.

No offense, but I suppose that depends on your sub; if it's good enough, cables make themselves known.

Quote:


I just can't imagine anyone spending the money monster asks for cables and then seeing an improvement in sound going from one midrange cable to a slightly higher end cable it just seems bizzare....perhaps the person is looking for a difference to justify monsters rape of the land MSRP's.

So, if you don't use Monster, does that shoot down your argument?

The First Clarke Law states, 'If an elderly but distinguished scientist says that something is possible he is almost certainly right, but if he says that it is impossible he is very probably wrong.'
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post #28 of 107 Old 01-12-2007, 10:19 AM
 
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It's much easier to parrot other cynics than take the time to find the differences.

Since you don't seem to comprehend the posts in these forums, why post?
Do you enjoy looking foolish?

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No offense, but I suppose that depends on your sub; if it's good enough, cables make themselves known.

No offense, but why not take a beginners electronics course, it'll help dispell the myths you subscribe to.
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post #29 of 107 Old 01-12-2007, 10:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sky042 View Post

I switched from the cheapest imagineable 25ft run of spagetti thin wire with plain metal ends(no nickle no gold) to the high end monoprice "best quality" sub woofer cable. Frankly it made no difference on my system.

Did you measure that, or is that a 'seat of the pants' observation? Would you have noticed a gain difference or the effects of a change in capacitive loading on your sub's input? Did you do a RTA run to test the response of the system before and after? (These are serious questions - if you really did measure and detect no difference, I'd like to know more.)

Quote:


IMO it's like an optical cable. If the signal gets there it gets there thats what's important. Theres ZERO difference between my $12 RCA brand optical and a $99 monster one.

For a digital signal, it is true that as long as the signal level is above that required for the error correction to recover the data, you won't hear any audible difference. That doesn't mean, though, that there is no difference in the cable (optical or electrical) in terms of db loss, acceptable bend radius, etc. The difference may just not matter in your particular application.

Also, subs are probably the least demanding application in a home theater, because they carry the lowest, narrowest frequency range of any of the cables in the system (other than the power cords). However, this is sometimes offset by the length; a longer cord is more susceptible to excessive signal loss and noise.

Quote:


I just can't imagine anyone spending the money monster asks for cables and then seeing an improvement in sound going from one midrange cable to a slightly higher end cable it just seems bizzare....perhaps the person is looking for a difference to justify monsters rape of the land MSRP's.

Well, there ARE differences between cables, and in some systems you will see/hear the difference with a bad cable. It may be because the system is so good that it reveals the weakest link, or it may be because the system is so poor that it can't handle the losses or loading created by the junk cable. I also believe (from personal observation) that there is only so much benefit to be had from upgrading cables - beyond that, it's just bragging rights.

That said, I won't pay for the expensive stuff they sell at the B&M stores, either - now I use Blue Jeans Cables - better cable for less money. Price does not necessarily equate to quality.
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post #30 of 107 Old 01-12-2007, 10:30 AM
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Avoid ridiculously high priced cable, as it's wasted money. Avoid super cheap cable, because it's mechanically poor, and a short chould have serious consequences. (I'm a home theater installer, and I've run into a number of instances of super cheap cable breaking with normal use.) Also, plugs that don't make a stable connection can cause problems. Finally, just because a cable works well in one environment, doesn't mean that it'll be sufficient in another. Some installations, for example, have much higher electrostatic fields than others. In those cases better shielding could very well make a difference.
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