The truth about overpriced cables, again!

I try hard to educate my customers about the overpriced cable scam that seems to be very prominent in the retail electronics market today. I was at a Circuit City a few weeks ago and saw a very deceptive Monster Cable display again! This time it was an audio display.

Monster Cable uses deceptive displays to sell their expensive cables to consumers.

The display had a switch you could toggle. Switch it one way and it reads ‘proprietary monster cable’ and switch it the other way it reads ‘generic audio cable’. When you make the switch the sound is 100% louder and more vibrant on the Monster Cable setting. So Monster speaker wire is worth the extra money right? Well, the normal consumer would likely agree so…

The reality is that this display is not unlike the previous video demo monster displayed which I mentioned in the Xmas Buyers BEWARE – Expensive Audio / Video Cables article I wrote last holiday season. Here they are comparing apples and oranges again, not apples and apples. A closer look at this deceptive display shows that they are using 50ft of thick (probably 12 or 14 gauge) Monster cable to 50 ft of very thin (probably 24 gauge) ‘generic’ cable. Basically, the thicker a speaker wire is the more power it will allow through and better sound will be produced. This is especially true when running long distances (ie. 50 ft which this demo displays). The reality is that if you took 50 ft. of equal thickness (gauge) ‘generic’ cable in place of the super thin cable they have in their demo you would likely hear no difference in sound at all – definently not the 300% price difference you can save buy buying ‘generic’ cables.

Why must Monster Cable resort to these very deceptive displays? It is an easy way to fool the average consumer into buying their overpriced cables. Why do the salespeople at Circuit City, Best Buy, etc. go along with these demos and try to prove to you that it is worth the money? It is in their best interest because they make more money on the profit of accessories than they do on the big ticket items in most cases. Monster cable has setup a win-win situation with the retailers by providing them with high profit overpriced items, deceptive displays, and training the salespeople (who often had very little knowledge about what they sale) into thinking the cables are worth it. What is even worse is that the big retailers are now only carrying expensive overpriced cables! When you buy a big ticket item there you are anxious to get it home and make it work, you don’t want to go elsewhere to get the cables. You are forced to buy the overpriced ones they have in stock if you want to leave the store ready to go. I commend Fry’s Electronics for being the only major retailer in the Houston area that I know of which still sells reasonably priced cables.

For those of you still not convinced that it is not worth spending your money on expensive speaker wire cables please visit Roger Russell’s speaker wire page. He explains how this deceptive practice has been going on for years in a very informative and detailed article which is still being updated. You’ll also find discussion about these practices on Digital Home Canada Forum as this practice is not just goin on in the U.S. Also it appears that Monster was trying to use a deceptive display at the 2006 Winter Consumer Electronics show!
Finally, Ecoutics has a great interview and discussion about ‘expensive wire’.

Please don’t reinforce these practices. If you buy something that requires cables please take the time to get them elsewhere. Don’t let the salesman steer you away from the reasonably priced cables if they sell them.

Where is elsewhere you ask? Here is a list of some of the stores that I get my cables from:

Speaker Wire

Lowes Hardware has Philips brand speaker wire for a decent price. I found 100ft rolls of 14 guage wire for just under $20 at a local store. Even at the web price of $24 that is far lass than the $100 that Best Buy sells 14 guage Mosnter Cable speaker wire. $76 less and you will hear no difference.

Walmart sells Philips brand speaker wire as well a some other alternatives. They also sell Monster brand cables (one of the few places which sell both Monster cables and a cheaper alternative) so you can do direct comparisons of the prices.

Computer / Cell Phone Wires and Adapters

The 99cent only franchise of stores sell Belkin, a name brand cable manufacturer, cables for all types of devices. They have printer USB cables, cell phone charging adapters, cell phone data cables, palm pilot cables and adapters all for 99cents each! These are not defective or rejected cables. These are the same IDENTICAL cables that sell at Circuit City, Fry’s, Best Buy and other retailers. I am currently working on an article to see if these major retailers will match the 99cent store only price on a USB cable. This cable sells from $15 to $29 depending on which store you go to.

99Cent Only store Belkin Lighted USB2.1 cableFry's Electronics Belkin USB2.1 Lighted Cable

Other dollar stores carry ethernet and USB cables as well. These are a great deal since most printers do not come with USB cables. Apparently the retailers have convinced the printer manufactures to stop giving away USB cables so they can make money on their overpriced USB cables when they sell a printer.

Dollar stores also sell cheap composite, s-video and spaker wire cables but I would stay away from these for most applications. While they may be fine for limited use or very short runs (3 ft.), they tend to break easy.

Any Type of Cable

The internet is a great place to shop for cables. I’ve used Monoprice in the past to get great deals on cables of all prices! They also have great deals on monitor and TV mounts and other acessories that are usually way overpriced at retailers like Best Buy. EBay also turns up some great deals on cables.

In Houston / Clear Lake Texas

Electronic Parts Outlet, located in Webster and Houston still sells reasonably priced cables and adapters and their selection is unrivaled. They are independently owned and operated but carry similar products.

Electronic Parts Outlet
17318 Hwy. 3
Webster, TX

Electronic Parts Outlet
3753 Fondren,
Houston, TX 77063
(713) 784-0140

Also, while the salespeople generally will not take you to the cheaper priced cables, Fry’s Electronics (3 locations in Houston area) have very reasonably priced cables of all types, you just have to look for them yourself. Sometimes they have cables in the components section cheaper than the ones in the video section, and vice versa.

I hope this article educates some and convinces you to spend the extra time to buy your cables elsewhere. This manipulative practice by the major electronics retailers needs to stop but the only way it will stop is for the consumers to become educated and take action.

Article Info

  • Author: Brian
  • Posted on: Tuesday February 28, 2006
  • Under: Tech-Advice