Xmas Buyers BEWARE - Expensive Audio / Video Cables

A recent trend among national electronic resellers (Best Buy, Circuit City, Fry’s Electronics, etc.) is to convince consumers that they need expensive video and audio cables with their new HDTV, Stereo, Computer and other electronics in order for them to work best. This is not entirely true. The truth is that these cables are HIGH PROFIT items. The salespeople get major points for selling these cables and often the store makes more money on the cables and accessories than on the major piece of electronics you are buying. The bad thing about this trend is that most of these stores no longer carry good inexpensive cables so you are left with expensive (ie Monster Brand) or just a bit less expensive (Acoustic Research etc) as your choices.

Stay away from Monster cables, they are good cables, but VERY overpriced. The salesperson will plead with you, citing all kinds of technical jargon and marketing lingo to convince you they are worth the price but the reality is that you can find cables that cost 1/6th of their price that will perform just as well.

Don’t be fooled by deceptive displays. A few weeks ago I was in a Circuit City and they had a display setup with two identical flat screen monitors. A sign in the middle read:


The sign had an arrow pointing to the left monitor and the description stated: ‘Generic Composite Video Cables’. Another arrow pointed to the right stating ‘High Quality Monster Component Video Cables’.

At first glane you would notice the ‘Generic Cables’ produced a very dark and blurry picture. The ‘Monster Cable’ monitor looked sharp, bright and clear. What a difference the Monster brand cables are making, right?

Wrong, this display is very deceptive. First, the ‘generic’ cables are connected via the composite video method. Aside from RF (the old screw in type) this is the worst way to connect video into a TV. The Monster cables were connected via component video which is one of the higher quality methods. The sign did state “Composite” and “Component” but most consumers would not notice and even if they did they would not know the difference in connection types. If this display wanted to be more honest it should have read “See the difference connecting your TV with COMPONENT video cables make vs COMPOSITE video cables”. I would love to have the chance to use the ‘generic cables’ and connect them to the COMPONENT out into the TV. I would bet that the customers, muchless the sales associates, wouldn’t notice a difference between the ‘Monster’ cables and the ‘Generic’ cables. The ‘generic’ cables in their display could be found at the dollar store next door, the Monster cables were around $112.00.

Granted, I dont recommend using $1 store cables for your equipment. They break easily and are not shielded properly, but good quality cables can cost much less than what you will be asked to pay at these retailers. Please, if you are unsure of which cables to buy, send me an email. I will explain which cables you should buy and where you can get them at for a decent price.

In addition, DO NOT get suckered into buying a ‘Power Conditioner’. These are the latest trend and you will be pushed to buy one if you purchase a new HDTV or stereo receiver. Just like the cables, these are very high profit items and are not needed in most situations. Various companies have now released their own brands including Monster, Belkin and APS. All decent electronics (TV’s, Receivers, Etc.) are built to handle the slight fluctuations found in our electrical signals. The salespeople will convince you that you need one of these to provide a clean signal and protect your device. Not even one of these expensive power conditioners will protect you from a direct lightning strike. Don’t be conned into spending $500+ on a power conditioner unless you are experiencing exceptoinal noise in your audio/video signal when you set your system up. Even then double check your connections and cables before thinking you need a power conditioner to remove the problem.

Article Info

  • Author: Brian
  • Posted on: Saturday October 22, 2005
  • Under: Tech-Advice