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Audio & Video Wire, Cable and Connections

How To Choose the Right Wire and Connections for a Home Theater

When connecting audio and video components together, most people have some questions. Which cables (wires) should I use? What is the difference amongst the different quality cables? Are high-end cables really worth the money? Plus we'll even answer some questions you didn't ask. Why not, we've got nothing else to do.

Generally speaking, just about any piece of wire can carry a signal. However, cables are engineered to do the best job possible for a specific circumstance. Can you substitute an RCA cable for a digital coaxial cable? Yes, but the lack of shielding and lower bandwidth will cause the RCA cable to pick up interference and yield lower signal quality. Below and on the following pages we list the common cable choices ranked from worst to best. You should always choose the highest quality connection type your equipment will support. This doesn't mean you have to buy the most expensive brand of cable, but you should choose the best connection to guarantee the highest sound and video quality.

Another rule of thumb, use the shortest cable that will reach. Longer cables result in greater signal loss. However, allow enough slack in your cable to ensure access to the back panels when you pull out your equipment. Otherwise, cable can become stretched or damaged.

Are those expensive high end cables worth the price? That depends upon your equipment. The cables should match the quality of your equipment. If the cables are inferior, you won't get the quality you paid for from your equipment. If the cables cost more than your receiver, you'll never hear or see the difference. Most cables will do an adequate job. A good quality cable will satisfy most people. If you have made a substantial investment in quality gear, then high end cables are probably for you.

Why do cables have arrows printed on them? If they have arrows, they should point away from the source. The arrow points away from the end that is grounded. This means excess voltage drains away to the source, which results in less signal interference.

Are gold contacts really better? Absolutely. Gold is resistant to corrosion. If you leave a steel connector and a gold connector sitting out for a year, the first will be tarnished while the latter will still shine. That tarnish on the steel connector is not as conductive as steel and so will interfere with the signal.

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