Debates about cabling are the stuff of legends in online forums. These conversations can vary between extremely boring and extremely explosive. There are also two dramatically different worlds to consider: the world of “pro audio” (short for professional audio), as in music production and recording studios, and the world of “hi-fi” (short for Hi Fidelity), as in music consumption and home entertainment. There are some people who devote their whole life to sound, and they can obsess over cabling in the same way they obsess over amplifiers and speakers. Hi-fi folks have been known to spend $25,000 on a foot-foot pair of RCA cables! We’re not joking. They must sound really good, right?
In recording studios, we tend to use more affordable options, including some of the most popular brands like Mogami, Canare, Belden, Gotham, Evidence Audio, and—one of our favorites—Grimm TPR.
To be sure, we’ve found the differences in sound between balanced cables to be more subtle (as is the case with mic signals or connections to balanced studio monitors) than the highly apparent differences between unbalanced cables (such as guitar cables, for example).
It’s also interesting to note that balanced signals, owing to their clever design of sending two copies of the same signal through the cable, can be sent long distances with minimal signal loss and a low noise floor. This is because only one copy has the phase flipped, which allows the phase to be flipped back at the input device, thus canceling out any noise picked up along the way. We’ve even seen experiments where balanced signals are sent over one mile with almost no change in sound! Unbalanced signals, on the other hand (as in the case of passive guitar and bass pickups or RCA connections for Hi-Fi systems), start to get noisy after about 30 feet. At the end of the day, using the optimal cable type for a given application is critical to achieving the best sound.
However, even worse than lousy sound is no sound at all! Cables tend to fail at the most inopportune times. This is why quality audio cables are so important. A quality cable, like the handmade cables we build here at Pro Audio LA in Los Angeles, should last a lifetime and never let you down in the middle of a show, recording session, or listening session of your favorite symphony!
The Process of Production: How Sound Transmits
From a purist’s standpoint, the underlying purpose of quality audio cabling is to transmit sound from a source as transparently as possible. Due to Radio Frequency Interference (RFI), Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI), and other factors, sound quality can be compromised from one end of a cable to the other. A well-designed cable that’s been chosen carefully for its application can help counteract this interference to help reproduce the clearest sound in the most detail. A well-built cable should faithfully reproduce this sound for a lifetime.
Hearing the Difference: Cable Design and Build
Are you still wondering why quality audio cables are so important? There are many factors that influence the sound qualities of a cable, including resistance, capacitance, gauge, conductor material, and cable length. It’s a lot to consider, but at Pro Audio LA, we have decades of experience building professional audio cables and recommending the right cables to our clients for their applications. Let us help you choose the right cables for your system so you can let the equipment and the cables fade into the background as you focus on the music. Sweet, sweet music—it’s truly what’s most important.