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3.5 mm cable -- Dollar store variety

PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2018 3:53 pm
by MoodyBlue
Hello everyone

Recently the audio quality I was receiving on my system was not the best. I did notice that the 3.5 mm cable that I was using was causing some crackling whenever it got nudged. So I was in the dollar store the other day and splurged on a new cable spending a lavish $2.00 on the cable. Now my system sounds much better but now I wonder:

1. Do these cables beak down over time causing a loss in audio quality?
2. What do you other Marsdenians use? Is there a difference in quality between different makers and retailers of cable?

Just curious


Re: 3.5 mm cable -- Dollar store variety

PostPosted: Sun Apr 29, 2018 12:14 am
by Sunbeam

Yes, the quality of those cables is anything but consistent.

The quality of the wire itself, the terminations inside the plug, and even the accuracy of the diameter of the 3.5mm plug-- all have variations which can affect integrity of the connection, and resulting reliability/audio quality. Internally crimped or poorly soldered connections can oxidize or embrittle, crack, and fail.

The answer used to be: buy some Belden 9451 cable, and Switchcraft plugs from Electro-Sonic or Mouser or Digi-Key (or Radio Shack, R.I.P.), get out your 63/37 rosin-core solder, heat up the soldering iron and make your own.
One new Switchcraft/Amphenol/Schurter 3.5mm stereo plug end from Digi-Key will cost in the $5-$10 range per plug end.

At $2.00 a crack for a whole cable assembly at the dollar store, you pays yer money and takes yer chances.

"You get what you pay for" applies here. Within reason. I don't believe in overpriced boutique snake-oil audio interconnect/speaker cable- it gets stupid past a certain level of quality.

I've read the audiophile reviews where someone replaced their cables with the $400 faerie-dust encrusted, single-atom unidirectional gold-unobtanium-silver-alloy wires, with special oxygen-free unicorn-horn insulation rolled on the thighs of virgins, and proclaimed: "It was a revelation, it was like a veil was lifted from the sound, the bass was tighter, the highs clearer, the mids more articulate... ad nauseam".

Chances are excellent that if one had simply unplugged the existing cables and plugged them back in, with the pretense of replacing them with the snake-oil cables, the response of the reviewer would have been the same. And not necessarily due to placebo effect: unplugging and re-mating connectors periodically will remove surface oxidization or other contaminant films and re-establish a new metal-to-metal contact. This will have more beneficial effect than any exotic cable construction. It's the sort of thing you should do twice a year, like replacing smoke detector batteries, even on a permanently-connected system.

That said, $20-$30 for a well-constructed patch cord with high-quality metal-shell connectors, that will last you a lifetime, beats paying $2-$3 for a piece of crap that you'll have to replace 10 times in a lifetime.

Re: 3.5 mm cable -- Dollar store variety

PostPosted: Sun Apr 29, 2018 8:16 pm
by MoodyBlue
Thank you Sunbeam, that is a good review of the patch cable market.