How good does my system have to be to realize an improvement with cables?

I've heard the difference power cables and interconnect cables in a highly resolving system so that's not the question.  $200 for cables  on a $500 DAC doesn't make sense to me.  Wouldn't that $200 be better spent on a better component?  At what point is an expensive cable the best choice?  Spending $500 on a $15,000 DAC does make sense as the transparency and resolution of the component could be better realized with a better signal / power source.

My question is what's the  percentage of the overall component's cost should be the cabling and at what point should it even be considered?

Or put a different way How would you know if your cables are your weakest link?



Typically, the rule of thumb is ~10%


On the other hand typically your components need to be of a significant resolution and quality before you can really expect a big diffference. I guess, I would say $2,500 components. But, some folks do realize gains with less expensive components.


These rules can be broken. I remember when my average component cost was $5K. My dealer lent me a set of interconnects costing $2K each. I bought three pair! Completely worth it. I had recently upgraded and was very much aware of how much sound quality I would have gotten by buying components that were $2K more and these cables were a screaming deal. 

It really pays to try and not buy. Borrow from dealer, friends, lending library. The sound improvement needs to be worth it. Many times in budget systems it is hard to tell.

My honest answer is, some people can train themselves to hear through a lot of crap and can hear a difference with mediocre systems.  I cannot, so I have to have a very good room first, then everything else follows, and then I end up caring about cables a lot less than when I started.

Cables can make a difference and your selection of cables and systems must be synergistic.

There are quality manufacturers of cables that are economical.  I used Blue Jean Cables and I preferred them to Audioquest Rocket 33s.

I didn't explore higher end cables (anything over $100) until my electronics had the resolution.  For me that was when I acquired McIntosh pre and amp.

I like the 10% guideline @ghdprentice listed above.

I think pretty much any component with a $5k price tag (-ish) MSRP or above is probably going to benefit from a decent power cable and interconnects. 

It's up to you to find the synergy and what works for you, your system, your ears and your budget.







I generally agree with @coralkong.  But I’d say if your speakers are at least about $5k and the rest of your components >$1k, better cables should be pretty evident if your system is set up right in a decent room.

 I have actually heard a significant difference when I plugged a spare $500 power cord into a $1k receiver in my second system.

@overthemoon Would you mind sharing what cables you tried with your McIntosh gear? I just upgraded to a C2700/MC462 combo. Using AQ Mackenzie XLR interconnects and generic 12AWG speaker wire. Pretty happy with the XLRs but haven't compared them to anything else. I'm definitely ready to upgrade to some nicer speaker cables. I don't want to break the bank, though, (<$500) and don't know where to begin.

+1 to what @ghdprentice said about trying before buying. My experience with audio equipment is that it's not so easy to equate price to sound quality improvement. On my $1700 Denafrips Pontus II DAC, I've tried 7 different power cords ranging in price from $15 to $600. The one that sounded best to me was a $94 Supra LoRad power cords. The more expensive Shunyata Venom V10 NR & Synergistic Research UEF Blue power cords were quieter, but also seemed to take the "air" and spatial cues out of music.

A straight 10% is an over simplification, many years ago working in a hifi store, we  wired up systems with varying cost cables, we all agreed that once above $30 a metre for speaker cable improvement was harder to detect than difference. For interconnects once we went into the specialist second tier cables around $150 each the same applied. This was on systems up to $50,000. 

De Beers is now telling us that we should spend 2 months wages on a diamond ring. So doesn't it follow that we should now be spending 20% of our equipment value on cables? 😆

@bjp9738 I had C2600/MC302.  For XLRs I used Mogami and upgraded to Kimber Kable Silver Streak then KCTG.  I purchased them used through Kimber on ebay.

Speaker cables I compared Blue Jean Cables to Audio Quest Rocket 33 and Kimber Kable 12TC.  I preferred the Blue Jean Cables in that comparison because the Kimber Kable 12TCs had harshness in the higher frequencies and the Audio Quest Rocket 33s seemed to muffle lower frequencies.  I did try the Kimber Bifocal XLs and the high frequencies were clear and the sound decay of symbols was natural and the total sound was dynamic and clear.  Much higher price point than the 12TCs but in my system worth it.

As someone said, if the synergy isn't there, you're wasting your time and money. Additionally, you need to hire a Chinese professional to ensure the Feng Shui is proper and your chakras must be aligned or it's all for naught.


Actually, expensive cables are for naught too. Buy the Blue Jean ones and spend more money on music, which is what this pursuit is supposed to be about. 

If your cable is of sufficient size gauge and well put together your off and running. A percent figure based on the quality of your system (rule of thumb) is Total BS. Better components if you’ve cash to spare is the way to go. As said a million times build / set up your sound room as to compliment your system. Again having well made proper gauge cables should be the end game, that said PC’s will do Nothing to the tonality of your system !!


If your cable is of sufficient size gauge and well put together your off and running. A percent figure based on the quality of your system (rule of thumb) is Total BS.

I agree 100%!




250 posts


If your cable is of sufficient size gauge and well put together your off and running.

Agreed. My Audioquest Hurricane power cord is a testament to this statement.

A percent figure based on the quality of your system (rule of thumb) is Total BS.


Once again - totally true. At one point I had Acoustic Zen Absolute Copper interconnects on Rogue RP-1 preamp. They retail higher than RP-1 and they made a huge difference.

Better components if you’ve cash to spare is the way to go. As said a million times build / set up your sound room as to compliment your system.

Another good advice. I can’t disagree here. Looking back from my experience the money would be better spent on upgrading the preamp (which eventually happened).

Again having well made proper gauge cables should be the end game, that said PC’s will do Nothing to the tonality of your system !!

That’s a fact! Beethoven’s 5th will remain in C minor irrespective of the power cord on your amplifier as long as it’s proper gauge and is plugged into the wall on the AC connector end and into your amplifier on the IEC connector side  






For context, here's my system with approximate retail prices:

Bluesound Node 2i ($600)

Audioquest Cinnamon Digital Coax ($100)

Maverick Audio TubeMagic D2 ($300) with Sparkos Labs OpAmps ($150) and 1950s Western Electric Tube ($100) and Pangea AC-14XL power cord ($250)

Audioquest Sydney Interconnects ($200)

Pathos Classic One MkIII ($3,000) with 1960s Mullard Tubes ($100) and Waudio Power Cord ($50)

Blue Jeans Cable 10AWG speakers cables with ultrasonic welded banana plugs ($100)

Focal Chorus 836v speakers ($3,000)

I had used all Blue Jeans Cable cables until I decided to see what differences I could hear in my system by swapping some cables.  I started with a couple of Waudio power cables that I picked up on Amazon.

Power Cords: The Waudio power cable on the Pathos Classic One MkIII is the only power cable that's resulted in a clear audible difference in my system.  I have tried a Waudio and now Pangea power cords on my DAC and cannot say that I've heard a difference.

Interconnects: I started with Audioquest Chicago and was impressed enough to upgrade again to the Sydney and again heard a clear difference compared to the BJC.

Digital Coax: I did not hear any difference between the Audioquest Cinnamon and the BJC.

Speaker Cables: I have not tried any different speaker cables because they are sub-optimized in my system out of necessity with a custom switch that allows me to connect both my Pathos and home theater receiver to my speakers.  It would take two sets of cables and I would still have the switch, so it doesn't seem like a high value proposition.

I didn't start playing with cables until I was pretty set with my components.  Prior to the tube rolling in the Pathos, I don't think it would have been possible to hear the differences in cables.  That upgrade really took my system to the next level.



Hi danager!  If you bought your gear at WalMart, cables probably won't help. If your gear is from well known, quality companies, it's worth an experiment. Are you using ordinary lamp cord for speaker wire? Lots of us do. It should be 14 gauge or larger (smaller number). Get some used cables on line (you can return them if they don't improve things), good ones with a good reputation. Do they help? Are they worse? Your system is different than everyone else's. What works well for Mr. X may not work for you and vica versa. USB cables are critical. Not many people seem to talk about that, but it's true. Amazon has nice Chinese power cords for $50. Worth a try? I use 'em. My pals do too. Are there better ones? Sure, but if you get a noticable improvement for $50, be happy!  It like a marriage partner. They only way to know - is to marry them. An expensive, risky proposition. Cables are the same but much cheaper. Happy Listening!

Since many of us have “upgraditis” I bought the best cables I could afford knowing that I will probably upgrade my dac at some point. I went with Transparent Power cord and Transparent XLR’s with Reference Quality. I have a Lumin T2 and when I switched the power cord from Lumin and the XLRs from Audioquest there was a significant improvement in detail, bass and clarity as well as the soundstage. This is why I am now a converted believer in premium cabling making a significant positive impact on your SQ.


Let us know how you make out!!.

+1 on the ~10% general guideline

Lots of variables in the equation and there appears to be no ceiling in the upper end cost 

Though there are are some price performer gems, while not the best sounding cable, that still sound great and provide better ROI

Just to name a few in my limited travels

Audio Envy


Silversmith Fideliums

Users of Blue Jean cables consistently provide high customer sat ratings as well

Enjoy the journey

To the question asked my reply is very modest  system.

On my second system a pair of elac speakers and a denon receiver one could hear a speaker cable swap.


Speaker cables I compared Blue Jean Cables to Audio Quest Rocket 33 and Kimber Kable 12TC. I preferred the Blue Jean Cables in that comparison because the Kimber Kable 12TCs had harshness in the higher frequencies and the Audio Quest Rocket 33s seemed to muffle lower frequencies.

I have trouble assessing the quality of cables based on the price. This is a good example. For a pair of 10 ft speaker cables, Blue Jean costs approximately $125, AQ Rocket 33 around $500 and Kimber 12TCs around $1000. Blue Jean performs the best. Go figure.


@lanx0003 Absolutely agree with you!

The only reason I even tried another Kimber Kable item was because customer service was very good.  

I think it'a also important to take into account that many brands/models of cables will lose little or no value over a few years, and can either be sold or grow with your system...Kimber 8TC or 12TC are a great example...

I have a 2.5k cable on a realistic receiver from the 70s. The difference in sound quality is mind blowing. Smokes my buddies 40k gryphon system. 

@stevewharton - I used all Blue Jeans Cables for a long time because they are very well made, affordable, and they are fairly local for me so overnight delivery is almost the standard.

I was surprised at the difference (improvement to my ears) that I heard between the BJC LC-1 ($50) and the Audioquest Chicago ($100) and then Sydney ($200).

Or put a different way How would you know if your cables are your weakest link?

Start with the cheapest Best Buy cables and if the expensive ones make no difference, then job done.

It is pretty easy to spend more than 10% even doing DIY cables, on gear that is not super expensive. I must have spent over $1000 on cables an ICs between the wire and the ends in the last couple of years… and that was for DIY cables. Easy to do ~$40-50 on a DIY IC, and more if one is using silver wire instead of Mogami or Cardas etc. wire.

Usually I have found that moving the speakers a few inches makes more of a difference than I have noticed with cables.

I’d likely buy BlueJeans if I did not have a soldering iron.


Wouldn't that $200 be better spent on a better component? 

We have a winner.

Thanks everyone for the input.  My biggest issue is I don't know what I don't know.  I'm budget cable all the way and it still sounds good to me, so considering buying a cables that cost more than half  of what I spent on my amp causes me pause.

I like the concept of the used the route but counterfeit looms as they are selling for more than the ones from China with the same look.

There are sooo many choices and feedback from all of you and the logic of how you made your decision is of great value to me. 




Yep, you got it. Hopefully you take the complexity as a challenge and enjoy getting the most out of your system through listening and learning. That is what drives most of us.

I am sure over my lifetime I have spent over a thousand hours, testing, evaluating and reading about different cables. They have made major contributions to the overall sound quality of all my systems. To calm down the harshness and high frequency tipped sound when my components were inexpensive and now to be incredibly transparent to bring through the full capability of my outstanding components.

agree that 50% of component cost for cable probably doesn't make sense...some manufacturers sell their own demo or refurbished cables for reduced cost, so you're getting used without counterfeit worries...though another recent thread discussed how good some obvious counterfeits sounded..(obvious, as in $5,000 cable selling new for $50 )...remember, trying cables to improve your system can be fun, and doesn't have to cost anything to try 

I am totally “out experienced” here.
I probably only have 40 hours all in, with determining what to get, ordering it, physically making the cables, and the time I needed to work to get the funds… but I figured if the studios that are recording and mixing are using Mogami and Cardas by the kilometer(s), then if I use the same I should not loosing a  lot… Any loss would already be gone before I got the album.

However most of those studios are probably on XLR now, so maybe consider selling you gear and getting the XLR based gear, which is less fussy with cables.



danager-the smartest, most cost-effective way to address your concern is to enjoy listening to music and stay away from audio forums.

@tablejockey +1 to that.  Where were you when I started this thing?  For every minor change I have hours and hours of research. The good part is that I can listen while I study.


@tablejockey +1 (very wise and sage advice there.)

if it sounds good, then the “fear of Missing Out” (FOMO) is mostly coming from reading the forum.
So if it sounds good, then just enjoy it.

FWIW, the best cables I've found for my system are Anticables. The speaker cables in particular made a dramatic difference over my previous Blue Jean Canares. Interconnects are also excellent. The Level 3 cables, which I use, were a very reasonable $350 for the speakers and $200 for interconnects. Levels 1 and 2 are even more affordable.

A number of folks have commented on Blue Jeans.  I've got some and like them as well.  Now they have the Iconoclast line if you're not aware.  Intended to compete with the high-end audio cable brands but with more down to earth pricing and designed by a Belden engineer specifically for audio applications.  I'm anxious to see reviews on them. Are they an even better Blue Jeans product?

Spend whatever you want on cables but they are system dependent. For laughs I put a pair of ten thousand dollar interconnects between an old receiver and CD player (used them also because they were handy) and the results were better than I anticipated.

A Speaker Cable is a good starting place to pick up on how a Cable Interface can impact on the SQ of a System.

A Tighter/looser Base and Mid’-Range Projection / Suppression are reasonably easy to detect as Cables are exchanged.

This is a good starting place to attune the ear, as this where the most immediate changes are likely to be detected.

The other good side to using speaker Cables is that there are plenty options at fair money, and a cheap option can easily impress over a much more expensive option.

I have in the past swapped out carefully selected $20 per metre Cables for Mapleshade Double Helix Clearview Cables, and very recently, replaced the Mapleshade Cables with a Acoustic Revive PC CCC Cable which is a much lesser price and surpasses the M’shades as an Interface.

Other Cable comparisons are not such an affordable option, and can get quite expensive, seeking out Cables with a Return Period included in a sale might be beneficial, to increase the experiences.

To get the idea of the M'shades performance, I loaned them out, where they were used at a Speaker Cable Bake Off, with a range of Silver and Copper Cables present at a cost of up to £500 per metre.

These were used on an EAR Valve Amp > Quad ESL System.

The M'shades were selected as Joint Top Performers along with a Silver Cable.

I was very pleased to learn of this, as it was testimony to my choice made from previous investigations.

The organiser of the event only deselected the M'shades as they would be an Import to the UK, and they wanted to Support UK Business.

The Silver Cables were chosen from the Brand True Silver, it is not too difficult to check out their prices.  


I appreciate that but at what point does a system become classified as "high resolution"?  If I think my system is only a "mid resolution" system will simply adding cables bump it up a notch to "entry-hi"?

What are the criteria I can use to classify where my system is on the spectrum and that cables are the component holding me back?

there is no exact dividing line...find a good deal on some returnable cables at a price point you're comfortable with, and decide what's worth what for you... 

I have a mini system for background mostly using a pair of little YU-6 powered speakers by Kanto with hi-test Synergistic in and AQ A/C cables out from a used MIT power conditioner that originally sold for circa $900. The sound is extremely clean with very low noise. So . . . try putting a big cable on your whatever and live with it long enough to find out if it really sounds the same. The value is for you to decide.

$200 for cables on a $500 DAC doesn’t make sense to me.


Perhaps I am in the minority. I used to have a $2,200 power cord on a $2,100 DAC, all actual price paid for 2 years. Currently I am trying a $625 power cord on the same DAC so it’s more balanced cost-wise. Ironically the $625 cord sounds better than the $2,100 cord on this DAC.

I have a long-term investigation into Cables at all interfaces within the home system.

The continuation of experiencing other Cables within my system, has over the past recent months, resulted in my exchanging RCA Phono Cables and has led to discovering a Power Cable as well.

Each of the New Selection for Cables have shown more valued presentation is on offer from these New Selections, that surpass previous Cables trialed and given a permanent place.

The process is based on prior experiences and the learning gathered through these experiences.

The Good Thing about these types of endeavours, is that there is not a great skill required, the swapping of Cables is quite straight forward, with only a simplistic discipline required to carry out the exchanges, in some cases only to turn the Volume Down and in other cases to Power Off prior to the exchange.

Tube Rolling is met with a similar discipline requirement, and anybody who has Tube Rolled and discovered a Tube that is a preference over another, will already have an ear with an attunement to detect an effect a Cable can have on a replay.

This time around the Cable Trials proved to be a little more time consuming, as the full impact of certain exchange at certain interfaces required an extended period of A/B comparisons.

At a Bespoke Built Valve DAC > CDT the New RCA Phono Cable Type that proved to have had the greatest impact and attraction, has been a D.U.C.C wire Cable.

When using this on a SUT > Valve Phonostage > Pre-Amp', the impact was less noticeable, but what was being detected proved over time to be the preferred presentation. 

My OCC Silver DIN/RCA Phono Cable is now replaced with a Cable that has       PC Triple C wire. It took a long time to finally settle on the Silver OCC Wire Cable, and the PC Triple C was an immediate exchange, there is no desire to experience the OCC Silver anymore.

I have also been using a PC Triple C Power Cable.

The New Power Cable has proved to be an interesting umbilical, as it has what can be described as very noticeable impact on devices with Topologies that are Solid State or SS/Valve Hybrid but not as noticeable on Point-to-Point Topologies, which are an all-Valve Design. 

The PC Triple C Wire Power Cable when used on a Valve DAC has been very attractive, when used on the CDT, the impact has been to my assessment almost parity.

When used on a Valve Phonostage and Valve Power Amp, the impression made is less, but without doubt improved over other Cables used in past trials.

The PC Triple C Power Cable has been loaned and used on a SS DAC to very good effect and also used on a Valve Hybrid CDP to very good effect. 

A friend who is a designer and producer of a SS Phonostage has had my PC Triple C Wire Power Cable on long-term loan, following the good impression it has made.

The follow up to the loan was a gathering of Cables to be used in comparisons.

My Cable is a Nanotech, Furutech and Acoustic Revive PC Triple C Wire Power Cables as well a ferw other loaned Cables were put to trial.

The return report was quite interesting, as the Cable, which was selected, was a PC Triple C Wire Cable, but the one that was the most affordable.

I have made the selected Cable Known in the Link. 

At the asking Price, I strongly recommend buying in a Length and terminating it onto Copper Pinned Plugs to produce one cable and using it on different devices in the system.




I have found speaker cables make the largest difference and went with Nordhost Heimdall 2.  Upgrading power cords or USB cables yielded no improvement to my ears.  YMMV

Quality cables win every time. 

OK - and what are the physical attributes define quality?

I have found speaker cables make the largest difference and went with Nordhost Heimdall 2.  Upgrading power cords or USB cables yielded no improvement to my ears.  YMMV

Thank you for the response.  What a wonderfully frustrating hobby, right?  My issue would be if I didn't hear a difference did I just try the wrong cable or can my components just overcome the deficiencies in my chosen cables or is something else holding me back from realizing the improvements?

My only conclusion is there is not a right answer to any stereo question.  Like trying to get your arms around water.


exactly...different gear, different room, different music, room correction, different sonic preferences... all lead to different cable just gotta start trying some