Speaker Cables I really Like for $20. I Compare them to my $1000 cables.
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Hey all! It’s been a few weeks since my last review. That is because nothing has come across my hands that I felt inspired to write about, until today! This post will be short, to the point and one that talks about something crazy affordable that I can HIGHLY recommend to anyone looking for a great set of speaker cables. Cables that do not break the bank.
I have owned cables in my system (and for the sake of simplicity I will speak only of speaker cables here) that have cost me $5,000 at one time. Were they nice? Oh yea. Did they make an improvement? Oh yes. Was it worth the cost? Well…no.
We all are aware of diminishing returns in audio, and cables are an area where you see these demising returns happen rather quickly. It’s why I settled on Nordost Blue Heaven LS for my full time reference cables at $1000 for a 9 foot pair (Updated 2022 to Cardas Clear Reflection as they Synergize better with my Fleetwood DeVille speakers).
Sure, I have had the Nordost Valhalla cables and loved them, they were better but they were not so much better that they warranted the thousands of extra dollars. I guess it depends on how much money you have to spend, and if you like eeking out that last bit of performance from your system.
These days I enjoy a happy medium and immensely enjoy my reference cables, which are considered crazy expensive by some who choose a two channel stereo. In the grand scheme of things, in the audiophile world, $1k for cables is considered low end for many. I know a guy who has $45,000 invested in his cables alone. Does his system sound good? Yes but I sometimes feel that it is too transparent and almost too much of a good thing.
Out of curiosity a while back though I bought a set of THESE for $35. Actually I bought the cheaper $20 set, six feet.
When I removed my Nordost Blue Heaven, which come in at that $1k price point I noticed two things, neither of which made the music less enjoyable.
For starters I lost some transparency and delicacy. But not much of it. Rather the sound was beefier, thicker and shifted to have a teeny bit more bass. So less air and delicacy but better for rocking out. I also noticed the sound was slightly less clean, but again, not everyone will even notice these things. Instead of dead black silence in between notes and sounds I didn’t get that all out blackness. It was oh so slight.
My Nordost Blue Heaven cables. Love them but my system warrants better cables and even then, I could live with the cheap cables I am speaking about here today.
UPDATE 2022: When compared to my $3k Cardas Cables, no thee are not as good but the gap is much smaller than one may think. These affordable copper cables are well made, 14 gauge, and have soldered banana connectors. When listening to these extremely affordable, flexible and quality cables I knew they were something special for the extreme low cost. Even in my reference system where I use Nagra electronics and Fleetwood DeVille speakers that come in at $15k these cables were hanging with the big boys. They offer up a nice soundstage, and a nice beefy midrange with some sparkle.
While my Cardas offer up more transparency, an even wider soundstage along with some 3 dimensional holographic imaging, these also provide a healthy portion of fantastic imaging. They are not as refined as the $3k cables but it’s not a huge night and day here. I also tried more expensive cables up to $100 and they did not do nearly as well as these did within my system.
Remember, no matter what cable you buy it will slightly change the character of the sound. The more revealing your system, the more difference you will hear. There is no such thing as a 100% neutral cable. All cables add to the sound.
With that said, these cheap cables are about all most will need. It is only when you get to $5k and up speakers or $5k and up amps and higher end DAC’s that you will start to notice these differences. Sure, cables can make differences in all systems but sometimes the differences may not be to your liking. I have had that happen as well! One time I bought $2700 cables and thought they sounded worse than my $900 cables at the time. I returned them.
I have a small system in my living room now (in addition to my reference system in my dedicated room), and it is composed of a PS Audio Sprout 100, which is a KILLER bang for the buck piece that has a 100 WPC class D amp, a decent DAC and has the ability to stream right to it from your phone or use the inputs I the back. It is even set up for records, as it has a phono stage built in. At $699, this integrated is killer. Add the cables here and you are in business. This is the kind of system these cables rock with, even if you spend less.
If you do not believe in cables, do not want to go down the rabbit hole and lose money, or just want a great all around speakers cable that delivers all the good you need, I highly recommend these. I have owned them since September of 2019 and feel they are a no brainer buy.
BUY THE 12 FOOT PAIR for $35 via Amazon Prime. That is the Length I recommend.
I watched your youtube video on these cables recently and wanted to try them out. Being an engineer, I always thought of cables as snake oil, especially the digital (e.g. USB) ones. Since these were just $40 a pair I thought of having some fun. I do not have a very expensive system as yours but the speakers/amp are average with good detail retrieval (Klipsch RP-8000F towers). I previously owned a pair of 16 gauge Monster brand cable and an Installgear 12 gauge wire bought from Amazon. After using the Micca cables, I could definitely hear differences right away. The sound stage was better, vocals were clearer and highs crisper. The low end also bit controlled compared to Installgear which produced muddier sound. To confirm what I heard, I asked my 16 year old son to listen while I switched both sets. He confirmed the same, having better/younger ears lol.
This certainly is not a placebo or a psychological effect since the prices are similar….there are clear differences to the point that I immediately switched out the Installgear permanently. Thanks for the review.
Now I will try out the USB cables to see if that also makes a difference.
Unpopular opinion…..I think almost any heavy gauge speaker cable works just fine and I basically select mine on how they look and the price point. I would bet money that in a blind test no one would be able to tell the difference between $2000 cables and my Zu Audio Libtec that I bought used for $100.
For what it’s worth I consider myself to have a fairly critical ear although admittedly not as good as when I was younger.
Steve, it would be great to see reviews on the Denefrips Pontos and comparing it to something like Schidt DACs.
Cables are always “difficult” especially if you haven’t settled on your system. Been through various cables over the years (and more before when working for a high end shop) and now settled on Siltech Anniversary 330-series cables. They aren’t cheap but when buying used it’s not that bad and hopefully audiophilia nervosa won’t bite me any time soon 🙂
This may be a silly question, but I’ll ask anyway. Back in the Atom review you mentioned the $25 “GearIT 12AWG Premium Heavy Duty Braided Speaker Wire Cable” on Amazon. Assuming that you used these at some point, is there any difference between them and the Micca’s reviewed here?
I had been wanting to get a decent audio system for quite a while, so last summer I jumped in and picked up an Atom, Heresy IV’s, and the $25 cables. So maybe the better question for me to ask, what is your preferred cable for the Heresy IV’s? Is the Blue Heaven not worth it at this price point?
I am using Home Audio Fidelity Xtalk convolution filters, which has given me better 3d imaging for my odd shaped room, while leaving the character of the IV’s intact, at least to my untrained ears. I’m guessing this is a bigger improvement than changing the speaker cables, but I’m willing to go down the speaker cable rabbit hole a little bit… as long as I can find my way out 🙂
BTW… I’m enjoying my system as it is, but always willing to tinker. Thanks!
They are comparable, and both great value and buys. With the H4’s and Atom, you may want something from Cardas if you are spending more and in the Blue Heaven category. The Cardas will be warmer and give you a bit more body.
Wondering how will these compare to GearIT 10AWG Speaker Cable?
I tried many cables for all components.
they all made a difference
none made such a difference that the sound got really bad, it just went muddy.
that happened with the cheap cables, the really cheap ones you get at best buy type shops, including the better brands they carry.
Anything starting with Chord, Naim, A23, van den Hul level of cables worked fine, just a matter of taste, some fit the equipment better, some less.
So I can follow that there are a few qualities that don’t hurt for a minimal invest.
But in the end, it’s about what you want to achieve with your chain. medium-satisfaction, thrilled-engagement, academic analytics, that needs to balance cables and devices on the same level of sound impact. I had more sound change changing the cables within the same price-spectrum than changing different grade amplifiers, both considered top for their class.
Since then I rate it from an typical sound impact level (high2low within the same major architectural characteristic:
– turntable, pick-up, wires
– speaker cable
– tonearm, dac
– amplifier, cable plugs, nf/lf-cables
– power cables and passive hubs, ports
Have a general question on speaker cables going along with this, do the speaker cables on left and right have to be exactly the same length. I’ve heard they don’t, can you have 17 feet on one side and 7 feet side.can you hear an audible difference
I would never do that but it depends on a few things. If you have a dedicated room and listen critically then you would not not want to do that. I you just listen as background of to fill the room with sound, I doubt I would matter. When I was young I always had home made cables and they weren’t always the same length. : )
Actually, I’ve just been reading that with today’s advanced cable construction in most price ranges, it does not matter is the cables are of different lengths.
Steve, do you have any plans to review the NAD M33?
Honestly I would love to, but can’t by these things to review. As for my personal system I am 100% happy, for the very long term. No desire to try anything else or different. That means, no buying and selling to try new things. I used to be able to borrow things from my local dealers to check out and write about but now that I live so far away from any dealer, that is not possible. So unlikely, unless NAD wants to send me one to try. : )