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Why there are so huge differences in price of audio cables, even when they have comparable length, similarly looking connectors and lack some complex mechanisms that could have different quality?

For instance, Vovox 142417 has "white" connectors but still costs about 100 USD. The comparably looking RockCable RCST2PPS costs 20 USD only, even if the connectors look gold plated.

Why Vovox is five times more expensive? This 6.3mm jack connector even does not have any moving parts; how could it be made to be five times better?

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    It isn't five times better. It is only five times as expensive. – user207421 Feb 14 '16 at 19:58
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    Just Google "Hifi snake oil" to see just how much 'advertising speak' can go into cable manufacturing claims. I remember in the 80s we were all encouraged to tie knots in our cables to make them sound better - then someone discovered 'science sells' & they could make money from 'high tech knots' rather than give them away for free. See also en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clever_Hans – Tetsujin Feb 14 '16 at 20:11
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There are some aspects of a cable's design that do affect audio quality. When connected to the output of a passive electric guitar, a low capacitance cable will cause less high-frequency roll off per unit length of cable. That doesn't mean that the high-capacitance cable will necessarily sound worse - in some cases, it might be preferred - but it is a consideration.

Other important characteristics for an audio cable are proper soldering between the cable and jack connectors, effective shielding (for some applications), and connectors that won't corrode, although none of these characteristics add an enormous amount of expense.

Possibly the bulk of the justified cost of a cable is in ensuring its long-term physical integrity through the use of robust strain relief systems, the use of multiple insulating outer layers, possibly with the addition of armour and bedding layers to protect the cable even if stamped on or rolled over.

While this is not to be taken as a comment on the particular 'expensive' cable you linked to, it is fair to say that the advertised cost of some cables is more a factor of the price point that they can be sold at than of the manufacturing cost. Manufacturers know that when people are passionate about music / audio as a hobby or profession, they might be inclined to pay on the high side for a product, especially if it is still significantly less expensive than the guitar or amplifier that it's connected to. This is not helped by confirmation bias - many people will 'hear' an improvement with a more expensive cable, as that's what's expected, even when no such preferability is found in double-blind tests.

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Cables differ in build, shielding quality, resistance, impedance and its constancy (admittedly, not particularly relevant for audio frequency cables at customary lengths), bendability and its effect on the cable parameters and some others. The copper inside can have different qualities.

The most audible differences may be caused by instrument cables for high impedance sources (like electric guitar) since they are rather susceptible to noise, and loudspeaker cables. For those, low resistance is rather desirable since loudspeakers usually have differing impedances for different frequencies and the output for solid state amplifiers is defined via its voltage, and the loudspeakers and crossovers show capacitive and inductive behavior where they release stored energy back into the cable and the amplifier has to suck it up without it affecting the voltage and thus other loudspeakers. So considerably lower resistance than the loudspeaker impedance makes the almost-zero impedance of the amplifier work best.

As a corollary, speaker cables are less of an issue with tube power amplifiers since those have considerably higher output impedance anyway.

If you have a passive crossover network, its effects will mostly outweigh those of the cable. A long thin cable will lose energy particularly with the low frequencies, and it will cause mushier response for the high tweeters. For the rest, the crossover effects will far outweigh that of the cable. And it's quite likely that for a reasonably chosen cable, the exemplar tolerances of the speaker pairs or a pile of clothes on the floor will quite outweigh the difference between a good and a "fabulous" cable.

So yes, there are measurable and perceivable differences with speaker cables, but the high-price race happens with specs and features that are outside of that range. Their main qualities derive from pride, trust, and confidence.

  • I'd say just "pride," at least when it comes to "silicon filled gold Monster cables" and their ilk. – Carl Witthoft Feb 15 '16 at 12:16

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