By Kristen Schaub
So you've just bought a high-definition home theater system. You get it home, plug it in with the included cables, and you're set, right? Not so fast. If you're using poor-quality cables, like the ones that come in the box with most audio/video gear, you could be throttling your system's performance.
Think of it this way: if you owned a high-performance sports car, you wouldn't outfit it with low-end tires — you'd get insufficient traction, poor handling, and increased road noise. You'd lose all the benefits of buying a high-performance car in the first place. In the same way, low-quality cables can rob you of the performance you paid for when you bought your system.
Poorly made cables can allow noise and interference to compromise the signals coming from your source components, resulting in a subpar listening or viewing experience. They generally won't give you the best-quality connection, and often aren't built to last. And of course some free cables may simply be too long or too short for your setup, making them less than ideal.
Replacing free "in-the-box" cables with higher-quality ones, or buying a step or two up from the cheapest quality cable you can find, can really make a difference when you're building a nice audio/video system. You'll enjoy more realistic sound and a clearer picture when your system isn't hampered by weak links. So in this article, we'll give you the information you need to choose the right type of connection for the job, and to find a good, high-quality cable.
What will you be using your cable for?
Finding a cable with all the capabilities that you need, and not one with more features than you'll use, can really help you optimize your system without breaking your budget. Before choosing a cable, you should ask yourself three questions.
» What kind of signal will it need to carry?
If you're hooking up an old VCR, then it's okay to opt for a lower-quality connection. But if you're connecting a high-def cable box to your HDTV, then you'll want to go with an HD-capable cable, like HDMI. See our separate discussions on audio and video connections for tips.
» What length do you need?
Measure the distances between your components to make sure your cables are long enough, especially if your components are shelved in such a way that the rear panels are difficult to access. There should be enough slack to let you pull the component forward and reach the rear panel. However, try to avoid long cable runs, if possible, since it'll lead to more signal degradation.
» Any installation considerations?
If you're planning to install your cables in your walls, make sure any wire you're putting behind a wall is UL-rated for that purpose. In most cases you'll need a cable labeled CL2 or CL3 — Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certification means the cable meets safety standards for in-wall installation. Also note that build-quality is especially important here — if you're installing in-wall wire, you don't want to go through the trouble and expense of replacing it in a few years time. See our guide to in-wall wiring for more helpful information.
Read more: http://www.crutchfield.com/S-8H4u6UQwZ2E/learn/learningcenter/home/cables.html