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Does 3.5mm audio cable matter?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Hey guys, just wondering if the audio cable bringing sound out from my Xonar Essence ST to my speakers (the usual RCA to 3.5mm Y cable) makes any difference?

I usually use my headphones, but occasionally I like to chill with my speakers and not have anything around my head.

 

So I was just wondering if the quality of the cable mattered, or if using this cable I've been using for 3 years now is sufficient?

 

I'm just curious cause the cable seems to be thinner than the usual cables, so not sure if that matters. Should I bother investing in better cables? And if so what am I looking for?

 

Cheers and thanks!

post #2 of 6

Not really. At least not after a very very low threshhold. I would probably avoid the super thin ones.

 

The only thing that really matters is build quality. If it is shielded good, the cable is generally fine. You can get good shielded cables from monoprice for about $3. I personally bought some GE prograde double shielded ones for about $10, since I could just grab them at Walmart, and they work good.

post #3 of 6

RCA cables have been designed to carry "line" signals, where the voltage does rarely exceed 1.5V and input impedance of the receiver is very high, resulting in very small current flowing.

 

Speakers typically have input impedance 4-8 ohm, which is several orders of magnitude lower. The resulting current flow is much higher, and the higher the current, the thicker the cable is required to handle it. Too thin cable would restrict current flow, resulting in thin sounding bass and possibly mids, but also the energy absorbed by the cable would be released as heat - in the extreme cases leading to insulation melting or cables burning through. 

 

If you have been using this setup for 3 years, chances are that the safety concerns should not be an issue. Using thicker cables (and by thicker I mean core, not insulation) may give you a slight improvement in the way bass sounds, especially at the higher volume levels. But it depends on the impedance and power of your speakers - if you are using typical "computer" speakers, then I doubt you would notice any difference.

 

Having said that, I am using 8 ohm / 75 W speakers connected using similar cabling and at my normal listening levels I don't feel they are underperforming.

post #4 of 6
Pleasant - I'm pretty sure he's not connecting passive speakers to a soundcard's line driver...I would bet he's hooked up to a multimedia system and seeing an appropriate line-sink. The bit about low gauge cable isn't entirely accurate either - right up until you get into fire-starter danger, it will change the FR based on the interaction of the speaker's nominal impedance, the series R you're adding with the cable, and how that interplays with the amplifier's Zsource. But again, I highly doubt this is the case.

As far as TRS/RCA cables and quality in general - for those who subscribe to "cables make a different" - then yes, this matters. For those who do not, chewy4's advice is exactly spot-on. Personally I'd say as long as the thing is shielded and properly constructed, you should be fine, and if it's been plodding along for this long and you haven't had complaints, I'd leave well enough alone. smily_headphones1.gif
post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thanks guys that was all very helpful.

 

I'm connecting my 2.1 active speakers to the line out of my Xonar Essence ST (which is RCA left and right to 3.5mm jack Y cable)

 

I just remembered that this thinner (not thin) 3.5mm cable was custom made at some shop, the guy told me the wires were better (and they are made in japan) then he spliced the 3.5mm stereo jacks for me onto the wire. now obviously I'm not sure if I can entirely trust the store owner...but I guess it should be alright.

 

Thanks again guys!

post #6 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by iztis View Post

Thanks guys that was all very helpful.

I'm connecting my 2.1 active speakers to the line out of my Xonar Essence ST (which is RCA left and right to 3.5mm jack Y cable)

I just remembered that this thinner (not thin) 3.5mm cable was custom made at some shop, the guy told me the wires were better (and they are made in japan) then he spliced the 3.5mm stereo jacks for me onto the wire. now obviously I'm not sure if I can entirely trust the store owner...but I guess it should be alright.

Thanks again guys!

It's tough to say what the guy was on about without more specifics - generally speaking (and I mean very generally) wire is judged by conductivity (relative to copper) and gauge - which basically will tell you how much power it can take before it heats up, fuses, starts a fire, melts, etc. But with a line signal that tends not to matter as much, because you're talking a few volts on the top-end into thousands of ohms, and it's sending basically no power whatsoever. So as long as it doesn't short out or isn't a single hair-width strand of aluminum to send the signal, I don't think you should have any problems. smily_headphones1.gif
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