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Benefit and selection of cables in an entry level headphone setup

  1. scizzro
    Hello all, 
       Fairly new to the community on an interactive level, and have been lurking for quite some time. You have a great group of informative people who really seem to appreciate this hobby, and help others achieve the same appreciation.
       I'm in the process of setting up my very first headphone system, and I'm trying do everything I can to do this right. Here's what I have so far:
      Source:        Spotify (Streaming 320kbps)
      DAC:            X-Fi Titanium HD
      AMP:           Schiit Magni
      Headphone:  Fostex T50RP (Mad Dog mod)
       I'm now looking at a way to connect all the pieces, some of which are not in my possession yet. I have some basic RCA cables that are in a component cable set which came with my Cable TV provider's equipment. Stock Fostex T50RP cable. In your opinion,
    1. Will these low-end cables be fine for my "low-fi", entry level setup?
    2. If not, what would you recommend to myself and any other user who is putting their first rig together?
       If you need any more information, please let me know. Thanks and I look forward to your response!
  2. obobskivich
    What a sad day when such a setup is "low fi" and "entry level" - really. :ph34r:

    Anyways, my advice would be to get your equipment, hook it up, and enjoy it. If you want to experiment with cables try out a few varieties of inexpensive cables; if you key into differences, then bother with more expensive stuff, if you don't, don't worry about it, and go on enjoying your new toys (and don't get so wrapped up in denigrating yourself or your purchases based on some external quale).

    I'll add that personally (and based on "measurement data" type stuff), generally speaking cables will make a minimal difference to a system's sound - the biggest changes will come from the input media, and the headphones/speakers; everything in-between should be competent, but in terms of "huge night and day differences" from cables, amplifiers, etc I'd say that's less likely (I'm not saying "no difference at all blah blah" - I'm just saying that you'll notice a bigger difference going from your current cans to a different pair of cans, versus changing a cable).
  3. scizzro
       Thanks for taking the time to reply, I am really looking forward to enjoying the setup as you suggest. It sounds as though the way I described my equipment came off as ... intentionally underhyping, nonchalant, etc. The cost was less than half of your guesstimate, and after poring through many posts here that seems to be quite a low-ball number. That's how I got that impression of my selections.  I know it can be annoying dealing with someone who's new to something, when the smallest thing excites them, and I know I am still that way with audio equipment. I hope you'll forgive me if I came off that way.
      I created the post because I was unsure whether a two-dollar cable vs a thirty-dollar cable would make a difference on my particular setup. It seems obvious that for other people and their multi-thousand dollar setups, when you start running out of things to upgrade, a higher quality cable makes sense. 
  4. obobskivich

    I can understand that, and respect it - my criticism is larger and directed at the recent trend of denigrating any cans that don't clear $2k as "low end" or "entry level" and the increasing inflation madness that goes on with gear. Price is a piss-poor indicator of performance, and the recent funny business that has gone on with many of the major manufacturers (primarily European) has sort of shifted everything upside down and created a new standard whereby a $300 pair of headphones is "entry level" (when just ten-fifteen years ago, that was heavily into flagship territory) and anything less is somehow "untouchable."

    My gripe is that new users, like yourself, get duped by this, and often end up pouring out an ocean of money on hyped products in a never-ending dragon hunt for "better sound" instead of both enjoying the purchases they've made, and buying products that better suit their tastes or needs (more or less price/brand blind) instead of serving this externally constructed "hobby" problem.

    I'm doubtful there's a real difference between a $2 cable and a $30 cable (remember that mark-up for a lot of "consumer" cable products (e.g. Monster) is usually better than 95%), as in it's probably the same wire and construction just wearing nicer packaging and retail pricing so that Best Buy or whatever local B&M can make their margins this month and keep the doors open. Sad but true.

    As far as differences between cables - if you subscribe to such a thing (which is a subjectively qualified thing - in other words, only you can answer this for you) it should not matter how much a given cable costs (which disagrees with the un-logic of modern "high end" marketing that "moar moneh = moar bettar!"); in other words if you find silver cables to make a difference in sound, that's fine, but what they cost should be considered after the fact. If you don't, then it doesn't matter.

    Personally I have either noticed extremely minimal or zero differences between whiz-bang high end wiring and "it came with it" freebies, but I know that doesn't agree with everyone else's experiences. My advice then is to try something out for yourself, and if it's an avenue you'd like to pursue further, do it with diligence as you would any other audio purchase (and remember that a lot of the biggest ripoffs in audio exist in the world of cables and tweaks (I don't care how good something is, 99% mark-up is not a "value add" for anyone but the retailer)). Hence the suggestion to try swapping different cables in and out of your system and seeing if you notice any changes (and if they're big enough to warrant the time and effort expended).

    That said, I think trying to evaluate ALL things at once is setting yourself up for failure - so my advice would be to get your headphones, amplifier, and so on, and become used to them. Then you can start tweaking or changing things and deciding if it makes a difference for you or not - but jumping in with equipment you don't know, and trying to make changes and evaluate them, is near impossible.

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