What is a good quality phono cable?



I keep seeing people mention, in passing, you should buy 'good quality' phono cable. What does this really mean? I see them going for a vast range of prices. At internet dealers like hificables one of the cheapest is £30 for a meter or £45 for 2 meters (QED Qunex two phono pair). This sounds a lot to me, but I see others at even higher prices. Where do we hit diminishing returns? Is price a good indicator of quality, and if so what should I aim for for my midrange system? Is there a DIY by-the-metre option? Any recommendations?
The rule of thumb on cable cost is spend 10% of the cost of the hardware.
If your HiFi only cost you £200 then spending £1000 on cables will not make it a GREAT HiFi.:)
Yeah, I've seen the 10% rule mentioned a lot. By that reckoning I'm OK with spending 40 quid on a phono cable. The question is, is that all I do - go looking for a £40 cable? Are all £40 cables made equal? I have no idea how to interpret the specs of these things. :confused: I've seen some good reviews of cables I can't find for sale, and no reviews of the ones I do see on sale. So is price the only indicator? If so, there's a waiting market for that expensive rubberised coathanger juboy and mikeK are developing :D.
Originally posted by Torque
Yeah, I've seen the 10% rule mentioned a lot. By that reckoning I'm OK with spending 40 quid on a phono cable. The question is, is that all I do - go looking for a £40 cable? Are all £40 cables made equal? I have no idea how to interpret the specs of these things. :confused: I've seen some good reviews of cables I can't find for sale, and no reviews of the ones I do see on sale. So is price the only indicator? If so, there's a waiting market for that expensive rubberised coathanger juboy and mikeK are developing :D.

The 10% rule is a figure which just seems to have been plucked out of the air - there is no real explanation for it other then "that seems about right sir" :)

You may have no idea how to interpret the specs - don't worry, within reason, neither does anyone else. :)
Ask what the optimum RLC parameters are for an interconnect cable and get 100 different answers - within reason that is, it's pretty obvious that any cable with outlandish properties may not be that good. Often, the biggest single factor affecting these parameters is the length of the cable anyway, followed by the size (ie diameter).

What to buy?
Depends whether you want finished interconnects or are prepared to go DIY and make up your own.
Many of the really cheap ones are very flimsy and can tend to fall apart - I also don't like very thin cable - it kinks too easily and isn't well shielded, isn't very robust and it's difficult to work with - as "proper" sized stuff is available for very little money, I can see no real reason to use it.
I'd look for well shielded copper coax cable 5-8mm in diameter - designed for audio use ( ie 50ohm, although this is also a bit of a sop really, practically any coax will do, but there are certain specialist types around you should perhaps avoid - if it says audio, you should be safe) - personally I don't believe whether the centre conductor is solid or stranded makes any difference to the sound, but stranded is often more flexible. Some claim the dielectric/insulation is very important - over the lengths and frequencies we are talking about, I don't, but it costs very little to buy into that, so do so if you wish. Teflon is the flavour of the month at the moment.
I'd also look for decent quality phono plugs, all metal, with a good cable restraint mechanism, and preferably with internal connectors which make a pretty good mechanical connection with the cable first, before you apply the solder.
Split collars and centre pins "may" help to make better contact - but I don't really think it makes any difference.
I find it strange that in debates over interconnects, the pro "cable makes a big difference" lobby, hardly ever seem to mention the phono plugs - they are as integral a part of the connection as the cable itself - hmmmm! :)

Personally I'd also keep the interconnects no longer than really necessary, but I wouldn't get too carried away (ie don't use 5m when 0.5m will do, but don't sweat about the difference between 0.5m and 1m).

I'd also never buy a cable form a hifi dealer again - they are skinning you alive (metaphorically speaking :) ).
Personally I'd buy from CPC, but there are other reasonably priced suppliers too (I always use CPC though - only poss prob is that it's £30 min order for free delivery, about £6 otherwise).
If you post back with exactly what you need, I'll look up some numbers for you, both for DIY and for premade stuff.
If you need speaker cable/video cables etc etc, nakes sense to get them at the same time, esp if it saves that £6 postage (I get fixated about not paying that :) )
Thanks Mike, you're a great help. I'm not trying to do this on the cheap, I just want to get best value for the money I do spend, and not spend more than is sensible.

I've just bought a Denon 3802, and it seems I need three 2-phono to 2-phono leads for VCR-amp, TV-amp and NTLbox-amp. Do I actually need all three? I was wondering whether I could just do TV-amp and let the VCR and STB sound get handled by the TV? My Loewe Vitros is only Nicam but perhaps that would be good enough for now? In which case I would only need one lead of about 1.5 or 2 metres. I also need a 2m phono lead for amp-sub.

So that makes:
  • One (or three?) 2 phono - 2 phono leads, 1.5m long
  • One phono-phono lead for sub, 2m long.

I am also thinking of buying:
  • 25m QED silver anniversary speaker cable from hificables @ 4.40pm.
  • Profligold PGV373 scart to 3 phono component video for DVD-TV 3m @ £25 from superfi. (I really only need about 1.5m but these only come in 1m or 3m lengths). Or is it worth forking out for the QED AV29 scart to 6 phono 3m @ £75 from hificables, and just not using the audio lines?
  • Profligold PGD483 3m coaxial cable from superfi for DVD-amp (ditto on the lengths) though again I'm not quite sure what to look for here.

I think that's the lot, though judging by other posts it seems normal to find you've forgotten something. I may be getting a Tivo, though I haven't thought about the connections that would need. My kit is: Loewe Vitros, Tosh 510 DVD, Panny 860 VCR (TBD), NTL Pace STB, Denon 3802 amp, Velodyne speakers and sub, all bought with generous help from members of this forum :)

Given the 10% rule, I'm comfortable spending about £350 on cables, I guess :rolleyes:. I'm prepared to dig out my soldering iron if it makes a huge difference, but I'm pretty busy at the moment so I'd prefer to buy the stuff ready made. Thanks for your advice!
£350 :eek:

You can certainly spend that if you want, but IMO it'd be a total waste of money.
There are quite a few ways to do it, none of which involve spending more than £100 tops.

You can agonise over whether to connect via the TV or the VCR/STB directly, but make your own phono cables, and it's cheap enough to do them all. You also get exactly the length you want then!

Personally I think the SA speaker cable is a waste of money - I'd use Puresonic 7845 at 1/4 the price (similar design really, but no silver). My position is that you'll not be able to hear any difference - others disagree, so it's up to you really.

You'd also need 3 SCART cables for the VCR and STB (VCR-TV, STB-TV, STB-VCR), but I'm assuming you already have these.
Wouldn't go overboard on them though if you haven't (CPC do decent ones for this purpose for less than a tenner each)

I'd buy (from CPC) something like:

10m Puresonic 7712 audio coax - £10.47 - CB01855

4 packs of Profigold 7mm phono plugs (16 plugs in all - 4 in a pack, £3.44/pack. These are solder type (plenty of alternatives if these aren't in stock - try CN02214, generic type at 46p each, or CN02385/CN02386, Nakamichi Red/Black)
16x CN02367 - screw type phomo plugs - £1.50 each.

3m Image 1000 Digital video coax - £0.85/m - CBBR6419 (state you want a 3m cut length)

Sufficient packs of Puresonic 7845 speaker cable

10m - £12.17- CB01875
5m - £6.19 - CB01874

Banana plugs as required

£0.65 each (say 24 of) (CN06916 Red, CN06917 Black)

And a SCART-SCART for the DVD-TV connection - a good one is needed - individually fully screened , preferably metal plugs etc etc. As you like Profigold, how about a PGV7000 Oxypure SCART-SCART cable for £19.83 +VAT, AV07506.
And Superfi would have you believe that their £40 internet offer for the same cable is somehow a good deal :)

If you need SCARTs for the VCR/STB etc, then something like AV07375 is more than good enough at £10.52.

All prices are plus VAT.

Comes to around £90 all in, assuming 2x10m and 1x5m packs of speaker cable are OK.
Add a tenner if you'd prefer screw type phono plugs instead of solder type.

Spend the other £250 on DVDs :)

If you don't fancy the DIY approach for the phonos, you could also get premade phonos, which are fine for just a few quid each. The plugs may not be as good though, and they won't "look the part", but sound wise, you'd probably never be able to tell.

AV01119 - 1.5m stereo phono lead £2.65 each (3 of)
AV02029 - 3m phono lead £2.14 (digital audio lead)
AV01123 - 2m phono lead £1.96 (subwoofer)

If you'd like a "make"

Then you can also get Puresonic and Profigold premade leads



3m DA cable - AV03944 £6.48 (this retails for £25 as the PGD483)
3m sub cable - AV04603 £7.12 (this retails for £20 as the PGA4103)


5050a - 1m - £6.15 (retails for £16.99)
9020A - 1m - £16.65 (retails for, wait for it..... £ 85.99 hahaha)

Not that the price is really any indication of the quality really, but it does demonstrate some of the ridiculous markups which are put on cables!
I use quite a lot of the Profigold gear. Its very well made stuff at high value.
Mike, thanks for taking so much trouble! This is great - I can't believe the price differences. I am getting the DA, sub and phono cables from CPC, and saving loads of money. Funny, although they brand the Puresonic cable, they don't say on the website that the DA and sub cables you mentioned are Profigold. Is that insider gen?

I haven't been able to find the Puresonic speaker cable on their website, so I wonder whether they've discontinued it.

The only thing I'm missing is a component video 3 phono to scart connector for DVD-TV. I think I'm going to have to shell out for the QED AV29 - I don't see any alternatives. I thought I'd found a Profigold equivalent but it goes in the wrong direction, and CPC doesn't seem to have anything like that. If you can suggest an alternative, let me know.

I'll post the final reckoning when it's all arrived. Cheers for the help.
The website is new - the kindest thing I think I can say at the moment is that it's a "work-in-progress" :)

The speaker cable is indeed in the 2003 catalogue - quote the catalogue number on the phone.

It's not really insider info about the Profigold stuff - it says so in the catalogue, and all the products have piccies, so you can also see quite clearly what it is! :)

Not sure exactly what you mean by the component - SCART cable.
Are you saying that your Loewe TV can take component video (YUV/YPbPr, not RGB) into one of it's SCART sockets?

If so, then CPC do a cable, 1.5m, AV07678, £5.45+VAT.
Made by Techlink - this IS on the website (seems quite a few things aren't yet)
It's simply a 3phono to SCART plug, with the direction being INTO the SCART plug. No audio though, but you'll be using the 3802 for that anyway, right? :)
No metal plugs though, and it looks a bit lightweight - no idea if it's any good.

That said, why not make one, it's not hard.
6m of digital video coax, three decent phono plugs and a high quality SCART plug will set you back about £12 - a lot less than the £70 QED want, and it'll be just as good, if not better!

CN03834 - HD GP Metal SCART plug - £2.64
CBBR6418 - Image 720 Digital video coax - £0.79/m (5.8mm diameter)

And 3 decent phono plugs, and you're away.
(You could add audio too if you really wanted)
Are you saying that your Loewe TV can take component video (YUV/YPbPr, not RGB) into one of it's SCART sockets?
Yes, that's right. Like you, I thought CPC's version looked a bit lightweight. In the end I decided to go with the AV29, although I convinced myself a shorter (cheaper) one will reach. I don't fancy getting into DIY scarts right now.

Everything else is coming from CPC. The website ordering was a bit of an adventure - it turns out the site has only been up for a week, it was offline for a year or so while they refurbished it. Still a few teething problems, but the folk were very helpful on the phone. I placed most of the order via the website and they later added in the parts that aren't in the website database yet. It came to £70, which is a big improvement on my expectations. So thanks a lot for all the advice Mike.
This thread seems to have digressed into a more general discussion of cabling, so I hope I am posting in the right place.

I plan to make up some full-pin scart cabling and would very much appreciate some help and guidance. I need to make up F to F runs of up to 30 ft (say 10m), so I can plug in variously at either end from sources to output. I'm really looking for realistically (price/quality realism) good quality for cable and connectors but I only know of Maplin as a stockist. Can anyone help with better suggestions or is their 6 way screened up to the job? What about sockets (to be housed in boxes I will make up face plates for)?

I will also be running separate S-Video, for which I have x2 RG6 in mind with F connector to Din plug break-outs on each end.

Any suggestions warmly appreciated. :)

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