In the world of consumer electronics, there may be no one topic more polarizing than that of cables. In the 1970s, Noel Lee from Monster Cable, taught stereo stores around the world that cables were the perfect "attach sale" to go with speakers, receivers, turntables and cassette decks. A lot has changed since Noel got started but one thing no audiophile, home theater enthusiast or consumer electronics executive can deny is that there are quite a few audiophile cables out there today. Many make outlandish claims about performance. Others are physically thick like a garden hose and basically inflexible. Others are paper thin and lightweight. Some are twisted, braided or even sometime propped up on saw-horse-like stands.
What Are The Best Audiophile Cable Brands?
Transparent Audio (left) - Many audiophiles like Transparent Audio for their "get out of the way" sound. Their trade-up programs allow for customers to start at under $100 and upgrade all the way up their product line. Trasnparent's Opus cables are famous for being some of the most expensive and lusted after cables. Opus can cost upwards of $30,000 per pair of interconnects.
Kimber Cable (right) - Recording engineer, Ray Kimber's, twisted or braided cables are among the most respected in the business. This Utah based company makes the full scope of cables for audiophile use from affordable to over-the-top expensive.
Nordost (left) - Nordost cables are used in audiophile applications but come from the world of defense contracting. The minute detail needed in signal transfer between government equipment makes for one wonderful audiophile interconnect or speaker cable. Nordost's form factor is paper thin and wide unlike other more thick, hose-like reference cables.
Crystal Cable (right) - Crystal Cable is made from actual silver which is both exotic and expensive as the current price of silver (versus copper which is used in most audiophile cables) is sky high these days. Silver cable has a somewhat analytical, "clean" sound that many advanced audiophiles just can't live without.
MIT Cables (left) - They aren't made at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology but they have a lot of technology in their "blocks" that are attached. MIT was the company that Transparent Audio's Jack Sumner got his start at. MIT basically started the very high end audio cable business in the 1980s.
Siltech - Another silver cable company, Siltech is quite expensive but very beloved with the single ended triode tube fans among other audiophiles.
Audioquest (right) - Irvine, California based, Audioquest cables has become a big company that mainly outsources the production of most (but not the very top) cables to places like China. They are worthy of an honorable mention for their top cables, audiophile record label but the mid-part of the line doesn't pack the value that other on this list have.
Monster Cable - They once bought the naming rights to Candlestick Park in San Francisco with all of the money that they made selling cables but today Monster isn't as focused on uber-audiophile cable as much as they are on being a lifestyle brand that sells products like their Beats by Dre headphones. They might not have the audiophile credibility of the cables listed above but none of them could have gotten to where we are today without Noel Lee and Monster Cable. He literally invented the game.
In the end, audiophile cables are not about adding to the sound of a system. They are about passing the signal as cleanly and as purely as possible from one component to the next. Less is more when it comes to cables however less is not what you pay when you want the best in cables. Are high end audiophile cables worth the money? How much should you spend? Look at it like wine - if you like a $20 bottle of wine then it is good. Period. End of discussion. Is $100 a bottle wine made from the same grapes as good? That depends on your taste buds because it will be different for everyone. Its for that exact reason why there are so many type, SKUs and prices for cables. The perfect cable is out there for you. Enjoy the journey to find it. Its part of the fun of the audiophile hobby.