Q. I was in a big-box store shopping for a new 55-inch TV, a Blu-ray player and a sound system to go with them. Before I even picked out the television the salesman took me over to a wall with colorful boxes containing HDMI cables and stressed the importance of getting good cables.
The cables started at around $99 and went up from there. When I protested, he showed me some $40 cables but said I’d be compromising system performance with these lower-priced cables. I had not realized cables could be so expensive.
Do you think I am OK with the $40 cables? I am going to need four cables, one from the receiver to HDTV, and one each to the receiver from the cable box, Blu-ray player and video game console.
F.S., Bethel Park, Pa.
A. Actually, at $40 each I think you are spending far too much, and contrary to what the salesman told you, expensive cables make for a poorer-performing system. (Why? I will tell you at the end of the column.)
Given that the holiday season is upon us and many people will be buying HDTVs, Blu-ray players, sound systems and video-game consoles, it is a good time to warn everyone of one of the biggest scams, if not the biggest scam in the consumer world, the high-priced cable and wire scam.
The reason the salesman stressed the cables so strongly is the store makes a ton of money when someone falls for this scam, so he is probably under a lot of pressure to sell them.
How bad is this monstrous rip-off? Imagine going into a grocery store for cereal. You see a box of Lucky Charms for $99. When you say that is too expensive, the grocery store employee walks you over to the Cheerios for $40.
Well, dear readers, paying $40 or $99 for an HDMI cable is pretty much the same as paying $40 or $99 for a box of cereal, as good-quality HDMI cables can be had for around $5. There is actually a bigger difference in the cereals, as they are clearly different and anyone with a functioning sense of taste and smell can tell the difference between them.
Despite the pseudoscience and claims made on the cable box, there is no functional difference between a $2,000 HDMI cable and a $5 HDMI cable. HDMI is a digital signal and it either works, or it doesn’t.
You can get excellent HDMI cables online for under $10. I have long recommended mycablemart.com and monoprice.com, which have nice cables for under $5.
I also like the BlueRigger cables from Amazon, which have solid connectors and very strong construction that resembles a nylon rope.
If all cables are the same, why does buying expensive cables mean you end up with a system of inferior performance? It comes down to opportunity cost.
Let’s say you bought four of the $99 cables, for $396. Now, instead of buying $99 cables, let’s say you purchased $7 cables, saving you $368. Take that $368 and buy a better television and better speakers and you have noticeably better picture and sound quality for the same money.
Contact Don Lindich at www.soundadviceblog.com and use the “submit question” link on that site.
2012 McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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