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Never Buy Expensive HDMI Cables [SCIENCE!]

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HDMI CablesIf you believe the advertisements, the holiday season is all about buying expensive electronics.

If you perused any of the Black Friday ads, half of the deals were for televisions. Now, if you bought a television, chances are you’re going to need some cables and this fantastic little company called Monster would love to sell you a 35 foot cable for three hundred dollars! You can “see and hear every detail, every nuance, without compromise.” … or you could use your brain and pick one up at Monoprice for less than thirty bucks.

But are the two really the same? Is it possible that a $300 HDMI cable could be worth the price tag?

My friend Mark sent me this epic cable – 3.3′ for $1,095.99 (free shipping!) at Best Buy. Stunning.

Clearly this is something Jamie and Adam of Mythbusters has tackled… right? Kinda.

Tested is the online home of Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, of Mytbusters fame, and covers anything that’s awesome. In the above linked article, Jamie and Adam didn’t do the testing but instead it was Zsolt Malona, the owner of an A/V installation company. Using some crazy boring equipment, Malona looked at the Gamut CIE and RGB Balance of the image sent through four HDMI cables of the came category but of different prices.

Result? The tests showed that there was some variation between the four cables but they were minor and “within acceptable limits.” Proof positive that you can get the $30 cable from Monoprice and spend the other $270 on something actually worth $270.

What was important? Getting the right category of cabling and staying within the limits of the specifications. Also, it might make sense to buy heavier duty cable if you’re installing it in a while so that it’ll last longer but even then it’s about longevity and not quality.

Lastly, and I believe everyone knows this… gold plated connectors are bullshit.

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19 Responses to “Never Buy Expensive HDMI Cables [SCIENCE!]”

  1. I got mine even cheaper, around 5 bucks I think, from Amazon and it still works fine a couple years later.

  2. cubiclegeoff says:

    I’ve used monoprice before and it’s been fine, and every place I’ve seen says there isn’t much of a real difference. So I’ll stick with monoprice.

  3. Glenn Lasher says:

    Much more important than the quality of your cable is whether or not the devices on opposite ends of the cable get along.

    I can connect just about any device to my Emerson TV and it works.

    I can connect my Dish Network receiver to just about any display, and it works.

    Put the two together, though, and it fails miserably. The solution has been to use component cables instead.

  4. Walter says:

    Wow. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a $300 HDMI cable.

  5. Don’t you mean ‘bullfeathers?” :-)

  6. DMoney says:

    This is such a scam. And the worst part is that Brick and Mortar’s like Best Buy will pimp out these expensive cables with big TV’s like there’s no other option.

  7. BrianC says:

    My current monitor came without an HDMI cable, and I was surprised by how much some stores were charging. I too went with the $5 from Amazon…seems to work fine for me!

  8. Ben Edwards says:

    Monoprice is what I’ve used. I know for a while CNET was using Monoprice HDMI cables in their home theatre test lab. Of course Best Buy will tell you differently.

  9. Cal says:

    I bought 5 cables from EBay and they all are still working excellent.. And I got them for $25 including shipping…. I am not one to just buy something cause somebody says…..

    Also remember your eyes will only see so much..They are not infinite in their vision so when the picture quality gets to a certain point for your eyes, everything else is just lost to your sight whether you have the most expensive set up or the least….

  10. Jim M says:

    Thanks for the heads-up. I’ll never buy another high priced cable again.

  11. freeby50 says:

    Very true. THese cables basically work or they don’t work. If it works then they’re essentially all the same.

  12. Jon says:

    Expensive cables mattered slightly more when everything was analog. Digital is 1′s and zeros, so you can’t really lose much like you could when everything connected with RCA jacks. Even the cheap store brand cables at BB and others like them are a big markup item for the store. My buddy worked at BB back when they sold everything to employees at cost plus a tiny percentage. His price on a $25 audio cable after the employee discount- $2.13. Speaker wire can be worth paying slightly more for large gauge cable if you are buying $2,000 floor speakers, but even that doesn’t need to be premium Monster Markup Cable, in my opinion.

  13. Ray says:

    I think the whole idea behind the $300 HDMI cable is price anchoring, they might not actually sell any of them, but compared to $300, a $50 cable seems like a great deal, especially if your unsure of the actual price.

    Also enthusiasts will buy anything.

  14. mannymacho says:

    The customer reviews on that $1100 cable are prettey entertaining also.

  15. Jeff Miles says:

    This looks like a rip off . Paying $300 for cable connectors is just Insane.

  16. Tuna says:

    The important thing to note here is that the cable is sending a “digital” signal. If the signal makes it to the other end, there should be no degradation of the data being sent (picture and sound). When you are sending “analog” signals over a wire it’s a different story. Are they worth it for analog connections? That’s a whole different discussion. I’ve never compared expensive vs. inexpensive speaker wire side by side but I’m sure my old ears can’t tell the difference.

  17. harry says:

    years ago we studied connector integrity. our millions of connections demanded very low failure rates. gold, we thought, was best but in our tests, not always. it is thought that the mechanical connections actually form micro-welds if the connector and cable pins are of similar metals. that made the highest reliability connections. that is, if the fixed connector is gold then the cable pins should be gold also. if its tin then the cable should be tin. mixing the two actually reduced reliability long term. tin on tin proved to be as reliable as gold on gold but gold on tin was not. gold has its own problems if its not done right. there are certain plating thicknesses that produce surface inter-metallic compounds that actually reduce reliability. nearly all the failures i have seen with HDMI and similar have been workmanship or poor quality mechanical problems rather than connector plating issues. so a well made cable is more important than its connector plating. i have seen low cost cables of high quality and i have seen failures in expensive cables. but in general its construction quality that counts. gold is not an advantage unless both socket and connector are the same plating.

  18. Wow! I pick up all my HDMI cables on sale. I never pay over $10 for them. Thanks for the article.

  19. Damon Day says:

    Ya, I have never bought into the expensive cable hype. To me 30 bucks is almost too much to have to spend on a connection cable, but forget 300 dollars. I am in the same camp on most electronics. Like high end projectors in the 15,000 range when 1500 can get you a home theater projection so nice that even side by side it would be hard to notice any visual differences.


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