True or false? Expensive cables for your TV will improve viewing quality

If you’ve ever purchased a new TV, you’ll also know about the potentially confusing experience of having to choose from an array of cables - and all at different prices. So, do expensive cables improve viewing quality, true or false?

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When I bought a LED TV and DVD player about 5 years ago the salesman tried to tell me I needed an expensive HDMI cable to connect them, but I told him that the cheap ones worked just as well, and purchased one for less than $20, saving myself over $100 in the process. As far as my wife and I are concerned, the cheap cable performs perfectly well!

I think the only thing improved by expensive HDMI cables is the profit made by the people selling them.


For any given technology - analogue or digital - the cable needs to be of a standard and quality good enough to be reliable and electrically matched. In the old days there was a little more to it, but with digital a lot of that has gone the way of the dodo. Data is data - if it is transmitted reliably and error free, that is all we need. Speakers - driven from an amp - are still one area where there is lots of bovine faeceology at the point of sale that the average person has trouble debunking. As long as the overall resistance is low for a given run and impedance of load, and the insulation is of good quality, and the terminations are electrically sound (pressure connectors not so great) then it should be fine. Individual strands of copper rubbed on the thighs of virgins are not required - is that where the rubbish about ‘skin effect’ comes from - who knows.


Cable cost makes no difference, it is the signal quality through the cable which is important.

For digital signals, providing there is no external interference (such as a magnetic field that may induce a current in the cable), one will know if the cable has a problem as it will cause pixelation of the image on the screen. If there is no pixelation, the cable is good irrespective of the cost.

We have bought cables at the very cheap end (around or less than $10 from Kmart) and they have been of good quality and have not had any image quality issues.

I suspect that the very cheapest of cables won’t have the same protection against external interferences, but in a normal working environment we haven’t experienced any issues with other electronic devices (AVR, DVD player, TV and tablet chargers operating within 300mm of the cables).

Personally, I would avoid more expensive cables unless they have a particular characteristic such as protects against external interference, when you know that you have this problem in the cables operating environment. Even then, I would still be searching for the cheapest cable that offers this protection rather than a fold plated version being sold by a ‘electronics’ salesperson.

Also, the ACL applies for hdmi cables so if you buy a cheap one (or expensive one) and it fails on or after purchase, it will be able to be replaced or refunded offerred. The same would apply to a cable that specifies protection from external influences, but doesn’t in your operating environment (has to be fit for purpose)…a refund or replacement/alternative cable replacement would be possible in such case.


If the packaging on an inexpensive HDMI cable says ‘high speed’ then it is as good as an expensive HDMI cable that says ‘high speed’. You don’t need to pay extra for all the fancy words on the expensive packages.

I have only ever bought the inexpensive versions, and they have all performed perfectly.

The only thing I have found is that they are not overly robust if they are not just plugged in and left alone. We connect laptops to the TV screen via the HDMI to view something, and then disconnect the HDMI from the laptop and coil the cable back up near the TV. We’ve had a few HDMI cables that have developed faulty connections near where the cable enters the plug. If that happens we just buy another cheap cable and we are still streets ahead financially compared to buying an expensive cable.

I don’t know, but I suspect that the expensive cables would suffer the same fate if used like this. That would be a real financial pain!


I agree with Tamas @meltam that it depends on whether the cable is plugged in once and left untouched , as in a wall mounted largse flat screen , or continually plugged in and out of the device . I will look for plug strength in that case . As far as cable price goes I’ ve seen HDMI cables worth $5.00 and some worth $1000 a metre . Honestly I can’t really tell the difference in picture quality . /

In the end it’s just horses for courses . Pay for for what suits your budget and you are happy with .


I buy cheap HDMI cables and refuse to pay more than $2 per cable and some nominal postage unless it is longer than 2 metres. Best price I ever paid was $1 for a 1.5 metre cable from Coles (it admittedly was on special and I bought several). Never have had issues with picture or sound quality through any of them. No I don’t use them all myself but I do buy them for when friends and family require cables for their nice monitors etc they place around their homes.

Speaker cabling it pays to buy well insulated but not overboard priced.

When I buy Toslink optical fibre I always pay for quality certified product, this can mean a bit of a premiium on cheaper non certified but my feeling it is worth the extra to ensure it meets the standards.

On the rare occasions I need Ethernet cable for a TV again I buy only cable that is certified at least to Cat 5e, I avoid the cheap China ones as the crimping/connections of the RJ45 connectors has been poor on several occasions. I tend now to make to requirements.

But in all of this nothing needs to be overly expensive and all can be bought at quite modest prices and still deliver excellent service.


HDMI cables carry digital signals 0 and1s so the cost of the cable has no bearing on the quality of the picture they either work or don’t work.
There is a whole industry devoted to getting consumers to pay large sums of money for interconnects,and use snakeoil descriptions such as “skin effect,colorization,warmth,and openness”.
As long as the cable is reasonably robust and well made don’t pay pay through the nose!


Rather than try to reconstruct all the salient points and sub-questions,


Audiovisual cable mythology is a good example of a marketing method that is often employed in selling. It can be used anywhere but fits in best with technical equipment for reasons that will become apparent. Let’s call it the voodoo confusion method, it has several common characteristics.

One is the some is good therefore more is better fallacy. For example, very thin speaker wires with weak connectors may degrade the sound due to high resistance or intermittent contact. The converse of this is to use very thick wires with very expensive connectors (literally gold plated). The salesman says they must be better, and technically he is right, but is it important? Would a well made cable with adequate connectors do just as well for a fraction of the price? Probably. Can you hear the difference using the super expensive cable? Probably not.

It uses appeal to quality, including special qualities. Gold represents quality in most people’s mind, just the word has that connotation. So you can add the word ‘gold’ into the spiel but better still something actually made of gold - whether it really matters or not. This allows the salesman to refer to a concrete item and to wave it in front of you, “gold, gold, gold I say”. You may be subjected to a demonstration where the two cables are compared, the salesman will tell you “hear the openness, the silky transients and the firm stereo images…”. Hopefully he remembers which one is plugged in before he starts with the poetry.

It can use appeals to special problems, bogies that may or may not matter but that can be a worry to the non-technical consumer. The skin effect is one such. The way that current is carried depends on frequency, as the frequency of an AC signal increases the current density increases near the surface of the conductor. Already this sounds bad. Will a really expensive cable defeat this dreaded condition? Does it actually matter?

Confusion over new and old is grist for the mill. Once audiovisual signals were all analog, now many are digital. Analog signals in a wire degrade fairly gradually, digital signals tend to be all or nothing. The arguments that were used for selling analog cables (eg really thick speaker cables) have been transferred to selling digital, whether they are relevant or not. Provided it is of the correct specification and sufficiently durable (which nearly all will be) a modestly priced HDMI cable will perform just as well as the one five times the price. Either it works perfectly or the degradation is very obvious.

Lastly we have ‘go the extra yard’. You have just spent thousands of dollars on a stack of gear. You are on a high expecting great things once you get it home. If the salesman has done his job he not only helped create that feeling but now he will burnish it for one more sale. “You wouldn’t want to ruin this great gear with cheap cables would you?” The percentage markup on those fancy cables will be higher than the main equipment and he will be grabbing for that extra bit of cream now the haggling is done and you are feeling mellow.

Note the use of ‘salesman’ and male pronouns is deliberate.


I think the biggest single expense for my viewing pleasure was worth every cent - lens cleaner - amazing how much better the image on my tele looks now my spectacles are clean :wink:


thanks for the chuckle!


I’ve also never spent more than a couple of dollars on cheap imported HDMI cables and I get great picture quality and perfect surround sound. I doubt a more expensive cable could improve on that, and if it did, I probably wouldn’t notice.


Love your desciptive “bovine faeceology” phrase!!


Hi I agree with all the contributors that cheap well constructed and without a hint of gold HDMI cables are electrically as good as the expensive ones. The same comments apply to ethernet cables as long they are to Cat e standard. Incidentally MSY and no doubt other on line computer retailers sell ethernet cable testers for $5 to $10 which are eminently suitable for testing continuity of ethernet cables.
Now when it comes to speaker cables we enter into an esoteric world of “Oxygen free” copper speaker cables costing anything up to $40 - $50 per metre and thick enough to power the Sydney Opera House. These cables are the favourites of the “golden ear set” who can hear distortion caused by electrons bumping on Oxygen atoms in the copper cable. As a rule of thumb any Fig 8 speaker cable around 14 AWG at $2/m for a 10 metre roll is more than adequate for the average Hi Fi amp up to 100 (True) Watts /channel (very very loud). I have been using Selby Acoustics, an online retailer for years to purchase same and all cables including HDMI etc and they ship Aus wide post free. They claim to sell 99.95% Oxygen free copper speaker cables BUT it is the iron and nickel impurities in the copper that is hard to eliminate than Oxygen atoms which are present on the surface of the copper cable as copper oxide.


I generally agree with the comments above but I did find that a more expensive cable performed over 6 metres when the cheaper one would not. I didn’t test a second cheaper to see if there was a fault I just accepted the more expensive cable and have used it for 15 years without problems.


I suppose the electrons which move along a hdmi cable don’t discriminate whether the cable is expensive or cheap. If the cable can allow the transmission of these electrons (does not have a break in the connection/cable somewhere), the same signal will end up at the other end of the cable.

If the same materials are used…such as twisted/braided copper wire, then the amplitude of the signal will also be the same.

If different transmission materials are used, the cable with the higher resistance will have a lower amplitude at the other end making the signal ‘less strong’.

It is possible that some cables may have higher resistance which may affect its functionality over longer distances…however, if a long hdmi cable is sold as a cable, it still has to be fit for purpose. If it does not work or has signal quality issues (whether it is cheap or expensive), it would fall under the ACL for refund or replacement.


Love your feedback but especially love this phrase :rofl: