Audio cables are the unsung heroes of your home recording studio. They’re not glamorous, and you don’t typically get excited about buying them like you would other pieces of gear, but they are used with nearly every piece of equipment you own, connecting one to another. Because of this, your cables can easily become the biggest foe of your studio. Too many studio hours are spent testing every cable to find the one with a problem that has shut down your entire recording process.
But this all leads to an important studio question: ‘Is it worth it to buy good quality audio cables?’ The overall answer is ‘Yes,’ though there are a few things that should be cleared up.
Buying studio cables is a lot like buying wine. If you buy the cheapest bottle in the store, even an occasional wine drinker will notice that the taste is sub-par. Moving to mid-range prices will result in a wine that is acceptable to just about everyone except the most snobbish wine connoisseur. While buying an extremely expensive bottle will be impressive (and is recommended should you have the budget for it), almost everyone will be more than happy with the aforementioned mid-range wine.
Cables should be treated the same: almost everyone (i.e. the musicians, engineers, listeners and your budget) will be more than happy with the quality of mid-range audio cables. The least expensive will result in a subpar recording, while the most expensive cables are nice, though your budget can likely be better spent in other areas of the studio.
Without getting into actual technical speak, more expensive cables provide advantages in three primary areas:
Noise and interference is the biggest enemy to your recordings, and can come from a variety of different sources, including your cables. As a general rule, the more you spend on the cords, the less noise your audio signal will pick up as it travels through the cable.
Just like your studio monitors , the quality of your cables are determined in part by their frequency response. As you’d expect, the more you pay for cables, the more the frequency of the original source will be maintained, particularly the highs and lows. And the better the frequency replication, the better replication you’ll get on your final recording.
Cheap cables wear out quickly, and will eventually cost you more throughout the lifetime of your studio than investing in better quality cables in the beginning, all at the sacrifice of your recording quality in the interim. Additionally, most decent cables come with a lifetime warranty, so if they do stop working you can have them repaired or replaced at no cost -- just be sure to hang on to the receipt or whatever documentation that is required for a fix or replacement.