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overuse a cable (wire)? Answered

I was reading an online review for a $995 HDMI cable on bestbuy.com

The guy said that the more you use a cable (i.e) the more electrons pass through it the more it degrades the cable.

its this cable
AudioQuest - Diamond 3.3' High-Speed HDMI Cable - Dark Gray/Black


Is that true or does he just want to justiy spending 1000 on a cable?



Best Answer 7 years ago

This is just absolute utter bull-sh*t!

Using a cable (to transport the signal levels it is designed for) does not wear it out. Electrons go in on one side and come out on the other side, there is no kind of internal abrasion - or did you ever see fine copper particles on the power outlets in your house? (If there was metal dust, it's from the contacts of the plugs, not the cable)

The signals on HDMI are digital signals and so is the result at the end of the cable, you either see exactly what goes in or nothing at all. Yes, there is signal degradation, there might be a timing difference between the individual signals, but the receiver circuits will just recreate the original input signal (or nothing at all).

If the distance is not to long and you just install the cable and forget it, got for a cheap model. If the distance is longer make sure the cable is not too thin. If you want to plug the cable in/out more often go for better plugs and make sure the cable is somewhat flexible and will not break easily.

A thousand dollars for a cable is okay, but only if the cable is a few hundred meters ('yards' for metrically challenged) long.

Johnny come lately here...In a prior job I built cable tv headends. Generally, if your wire is longer than 20 or so feet (in your house) then you ought to use a wire with a higher conductor gauge. Otherwise, you shouldn't notice a difference. As for the skin effect, that really comes into play for short distances when there are other factors that cause attenuation, such as cable corrosion, etc. With longer cable runs (>50') you do have a skin effect, but it really presents when you get above 400MHz. HDMI and component cables really shouldn't suffer from skin effect issues, especially since you're likely not cutting the cables yourself. My suggestion, buy what fits your budget, and if it doesn't work then take it back and get your money back.

@iceng - The last time I checked, skin effect was only significant at RF frequencies. If it was a factor at power line frequencies, power lines would use fancy plating.

The link you offered up didn't appear to have much credibility, and the content ran counter to much of what I learned in electronics school regarding the reasons wires are stranded vice solid.

You should look some more, though I would think at 62 you would have known.
Did you follow the link or just view the picture,
( I do like the way the energy exits his foot ).
The skin effect has relevance as low as 50 Hz transmission power lines.
 (see the pic below)
And another relevant pointer.
Since audio runs above power line frequencies the skin effect can distort audio.
And one more pointer.


Aluminium Conductor Steel Reinforced.png

Contrary to amateur belief, cables WILL degrade over time, but not by the mechanism suggested by your friend. It's more a matter of natural aging due to flexing and oxidation.

Contrary to audiophile belief, the odds of your hearing/seeing any difference during the lifetime of the home entertainment system are negligible unless you're abusing them.

Say what? I'm an electrical engineer, not an "audiophile". I don't believe in "oxygen free cable", and I have dealt with many cabling problems that were traced back to degraded cables in industrial and R&D apps.

Flex in cable breaks the individual wire strands, so yes, cable does degrade with time. That's the nature of the beast. Also, minute intrusions into the jacket surrounding cable allows oxygen into the cable., thereby allowing corrosion to do damage to the cable. Apparently your professional experience is lacking in this area. Mine is not.

As am I, though my career has taken me into software. I fully grant your point in theory; I disagree in this specific area of practice.

Flexing of cables is certainly an issue, but home stereo cables rarely flex once installed... and the point of multistranded cable is that it's OK if any one strand has some breaks since current simply crosses to the others. At home-stereo currents/voltages, this is Not A Problem.

Corrosion of cables is certainly an issue, but the same observations apply; the amount of degradation observable in this application is minimal to negligible.

Corrosion of _contacts_ is more likely to be an issue; connection failure in general is the single most common cause of electronics problems. Loosening of contacts likewise. But those are easily addressed when they arise, often by simply re-seating the connection. Again, the severity of the problem caused in the specific application of component-to-component and component-to-speaker wiring in home entertainment systems has been massively overstated by marketeers.

This is, of course, presuming a typical home environment. Corrosive environments, moving environments, etc. will change the equation somewhat. And I will agree that turntable pickups inputs are more sensitive to this than most other cables, being at lower signal levels. However, I must also point out that I've worked as a sound tech. Microphone cables are at similar signal levels and much longer runs, and while I admit these are more robust cables I have never seen a corrosion issue -- flexing, crimping, tension and mechanical shock have always been the causes of the failures I've seen.

We may have to agree to disagree on this, but for this querant and this application, I stand by my statement. Corrosion within a cable is a valid issue in theory, but I really haven't observed it in practice. Your milage will, of course, vary. Void where mandatory. Absolutes are inherently false.

Yep, no such thing as always and absolute. That being said, saying there is no absolute is in itself an absolute thereby rendering that statement false as well. So, there is probably no absolute but probability and uncertainty always leave the door open for possibility no matter how remote it might be. Never say never and never say always.

Yep, that was the intended reading.


7 years ago

Only place gold is needed in cables of the wire kind
is where signal metal meets signal metal.
Gold really helps low voltage signal connections.

But then digital and optical cables are not subject skin effect phase disparity.

DID You Know ;
Induction motor rotor squirrel cage deep bar design
skin effect
provides low speed high torque to the horse power range machines.


$9.95 would be closer to the correct price.

No, cables do not degrade. And even if they did, at that price you could replace a cheap cable on a regular basis just with the interest from leaving that money in a bank account.

Basic principle, here as elsewhere: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Assertion is not proof.

That's nothing!  How about £8,795 ($14,400) for a 1.25 metre mains cable.

Up to a point you will get an increase in quality and durability by investing in a 'professional' grade cable (e.g. gold plated contacts, impedance matching etc)
Then there are the 'special' cables with sales jargon based on pseudo-science, meaningless technical jargon and downright lies, designed to fool the gullible with more money than sense.
And no, putting electrons through a cable does not wear it out (excessive power conditions exempted.)

Well, that is actually not _that_ stupid.

A mains cable can bring some RF noise into a device. If the noise is very strong and/or the power supply stage in the device is designed badly, the stray RF might interfere with the internal operation.

And, for a badly/cheaply designed device the filters in the cable might prohibit internally generated noise to be spread to the mains net (and interfere with other devices there)

So having some filters in/on a mains cable can make sense.

BUT: 10.000€ for a mains cable? That's gold plated bull-sh*t.
Can't believe there are people dumb enough to believe this pseudo-science.
Use a simple cable and plug it into a mains filter, done.

I was actually thinking of buying one for my electric kettle #;¬)

I would imagine that if someone's thinking of spending several thousand £/Euro/$ for a mains cable then they've probably spent several times that on power conditioning before that.  

I was at a hi-fi show wayyyy back in the 'seventies where a small company was promoting its 'TEB Technology'. Surveyed afterwards, people were reporting improved clarity, separation, dynamics etc for the system.
Near the end of the day it was revealed that TEB stood for Totally Empty Box!

He just wants to convince people (whom he regards as fools) into spending stupid-money on a cable. You meant the SPAM-review I guess?



7 years ago

Have you heard ??
Golden cables degrade audio performance ( whaaat ?)
No one I know, makes solid Au cables or could buy them.
Ergo,  gold cables are flashed or plated over copper.

SKIN Effect :
As audio frequency ( sound ) increases the phase & volume disparity increases.
This happens because gold is a better conductor then copper.
The higher audio frequencies crowd into the gold plate
while the low audio frequencies travel through both.

A perfect pitch audio engineer told me he can tell
when a gold cable is being used by the sound.

Not convinced ?
High voltage high frequency RF tesla coil energies travel over your skin.
   See Mr. Vale's picture if it was 50 Hz he would be spectacularly Dead.

One more, Our electricity comes over 50 or 60 Hz high voltage transmission
lines that depend on the skin effect.



1) As others have pointed out, electron flow does not wear out a cable. At reasonable levels; plug that HDMI cable into the wall and that's a different story (but even that is not wearing out the cable, just burning it up).

2) Back in The Good Old Days of analog signals, a high-priced signal cable could make a big difference in sound/video quality. With digital signals, it has to be a really bad cable before you notice and there is next to no difference between a $10 good cable and a $60 excellent cable (as yokozuna observes). You can see the difference on an oscilloscope, but your eyes/ears can't tell. With digital, the point of diminishing returns is reached very quickly.


7 years ago

Electrons flowing through a cable do not degrade it unless its an extreme amount of current and the wire burns up. The fact that the guy would say something as stupid as that would convince me to buy nothing from him.
They used to make this type of claim with USB cables, and there is no truth to it. A cheap cable will carry current just as well as an overpriced cable.

Buy the way, if what this guy is trying to tell you was true the power cables in your walls would be wearing out along with the telephone cables connecting all the substations. Believe me, you don't see the utility companies digging up their cables and replacing them because they have had a lot of electrons moving through them.
Sometimes I cannot believe how dumb people can be. Ask him if he slept through grade school science. In his case he is definitely not smarter than a 5th grader.

Spot on correct in all respects.

As a video professional, trained on ways to spot video degradation, I don't see much difference between $10 and $60 ones (i've never seen a $1000 one, even at a professional level). The only real difference in pro cables is they generally have more shielding, which generally translates to longer life of the cable instead of better video quality. Andy is right, there is sometimes slight differences, but most can't be detected by the human eye, so why bother to pay for them?

I think they're just trying to get you to buy a waaaaaaay overpriced cable. You can get an hdmi cable ffrom amazon for $10, or get a good one for $60. Buy that $1000 one only if you're a professional in some job that requires that. Thats just my opinion