The Black Rhodium Blog

How Much Should I Pay For My Cables? - Part 1

 - By Graham Nalty, founder and owner of Black Rhodium

Minuet S RCA stereo interconnect – ideal for mid-price systems

When I first started selling hi-fi equipment there was a very simple rule that recommended anyone buying a music system to allow about 10% of their total budget on the cables.


At the time, upgrading hi-fi cables simply meant buying a similar design cable with a larger cross section.


Now we know much about how the sound from cables can be improved by good design and past generations have found that cable upgrading in a music system is the most cost-effective to enjoy better sound.


So perhaps it is time to ask the same question again?


A basic music system will include a source (phone, radio, laptop, CD player or turntable) plus an amplifier and a pair of loudspeakers. The price of a phone or laptop depends more on their other functions rather than potential sound quality so that is not so helpful. But if we use a CD as a source, the CD played is used for that purpose only. The same applies to a turntable.

Consider a basic system of a CD player, amplifier and pair of loudspeakers.


Loudspeakers are a major item of domestic furniture so let’s look at them first. Let us assume that the budget for loudspeakers is £1000.00. How much should we spend on the CD player and amplifier? Most people would not wish to spend as much on the amplifier, so let’s assume we spend £700 each on cd player and amplifier. That is a total budget of £2400.

Now let us look at the cables. This basic system will require a stereo interconnect (most likely RCA type), two power cables and a pair of loudspeaker cables.

We will want the cables to be of equal sound quality to avoid early upgrading, so let’s assume that we use cables of similar specification throughout. If we start with an RCA stereo interconnect priced at £100, what price would be the price of a pair of speaker cables and power cables made with the same quality wire.


A typical loudspeaker cable of 3 metres length will have twice as many connectors and three time the length of wire as the interconnect so we might expect to pay about £250 for the speaker cable. Most people might find this a bit high, so let’s compromise and say that a price of £150 - £200 for a loudspeaker cable in a system with a £100 stereo might seem more plausible. A typical mains power cable has less cable than a stereo interconnect, but requires more careful assembly so let us suggest £100 for the power cable.


If an XLR stereo interconnect is required, this is likely to cost slightly more than the RCA as it needs two screened cores in the wire against one for the RCA cable. Let’s suggest a price of £120 - £140 for the XLR stereo cable.


How much should a loudspeaker cable cost? If priced too high compared to the loudspeakers, it will not seem credible to the customer. If too low, the customer will not enjoy the full benefit of the loudspeaker’s sound quality.


The cost of loudspeaker cable could be between about one 35% and 50% of the price of the loudspeakers.


Power cables and RCA stereo interconnects might best be between 25% and 35% of the cost of the amplifier, say about £200 for an amplifier priced at £700.


For a system priced at £2400, I recommend a cable budget of around £1000 to get best value.


This analysis is very rough and ready, but greater precision may not get much better results.


Roughly speaking for every £1000 f the loudspeaker budget you should allow

  • £400 for your loudspeaker cables
  • £200 for your RCA stereo interconnect
  • £250 for your XLR stereo interconnect
  • £200 each for your mains cables


This is a much more rewarding estimate of cable cost that the 10% of your budget suggested in years gone band. I do think it far more realistic for music lovers desirous of enjoying the very best value for their money.


Please feel free to disagree.


Next time I will examine some real cable looms from the Black Rhodium range to see how well they would work for consumers.


Graham Nalty

August 2023