Monster Cables face off against Coat Hangers

I love my movies, and by association aside from being a movie geek, that also makes me a home theater geek, or an Audiophile.

With the onset of each improvement in home theater technology I have to resist the urge to run out to the local big box electronics shop and indebt myself to their unfair interest rates to get the latest and greatest gadgets. As much as I want to be, I am not an early adopter. I do however, manage to resist (mostly) until the true early adopters have expressed their regrets and the shiny new price tags fade a little and they offer up more reasonable prices.

I always make sure I don’t cheap out, which sometimes means buying the more expensive cables and higher gauge speaker wires. All this leads me to a very interesting impromptu case study to determine if the hefty exaggerated cost of the MONSTER brand cables is really worth it.

The test set a small group of self-confessed audiophiles to listen to a selection of “smooth trio easy listening jazz” on a Martin Logan SL-3 speaker set at 75db and 1000KHz. The Monster 1000 audio cables (retailing at around $180 for a 12ft cable) connected one set of speakers and were facing off against another connection made from coat hangers!

Not kidding. In order to REALLY put a quality gap between the two samplings almost guaranteeing a winner, a coat hanger was jury rigged with audio connectors on each end and set to square off against a $180 24k gold tipped, noise-shielded, engineered multigauge braided audio cable.

After sampling the music a number of times in a blind test, the audiophiles could not distinguish which was the monster cable and which was the “other” cable. Each was satisfied with the tonal quality and sound of each cable offering.

Granted, the test was not conducted by a professional audio engineer and the small test group were “self-professed” audiophiles. However, you would think that there would be SOME obvious difference. Even the common person should be able to distinguish between the pricey engineered cables and the makeshift trash pretending to be cables.

Personally, I have tried cheap dollar store cables or those shoe string sets that come with a basic player and I can tell a difference from using a quality cable, however I also am not about to spend more than my Bluray player is worth on cables. I do buy good quality cables, but I base that on resistance ratings, connectors and wire gauge.

This only removes any doubt I have that my home theater system would sound better if I followed the advice of the commission sales monkey who was trying to pimp the Monster cables when I bought my receiver.

For those of you out there who take pride in their Home Theatre systems, do you trust in high end brands like Monster?

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22 Responses to Monster Cables face off against Coat Hangers

  1. Absolutely not! I trust physics, and I trust science. I love audio, and I like to have a great sounding system. And to me (and maybe my ears “aren’t in”, or whatever) I can’t tell the difference between expensive cables and the cables I use, which I made out of standard mains cabling. I CAN tell the difference between skinny wires that come packaged with low end all in one hifis and such, and larger gauge cables, but to me that’s where the improvements end. The reason no one could tell the difference in this test is because coat hangers are thick! I also have some issues with the fashion of braided cables… it doesn’t seem to make too much sense to me, but it DOES give more flexibility, more blurb to put on the box, and a product with a more tactile and high quality seeming finish. Which, I expect, is why people buy them and manufacture them.

    I’ll stick to my standard mains cable and spend the savings on records, and I’ll always be happy with the sound of my system! I have a Naim NAP90 and NAC92, a vintage pair of Tannoys and a Pioneer PL-12d turntable as the source, and after adding various different bits and pieces that I was bamboozled into buying I found that I didn’t get enough of a sound improvement to warrant the money I spent on it, and stripped it right back to what it is now, and it sounds great! Mains cable is ALL you need!

  2. While I don’t think super expensive cables are necessary (or worth it for that matter) I do think I would be able to tell the difference between a Monster cable and a coat hanger! That must have been a fun test to conduct. Insightful article. Keep ‘em coming.

  3. My impression is that only the gold-plated connectors are anything special on Monstercables. The cables themselves are allegedly shielded better… but obviously, from this test and others I've read, not enough difference to justify the prices!

  4. Put a GSM phone anywhere near a poorly shielded skinny wire and you will notice the irritating buzzing. Any cable with half-way decent shielding is fine.

  5. Monster has been raping the home theater community for decades now and with the digital age it has only gotten worse. In the digital realm something is a 1 or a 0, there is no in between. So by pure science there is nothing inherently more special about a Monster digital cable (HDMI, optical or coax) than any other discount brand.

    In the analog realm I also believe the differences are negligible. For years I have used the equivalent of lamp cord for my speaker wiring and it is every bit as good as any Monster cable costing ten times as much.

    Now, in the realm of connectors there can be some dispute, XLR mic cables for instance as there is a quality component in the construction. That's pretty much ZERO people in the home theater arena. So all in all you are getting ripped off, stop it.

  6. The funny thing about digital signals is that you either have a signal (1) or you don't (0). In the days of analogue signaling, the quality of audio cables was slightly more important (and may still be important between analogue speakers themselves and the device sending voltage to them). But with digital audio, unless you have a cable that has an open in it, you won't be able to tell the difference.

  7. The biggest issue I have with the test is the length of the test cables. A coat hanger is about 3 feet long when straightened. the Monster cable used was 12 feet long. There would be attenuation there, That could mean a lot. get a 12 foot long coat hanger and test again

    • Yup. I hooked up a DVI digital monitor across a room with one of their higher grade cables. over 50 feet and nothing wrong with the picture. I would have paid way more at Best Buy for the same length of (cheap-o) daisy chained cables that an employee suggested, though with a funny look on his face like that wasn't a good idea. It's not.
      Monoprice is the way to go.

  8. Monster products do only one thing well. Make money for Monster. You can find a slew of articles where Monster cables vs <insert name here> find that there was no difference except for the exorbitant cost.

  9. I've seen the dealer costs for Monster products, and they are no more expensive than many other cheapies out there. The DEALERS are the ones who make money selling Monster…especially the big box stores. They're marking them up 500%+ easily. I loved it when Radio Shack discontinued many (if not all) of their Monster wires. I got some pretty sweet deals! If you get a good price on them, Monster makes a fine cable. The ends on Monster are among the best I've ever seen too! Don't get gypped by the REAL high end cables out there. Cables should never cost $1000 for a 3m pair.

  10. Ever since I switched to Monster coat hangers I swear my clothes just hang better. Worth the extra cost if you ask me.

  11. An audiophile mate of mine at uni, went through the phase of oxygen free crystal aligned copper cable for his speakers. I used spare 2 core mains cable. (no noticable difference)
    Once you're over a certain threshold the improvement from "better" cables is minimal.
    The one thing he did, that improved the sound of his system to any noticable degree, was also the cheapest thing he did……. He got his ears cleaned out.

  12. Monoprice not only has "good quality" cheap cables, they have the same quality as Monster. There is no appreciable difference. Likewise, they have wall mounts identical to those offered at Best Buy for 1/3rd the price, and many other necessities. Any discussion of whether or not to buy Monster cables should end with "Just buy it from Monoprice instead."

  13. I'm not an audiophile… as long as the sound isn't buzzing or doing something terrible weird I'm good. However my husband is a sound engineer and if anything (no matter how small) is wrong we can't watch/listen to anything. That being said for our home system we don't use monster. Z would never spend that much on cables. He'd rather spend the money on better things.

  14. Negative. I order my cables and connectors from Monoprice. I have endless debates with a friend of mine about how much money he spent on Monster cables. No matter what I say or show him, he SWEARS by his purchase and continues to buy Monster when he adds components. Amazing what marketing can do for a product …

  15. Monster makes good cables, but most of what you pay for is the brand name. A couple people have mentioned Monoprice. They're a good option.

    You can get good sound out of anything that provides the proper resistance for your system. Thinner cables offer higher resistance, and coud negatively affect the sound.

    That said, shielding is very useful in any practical environment. In some environments, you could get by with an unshielded coat hanger (provided you put the connectors on it properly), but in my house you would end up with some RF problems with anything unshielded.

  16. Stupid; of course coat hangers will work well as speaker wires. You could use some #8 rebar and get the same performance. Unshielded 2-conductor cable is what's usually used for speakers; using shielded cables is a waste of money. All you need to do is make sure the wire size is big enough to carry the current and you'll get no distortion or noise. Try using an unshielded cable for low level signals such as line or microphone inputs and THEN you'll notice the difference. For microphone level signals better shielding and lower attenuation really do make quite a difference. So start by picking the correct cable type for your application. High quality cables will usually have better shielding, lower attenuation, better connectors, and a lower frustration level when you use them.