Caveat Emptor Is Always Good Advice

There are really two kinds of audio and video cable at these shows. One is the cable, made usually in Asia, that probably works OK. It passes continuity, and for audio, that's about it. But then we have the second kind of cable.
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Every January I go to the CES, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Another show is not far off.

I go for a number of reasons but I spend the vast majority of my time just looking at, and talking to people about, wire and cable. And I have lot of people to talk to.

One time I put "wire" and "cable" into their show computer and got 914 hits. Even in four days, I couldn't visit 914 booths.

Putting in "audio-video" with wire and cable got it down to 169, and that's how many I visited.

More than 150,000 people show up, so just talking to the audio and video wire and cable people takes me all four days.


I'm sure you know that, when discussing wire and cable at any consumer or "home theater" tradeshow, common sense (much less actual scientific knowledge) is in short supply.

There are really two kinds of audio and video cable at these shows. One is the cable, made usually in Asia, that probably works OK. It passes continuity, and for audio, that's about it. Some of them look nice. And even if we're talking about high frequencies, such as broadband cable or HDMI digital video cable, if they're short they also probably work.

But then we have the second kind of cable. It's often made in the United States or in Europe, using exotic materials (lots of silver wire here) and exotic plastics (Teflon is a favorite). It costs many dollars per foot, and if you must ask the actual price, well, then you probably shouldn't use that cable.

I generally smile and nod when a salesperson starts to talk about skin effect (at audio frequencies), oxygen-free copper, crystal alignment, directionality, soundstage, detail or using twisted pairs to run unbalanced audio signals. Hey, if they want to know my version of the truth, they can get a copy of my book.

This is why I so much prefer talking to broadcast engineers, such as you, dear readers, since your knowledge is based on facts, and learning, and what can be shown, tested or demonstrated. I might impart just a bit of knowledge when I talk to you. And, more often than not, I learn something in exchange.

But scientific knowledge, and/or common sense, is not a consumer item.

For instance, I walked into a room demonstrating some super-expensive cable made in Europe. The display card on top of the sample stated, verbatim:

Deriving from the new Top of the linens of , offers the greater ones nuance of the greater brother. Neutralities, putting to fire and perfect music are unquestionable dowries of this product. Dedicated to who it wants to have the best, but without to spend a "patrimony". "INCREDIBLE".

OK, so maybe six weeks of English isn't enough for an advertising career.

And then we had the speaker cable that claimed, finally, to have "eliminated the problem of skin effect." Or the one that, I was told, used "tuned inductance" to dramatically improve performance.

I'm just concerned that, one of these days, they'll discover resistance and the effect it has in a speaker cable, and all hell will break loose.

Send your examples of fractured translations in product literature to


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