These cables carry the stereo signal coming from different sources towards your amplifier, or pre-amplifier. To be in compliance with current standards, their impedance should be of 50 Ohms. This cabling can also have an influence on the final quality of sound reproduction and is also an important element of your system. The reliability and reproduction quality of an audio cable rests principally on the purity of the materials used in its making, but also on the connecting plugs.
The favourite metal used by manufacturers is copper, which has several levels of purity. In any case, different alloys may be used, including notably copper-silver alloy. The metal conductor, in addition, is sheathed in insulating material, such as Teflon (used in most top-of-the-line cables), which has ideal properties.
When it comes to plugs, it’s best to choose the gold-plated variety, which prevents them from oxidising over time and guarantees a constant sound quality.
The choice of materials used thus plays a noticeable role on the listening quality, but also on the price of the cables, which is based on the purity and rarity of the materials used in their composition. Just as in the case of buying speaker cables, you should be coherent with regard to the budget dedicated to each element of your system. The price of some cables can reach that of a CD player, but there’s no point paying more than 300 Euros (more than £200) for a modulating cable to connect a machine costing the same price. By the same token, it would be a shame to use a cable supplied with a CD player costing 150 Euros (£110) to link up your new DVD costing over 1,500 Euros (£1,100). To get a good general idea, a coherent budget for a cable corresponds on average to around 10% of that paid for the machine which is being linked to the amplifier.
The key is to be demanding, while remaining reasonable!