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Should Cars Have High End Audio Cables?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Should Cars Have High End Audio Cables?

Adam Blake
November 15, 2005

For years it has been well understood in home audio that cables can have a tremendous impact on a sound system, both good and bad. Choose the right cables and you can expect a system to come to life. Choose poorly designed cables, and you may forever be wondering why you can’t get your system to come to life.

Car audio however, has been a different story. While many companies still offer coaxial interconnect cables, most have come to realize that the basic twisted pair design offers far better noise rejection in a vehicle. And then… Nothing. That’s it. Innovation seems to have hit a brick wall at the shielded twisted pair interconnect in car audio. This begs the question; Should Cars Have High End Audio Cables?

To begin with, let’s briefly go back to home audio. After many years of fighting an uphill battle, the idea that cables make a difference has become a mainstream ideology amongst audiophiles. But it isn’t just audiophiles who can hear the difference. In fact, in our own testing, the differences can be heard by just about anybody, even on very modest audio systems. It just takes a willingness to discard any preconceived notions and actually listen to some music.

So, if cables make a difference in home audio, is there a reason why it shouldn’t matter in car audio? The quick answer is no. The following outlines some of the reasons why cables matter just as much, if not more, in car audio.

- Cable Length – Longer Cables Generally Do More Sonic Damage

Many people are under the impression that car audio uses shorter cables than home audio, and therefore does not need to bother with high fidelity cables. This is completely incorrect. While the typical interconnect length in a home audio system is about 1 meter, vehicles will frequently use 5 or 6 meter interconnects to put amplifiers in the trunk. In terms of speaker cables, car audio almost always uses cables longer than the 6-8 feet used in most home audio setups.

- Environment – Cables Are Affected By Their Environment

Vehicles represent a far more challenging environment for cables than home audio systems. Two typical sources of noise in cables are Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI) and Radio Frequency Interference (RFI). In vehicles, the entire chassis is frequently used as the ground return path. This allows noise from car components such as the alternator to be inducted into the audio cables via EMI. In terms of RFI, unless proper shielding is used, the longer cables in cars will act as antennas and pull in more noise. A third source of noise in a vehicle is vibration. This is of course far worse in a vehicle than in a home system. Pear Cable is the first company to bring out a car audio cable that virtually eliminates the noise caused by cable vibration. The TRIBODeadÔ technology present in the Comice Silver Interconnect is an electrically conductive plastic layer that prevents static electrical charges, caused by vibration, from building up in the cable.

- Is Quality Sound Just for Home Audio or does it have a Place in Car Audio Too?

Some people feel that a car audio sound system will never be as good as a home audio system, and therefore high fidelity cables are a waste of money in a car. This is a faulty conclusion. The experience of listening to music in your vehicle while driving down the highway is unique and cannot be replicated in the home audio environment. The bottom line here is that many people spend more time listening to their car audio system than their home system, and they want it to be the best that it can be. The characteristics of bad audio cables (listening fatigue, poor realism, overly bright treble, or general noise) will all still be audible in a car audio system. Just like home audio, the wrong cables in your vehicle will kill the listening experience.

At the end of the day, many people want quality sound in their vehicles. If you are installing an aftermarket system in your vehicle and you care about sound quality, you need to care about cables. If you are only interested in having the loudest car, without regards to accuracy, then high fidelity audio cables probably aren’t for you. Otherwise, it simply doesn’t make sense to shell out good money on amplifiers and speakers, only to hook it all up with mediocre wire. Car audio enthusiasts are every bit as serious as home audio enthusiasts, and now there is finally a cable company that is serious about serving their needs.

Adam Blake Pear Cable, Inc. http://www.pearcable.com

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