$500 ethernet cable: are your packets worth it?

The people who sell super-expensive cables are on the march from Audiophileland to Nerdasia. Are we ready for the onslaught? First up: $500 ethernet cables from Denon!


IP is what we usually send over these cables, error-corrected from end-to-end. This means, generally, that throughput, rather than quality, is what drops with interference or long runs–the networking cards perform integrity checks on incoming packets and ask for re-sends if they're imperfect.

From a standard computing perspective, then, this cable is outright robbery if what you use it for involves ethernet networking, with routers and computers and what-have-you.

This is not, however, what Denon is pitching this for. Denon uses ethernet cable for its Denon Link system, and this means that it tangles up with protocols and streams which are not error-corrected. And it's true that digital isn't the "it works or fails outright" surety that some think it is: you can scramble ones and zeroes just like anything else, if nothing's acting as a gatekeeper at the far end.

Standard Cat6's characteristics, however, allow it hundreds of megabits per second of throughput (they're rated for a full Gigabit), over runs longer than almost any sound system could need. Are we seriously to believe that audio data such as 24-bit PCM and DVD-Audio, will be improved by spending $500 for fancy ones? Over runs of only 6 feet?

Product Page [Denon via Consumerist]

Published by Rob Beschizza

Follow Rob @beschizza on Twitter.

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  1. This has *got* to be a joke. “Signal directional markings for optimum sound transfer”, and the price, are both over the top.

    Having said that: No, _we_ aren’t supposed to believe it. Then again, _we_ aren’t the target audience; most of us geeks know that the difference between a $50 run of speaker cable and a $5 run of heavy zip cord is the added 0.

    High-end home-audio cables are a marketing application of the placebo effect; people want to believe that spending the money yields an improvement, and are then highly motivated to perceive an improvement in order to not feel like fools for having spent the money.

    There are places where good cables matter — between a transducer and the first pre-amp, for example. And getting the impedance right makes a difference. Beyond that… “Hey, Joe! This one’s anti-bacterial! That ought to keep bugs from being transmitted through the network, right?”

  2. I am beginning to suspect that audiophilia is actually the larval stage of a new religion.

    They have altars in their homes to the god of sound. They sacrifice large amounts of money to this god, believing that these will improve their sounds the same way a shaman dancing around a fire believes that it will bring the rain, or a desperate person will believe that a man on the TV set can cure their halitosis.

    There is no logic or reason applied – while much of what they say appears superficially to be scientific language, it’s often used incorrectly, or with meanings divorced from the original. Half-remembered hight school physics concepts become articles of faith.

    Once they’ve hit a certain point, the absurdity becomes the whole point of the exercise. It makes them unique while at the same time providing a subculture to interact with. Apparent persecution, in the form of people making fun of them for being frivolous with their money, binds that subculture together.

    Still, I can’t help but think of them as idiots with more money than sense.

  3. I certainly don’t have and wouldn’t spend the money.. but come on.. deep down.. don’t you wish your ethernet cables were that pretty?

    Look at that the connectors…the shielding… oooh

    I’m not saying it makes a lick of difference in data transfer.. but that is an awful purty cable.

    (ok, one downside, the connector is kind of huge and would probably block the ports next to it)

  4. I know there are some professional audio equipment manufacturers who utilize Cat5/6 to transmit analog audio. It cuts down on the number of different connections you need on the back of the equipment.

    If this is a similar system, and the link is handling analog audio rather than digital information, the cables MIGHT make a difference.

    That price is still a touch steep though.

    That’s my poorly-informed contrarian contribution.

    Looking at it again, it looks like they are using it for digital information. Screw that.

  5. about as stupid as any high end digital cables. Either they are To-Spec are they ain’t. You’re not going to wring any more performance out of a cable.

    The thing with digital is – either it gets there or it don’t. Analog, yes, cable composition can matter a lot, but for digital – NO.

  6. The fact that they are, “empoying high quality insulation”, makes me think that maybe this is a fake ad. Wouldn’t somebody spellchek an ad for a high dollar cable?

  7. Oh, the Amazon comments for this cable are an instant classic.

    I’m sure they’ll be deleted soon.

  8. So when the tab snaps off of this patch cable, do I have the right to be really pissed off, or did I just get what I deserved? Not sure which way to go there.

    A little blame the company, a little blame the consumer. It’s a fine line.

  9. Jitrobug, it would be *awesome* to find someone rich enough to have completely re-done their home network using cable like this.

    Titanium patch panels? Da!

  10. “signal directional markings are provided for optimum signal transfer”

    there’s a narrow(?) band of stupid people that will fall for that crap. Funny, too is the photo showing a two-way arrow on the connector!
    I do like the woven sheath on the cable…reminds me of my grandma’s steam iron.

  11. Reminds me of the S-Video cable I had for my gamecube. It was the only one Frye’s was selling and made claims of being “competition grade”. It was a pain and a half. It’s too long and has so much sheathing that it barely bends, so I had to keep it in a giant coil that nearly crowded the Nintendo right out of the entertainment center. Cables like that are just ridiculous.

  12. OK, $500 is ridiculous, But I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted a net cable that was just a little better. Where the little clippy thing did not break off after two uses or the end protector was designed so you could actually depress the clippy thing without doing gymnastics over the top of your box. Or one that my cat can’t chew through in an idle afternoon.

    This one doesn’t look like that cable though, unfortunately

  13. Look, maybe YOU can’t tell the difference in your packets between premium quality ethernet cable and that bargain-basement crud you use, but I certainly can.

    For people who really appreciate packets, there’s no other option. Sure, it costs a bit more, but if you were capable of perceiving the dull, muddied 1s and 0s that store-brand ethernet cables delivered, you’d feel the same way I do.

    It’s not my fault you don’t really understand computers. If you honestly can’t see how much crisper and more danceable the bits are coming out of Denon cables, well, what can I say. Enjoy your life, if you can call it that.

  14. I guess the signal directional markings are the cable equivalent of “go faster stripes” on cars.

  15. 25 years ago I used to drool over the stereo ads that were filled with these key numbers regarding the specifications of the turntables, tape decks, speakers, etc. There was the basic stuff that anyone could buy for $100, then you could go as high as you wanted, getting these ultimate cartridges for your turntable, vibration dampeners, all kinds of crap. The top end turntables looked like something from outer space, the top end tape decks had about 30 different controls you could fiddle with, and then there were the speakers, which had the Bose ads showing the pattern of the sound waves. The competing other speakers looked kind of lame in comparison – even though they had titanium molybdenum lawrencium high impedance glofindibulator tweeters.

    My kids have no nonsense cd players that have an “on” switch, a button to go forward and backward on the tracks, and a volume knob, and Ipods with these equalizer presets to choose from, (if they even bother). I feel like they are really missing out.

    That’s what this post reminded me of. I kind of miss those days. Schaak electronics.

  16. Schaak electronics, now known as BestBuy I think. Where the first Macs were sold, at least around here. It was a tiny little 128k Mac all alone in a room to itself so that you knew this was something magical.

  17. hee! Now to really get them going: “wine tasting is all posing.”

    Re: cables: has anyone tried blind test comparison of these with daisy chained coat hangers taped together?

  18. I own boxes full of high end audio cables. Some were actually worth the money, as they have stood up to many years of abuse but none justified their price on the basis of improved sound.
    Regarding the directional markings, yes that’s usually Bee-Ess. You could construct a cable to perform better between a particular signal source and sink by matching impedances on both ends. That cable would work much better in one direction than the other, but this Denon is not that cable.
    I do like Denon gear, especially the older stuff. They made some awesome analog tape decks. I also have a CD player and a couple of their phono carts.

  19. Actually, Best buy started out as ‘Sound of Music’ here in the Twin Cities.
    By the way, I’m still saving for a moon rock needle.

  20. Regrettably, people who don’t understand the technology actually buy this stuff. Here’s a similar example: 99.9997% pure copper supertwist audiophile 10 gauge AC power cord: 6ft = $450. This just an example that popped up via Google: http://www.tweekgeek.com/_e/Harmonic_Technology/product/HTFantasyAC/Harmonic_Technology_Fantasy_AC_10.htm

    I’d love to be there when someone who bought this discovers the quality of the in-wall wiring it’s plugged into. Even better if they’d understand that their clear signal actually helps transmit harmful transients (albeit a trivial difference). I know none of that matters, but I have no hope of convincing them that their power supply hardware doesn’t actually care. Ditto, of course, for the Ethernet cable above, though having a good connector ($5 to $10 improvement probably does help a bit.

  21. I am beginning to suspect that audiophilia is actually the larval stage of a new religion.

    Nothing new about it, chum. Hustlers have been fleecing suckers since time immemorial.

  22. Just as an idea.

    What if this cable is a dongle which enables a different codec in the Denon system so that the quality of the digital music is better. Maybe through a different codec or less compression or better filtering. I’m not a HiFi freak. They could also reduce the quality on the link if a standard cable is used.


  23. High-end home-audio cables are a marketing application of the placebo effect; people want to believe that spending the money yields an improvement, and are then highly motivated to perceive an improvement in order to not feel like fools for having spent the money.

    Best way to put this phenomenon that I’ve read so far. Thanks.

    Admittedly I’m not surprised by suckers falling for this kinda scheme, I am however appalled by Denon having to use this tactic to make some extra money from the gullible. Given my previous bad experience with Sony I’d rather expect them to try a ploy like this.

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