Monday, June 23, 2008

Need a Cheap Cable? Don't Look Here

I think one of the biggest scams around is the overpriced cables they always try to sell you when you buy a piece of electronic audio-visual equipment -- TVs, DVDs, sound systems, etc. You know the pitch: for the really best sound with that new flat-screen TV, you should buy these $$$ audio link interconnects (I guess "cable" sounds too low-tech) made of pure "audiophile grade" copper, with the gold-plated connectors, and hand-made by Tibetan monks in a Class 10 cleanroom.

Apparently, Denon, a Japanese maker of audio equipment, offers a four foot, eleven inch long Ethernet cable (sorry, "digital audio link interconnect") that's currently for sale on for the jaw-dropping price of $500 smackeroos. From the description on

Get the purest digital audio you've ever experienced from multi-channel DVD and CD playback through your Denon home theater receiver with the AK-DL1 dedicated cable. Made of high-purity copper wire, it's designed to thoroughly eliminate adverse effects from vibration and helps stabilize the digital transmission from occurrences of jitter and ripple. A tin-bearing copper alloy is used for the cable's shield while the insulation is made of a fluoropolymer material with superior heat resistance, weather resistance, and anti-aging properties. The connector features a rounded plug lever to prevent bending or breaking and direction marks to indicate correct direction for connecting cable. [emphasis added]
Allow me to translate for you suckers, er, audiophiles:
This is an Ethernet cable. It's probably made by the same factory, on the same assembly line, using the same materials, as the $10 Ethernet cable connecting your computer to your cable modem or home network. But because we use a lot of fancy-sounding words like "jitter and ripple", "fluoropolymer", "high-purity", and the like, we can charge $500. Heck, the fact that we put "direction marks" on the connectors (like you've never plugged in a cable that only fits one way before) allows us to charge an extra $200 bucks over a regular cable without those marks. Remember, we have to put them on both ends, you know. That high-falutin' "fluoropolymer material"? The less sophisticated among you might know it better by its street name, "plastic". And "stabiliz[ing] the digital transmission from occurrences of jitter and ripple"? It's a five foot cable, for crying out loud -- you're not transmitting the signal across the Atlantic, you're connecting the DVD player to the tuner next to it. But pay us $500 bucks for this piece of coax with two RJ45s on the end. The $490 you didn't save buying this Denon branded Ethernet cable helps pay our marketing guys salaries -- those product descriptions don't write themselves, you know. Oh, and shipping's "free".

Some of the Amazon customer reviews for the item are priceless:
"With over 45% of my annual budget going towards my increasingly large pornography collection, I needed a stress-free solution for moving all my smut-laden data from one location to another. This cable does just that. Never before have the streams of ones and zeros that are somehow combined to create glistening buttocks on my HDTV been so at home. When I turn off all the lights I can almost hear tiny moans being made by my PC every time I insert this cable.... over and over again. I only gave it 4 stars because for some reason this cable didn't de-pixelize my Japanese porn collection."
"This is not your usual audio link cable. It is well worth the $500.

Why you ask? Because this cable not only passes signals through but improves it. For example, if you try to play awful music like K.Fed or Paris Hilton, it automatically converts it all to songs by the Beatles or the Stones.

Tell me, can your cheap cable do that? ..."
"... Ask yourself honestly... have you ever been troubled by adverse effects from vibration? I'm talking of the vibration going on all around us. It's usually very subtle; caused by a distant construction zone in a nearby town, an earthquake 3000 miles away, your neighbors upstairs, etc. Have you ever listened to a song and thought "If I can't thoroughly eliminate the vibration, then I don't want to listen to that song ever again!". Well, after getting this cable... it was as though the earth stood still. I was hearing instruments and harmonies and studio equipment creaking and the musicians breathing.... and along with this the most unimaginable sublime droning of pure beauty. This is the only way I can describe it. At some level it was as though I was awake for the first time in my life. ..."
"... After the Denon helicopter and armed delivery guards left, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed; Do I deserve a cable so supreme? Is my music worthy to be transported across such a sublime linkage? These thought were racing thru my mind even before I open the silver case with the ivory inlay. When I mustered enough courage to lift the lid, I am not ashamed to admit I pee'ed myself at what I saw. Pictures don't do it justice, the Denon AKDL1 is beautiful. As I reached for it, I became aware of a low humming noise coming from the cable. It was warm to the touch and seemed to pulse with energy. It actually moved in my hand, slowly writhing as if seeking sound and music to improve with its touch.

It was then that I realized I was tap dancing. This is strange, because I dont know how to tap dance... I honestly can't even keep a beat, but there I was dancing like Fred Astaire. I began to realize other improvement in myself, just by holding the cable. I can now speak Farsi, drive a Zamboni, paint by numbers, and wait patiently in line at the Post Office; all skills I never had before!
This is not a cable... this Denon AKDL1 is the essence of humanity. Get yours before you devolve in the pond scum that you are.

Minus one star for the blasé color."


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