Audio Cables: What’s best for your system and what’s the difference between them?

In a world filled with so many variations of audio cables, all differing quality, it can sometimes be a minefield to figure out what best suits your needs when it comes to your audio system.

From an entry-level product to the premium and beyond, you are sure to find something that will be a good fit for your needs.

So, let us talk first about the basics.

The way I like to look at this is by imagining two hurdle racers next to each other: one of these athletes has 10 hurdles to jump and the other only has 5 to jump. The 10 hurdles being the basic cable, and the 5 hurdles the more premium cable. With only 5 hurdles to jump this athlete will finish quicker than the 10 hurdler.

By having less obstacles in the way, you are creating a better, smoother run – your cable is the same. The cheaper the cable, the cheaper the materials used, giving your equipment more metaphorical hurdles to overcome when it is on its way to giving you the best sound it can achieve.

Speaker Cables

At HBH Woolacotts, we stock a few different options for our customers, depending on the setup they desire. The entry-level cabling that we have is our off-the-reel copper cable, available in three different Gauges: 2×0.75mm, 2×1.5mm and 2×4.0mm; these cables come from Vivanco.

“What on earth do those numbers mean?” I hear you ask – it’s easy, I promise. The ‘2’ on each of these represents the two negative and positive cables that make this one complete cable. The other numbers represent the thickness of the cable.

Why do you need different sizes? Simple, the fatter the cable, the less signal resistance, giving you a better end result. The fatter cable can also be better for more powerful amplifiers for this very reason.

Moving on from the basic stuff, we also stock a variety of premium cables from our friends at QED: the XT25, XT40i and Revelation. These cables are made up in 2m, 3m and 5m lengths, with the added benefit of being pre-terminated with banana plugs (we’ll touch a bit more on this shortly).

Again, it’s all about the build-up of these cables and materials used that adds up to a better sound reproduction. A big benefit is the 99.999% oxygen-free copper that QED maintain in all these cables (Revelation has silver plated copper, a step up from pure copper), meaning that the cable itself won’t oxidise over time, giving you a consistent connection without the need to change or adjust your cable. 

Banana Plugs

What a name to give a premium connection! Sounds silly, but trust us when we say they are brilliant. These can be purchased fairly inexpensively, and are supplied to us by Vivanco, to go with our off-the-reel cable and can make life a lot easier for connections, but also makes the connection from speaker to amp more solid.

The basic principle is to attach one of these plugs to each end of your speaker cable, 4 per cable: two positive and two negative connections. You are then able to just plug them straight in to the back of your speakers and amplifier’s speaker terminations, instead of trying to thread bare cable through a hole and screw it up tight; handy in a tight spot where you can’t see anything, let alone get your hands in to locate a cable and tighten up these fiddly screws.

Loose cable, if not connected properly can come in to contact with the back of the amplifier and cause you some issues, so be careful if you stick with the bare cable option.

As mentioned before, banana plugs also come as standard on our QED cables.


There are several ways of connecting one piece of equipment to another, depending on what it is you’re using or trying to achieve. Once again, these can have an impact on how sweet your system can sound. As far as quality goes, don’t forget our Hurdle jumpers, it’s the same premise. The more premium the cable, the less hurdles your signal has to jump.


Also known as RCA, this is the red and white jacks that connect your amplifier to the source component you’re trying to connect it to; for example, a CD player. We have our basic range coming from Vivanco and our premium cables coming from QED.

Digital Coax

Designed to carry a digital signal – simple as that. We use ours between some of our CD players and streamers. It’s a single cable, that looks very similar to the phono cables. When you sit down and listen to the digital cable and a phono cable in the same source, we find you get a better reproduction of sound from the digital cable, particularly in streamers.


This is more often used with TV applications, but does exist in a lot of amplifiers and some source components. This flexible thin cable uses light to send the digital signal, instead of the traditional copper – simple and effective.

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