Cyberclinic

It was with a phenomenally heavy heart that I handed over 10 quid in a high street store late on Saturday afternoon for a ridiculously over-packaged cable to connect an iPod to a stereo. What can I say – it was an emergency (of sorts). I have no interest in Teflon-encased copper strands, gold-plated connectors or cable so thick and rubbery you could flay yourself with it for kicks, but this kind of thing is increasingly unavoidable if you're shopping in town. For example, I hate to criticise Richer Sounds – an admirable company in many ways – but they earnestly advise spending "about 10 per cent of your system price on cables". Which, aside from being excessive, is ridiculous; a £1,000 system doesn't need cabling twice as expensive as a £500 system. It just doesn't. And anyone who tells you otherwise is selling snake oil – or, more likely, a load of massively-overpriced cables.

On one hand, we're listening to compressed audio files bought online and watching compressed video files that we've either downloaded or are watching on iPlayer or 4OD, and we seem quite happy with that. On the other, we're urged never to compromise our audio visual experience by using flimsy cabling. Of course, if you try to hook up a couple of bits of equipment with a rusty length of fraying wire you're going to run into trouble, but paying over the odds for cables is no different to sticking neon to the underside of your Fiat Punto. It's cosmetic. For years now, sceptic and magician James Randi has offered $1m to anyone who can discern between a normal cable and an expensive cable in a double-blind listening test – an ability which he describes as a "paranormal event". The $1m, of course, remains unclaimed.

We move even further into the realm of absurdity with digital cables. These carry streams of zeroes and ones; they either work, or they don't. There are no gradations of performance, and yet we're told that spending £200 rather than £20 on an HDMI cable is somehow a worthwhile investment. There are even people credulous enough to spend $2,000 on a power cable with "68-strand Alpha OCC twisted around conductor strands with a special-grade PE insulation or dielectric, surrounded by an inner sheath of RoHS-compliant PVC". It's a power cable. Seriously, get yourself a few cheap cables online, and with the money you save, just treat yourself to something you're actually able to enjoy. Like, say, the DVD of "In The Loop". That's pretty good.





Email any technology gripes to cyberclinic@independent.co.uk, or join the discussions on the blog at www.independent.co.uk/cyberclinic

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