Review: 11 Component Cables compared - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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post #1 of 5 Old 09-30-06, 02:00 AM Thread Starter
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Review: 11 Component Cables compared

During some cable discussions on another forum, Sean at Monoprice offered several of us the opportunity to evaluate their RG-6 component cables by sending us our choice of two cables to test. Since I'm in the process of incorporating a dedicated home theater (with long cable runs) in our new home construction plans, I asked to participate. I requested, and received, 35' and 50' cables to test.

Even though I did do a little objective as well as subjective testing, I'd still call my results a "comparison" rather than a product "review". Basically (and selfishly), I wanted to find out which cable available to me was the best to use in my own application.

About Me:
I've been working with, evaluating, and purchasing coaxial cable since 1978. Granted, most of it was for RF use, but also some commercial baseband video installations. While Ive had a long-time interest in audio and video, dedicated Home Theater interest is fairly recent maybe 2 or 3 years. So far, I've been assembling my own speaker wires and coaxial interconnects for my A/V systems, so I've not dealt with any Monoprice products (or Blue Jeans, etc.) until now.

For this comparison, I used the following components:
System 1 - Panasonic PT-AE900U Projector, Toshiba HD-A1 HD DVD Player, Samsung DVD-HD931 DVD Player. Completely dark room 96 diag. screen.
System 2 - Panasonic PT-LC5013 50" LCD TV, Panasonic FH-85 DVD Player, Toshiba HD-A1 HD DVD Player.
Test Equipment - Tektronix Waveform Monitor, Color Video Pattern Generator. Avia & DVE Calibration DVDs.

The Contestants:
I compared 11 sets of component cables. All but one were terminated at each end with three RCA connectors. One was terminated with F-connectors and RCA to F adaptors added. RCA to BNC adaptors were use for the Waveform Monitor tests. The sets were:

50' RG-6 from Monoprice
50' RG-6 DIY - Belden 1694A cable/Gold Snap-N-Seal RCA compression connectors
50' RG-6 DIY - Belden 9290 cable/Canare RCAP-C crimp RCA connectors
50' RG-6 DIY - Comm-Scope QS cable/Silver SNS RCA compression connectors
35' RG-6 from Monoprice
35' RG-6 DIY - Times Wire Tri-Shield cable/Canare RCAP-C crimp RCA connectors
35' RG-59 DIY - Belden QS Headend cable/Gold crimp/solder connectors
35' RG-59 DIY - Comm-Scope Headend cable (QS, silver center cond)/ RCA Compression Connectors
50' Monster Cable M100cv
50' Unknown brand "HDTV Gold"
60' RG-11 DIY - Belden 7731A/F-connectors/RG-6 jumper to RCA compression connectors. Way too big to be practical - tested just for fun (had 180' lying around).
10' HDMI cable used for reference

The Tests:
Most of the comparisons were done with test patterns and color bars, but I did play Riddick and Phantom of the Opera on HD DVD with each cable. In most cases, the difference was too subtle to be noticed on live action, so cross-hatch and resolution patterns made it a lot easier. A couple times the patterns appeared identical between two sets, but there were slight differences on the waveform monitor so the cables were ranked accordingly (even though no one would ever see the difference).
The comparative ranking was the same on my second system as it was on the first, although I must admit I didnt do any system calibration between the cable changes for those tests (I was a little burned-out after doing it 12 times on the projector system ).
Several picture-quality issues were compared (color, black level, distortions, insertion gain/loss, freq. response, diff. phase, diff. gain, etc.), but the most observable difference was sharpness how much detail could be seen in the test pattern. For example: looking at the crosshatch pattern, the intersections were a little soft and fuzzy with the 35 RG-59, but the RG-11 looked sharper and more defined.
The testing with the waveform monitor and pattern generator was not intended to record actual measurements, but to rank the cables in relative order, and to verify connections and build quality. I couldn't do any actual Y/Pb/Pr tests, so I just individually measured all three cables in each set, and did A/B comparisons between each set.

The Results:
IMPORTANT Keep in mind I ranked these cables in order of performance without regard to length or size. A 35 RG-6 cable should perform better than a 50 one. If you need a 50 cable (as I do), then you should probably ignore the 35 results, except as compared to other 35 footers.

Visual/Measured performance (best-to-worst):

#0 - 60 RG-11 Belden Quad-Shield w/F-connectors & 12 RG-6 jumpers to RCA connectors.
The result surprised me a little, but this stuff is just too unwieldy to be used in any typical application. It measured only slightly better than the 35 RG-6, but the bundle cross section was huge. Even if you could find RCA connectors for it, its too wide to fit on the equipment ports. Tested for curiosity would never use it, so I changed the rank from #1 to #0.

#1 - TIE - 35 RG-6 Times Wire/Canare
#1 - TIE - 35 RG-6 Monoprice.
I could fine no difference in the results for these two. They were the shortest of the RG-6 cables, which I would assume would perform better than the RG-59 or 50 cables. Same crisp, sharp pattern display as RG-11, but very slight measured difference with test equipment.

#2 - TIE - 50 RG-6 Belden/Snap-N-Seal
#2 - TIE - 50 Monoprice
#2 - TIE - 50 Belden/Canare.
Test patterns image not quite as sharp as the above, but still good. Didnt see any difference in movies. The Belden/Canare cable measured slightly worse on the video tests, but close enough to rate a tie with the other two.

#3 - 50 RG-6 Comm-Scope/Snap-N-Seal
This cable was quite a bit worse in measured results and the resolution test pattern looked softer. Still not a bad picture during movies, but we (my son and I) thought the image of the opera lobby in Phantom was not quite as sharp. It was pointed out to me that the performance difference could be due to the copper-covered steel center conductor (as opposed to solid copper in the other cables).

#4 - 50 Monster Cable M100cv
Didnt know much about this borrowed cable til I looked up the price:holycow: . Not an option with my limited budget, so Im glad (but a bit surprised) that it rated about with the Comm-Scope above. We thought the Phantom scene looked slightly better (?), but the test patterns looked identical, and the measurements were only very slightly worse. I suppose it should be tied with number 4 but, at that price, it deserves a place of its own. No information regarding wire size, so it may be something smaller than RG-6.

#5 - TIE - 35 RG-59 Belden/crimp RCA
#5 - TIE - 35 RG-59 Comm-Scope/Comp RCA
Looks like 35 is too much to ask of RG-59. Both of these had noticeably softer pictures, and measured quite a bit worse than the others. I tried a 10 cable with the same connectors to compare and it looked and measured lots better, so I guess it was just too long. Nice and flexible, but Ill only use this with short runs.

#6 - HDTV Gold
An unknown borrowed cable that I couldnt wait to return. 2 of the 6 connectors had intermittent problems. I had to keep wiggling the ends to keep contact with the equipment. Not worth the trouble to keep testing. It was in the group I started with, so I left it in the results. I wish I could have done a better comparison since it was one of only three commercial products tested.

Overall, Ive always thought length and size (RG-6, RG-59) make more difference in cables than brand of connectors or wire. If the Comm-Scope/SNS performance (or lack of it) was not due to the steel center conductor then I may need to rethink that. But for the most part, my biases remain intact.

Ive always enjoyed making my own cables, and Ill probably continue. Im picky enough to want all my interconnects to look the same, so I cover all my cables with matching TechFlex and heatshrink. But in my new theater, I'll likely buy the Monoprice cables for the long runs in the walls and ceiling. Actually, I suspect that many manufacturers may offer a comparable cable that would perform as well, but this was the one I tested and I doubt any other would offer noticeable improvements. The performance was as good as or better than any other cable that I made/bought/borrowed, I like the connectors better than what Im using, and its actually cheaper than the materials I use to make mine (but I still like the looks of mine ).
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post #2 of 5 Old 09-30-06, 09:43 AM
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Re: Review: 11 Component Cables compared

Great work, Joe! Too bad you didn’t think to test a set of the cheapie stock cables that most manufactures include with their gear. Would have been interesting to see just how bad (or not?) they really are.

I’m not familiar with many projectors – how do you think the results would have fared on a traditional CRT television, or on a late-model plasma or LCD wide screen TV?

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post #3 of 5 Old 09-30-06, 12:19 PM
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Re: Review: 11 Component Cables compared

Wow! Nice work Joe! That had to take some time to evaluate each cable. Very interesting and thanks!

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post #4 of 5 Old 09-30-06, 12:32 PM
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Re: Review: 11 Component Cables compared

Thanks for the informative testing.
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post #5 of 5 Old 09-30-06, 01:41 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Review: 11 Component Cables compared

Wayne A. Pflughaupt wrote: View Post
Great work, Joe! Too bad you didnt think to test a set of the cheapie stock cables that most manufactures include with their gear. Would have been interesting to see just how bad (or not?) they really are.

Im not familiar with many projectors how do you think the results would have fared on a traditional CRT television, or on a late-model plasma or LCD wide screen TV?

Good points.
I may take a look at some stock cables when I get a little time. I have a few still in their plastic bags since I've always made my own.

I think the results would be similar on CRT, plasma, and LCD TV's of the same size, but the picture quality differences would be harder to detect as the screen size got smaller. It was a lot harder for me on the 50" set than it was on the 96" screen. I had to get within a couple feet of the test image to tell the difference on the first two groups. When I played the standard definition Phantom of the Opera on a standard player on the 50", I couldn't tell the difference in any of the RG-6 cables, so I stuck with the HD DVD version for comparisons (and even then it was very close).

I'd bet, on screens under 42", the differences between most of the cables would have been almost indetectable. On a 50" plasma with these long cables you would see the differences (between say, the #3 group and the #4 cable). But on a smaller TV, or shorter cables, it would be very, very close.
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