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If all goes well, I will be the owner of a flat by the end of the month.  Fortunately it isn’t the flat purchase that is making me worry about wasted money (yet).  Instead, it is the relatively paltry £4.50 I spent on What Hi Fi magazine.

As I’ll be needing a TV for the flat, I was reading their feature covering the top TVs for 2011.  However my confidence in their advice was somewhat diminished when I came across a section reviewing different figure of eight cables.

Just to be clear these are power cables you might use to plug your Sky box into the mains.  In fact this is how they tested the cables, using each cable in turn to plug their Sky box into the mains and commenting on the perceived difference in audio/visual quality.  Of the six cables reviewed, prices ranged from £3.50  to £150 (the Furutech G-320Ag in case you were wondering).

I’m pretty sceptical that changing the cable will make any difference to your viewing – even if the cable is silver plated like the Furutech one.  For starters it isnt clear why a silver plated cable will work better than a plain copper cable – they’re both decent enough electrical conductors. Nor is it clear what a cable can be doing to the power supply to make the picture quality better (other than doing the very basics of making sure the electricity does indeed get to your TV).   Also, I doubt the power lines to your house and the wires running about inside your appliances are silver plated either so a measly couple of meters of silver plated cable in between is unlikely to make a difference.

I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise.  Perhaps if the reviewers at What Hi Fi can reliably show they can tell the difference between the cheapest cable and the most expensive one  just from the quality of the picture on their TVs, but without knowing which one is plugged in. Otherwise I’m going on the hypothesis that the differences in quality they wrote about were merely a form of placebo effect (one cable got rated 2/5 and another 5/5, with the cheapest cable getting the worst score and the most expensive the best).

All this rather makes me question whether their reviewers just imagine the differences between TVs and doesn’t really help me make my TV buying decision.



Amit Ghosh does mathsy things for an actuarial firm. He read Physics at university, and they even let him loose in the Cavendish laboratory one summer on a research project. He is @bexleylister on Twitter.

Shona Ghosh read English, then did an MA in Journalism. She knows nothing about science. She wishes she did though, so she sometimes reads New Scientist and tries to make Amit explain quantum physics to her, preferably through the medium of pictionary. She is @shonaghosh on Twitter.

They combine their thoughts on this blog.

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