The Truth About Monster Cable

Monster_cables.jpg Hey guys: I just got back from meeting with Noel Lee from Monster Cable, along with a posse of affiliated ladies and gentlemen, and their heavy equipment. I was there to talk to them about the fact that they sell—and have convinced a lot of retailers to sell—very expensive cable ($120 for 2 meters, last I checked). At the same time, there are cheaper non-Monster cables available on the Internet. My simple question Why? resulted in an organized, technical 2-hour response. I won't give you the blow-by-blow, but I have information that might make this debate interesting, and a bit more three-dimensional.

Let's start with my allegation about Monster, which isn't mine alone, because Lee helpfully pointed out the gist of it in the opening of his presentation:

I say, since everything is digital, and since HDMI is a spec, the cheap cable will get the data from point A to point B as well as any other cable. Additionally I say that if there are subtle (i.e. videophile-grade) differences in cables, the average consumer isn't going to spot them on the TV.

Am I wrong? Monster says yes, but in Lee's elaborate answer I felt both his POV and mine were justified.

Here are Monster's truths:

Bandwidth is King. The requirements of 1080p and beyond is what separates from the high-end cable from the knock-offs. This is the same as Ethernet cable, in the sense that a cable certified for HDMI 1.3a "Highspeed" will guarantee greater throughput. The newest spec, 1.3a means just over 10Gbps of bandwidth. Standard 480p requires less than 1Gbps, the current 8-bit 1080p requires 4.46 Gbps, but the next gen 1080p formats will require nearly 15Gbps, more than the highest certified HDMI cable can support. (See chart if you can, if not I'll try to get a better one up later.)

Bandwidth_chart.jpg Not all cables are the same. During Lee's slideshow, he demonstrated via X-Ray slides that pricier cables (OK, Monster's) have a smaller chance of wear and tear damage at the point where the cable meets the connector. t's a concept that's easy for any musician to understand—remember all of those shorting-out patch cords?

Even if it has an HDMI-style connector, it may not be certified HDMI. You have to look for the HDMI logo, says Steve Venuti of HDMI Licensing. There are tons of knock-offs, especially the bundled or online cables, since you can't look at the packaging when you buy. Really high-end cables will certify other things, such as HDMI 1.3a and even "Highspeed."

Just because digital information is made up of ones and zeros it can still degrade, especially over distances. I get this now, because it's not about the digital info just getting there, like packet data. It's video, so it's about the digital info getting there at the right time to make sense. It's also audio, and over distances, there's a greater chance that audio and video will get out of sync. The following pictures show a test that they run that measures data throughput. In the interest of brevity, I'll just say that the more those lines crowd the center, the greater the risk of having crappy video.

This is what it looks like when a low-grade 10-meter cable tries to handle 720p: Shitty720p.jpg

This is what it looks like when a Monster 10-meter cable tries to handle 1080p: Monster1080p.jpg Differences in cable are easily spotted by untrained eyes. A PS3 feeding 1080p signal to a Samsung 1080p LCD TV starts to jitter and throw digital noise lines across the screen if the cable can't hack the bandwidth. We tested the two cables above on a PS3 showing a Blu-ray of Chicken Little and it was totally noticeable, there were lines and jitters, none of this videophile matter-of-opinion stuff that I had anticipated. It was totally obvious, and something that Monster says people often blame on their TV, not their cable.

Future proofing and heavy-duty cable are crucial for in-wall installation. This probably made the most sense of all. Given the fact that in-wall cable is longer than others, you'd need something that can handle the bandwidth. (In fact, when it gets to 50 feet, you don't have many choices in the cable world for that reason—Monster says it's soon headed for 100 feet of HDMI.) Couple that with staples, kinks and other weirdness that might happen with in-wall installation, and the fact that when you upgrade your TV, you don't want to have to re-do your drywall, and Monster has a good point.

Lest you think I be drinkin' Lee's Kool-Aid, here are my caveats to Monster's truths:

• If you are going from any source to a 720p or 1080i TV set, you should really be in the clear using a full-on crappy ass cable.

• As long as you're not doing installing the wiring in your wall, start with the crappy cable. If it sucks and you only paid $20 for it, go back and spend more on something certified.

• In the demo, Monster even proved that good components can offset crappy cables: that PS3 and that Samsung 1080p were able to work around much of the problems, all the more reason why, in a non-custom non-in-wall installation, you should try out the lower grade stuff first.

So listen, you've heard it from me: there are differences in cable, but there are also differences in technical requirements. We don't all need $120 cables for our components. As to the question of why Monster won't offer a lower-priced product in recognition of these differences in technical requirements, Lee told me to "stay tuned."

OK people, let's hear it. Go ahead and vent.

Company site [Monster Cable] Info site [HDMIInfo.org]


Comments

    I don;t understand why people drop around 10K on a TV & sound system a pike out on connectivity.

    Monster make nice stuff but there are other brands that are just as good and not as insanely expensive.

    Remember its on cables where stores make their profit.
    eg a $300 cable costs the store about $120-150, and of course actual costs ridiculously cheaper again.
    (Insider tip for you all)

    exactly. the trouble with Monster is that, while perhaps better than truly shit cables, you can get much cheaper cables that do a great job.

    Hell, I bought a crapload of lovely, shielded, fancy cable from Dick Smith the other day, by the metre, much cheaper than Monster.

    Just quietly, I work at Dick Smith, and the markup on Monster cables are between 50% - 78%. While we do sell items with a higher GP%, Monster Cables are currently being pushed from on high to the tune of cash spivs to any salespeople who sell one. I can't add anything to the debate on tech, but there are definately people out there who will drop AU$367 on a 2m HDMI cable WITHOUT KNOWING THE FIRST THING ABOUT IT. So long as there are people like this out there, retail still makes sense.

    Has anyone actually tested the top 5 HDMI cables?
    I have just spent my hard earned $ on top end gear & it would be great if somebody has honestly revewied the top HDMI certified cable to guide my decision.

    I work for a retailler that supplies monster and while being close both Bourne and Jared obviously aren't insiders. The mark up is typically between 40-50% although we would almost never mark the cable down. And for all of you out there wondering why you spend the money. It is because you want the best. Monster DOES make a difference. It has been proven time and time again and no rip off made by Gecko or any other brand even comes close to the AV quality produced by monster cabling. Look for the differences in the picture colour, clarity, and interference in the panel.

    Wow, its great that have you have so many studies to back up your claims! oh, wait? nup just speculation and salesman bullshit.

    I realise that no one has commentted this thread in awhile but for all those still to read it, let me point out afew things for you. Monster has a clear and difinative advantage over cheaper lower grade bs, i work in the retail industry and i have to write returns on the faulty "shit" that comes back into the store, note i say "shit" because thats exsactly what it is. If your going to drop 4k plus into a tv and hi-fi why would you connect it with a inferior cable to save money. thats like buying a merc then taking it down to autobarn and getting the to put a body kit on it, its fucking stupid. If you want the best hi-fi components for your system spend the money and do it right. Monster products all come with life-time replacement warranties which means you will never have to buy one again if on the off chance it becomes faulty. Also those who think that monster is a rip off because it has 40% mark-up, do you think it is the only product out there in the big wide world like this. You probably eat maccas regularly and never complain about the price. Before my stink in the retail sector i spent 6yrs working for maccas and their mark up is more like 100-200% and even more on things like post mix soft drinks. Or what about all of you out their who go to a pub and pay up to $20 for a drink from the bar. be realistic, retail companies no matter what they sell need to run at some sort of profit to cover overheads and wages. If you want the 4k tv buy the cable to match up with it to give you the best overall experience. If you don't, heres some recommendations; celestial, nec, sanyo, brawn, voxson, and when your tv dies in less than 12mths. Maybe you learn not to be a stingyh bastard and make a glorious home theatre to be marvelled at.

    noel lee, head of monster should be congratulated on the success of his business of 30yrs creating over 500 jobs. people can say that monster cables is expensive, but their are other brands that are not well known and are more more expensive. it's a type of product that is not going to be for everyone, like all other products in this world. monster cable puts a lot of money into the product that is well constructed than cheaper cables and offer lifetime warranty as well! people need to understand that running a business is about making money and creating jobs, that's why noel lee is successful, and we should be inspired by people like this and not to try and put the company down!
    jealousy is the word i hate using and that's what people are thinking about monster, don't forget he has over 500 people that work for him and they need food on the table so think outside the square people & help the economy!
    so you think a ferrari is overpriced?

    Wow...just wow.
    Uri Geller could convince you he can bend spoons too.
    I don't like being crude Seamus, but you are an idiot.
    Next time take an electrical engineer with you (although you might have difficulties hearing what Monster has to say over the EE's laughter...)

    you people winge about a 40% markup on a monster cable so a $100 cable still cost $50. When you buy a dodgy cable for $25 dollars there is still 40 - 50% markup on that product but of a lessor quality. we all say its saleman trying to make a quick dollar. But how man people here are true audiophile, and how many of you got a Vivo plasma and a sony 7.4 sound system, it is true that monster will make no difference to this low end products. but in the audiophile world $100 for a cable is cheap, i have seen home cinemas that surpass $150k with solid silver cable @ $1000 p/m monster are a industrie standard for entry to mid range theatres and give the general public a taste of what a few can acheive.

    I cant believe that people are still mislead about hdmi. There is no difference between the picture quality of a $8 cable and a $million cable so long as there is a proper connection from one end to the other. cheap cables have cheap connectors and thats about all that is bad about them. I say this even though all the ebay cables i have bought through ebay including the 15m one have great quality ends and a perfect picture. all for under $10. For those who fell for the marketing hype for overpriced cables feel free to keep making yourself feel better by spinning BS here after the Beep
    Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep...

    But don't get me started on the difference between those cheap $8 optical cables compared to the proper $500+ ones. I can notice it. No really i can.
    Hey Seamus did you get a free monster cable for this review???

    If you are running in-wall 15M-20M HDMI cable what other choice do you have other than Monster? Seriously what is the best HDMI cable available? Has anyone tested? Why would you risk to save a couple of hundred dollars on a cheaper cable on a $15K+ system??? Once it is in wall and plastered your stuck with it...it would cost you over a $1K to rip it out all for the sake of saving a couple of hundred dollars. Simple question which HDMI cable brand if money was no object??

    I'm an EE working in the residential A/V industry, and for anything over about 1.5m in length, you won't find me using a cable that isn't HDMI cerified (though not necessarily Monster). The old " it's all ones and zeroes" argument is well and good, but those ones and zeroes are being transmitted as analogue signals and reconstructed as a digital signal at the other end, and although HDMI specifies error correction, there are limits to what it can do (i.e. it's not like CSI where you can just say "enhance!" and keep zooming in on the pixelated image and adding resolution). Once the signal's degraded enough, it's going to be misinterpreted by the sink device (e.g. the display), leading to blocking, sparklies, lines etc.

    For anyone who's interested, here's a quick tutorial on eye diagrams (which is what the photos in the article above are on about):

    http://www.highfrequencyelectronics.com/Archives/Nov05/HFE1105_Tutorial.pdf

    If I have to run a 6m or greater HDMI cable to a projector through ceiling space, I *do* use a Monster, knowing that in 3 years' time when the customer buys a 4K (that's resolution, not price) projector, there's a pretty good chance I won't have to replace the cable - but if I do, Monster will pay for it, not me. And you won't find me buying my cables at Harvey's, either - there are much less expensive ways of getting legitimate high-end cables for a fraction of the price, particularly when the dollar is so strong.

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