In the past, I’ve bought a wide variety of cables from companies including Audioquest, Kimber, Nordost, and Straight-Wire. All have worked fine, and I’ve no complaints about any of them (except for price). But I’ve also bought other “name brands” that were so poorly made, they fell apart (names will remain confidential to protect the guilty).
In search of equally-performing interconnects with more reasonable pricing, I’ve found Blue Jeans Cable to be acceptable. And I’ve even made my own. But I lately came across a small company called Afford-HiFi (affordhifi.com) that seems to offer very well-made cables at very affordable prices. The company is a garage-based mom & pop operation. They also offer a broader selection of products including speaker wires, speakers, etc. that I can’t comment on since I’ve not tried them.
But a good interconnect cable is not so simple to make as one might think. The connections must be robust enough to maintain integrity when handled roughly. If you have children or pets, the wiring insulation must resist gnawing and normal abrasion. The terminals must be high enough quality to make a low-resistance connection for years to come and must also be compatible with the metallurgy of both the cable wiring and the component jacks to avoid galvanic corrosion over time.
So, what makes Afford-HiFi cables good? The connections, wherever possible, are crimped rather than soldered. Then, after crimping (or soldering, as the connector requires), the wire-to-terminal interfaces are sealed (with what the manufacturer informs me is hot-glue) to discourage oxidation and to retard the onset of galvanic corrosion. I know of no other interconnect maker that seals their connections. The terminals used also appear to be high-quality (Snap-N-Seal FSNS59RCAU models for the RCA cables and Neutrik nc-fxx models for the XLRs).
I have just purchased a pair of Afford-HiFi RCA subwoofer interconnects (RCA, unbalanced terminals) and received for review two pairs of XLR connectors. As I first do with all interconnects, I took resistance measurements with my Volt-Ohm Meter (VOM). On the RCA cables, I used three measurements of each connector, and then took the mean (average) of the three as the most accurate. I also measured the range (resistance difference between my highest and lowest resistance readings).
All measurements were from one end of a cable to another – Pin-1 at source end to pin-1 at destination end, etc. All XLR cables were 1 meter in length, the RCA pair was 9-feet (if I remember correctly).
For the Afford-HiFi cables, the results were as follows:
Note that ALL of these readings are in the range of measurement-uncertainty for my VOM but are still remarkably consistent indicating very good quality control on the wire-to-terminal interfaces.
The RCA subwoofer cables are made with Video brilliance by Belden, 1505F, HD-SDI, High-Flex Precision Video Cable, 6GHz – E108998 – 1C22, Shielded (UL CM or C) 060419 2356 ROHS. These are obviously video cables, but of a type commonly used for subwoofer service.
The blue Canare XLR cables are made with L-4E6S – 1805 Made in Japan wiring.
The black Canare XLR (higher capacitance but more noise-resistant) cables are made with L-2T2S – 1805 Made in Japan wiring.
I had the temerity to take apart one of the XLR connectors to examine the terminations. The actual connections, however, were not visible due to their surrounding insulating material (hot-glue) intended to keep air and moisture out.
So how do these cables sound? In short, absolutely neutral (as would be expected of any high-quality cable). I’ve not heard many interconnects that make audible differences in my system, and the few that did seemed to be mostly “different” without necessarily being “better.”
When it comes to interconnects, I am unwilling to pay for flashy appearance, name recognition, or exotic metallurgy. I am, however, willing to pay for high-quality wiring and terminals, and high-quality construction. The Afford-HiFi interconnects offer those and more for reasonable prices.
At the time of this review, the Afford-HiFi website (affordhifi.com) offers RCA jumpers and cables for between $23 and $72 per pair. If you want a full 11-channel RCA-set in 10-foot lengths, the price is $204.
The XLR prices on the Blue Canare wires start at $51 per pair (the more noise-resistant black Canare wires are not yet listed on the website). And the subwoofer cables start at $22 each.
The speaker wires (that I’ve not heard) are available in basic black, or in your choice of sleeving colors – most commonly blue/black or red/black, although others are available on request.
Note that Afford-HiFi also offers its custom interconnects and speaker cables in your choice of length, wiring, and terminals. Contact the Afford-HiFi owner, James, through the website for specifics.
In summary, I find these interconnects extremely well-made, as good-sounding as the many other interconnects that I’ve owned, and reasonable enough in price that I may well rewire my entire equipment rack with custom-lengths. Afford Hi-Fi = HIGHLY recommended!