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Recoton RCA Cable Review (Ultra Cheap Cable)

Rate this cable

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 12 4.8%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 13 5.2%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 77 30.6%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 150 59.5%

  • Total voters
    252

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the ultra cheap, "vintage," retail RCA cable. A member kindly sent it to me. It is not available anymore but I see two-packs on ebay for $4.
Recoton RCA Cable Review stereo Cheap Cable Test.jpg


The cable reminds me of the free ones you used to get in audio gear. It fits rather loosely on especially when you are used to today's stiff RCA plugs. The wire is still flexible and feels like it would have when new.

Recoton Cheap RCA Cable Measurements
The Audio Precision APx555 analyzer I use for testing has an internal "loopback" where using a relay, shorts inputs to outputs. In other words, it is the shortest and most optimized path between input and output. Let's measure that performance with 2 volts using 22 kHz as bandwidth and 1 kHz tone:

APx555 Measurement Loopback Test.png


We see the stellar performance that we expect from Audio Precision. Only a second harmonic is visible at astonishingly low -148 dB! This is good 30 dB below threshold of hearing. SINAD measurement is therefore noise bound to the tune of 121 dB -- again about 6 dB lower than threshold of hearing.

Now let's switch the internal loop back with our cheap RCA cable:

Recoton RCA Cable Measurement Cheap Cable Test.png


That's right. Not a thing has changed. Same noise floor. Same distortion profile. Same output voltage.

OK, that is one tone but let's throw 32 tones at it to simulate "music:"
Recoton RCA Cable Measurement Multitone Cheap Cable Test.png


It can't be more identical than this. If turned on both graphs at once, you could not distinguish one from the other when overlaid.

Let's widen the bandwidth to 90 kHz and sweep every audible frequency and measure distortion and noise:
Recoton RCA Cable Measurement THD vs Frequency Cheap Cable Test.png


Again, identical performance to "no wire."

Folks at this point complain that "something is happening in timing domain." So let's run a step response with 1 MHz bandwidth (25X audible bandwidth) and see what happens to our edge:

Recoton RCA Cable Measurement Step Function Cheap Cable Test.png


Again, the two graphs land right on top of each other.

We could keep testing but you get the picture hopefully.

Conclusions
Electrically the Recoton RCA cable is as good as "no wire" internal loop back in the analyzer. So it doesn't get any better than that. In all performance vectors we get the same results. Even measuring up to 1 MHz, timing test shows the same performance.

From usability point of view, the connectors are a bit loose for my taste (although you could pinch the outer ring to fix). And cable is too thin to withstand repeated connection or disconnection. If these are not an issue with whatever cheap/free cable you have, you can feel confident that there is no performance impact on your audio equipment in using such.

Indeed, personally I use such cables when I need one that is not so stiff or too long. They take up much less space and are easier to route.

Next time someone shames you that your RCA cables are too thin and dirt cheap looking, you can point them to this review to show that they give you all the performance you or anyone else needs!

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

JSmith

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two-packs on ebay for $4
I'm cancelling my order now for a $4000 cable, which was only a single pack and not two. :)

It's great to see you testing these cheaper items as it shows what many of us have been telling others for decades... cables are cables, not a magic wand and not a mystical device for veil lifting.


JSmith
 

Tks

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This makes for so much fun when arguing with "audiophiles" .... thanks. Yet more ammo!
Fun for them to since they can just always move the reality denial goal post by claiming "measurements can't pick up everything we are able to hear". You can keep inventing new perspectives, new metrics, and they'll always do this. There's no amount of quantification of human hearing that can be done that will satisfy their threshold of finding it convincing enough.
 

MaxwellsEq

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Is there a reasonable test for noise rejection vs cables with a better screen/shield? These cheaper cables often have limited RF rejection (and so would be unlikely to be used in a professional studio).
 

peanuts

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the problem with testing rca cables is that it somtimes doesnt work in real world like it does when measuring on the AP. poor impedance matching between the components + the capacitans of the cable can certainly introduce audible differences...
 
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amirm

amirm

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Is there a reasonable test for noise rejection vs cables with a better screen/shield? These cheaper cables often have limited RF rejection (and so would be unlikely to be used in a professional studio).
I do have a quick and dirty test for this which I usually run but forgot in this case. :) I will see if I can run it later....
 
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amirm

amirm

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poor impedance matching between the components + the inductance of the cable can certainly introduce audible differences...
You NEVER want to match impedance in audio devices. You want the other way around: very low source impedance and very high sink impedance for best voltage transfer.
 

digicidal

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But... but... reasons. While I do like dressing my speaker cables when they are visible... once again the critical aspect in any cable isn't the cost, color, brand, etc. Despite the old adage to the contrary... size matters most. Not so much the girth but the length - just a bit more than minimally necessary for tidy management. ;)
 

Talisman

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Now that's a whammy to the world of premium cables ... the classic rca cable that you found in your father's electronics drawer is indistinguishable from a recable :D
 

F1308

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Could we say then that 122 dB is a design limit placed by wired connectors that no current technology can circumnavigate ?
120.234 dB Topping LA90 and 121.409 dB this cable...
Are we to switch to light instead of electrons ?
 
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amirm

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Could we say then that 122 dB is a design limit placed by wired connectors that no current technology can circumnavigate ?
Well, no. That is the noise limit of APx555 analyzer with 2 volt output. The wire itself is likely far better.
 

Talisman

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Could we say then that 122 dB is a design limit placed by wired connectors that no current technology can circumnavigate ?
120.234 dB Topping LA90 and 121.409 dB this cable...
Are we to switch to light instead of electrons ?
The light to carry signals is fine in fact, unfortunately it does not have enough energy for a power signal.
If it were the amplifiers would be very powerful laser sources
 

F1308

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Well, no. That is the noise limit of APx555 analyzer with 2 volt output. The wire itself is likely far better.
Thank you...
I see now that Topping D90SE offered 123.407 dB.
 

Katji

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Great stuff.
I have one like that, the only RCA cable I have, I bought it at Makro when I got an amp and a DAC for my computer.

Is there a reasonable test for noise rejection vs cables with a better screen/shield? These cheaper cables often have limited RF rejection (and so would be unlikely to be used in a professional studio).
Add screen/shield, double the cost, or maybe triple, just not $$$.


> "...too thin and dirt cheap looking"
One of the stories is "The amp cost $$$$ and the DAC cost $$$$ so I thought I might as well..."
Then that is extended to audiophile stuff like "...cables should be about 10% of the total cost." That gives them a path to start talking about revealing systems and so on. ...(Turn the page and you'll find a post on some online hearing test, where they tell that their hearing is limited to 14 kHz.)


Fun for them to since they can just always move the reality denial goal post by claiming "measurements can't pick up everything we are able to hear". You can keep inventing new perspectives, new metrics, and they'll always do this. There's no amount of quantification of human hearing that can be done that will satisfy their threshold of finding it convincing enough.
"...Even my dog could hear the difference..."
 

F1308

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The light to carry signals is fine in fact, unfortunately it does not have enough energy for a power signal.
If it were the amplifiers would be very powerful laser sources
Thanks...
I am trying to understand where the limit is, since everything seems to go after the "wire with gain"...and I suppose wire must have a limit.
 

phoenixdogfan

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This is why I had no qualms using zip cord to one of my two LS50 surrounds when I realized I didn't have a sufficient length of the Canare 4s11, I was running to the rest of my system's speakers. Figured I'd save myself $50 bucks and maybe buy a bottle or two of Wild Turkey instead.

Next thing Amir, why don't you test some zip cord as speaker wire and compare it to one of your really expensive speaker wires. (I know you have to have something like a length of Audioquest or maybe a Nordost lying around somewhere).

Think it would be big comedy.
 
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