Ask LH: Do I Need To Spend A Fortune On Audio Cables For My Car?

Ask LH: Do I Need To Spend A Fortune On Audio Cables For My Car?
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Dear Lifehacker, I want to purchase an audio-to-audio cable to connect my phone to my car’s audio. I was wondering if quality is an important factor with these cables? Will I get better results by spending more money? Thanks, Cable Guy

Dear CG,

“Premium” 3.5mm stereo audio cables are usually a snake-oil rip off. You’re not going to notice the difference, especially in a car environment. That said, the cable needs to be able to match the quality of the signal being passed to it, otherwise sound quality can be affected. We’d therefore avoid no-name brands that only cost a few bucks and have cheap-looking insulation. In addition to causing possible audio issues, these cables are also easier to break.

You should be able to find plenty of lower mid-range cables on eBay and other online retail stores that strike a good balance between affordable cost and reliability. As a general rule of thumb, stay slightly north of “dirt cheap” and you should be fine.

Otherwise, your main concern is making sure the cable is long enough to connect to your phone so be sure to check the measurements when making an online purchase. You might also want to check out our guide to reducing cable clutter in your car.

If any audiophiles want to throw in their own two cents, tell CG how best to pimp his ride in the comments section below.


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  • As the article correctly says, don’t buy thin crap and you’ll be good.

    High-end audio is usually good for a laugh – US$10K for a set of 1m RCA leads? Yup, easy done.

  • High-quality cables are not required beecause the source (read: phone) sucks, and the output (read: any non-premium sound system in car) sucks even more.

    • +1. with the standard engine/road background noise and car speakers, the cable has to be pretty damn awful before you start to notice any issues.

        • Agreed! As a test, buy a cable and connect your phone to your home sound system. If it sounds terrible, try a different cable. If that sounds terrible, it’s likely it is your phone, not the cable. But even with so so sound quality, you can still have fun in the car environment!

  • Quality matters, not high end quality, and not even audio quality, but the build quality – cheap $2 cables will fracture after a few months of being plugged in and sliding around in the dash. Spend $5 more dollars and get something that is built a bit better!

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