Here’s the one thing you need to know about computer and audio/video cables: They’re cheap.

“NO!” you exclaim, perturbed by my obvious and odious lie and my use of purple prose in this paragraph.

“YES!” I retort. Cheap indeed and not expensive, either!

“But I spent $75 at Best Buy on an HDMI cable, and…”

Yeah, you’re an idiot. Though it’s not your fault. You, like many before you, have been duped by the markup gods and the big box retail game.

The truth is, depending on your technological needs, you can get away with paying little to nothing for cables and wires. Here’s what I mean:

Case #1: I have a new HD flatscreen television with a cable box. I do not have surround sound or an A/V receiver to hook up

You need: One HDMI cable. It will handle audio and video.

You could get away with: One component video cable (Red/Green/Blue plugs) and a Red/White RCA audio cable.

You should spend: $0. Comcast will give you either cable for free. Ask for the HDMI cable. It’s one wire that does everything instead of five wires. HDMI also supports 1080p, whereas component video only goes to 720.

What the stores have tried to sell me: An $89 — yes $89 — Monster HDMI cable. Again, you should spend ZERO dollars for the same quality.

Case #1a: I also have a Blu-ray player.

You need: To buy an HDMI cable, because it most likely did not come with your $30 Blu-ray player.

You could get away with: Asking your cable company nicely for a second HDMI cable. They literally have piles of these things.

You should spend: No more than $5. Don’t believe me? Click here.

The stores have tried to sell me: The $89 — yes $89 — Monster HDMI cable and a $35 optical audio cable. You don’t need an optical audio cable when you’re using HDMI. Ever.

Case 2: I have a flat-screen television, a brand new A/V surround sound receiver, a cable box, and a Blu-ray player.

You need: Speaker wire, a subwoofer cable, possibly a subwoofer Y-adapter, and three HDMI cables. You run one HDMI cable from the television to the receiver and one each from the receiver to the cable box and Blu-ray player. Same with a PlayStation 3. No audio cables needed. You run speaker wire from each speaker to its corresponding port on the receiver. DO NOT buy banana plugs or any other kind of accessory for the speaker wire. It’s simply another point of potential failure. Just use the bare wire.

You can get away with: Do not use component video cables. You’ll have to buy a separate coaxial or optical audio cable for surround sound (Dolby Digital/DTS) audio. Just use HDMI.

You should spend: $5 or less per HDMI cable and no more than about $15 for the speaker wire.

The stores have tried to sell me: The $89 — yes $89 — Monster HDMI cables, $35 optical audio cables, $40 Monster speaker cable and $10 speaker cable attachments.

Case 3: I have several home networking devices, including a NAS device, home theater PC, video game consoles, and a network printer

You need: Cat 6 cables and a gigabit router with Wireless N. You can use Wi-Fi for things like Wii, room monitors/security cameras, a smart thermostat, etc. For an Xbox 360/PS3, a computer, a NAS, and anything that is storing photos, videos, or music, you should make sure it is plugged into the network directly. Just my advice. Some will say Wi-Fi is there, but I say plug it in.

You can get away with: Cat 5e cables and a gigabit router with Wireless N.

You should spend: About $100 on the router (see this story) and $2-20 on each network wire.

The stores have tried to sell me: Extremely marked up routers and $20-40 cables. Think twice.

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at [email protected]. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

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