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There are no strict rules about which cables you should use with any particular system. As a guideline, you should spend at least 10% of the system price on cables. Manufacturers usually supply leads with equipment but you are best to regard these as no more than get-you-going items. Invest in something better as soon as you can.

We're not asking you to spend more money, just remember to allow a little of your total budget when planning your purchase. But don't just take our word for it, see and hear the difference for yourself.

"Interconnects... they're such an important variable in determining the sound of your system."
- What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision Magazine

"As with all hi-fi, the best way to choose an interconnect is to listen."
- What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision Magazine

Be warned, however, that the most expensive cables - and some exotic leads can set you back several hundred quid or more - don't necessarily guarantee top performance. You usually get what you pay for but there are exceptions to the rule! Nonetheless, every system - whether it's a top-of-the-range rig or a basic starter set-up - needs purpose-made hi-fi and AV cables. Don't think that leads such as those supplied with your kid's abandoned game console will double as hi-fi and AV interconnects just because they have the same sort of plugs on them. Worthwhile hi-fi and AV cables use high quality materials and connectors, are carefully designed and manufactured for the best sonic and visual performance, and are configured to reject interference.

Whatever sort of system you have - hi-fi or AV - pay particular attention to the loudspeaker cables. Don't simply hook up your speakers with the lengths of wire your electrician left behind when he finished installing your shower. Choose proper loudspeaker cable and connect it to your speakers and amplifier carefully with the recommended connectors: a short circuit caused by loose strands of wire touching each other can fry your amplifier, and the repairs won't be covered by your warranty.

Make sure you use equal lengths of cable even if one speaker is right next to your amplifier while the others are several feet away. And don't make a neat coil of any excess cable because that encourages it to act like an aerial and pick up interference. Another anti- interference measure is to keep connecting and speaker cables away from mains cables: at the very least avoid running mains cables close and parallel to any cables carrying audio signals.