Here are some of my observations, thoughts and opinions on a variety of cable options. These are solely my opinions formed from my OWN experiences.
1- I dislike the super cheap stuff that comes from radio shack and similar sources, usually packaged with a product or found laying around in a drawer someplace from a decades past purchase; held onto, “just in case, i ever need this”. I’m cleaning house today and i’m gonna throw most of these away, they are nothing but clutter in my eyes and have been causes of irksome noise, failure and grief to me on several occasions. Do and use what you will, I’m done with lamp cord and and those little red and white cheap RCA’s.
2- I like DIY, homemade cable made from quality parts very much. I have made my own RCA’s years past and long ago. i have had failures due to poor solder connections, extremely rigirous installations and over-use in multiple applications w/much handling. Overall though when made with quality parts, skill, and left alone i have had good success. Approximate failure rate of 30% overall and i have roughly made 100 or so RCA’s close to 30 years ago. Some of these failures have been recent on cables made back in 1989. Not bad IMO…
A good RCA is a good RCA, I don’t know what else to say here.
Edit: OK, someone got me on this one early on…i know RCA’s and XLR’s can cost anywhere from A few bucks to thousands of dollars a meter, yep i said thousands, i honestly can’t tell if they make a difference in sound, this is solely up to your wallet though, go ahead and spend what you will on these, hell even i like them to match sometimes.
3- I make most of my own speaker cable, sometimes with great success and sometimes pure failure, dependent on the parts used, these failures have always been due to simple loose connections from over-use and broken solder connections, again from over-use and much rough handling. I feel that when you use quality wire which can cost allot of money per foot/meter there is no reason to spend thousands on speaker wire. Whatever the difference in sound is or isn’t, Unless i win a lottery i will never use a $10k 2 meter speaker wire…end of discussion for me.
Having made myself clear there, Expense is relative to your budget overall, you can consider $50 for a few feet expensive or $500 for a similar length, i don’t think anything under $1000 is unreasonable or unwarranted. It’s when we start getting past the $1k mark that i personally tap out. Again, my opinion and experiences.
4-USB cables, there is NO scientific reason i can find that a well made USB cable costing roughly $50+/- per meter will not work as well as $1k cable. Nope, I can’t figure it out. Notice i am completely tossing out 90% of your cables here, i went straight to $50+/- per meter. You can fight me all you want, i can’t explain it either, a good usb cable for audio use is somewhat important depending on your equipment and source. The higher up the food chain your equipment rates, the higher the likelihood a good USB MIGHT, be warranted. On a personal note 95% of my usb cables cost a few bucks and as far as i can tell work just fine on all my gear, there seem to be a small exception though, but since i can’t figure out why, i have come to the conclusion that somethings that are better made, with fancy parts and snake oil drizzled all over them sometimes do stupid things to our perception of sound.
5- Power cables, i try and use thick well made power cables. I have NO idea if they improve anything or not but i happen to like big beefy looking cords, so i spend just a little bit extra on them. I will never be able to afford a $1k chord so i really have zero opinion on the real high end stuff.
6- Headphone cables; I like a good looking low microphonic cable, i only own 1 or 2 custom, but i am pleased with them. I hear zero difference in the music but they make a huge difference in use, feel, comfort, and scratchy noises. Go ahead and splurge all you want, just remember when selling used don’t be offended if you get low-ball offers, I’m only willing to spend just so much on pretty things…
So, there is a long winded, opinionated point of view on the topic of cables you can feel free to sling mud at.