Have seen remarks here that “all optical cables sound alike” because “they all transmit 0′s and 1′s,” etc. That’s true, but it’s also true that coax transmits the same 0′s and 1′s. Coax cables sound different, and so do opticals. It’s not digits, folks, it’s the materials used, echoes, resonance, impedance matching, clock timing/jitter, etc., etc. These AR’s do have a cleaner, clearer, more detailed sound than their more expensive Monster Lightspeed counterparts (which are generally awful). Considering the price, this AR cable is quite good; a clean high end, nice midrange, very decent soundstage in width and depth. There are rave reviews here for these AR’s – I can’t justify a 4 or 5 rating here.
On high end equipment, they sound clean but too lean, the very low end being detailed and tight but not as ‘there’ as the rest of the spectrum. A (very) mild hardness in the upper midrange, especially on female voices. The lead-in of instrumental attack is a little sloppy (piano, drums, guitar, etc.), often making some piano keys sound as if they need to be screwed down tighter or something. On lesser audio systems (Best Buy, Circuit City, etc.) the AR’s did acquit themselves quite well. Give them a 4 in cheapo systems, but with mid-fi or higher their faults become amplified. Still, at $35 they present a good, well-focused soundstage and sounded mighty nice on my older (cheapo) system, which typically had bloated bass and wiry highs that this cable handled well. For high-end gear, unfortunately, they won’t do. I have to add points to the AR’s overall rating, however, because of their very good DVD picture playback. In that respect, the AR’s were far superior in DVD playback to the over-priced junk being sold by Monster nowadays. On my audio system I have better, pricier cables, but these AR’s have found a permanent home on my Toshiba DVD video player.