One of the most under appreciated components in today's audio and video systems are the cables used to connect the whole system together, to allow the various devices to "make their magic".
These may be cables for analog audio, digital, video, ethernet or USB cables. Speaker cables, power cords and headphone cables are all used in systems to allow the sound or picture to make it's way through the various pieces and finally give us our favourite album's sound or Blu Ray's picture.
No matter what the cables used in a system, there are a few basic rules that should be followed in order to keep your system running smoothly and at it's best. Many people will coil their cables into a tight spiral in order to minimize the "messy" look that uncoiled cables may impart to a system. This is one of the worst tortures that a cable can be put through, as when a cable is twisted into a coil, you are actually damaging the structure of the metals inside the cabling, hampering it's ability to give the best possible performance. Coiling will also create an increased magnetic field around the cable, lessening it's capability to deliver pure signals. Any coiled cable will also put added stress on the connectors, possibly causing them to malfunction or completely break. Try to avoid coiling your cables and keep connections as direct as possible.
Signal cables and power cables should be kept apart as much as possible. If you can run them into a system from opposite ends, this is very much preferable to having them run side by side. If it is necessary for power cables and signal cables to cross one another, try to keep this crossing at a 90 degree angle as much as possible. This arrangement will minimize crosstalk and leakage from one type of cable into the other.
Dust and other substances can impede a cable's signal tranferance ability, so try to regularly dust your system, and clean any spills that may have contacted your cables and connections.
Following these few simple steps can ensure that your sound or picture remains just as clear and pleasing as you remember it from the first day you brought it home.