Having worked in the hifi industry for some while...
Speaker cables: Its all tosh - just use what you think looks nice in the living room. DONT use flat cable.
Phono cables: these can suffer radio frequency interference through bad connectors/ insulating material - so just buy well insulated cable and keep it short. Nice plugs look good.
Digital cable: Digital equipment suffers from 'digital artifacts' during processing - this does effect the sound a great deal so dont waste money on expensive cabling - buy decent gear!
Magazines: Dont believe a word in the hifi mags - they just want advertising revenue.
Manufacturers: Half the stuff from a certain manufacturer made in China had to be rebuilt once it got to the UK becuase of safety reasons! So buy decent gear - loads of decent S/H stuff out there.
An educated opinion from working for some well known hifi brands and also from selling the stuff.
Hmm, cables do measure differently when employing different construction methods, and when LCR values for instance are varied enough between types, with various ancillaries various differences may be heard. With some exotic ancillaries you also have the amplifier and speakers to add to that equation. For instance early Naim amps with exotic cables, and I have heard improvements in bass from changing speaker cable too.
Most would like to believe that it all sounds the same, others think quoted measurement differences show there will be a noticeable difference some think any ancillary will show improvements, or that everyone has teh same listening habits or hearing acuity.
Sadly not all digital equipment is constructed well, hence there is so much variation in subjective sound quality, in an ideal world a digital output from a transport should be 75ohm, with a cable of 75ohm and a receiver end at 75ohm, but most now think that a DAC can process and sort out any errors here. Optic has it's good and bad points too. I myself believe that a good front end is better than a well processed bad front end. Error correction is the correction of errors, surely the less amount of errors the better?
Besides, well engineered cables designed for such jobs in audio exist because manufacturers DO look into such things, sadly many cable manufacturers will blind you with foo about stuff that should not really concern you. Hence I feel cable should be proportional to your equipments costs, and not bought for bling factor or kudos, look at stuff from the likes of Beldin or Canare, even Van Damme, and you will find good value cables of studio grade quality at far less cost than HiFi bling.
I myself prefer well made cables designed for the job, and quite happily buy second hand or swap stuff. I also like to try and use the same brand and type of cable within a system. And I do not expect to hear any sort of major difference, in particular with audio ancillaries from Richer sounds.