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Directional Guitar Cables

8len8

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
13,263
I keep hearing that guitar cables are directional (they sound better in one direction versus the other) due to their manufacturing process. Can someone explain the details (the physics) of how that can be (be as technical as possible - I'm an engineer).

Since the signal on the cable is AC, not DC, I don't buy it when folks say that the electrons flow more freely in one direction. That means nothing in an AC system. The only thing I can think of is that the distributed capacitance of the cable isn't uniform...
 

chervokas

Member
Messages
6,843
There's no physics to explain claims of directionality in terms of carrying the actual signal. And you're right, the very AC nature of the signal argues against claims of directionality.

There are some twinax, or double shielded coax guitar cables with the shield connected at only one end and that end should be closest to the lowest resistance path to ground which is usually means the amp, so some of those cables will be marked with directional markings--with the shield connected side marked "amp" and the unconnected side marked "instrument". But that's the only legit claim to directionality I know of, and of course it has nothing to do with tone.

I'm usually one to believe that when people hear a difference that science doesn't explain most likely the science just hasn't caught up to experience yet, not that the phenonomon is psychological bull. But in this case I think it's purely psychological if people are hearing a difference.
 
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Leftyman

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
1,608
I don't know the science behind it however, I do have a pair of Pete Cornish guitar cables and they are directional. They are by far the best cables I have ever used. I have never tried them other than the way they are designed for. I doubt Pete Cornish would make his cables directional unless there was some science behind it. They cleary say "guitar" and "amp" on each end.
 
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Triangle

Member
Messages
684
I've heard something about the direction the wire is extruded during the manufacturing process can affect the directionality of the cable, but that may just be psychological.
 

Thames

Member
Messages
1,064
It might be related to ground/shieling and "neutral" side.

Planet Waves has such cable, a twisted pair (hot + neutral), plus a ground/shield which is connected to 1 end only (amp side).
 

cj_wattage

Member
Messages
6,679
Can someone explain the details (the physics) of how that can be (be as technical as possible - I'm an engineer).
You won't get a technical answer...because there isn't one.

As has been pointed out already, some cables have ground half of the twisted pair connected at one end but not the other. But that's not the same as being "directional" in the sense of "better electron flow".

That's just marketing hooey to justify a high price tag.

"See, our cable is different from those cheap ones because it has directionality, along with enhanced awesomeness in the longitudinal frequency-dimensional audio pathways. Also, it made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. That'll be $500 please!"
 

jay42

Member
Messages
6,993
The directionality is pretty obvious -- the shield connects to the amp input. Imo, it should cost about the same as a normal guitar cable, since shielded coax and shielded twisted pair are on a par with each other...depends on the brand, etc.

So the deal is getting the lowest noise floor possible. Coax runs inside an amp should be terminated on one end, not both. I can't find it in my files, but my recollection is that you get about a -3dB improvement. You can't run that type of connection to a guitar because there's no signal return, so the cable must be twisted pair with a shield.
 

chervokas

Member
Messages
6,843
The directionality is pretty obvious -- the shield connects to the amp input. Imo, it should cost about the same as a normal guitar cable, since shielded coax and shielded twisted pair are on a par with each other...depends on the brand, etc.

So the deal is getting the lowest noise floor possible. Coax runs inside an amp should be terminated on one end, not both. I can't find it in my files, but my recollection is that you get about a -3dB improvement. You can't run that type of connection to a guitar because there's no signal return, so the cable must be twisted pair with a shield.
Well, regarding the cost of shielded coax vs. shielded twinax, twinax cable has twice as much copper conductor, and the copper is probably the highest cost item used in making an instrument cable so a twinax cable pretty much always will cost more to make and at retail compared to coax. In a 15 foot single shielded coax where the shield carries the ground connection, you're paying for 15 feet of conductor and 15 feet of shield. In a single shielded twinax of the same length you're playing for 30 feet of conductor and 15 feet of shield.

And, as someone else pointed out the one-sided shield connection in a twinax or double shielded coax--which is a reasonable and common reason for a cable to be marked "amp" and "instrument" and probably is the case with something like the Evidence--is different from the claims of signal directionality that some people make and which I believe the OP was asking about. That's a claim no one has ever been able to reasonably support with science and which almost no one I know actually claims to hear.
 

ChaseTMP

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,992
I heard or read somewhere that there is no inherent directionality, but cables, as they're broken-in, will exhibit a preference for the signal direction for how they were broken in. I was told to try to keep my cables running the same way for optimum consistency.
 

rsm

Member
Messages
14,088
No, but it is common knowlegde that red cables sound better than black, but not as good as purple. I've read that blue cables are good, but to stay away from yellow and white due to major tone suckage.

That said, your guitar strap could be a problem too, depending on the direction of the fibers, thickness, length, materials etc.

;)

:sarcasm

j/k no offense intended.
 




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