how different brands of cable affect your tone

Messages
3,838
I'm currently doing some research to see how much of a difference my current cables would sound (Planet Waves custom series) VS. some other high end brands (Monster, Lava, Mogami)... I've heard & read some people claim that the latter brands are the best of the best, offering a very noticeable difference in tone clarity and definition, while other people claim that the differences are very slight and barely noticeable. so, I'd like to get some input from you folks to try and get some opinions about how the Planet Waves custom series compare. I'd be willing to upgrade my cables if the difference in sound was vastly superior, but within reason regarding price. I'm not really looking to drop a hundred bucks per cable (I use 25 foot lengths from my guitar to my pedal board, and from the board to the amp, then another pair for my pedals that I use in the effects loop). but I'd be willing to spend 60 or 70 bucks per cable if the difference in tone would be a massive improvement.
 

Nota

Member
Messages
2,906
Ok, if you are *really* doing research, then do it the right way.

BLIND TESTS

Use a looper or friend to hook up a random cable while you're not looking. Use the same gear and same length cables. If you can even hear a difference, you win.

Until you do it this way, you're never going to get a straight answer here. As you said yourself, lots of us disagree because we haven't tested for ourselves. You're never going to know who to believe :)
 
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8len8

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
14,147
It's the cable capacitance, and how it interacts with your guitar and your load (amp/pedals).

You really need to do the testing with your own gear since they, and the cable length, will impact the results. Also, some folks like some high frequency rolloff due to cables.
 

jbxenon

Member
Messages
152
^^ Using a looper will not show differences between the cables because when you record a phrase into it the signal becomes buffered. The low output impedance of the looper will not form a low pass filter with the cable capacitance. So I completely agree with the above, you should connect your guitar directly to the cable and hear the difference. And the difference is indeed very much audible. It is quite staggering how the same pickups sound with different cable capacitance.

BTW, different cable brands have different capacitance per foot so yes, a cable with the same length of various brands will impose a different resonance peak and high cutoff frequency to the pickups, depending on its capacitance.
 

topo morto

Member
Messages
1,574
Any suggestion that you need expensive cables for their sound is a marketing con. By all means choose them for their construction or because they look cool, but don't kid yourself that you need to pay a lot for good sound.

That is not to say that all cables sound the same in all situations. In general, though, it's only long runs of cable where you will encounter the effects of varying capacitance, and even then, maybe only when you're not using a buffer (e.g. pretty much any pedal, but you can use a dedicated buffer) before the cable run. If you're using a really long cable run you might also want to use a balanced arrangement.
 
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DaveKS

Member
Messages
16,704
Between guitar pu and 1st buffered pedal, yes you can here the capacitance difference in cables and in different lengths of cables. After the 1st buffer once you get above a certain acceptable level of cable, quality wise, you'll be very hard pressed to hear any major difference.
 

stinkfoot

Member
Messages
6,138
Between guitar pu and 1st buffered pedal, yes you can here the capacitance difference in cables and in different lengths of cables. After the 1st buffer once you get above a certain acceptable level of cable, quality wise, you'll be very hard pressed to hear any major difference.
This is entirely correct. If you're going to invest in a cable, spend your money on the one from the guitar to the pedalboard. Once the signal has entered and passed the first buffer stage or active pedal, differences between cables becomes more a question of quality/handling, rather than tone.
 

SHOOTOUT!

Member
Messages
70
The difference in 'tone' between different guitar cables is entirely down to the harmonic circuit created with passive (only) guitar pickups. Pickups have an inbuilt capacitance and peak resonant frequency and above this frequency there is a steep roll off of high end frequency by way of a second order low pass filtering effect.

When more capacitance is added by cables before the first buffer is reached or the amp (whichever is first) then this adds to the capacitance and reduces the peak resonant frequency and also the frequency therefore where the high end rolls off.

The low end is unaffected.

The lowest capacitance cable on the market is Sommer LLX which we use in our 'Black Powder' Range.

Guitar Cable Capacitance Chart

Most brand cable makers marketing departments do not reveal their cable capacitances unfortunately, despite it being the only thing that makes them all sound different tone wise.

Braided shield with secondary shield for handling noise is best for broadband noise rejection and tensile strength; foam polyethylene insulator is much more flexible than solid, silver alloy solder helps at the joints to keep the conductivity up but a good joint is much more important.

Standard clamp or screw down strain relief doesn't achieve very much, neither does unglued shrink with a great big logo; only glued heat shrink provides a proper bond with the cable and whatever else it is attached to for cable/connector joint protection.

Cable Fairy Snake Oil Nonsenses: Gold plating on plug connections is just a 'bling' marketing and hi-fi nonsense and risks galvanic corrosion of nickel plated sockets; silver plated copper signal cable isn't relevant to guitar frequencies and suffers from 'red plague' (NASA term) galvanic corrosion, solid single copper signal wire cables are very stiff and break easily and there is no real world empirical evidence to support their use.

Sometimes a specific sound might need high capacitance in which case there is the tone control or you could use a true bypass loop of cable for a ton of capacitance before say a vintage style screechy fuzz pedal with a single coil a al Jimi.

Most modern players go low capacitance. Especially good for long cables and true bypass systems. Also low capacitance doesn't mean simply bright and screechy as some people get freaked out about and claim... it may actually stop a peak resonant frequency at say 6k wandering lower into say the nails on a chalk board 3-4k range and many dirt pedals have low input impedance which diminishes the effects of the capacitance and smooths things out.

I agree... it is ridiculous when looking for a cable, not to be told why the cable will sound different, that it is only between passive pickups and first buffer or amp, and what the specification of this aspect actually is for a product! Funny old world. Ha ha! XO()

8O)

Hope that helps.

Cheers.

Marc, Director
Shootout Guitar Cables

P.S. Almost forgot! Using a recording looper to compare cables is indeed a complete waste of time where capacitance comparisons are concerned as a looper is not a high output impedance inductive passive pickup. You could do some handling noise checks by banging the cable that way, or even some interference experiments, but not for the 'tone'.
 
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Gabriel.

Member
Messages
23
Marc! Great job! Glad i've found your site via your post here.
I have some silly questions due to my ignorance.
Apart the formula (Cable Length x Capacitance in Farads per Length Unit) + Jack Capacitance = Total Cable Capacitance in Farads isn't any other way to measure the farads? ie with a vom?
And how do the loop cables affect the tone?

Thanks.
 

kludge

The droid you're looking for
Messages
7,104
Really, only the cable from your guitar to your first buffered pedal matters sonically, and that's only if you have passive pickups. Cable length generally matters more than cable construction. Buy cables that are sturdy, don't tangle, and look nice. I've been very happy with the low-end Mogami cables from Guitar Center, and the house-branded Rapco cables that a couple of local stores sell.

My oldest cable by far is a Rapco in red shrinkwrap, which I've had for at least 20 years. I call it my "lucky cable" and bring it to every gig. When I did cable cork-sniffing some years ago, it came out #2 after a very expensive Grindycop. The Grindycop failed not much later, and it was sticky and horrible to handle. Looked amazing, though. Frankly, if I keep the cable length down and use a buffer, I'll never notice the difference in the heat of battle. I can much more clearly hear different buffers! I like colorful ones. I use a Prescription Electronics Germ, or possibly a HAO Rumble Mod or a Giggity. Currently using all three, but the Rumble Mod and Giggity are on overdrive rather than buffer duty and the Germ is making sure it's always buffered.

I bought a bunch of cheap Chinese cables on EBay a while back. They suck. Fail all the time, so I don't use them if I can avoid it. I stick to cloth-covered house brand Rapcos and the Mogami, which are both very reliable. The Rapcos look better, the Mogami handles better due to its thinness.

Don't use more than a 12 foot cable from your guitar unless you like rolloff. Make sure you have a high quality always-on buffer. Bring spares. Stop worrying.
 

ERGExplorer

Member
Messages
6,076
The best blind cable test result was those audiophiles who couldn't hear the difference between top-of-the-line cable and connectors attached to some metal hangers from the dry cleaner.

And the best proof of human gullibility is that people still argue about it being anything beyond capacitance affecting that tone.

Carry on!
 

SHOOTOUT!

Member
Messages
70
Marc! Great job! Glad i've found your site via your post here.
I have some silly questions due to my ignorance.
Apart the formula (Cable Length x Capacitance in Farads per Length Unit) + Jack Capacitance = Total Cable Capacitance in Farads isn't any other way to measure the farads? ie with a vom?
And how do the loop cables affect the tone?

Thanks.

Thank you.

I understand you can measure the capacitance of an assembled cable with connectors or just the cable itself with a Digital Multimeter with capacitance function and for accuracy one that can be zeroed to take out the effect of the crock clip extensions etc. Connect to ring/tip or shield/signal respectively at one end with the other end unterminated 'open circuit' I believe is the way. If the method is incorrect someone please feel free to flick a virtual rubber band at me. I was thinking of testing some 'brand' cables but I'm not sure I could cope with shelling out on all that marketing and all those hi-fi 'gold' tip/sleeves might test my level of enlightenment ;O)

I made two mentions of loops so I'll answer for both.

1. Cable in a true bypass loop before say a fuzz... was mentioned. Extra capacitance to be brought in before a specific problem pedal or to get a certain tone generally. So even lots and lots of capacitance to bring the resonant frequency right down perhaps to 2+khz with loads of top end roll off like Hendrix apparently did with long and coily cable etc. for lead work with a peaky single coil and a vintage fuzz that would otherwise hurt the ears. But then in the studio all the clean tones were done with short cables. Santana also known for long cables. On the other hand Eric Johnson has a super smooth lead with low cap cables... but he rolls off the treble and presence way down on the Marshall Plexis and I think uses a Y cable to the inputs for the violin tone. For maximum flexibility to get sparkly cleans to heavily rolled off I'd go for either problem dirt pedals like the fuzz in the true bypass loop after a lot of capcitance from a cable, or all dirt likewise if that was the way it worked best for lead tone choice. Basically you are just kicking in a bunch more cable when a pedal comes in... so long as it is all pre-buffer it will work. Another way would simply to have a little always on capacitance circuit rather than a load of cable coiled up on the floor. If you have low cap cable you can use tone control/amp controls/pedal controls/more cable in a true bypass loop before a pedal/s but... once you use a high capacitance cable from the guitar... that's it... the highs have gone a bit or lot more, the peak frequency is down lower.. The highs can't be put back, and the peak frequency can't be increased, so you've lost control and variability. Better to keep the pickups as near to test bench measurement as possible and then tune to taste after that with all the tools at your disposal.

2. Looper pedals... they are powered and have a low output impedance... this means they can 'drive' the cable much better than the tiny signal from a guitar pickup (passive not powered 'active' pickups) and so the cable capacitance then has neglible effect on the frequencies and so a pointless test... same as testing cable tone after any buffer... though you will find such tests on Youtube of course! 8O)

Capacitance is the only thing that makes the cables sound different (other than interference noise and handling noise... but that's just noise not 'tone')... end of story... unless you are a marketing department... then the cable colour is extremely important and just one of many more factors that will help the tone be amazing and perhaps even how well the guitarist can play. XO) 8O() 8O) I might try it myself though, like a genre marketed cable but with a twist... perhaps a 'You' cable. If you use this cable playing through your gear playing your genre you are guaranteed to sound like you playing through your gear playing your genre! It think that would be an awesome marketing plan and covers every player! Imagine what guitarists would be saying when they plugged in for the first time... "Wow... I have never gotten so close to how I should sound! Now that I sound even more like me I can really get those me licks to sound authentic".

;O)

Cheers,

Marc.
 

SHOOTOUT!

Member
Messages
70
The best blind cable test result was those audiophiles who couldn't hear the difference between top-of-the-line cable and connectors attached to some metal hangers from the dry cleaner.

And the best proof of human gullibility is that people still argue about it being anything beyond capacitance affecting that tone.

Carry on!
Bonobo chimps have up to 98% same DNA as humans. 98% Bonobo! I think our opposable thumbs have a lot to answer for. And don't get me started on opera. What's that all about?

Marc, Director
Shootout Guitar Cables.
 
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SHOOTOUT!

Member
Messages
70
Really, only the cable from your guitar to your first buffered pedal matters sonically, and that's only if you have passive pickups. Cable length generally matters more than cable construction. Buy cables that are sturdy, don't tangle, and look nice. I've been very happy with the low-end Mogami cables from Guitar Center, and the house-branded Rapco cables that a couple of local stores sell.

My oldest cable by far is a Rapco in red shrinkwrap, which I've had for at least 20 years. I call it my "lucky cable" and bring it to every gig. When I did cable cork-sniffing some years ago, it came out #2 after a very expensive Grindycop. The Grindycop failed not much later, and it was sticky and horrible to handle. Looked amazing, though. Frankly, if I keep the cable length down and use a buffer, I'll never notice the difference in the heat of battle. I can much more clearly hear different buffers! I like colorful ones. I use a Prescription Electronics Germ, or possibly a HAO Rumble Mod or a Giggity. Currently using all three, but the Rumble Mod and Giggity are on overdrive rather than buffer duty and the Germ is making sure it's always buffered.

I bought a bunch of cheap Chinese cables on EBay a while back. They suck. Fail all the time, so I don't use them if I can avoid it. I stick to cloth-covered house brand Rapcos and the Mogami, which are both very reliable. The Rapcos look better, the Mogami handles better due to its thinness.

Don't use more than a 12 foot cable from your guitar unless you like rolloff. Make sure you have a high quality always-on buffer. Bring spares. Stop worrying.
You use buffers for their tone! I like your style!

Marc, Director
Shootout Guitar Cables.
 
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SHOOTOUT!

Member
Messages
70
I'm currently doing some research to see how much of a difference my current cables would sound (Planet Waves custom series) VS. some other high end brands (Monster, Lava, Mogami)... I've heard & read some people claim that the latter brands are the best of the best, offering a very noticeable difference in tone clarity and definition, while other people claim that the differences are very slight and barely noticeable. so, I'd like to get some input from you folks to try and get some opinions about how the Planet Waves custom series compare. I'd be willing to upgrade my cables if the difference in sound was vastly superior, but within reason regarding price. I'm not really looking to drop a hundred bucks per cable (I use 25 foot lengths from my guitar to my pedal board, and from the board to the amp, then another pair for my pedals that I use in the effects loop). but I'd be willing to spend 60 or 70 bucks per cable if the difference in tone would be a massive improvement.
I have just read http://www.rig-talk.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=112037 that the cables you use are 28pF per foot which would be 92pF per metre. The other make referenced is bulk and a spec approx correct number is mentioned for that, so if the figure is correct for your cable type then there are many cables with a lower capacitance.

It's just the first cable from guitar to first pedal buffer that makes the difference so you only need to experiment with the one cable by the sound of it.

Marc, Director
Shootout Guitar Cables
 

SHOOTOUT!

Member
Messages
70
I'm currently doing some research to see how much of a difference my current cables would sound (Planet Waves custom series) VS. some other high end brands (Monster, Lava, Mogami)... I've heard & read some people claim that the latter brands are the best of the best, offering a very noticeable difference in tone clarity and definition, while other people claim that the differences are very slight and barely noticeable. so, I'd like to get some input from you folks to try and get some opinions about how the Planet Waves custom series compare. I'd be willing to upgrade my cables if the difference in sound was vastly superior, but within reason regarding price. I'm not really looking to drop a hundred bucks per cable (I use 25 foot lengths from my guitar to my pedal board, and from the board to the amp, then another pair for my pedals that I use in the effects loop). but I'd be willing to spend 60 or 70 bucks per cable if the difference in tone would be a massive improvement.
Right then, down to the science... so your current cable by the looks of it is a total of approx. 700pF at 25ft according to the measurements taken by the Rig Talk poster.

Sommer LLX as we use in our Black Powder range is 52pF metre, a new cable designed to go as low as they could, and we do a 9m (29 1/2 ft) which is 468pF for the cable aspect.

I'd say approx bottom line... the difference would be about I'd say maybe a 1khz shift upwards for the resonant frequency and extra high end getting through with a 70s vintage strat type single coil. So more harmonic information on everything in an easily audible region for about 1khz band.

With single coils output strength make a difference, and humbuckers are a different beast with resonances.

If you a know your sounds well, it should be a significant and noticeable difference. More open, more detail, more complex... can't be more precise than that without knowing the resonant frequencies and henries of the pickups used.

Massive? Not for me to say. Thin wool blanket over the front of the cab difference I'd reckon with a medium output single coil.

If you can find a better answer than that... and there is no gold or silver plating involved... I'll eat a patch cable.

;O)

Cheers,

Marc, Director
Shootout Guitar Cables
 

bettset

Member
Messages
4,229
i found that the elixir cables they made for a bit were pretty nice for some amps........it was like 10pf :munch
 

kludge

The droid you're looking for
Messages
7,104
You use buffers for their tone! I like your style!

Marc, Director
Shootout Guitar Cables.
Heck, my #1 axe has had EMG pickups for ages! EMG Tele pickups are crazy good. I recently upgraded it to the EMG X-series T set and 18 volts (had a luthier cut a battery compartment under the pickguard). It's like the notes emerge from pitch blackness, and it can drive anything. Any cables, any pedals, it just doesn't care.
 

Jessica

Senior Member
Messages
403
I'm a hobbyist and gear enthusiast who has never been a professional musician or owned extremely high end gear.

I also do not have supersonic audiophile hearing or "golden ears".

The entire first year of playing electric guitar, I played with a 10-foot $15 Monster cable from Guitar Center. It was their most basic model, and it came with colored rubber band things to slip over the jack cover so you can identify your cables more easily.

I didn't know it sounded poor until I was given a Fulltone cable. It was 15 feet and cost $30. I honestly didn't think it would make a difference. I was wrong. It was noticeable immediately. The Fulltone sounded significantly clearer and brighter. Plugged the Monster back in, and it was like someone put a jacket over my amp. I've been very happy with the clarity of the Fulltones, I went out and bought 4 more of them and have used them ever since.

Sure, I'd love to try the really high end cables that cost $60 a pop, $80 a pop, but the Fulltones sound beautiful at $30. Give them a go, if you ever get a chance.
 






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