What is in a cable?

Discussion in 'Amps/Cabs Tech Corner: Amplifier, Cab & Speakers' started by Metallicdream91, Feb 14, 2012.

  1. Metallicdream91

    Metallicdream91 Guest

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    I've been playing guitar for a decent amount of time (just about six years) and with all the research that I've done on gear, I've never taken the time to learn about cables. So I have a few starter questions;

    What makes a good cable?
    How can I know which cable is right for me?
    Which cable/brand gives me the best bang for the buck?

    Just a few questions to see what comes up. The help/answers are much appreciated!
     
  2. whaiyun

    whaiyun Member

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  3. OrganicTimbre

    OrganicTimbre Member

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    The best cable is all about transferring signal exactly as it came in.

    For instrument cable, that means good shielding and low capacitance.

    For speaker cable, that means thick conductor.

    These days I go with Planet Waves, not because of magical tone properties, but because I find that they are the most durable.
     
  4. shango

    shango Member

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    Of course, there's Lava and Bullet Cable. I was very happy with Zzyzx cables, too. Especially the one with the mute tab on one end. That comes in handy for me. Like most guys, I started out with cheapo 4 for $10 GC cables, so when I finally switched to the good ones, I could definitely hear a clear difference. I am still learning and discovering. :) With the ear I have developed, it is definitely worth spending more to have better sound imo. If you have extra cable money one day, just buy something you've been curious about and let your ears decide.
     
  5. TimmyP

    TimmyP Member

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    I like anything made with ProCo 120SX.
     
  6. Floyd Eye

    Floyd Eye Member

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    Snake oil cables
    Quality cables
    Crap cables

    Those are pretty much your choices. A quality cable is all you need. You don't need magical monster cables. Many people are happy with Planet Waves. I am happy with Mogami Gold. Never had one fail and if it does it is guaranteed forever.
     
  7. muffin

    muffin Member

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    Second on the Planet Waves for good durability/affordability.

    Guitar cable is just a single wire, which carries signal, surrounded by a shield, which carries ground. The specifics of the construction determine the capacitance and the shielding performance. Some cables have two wires for signal and ground, in addition to the shield. These are often marked with one end for the amp, the other for the instrument.

    If you are just connecting straight to the amp, then one cheap cable is all you need. If you have a particularly long cable, or a bunch of effects, then its better to investigate higher quality cables, focusing on low capacitance/impedance. Also, check the sturdiness of the joint between the jack and the cable. In my experience this is where the quality varies most.

    One thing, instrument cable and speaker cable are different, and not always interchangeable. It isn't good for your amp if you use cheap guitar cable to connect the head to the speakers. (but it won't hurt your guitar.)
     
  8. chervokas

    chervokas Member

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    Well, most guitar cable is coaxial -- which means there's a conductor, usually a multi-stranded conductor, sometimes a solid core conductor which carries the "hot" signal and a shield, usually braided copper, sometimes spiral copper (rarely foil which is the least good choice), which both shields the conductor from radiated noise and which makes the ground connection for the cable. In addition, there's usually a semiconductive PVC layer between the insulation of the center conductor and the shield which shields against electrostatic handling noise.

    Nowadays, twinaxial cable is popular which has a conductor for "hot," a conductor for ground and a separate shield that is only connected at the end that should be connected closest to system ground (ie in the direction of the amp).

    What makes a good cable is quality copper, a braided or spiral shield (or two, sometimes cables are double shielded) that provides 95% coverage or more; an electrostatic shield; good high conductivity plugs with solid termination jobs and perhaps some kind of strain relief; and a durable jacket.

    What effects tone in cables connected to guitars with passive pickups is principally the cable's capacitance, which mostly has to do with the geometry of the cable and the nature of its insulation material. Lower capacitance cable will tend to sound brighter and more open in this kind of situation; higher capacitance cable will tend to sound warmer and more mid focused. Capacitance is not a measure of quality. There are quality cables at a wide range of capacitances available.

    The issues are different with speaker cable. And the capacitance issues isn't really relevant in that context, nor is it relevant if you're using active pickups.
     
  9. phsyconoodler

    phsyconoodler Member

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    Quote:"These days I go with Planet Waves, not because of magical tone properties, but because I find that they are the most durable."

    Wow! We send them back by the hundred lot for warranty where I work.
    that's not durability in my book.Even monster cables have issues.
    Everything made overseas these days is prone to failures.All about quality controls,not materials.
     
  10. WaltC

    WaltC Member

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    I like any canare or proco instrument cable with neutrik or equivalent plugs.
     
  11. shango

    shango Member

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    I tried Planet Waves cables twice and they failed both times. I've had better luck with Hosa.
     
  12. Koop

    Koop Member

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    :agree

    I've used Planet Waves - not the most durable IMHO, now I'm onto Mogami.
     
  13. shango

    shango Member

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    Yeah, Mogami cables are great, too. I bought one 10 years ago and it's going strong.
     
  14. Ronsonic

    Ronsonic Member

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    I'm agreed. While I won't argue whether some fancy cable has a fancy sound, I will argue that quality cable sound perfectly good and that their reliability is a much higher priority.

    Cable made by a company like Mogami or Canare and plugs from Neutrik or Switchcraft will do nicely. ProCo and Whirlwind make real cables.
     
  15. nrandall85

    nrandall85 Member

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    My favorite all-arounders are Mogami 2524, and Canare (a little darker sounding.)

    If I'm running my full pedalboard setup, I have EA Monorails for patch, with either EA Forte or Reveal on either side.

    I've pretty much given up on using solid core cable for longer runs. It just gets in the way. I was using a 20' Lyric HG for a while, and I stripped the fabric off of it and gained a lot of flexibility. It still felt like I was wrestling a snake on stage, but it was a slightly smaller snake.

    For plugs, G&H all the way- They're like a more refined Switchcraft.

    For patch cables, GLS work great.

    I won't EVER use Neutrik. Every single cable (that I didn't build) with Neutrik plugs needed repair after a very short amount of time.

    As far as off the rack stuff, Whirlwind is great, I LOVE the bullet coil cables, and I had the same Monster Jazz cable all through school. It must have been the darkest sounding cable ever made, but it's still kicking around somewhere and sounded great.
     
  16. Bob Pollock

    Bob Pollock Supporting Member

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    I don't know which one's you're returning, but my Planet Waves Circuit Breaker cables have been through 3 years of steady gigging with ZERO issues, good tone, good price, and a warranty.
     
  17. Metallicdream91

    Metallicdream91 Guest

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    Thanks to everyone for the responses...it's nice to start building some knowledge on cables! Also, I'm hearing a lot of brand names I haven't before, so that'll give me more to look into!
     
  18. otaypanky

    otaypanky Gold Supporting Member

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    If you usually have your guitar controls maxed and use pedals for your solo boost you're not going to notice the effects of a quality cable as much as someone who goes straight in to the amp and uses the guitar's vol + tone pots.
    For the knob riders, a good cable is a big difference
     
  19. chervokas

    chervokas Member

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    I always think a good place to start is comparing Gepco XBand, Mogami 2524 and Canare GS6 with G&H plugs.

    These are all good, well-made, relatively inexpensive, similarly constructed, coaxial, stranded conductor cables (although the Mogami is spiral shield, the others bradied shield and I think the Gepco is double shielded, don't know about the others), from companies with long standing reputations in the broadcast and pro audio industries. But they have different capacitances -- Gepco XBand = 22 pF/ft; Mogami 2524 = 39 pF/ft; Canare = 49 pF/ft. So get a 15 foot cable of each and listen.

    That's a good way to hear the impact of capacitance on the guitar system (and remember it's only the capacitance loading the guitar so the cable that's connected between the guitar and the first active device be it a buffer, switched-on pedal, or amp).

    When you find a capacitance load that you like in your rig, then you can start experimenting with any differences you might hear between coax and twinax geometry; or stranded core vs. solid core conductor, etc (though, fwiw, I don't think solid core is a great choice for something that flexes a lot like a guitar cable).
     
  20. donnyjaguar

    donnyjaguar Member

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    The problem in this day and age is that most audio cables are made in the far east and quality is a total crap shoot. Spending more money doesn't guarantee that you'll end up with a better product.

    In my experience its usually the connectors that fail first so base your buying decision on the quality of these.
     

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