Finding The Right Cable For The Job

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Finding The Right Cable For The Job


Don’t Believe, Just Listen

I could rant on for days about what this cable will do for your sound and what that cable will do for it. But, most guitarists don’t want to be told their gear is rubbish, even when they know they went for a cheap option on a cable. It seemed “good enough” and they don’t want to be told otherwise. The only way some guitarists will believe is to not be told, but to simply listen. The results will speak for themselves. 
In order to bring this idea to reality, you can all do a simple test at home.


 of you will have a decent cable that you like to use for recording or live use. At the same time, you should have a really cheap, nasty cable, like the one that might have come included with a guitar you bought, with a very thin shielding and moulded ends. Let’s take these and do a quick A/B comparison. Take your amp and set it up for a fairly clean tone with a good volume and plug in your guitar with the cheap cable. Turn the guitar up to full volume and listen without playing a note. Now, pull the volume down, swap cables and listen again. You should notice a drop in noise right away. Now, go back to the first cable and play a chord. Let it ring out and listen. Swap back to the good cable and play the same chord, without adjusting anything on the guitar or amp. Now listen.


Add and Subtract

The fact is a cable should not add anything to your tone. Don’t believe any salesman who tells you a cable is going to improve your tone, suggesting that it will give you more highs and deeper lows; that’s rubbish too. A piece of cable, no matter how expensive, is not going 
to improve you signal. But, a cheap one will worsen it, and having heard a cheap cable, you should know this for yourself. Lesser quality guitar cables do two things to your signal: they add to it and they take away from it. The problem is in what they add and what they subtract. To start with, poorly shielded guitar cables will add noise. There is no mystery to this, 
it is a simple fact as they will pick up interference and carry it along the signal chain. 
In the subtractive side of things, the cheaper cable will take away volume to begin with. This may be heard in lower frequencies, higher frequencies or overall volume, but one thing is certain, it will affect the overall tone in doing so, by not allowing the complete signal to pass through unaffected.


Get The Cable Right

With all this taken into consideration, 
I wonder how many of you are now considering your cable choices in both your live rigs and more importantly your recording setup. This goes for all your cables along the signal chain too. So, if you are running between several effects pedals, those little patch cables have
just as much ability to let you down as the cable coming out of your guitar. The cheap packet of six patch cables for ten dollars does seem appealing compared to spending thirty dollars for just one. But, in the scheme of things, considering what you may already have spent in getting your tone right, you really need to get the cable right too.


I have made my own cables for the past twenty years now, knowing that when I make them, I know what has gone into them. There can be no concern for the quality of the audio path when I know
all the components used are of a quality I trust. You don’t need to go to this extreme though. You can take the lazy option and have your local guitar store make these cables for you. They might be a little more expensive than the ‘off the shelf’ variety of mass-produced cables, but you can dictate what goes into them, before your signal does. Remembering that what you are spending on an apparently ‘expensive’ cable is really a very small proportion of what you have invested in your entire rig to begin with.