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Today we will touch upon one of the most difficult and pressing topics: choosing a quality guitar cable. In every music store, you can find dozens of different models of guitar cables, which have different characteristics, are made using a variety of technologies, and, accordingly, significantly differ in price. How not to get lost in this variety and choose the highest quality guitar cable?
Guitar cable structure
First, we need to understand the structure of the guitar cables. In the center of any cord are the main conductors of the wires, which are covered with insulation. This is followed by a gasket (usually made of textile materials) – its purpose is to give the structure rigidity and additional protection from external influences. The top of the gasket is covered with a shielding material to reduce the microphone effect. Finally, the outermost layer is the extra insulation on the cord.
The most important characteristics of a guitar cable
Now let’s talk about the most important technical characteristics, with the help of which we will navigate and draw conclusions about the quality of the instrumental cable. The purpose of a guitar cord is to move an electrical signal from one device to another with minimal signal loss, while not creating a lot of background noise.
Resistance – With high resistance, the cable will noticeably “extinguish” the signal power, which is why copper or oxygen-free copper is used in the production of conductors, which have high resistance
Inductance – is a parameter that characterizes the resistance to alternating current. Affects the fullness of the frequency picture of the sound: at high inductance, the sound will become duller, especially high frequencies are cut
Electrical Ability – a parameter that depends on the length of the guitar cable and the insulation material, also affects the fullness of the sound both in terms of volume and frequency characteristics. Lower cable capacitance ensures fuller reproduction of high and mid frequencies.
Conductor Material – as mentioned above, mostly ordinary copper or its more expensive variety: oxygen-free OFC copper. In the most expensive guitar cables, cores are made of gold and silver, as well as carbon fiber.
Let’s go straight to some of the myths about guitar cables and characteristics that have little or no effect on the sound.
Oxygen-free copper is steeper than conventional copper – indeed, OFC copper has less resistance, but when choosing an instrumental cable, losses are minimal and not at all critical. It’s another matter when we are talking about buying a high-quality guitar cable – in this case, abandoning copper in favor of more expensive materials is quite justified. But let’s not forget that it is much cheaper to simply increase the cable cross-section.
Good guitar cables should have exclusively gold-plated plugs – if you like flashy bells and whistles. And, although the plugs are gold-plated and have less resistance and less corrosion resistance, the coating is fast enough due to the frequent switching on and off of the plug – usually, after a few months all the pluses of the coating come to naught, and the overpayment for such a cable will be very impressive.
Only professional multicore cords give good sound – usually, it means that the option with many thin wires is much cooler than the cable with a couple of thicker ones. Fortunately, this statement only works for a high-frequency signal: in the case of audio frequencies with which we have to deal, the difference is almost imperceptible.
Summarizing the first part of the article: we need a sufficiently strong and flexible cable, made of good materials without good frills. And one more important point: buy only the guitar cable of the length you need – too long cords kill both the power and frequency characteristics of the signal. That is why we strongly advise, if you need a cable more than 5-6 meters, to think about buying a wireless radio system. Let’s go further!
Choosing Insulation By Marking
PVC is a standard PVC jacket, which is the most common, has sufficient flexibility and low cost. Disadvantages – poor resistance to aggressive environments and open flames.
PUR-a-Flex is a thermoplastic compound based on polyurethane. It is characterized by maximum resistance to aggressive external influences (mechanical stress, heat, and cold, high humidity) and a higher price.
FRNC is flexible and resistant to corrosion and combustion casing at a high price.
Guitar cables always have a shield to protect against various sources of external interference, hundreds of which surround us at home, and at a concert venue, and a rehearsal center. Ever heard the radio through your office? This is exactly what bad shielding of a guitar cable is, assuming all other equipment is in perfect order. Screens in modern cables are made of the following materials:
Foil, most often aluminum or copper – Provides fairly good shielding, but it also has some disadvantages: poor protection against mechanical damage. So cables with a foil shield are only suitable for purely stationary use.
Wire mesh – The most resistant to damage and the most flexible shielding material, it is very popular in the manufacture of guitar cables. Provides up to 85% of cable coverage, has a higher price compared to foil shielding.
Wire spiral winding – has a very significant advantage: the highest flexibility of the cable, however, the coverage area of the conductor is only about 75-80% of the spiral winding. It has poor resistance to mechanical stress and wears out rather quickly.
Problems During Cable Operation
Excessive rigidity – a guitar cable that is not flexible enough can create many problems when moving a musician on stage and in a rehearsal room, it is also quite difficult to twist it into a small coil during transportation.
Interference and noise are one of the most tangible problems with cheap and poor quality cables. It is no secret that most of the electrical equipment that we have at home is present at concert venues and rehearsal facilities, can create perceptible interference, and add a lot of noise during the game. Again, buying a cable with good shielding (wire mesh is the most preferable) helps to almost completely get rid of extraneous noise.
Technical breakdowns – mainly occur with cable connectors, however, during operation, both the shielding and even the cores themselves can be damaged during a sharp mechanical impact. In this case, it is better to give preference to strong and thick enough cords.
Poor-quality soldering – oddly enough, even buying a cable in stores does not guarantee good soldering. However, this is especially true in the case of self-manufacturing of the guitar cable – use only high-quality solder and carefully check the quality of the connection of the elements
Tips and tricks for buying a cable
Length of cable – When buying, it is very important to evaluate how long the cable you need – and to purchase only the cords of the required length. The reason for this is obvious: the longer the cord, the more signal we will lose on the way from guitar to cabinet – this is especially true when connected to high-quality equipment. When using long, low-quality cords, the sound loses its brightness, becomes “blurry” and noisy, which is why a cable 2-3 meters long is enough for rehearsals and homework, and for concerts, the most optimal option is to buy a radio system in combination with the use of high-quality short patches – cables.
The quality of the connectors – A good cable is half the battle, but let’s not forget about quality connectors. As mentioned above, the highest quality materials for the manufacture of plugs: gold, silver, the copper shows themselves a little worse, having a lower price and a longer service life. The connectors in cheap cords are made from regular steel or composite materials.
Quality lived – For the most part, the core of the sound is formed by the cores inside the cable and transmitting the sound signal to specific equipment: guitar pedals, effects processors, combos, heads, and cabinets. In this case, copper is the best conductor, and the thicker the cores, the cleaner, and brighter the output signal will be.
Shielding – We have already said enough about it within the framework of this article: the veins are wrapped with shielding material, thereby protecting the signal from noise and interference. The best solution is a wire mesh screen, but be aware of the reduced flexibility of the instrument cord.
External cable protection – Protecting the guitar cables from mechanical stress is an important aspect, no matter what style you play or how mobile you are on stage. In this case, do not focus on the appearance of the cable – buy those models that have a sufficiently thick and reliable shell, while not forgetting to try the cable flexibility.
Don’t try to save a lot – In practice, the guitar cable changes much less often than other equipment – that is why you should immediately make a choice when buying a high-quality and reliable model. In any case, you can always sell it (for example, if you need to change the length of the cords in your chain and selling a branded cable is much easier than a Chinese product of the “noname” category. But you shouldn’t spend a lot right away – if you are not going to perform at the world’s largest venues with the best equipment, then cables for $ 300 or more are useless for you.
Manufacturers – Finally, we come to the most important thing – which manufacturers today produce cords with consistently high quality, which guitar cable to buy from such a huge selection in modern music stores?
GLS Audio 10, 15, 20 Foot Guitar Cable
The GLS Audio cable is a dependable cable that was professionally designed to look, feel, and sound great. They combine seamlessly with your instruments (perfectly with the bass guitar) to produce a fantastic musical performance.
If you care about your tone and minimizing handling noise, you’ll love how the GLS Audio cables come adequately shielded to prevent the pickup of low-frequency disturbance. What’s more, its low capacitance makes for an improved high-frequency response.
The jack plugs at either end are strong so you won’t get a finicky connection. The tip fits securely on new studio jacks and in traditional jacks like on the 2011 Gibson Les Paul Studio and the 1996 Fender Stratocaster.
In terms of durability, the GLS Audio Guitar cable was built to overcome whatever grueling conditions you put it to. I’d say they are straight-up tour-grade dependable. Moreover, its tight tweed cloth jacket is heavy-duty to guarantee that your cable outlasts itself. Yet, it is extraordinarily flexible so it kinks less. The Velcro fasteners prevent coiling and tangling when the cable is stored in your gear bag.
Fender California Series Instrumental Guitar Cable
Tired of boring and uneventful cables? Fender California series instrument cable will make you stand out from the crowd with its unique and bright color. It is different from the monotonous and uneventful dark-colored cables. One look at it and you will want to remain in your home studio and sing your heart out.
This beauty is uniquely durable as it is made from quality raw materials and it will overcome all the technical hitches whenever they come up or even cover them up making your music sound like it was supposed to. This guitar cable is very flexible. It will coil as much as you would like. You will not have to spend all your time untying knots and your studio will always be tidy.
Its lustrous color spells elegance catches everybody’s attention quickly and can be paired easily with almost every other color for coordination. The bright color also makes it easier to be noticed so you can’t step on it easily. Its performance is great as it enhances sound making it smooth and clear.
Fender Professional 10` Guitar Cable
Fender Original Series cables were designed by combining solid construction—featuring spiral shielding and durable nickel-plated connectors—with inimitable Fender styling to create a high-performance, reliable choice for your cable needs in the studio and on stage.
Penker 2 Pack Guitar Cable 10 foot
Having an innovative look, this cable will catch the eye on the stage and will make you want to play your guitar every day. One of the main reasons to buy this cable is the fact that it has increased conductivity thanks to the gold-plated jacks. This gives a superior tone and the sound quality you desire.
The high-density oxygen-free copper core makes it superconductive, and that gives no delay in the audio transmission. Thanks to the same superconductive material you get no noise, and more corrosion resistance compared to other models.
This cable comes with a double-shielded design, meaning that it is covered in PVC and an OFC insulator shield. This reduces noise and blocks interfering signals to offer high fidelity. The cable measures 10 feet and it has a durable casing that is made of braided tweed cloth. This way it doesn’t twist awkwardly.
Cable Matters 2-Pack 1/4 Inch TS to TS Electric Guitar Cable
Coming with ¼-inch jacks these cables can be used for anything from guitars to electric keyboards and effect pedals. The profile of this guitar cable is straight to straight, meaning that it has straight jacks, and these are resistant and easy to install. The flexible cable jacket will resist kicking and lays flat.
The tips of the cables are gold-plated for a better connection, and they have an easy-grip housing to stay plugged in better. The cable benefits from double foil and braid shielding and that will protect against electromagnetic noise that often appears when such cables are used. The oxygen-free copper used in creating the conductor of this cable will give a clear sound and a response capable of high frequencies.
You get two of these cables in the same pack, and measuring about 10 foot each, they are decently long to be used for most applications
Donner Guitar Cable
The Donner guitar cable is quite an awesome product, but this is a judgment that you can make for yourself once you’ve heard some more specifications.
The construction of the cable is quite satisfying considering its low price (compared to the more medium to high-end cables on the market). It has a center conductor made from pure copper, covered by insulation and conductive PVC.
All that combined allows the Donner to reject interference, resulting in high-quality sound output, much to the delight of the people who’ve tested it so far. The tweed jacket comes in different combinations of black, white, and blue. You can choose between the 10 or the 18-foot version of this cable, although the former option should be more than enough to keep you covered.
In conclusion, it must be said that you need to choose a cable consciously, relying on the characteristics of a specific product for specific purposes. Now even inexpensive instrument wires are made of oxygen-free copper, many of them are well shielded, stranded, and coaxial. The choice is yours and we wish you a good sound!