Most guitar cables look the same. Some have fancy connectors and fancy cable materials, but in the end they’re all a cord with 1/4″ connectors on each end. What makes one better than the next? The answer lays with everything inside the cable. The materials that comprise everything that you don’t see in the cable is what makes on better than another.
The purpose of a guitar cable is to carry electric currents from your pickups, through the guitar, and to your amp where the electric currents are magnified into the sound that comes out. Good guitar cables will provide as little interference and loss as possible to produce the highest quality and true sound.
Put simply, copper and silver will carry the guitar’s signal cleaner and truer than other materials. Most high quality guitar cables that you’ll come across have a copper (or copper blend) core that is soldered into the connectors. This is going to provide great sound without any interference. Silver core guitar cables are out there, but are extremely expensive.
Outside of the cables core, there is usually some sore of plastic wrap that is heat shrunk to the cable. This helps hold everything together and increase the life of the cable. The next key element to a guitar cable is the wrap and insulation of the wire. Some guitar cables will slap on a thin layer of vinyl that looks really cool, but does zero to prevent radio interference that will attack the signal that’s flowing through your cable.
Non-insulated cables can also work like an extra pickup and create a slew of extra noise coming out of your amp. Think about the last time you were really rocking and your cable smacked into something, remember the thud that came out of your amp? That’s from the lack of insulation. The impact is the same kind of vibration that your guitar’s pickups are getting every time you pluck the string.
The bottom line is when you’re looking for practice cables, a cheap vinyl cable will suffice. When you’re somewhere that you want to sound your best (live, in the studio) you should buy guitar cables that are going to help, rather than hinder your sound. Premium guitar cables carry a higher price tag than their cheap counterparts, but the difference in sound is worth every penny.
With so many choices on the market, how do you choose a guitar cable? Do you go with the cheap one? Do you get the one that looks cool? How about the one with the fabric that matches your guitar? Ultimately, the choice is up to you, but you’ll make a better decision after you’ve read this article and understand what the difference is between all of them.
The job of a guitar cable is to carry the fragile electric current that your pickups get from the strings to your amp. It may seem like a simple job, but there are all sorts of problems that can get in your signal’s way. Poor connectors, cheap cores, and lack of insulation are all going to create a major loss in signal and in sound quality. When jamming at home or practicing with your band you can usually get away with having a crappy guitar cable, but when you don’t want to sound like that when you have an audience!
As your cable gets longer it becomes more important that it’s made from high quality materials. A cheap guitar cable is prone to signal loss as soon as the current leaves the guitar, and the problem is compounded by longer cables. My practice cables are short since I’m not really doing anything other than playing. My live cables are much longer (30 feet+) so that I can move the stage. It’s worth every penny to buy a high quality guitar cable when you’re dealing with those kind of lengths.
Should you use a straight or right angle guitar cable? There’s a ton of debate around this topic. It’s really a matter of preference, but there are a few solid rules to go by. First, the amp side of the cable should be straight. This will help signal flow at that crucial point and you don’t have to worry too much about your amp getting smacked and breaking the cable. As for the guitar side, if your input jack is perpendicular to the body of the guitar you should use a right angle. Having a straight cable jutting out of the front of a guitar is a recipe to get it broken. If you have a jack that’s recessed into the front a straight cable fits a little better. Input jacks on the guitar’s sides can use either. Fender Telecasters almost always have to have a straight connector because the right angle ones won’t fit into their deep jacks.
Now that you know a bit more about your guitar cable choices you can make a much more educated decision on which is right for you. Save money with your practice cables so you can spend it on your live and recording ones. Spend the money when your sound really counts!
A USB guitar cable is one of the easiest ways to get studio quality sound right into your computer. As technology has increased, as has sound quality and the price has continuously dropped on these cables. In this post we’ll take a look at how these cables work, what you need to make them work, and where to find the best prices.
The old-school cheap way of hooking your guitar to your computer was to get a 1/4″ to 1/8″ inch converter and run that into the line-in on your computer. This never worked well because of a terrible signal to noise ratio. You were relying on your computer to digitize the input, and all sorts of hisses and pops were the result. Computer sound cards are designed to play music, not create it! You also had the option of using expensive firewire or USB line-ins but those are no longer necessary for the solo player.
USB guitar cables take care of the digitizing of the signal on their own with a small sound board built right into the cable. Sending the signal already digital into the computer results in an excellent signal to noise ratio and in turn near studio quality sound. It’s as simple as plugging the USB guitar cable into your axe and the other end into your computer and you’re ready to rock. No extra drivers are needed, and your computer’s operating system is irrelevant as it will work on both PC and Mac. It also works for acoustics and bass just as well as electric guitar.
Making it all work on your computer takes software though. You can’t just plug in and play through your computer’s speakers. A simple recording program is necessary to put everything together. Macs come with Garage Band, which works perfectly with a USB cable for guitar. If you don’t have a Mac you can use Audacity, which is a free but limited program from Sound Forge, Cakewalk, or whatever your favorite (or cheapest) software is.
If you don’t process the sound going into your computer or with some sort of effects in your software, you’re left with the raw guitar sound. Almost all recording software will have a set of guitar effects that you can use. If you plan on using your own effects, the USB guitar cable needs to connect from the last pedal in your chain to the computer.
Finding good deals on USB to guitar cables is easy. They used to be pretty expensive, but now you can find them as low as $20. Amazon and eBay are always a sure bet to get the best deals around.
Deciding on the best guitar cable is tough. What sounds great to me might make your ears bleed. What’s affordable to you might be way out of my price range. What is pristine with my amp might hiss or pop with yours. So how do you decide? You have to understand what makes guitar cables work and try a few of them out. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what the best guitar cables are for your rig.
It wasn’t too long ago when most guitarists and bassists weren’t convinced that their cable choices had an effect on their tone. In my opinion, this is because they were too worried about making them last more than a few gigs! Materials and building practices have certainly improved over the last decade or so. Now guitar cables produce much truer sound and last years, instead of weeks.
The best guitar cable is going to be one that is made from a high quality material, like copper, that is thoroughly insulated from interference, has a strong construction that won’t break at the jacks, and (most importantly) you can afford. There are cables that are going to sound like a million bucks, but cost well over $150 for a 20 foot length! That might be the best cable, but I’m not going to be able to afford it!
The ultimate goal of a guitar cable is to move the signal from your guitar to your amp as smooth as possible. Unfortunately, there are thousands of things that can impede that signal along the way. Everything from the cable’s construction to the wiring of the building you’re in will affect the signal and ultimately your tone.
Construction materials of guitar cables will produce different tones. The core’s material has a much more dramatic affect than the end’s material. For example, copper will produce more authentic highs than any alloy will, but gold or nickel plated ends don’t make a big tonal difference. The insulation material will help prevent interference from radio, your amp, and shoddy electrical work. Insulation separates the positive and negative signals inside the cable. Common high quality insulators are PVC and other polymers.
While it’s impossible to pick the best guitar cable what you can do is head down to your local guitar shop and play a bunch on a setup that is similar to yours. You’ll know it when you hear it, and then come back to the web and buy it for a fraction of the price that you would inside the store!
Shopping for guitar pedal cables may seem like a menial task, but if you care about your tone than it’s as important as every other piece of gear that you own. Having shoddy patch cables can suck all of the life out of your tone. When guitar cables are poorly constructed they demolish the signal and all you’re left with is processed noise rather than your guitar’s natural tone.
When you daisy chain pedals together you’re adding interference every step of the way. Your pedals contour your tone, but they also add noise and other artifacts into your tone. Using high quality guitar pedal cables can’t prevent this, but is will help preserve everything that’s left!
The most common patch cables are 2″-3″ with right angle jacks on both ends. These should be made from the same company and manufacturing process that your guitar cable is. When you have apples to apples from the guitar to the amp you’ll protect the signal better.
Pedal boards do a fantastic job of keeping everything neat and tidy, but when all of your plugs are connected into their built in AC adapter all sorts of interference is introduced. The electric signals that are around that built in power strip will penetrate into your guitar cables and hamper their tone.
So what should you do? If you already have a pedal board, try upgrading your patch cables before scrapping the board. It can make a large enough improvement that you may stick with the board. If you’re running pedals on the floor, bring the 9 volts! Stick to batteries to keep the noise down.
In the end, your tone is totally up to you. If you like the way the interference makes you sound, stick with it. Your tone is your voice, and you’re free to shape it however you want. Using high quality guitar pedal cables to preserve your tone every step of the way can help you sound as good as your equipment can.