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.
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