The 9 Best Guitar Cables
9. Amboz Cables Red Dragon
- 60-day money back guarantee
- sometimes generates unwanted hum
- too skinny to be solid
|Rating||3.7 / 5.0|
8. Spectraflex Original Series
- many colors available
- tends to get tangled
- inexpensive feel
|Rating||4.2 / 5.0|
7. Mogami Gold Silent R
- carbon impregnated pvc
- conductive polymer sub-shield
- quality doesn't justify the price
|Model||GOLD INST SILENT R-10|
|Rating||4.1 / 5.0|
6. Rig Ninja
- 7mm outer diameter
- strap solder joints
- tweed twists and tangles easily
|Rating||4.2 / 5.0|
5. D'Addario Kill Switch
- ideal for live performance settings
- available in various lengths
- capacitance of 28 picofarads per ft
|Rating||4.1 / 5.0|
4. Mogami Gold
- noise-free handling
- neutrally balanced
- can be used with other instruments
|Rating||4.5 / 5.0|
3. Kirlin IWB-202PFGL
- great quality for the price
- stylish tweed woven jacket
- comes with limited lifetime warranty
|Brand||KIRLIN, KIRLIN CABLE|
|Rating||4.8 / 5.0|
2. GLS Audio
- capacitance just 38 picofarads a ft
- conductive pvc guards
- extended heat shrink tubing
|Rating||4.9 / 5.0|
1. Planet Waves American Stage
- hefty connectors
- made in the usa
- available in straight or right angle
|Rating||4.7 / 5.0|
From The Axe To The Amp
Since the dawn of the electric guitar, the cable has played a critical role. Throughout the annals of rock history, untangling huge nests of 1/4" cables after band practice has become a rite of passage for guitarists everywhere. So has the tradition of collecting these important items and lugging them around from basement to basement in search of the next jam. Wherever there's a lead, rhythm, or bass guitarist, there's sure to be a backpack full of cables nearby, especially if there are pedals involved.
The 1/4" guitar cable is ubiquitous throughout the audio industry. So, it's no surprise that there are a variety of options available making a number of impressive claims about their superiority. Connectors and conductors are made with precious metals and state-of-the-art construction methods. Manufacturers offer a multitude of reasons why their brand costs ten times the price of another, seemingly identical choice. These boasts can be legitimate, marginal, or downright misleading.
There's an entire camp of pragmatists who claim that a cable is just a cable. Of course, there's an equally convinced sect of purists who believe, sometimes in the face of patent evidence, that one cable sounds qualitatively and decisively better than another one that may share almost identical specifications.
Regardless of any subjective influences, there are definitely subtle differences in sound from product to product that are more important to audiophiles today than ever.
More Than Just A Copper Wire
There are certainly physical characteristics that affect the quality of a cable and the fidelity of the audio it transports. To understand how various cables differ, it first helps to have a rudimentary knowledge of cables themselves.
An instrument cable is unlike a lot of other audio or electrical cables. While traditional speaker cables do use an identical 1/4" plug type as guitar cables, they're actually built quite differently, with entirely separate capabilities. Rather than side-by-side positive and negative (or ground) wires transmitting a high-powered audio signal away from the amplifier, these specialized cables transmit a light current load through an insulated, conductive copper wire in the very center of the cable's construction. A braided sheath wrapped around that insulated wire acts as the ground wire. Interestingly, this means that the actual waves of current carrying the audio signal actually move down the plastic of the insulation itself while consistently maintaining the circuit between the inner and outer conductive materials.
This construction is ideal for moving a signal from a guitar to an amplifier. That's because the weak signal, which would normally be vulnerable to all kinds of interference, is protected as it runs inside of the grounded, braided shield. However, because of the relatively low conductivity of this shield, an instrument cable can't handle a very strong signal such as what would come out of an amplifier. So, cranking up the volume when using a guitar cable to transport sound from an amp to a speaker may well result in the cable or connector melting or even combusting.
Conversely, standard speaker cables as described above lack the extra shielding to protect the instrument's sensitive signal. For that reason, a speaker cable used as a go-between for a guitar and amp could easily end up buzzing and popping to the point of hurting music quality and damaging equipment.
Choosing The Right Guitar Cable
So, we've established how these surprisingly special cables work. Is there any real reason why some are vastly more expensive than others? A lot of enthusiasts will eagerly share how some of their most inexpensive cables outperform their pricey, brand-name units. While that does show that the most expensive option might not be the best one, it doesn't mean that prices and designations are totally arbitrary.
One basic fact to remember is that a cable cannot single-handedly add anything whatsoever to an audio signal. Conceptually speaking, the ideal instrument cable would have absolutely no effect on the analog signal moving through it. In practice, cables are involved in two processes that can change the timbre of what's fed into your amplifier.
Interference can alter the signal by adding static, pops, distortion, hums, and other noises. This occurs when a cable is poorly shielded or a connector is loose. A well-made unit will hold up over time, taking most of the everyday stretching force on its outside sheath and keeping the more sensitive inner conductor safe from damage. Because of its low elasticity and high flexibility, PVC has become the modern go-to for the most resilient cable.
Different cables also affect some of the higher frequencies in a guitar's signal at different rates. This happens according to a quality called capacitance, which is the conductor's ability to retain a portion of the analog signal it carries. A higher capacitance reduces the volume of the upper ranges of audio, making the rest of the spectrum more prominent in the mix. While this flies in the face of the ideal of a non-interfering guitar cable, it can have a dramatic effect in removing shrill or overly sharp tones from some guitars even before their sounds are processed by a pedal or amp.
At the end of the day, choosing the perfect guitar cable can take some first-hand research. Only you can determine which cable sounds best on your rig. Bass players might look for a coiled cable with more warmth, while lead soloists might opt to free up their treble with a brighter-sounding option. Of increasing popularity are solderless connectors, which allow savvy musicians to easily craft their own high-quality cables of custom length. Gold or silver-plated connections prevent corrosion in the long term. Some advanced models have switches that mute the signal when the adapter is unplugged, preventing pops when disconnecting instruments. Whichever route you take, make sure to choose a cable that's durable, because the best instrument cable is one you can rely on every gig.