The most overlooked part of guitarists’ rigs are the cables. They’re so easy to forget about when we get so caught up in buying the next pedal, or saving up for our next guitar or amp. It is often the case that we will spend $1200 on our guitar, $1500 on our amp, $1500 on our pedalboard, and then buy the cheapest cables we can find to wire it all up. There’s nothing necessarily wrong about this, it’s just that we aren’t letting our rig reach its full potential. Let’s take a really expensive car, for example, and then buy the cheapest tires on the market for it. We can’t enjoy everything the car has to offer because we are limited by our cheap tires. If we could just invest a little more to get high quality tires, the car will now drive like a dream and function to its full potential. This is the same deal with guitar gear and cables. If you aren’t already convinced, let’s look at what exactly it is we will find in a high quality cable. 



Capacitance

In high quality cables, you will find lower capacitance. Woah! What the heck does that mean? Let me explain. When we have two or more conductors (ie: wires) closely separated, they can store a charge. The storing of charge by these wires is called capacitance. This is what goes on in a guitar cable with wires twisted together separated by a small insulator. Now, the wires in a guitar cable obviously aren’t the typical capacitors that we might find in an electronics store. Actually, the fact that cables are capacitors at all is a side effect of how they are made. In other words, cables are not designed to have capacitance, rather it’s just the nature of a cable’s design. So, why does this side effect of capacitance matter? Well, remember I mentioned that capacitors store charge? When the electric guitar generates a voltage signal (from a strum), current is going to flow through the cable and is going to want to store these charges. The higher the frequency, the more the current. This results in the cable acting like a low-pass filter in which high frequencies are lost as they reach the amp. From this, we can lose many harmonics that make our tone shine.


We can now see that lower capacitance equates to lower high end loss in our tone.  Thus, we want to reduce the amount of capacitance in our cables as much as possible. This can be done two ways: 1. Use shorter cables. 2. Use cables with low capacitance ratings. 



Shielding

The next thing you’ll find in a high quality cable is braided shielding as opposed to spiral or foil shielding. This is the strongest shielding you’ll find in an instrument cable. It will best protect against interference like EMI and RFI even when the cable is bent and/or spiralled. Braided shielding coverage is measured in a percentage. So the higher the percentage, the better the protection. You will typically see braided shielding coverage range from 40% to 95%.

 

 

Durability

If you can cough up the money for a quality cable, it will last you. It may even save you money in the long run because you won’t have to keep buying replacements. High quality cables will include quality plugs that are designed to last through the test of corrosion. This will protect against signal dropouts and deterioration in general. Some cables even include techflex that runs along the perimeter of the cable to protect it from being stepped on or even slashed by a cymbal. Oh, and it looks pretty cool too. Take a look at one here. Not to mention, the braided shielding mentioned earlier will also help protect the wires within the cable.

 

Preserve your tone with a Runway Audio Instrument Cable today!

September 09, 2019 by Sean Newell

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