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cable length and passive jazz bass

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by ::::BASSIST::::, Oct 9, 2004.


  1. ::::BASSIST::::

    ::::BASSIST:::: Progress Not Perfection.

    Sep 2, 2004
    Vancouver, BC Canada
    i was told by a guy at the local music store that if you play a passive bass you shouldnt use a cable over 10 feet long. Is that true?

    I think 15 feet would give me just that extra length i need.

    Also, is there any *real* difference in sound quality than if you just use a regular guitar cable compared to a super high-end cable? I know the expensive cable will be more durable, but in terms of sound quality does it make a difference?
     
  2. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    Memphis
    Well, it's true that the longer the cable length the more the sound of a passive bass with single coils will degrade. And it's true that higher quality cables perform better in terms of resisting this degradation. Note that high quality does not equal outrageous price. You can use George Ls or Planet Waves and get great performance. You don't have to pay $50 and up for Monster or other high end cables.

    But 15' is fine.
     
  3. Trevorus

    Trevorus

    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    I have heard that BB King uses 40 feet of cable at least to get his sound, but I am not sure where I heard that.
     
  4. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    Memphis
    BB uses humbuckers, which aren't as affected by impedence loading as single coils are.
     
  5. Trevorus

    Trevorus

    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    I see. All this impedance stuff is really interesting to me. I am used to DC electronics, but on instruments, everything works on AC principles.
     
  6. Trevorus

    Trevorus

    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    I usually use around 30-35 counting patch cables. I have good cables with a good amount of shielding and have had no problems.
     
  7. for live use it won't be that big of a deal.
    in the studio you can really tell.

    that's why i have different cables for each application.
    i also buy Monster Cable because of the lifetime guarantee.
    if it ever goes south be it my fault or not i can take it to any
    company that carries monster and get one for free.

    definitely worth the money!
     
  8. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    I always use 20' or 25' cables with no problems. I have no effects, and all my basses are passive.

    You will notice a big difference between the $9 (1) and $20 cables. I cannot tell the difference between a brand new 20' planet wave ($40) and a very abused 25' tweed cable ($25). YMMV.

    (1) All values in CDN dollars, which has hit 0.80 US!
     
  9. With a quality cable it won't matter, 25 feet of cable will, for all intents and purposes, sound the same as 20 ft. Don't believe the snake-oil vendors, oops I mean expensive cable sellers...there's no magic sonic voodoo going on with their $100 cables. (Go look at the Tara Cable thread for my opinion on this issue.)

    Now certainly there are differences in quality, one brand may lbe more rugged than others, or have prettier coverings...
     
  10. Trevorus

    Trevorus

    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    The amount of shielding will make a difference in your sound, noise-wise, anyways. I have found that some cheap cables aren't good in this department. But go with a reputable brand, or even a well made cheapie, and you'll be fine.
     
  11. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    +1 This has always worried me also. Everyone who uses Monster cable rants about how easy it was to get a replacement. And everybody seems to have needed a replacement :scowl:

    Like Smash, I walk all over my cables and they still last years. The tweed cable I mentioned is at least 10 years old and still used every day.
     
  12. ApeIsHigh81

    ApeIsHigh81

    Aug 24, 2004
    CA
    I gotta look into those Tara cables, pretty much only since my hero Nathan East uses them. I don't play live yet... but the cable I have that was made by that bayou guy (that's usually in the dudepit) is good sounding and durable as all hell, it's been stepped on by my cousins to the point where the input jack got yanked out of the amp about 5 times.
     
  13. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    IMO, the first and most important thing is the shielding. For the most part, 20 dollar cables and up will have adequate shielding (although there are exceptions). In this area, the metric is 'coverage', meaning how much of the surface area of the cable cylinder is actually being covered by the shield braid. In the hi-fi world, there are cables with 95 to 100 percent coverage, which to my ear do provide a better hum-free signal, but whether they're worth the megabucks in live situations is debatable.

    Regarding the Tara cables and so on, I've done this experiment with my own ears. Theoretically speaking, the issue here is the deviation of a cable from a "perfect wire", so the metrics would be inductance and capacitance per unit length. With a passive bass, you'll definitely lose highs with long cables, there's no question about that. But the surprising result of my experiment was, that even with an active bass, there is a huge difference in the MIDRANGE with the high quality cables. I tried this with an MTD-535 and a vt737sp, and the difference with a 300 dollar cable was astounding. I couldn't believe my ears, but there was no denying what they were telling me. The expensive cable gave me my midrange back. I subsequently purchased one for studio use, and it has definitely improved my midrange presence. Of course, that may or may not be a good thing, depending on the sound you're after, but I like the result 'cause I find it easier to remove midrange with an EQ than to add it in when it was never there in the first place.

    But we're talking 300 dollar cables here. To my ear, there's not a whole lot of difference between the mid-priced cables, except as people say in terms of durability. But sound-wise the threshold seems to be up in the two hundred to three hundred dollar range. If you're Nathan East and you're making a living with your instrument, I could see that kind of investment being well worth it. For most of us though, that might equate with another bass or amp. :)
     
  14. ApeIsHigh81

    ApeIsHigh81

    Aug 24, 2004
    CA
    You're right, I forgot to add a hmm smiley after that Nathan sentence. I'm so sick of all of this hype over cables, pups(well I understand this one), preamps, high end cabs, etc. When I gig hopefully early next year it's going to be the reissue (probably get a used Sterling or G&L as backup)>maybe an Aguilar outboard pre>GK 700rb>gs112 or two, and THAT'S IT!! I'm tired of having everyone get me all hyped up with all these "It BLEW me away" posts. Can ya let a brother play with what he's got man? ;)
     
  15. ::::BASSIST::::

    ::::BASSIST:::: Progress Not Perfection.

    Sep 2, 2004
    Vancouver, BC Canada
    thanks for your replies. :)

    while we are on the subject of cables may i ask a silly question? Are those coiled cables easier to deal with? Currently i have a (it seems to be) very long cable and i think maybe a coil cable will be slightly easier to contend with in terms of knots, sticking it into my bass case, wrapping it up etc.

    I also assume a shorter cable ie 15 ft compared to 30 ft would also be less hassle. True?
     
  16. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    That's a teleological argument. Science is a tool to organize experience, not the other way around.

    Why would you say this situation "defies physics"? Au contraire, in this case experience is fully supported by the physics, not only in terms of the physical properties of cables, but also the in terms of the "experiential physics", specifically the psychophysics and the JND and all that.

    I've studied this issue in considerable detail, in my role as a studio engineer. I've done the math on this one. There is no doubt whatsoever that cable properties affect the signal that travels between the instrument and the amplifier.

    For a reference model, you can check the transmission line equations that are posted on many of the ham radio sites. They fully explain both the high frequency behavior and the midrange behavior.

    I trust my ears, they don't generally lie to me. :)
     
  17. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    The world is full of skeptics. Which is as it should be. I'm one of them. For example, I'm very skeptical of people who say "that's impossible". Nine times out of ten it just means they have preconceptions. Or ears that aren't as good as mine. :)

    Let's see, seems the onus is on you here, to prove your assertion that these things "can't and won't be proven in proper testing". I stand behind what I hear, and I can't speak for what you hear. But, you can come to my place and listen to what I'm listening to. Then, if you can't hear what I'm hearing, I'd suggest there's a difference between our ears.

    By the way, I have all the requisite tools for measurement, scopes and spectrum analyzers and all that. Next time you're in the LA area, stop on by and we'll have some fun.

    Not saying one of us is "wrong" here, just that your assertion of impossibility is a very strong statement, and in my opinion it can't be supported by experience. Since it's a negative assertion, my way of addressing it would be by convergent experience and repeatable results. That would be the way to achieve a level of confidence.

    By the way, on the nut-and-post thing, I just got an e-mail reply from one of my physics colleagues at Princeton University. I'd asked him to explain this phenomenon from a physical standpoint, since no one on TB seems to be a good enough physicist to do that (myself included). As soon as I decipher his input, I'll share it with you.

    Been there, done that. Did you read my original post? I'll be happy to repeat the experiment with a blindfold on, but I guarantee it won't change the results. Usually I close my eyes anyway when listening in these situations. :)

    About Tara, I didn't really follow that thread. I should probably go back and read it. Wasn't aware they got shut down. I agree there are probably some opportunities to pull the wool over peoples' eyes in this area (no pun intended till after the fact). And, the cable that I used in my experiment wasn't a Tara, so I can't speak for that particular brand. However I've tried several of the higher end cables, and have noticed some significant differences. I wouldn't say they're necessarily "dramatic", but in close listening situations (eg in a good studio) they're definitely "noticeable". At least to my ears.

    I wouldn't mind trying the double-blind experiment. Sounds like fun. I'll retain an open mind. It's entirely possible that my perceptions can be disproved. But, that would be like hearing something and then having someone else tell you that you really didn't hear it. I'd be very skeptical until I could verify the results with double-blind experimenters. :)
     
  18. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Fair enough. I can only stand behind what I'm hearing with my own two ears. And, I'm not one who'd go out and blow three hundred bucks on a cable unless there was some value to it. I'll do the analyzer runs, although at the moment it'll have to be relegated to a lower priority, so it'll have to be "eventually". We're on the road till the 17th, and after that we'll see about schedule. I should be able to get some free time between now and the holidays, so hopefully will post the results during that interval. So, let me ask you this, just to make sure we're on the same page. Are there any restrictions on the "B" cable? In other words, let's say I compare the 300 dollar cable against "something else", does that other cable have to be of any particular quality or brand, or do I get to pick the crappiest one that results in the biggest difference? :D
     
  19. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    Memphis
    Instrument or speaker cable?

    Passive single coils or active humbuckers?

    BTW, these tests have all been done. The AES conducted double blind studies. No one can consistently hear the differences claimed by expensive cable marketers.

    For passive single coil pickups and instrument cable, find good quality low capacitance cable. Silver, gold, oxygen free, blah blah blah, are all meaningless.

    For speaker cables, use the heaviest guage in the shortest length with a connector that offers the most surface contact area. To that end, many mastering studios use 10 guage Romex (ala Home Depot).

    All the rest is marketing BS.

    Remember, many of these charlatans claim that cables are directional. They hear a difference based on the wire from the guitar to the amp, completely overlooking the hundreds of wires inside the amp, all of which would have to be "aligned" the same way as the instrument cable for such a claim to be valid. Just stupid.
     
  20. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Okay, good enough. Just wanted to make sure I only have to do this once. :D

    Seriously, I'm hip to the hype. I fully agree that the vast majority of high end cable hype is exactly that.

    However, I did purchase this one particular cable because it does "sound different". There's no doubt in my mind that I could tell the difference in a double blind study. Probably I'll use a Whirlwind cable for the reference, since they seem to be plentiful and cheap (sonically speaking).

    Not only will I submit the analyzer results, I'll also use a mathematical model to show "how" this difference occurs, in terms of cable inductance and capacitance. My naive guess at this point is that the model will directly align with the perceived results.

    (By the way, I used to do this type of thing for a living, many moons ago, when I was working at Bell Labs in Murray Hill NJ. We used to model transmission line effects on various types of encoded radio signals, digital and analog and so on. This happens to be one of the areas where the model results align very closely with the observed behavior, at least in the radio world).

    Lyle, are the AES studies available on-line? I'd be very curious to know specifically which cables were used for the testing.