Can a Cable Make That Much of a Difference?!

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by BigEarl, Jul 23, 2013.

  1. Yes! I've heard a difference!

    35 vote(s)
  2. I'm not convinced, but open-minded.

    32 vote(s)
  3. $5, $250, don't make no difference!

    43 vote(s)
  4. Carrots

    9 vote(s)
  1. BigEarl


    Sep 29, 2003
    Elgin, TX
    I bought a new cable last week, a Lava Retro 20' coiled, played a gig with it and I swear there was a noticeable quality increase in my sound. I've always shrugged off the claims that cables can make a significant difference in live sound (other than not having one, then you DO have some sound degradation! LOL!), but little things became very noticeable.

    I am running an MIA P through an GK MB800 and an Epifani UL2-410. I use a custom made heavy-gauge Speakon cable between 'em, but I've been using a $10 10' cable for about 15 years. Been noticing for some time now that when I dig-in (I naturally play hard with fingers) the tone would start to grind when I reach a certain threshold and trust me, it isn't a "pleasant" grind. I also like to do a quick double stop accent up around fret 12 that I was never able to hear live and was always lost.

    Well, to sum it up, I was blown away that the tone never once crapped out with the new cable and the little accent was full and could be heard, and not just by me but my drummer also heard it! So, opinions, am I wishful thinking?
  2. Projectile


    Feb 5, 2009
    Not Really. The difference in resistance between two cables of the same length is negligible, and has practically no effect on the sound.

    Capacitance is what really matters and that's about all there is to it. Cables aren't rocket science. They are very simple, well studied and understood devices. There is no special voodoo going on. The difference really mainly just boils down to the difference in capacitance between two cables. The reason why two cables sound different is because passive guitar electronics act like a resonant filter with a peak frequency and the capacitance of the cable can shift the resonant peak to a lower frequency, which is a quite noticeable effect. Generally, a lower capacitance cable will sound brighter and more hi-fi. Note, this is only true for passive electronics. Any onboard preamp will completely negate this affect.

    Fortunately, there is no need to spend a ton of money on fancy expensive cables. Any decent brand instrument cable these days are low capacitance. As long as you aren't buying cheap disposable cables, you'll be fine. There isn't much correlation between price and sound quality once you get beyond a decent mid-priced cable. This is something that can easily be proven in a lab with proper measurement equipment. End of debate.
  3. Hi.

    When comparing two cables with the same resistance and capacitance, both with pro grade connectors, I can't hear a difference. Some can ;).

    When comparing an old, beat up, cheap to begin with cable with a good quality one, sure the cable can make a huge difference.


    Because cables do deteriorate.

    Connected strands can become so scarse by breakage that there's only 10% left. It still passes electricity through, but poorly.

    What sometimes deteriorates even faster than the cable is the sub-standard solder (/flux) used on some of the low quality cables. The resistance increases slowly, and soon You have a dud in your hands/signal chain.

    Do not forget the connectors either, the stamped or riveted together varities will fail eventually, usually in between 5 to 10 years. IME anyway.

  4. Epidrake


    May 24, 2011
    Not this again.
    There are differences with some cables. Anyone with ears can hear it. Not all cables of course. I have played cables that sound like I put a blanket over my cabs. Not everything can be measured.
  5. svlilioukalani

    svlilioukalani Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2012
    Seattle, Wa
    Hell yes there is a difference between a cheap cable and a $250 recording cable. It sounds like you turned the trebble up on the bass. Anybody who does a side by side comparison will hear it. This is why Alembic started using Active pickups.

    There is no reason to use a cable like that for live application, but the difference is there.
  6. Right_Butterscotch64


    Oct 18, 2012
    Yea I can hear a difference, totally I swear. I can also hear dead people and aliens talking to me, whatcha think this foil Hat is for?:bag:
  7. smogg


    Mar 27, 2007
    NPR, Florida
    I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell
    I agree with this. You do get to a point of diminishing returns. Quality components + proper assembly = good cable. No need to drop $100+ on a cable when you can get a solid cable for less than $50 pretty much anywhere. So I voted yes, a good cable makes a difference compared to a bad one.
  8. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Of course, if one replaces a poorly made high capacitance cable with a new, properly made cable, yes, one might hear a difference. But to pay big bucks for some magic cable is like buying snake oil.
  9. bongomania

    bongomania Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    When you learn how they actually work, you discover that they can be measured. The cables that had the "blanket effect" had higher capacitance, and may have degraded the way Tbird described.
  10. Matthijs

    Matthijs Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2006
    Voted no difference between 5$ or 250$. There is a big difference between deffective and non-defective cables though. Sounds like that's what's going on here. IME the chance of a cable becoming defective does not always relate to the price and does not improve over the 25€ range. The fact that a 25€ cable may often be beter and more durable than a 5€ cable does not tell you a 250€ cable is even better.
  11. IanA


    Jul 31, 2011
    Leicester UK
    I have a Lava Soar and a Clear connect, the Soar definitely sounds the darker of the two, both sound great compared to the Fender Gold cable I previously used
  12. Stevorebob

    Stevorebob Well... I Am Here, Aren't I? Supporting Member

    Sep 29, 2011
    Los Angeles
    Cheap cables can fail more easily due to low-quality materials and poor construction, so I say the sound of nothing live is readily trumped by the sound of something. And just before nothing can be worse: scratches, pops and cut-outs. I also prefer the sound of "lifetime guarantee" and easy returns at my retailer. And the blanket-over-your-cab effect from some cheap cables is for real -- it's not something only dogs can hear. That said, there are exceptions (some inexpensive cables can be great) as well as a point of diminishing return ($150, $250...really?). I prefer as-short-as-possible, mid-priced cables from a reliable maker, and ones that don't add a blanket to my sound. Made in America is also a very good thing.
  13. MegaSwing

    MegaSwing Your Obedient Bassist® Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2002
    Baltimore, MD USA
    Never in my experience, unless a cable was already ruined somehow, but durability and reliability are really important, so I stay away from cheaply made cables of all kinds.
  14. DieterVDW


    Sep 19, 2012
    Gent, Belgium
    I voted YES, but only because cheaper cables tend to break easier.

    I don't believe anyone can hear the difference between an expensive cable and a extremocheapo cable if both are still OK .

    It's cables with broken connectors, solder/strands barely making contact etc. that create the sounds people describe above: muffled etc ...
  15. Bob Lee (QSC)

    Bob Lee (QSC) In case you missed it, I work for QSC Audio!

    Jul 3, 2001
    Chester, Connecticut
    Former Technical Communications Developer, QSC Audio
  16. BigEarl


    Sep 29, 2003
    Elgin, TX
    Ok, the point about the positive strands eroding and breaking over the years thus diminishing the cable's sound quality makes a lot of sense. I can see where a new cable would have a lot more signal going through it than one where the strands have frayed or just stopped making connection. All of this is kind of weired since I also own a Monster cable (at 21' its too cumbersome for small applications) and I've not heard as dramatic of a sound improvement as I did with the Lava.

    Like I said earlier, I was a skeptic ...but now I'm a reluctant believer.
  17. Bob Lee (QSC)

    Bob Lee (QSC) In case you missed it, I work for QSC Audio!

    Jul 3, 2001
    Chester, Connecticut
    Former Technical Communications Developer, QSC Audio
    Even if 3/4 of the strands in the center conductor of an instrument cable break, it would be very unlikely to diminish the signal much. The increase in series resistance would be very small, especially considering the source impedance of the instrument and the load impedance of the amp/pre/FX input. It's not a good thing to have happen, but it's not the probable culprit behind tonal issues. Capacitance remains the greatest influence, primarily with passive instruments.
  18. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Pick up some RTA software, many free one available.
    Loop the cable from input to output on your pc interface and measure it.
    Works better than ears :)
  19. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    I only voted yes because of the way you worded the question: Cable quality does make a difference. Cable price, IMO, does not.

    Any good, professional quality cable will do just fine, IME, but cheap, crappy cables will never fail to disappoint. They'll fail... but not to disappoint!
  20. afiaowo


    Jan 9, 2006
    I do hear a difference.

    I spent four years selling high-end home audio during which time my ears became accustomed to what cables can do to sound. That experience has allowed me to hear the difference in musical instrument cables as well.

    Don't sell yourself or your hearing short.

    I'm glad you're enjoying your new cable.