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How do cables affect your tone?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Alex, Jan 3, 2006.

  1. I see all these adds for different cables, stating that they are better than other cables and how it makes you sound great, but honestly how much do they affect your tone? There are such big differences in prices ($5-$60) that one would suspect that they had a considerable role in your sound.

    Despite this, I have crappy cords that costr me $5, and cards that I payed $30 for, and I really can't hear a discernible difference in tone.

    Cords are theoretically supposed to be nothing but a medium between two things, not changing the tone at all, eh? I guess the only variable would be how reliably they conduct the signal, then? I remember reading that gold and silver were the best conductors, maybe this is responsible for the price difference?

    I am not just interested in Bass --> Amp cords, I am also interested in the cord from Head --> Cab, etc. Can anyone tell me how much difference the quality of your cords makes?


  2. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY
    Not enough difference to matter.

    I buy cords based upon how durable they are.
  3. BbbyBld


    Oct 13, 2005
    Meridian, MS
    One of the major differences is shielding. Cheap cables have shielding that looks like tin foil, and more expensive cables have shielding that looks like braided wire or a stranded wire wrapped around some black rubbery stuff. The latter 2 are much more immune to noise, longer lasting, and are usually not microphonic. Many times you can thump on cheap cable and hear it in your amp. Cheap cables will cause feedback when you play at high volumes too, especially on guitars. There's some capacitance issues too, but many times that's just marketing. Just don't use cables that are 5 miles long and you won't have to worry about that.

    Gold is not a better conductor than copper. The advantage of gold is that it does not corrode, which is why it is used on the actual connectors. Silver is one of the best conductors, but it tarnishes quickly.

    As for head to cab, just make your own. I just use some nice 12 gauge standed wire and twist it with a drill and then add connectors. It's cheap and dependable, and I think it looks cool too. Cheap speaker cables may use smaller wire gauges, which have more resistance.
  4. chadds


    Mar 18, 2000
    If you don't hear a difference then don't pay the difference. Depend on your ears. If the type of music you play obsures the differences or the type and quality of your instruments and amps obscures the difference then don't waste the money. Even in very hifi or superfi realms of stereo listening the returns become smaller. As the price goes up the qualitative difference in sound is less and less. There is however a huge jump in quality between consumer and hi-end. In stereo amps or recievers sound quality goes up as the price does. (Sometimes more features) Then at an extreme level say $3000 for a receiver the next sound improvements are subtle with a price jump of $800+.
    There is also a balance between your components. The sound you want out of an old P-bass and an Ampeg SVT might not be compromised by your cord. A soloist playing a multistringed lamination with hi end cabs and pre and power amp would indeed hear the difference in cords. You in the audience might too. If your bass is in the mix with a horn section and a B3 organ your sound may fit so nicely with average cords. Good luck.
  5. cheezewiz

    cheezewiz Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2002
    You won't sound good until you buy Tara Labs power cables. :D
  6. Gomez

    Gomez Live from the Shire

    Apr 15, 2005
    Minimally, that's for audiofiles. My brother has a couple of energy-filters which cost more than my whole set before it hits his audio-stuff (Mirage).
  7. Kelly Lee

    Kelly Lee Yeah, I'm a guy! Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2004
    Marana, AZ, USA

    Cables will have no difference in the tone of your rig.

    As to those people that really believe there is a difference, answer me this... Is it enough that when your in a live situation you could still hear the difference between a $20 cable and $100 cable? Ofcourse the answer is no. So why spend the money? :rollno:

    As long as the cable is built well, makes a connection, and doesn't break on you, your good to go. I have better things to spend my GAS money on than overated cables! :)
  8. Most of the "science" seems to say that cables are cables, wire is wire, etc. Of course there is underlying quality of materials and workmanship to be considered.

    The companies who sell high priced stuff, and the people who want to believe there is a difference, will say otherwise.

    Put a different label on that $5 handbag and it sells for $5000.
  9. Joe Beets

    Joe Beets Guest

    Nov 21, 2004
    Buying expensive cables DOES make a big difference in your tone. I can't explain it, but it may be similiar to having blue lights on the front of your amp. There were a few skeptics on the "blue light" phenomenon too, but dozens of testimonials can't be wrong. Go to advanced search and look for "blue light" in thread title.
  10. Great! There's a blue light on my amp so I must sound even better than I thought!
  11. cheezewiz

    cheezewiz Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2002

    Dude. I was kidding. You must not have been around for the Tara Labs fiasco.
  12. Edwcdc

    Edwcdc I call shotgun!

    Jul 21, 2003
    Columbia MD USA
    I was around but I lost track and can't remember how it turned out.
  13. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    +1 to everything. TalkBass should have an entire sub-forum devoted to cables. I volunteer to be moderator.
  14. Gomez

    Gomez Live from the Shire

    Apr 15, 2005
    Yeah, but you're a cop.


    Whack for my daddy-o.
  15. I disagree, something that people have to realize is that cables CANNOT AD ANYTHING TO YOUR SOUND, they can only take away. There are certain companies that make cables for specific instruments (Monster makes bass cables) but these cables do not give you more bass, or enhance your low end. What they do is they take away from your treble, they just bleed the treble! It's frustrating but true, you spend $50 for a 12 foot cable not to help your sound, but only to make sure that that cable doesn't kill your sound, that's the best a cable can do. Unless treble bleed is something you want and you see that as helping, then yes, cables can enhance your sound.
  16. cheezewiz

    cheezewiz Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2002
    I don't know if I should be offended or not, because I have no idea what that means. I guess I'm showing my age.
  17. greenboy


    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    Main factors:

    Capacitance. With passive basses capacitance is an issue. Low capacitance is desirable for less bleed of treble and low bass; and there's the interaction with a head/preamp's input impedance.

    Durability. That inlcudes connectors.

    Shielding. Already mentioned. 95% (or so) Braided beats foil for durability and self-noise, and spiral wrap outer wire comes in real poor too since it doesn't fully shield the center conductor. That's used in some cheap cables.
  18. Don't worry about it cheezewiz, I'm 18 and I have no idea what that means! Sounds like a line from whisky in the jar.
  19. :eyebrow:
    intresting, most intresting...

    for myself, i don´t hear any significant difference and therefor use cables that don´t break on me.
    mostly it´s "george l´s".
  20. Gomez

    Gomez Live from the Shire

    Apr 15, 2005
    Sorry cheeze. didn't mean anything.