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Importance of Instrument Cables ?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by rickbass, Nov 28, 2000.

  1. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Periodically, I get into a phase where I look critically at my gear. I imagine we all do. One thing I've never replaced much is my insturment cable. I don't even know which brand it is. I think it came with my Fender P I bought in the 70's. More and more, I see bassists getting picky about which cable they use. Do you think cables matter that much in terms of what comes out of your speakers or is it hype to get you to buy another widget ? I'm thinking Lane Poors and Monsters.
    Thanks in advance for any input.
  2. Good quality cables do make a difference, but there is a point of diminishing returns. For everyday use I use George L's and a 20' Spectrafex that goes from the pedal board to the amp using a buffered line driver. The only time I ever pull out the expensive cables (a custom made set using Mogami wire and premium ends)is when I am going to record at a pro studio. I ain't gonna take that expensive set out to a gig at some bar I don't wanna take my good bass to or a place with a bad electrical buzz it ain't worth it.
  3. phil_chew


    Mar 22, 2000
    I have tried Monster cables. After some months, I concluded that it does not really make a difference. A decent instrument cable does the job just as well. My cables are no longer than 12 feet. Perhaps at 30 feet or more, you'll hear a difference.
  4. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    phil_chew & bassbrad - You all express what I've heard and the reason for getting more input via TalkBass. Seriously, thank you. I'm handling it like the election without the recounts. I know our cables have capacitance and that they act as mini-tone controls and that their sonic effect is related to instrument and amp impedances. However, that relationship is beyond my very limited technical knowledge. So, I'm trying to find out if one can hear a difference outside the studio, (everything is naked there). If the issue was strings, this wouldn't be a big deal since they don't cost that much and they have to be replaced anyway. However, high end cables that I've seen are $100+, enough for me to research.
  5. I would say that good cables do make a difference, but only to a certain point, you could probably tell the difference between a "shoelace cable" and a good quality cable. But when you try to tell the difference between a good cable that costs say hm (dollars are not my thing here) $40 and $100 you will need those "golden ears" to hear the difference in my opinion. :D
  6. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Some of this cable stuff is out of control.

    Monster has been selling "rock guitar", "keyboard" and "bass" cables for a few years. Now as an EE I have real trouble understanding how a cable could be better optimized for bass as opposed to guitar or keys.

    Well, blow me down, they now have "JAZZ guitar" cables and guess what, they sell for $10 more than the other three (which are all the same price). What's with that?

    I forget the brand but there's some other cable out there where the DIRECTION supposedly makes a difference (there's an instrument end and an amp end!). Sorry, now I'm REALLY losing these guys...
  7. Yeah that sounds really strange, I wonder what evidence they got to justify those things? Sounds VERY strange and odd to me. I say its only another way to make more money. Probably its all the same cables with different colour on the coating. OR IF there really is a difference it is probably not audible. Theres my .02. :)
  8. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Here's my experience. Cheap cables are junk. Why? Not for the sound, but for the endurance. I lived in South America where we had some reeeeeeeally cheapo cables. The jacks came loose in no time. Internal wiring broke. You can never find where the break is, so the cable is useless. If the cable covering does not protect the cable from kinks or from such abuse as being stepped on or from being accidentally yanked out of an amp, then it ruins the cable. Also, insulation in cheap cables is poor quality so such cables pick up hum and buzz from florescent lights, for example, or other sources.

    In short, cables aren't cheap, but replacing cables that crackle, hum, or don't work at all is both very expensive and inconveneient. SO I say, buy reliable cables such as Spectraflex that go the distance and last. Why have an expensive bass, expensive sound equipment and then compromise your sound with a cheap, unreliable cable? That is like wearing an Armani suit with K-Mart flip flops.

    Jason Oldsted
  9. AMEN, Jason! :)

    I forgot about the durability thing. :)
  10. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Hey, thanks for the thanks, Mesa Man! I came from the true school of hard knocks musically speaking and durable, well made equipment was one of the most vexing problems I had to deal with, because if it broke where I lived, you couldn't buy a replacement or if you did it was junk or grotesquely overpriced.

    Jason Oldsted

  11. Good cables do make a difference in a sense that you get a bit more durability and there is less loss and less chance of microphonics along the cable. Although its minimal and I'm not in the mood to spend $100 on a cable. I make my own. I buy some good quality mic cable from the electronic store and some good connectors. I can make a 20ft cable for around $24 whereas it'd cost me $60 for the same length.

    After the band saw me with these "home-made" cables and saw that the quality was just as good (we compared them, did tests etc), they all use them! hahaha.

    All a matter of preference and how much cash you got! :p

  12. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    To all of you who were good enough to reply, here is how I resolved this - First, I took all of your feedback, (I mean, "input"), into careful consideration. your input made a difference.

    Second, I weighed your collective input with what I accidentally found in a Nov., `93 Bass Player, (after I posted the original thread): "But you're asking: Are high-end cables worht the money? In the short run, they definitely sound a bit better. But in the long run is the true test, and this is where high-quality cables triumph over their cheaper counterparts. (We'll keep using thses cables in our Soundlab and will report again on their sound after extended use)." Well, I can't find their intended follow-up.

    Anyway, here's where I netted out - The difference in sound BP found among the 3 they tested; KMB Bassline@ $90, Monster Cable Bass@ $50, and ProCo Excelline@ $21.20 was so minimal, I decided to go the relatively inexpensive route; George L's .225, which they recommended in a "Gear" section not too long ago.

    Thanks again!

    [Edited by rickbass1 on 12-12-2000 at 12:42 PM]
  13. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    I make my own bullet-proof cables (both balanced and unbalanced) with Canare or Belden two-conductor, double-shielded (foil and wire wrap) cable and either Neutrik or Switchcraft plugs. All ends are double cased in shrink tubing. Balanced cables are red, unbalanced are black. Speaker cables (made with at least 12-gauge wire) are black with yellow shrink tubing over the jacks. I'm SO anal.

    I have not repaired one of my cables in the six years that I've been making them. No, I don't just throw them away ... they never break. The cost isn't much higher than the cheapo cords at GC.
  14. ashtray9


    Aug 1, 2002
    Tempe Arizona
    My cryogen cables sound fantastic. Really brings out the high-end transients.
  15. I only use uranium core cables. They are a little heavy and expensive, but they have a lifetime guarantee.
  16. AlembicPlayer

    AlembicPlayer Im not wearing shorts

    Aug 15, 2004
    Pacific Northwet, USA
    I won't argue with anyone about this
    I've done my own A/B tests years ago
    when I was finished with my tests, I rewired my entire rig and studio with
    George L.
  17. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    I won't pay more than $1.00 or $1.50 per foot for a cable. Higher cost cables tend to have more shielding than low cost cables. The higher percentage of shielding is directly proportional to a higher value of capacitance. Foil shielding (found on less expensive cables) also tends to make for a more supple, flexible cable than does braided wire type shielding.

    I look for Amphenol, Switchcraft, or Neutrik connectors. For my money, you're better off with high quality connectors, and a decent midgrade wire.
  18. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Anything with good cable and rugged reliable connectors is going to work well. "Good" to me means low capacitance, full sheilding that won't break down, isn't microphonic, and is rugged enough to survive stage. Good connectors means Switchcraft and Neutrick, and Bill Lawrence/George L.

    Most of my cables are either some Belden/Switchcraft ones I had made for my by Lord Valve at NBS Electronics in Denver, CO. Just like I used to make before the bifocals and the move to the apartment...

    But I also have and still use my original Bill Lawrence cables (just about the same as the George L's) I made back in the early '80s when they first came out.

    I've messed around with Monster, but never spent any money on them. They're good cables. Except that they're stupid expensive and they hype themselves more than they deliver. That whole "bass", "guitar", "Jazz", etc. silliness is them playing with the capacitance to shape the sound. I want my cable to send EVERYTHING down the line, not what some advertising-driven compnay THINKS I want.

    Plus there's a lot of anecdotal evidence that Monster stuff isn't reliable. I don't care that they have a life-time replacement warranty. I don't need to be able to get a new one next week, I need it to work TONIGHT. And there's too many reports from Monster fans who have had to use the warranty more than once.

    So, upshot is that any GOOD low capacitance cable that's made with good connectors, strain releif, and well soldered is going to sound better and last longer. But you don't need a $100 or $60 cord. I wouldn't plug my Lakland into the $10 cord GC gives away when they need to make friends, but I also don't need the ego stroke of having an Unobtanium nitrogen balanced cord with dilithium conductors for the sheild and John Holmes Big Boy plugs...


  19. TheVoiceless


    Jun 11, 2008
    New Jersey
    Cables are part of your sound and add coloration. So one brand is different form the others meaning its worth it to A/B them. Forget price and let your ears be the judge. And Yes the cable is the biggest over site. Ask any one that is into high end home stereos. The bulk of their cost comes from the cabling.

    If you own a $1000 bass then buy the $50-$100 cable. It just makes sense.
  20. I've found that the only difference between cheap and expensive cables is the ends on them. I guess if you really want to get technical then take a test meter, set the capacitance rating to picofarads, and start testing capacitance or various cables. The higher the capacitance, the more tone it will eat.

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