Lava Cable Piston plug review (hint--I returned them)

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by bmax, May 19, 2016.

  1. bmax


    Feb 22, 2011
    Hey guys--

    (Short back story) I spent the better part of my early twenties playing in a few different full-time bands, trying to "make it" or what have you, but stepped away from that to get married and have some kids over the past 4 years. I recently started playing (for fun) with some of my old crew and got the itch.

    Fast forward to setting up a new pedalboard: I used to use George L's solderless when I built guitar pedalboards, but heard good things about Lava, and REALLY liked the look of their Piston solderless plug--SUPER low profile AND skinny, which I appreciate because I like to keep things pretty tight on my board.

    I bought a set from Amazon, and spent an evening wiring it all up. Taking great care on each cable termination and checking with my meter for continuity after each cable. I got everything working and looking pretty darn sexy (I had bought their clear cable), plugged 'er in and made sure each pedal worked. Then I put the board away for the night.

    The next day I went into the studio to record some tracks live with my old band, and lo' and behold... SILENCE. I started frantically pulling pedals off the board to check things. The whole band and producer are waiting on me to get set up. I'm sweating bullets. Finally I pull out the multimeter to check the individual connections again. Literally half of them (which I had just built and checked the night before) weren't passing signal. I had to bag half of my pedals and use the extra George L's I had in my bag--just barely enough.

    I spent the day bummed/worried that I had spent $80 on cables that won't stay secure, but THANKFULLY Amazon took them back (cut up and still half-assembled) no questions asked. I ordered a set of GLS pancakes and some Mogami cable and soldered up about twice the amount of cables for half the price.

    I can now sleep at night knowing my signal is secure, and will never go solderless again.

    Last edited: May 19, 2016
    LiquidMidnight likes this.
  2. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    GLS pancakes are my favs :).
    bmax likes this.
  3. adamaarts


    Apr 19, 2001
    Corona, CA
    Beta tester Source Audio, demos/reviews of many others
    That's a bummer to hear. I am enjoying my tightrope kits even after a year or so. I was supposed to get a Piston set for review but it never came, but it's always been on my list.
  4. bmax


    Feb 22, 2011
    It's entirely possible I just didn't do something properly, but while they looked awesome, the overall feeling I got from them was that of fragility.

    Ultimately, I'm glad I ended up with the soldered pancakes. I'm proficient with an iron, anyway, so it wasn't a hassle at all. Even with my old George L's there would be times here and there where I'd have to snip and refit cables to get them working--sometimes even on stage. My pedalboard is about twice as full as it used to be, so I'm glad I won't have to worry about that anymore.
  5. Ricky Caboverde

    Ricky Caboverde Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2004
    Miami, FL
    Perhaps give DisasterPlug or Best-Tronics a try if you ever do get the solderless itch again. VERY similar to the Lava Piston, but I haven't had any issues since using them over three months ago and not one of them had a faulty connection the first time through. My opinion really only applies to DisasterPlug, though, as they use a proprietary cable that might have made things a bit easier in terms of "getting it right the first time." I've been sour to Lava since using their ELC plugs (absolute nightmare for me as I'm all thumbs; and after ELC--all SORE thumbs). EBS and Hosa Pancakes have been great, but not the best options in certain situations (i.e., see my Badger Schism below).

    Last edited: May 21, 2016
    gregmon79 and bmax like this.
  6. JGR

    JGR The "G" is for Gustav Commercial User

    Jun 29, 2006
    President, CEO, CFO, CIO, Chief Engineer, Technician, Janitor - Reiner Amplification
    +1 on the ELC - total disaster and they killed my hands. I've had great luck with the Planet Waves - they are bigger but seem very robust and are really easy to put together.
  7. gregmon79

    gregmon79 I did it for the muff... Supporting Member

    Dec 20, 2012
    Chicago IL
    Great board!! I also use the DA Solderless patches. I've been using them since they first came out and I haven't had a single one fail on me. I know a lot people on forums talk smack about solderless cables. I was a fan of George L's for a long time. Till I had to start redoing every patch on my board a few times a year after that first year I was using them. Then I got the DA ones and I have been SUPER happy with them since. They are, IMO, the best solderless patch ever made.

    The reason I'm awakening this zombie thread too btw, I once ord some Lava mini ELC cabling by mistake. I found that small roll yesterday and decided I wanted to try getting a couple plugs to see how they were. Google found me this thread and I got curious about what some others' exp's were like with them. But again, I can't rave and have enough confidence in DA solderless patches. They are just the way a solderless cable should be. There's a reason why almost every company that sells cables came out with a very similar version of the DA's shortly after they released theirs. They simply work and are really reliable. IME anyway. Love em! :D
    speedball3 and Ricky Caboverde like this.
  8. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    I've recently used the Lava tightrope cable ends to accommodate my Boss ES-5...but I've been using the soldered ones rather than the unsoldered. I still don't love them and would love to figure out who makes a compact head soldered connector these days that would be a bit more foolproof.
  9. gregmon79

    gregmon79 I did it for the muff... Supporting Member

    Dec 20, 2012
    Chicago IL
    You just can't get down with solderless cables huh? Don't trust them?

    I do think that Lava makes the Piston ones in a soldered version as well....those are a pretty compact head....
  10. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    As far as I can tell, Lava's 'soldered' ones are the tightrope. I've tried both the right angle and the straight and while conceptually they're fine, I find that the exterior slips back on both and you end up with exposed shielding. Since the shielding is the ground if you've got a compact space you're using them, you end up with possible issues of that shielding coming in contact with other cables...
  11. gregmon79

    gregmon79 I did it for the muff... Supporting Member

    Dec 20, 2012
    Chicago IL
    I was looking on their website yesterday and I could’ve sworn they over a Piston soldered cable. But then maybe I’m getting mixed up between the tightropes and pistons.

    I know I’ve been using the DA solderless for over 3 years I think it’s been now, and I’ve only had one where it started wearing out like that where the wire sets in that little intended part in the cap so you can bend the wire to 90 degrees. But that was only from one that I use at home every day as an instrument cable. So it gets a lot of use and movement. But any patch I’ve ever used have been straight awesome. I’d say take the plunge on a kit, see how they treat you for a while. I do use a tester any time I build cables solderless or not. So keep that in mind. But I really have nothing but great things to say about the DA patches. Even the rubber they use is nice n soft n flexy. Far unlike the George L’s that went hard and brittle on me the second year I was using them. I was happy to see those go!
    BurningSkies likes this.
  12. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    Yep. I use a tester as well. Also, I use the SquarePlug 400 ends on the 'pedal' side of my cables. So the ends that go to the Boss ES-5 loop/switcher get the smaller radius connectors and the ends to the actual pedals get the flatter connectors.

    I like Disaster Area stuff, so I'd be willing to try it. Theoretically, I don't move my pedals around too much, so the ends that terminate at my switcher should be pretty immobile. But it IS a design flaw for units like the boss to be so tight that this is all an issue.
  13. gregmon79

    gregmon79 I did it for the muff... Supporting Member

    Dec 20, 2012
    Chicago IL
    I think I see what you're saying. That's also a huge selling point to me on the DA's, the head size. It's the smallest I've ever worked with. I've never had an issue where I set my board up and ran into a problem where the plugs gave me issue enough to have to rearrange with them.
  14. speedball3


    Nov 13, 2014
    San Diego, CA
    Appreciate the info! I’ve been thinking about a solderless kit for ease of rebuilding patch cables (I’m paranoid the EBS ones I use are going to go bad), but there’s such a mixed bag of reviews. Are the DA cables solid or stranded core?
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