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"Tone of boutique cables" continued: spectrum analysis graphs

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by bongomania, Nov 26, 2010.

  1. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Continuing from this thread: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=684857

    Here is RTA (frequency response) on ten cables, all about 20' long:
    Analysis Plus Bass Oval ($159 and 985 pF--that's picofarads of capacitance)
    Atlantic Quality Zerocap ($110 and 56 pF)
    Elixir Premium ($69 and 215 pF)
    Evidence Audio Lyric Hg ($155 and 751 pF)
    Horizon Standard ($11 and 529 pF)
    Lava Magma ($30 and 626 pF)
    Monster Bass ($50 and 764 pF)
    Musician's Gear Braided ($9 and 687 pF)
    Planet Waves Cable Station ($23 and 317 pF)
    Vox Vintage Coiled ($34 and 551 pF)

    Click on these links for the full-sized images:


    (Actually the third one is just three cables: the highest and lowest capacitance, and one from the middle.)

    The audio converter has an output impedance (z out) of 50 ohms, and an input impedance (z in) of 1 Meg. This is almost exactly the same as the z out of a typical active bass, and the z in of most bass amps, both vintage and new.

    To increase the visible difference between the various cables, I raised the z out and lowered the z in. To raise the output impedance, I ran the test signal in series with a Lawrence P46 P-bass pickup that has a resistive value of about 10K. To lower the z in, I ran a 1Meg resistor in parallel with the input.

    The frequency points on the graphs exactly correspond to the order/ranking of the cables' measured capacitance. But the main thing these graphs show is that the bass-specific cables have the highest capacitance, causing high-end rolloff. Yet there is ZERO emphasis or difference of any kind in the lows.

    Now, there are many other elements to tone and "quality" besides frequency response. I do plan to test as many of those elements as can be tested. Next on the docket is noise and distortion testing, and after that will be accuracy of transfer of high-amplitude pulse waves.

    Debate in (at least semi-) objective terms is welcome!

    Edit: I've posted this, plus much more, on these pages:
  2. Stinsok

    Stinsok Supporting Member

    Dec 16, 2002
    Central Alabama
    Excellent! Which cable is the violet color? What are your thoughts after running these tests?
  3. greenboy


    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    Being gone, I missed Part One. Like Stinsok, I want the Reader's Digest version ; }
  4. delta7fred


    Jul 3, 2007
    Excellent investigation Bongo.

    I think there are two things we can deduce from this.

    1. If you have an active bass then it matters not what cable you use as long as it has no breaks in it and decent connectors. (From graph 3)

    2. For passive basses, the pickup interacts with the capacitance of the cable, resulting in the peak and then fall off of response.

    I have no idea what a Lawrence bass is or where it's pickup falls in the quality spectrum.

    I suspect that the better quality pickups will result in a higher peak further up the spectrum, due to their resonance characteristics, compared to poorer quality ones. Hence the bass will have a lot better treble response.

    From the very limited investigations I have done on 3 pickups it soon became apparent that the better sounding pickup (Musicman humbucker) had a higher resonance peak that was further up the audio spectrum compared to 2 cheap far eastern copies.
  5. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Bill Lawrence pickups are among the best. This one is a P46, a P-bass pup.

    The violet line at the highest frequency point is the Atlantic Quality Zerocap. It's a regular cable that has a small electronic device in parallel with the audio signal (not in series, it is not a buffer) that causes the capacitance of the cable to drop to about 60 pF regardless of the length of the cable. A 1 footer is 60 pF, a 100 footer is 60 pF (give or take).

    The green line at the lowest frequency point is the Analysis Plus "Bass Oval". I have no doubt their "non-bass" cables have lower capacitance, but obviously they took a cue from Monster about making a "bass" cable by rolling off the highs. This cable has a capacitance of about 50 pF per foot, so a 20 footer is almost 1000 pF. A normal cable, like any Whirlwind, ProCo, Bayou, etc., will have an average of around 30 pF per foot (600 pf for a 20 footer).

    The three highest-capacitance cables are the Analysis, Evidence, and Monster. Interestingly, the Evidence is not a "bass" cable. Here is the ad copy for this cable, the Lyric HG:
    The three lowest-capacitance (best high frequencies) cables are the Atlantic, the Elixir, and the Planet Waves "Cable Station", which is a solderless plug and coax kit meant for making pedalboard patch cables.

    The dBu and Hz indicators are much easier to read on the full-size pics, so be sure to check those out.
  6. Stinsok

    Stinsok Supporting Member

    Dec 16, 2002
    Central Alabama
    This thread and the tutorial on threaded inserts rock!
  7. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    What I take away from this so far is that the Elixir has the best low-capacitance performance without needing battery power, and it is very rugged, and $70 may be expensive but in this particular case you actually get something legitimate for your money.

    Below that is the Planet Waves, and that will work excellently for in-studio use, mellow gigs, or for short patch cables of course. It's not rugged enough for hard rocking and duffel-bag abuse.

    Next in line is the Lava Magma. Its performance is a little bit better than average, it's reasonably rugged, and it's only $30.

    The Horizon and the Vox actually have better capacitance than the Lava; but the Horizon is flimsy, I wouldn't gig with it; and the Vox is super clunky and weird to use, plus its plugs are molded plastic, which makes them difficult to repair. And coiled cables in general have a reputation for breaking apart internally.

    At some point I may add a Dimarzio cable to the test, as they are widely claimed to be good value for money.
  8. delta7fred


    Jul 3, 2007
    Ah - I didn't realise Bill made pickups.
  9. tomas_almeida


    Oct 5, 2007
    Haven't seen the original thread. This looks interesting.
  10. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Update: I added three more cables to the test, and I put together a chart showing all their respective measurements: http://www.ovnilab.com/articles/cablechart.shtml
    I haven't measured THD and noise yet--that's next.

    A minor restating of the "take away" points in my last post:

    --The Elixir has the best combination of low capacitance and rugged construction.
    --The Planet Waves has the best combination of low capacitance and low price.
    --The Lava and the DiMarzio are the best compromise choices overall, having average capacitance, fairly durable construction, easy repairability of the plugs, and a low price. The Lava has better capacitance, but the DiMarzio's braided fabric outer wrap is nicer than the Lava's plain vinyl insulation.
  11. ggunn


    Aug 30, 2006
    Austin, TX
    Get your snake oil right here! :D
  12. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Yep. :) How about this one, for the frankly s#####y Fender Platinum cable I just added to the test:

  13. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Update, I have added more content to my articles (on my site), and put links up in the first post here.

    Also I've decided that maybe I will start buying more cables for review purposes after all. This testing and reviewing is like crack to me!
  14. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    You are a rockstar!! I knew it, but well......

    (You are a rockstar aren't you??)
  15. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    If a 40-year old bald guy in his basement measuring distortion in thousandths of a percent is a rockstar, then yes. :)
    punchdrunk likes this.
  16. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    \m/ \m/
  17. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    On a side note, the curves for passive instruments is it shows why passive tone controls and active controls sound so different even with the same pickups.

    The hump just before the cutoff is what gives passive tone it's sound; on a p-bass for example I'll dial the tone knob searching for a sweet spot for the hump. The downside is that the hump is affected not only by what cable you use but what you plug it into!

    Active EQ is usually shelving at the high end which sounds very different; you can roll off the treble but there is no resonant peak.
  18. Bob Lee (QSC)

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

    Jul 3, 2001
    Costa Mesa, Calif.
    Technical Communications Developer, QSC Audio
    This would be an interesting exercise: put a passive tone control circuit on the output side of the pickup. Do sets of measurements at different positions.
  19. Bob - leave it to you, to 'center' the masses, bring everyone back to reality :cool::cool::D:D

    We don' need no steenking tone controls!! :D
  20. phmike


    Oct 25, 2006
    Nashville, TN
    I'm a 50+ year old bald guy sitting in my basement reading what a rockstar
    wrote about measuring distortion in thousandths of a percent.
    Does that make me a groupie?
    Many thanks for your cable tests and other (compressor, etc) reviews.

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