What is the least hummy speaker cable?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by corinpills, Feb 7, 2019.

  1. corinpills


    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA
    I have a lot of hum issues in my recording room (it's an ongoing frustration of many years and I have explored many degrees of power conditioning, insulated cables, shielding guitars, draping mic cables over my shoulders when recording tracks- everything short of building a farady cage around the whole house). I've mostly got it under control except when the local bro country radio station sneaks into my backing vocals).

    Last night I noticed that moving the short speaker cable between my Ampeg head and speaker cabinet changed the amount of buzz in my bass chain. I've had that speaker cable for years and always use it at home because it's so short, but it's probably time to buy a new one. Does anybody have a recommendation for one in this context?
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2019
  2. saltydude


    Aug 15, 2011
    boston CANADA
    You probably did already but I’d check the actual electricity flowing through your house. If you’ve got an old home with what I call “dirty” electricity it can be frustrating. An Unbalanced neutral in the panel or elsewhere in the house can do it or even a dimmer switch or fluorescent lighting.
  3. Roland GR 88

    Roland GR 88 Commercial User

    Sep 16, 2013
    Ontario Canada
    Retail store manager
    Short run cables don't need to be any bigger or better than your typical 18 gauge wire. IME it's the connections that count. Neutrik or similar quality ends are where the money goes.
    About this buzzy room of yours however there's no answer apart from tearing everything down, testing every cable and power outlet, isolating any device or appliance that shares a circuit with the room and eventually getting an electrician to install a sub panel, run a separate circuit and/or fix any grounding issues with your electricity.
    Best of luck :)
  4. lokikallas

    lokikallas Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2010
    los angeles
    Copper is copper. I’ve ABed Straightwire super expensive speaker cable and a coat hanger, through a Macintosh system with Magnaplanars. In a blind test there was no difference.
  5. Rick James

    Rick James Inactive

    Feb 24, 2007
    New Jersey
    Speaker cables don't pick up noise except in the most extreme circumstances. Noise is picked up by your bass and your instrument cable and by everything in the signal chain all the way through the power amp, and since it's amplified along with your signal it can be pretty loud. Once that signal hits the speaker cable there's no more amplification, so any RFI/EMI that the cable might pick up can't be amplified.
  6. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa Boogie, Development Engineer-Genzler (pedals), Product Support-Genz Benz
    Extremely unlikely that the speaker cable has anything to do with your noise.

    It almost always comes down to improperly installed power system (can't be fixed with a "power conditioner") that needs to be properly repaired, ground loops between equipment, noise generated within equipment or between pieces of equipment, or poor/improper shielding.
  7. bobcruz


    Mar 10, 2004
    So the consensus is that a speaker cable is unlikely to be affected by noise, yet yours is involved in the noise because moving it changed the noise. Possibly a bad solder joint at one or both ends? If you can try a different speaker cable without spending a lot, let us know if it helped.
    Bob_Ross and Primakurtz like this.
  8. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    Start by paying an electrician to test your entire home electrical system and check for possible improvements. It's not expensive.
    BassmanPaul likes this.
  9. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    It could be another jack or loose connection. When you moved the speaker cable it might have jostled the other connection. Maybe grab a wrench and screw driver and snug down the jacks and screws. A good tech would check this and snug things down as part of their service.
  10. Call an electrician. Have him check all ground connections, etc.... See if there are multiple grounds in the room. (multiple legs to the box, not plugs)... Also, if you have a plug tester that tells you if outlets are wired correctly, I would suggest doing that immediately... I have a couple in my trunk... Still have the old Peavey plugger from way back... ;)

    I'd consider running new 'box to the room' for all the audio equipment to plug into...
    BasturdBlaster likes this.
  11. beans-on-toast


    Aug 7, 2008
    You might have a marginal connection. The weight of the cable and moving it can reveal an issue.

    Buy an 18ga cable with neutrik speakon or good quality ¼” connectors, depe ding on what you use. Just long enough. It doesn’t have to be crazy expensive, under $50.

    Do not leave instrument cables coiled when using them. Lie them flat on the floor and snake them.

    Use a radio as an RFI detector in your studio. You need an AM radio that can be tuned between stations. Hold it where wiring would be behind walls, junction boxes, outlets, lamps, computers, and equipment. It can help you to pinpoint problem areas.

    Last edited: Feb 8, 2019
  12. ktone


    Jun 23, 2008
    Hong Kong
    The OP gave us a clue to his noise problem right off the bat. He says "local bro country radio station sneaks into my backing vocals". If he is getting local radio he may be getting other types of broadcast RFI as well. It is likely that his problems are indeed RFI/EMI (Radio Freq. Interference) related especially after he mentioned moving the speaker cable made a difference. That is exactly how RFI works. It can sneak in anywhere including power and speaker cables. Once inside an amp (or anything) RFI can travel through unexpected paths such as weak/dirty internal grounds or feedback loops until it finds a sensitive part of the circuitry and creates noise. Ground loops only make it worse.

    One thing the OP can try is use the ferrite RFI suppressors like what you see on computer VGA and other cables. I've used these to some success, especially after cleaning and tightening all jacks and connectors. They should be located as close as possible to the equipment and should be put on all cables (power, speaker, input, FX loop etc.).

    BTW Ham radio guys have the best info on RFI fixes.

    Last edited: Feb 7, 2019
    Mark_70, corinpills and TNCreature like this.
  13. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa Boogie, Development Engineer-Genzler (pedals), Product Support-Genz Benz
    Very rarely are speaker cables the entry path for RFI, the impedances in the speaker circuit are WAY too low for this to happen unless the RF signal strength is VERY high (which would result in the RF coming in everywhere else first). Extreme would be this condition.

    Sometimes the very act of moving something causes a change, but the change may only indirectly be caused by what was moved. Other things might have moved as well, even some common mode residual carrier from a class D amp on the speaker cable might have coupled back into the instrument cable or instrument itself when the speaker cable was touched. (assuming it was a class D amp of course)

    Rule out the easier and more likely things first, before assuming it's the most unlikely.
    edro and Kevin Wolfe like this.
  14. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    It's possible that there are multiple things going on. One thing I've seen more than once, is AM radio pickup caused by a dodgy ground connection on the input jack to an amp. This can be caused by the jack wiggling and breaking its solder joints.

    And you can't change the station. Amusingly, I knew someone who built the first television in his village, in China. I think he was about 15-20 years older than me, and came to the US to study physics. His TV had something like a 3 inch picture tube, and everybody from the village came to his family's house to watch it. I asked him what kind of tuner circuit it used, and he said it had no tuner because there was only one station anyway. He called the circuit "direct amplification."
    corinpills and MattZilla like this.
  15. corinpills


    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA
    The improvements would definitely be more than $30 for trying a new speaker cable. My house is from the 1850s, so the ongoing list of improvements my wife would like us to make is quite long and improving the electricity in my home studio is far down on the list.
  16. corinpills


    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA

    Good technical info, thank you (it is a topic I have spent a lot of time pondering, so I always appreciate more food for thought). It's an old Ampeg V4b from the 70s, so not class D). I get the signal through XLR cables in this room as well. It's always fun when I'm recording vocals and I start to hear the hot new country song playing through my monitors. If I move the mic cable around, I can usually find a position where a lot less of it is coming through. In particular, my best condenser mic has along cable between the mic and the power supply and that one is the most likely to pick up signal. With the bass amp, it's usually just a high buzz and not the radio signal.
  17. bassinflorida

    bassinflorida turn that dang thing down

    Jan 27, 2014
    Tampa, FL
    Unplug EVERYTHING. Begin by plugging in and testing each and every device one at a time.
    Redbrangus and agedhorse like this.
  18. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa Boogie, Development Engineer-Genzler (pedals), Product Support-Genz Benz
    If you have a heart condition, cosmetic surgery isn't going to help you and is a waste of money.

    That's what focusing on the speaker cable is like in this situation IMO.
  19. After you buy a new speaker cable and it dawns on you the ratio of the 'possible' RFI possibly dancing a few electrons in that short cable compared to a big ass amplified signal level through that cable, call an electrician to check your wiring...

    Studio, you need clean 'lectric...
  20. corinpills


    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA
    Valid, but my heart is in great shape (lost 100 lbs since last January and my blood pressure is perfect- and I realize it was an analogy, but I take every opportunity to mention that I lost 100 lbs) and my speaker cable is really old. It has a Mars Music logo on it. That's vintage and not in a good way. Big picture: need to spend a lot of money to get an electrician to re-wire that room, put a dedicated circuit in, etc.. Right now I just want to get a new speaker cable.