Effectology #2 Cables & Connectors
No matter how luxurious your car is, if the road you’re on has bumps and pits you are not going to enjoy the ride.
Cables and Connectors are THE most crucial part of your rig and the variety and option for these in the market is so vast that anyone can get baffled while selecting one. Even the price option varies from few dollars to hundreds of dollars. The important things to understand and be aware of is, to know what makes a good cable or connector good and how to identify one and once you know you have got a good cable do not hesitate to pay the price, it can be the most valuable asset for lifetime.
I always say that goodness of sound is something you can never judge unless you compare it with a better or worse equivalent. You need to find a benchmark against which you’ll compare everything in your rig and take a decision based on your perception, it’s only after this judgement you look for technical explanations and specifications about it.
Let us first understand why cables and connectors are so important. We know that guitar is a passive instrument that means, it has no power source, the signal generated from guitar pickups is purely electromagnetic induction generated by the magnetic pickups installed on it. This signal is of course very weak in nature, compared to the output from an amplifier. For such a weak signal two things are important:
- Resistance/Impedance offered by the cable
- Noise isolation capability
The first point of course is self explanatory, as in, if the signal is weak we would like to have the cable with as less resistance as possible in order to save the signal’s overall level from dropping.
The second point talks about the internal capacitance of the cable, which becomes significant in this case because the length of the cable and internal shields act like capacitor making it behave as low pass filter. If there is significant capacitance you might experience loss of high end. The core and screen conductors of typical guitar cable may produce a capacitance of around 30 picofarads per foot (or 100 picofarads per metre), so it follows that the longer the cable, the more capacitance you have hanging on the output of your guitar. Refer the datasheet/specifications of the cable to know the capacitance offered and compare the values with others to know the goodness.
The third point deals with the noise. This is little bit tricky. The noise which we are talking here is basically electromagnetic interference of some power cable, Transformer, Tubelight, a fan,, Tv, etc. If this interference is able to penetrate the cable and distort your signal your input level is corrupted and further in your signal chain if you have, compressors, boosters or distortions, this noise is only going to amplify. You need to make sure to reject all these interferences before it enters your cable. To ensure this cable are shielded and this shield is connected to ground so that any interference when comes in the vicinity of cable is bypassed to ground before entering the signal core of the cable. There has been several R&D on design of these shield and several companies have patents. (All these discussions are equally valid for connectors and patch cables too).
Always remember that cables are just like antenna and they catch electromagnetic and Radio signals, you can even hear radio through your amp if your cable is bad enough.
I personally used following brands and have experienced tremendous performance and durability.
- Evidence audio Melody cable – The cable I can’t even think of replacing ever and I consider them as the soul of my tone
- Guitar connector cables are Neutrik Silent Plugs (patent Tech from Neutrik)
- Planet Waves Patch cables with gold plated connectors
- Planet waves speaker cable
- I also have used Planet Wave’s circuit breaker cable for some time and experienced great performance.