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Does your guitar lead (wire) actually matter?

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(@russellwood265)
Active Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 10
Topic starter  

Hey all,
Just wondering, does the quality (ie price) of your guitar lead make a difference? If there is a difference, what is the difference?
I mean "lead" as in the cable connecting your guitar and amp, not the lead guitarist!


   
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(@noteboat)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921
 

Yes, to a point.

I don't think the high end cables with their whistles and bells like oxygen free copper and gold plating are worth it - there's not enough improvement in sound to justify the much higher price. But the other end of the spectrum simply won't last very long. The middle ground tends to have good solid reliable construction - the extended life you'll get more than makes up for the few extra dollars.

You can pretty much tell if the construction is decent by unscrewing the barrel of one of the connectors. If you see wire and solder, it's (usually) a cheapo - if you see insulated wrap, plastic sleeves to minimize wear against the barrel, etc., it's (usually) decent quality.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
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(@trguitar)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 3709
 

I agree 100% That is how I select my cables. They just need to last.

"Work hard, rock hard, eat hard, sleep hard,
grow big, wear glasses if you need 'em."
-- The Webb Wilder Credo --


   
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(@notes_norton)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1497
 

Like most manufactured things, there is a point of diminishing returns. Where you put X amount of money and engineering in it and don't get as much gain as the last time you put an equal amount.

I stay away from the junk cables, because I don't want them to fail on stage, and with less than adequate shielding they can pick up more electrical interference.

I stay away from the high end cables because they have passed the point of diminishing returns and I'd rather have two medium priced cables than one high end one. The high end one might cost twice as much, but it isn't twice as good.

So I look for good shielding, strain relief at the jack, and good nickel or brass jacks.

Insights and incites by Notes ♫

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


   
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(@russellwood265)
Active Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 10
Topic starter  

Thanks! That's a huge help!
So there's an improvement in build quality as to spend more, but not a linear improvement.

Is there a similar improvement in sound quality?


   
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(@greybeard)
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Joined: 21 years ago
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Is there a similar improvement in sound quality?

No. Cheap can sound good, but may not last very long.
There are middle priced cables that don't sound as good as they should and some that are far better than their price tag would indicate.
Top priced cables generally sound good, but not significantly better than good quality mid-priced cables - and the percent improvement is in no relation to the cost increase.
As with wine, there comes a point where the increase in "quality" can no longer be readily perceived by the average man-on-the-street. Anything beyond there is simply a waste of money.

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
Did you know that the word "gullible" is not in any dictionary?
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My Articles & Reviews on GN


   
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(@notes_norton)
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Joined: 16 years ago
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Some cheap cables have poor shielding allowing too much interference to enter the center conductor.

Other than the shielding, as long as the center conductor and dielectric are of decent quality, any difference in actual sound will be for all practical purposes not a factor. (the dielectric is the substance that separates the center conductor from the shield and if I remember my electronics from school properly, is responsible for the capacitance in the cable).

There is nothing anything can do to improve the sound coming from your guitar, only modify it. Once a distortion enters, you cannot restore the original signal. So the function of a cable is to transfer the electrical "sound" (signal) from your guitar to the preamp of your next device without distorting the signal. As long as it does that, it will sound just fine.

And many cheap cables introduce no noticeable distortion to the signal. But as Russell pointed out, they generally don't last as long.

Notes ♫

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


   
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(@anonymous)
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Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 8184
 

depending on your guitar and how you store it, a lead with a 90 degree input jack may be a good idea.
also, use shorter leads if it's not going to be inconvenient or hamper movement, since a longer wire is more likely to kink up and knot or tangle up your stuff, and will also have more resistance, causing poorer sound quality.
wasn't there an article on this a while back?


   
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(@rparker)
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Joined: 21 years ago
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wasn't there an article on this a while back?
Probably. We've talked about it once a year at least.

I don't know from good sounding cables to bad sounding ones. I'm certainly not a professional. I do know, though, that my cable problem stopped being a problem when I bought good cables. I'm probably nearing 5-6 years on some every day use cables. I run over them at least three times a week with my office chair, too.

Roy
"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


   
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 cnev
(@cnev)
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Roy I don't think you are alone in not being able to hear good from bad sounding cables. In theory I'm sure there might be some frequency loss in a bad cable but if you don't have ground or shielding issues or some other obvious problem then a the difference between a good and bad one you probably can't tell the difference.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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(@rparker)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5480
 

Roy I don't think you are alone in not being able to hear good from bad sounding cables....I've often thought it to be a combo of ear training (experience) and pre-existing tone loss that age brings along. Nice call about other influences, though. On the rare occasion I ever have an issue, conections and cables are first to be secured and replaced. Normally it's due to a cable getting kicked loose or something equally as silly.

Roy
"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


   
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 cnev
(@cnev)
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Of course if there was say a 1 - 2 db loss through a bad cable only the most sensitive ears MIGHT be able to hear that. With cables I beleive the major factor is materials/durability.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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 Ande
(@ande)
Prominent Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 652
 

I can tell a really BAD cable by sound, when it goes snap, crackle, and pop. Weird static for no clear reason is why I don't use the cheapest cables. (Though, come to think of it, some expensive cables do this too.)

But on a cable where the connections aren't shot, where there's no corrosion or space for it, with no breaks and no damage- I've got to say that I don't hear any difference at all between one cable and another.

Most of what I use is actually a bunch of audio cable I bought at radio shack a few years ago and put ends on. Works good.

Don't buy cables that look like they'll wear out too easy, and the very cheapest are usually in that category.

But don't spend major money on the delux luxury cables- they don't teach you to play any better.

Best,
Ande


   
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(@bobblehat)
Reputable Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 309
 

As most have said before the quality of the construction is what you should pay for not so much the materials.
I have been using the same two 18 ft cables I bought seven years ago which I paid £20 each for.Not cheap but not the most expensive by a long way.Have gigged weekly and they've been walked on and soaked in beer regularly!

If you've got a $4000 guitar and a $2000 amp then you may want to spend $100 on a cable to ensure your getting the most out of your guitar and amp!

My Band: http://www.myspace.com/thelanterns2010
playing whilst drunk is only permitted if all band members are in a similar state!


   
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(@notes_norton)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1497
 

Related tip:

Get a 'pen' of both DeOxit and ProGold manufactured by Caig (available at Radio Shack and most electronic parts houses).

If your jack is even slightly corroded, rub the DeOxit on it and then wipe off with a clean cloth or facial tissue. It's the best cleaner I've found.

If you can get to the jack easily, do the same on the contact points inside the jack.

Then coat with ProGold. It retards future corrosion and enhances the electrical connection. No more pops and crackles when the jack rotates in the plug.

I live in South Florida, near the ocean, and fighting corrosion is a way of life here.

Insights and incites by Notes ♫

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


   
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