At one time, you’d get a guitar cable and if the plugs didn’t fall off or short out, it was a great cable, right? Now we now have esoteric guitar cables that cost just as much as some guitars, and claim all kinds of tonal benefits – but can cables really make a difference, or perhaps is it all just smoke and mirrors? If you use a guitar or bass fitted with active pickups you are able to sit down now, because your choice of cable will make very little difference, as a result of really low output impedance of active circuitry. However, if (like the majority) you make use of conventional passive pickups, then yes, cables do make a difference.
The Cable Conundrum
The electrical resistance of Instrument Cables is insignificantly tiny in contrast to the impedance in the pickups and controls, in order that won’t affect your tone a whole lot, but cable capacitance is another matter altogether. A capacitor is created whenever two electrical conductors will be in positioned in close proximity, and then for a particular spacing, the larger the surface section of the conductors, the greater the capacitance. The core and screen conductors of typical guitar cable may produce a capacitance of about 30 picofarads per foot (or 100 picofarads per metre), so it follows that this longer the cable, the greater capacitance you might have hanging on the output of your guitar.
Putting a capacitor across a sound circuit produces a low?pass filter, and given this, you might expect an extended cable (a treadmill with a higher capacitance than usual) to kill your guitar’s top quality – and this is the argument employed by those companies making esoteric guitar cable. However, there’s actually far more for you to get an excellent guitar sound than simply selecting a low?capacitance cable.
Firstly, before anyone gave cable a second thought, guitarists were making great?sounding records using standard guitar leads, in case you’re after imitating their sounds, there’s little reason for searching for an ultra?low-capacitance cable: that would make your guitar sound brighter than theirs did. After all, the whole history of guitar sound is constructed on technological imperfections. Today we might produce a guitar pickup using a 20Hz to 20kHz response, we might build perfect amplifiers without audible distortion so we could connect those to state?of?the?art speaker systems that cover the whole audio spectrum. But we’d hate it! It may be acceptable for quasi?acoustic rhythm playing, however it just ain’t rock & roll!
Another intriquing, notable and important fact about guitar cable capacitance is it doesn’t only work as a small?pass filter. An electrical guitar’s pickups are produced from coils of wire, which makes them highly inductive. Wire a capacitor across an inductor and you have a tuned circuit, rather just like a mixing desk’s mid EQ set to enhance. With regards to an average guitar, the tuned circuit is pretty well damped, due to the resistive parts inside the volume and tone circuits and the resistance in the pickup coil itself, however, you can continue to end up with a 1?2dB hump inside the response. If you choose low?capacitance cable, the tuned circuit will resonate at a higher frequency, whereas a higher?capacitance cable will push the pickup resonance downwards. In any event, the tonality in the pickups can change.
This data can be helpful, as if your instrument lacks sparkle, choosing a low-capacitance cable could improve matters significantly. What’s more, you can examine the outcome before expending qnwpup simply by making up a really short conventional cable (a few feet should have the desired effect) and seeing the way your tone changes compared with your standard cable. On the other hand, in case your guitar sounds thin and lacking in punch, a regular high?capacitance cable might actually make it sound better.
Another consideration, taking all of this under consideration, is the behaviour of radio systems created for guitar. Most of these disregard the cable capacitance issue, or simply put a small?pass filter in the receiver, but that won’t impact the resonant frequency from the pickups like a real cable does. If you use a radio system and discover that the tone seems thinner, why not try wiring a capacitor of 200?400pf across the jack plug at one end from the short cable that connects the guitar for the transmitter and find out if this helps?
Summing up then, cables really do change lives with guitars who have passive, magnetic pickups. However, there’s no simple answer about what type of cable will work best together with your instrument because, just like the amplifier and speaker, the cable is an element of your own sound. Paul White