At one time, you’d get a guitar cable and when the plugs didn’t fall off or short out, it was a great cable, right? Now we have esoteric guitar cables that cost as much as some guitars, and claim all types of tonal benefits – but can cables really really make a difference, or perhaps is it all just smoke and mirrors? If you are using a guitar or bass fitted with active pickups you are able to sit down now, because the selection of cable is likely to make very little difference, as a result of very low output impedance of active circuitry. However, if (such as the majority) you use conventional passive pickups, then yes, cables do really make a difference.
The Cable Conundrum
The electrical resistance of Instrument Cables is insignificantly tiny in comparison with the impedance in the pickups and controls, to ensure that won’t affect your tone a whole lot, but cable capacitance is another matter altogether. A capacitor is actually created whenever two electrical conductors will be in positioned in close proximity, and for a given spacing, the greater the surface part of the conductors, the larger the capacitance. The core and screen conductors of typical guitar cable may generate a capacitance of about 30 picofarads per foot (or 100 picofarads per metre), so that it follows that this longer the cable, the more capacitance you may have hanging on the output of your guitar.
Putting a capacitor across an audio circuit results in a low?pass filter, and given this, you could expect a long cable (or one having a higher capacitance than usual) to kill your guitar’s top end – and also this is exactly the argument employed by those companies making esoteric guitar cable. However, there’s actually much more for you to get an excellent guitar sound than merely picking a low?capacitance cable.
Firstly, before anyone gave cable an additional thought, guitarists were making great?sounding records using standard guitar leads, therefore if you’re after imitating their sounds, there’s little point in looking for an ultra?low-capacitance cable: that will create your guitar sound brighter than theirs did. After all, the entire past of guitar sound is made on technological imperfections. Today we could make a guitar pickup having a 20Hz to 20kHz response, we might build perfect amplifiers with no audible distortion and that we could connect those to state?of?the?art speaker systems which cover the complete audio spectrum. But we’d hate it! It could be acceptable for quasi?acoustic rhythm playing, however it just ain’t rock & roll!
Another intriguing and important fact about guitar cable capacitance is that it doesn’t only act as a small?pass filter. An electric powered guitar’s pickups are made of coils of wire, causing them to be highly inductive. Wire a capacitor across an inductor and you get a tuned circuit, rather just like a mixing desk’s mid EQ set to improve. In the case of a normal guitar, the tuned circuit is fairly well damped, as a result of resistive parts in the volume and tone circuits and also the resistance in the pickup coil itself, however, you can continue to get a 1?2dB hump within the response. When you purchase low?capacitance cable, the tuned circuit will resonate at a higher frequency, whereas a high?capacitance cable will push the pickup resonance downwards. In any event, the tonality in the pickups will alter.
This data can help, as if your instrument lacks sparkle, choosing a low-capacitance cable could improve matters significantly. What’s more, you should check the end result before expending qnwpup through making up a really short conventional cable (a couple of feet should work) to see the way your tone changes in contrast to your standard cable. On the contrary, in case your guitar sounds thin and with a lack of punch, a regular high?capacitance cable may possibly ensure it is sound better.
Another consideration, taking all this into account, is definitely the behaviour of radio systems intended for guitar. A number of these overlook the cable capacitance issue, or simply just put a small?pass filter inside the receiver, but that won’t change the resonant frequency of the pickups just like a real cable does. If you use a radio system and find that this tone seems thinner, why not try wiring a capacitor of 200?400pf over the jack plug at one end in the short cable that connects the guitar for the transmitter and find out if that helps?
Summing up then, cables do make a difference with guitars who have passive, magnetic pickups. However, there’s no simple answer as to what type of cable will work best along with your instrument because, much like the amplifier and speaker, the cable is a component of the sound. Paul White