In our quest to achieve the best sound possible, does the quality of instrument cables really matter?
As musicians, it is important for us to aim for the improvement of our setup. Doing so will make it more convenient for us, as well as our listeners. There are various facets of our rig that we can tweak, or upgrade to obtain the desired tone that we wish to express ourselves with.
From the amplifiers, to the guitars and effects pedals, companies have been promising vast sonic opportunities that can be derived through purchasing their products. Even instrument cables are not spared from the marketing department’s touch of hype.
But does the quality of instrument cables even matter in the grand scheme of things? Will a gold-plated jack make you sound like Tosin Abasi at last? Or is it just another ploy to spend more money on this costly hobby we call music.
Besides, even if it’s true that better gear can help fuel the creation of innovative music, the cheapest equipment have still played their part in making some of the best songs in the modern era. So is spending more cash on premium cables really worth it?
Cheap vs expensive instrument cables: what’s the difference
Expensive instrument cables won’t make your sound better, they don’t work the same way as preamps or effects pedals. They just transmit your sound for the amplifier to project into a speaker.
However, using a well-built cable will give you that sense of security that it will not get easily damaged. That your sound will remain intact for the rest of the tour without experiencing any signal loss, subtle or otherwise. Some bad cables can create unwanted buzzing and humming noises and that is a huge no-no for any type of musician.
According to experts, the sound differences between a $10 cable and a $50 is insignificant. Not even advanced musicians would be able to discern which is which, although it is obvious that the more expensive one is better in terms of build and durability.
While there are extremely cheap pedals out there that sound alright but can’t get past your first gig, there are also overpriced ones that don’t deserve your hard-earned money.
Cables are fairly simple devices made out of just a few elements. Utilizing the finest bits to complete a cable shouldn’t triple the cost of its production. Unless an instrument cable has a preamp just like the ones developed by R&M Technology, there is no reason a 20 feet cable should cost $150 and above.
Factors that can affect the price of an instrument cable
- Connector type
There are two basic types of connectors, the straight and the angled jacks. Straight jacks are cheaper and more common but they are susceptible to getting hit or bent when the output is on the side of the guitar. Angled connectors are the answer to this, but they won’t sit well with guitars that have their output jacks on top.
The signal of your guitar can be affected by the type of conductor that was used for your cable. More pure forms of copper are believed to produce more sound clarity.
Solid conductors are cheaper than stranded conductors, but they are not as strong and flexible. On the other hand, stranded conductors are more sturdy but expensive to make.
Cables are also priced depending on your desired length. Even though longer cables will make your sound weaker, they are still more expensive due to a few feet of added materials.
Although gold is often mentioned together with “premium,” having gold platings on your cable has also some practical implications. Gold is resistant to corrosion so you won’t have to worry about rust. This precious metal will however not affect your tone in any way.
Most cables are unbalanced so you don’t have to bother about the more expensive balanced cable.
Does your cable have a preamp? A silent connector or even a wi-fi? Instrument cables that are pimped out with awesome tech will surely cost you a lot more.
Does the quality of instrument cables matter?
Just like any device, the quality of instrument cables matter a lot. If your cable is not built using the best materials, your chances of maximizing your setup’s potential will be lessened. Cheaper components will also degrade faster than premium ones, so if your cable’s parts are not top notch, it will not last that long no matter how you take care of it.
There is a certain price range for instrument cables. You just need to set a budget for it and make the most out of your available funds. Although you don’t have to spend too much on cables, it would still be ideal to avoid unbranded cables that are mass produced with low quality control. Invest in a decent, durable cable that will also ensure you that your sound won’t be compromised.
So does the quality of instrument cables matter? Yes it does. Just do your research well and seek the advice of experts to narrow down your instrument cable choices. There are several brands out there producing quality instrument cables that won’t put a huge dent on your savings. That should be enough for you to keep on rocking!