How long do instrument cables last? Cables are essential to every musician who uses electric instruments. However, cables fail too often, to the point that they are starting to seem like disposable objects.
Instrument cables are responsible for transmitting the signal from our guitars, basses and electric violins to our amplifiers. The quality and health of your cables is a crucial factor in your setup since it is the first device, after your pickups, to have an effect on your instrument’s sound.
Simply put, no amount of effects can fix your sound if your cable is faulty. You can have the best amplifier in the world, but if your cable is badly soldered or rusting, then your sound will still be jeopardized.
Aside from saving time and money, knowing how to correctly diagnose and repair your own cables can prevent damages from getting worse. However, the best that you can do as a musician is to take care of your cables well. Remember that prevention is better than the cure and handling your equipment properly will definitely help in making your instrument cable’s lifespan much longer.
Why your instrument cable is not working
- Rusting metal parts
Moisture can oxidize your cable’s metal parts very fast. Rusting can ruin your jacks if too much of it has spread out. You may remove the rust in its earlier stages using fine sandpaper to extend your instrument cable’s lifespan.
Be aware of the negative effects of humidity, not only to your cables, but also to your instruments, amps and pedals.
- Bent or broken parts
The parts of an instrument cable aren’t built to withstand high amounts of stress. Some jacks can snap easily when stepped on. The copper wirings are also very thin, so handle your instrument cables with care if you want them to last.
- Unsoldered jack
An instrument cable’s lead solder can lose its adhesion, and disconnect the wirings from your jack, resulting in total signal loss. This can also happen to badly-soldered cables, so make sure that you buy cables that were only made by trusted companies.
- Rotten rubber parts
Hot and dry climate can make your cable’s outer rubber layer stiff and prone to cracks and breakages. At this point, your instrument cable has reached the end of its lifespan and this cannot be repaired. For rotten rubber parts, complete replacement is the only solution.
Tips to make your instrument cables last longer
- Regular checkups
Knowing how to spot some issues can help prolong your instrument cable’s lifespan.
Using a multimeter, you can conduct regular checkups on your cables to make sure that they are performing perfectly. They could be harboring some problems that are not discernible enough to the human ear.
- Use shorter cables
Aside from sapping your sound, long cables are susceptible to tension and they are also inconvenient to store. You don’t have to use a 50 feet cable for your gigs, around 12 feet would do just fine. Shorter instrument cables are also expected to last longer because they are easier to maintain.
- Keep them clean
Dirt and moisture can accumulate on your cable’s jacks so make sure that you clean them after every jam session or performance.
These connecting plugs can create unwanted crackles and noises when they get too dirty or rusty. Lint-free cloth is safe to use on your jacks and should be enough to do the job, although some experts suggest dampening your cloth with contact cleaners.
- Store them properly
How long will instrument cables last if you don’t store them properly? They probably won’t last for a year if you just leave them on the table or the floor after each practice.
Although guitar cables don’t necessarily need a hard case, it would still be better if they have a proper case that can protect them from the impacts of travel, as well as harsh weather elements.
Aside from blunt objects such as guitar pedals, cables can also get damaged when exposed to extreme heat and cold.
Humidity is also bad for your cables since water vapor can ruin any electronic equipment. Put some desiccants together with your cables to absorb excess moisture and also prevent molds from forming.
- Wrap them properly
Prevent your instrument cables from turning into spaghetti if you want them to last long. Learn how to wrap them up properly after using them to prolong their life.
Before wrapping the cables up, make sure to shake them out first to prevent some kinks and knots from forming. Loop them carefully and make sure that you are not straining the cables by stretching them.
- Handle with care
Your way of handling your equipment will decide how long your instrument cables will last.
If you can prevent yourself or the crowd from stepping on your cables, you can assure that it will serve you for a long time. Any type of pressure will easily make your guitar cables go bad. In extreme cases, you can accidentally bend the jack or rip the tiny wires inside the cable, rendering it useless and irreparable.
So how long do instrument cables last? It actually depends on how you handle them. It could be weeks or months, but if you take care of your high-quality cables very well, it’s not impossible that they can serve you for a few years with only some minor repairs along the way.