Choosing a Guitar Cable – 5 Tips

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What You Need to Look for In a Guitar Cable

As an electric guitar or bass player, you may take your guitar cable for granted. Just how important is that little length of wire and plastic? Read on to find out.

#1 – It’s More Important than You Think

Long and thin, coiled and wound, how much do you rely on that linking piece of shielded wire? Frankly, you must depend on it entirely. It is your lifeline. Regardless of whether you call it your lead, cable, or guitar cord – it is what connects you to every other aspect of your sound. You may have paid hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars for your amp, pedals, and even the guitar itself, but if you skimp on that cord, then it’s all worthless. The good news is that cost doesn’t necessarily mean quality.

#2 – Aim for Your Sound

Buying a name brand cable generally means that you’ll get higher quality than you would with a generic cord, plus you can opt for one that includes a guarantee. When shopping for a guitar cable, you will be told a lot of different things, from how much you want a particular type to some crazy, expensive, brand-new audiophile technology. When pricing a cord at over $100, ask yourself, “How much will my sound change?” Then, plug in! Some swear these new cords offer things like superior fidelity and crisper highs, but you may find the overall result too harsh. Run different cords from your guitar and find the one that suits you (not the salesperson) best. You may just be surprised.

#3 – Cheap isn’t Always Bad

Again, you are looking for your unique sound. Rock gods such as Stevie Ray Vaughan actually looked for vintage cords for this reason. Imagine how different Hendrix would have sounded with one of those fancy cords. Many modern players feel the harsher tones of their amps can be warmed up with a particular cord – and it may just be the cheapo one from the national electronics chain.

Guitar Cable

Guitar Cable
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#4 – It’s Not the Length…Well, Yes It Is…

Sure, you want as much wiggle room as you can get – but will it cost you in sound quality? If you’re looking at a cheaper cord over 20 feet long, then yes. While most cables do indeed add capacitance (electrical charge storage) and inductive loading to the overall signal, and more length adds more of each, it may also dull your tone. Stick to the shorter cord of higher quality.

#5 – Watch Those Other Links

When linking from your cable to your guitar, to your pedalboard to your amp, what do you use in between? Skimping on the patch cords is simply flushing your money. You could have the world’s best cord running from your axe, but linking it with cruddy patches will zap your signal. Play nice with the other parts, and use the same high quality patch cords as you do for your main cable.

Bottom line, your guitar’s sound is only as good as your equipment. One of the most important elements of your equipment is the cord to which you attach it all. Take your time, shop around, and plug in. Once you find your sound, you’ll find that it was worth the effort and the expense.

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