Many guitarists still use the same guitar cable that their first amp and electric guitar came with. Without realizing it, the old cable could be affecting their tone. At least that’s what the industry says. So, I sought to find out, do guitar cables matter?
Guitar cables matter because everything from the length of the cable to the brand can make an impact on your tone. Clean tones sound thicker on a longer cable and driven tones are more defined on shorter cables. The amount of electricity in the cable changes from brand to brand affecting the tone as well.
Continue reading to find out if guitar cables affect tone, perfect guitar cable length, as well as the best guitar cable for you.
Does Guitar Cable Length Make a Difference?
Guitar cable length makes a difference in tone because once the guitar cable gets passed a certain length, the treble and the bass begin to thin out. This is because of the higher capacitance. Generally, once guitar cable length goes past 20ft, the more notable tone differences start to occur.
With that being said, having too short of cables can be detrimental to your tone as well. Significantly short cables will make your tone sound bright because of the added high-end. Of course, this is a generalization because there are many factors in a guitar setup that can contribute to this. Although, it is understood that a short cable can and will create a brighter sound.
Let’s discuss the science and logic behind it. The longer the guitar cable equals the longer your signal. The longer your signal, the higher the capacitance. The higher the capacitance, the more definition you are going to lose in your signal. That definition is largely concentrated in the higher end of the frequency spectrum.
When cable length starts to go at and above 50ft, the capacitance and tone loss is exceptionally noticeable. The tone sounds muffled and the added warmth that maybe a 30-40ft cable offers, vanishes with a hallow sound.
To summarize, the longer the signal / guitar cable, the more it is like rolling down the treble knob on your amp.
Do Guitar Cables Matter? Do Guitar Cables Affect Tone?
Guitar cables do matter and affect tone as they are the connecting line between your guitar and amp output. The cable has a variety of factors that can contribute to the tone like the length, cable type, material used, etc. All these factors combine to create unique tones for each guitar cable setup.
As discussed above, it is widely agreed that guitar cable length does matter as it affects output. Aside from cable length, do different guitar cables matter?
Expensive Vs. Cheap Guitar Cables
For the purposes of this comparison, expensive vs. cheap can also be assumed as high quality vs. lesser quality.
Buying cheap cables does not necessarily equal a bad sound. The differences between an expensive guitar cable and a cheaper cable does not make a significant difference tonally. Over time, you may find that expensive guitar cables fray less and last longer. This is because they are often made with higher quality materials with greater craftmanship that have stood the test of time. Cheap guitar cables may sound out over time.
In terms of durability and longevity of expensive vs cheap guitar cables, the expensive and higher quality cables will last longer. Tonally, the difference between expensive vs. cheap guitar cables is minimal. If the cables are the same length, a guitarist will hardly be able to tell any tone differences between the two if both cables are working well.
Find Out How Long Guitar Cables Last Today!
In addition, higher quality cables often have a lifetime warranty. One example is Monster cables. Higher quality cables often have more shielding than lesser quality cables. This shielding can provide a better tone, although the change is marginal. The shielding really helps the cable last longer. Cheap cables run the risk of poor craftmanship and shielding which can disrupt the electric signals from guitar to amp. This disruption can affect overall sound quality and will be almost immediately noticeable by the player.
Between the two monetary guitar cable classifications, guitar cables matter if you want durability and longevity but they do not matter if you are only looking for tonal differences.
The main thing is that no cable can make the audio sound better, but cheaper cables can make it sound worse due to bad shielding and such.
Personally, I value durability so will purchase a relatively higher end cable to ensure there are no issues when gigging. They last a long time, have a lifetime warranty, and eases any nerves of technical issues while performing.
Blues Guitar Legends and Guitar Cables
As for the Blues guitar legends, Stevie Ray Vaughan has mentioned how he did not like playing through a higher quality cable because there was “too much electricity in it”. Jimi Hendrix famously stuck to expensive coiled cables for most of his professional career.
As you can see, blues legends like Stevie and Hendrix had specific cable preferences when it came to their setup. These cable preferences are what ultimately contributed to their overall tone.
How to Choose the Best Guitar Cable for You
If you have a higher budget, then it is recommended to purchase a higher end cable. A higher end cable will last you many years and will remain reliable throughout its life. If you have a moderate budget, then a lesser quality cable will still serve just fine without sacrificing too many aspects that a higher end cable provides.
One of my favorite cables is the Fender Pro Coil (Amazon Link) which is 30ft. Not only because this cable is like Jimi Hendrix’s cable setup, especially the one he used at Woodstock. It is also known to reduce the hum from a Fender Stratocaster while keeping a strong signal from the guitar. This is my main cable for gigging.
In the end, it all comes down to what sounds good to you. Some guitarists prefer longer cables to reduce the high-end and deliver a warmer sound. Some prefer a shorter cable to create a brighter tone and squealing bends. If you are like me, then you prefer a cable that is right in the middle. That being a 20ft guitar cable (linked to Amazon). This cable is budget-friendly and a reliable choice.
Since I use a variety of pedals as well that are interconnected with 1-2ft cables, the cable distance between the amp and my guitar is greater than 20ft. All in all, the cabled distance between my amp and my guitar is 30ft for my practice setup. For gigging, I prefer the Fender Pro Coil that is linked above because it is more reliable and reduces some of the hum on my Stratocaster.
Thank you for reading Do Guitar Cables Matter. Please subscribe if you would like to be notified when a new article is posted.