Guitar cables are the connecting piece between your guitar and amp. It is important for them to stay working at all times, especially when gigging. Longevity of the cable is an important factor when evaluating whether a cable will be okay to play live or if a guitarist should replace it. So how long do guitar cables last?
Guitar cables last an average of 5 to 15 years for higher quality cables with little to no issues. With lesser quality cables, they will last between 3 to 7 years and may experience more issues in between.
Continue reading to find out if how to know if your cable is broken, how long cables last, how to make your cable last longer, and how to know when you need a new cable.
How Do I Know if My Guitar Cable is Broken?
A guitar cable is broken when the sound is not travelling through the cable and into the amp, thus not outputting a sound. Although, a broken guitar cable can also sound spotty and displaced. If a guitarist notices choppy sounds coming from the amp, then the issue is likely the cable.
Broken cables are often caused by misuse or maltreatment. As we will discuss below, guitar cables can last awhile. So if one breaks prematurely, then it is likely caused by the two instances above.
For new guitarists, knowing if your guitar cable is broken may not always be so simple. Obviously if there is zero sound coming through then that is easy but for other cases not so much. An example being spotty or crackling sound. Many new guitarists will chalk it up to an amp, guitar, or pedal issue. Although, this issue is most often caused by a disconnect in the guitar cable. These types of issues rarely happen with proper care and are extremely rare with higher quality cables. Cheaper inexpensive cables can break easier, leading to issues down the road.
How Long Do Guitar Cables Last?
For a high quality guitar cable, it can last between 5 to 15 years without having issues. Coiled cables are known to last longer as well which adds a few years to the above timespan.
After conducting research and asking many guitar players their experience with guitar cables and longevity, the above average is the result. Although, there were many outliers. Some guitarists mentioned how their cable has lasted them for 20+ years and some say that their cable only lasted 3 months. Of course, there are a lot of factors that go into these two outliers. Care of the cable, amount of use, type of use, brand, quality, and the list goes on.
Guitar cables are made to last and withstand moderate abuse, especially higher quality coiled cables. Because of this, they are expected to last many years. If your guitar cable does not make it to the five year mark, and you properly took care of it, then it is time to switch brands or purchase a higher quality cable. Hendrix famously used coiled cables because he found them to be more reliable on stage. Hence why I use coiled cables when I am gigging.
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How Can I Make My Guitar Cables Last Longer?
To make guitar cables last longer, ensure proper care is being taken for the cables. After each performance or when travelling, make sure the cable is rolled up properly and not thrown tangled into a bag. A tangled guitar cable over time can lead to internal fraying issues.
The inner workings of a guitar cable is covered by rubber, protecting it from the outside elements. Although, if you notice a tear in the rubber then it is important to patch it up. Humidity can be detrimental to a cables inner wiring with corrosion and rust. This is especially the case if you live in a salty-aired location. Thus bringing us to our second point, you can make your guitar cables last longer by keeping the cable insulated and away from excessive humidity.
The third way to have your guitar cables last longer is to purchase higher quality cables. Inexpensive and poor quality guitar cables are guaranteed to break much faster than higher quality cables. The higher price point will pay off when you do not need to continuously purchase new cables. High quality guitar cables with proper care will last you years, maybe decades.
Another more technical way is re-soldering the end of the cable where the cable meets the jack. Cut off a few centimeters and solder it. This will add a few months to the life of your cable. I recommend simply buying a new cable though if it comes to this.
How to Know When You Need a New Guitar Cable?
It is time to get a new guitar cable if the end by the jack starts to fray and/or the sound becomes choppy. A good way to test the strength of the connection is to walk around and play chords. Try to notice if the sound un-provokingly goes in and out. The goal here is to move the cable around while you are playing to see if any connection in the cable gets lose. If you notice intermittent sound loss, then it is time to get a new guitar cable.
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