Do Cables Make a Difference in Tone?
Do Cables Make That Much Of A Tonal Difference…..?
In short, maybe. Do they make all the difference in the world? Well…maybe. In a dimension where we are all searching for the perfect tone and doing everything we can to get there, cables are an often overlooked component in our quest. In other arenas such as the hifi audio world, cabling is considered paramount to the overall quality of what we hear. These cables can be several hundred to several thousand dollars and they sell. Why? Because some people can hear a difference. Is it worth it? To some it is. To some it is not. In the area of guitar, we have a few things to consider.
For the instrument cable: 1. How long do you need your guitar/instrument cable to be and are you using a pedalboard? If you are using a pedalboard, what is the total distance from your guitar to the amp?
For the speaker cable: 2. What is the distance from the power source (amp) to the speaker cabinet? How powerful is your amplifier?
For starters, let’s look at guitar cables: It is generally accepted that running an unbalanced signal (like guitar cables) over 20ft is a less-than-ideal move. Due to the nature of an unbalanced cable, the shielding (which is also the ground) actually acts like an antenna for external noise or interference. The longer the cable, the more apparent this becomes. In addition, capacitance is added with increased length and acts as a low-pass filter bleeding off treble frequencies.
What does all this mean and how does it affect your situation? Well, this means that a higher-end cable (usually described as low-capacitance) will often give the impression of more treble response and have less distortion and noise. Anything less than around 10ft probably won’t make a huge difference, but in today’s world of giant pedalboards and lengthier cable runs, this can be crucial to your tone. In reality, the cable isn’t increasing anything, it’s just taking away less. We use Mogami cables for our demo cables and in our personal lives as well. Most of the crew uses Mogami Platinum or Overdrive cables. These are pricey, but come with a lifetime warranty and have won every blind test we have tried here at Righteous.
While many people will have no problem accepting the fact that instrument cables affect the tone of a guitar, it seems a little harder to believe that speaker cables can make a difference. In short….they do. We have done similar blind tests with speaker cables and discovered that all of us could hear a difference. The custom made speakers cables that Mogami makes for us again took the win. There seemed to be more bass response, tighter top end, and less “sizzle”. in reality, it just means that those frequencies were not boosted, but were just coming through more truly. The power of the amp definitely makes a difference here with lower powered amps often not seeing as noticeable a difference as their higher powered peers. That’s not to say there is no difference, but that it may not be enough to mean much to you.
So ……does it matter??
Yes. Yes it does. Does it matter enough to drop a few hundred dollars on cables for a small improvement in your tone? Two things to consider when asking this question: 1. These cables are often lifetime warrantied, meaning you never have to buy them again and often have nice features like a muting jack on one side. 2. How much have you invested in the rest of your rig? Do you have several thousand dollars into your guitar? Your amp? Maybe just in your pedalboard? If the answer is yes, then it seems like a no brainer to try and get the absolute most out of your setup.
In the end, its all up to you and your ears.