#1
Today I bought some higher quality instrument cable (as in, $30 as opposed to 10 or 100). It's a 20 ft. ZZYZX SnapJack cable with gold-plated connectors and a shiny metal emblem adorning one end. I understand that signal quality is lost when you use a cheap instrument cable vs. a more expensive one, and deteriorates as you connect more pedals, but I'm still not clear on a few things. Plugged directly into the amp, this cable sounds much better than the cheap one I was using, but plugged into my pedalboard (which uses cheap 6" patch cables and a cheap 10' cable running to the amp) it's about the same.

What matters most? The quality of the cable, or the connector being gold instead of silver? Is the signal being worsened more when it runs through three 6" patch cables with silver connectors, or when it runs through 10' of cheap cable (also with silver connectors)?

The guy at Guitar Center said the cable running from the guitar to the pedals, and from the pedals to the amp are the most important. I'll buy another gold-ended cable tomorrow if it would significantly improve the sound quality, but if I'd have to buy expensive patch cables too, it's not worth it now.
#2
If you have any poor quality cables in between the guitar & the amp then quality will be lost. Also using a pedal board will suck loads of tone from your guitar.
Rock [James] Roll
#3
it's really about the length of the cable and what's in your signal chain.

1 feet direct into the amp will sound a bit brighter then 100 feet.

if you have a bunch of crap pedals it's gonna kill your tone.

if you have a buffer then none of that matters.
Prs se Holcomb is the answer
#4
Thanks, I was hoping someone could explain in greater detail... Don't most guitarists use a pedalboard? I imagine that an expensive MultiFX pedal still wouldn't be user-friendly and offer as much customizability (I have a cheap one to mess around with).

So is it like, the signal is worsened a little bit by every cheap cable it passes through? Or is it like, the signal is (almost) untouched as it passes through the good cable...then as soon as it hits the cheap cable, it's worsened, almost so much that the quality brought on by the better cable is completely negated?
Last edited by Exhumed91 at Jun 25, 2011,
#5
And gold plating is just a scam.
It's completely worthless unless ALL connectors are gold.
And gold will wear off faster.

And now you are considering spending yet another $30 on another cable, but ignoring your patch cables?

Here is what you do...
Learn to solder
Spend around $100 for some cable and plugs.
Then make your own cables.
#6
it's more the quality of the pedals and how they act on your signal when the pedal is off or on.
Prs se Holcomb is the answer
#7
AcousticMirror: What is a buffer? What do you mean "pedal quality"? I have a Boss tuner and tremolo, Dunlop Crybaby Wah and ProCo Rat 2 distortion pedal...I know Danelectro ones are cheaper, but pedals in general are around $70, priced based on features and not how they affect tone.

CodeMonk: What would I need to buy to do that? In the meantime I'm considering buying a good 10' cable and then only keeping one pedal plugged in at a time.

P.S. How do legit bands play wirelessly? Is that stuff expensive?
Last edited by Exhumed91 at Jun 25, 2011,
#8
I use a Planet Waves 10 ft cable and it works and sounds great. I got it for $10.
Guitars: Fender FSR Standard Strat, Squire Affinity Strat, Epiphone Nighthawk
Amps: Vox AC15C1, Roland Cube 15x, Peavey KB-1
Pedals: Digitech RP355, HD500, Joyo AC-Tone, EHX Soul Food
#9
I agree with what AcousticMirror said. The quality of the pedals and the bypass functionality should be made to be as optimum as possible, eliminating any potentiality that the pedals will be the cause of the signal loss. Of course the quality of the cable and the length matters also, I just think the pedals often have more affect on the tone.

You see, all the inputs and outputs of a pedal aren't just like having a straight cable of similar length. I don't know why technically, I just know from experience. If you have a high quality 12ft cable going straight into the amp, comparing that to having 6 feet of cable and 6 pedals with high quality patch cables and connectors, the 12ft cable will suck less tone than the pedals.

In other words, I'm disagreeing with what the Guitar Center staff member said.

Boss pedals, for instance, suck a lot of tone, and using even three of them can take away the high-end and turn your signal into high impedance, removing a great deal of the dynamics that the amp, pedals and guitar are supposed to have. So, rolling the guitar volume back will be as if your guitar didn't have a treble bleed cap installed.

Some pedals, even those that are true-bypass, have poor input/output jacks and somehow manage to disintegrate your tone ever so slightly. It's not a massive issue for most, but if you're a musician that relies on their dynamics (like myself), then every little bit counts.

Gold connectors aren't necessary but shouldn't be avoided either. Dimarzio, Cordial and Planet Waves all make reasonably priced cables that are well built and sound good. Monster Cable, Vovox, Sommer, Klotz, then, offer higher grade stuff that is better again. Some argue that there is no difference, but cables aren't supposed to be dramatically different, they're just supposed to help your tone slightly. If that costs twice as much then that's what it costs.
#10
Quote by Exhumed91
AcousticMirror: What is a buffer? What do you mean "pedal quality"? I have a Boss tuner and tremolo, Dunlop Crybaby Wah and ProCo Rat 2 distortion pedal...I know Danelectro ones are cheaper, but pedals in general are around $70, priced based on features and not how they affect tone.

CodeMonk: What would I need to buy to do that? In the meantime I'm considering buying a good 10' cable and then only keeping one pedal plugged in at a time.



Cable:
I suggest this brand and number. Shop around though. Maybe better prices:
http://www.performanceaudio.com/cgi/product_view.cgi?products_id=5598

Plugs :
http://www.smallbearelec.com/Categories.bok?category=Plugs%2C+Jacks+and+Fittings&searchpath=2840896&start=17&total=65
Take your pick.
Again shop around. These are just 2 places that I have ordered from before.

And a soldering iron and some solder.
Last edited by CodeMonk at Jun 25, 2011,
#11
Okay, so I've been thinking about this entirely the wrong way. The cable quality matters, but what I should probably do is leave less pedals connected. Maybe I'll get 10 feet of better cable with gold connectors and a 6" gold connector patch cable, and stick with a two-pedal setup when I'm concerned about tone.

What is a buffer? and what does this mean? "...turn your signal into high impedance and remove a lot of the dynamics that the amp, pedals and guitar are supposed to have. So, rolling the guitar volume back will be as if your guitar didn't have a treble bleed cap in it."

...here's a dilemma. Why in the hell would I leave my Boss tuner connected if I'm going to use it for 2 minutes tops every time I play, and it's going to deteriorate the signal? How do legit stage musicians tune up during a gig?
#12
That Cry Baby may be a tone sucker. You should remove the pedals from your pedalboard and add them back one at a time looking for signal degradation. The secret to solving these problems is a methodical approach.

When you add a pedal that sucks tone, then try it all by itself without the patch cable you added with it to see if it's the patch cable of the pedal. Cables have capacitance that shorts the highs to ground. And different cables can have different capacitance. Also cable can have faults in the connectors that have soft shorts or capacitive shorts to ground. Quality cables aren't better because of the gold plating, but better because they avoid faulty construction. But a cheap cable can be good and an expensive cable can be bad.

So the best tool you have is your ability to track down and diagnose the problem.

A buffer is a circuit that converts your weak signal into a stronger signal. Not stronger as in amplified, but stronger as in being able to deliver current without dropping voltage. A guitar pickup has an internal impedance that is frequency dependent. Any high capacitance cable or low impedance input will load down the pickup. A buffer has a lower internal impedance and can deliver more current when loaded by a lower impedance input.
#13
Quote by Exhumed91
...here's a dilemma. Why in the hell would I leave my Boss tuner connected if I'm going to use it for 2 minutes tops every time I play, and it's going to deteriorate the signal? How do legit stage musicians tune up during a gig?
Some tuners have buffers built into them. You might ask specifically about your model. Maybe someone knows. Or even write to technical support at Boss and ask them if the tuner has a buffer. And ask them about the input impedance. A good input impedance is 500K or higher.
Last edited by fly135 at Jun 25, 2011,
#14
A buffer is essentially a basic circuit compacted into a tiny enclosure that restores the guitar tone to low impedance. High impedance is not good for tone. It has no highs, lows or mids, and is not dynamic. A buffer restores that by 'boosting' your signal strength. The cost and size of them range from the size of a watch face at $40 to the size of a shoe at $250.

People leave their Boss tuners in because Boss pedals are buffers themselves and sometimes do help elevate the tone, so that it continues through the cables without too much signal loss. But if I'm honest, I don't know why so many musicians use them since the buffer is poorly designed and does detract from the original tone. Maybe these musicians don't have the ear that we expect them to have considering their talent, or maybe they just don't care when they're on stage.

It seems to me that you should have the pedal tuner plugged in at all times or else there would be no point to having one at all. You could just use a normal hand-held one that you plug your guitar into between songs. But there are true-bypass tuners out there that work perfectly fine, like the Korg Turbo Tuner, my personal one. TC Electronic also make a very popular one that doesn't take away from your sound.

One way to restore the dynamics and high-end lost from Boss pedals is to invest in another buffer, but this time a dedicated one. A small boutique company in America makes a very popular buffer. The company is called This1sMyne. It costs around $40, I think. I just bought one and am awaiting its arrival. It should help restore some tone to my amp. You place it at the start of the signal chain.

Some people actually like to use two, one at the beginning and one at the end, while others don't like them at all because they can mess with dirt pedals sometimes. You have to experiment. The Fryette Valvulator is great because it works in just about any set-up, and also offers a power supply. But it's expensive, large, heavy and requires a valve which do need replacing on occasions. Like I said, experiment, if you can.

If you don't need 10 feet of cable then don't use 10 feet.
#15
Thanks! You basically answered my remaining questions, but I still have a very limited understanding of circuitry and its associated terminology...can anyone provide a link to help me learn about it? I don't know much about "impedance" or "capacitance" or "shorting the highs to the ground" or "soft shorts", and Wikipedia didn't help much.

Educate me please! I don't want to be the idiot who pays someone $20 to swap out the pickup on my guitar. I like to have expert knowledge on anything I take seriously.
#16
Wow, you're a really cool newbie. We don't come across many of those. Humble and grammatically literate.

The stickies in this forum should probably tell you everything you need to know about that type of thing. Let me just check to make sure...

... okay, no it doesn't. We'll have to correct that. Let me Google it for you.
#17
most pro's have custom switch boards that only keep the pedals that are absolutely necessary in the signal at any time.

you don't need expensive cables.

what you should buy is an expensive buffer.

http://www.lavacable.com/lava.html

that's the most you should have to spend.
Prs se Holcomb is the answer
#19
Impedance is the resistance of the flow of electricity through a circuit. The difference between impedance and resistance is that impedance is resistance that is frequency related. Since audio is electricity at a frequency (also called AC or alternating current), we speak in terms of impedance rather than resistance.

Capacitance is a type of resistance that becomes less resistive as frequencies go high. A cable has capacitance between the signal wire and the ground wire. A hard short would just suck the signal to ground. Like if you cut the bottom of a bowl off everything would fall out. A soft short is where the impedance to ground is lower by not completely shorted. Like if you poked a small whole in the bowel and it slowly leaked.

A battery has an internal impedance. That's why when you short a battery it doesn't deliver all the energy it contains in a split instance of times. All circuits have an internal impedance than impedes the flow of electricity leaving the circuit. A buffer converts the signal path by lowering the internal impedance and therefore is capable of delivering more signal if devices following it have a lower impedance. Like say a cable with high capacitance to ground.

Read up on Ohms law as that is the most basic principle that everything you want to know is based on. The 3 basic parameters of a circuit are voltage, current, and resistance (impedance). They are all interdependent and that relationship is described by Ohms Law.
#21
Thanks a lot guys, I'll dig through all that info later tonight. Thanks AngryGoldfish. I'm not new to the site and I've been playing for 7 years, so I figure it's time to learn about my equipment...I meet sooo many guitarists (around Pittsburgh) who have been playing every day for a decade and can shred like nobody's business, on their Squier Strats and 15 watt amps.
#22
Quote by fly135
Impedance is the resistance of the flow of electricity through a circuit. The difference between impedance and resistance is that impedance is resistance that is frequency related. Since audio is electricity at a frequency (also called AC or alternating current), we speak in terms of impedance rather than resistance.

Capacitance is a type of resistance that becomes less resistive as frequencies go high. A cable has capacitance between the signal wire and the ground wire. A hard short would just suck the signal to ground. Like if you cut the bottom of a bowl off everything would fall out. A soft short is where the impedance to ground is lower by not completely shorted. Like if you poked a small whole in the bowel and it slowly leaked.

A battery has an internal impedance. That's why when you short a battery it doesn't deliver all the energy it contains in a split instance of times. All circuits have an internal impedance than impedes the flow of electricity leaving the circuit. A buffer converts the signal path by lowering the internal impedance and therefore is capable of delivering more signal if devices following it have a lower impedance. Like say a cable with high capacitance to ground.

Read up on Ohms law as that is the most basic principle that everything you want to know is based on. The 3 basic parameters of a circuit are voltage, current, and resistance (impedance). They are all interdependent and that relationship is described by Ohms Law.


Great post man. Really helpful
#23
+1 to all of Fly's posts.

The "tone suck" is probably coming from your CryBaby, and maybe the Boss pedals to a lesser extent. Taking these out of the chain if they're not necessary or modding them for better response if the ideal solution. If you mod the buffers in the Boss pedals so that they have a higher input impedance and flatter frequency response, you won't need any high quality cables other than the one from guitar to board.

Also relating to cables, gold connectors are bull shit. Every single connection in your signal path would have to be gold as well for it to make any difference and even then it wouldn't be audible since DC resistance doesn't much matter in a guitar cable, especially when the difference would be a few Ohms.

The specs you should look at are capacitance, the ends, and the shield coverage. Low capacitance cables roll of less high end per foot. Higher % of shield coverage leads to better noise rejection and the ends are the most stressed part of the cable and therefore need to be the highest quality. Neutrik and Switchcraft are the brands you want, though sometimes you get lucky with copies.

The reason capacitance changes frequency response (at least in the case of cables) is because of a property called resonance. When a circuit resonates, it does so at a certain frequency. Everything around this frequency is boosted due to the resonance and everything above it is cut pretty heavily. The inductance in your circuit is from your pickups and the capacitance is from both your pickups and cables. As either increases, you move the resonant frequency down, causing more highs to be rolled off and a different frequency to be boosted.
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