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Can You Hear a Difference Between These Guitar Cables?

There has been an argument that musicians and engineers have debated for years. Do cables sound different? Many say no, some say yes.

Some believe it’s the power of suggestion that makes you believe there is a difference. Some believe only those with a heightened sense of hearing notice any difference.

It Makes No Difference

Personally, I hear a difference. Not between every cable, but between certain brands of cable.

There are a lot of people that throw around science to back either claim. My point in this article is not to talk science, but to listen.

Round Table Discussion

I want us to compare and debate whether we hear a change or not.

I never wanted to believe there was a difference. I’d buy various cables I liked the look of, but I noticed that I really didn’t like the way some of them sounded.

In my earlier days, I couldn’t put my finger on why I didn’t like them. I never really considered that a cable could affect my tone.

I did have a favorite cable from day one though. A cheap guitar cable made from a company named Gorilla. Anyone remember those? They were a cheap student amplifier company from the early 90’s.

There was nothing really special about those amps. But, the white cable I inherited from a friend just had a sound.

It’s hard to say if it’s the best sound or just one that I grew to know and rely on.

Alonely

I’m not the only one who is particular about cables.

A well-known guitarist sat in with my band once at a low key NYC gig. He accidentally left his cable onstage.

Turns out that was his favorite cable. He was relieved to have it returned.

Money, Money, Money

The irony about my gorilla cable is it wasn’t an expensive cable at all. It wasn’t made by Monster or Mogami.

I have yet to find cable price a determining factor in the quality of sound. Most of the “high end” cables I’ve tried, I didn’t like.

I won’t go anywhere near Monster cable. They seem to have distorted some of the truths on audio cable sound. They use clever marketing to blur the subject.

Subjective

As we all know (and some don’t respect), sound is subjective. One person’s love is another person’s discontent. To say a cable sounds bad is strictly opinion. It’s not about what sounds better, but that they sound different.

Even with all this nit-picking, it’s worth mentioning that many have recorded some of the most iconic recordings without the same type of options we have today.

The Beatles did ok, right? For most of us though, that’s not comforting. In many cases, it’s not always about the sound, but the feeling you get while you do it.

This is largely true for musicians and why they choose certain amps, pedals, etc. You start to strip these things away and the playing changes because the feeling changes.

The Stage Is Set

I’m going to use a few instrument cables for this example. The same could be said for microphone and patch cables though.

Let’s take a look at the contenders:

IMG_4123

This is the 25 year old Gorilla cable I mentioned earlier. Funny that a cheap cable is still in great working condition, while other more expensive cables have bit the dust.

 

FullSizeRender_2

A new Lava Retro Cable. This cable is designed similar to the cables Hendrix and Clapton used in the 60’s. This is becoming my new favorite cable.

 

IMG_4124

Just an old fashioned Conquest cable. Nothing special except that it’s a workhorse.


Example 1:

Fender American Strat + Boss RC30 Looper + Softube Vintage Amp Room.

I wanted to hear the difference when the same exact performance passed through different cables.

1. Coil

 

2. Conquest

 

3. White

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I hear no difference. Starting to feel like I’ve been imagining things. Do my friends really exist? Is this why I get strange looks on the F Train?


Example 2:

Softube Vintage Amp Room amp simulator + Fender American Strat

1. Coil

 

2. Conquest

 

3. White

 

Wait a minute! I hear some differences. Hmm …


Example 3:

American Stratocaster + Victoria 35115 + Cascade Fat Head II + Logic Pro X

FullSizeRender_1

1. Coil

 

2. Conquest

 

3. White

 

I hear a difference in these examples as well. It seems that when the digital pedal was in the chain, it corrupted the core tone.

When we used guitar into cable into an amp or amp sim, the subtle variances were audible.

Signal Loss

This begs the question, if you wire your studio up with cable, will the type of cable matter after it passes through enough gear?

Is the difference only audible when the connections are between two or more sources?

Summing It Up

What does all this mean? It means that everything is a sum of your tone or recording chain. You can make music with anything. However, since we have such access today, we may as well find all the individual parts that compliment our preference.

Engineers and musicians, chime in on your experiences.

Learn More

Take your guitar tone, productions and recordings to the next level with the debut course from Mark Marshall: Producing & Recording Electric Guitar

Includes 9+ hours of in-depth training on all aspects of guitar. There are many variables that can impact the tone and quality of a guitar recording — from setup, string gauge, amps and pickups, to processing, effects and miking. Mark breaks it all down so you can confidently create awesome guitar tone and take your mixes, productions, performances and recordings to the next level.

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Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall is a producer, songwriter, session musician and instructor based in NYC. More at guitaristmarkmarshall.com

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