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As guitarists and bassists, most of our major purchases go towards amps, pedals and other gear, often overlooking what’s connecting it all together: cables.
Cheap and low-quality cables might get the basic job done, but can start to cause problems and wear down in the long run. Plugs often get bent, ends become loose, and wires inside start to either fray or drop the connection. Having to tighten the cable up or adjust it every time you play can get annoying, particularly if you’re performing, as having the sound cutting out in the middle of a song just isn’t an option. A reliable and durable cable should be an important part of your setup.
What Makes a Good Guitar Cable?
There are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for the best guitar cable for you.
Style: A cable with an angled 90º plug is a great attribute to go for if you’re worried about keeping your 1/4″ jack intact, or from popping out of the amp mid-performance. Similarly, a sealed-up tip, as opposed to the screw-on type, can provide a more solid and steadier feel, and take rougher treatment on the road. Having some textured crimping on the jack’s end can help secure it in place too when plugged in to a preamp, pedal or regular amp.
Material: Strength and durability matters for the body of the cable itself as well. A simple, flimsy plastic or rubber casing can’t stand up to constant contorting, and will eventually tear open, exposing the wires inside. A cable with tough stitching acts as an outer shell or exoskeleton, and is the way to go if you know it’ll need to take a beating like getting shoved into the van nightly with other gear stacked on top of it (an easily untangle-able cable will save you headaches too).
Length: Length is something to keep in mind. While it doesn’t necessarily affect the sound quality as long as it’s a well-built cable, a too-short cord can be physically limiting, and tether you close to your amp. Get some extra slack, so you’ve got room to move around and get comfortable, especially on stage.
Components: What’s inside counts too. Oxygen-free copper is common, due to its slightly higher conductivity, durability, and resistance to shorting out. It’s also less likely to corrode, and offers some protection from interferences. With a cheaper cable, you’re more likely to get humming and buzzing, while a higher-end cable’s materials give more protection against unwanted signals and noises.
Sound: Finally, last but definitely not least, sound. It may be hard to notice on some of the more common cables, but different builds and brands bring out varying parts of the sound spectrum, some with a focus on mid-range, others on bass or high-end. The ideal one for you is what works best with the style you want to play, and the tone you ultimately want to replicate.
1. World’s Best Cable Mogami 10-Foot Cable
It’s a lofty name, but this is a manufacturer that clearly cares about their product and scrutinizes every last detail.
Guitarists might be familiar with them for use as smaller patch cables, but the full-length ones deliver just as well, coming through with crisp clarity and low noise thanks to the high quality pure copper center.
Built with Mogami 2524 wire and Neutrik NP2RX-B ¼ Inch gold plating, the cable contains a 4% silver solder blend made with a nitrogen-assisted soldering process that’s unique to the company. It’s a best bet for bringing the best sound from your instrument to the amp, and staying within your band’s budget too (though if you want to spring for a pricier model, there are plenty of options).
2. GLS Audio 20-Foot Guitar Instrument Cable
GLS has created a cable that’s tough enough for daily use, flexible for freely moving around the stage, and sounds great too.
They’re protected with a conductive PVC shield as well as an oxygen-free copper insulated shield, and have a nicely low Picofarad rating (the ability of a body to store an electrical charge, where lower is better) at only 38pf.
They’re also equipped with external and internal rubber heat shrink strain reliefs, as well as a metal clamp strain relief, beefing up its durability and performance to last you years with regular usage.
3. D’Addario American Stage Instrument Cable
D’Addario is one of the top producers of musical gear in the world, and has been at it since 1974, though the founding family started making strings as far back as the late 1600s.
Their American Stage collection is specifically designed for the rigors of being on the road, setting up and tearing down every night, with 100% shielded coverage and 95% tinned copper braiding to cut unwanted noises down. The helio-fused soldering sets a strong ground connection, increasing the cable’s durability against wear and tear, while the gold-plated patented Geo-Tip design helps lock in a more stable grip to whatever it’s plugged into.
Signal transfer is crisp too, with low interference so just the tone of your instrument shines through. Plus it’s made in the USA, and guaranteed for life. This is a 10-foot cable though other sizes are available.
4. Monoprice Braided Cloth 1/4″ Guitar/Instrument Cable
Monoprice’s cable does more than just get the job done. Gold-plated connectors at each tip are smooth and corrosion-free, with a straight 1/4″ TS plug at one end and one right-angle 1/4″ TS plug at the other. The blue-braided cloth jacket protects the body all over (and is also aesthetically pleasing too), significantly more so than a plastic coating.
Interference noise is kept to a minimum, making this great for musicians with a home recording setup.