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  1. #1

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    I've always remained willfully ignorant about these because I wanted to avoid rabbit holes and diminishing returns. I used pretty much one cable for 4 years (at some point I might have bought a duplicate to live in the gig bag) which I think I ordered from Sweetwater or something like that. I can't remember the brand but it sounded decent and didn't coil up too much in my small practice area thus minimizing tripping risk. Good enough.

    Along the way I picked up a couple of Intex cables from Michael Biller (RIP) when I'd pass through Seattle and hang.

    More recently I picked up the Henriksen cable because the Intex are really heavy and I wanted something very compact/light for certain travel applications and for times when I have to jam a bunch of stuff into my gig bag's pocket. The heavy Intex was ruining loose sheet music.

    Anyway, I recently used the Intex cables in my practice room and couldn't quite understand why my overall sound seemed so much better. I chalked it up to practice and some recent gig experience (you know what they say about gig hours vs practice hours), but then I started A/B-ing between the Intex and my "old" cable. There is a very noticeable difference and everything sounds much better with the Intex. At some point I'll A/B with the Henriksen cable but I think for most applications I'll use the Intex now.

    Yes, I'm prepared to concede that instrument cables can make a noticeable difference. But I'm not going down any rabbit holes. I'll stick with what I've got.

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  3. #2

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    Can you describe in what way they sounded better? More or less treble, etc.?

  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by KirkP View Post
    Can you describe in what way they sounded better? More or less treble, etc.?
    Mostly that it sounds "fuller" and clearer. More body. Seems there is a little more edge to the tone too (I'm using SS amps, which can sound too clean-ish sometimes esp. at lower volumes).

    But you know, there might also be some synergies between the cables and my Lollar CC hb-size pick-up...because I'm pretty sure I used the Intex in my Lollar Imperial HB days and did not notice such a difference. I think the CC lets a lot of extra goodness pass through the signal, and the better cable is helping me hear that.

  5. #4

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    The impedance of the cable does make a difference in the sound. Higher impedance gives a muddier sound with less treble. I've solved the problem, for me, by not using a cable. I use a wireless rig, Line6 Relay G10, and the sound is much livelier, fuller, and the whole thing fits in the compartment in a guitar case. I do need a cable to connect the receiver to an amp, but it doesn't need to be long, and the impedance isn't a factor because it's line level coming out. There are other wireless systems available, some much more compact than what I have, but I have no desire to switch, because the receiver of the G10 also functions as a DI box, with both 1/4" and XLR outputs. I often just use it that way into a PA, with the receiver near the PA and a short XLR cable between them, no amp needed. All I need to carry is the gig bag with everything I need inside it. Cables between the guitar and the amp do make a difference in the sound, but the best sound, IMO, is without that cable. But in the end, it's whatever works best for each individual.

  6. #5

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    Intex cables are made from Belden microphone cable, which is unusual for instrument cable since it’s two conductors in a shield rather than one. Standard guitars and amps only have one inner conductor in a shield, so I wonder how they wire it at the plugs.

    For magnetic pickups tone is only effected by the cable capacitance, which is capacitance per unit length times cable length (between the guitar and the first preamp or buffer). The capacitance per unit length of that Belden product isn’t particularly low, but 12 feet of it apparently is a good match to your pickup and your tastes.

  7. #6

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    Ironically, coiled cables take the opposite approach and they can sound very good too.

    I have a very nice expensive coiled cable that I won from a local guitar shop and it sounds really good, but I find it a bit inconvenient.
    On the other end of the sonic spectrum, I think George L's sound great too. Mostly I just use a mid price Mogami that works fine and is light and easy to coil -- however my bass player had the same cable and it crapped out. Go figure.

    Welcome to the rabbit hole

  8. #7

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    I shouldn't post while watching baseball. Capacitance is indeed what I meant, not impedance. They both end in 'ance' though.

  9. #8

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    Those are pricey cables yet I have trouble with regular giving me that "shorted out" sound. (And I know my jack is fine--I had it replaced.) So maybe it's time for a serious cable upgrade.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  10. #9

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    Intex says they use Belden 8412.
    Belden 8412 20 AWG Non-Paired Microphone Cable - Per Foot

    But they say it’s welded to the connector instead of soldering or crimping. I wonder how they manager that. I can’t find any other company that claims to be able to weld coax connections. I can’t think of any electrical advantage but maybe it’s more rugged.

    I’ve never found any audible difference between good quality cables. I have had cheap ones that were poorly shielded, staticky, or just plain failed. When I choose which cable to bring to a gig, it’s mostly based on mechanical differences.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    I shouldn't post while watching baseball. Capacitance is indeed what I meant, not impedance. They both end in 'ance' though.
    High capacitance results in high impedance, so no redface required. :-)

  12. #11

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    All good comments, thanks all. I am old school-ish and kind of a luddite so I'll stick with an instrument cable instead of going wireless (noteworthy: I am also opposed to wireless audio). I don't want to worry about batteries or anything else. I don't even use pedals...can't be bothered. As for the rabbit hole, NOT HAPPENING lol. Intex is plenty good enough for me and I'm not going to chase diminishing returns from here. It's already a big step up from whatever I was using** before.

    **hmmm...looks like they were PRS branded cables FYI. Not sure how I got into those but they were decent and never shorted out.

    Summary: I can highly recommend Intex.

  13. #12

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    Guitar cable reactance becomes another active element in the tone circuit.

  14. #13

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    When I received the first of my Evidence guitar cables, I found a new richness of tone, almost like getting a new and better amp. More tone, more fullness, and as a result a better feel while playing the same guitar.

  15. #14

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    Pickup manufacturers design them with the understanding that there will be some capacitive loading due to the cable, so eliminating the cable (e.g., by going wireless or using a guitar mounted preamp) might end up with a different tone than the designer intended. The designer might have done things a little differently if the pickup were intended to be isolated from the cable capacitance. But if you prefer that tone that’s all that matters. Just don’t assume that no loading automatically means it’s better.

  16. #15

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    I remember reading somewhere that Eddie Van Halen used only cables that are 20' or longer because they provided the tone he liked.

    Can any of the more electronically erudite forum members please explain how cable length would affect tonal response if all other things are equal? i.e. if you are using your favorite cable (Intex, whatever) how will length affect frequency response?

    Thanks

    SJ

  17. #16

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    Greater length inevitably leads to greater capacitance, which results in reduced treble response. You can get pretty much the same result by using cable that has a higher capacitance per foot. Cable capacitance is measured in picoFarads per foot (pF/ft), and can vary a lot between different cables. Most people want lower capacitance, particularly if the cable is carrying data, where that is a critical factor. But depending on the preferred tone, some prefer guitar cables with higher capacitance. But no matter the application or preference, capacitance always increases with length.

  18. #17

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    It's interesting. Scott Henderson was talking about the key to getting Hendrix live tone and he said a big part was that Hendrix ran 50 foot coiled cables when playing. Running through that much cable actually became part of his sound, even if it wasn't intentional.

    I've experimented a bit and found a definite difference. Sinasoid makes great custom cables and they have a tone of cable choices along with the specs of each wire.

    Cable Builder | Sinasoid
    On the Turntable: Steve Reich - Phases (box set), Fred Frith Guitar Quartet - Ayaya Moses
    Guitar:
    Fender AVRI '59 w/ TI Swing 11s and Tyson Tone pickups
    Through: Polytone Mini Brute II

  19. #18

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    If I roll off the treble control I'm adding capacitance.

    If I go to a longer cable I'm adding capacitance.

    Are those two things electronically identical? In each case, you're connecting your signal to ground through a capacitor. In the first case, you're increasing the amount of signal that goes through the capacitor with lowering the resistance setting of the pot. In the second case you're connecting the signal to ground through a capacitor (the cable, with no resistor).

    I'm curious how that works. I'm wondering if it makes any sense at all to worry about cable capacitance if you're intentionally adding capacitance with the tone control anyway. Meaning, somebody running a Tele wide open might hear a difference between a high capacitance cable and a lower one. But, a HB player who rolls off highs anyway -- why would that player care about the cable capacitance?

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Mack View Post
    When I received the first of my Evidence guitar cables, I found a new richness of tone, almost like getting a new and better amp. More tone, more fullness, and as a result a better feel while playing the same guitar.
    This is what I experienced with the Intex paired with my Lollar CC (in a guitar I've had for 6 years btw, so I am quite familiar with it).

    Regarding cable lengths, I don't think I ever mentioned it but my Intex cables are 12' whereas my old PRS cable is 10'. The Henriksen Gossamer is also 12'.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by rmpmcdermott View Post
    It's interesting. Scott Henderson was talking about the key to getting Hendrix live tone and he said a big part was that Hendrix ran 50 foot coiled cables when playing. Running through that much cable actually became part of his sound, even if it wasn't intentional.

    hendrix used coil cables from his guitar to 3 or 4 pedals...that had 2 or 3 short cables between them...and then ran another long cable from last pedal to his amp...which usually fed another cable (out the extra input jack) into another marshall stack

    with all that going on...5 or 6 cables!! plus a noisy single coil strat!!!...& its hard to attribute the frequency response of his tone to any specific point! haha

    cheers

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    If I roll off the treble control I'm adding capacitance.

    If I go to a longer cable I'm adding capacitance.

    Are those two things electronically identical? In each case, you're connecting your signal to ground through a capacitor. In the first case, you're increasing the amount of signal that goes through the capacitor with lowering the resistance setting of the pot. In the second case you're connecting the signal to ground through a capacitor (the cable, with no resistor).

    I'm curious how that works. I'm wondering if it makes any sense at all to worry about cable capacitance if you're intentionally adding capacitance with the tone control anyway. Meaning, somebody running a Tele wide open might hear a difference between a high capacitance cable and a lower one. But, a HB player who rolls off highs anyway -- why would that player care about the cable capacitance?
    Thanks for the info - another question (down the rabbit hole we go!):

    In a typical passive mag PUP circuit (eg old Gibby with HBs) how/why does rolling off the volume control also decrease treble? Is that adding capacitance as well? Why does rolling off volume change tone in a different way (to my ears, at least) than rolling off the tone control? (I would imagine that overall signal level must interact with capacitance, but IDK nearly enough about it....)

    This comes up because I like to use a passive (old EB) volume pedal for a variety of reasons, and when it started getting scratchy I pulled it from the signal chain till I could clean it up. (The EBs are a giant PITA to take apart and put back together.) I noticed two things:

    - even when wide open, it reduced my volume a bit.
    - it mellows out the tone in a way that is quite nice.

    BTW, I put it into the fx loop of a Fender tweed, with or without additional processing, depending on the gig. Thus, it's between the preamp and the power amp, not between the guitar and the preamp; the guitar is going straight into input 1. For grins, tho, I'm gonna try input 2 based on some of that discussion about the Princeton... I thought #2 was just lower gain, didn't know (never really tried) it had different sonics. It would seem that other Fender amps might have this characteristic too...

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic View Post
    hendrix used coil cables from his guitar to 3 or 4 pedals...that had 2 or 3 short cables between them...and then ran another long cable from last pedal to his amp...which usually fed another cable (out the extra input jack) into another marshall stack

    with all that going on...5 or 6 cables!! plus a noisy single coil strat!!!...& its hard to attribute the frequency response of his tone to any specific point! haha

    cheers
    Totally! But I gotta feel like all that cable had some effect on the end result. And damn, do I love the end result!
    On the Turntable: Steve Reich - Phases (box set), Fred Frith Guitar Quartet - Ayaya Moses
    Guitar:
    Fender AVRI '59 w/ TI Swing 11s and Tyson Tone pickups
    Through: Polytone Mini Brute II

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    If I roll off the treble control I'm adding capacitance.

    If I go to a longer cable I'm adding capacitance.

    Are those two things electronically identical? In each case, you're connecting your signal to ground through a capacitor. In the first case, you're increasing the amount of signal that goes through the capacitor with lowering the resistance setting of the pot. In the second case you're connecting the signal to ground through a capacitor (the cable, with no resistor).

    I'm curious how that works. I'm wondering if it makes any sense at all to worry about cable capacitance if you're intentionally adding capacitance with the tone control anyway. Meaning, somebody running a Tele wide open might hear a difference between a high capacitance cable and a lower one. But, a HB player who rolls off highs anyway -- why would that player care about the cable capacitance?
    There are some major differences between the effects of the typical guitar tone control vs. cable capacitance:
    1. The tone control is connected directly to the pickup, before the volume control (unless you have what’s known as the “vintage” wiring), so it will couple strongly to the pickup.
    2. The cable capacitance is obviously after the volume control. When the volume control is full up it will be connected directly to the pickup, but as the volume is rolled back it become more isolated from the pickup.
    3. The capacitor in the tone control is something on the order of 50-100 times greater than the capacitance of the instrument cable and has a very high resistance in series with it (unless you roll the tone pot way back). There is negligible resistance in series with with the capacitance of the cable, so you might think of it as a tone control with a very small capacitor, but the tone pot set to minimum.

    So while the cable capacitance can have a similar effect to a tone control (rolling off highs), the shape of the frequency response curve is likely to be much different. If you dig around the internet you can find calculated frequency responses of various pickups with tone controls and cables, but I’m going to resist going down that rabbit hole to get outside and enjoy what’s left of the afternoon.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by rmpmcdermott View Post
    It's interesting. Scott Henderson was talking about the key to getting Hendrix live tone and he said a big part was that Hendrix ran 50 foot coiled cables when playing. Running through that much cable actually became part of his sound, even if it wasn't intentional.

    I've experimented a bit and found a definite difference. Sinasoid makes great custom cables and they have a tone of cable choices along with the specs of each wire.

    Cable Builder | Sinasoid
    Similar story with Stevie Ray Vaughan regarding coiled cable. Below is an excerpt from an interview with Cesar Diaz who was SRV's amp and sound tech.
    ****
    CD: Anyway, I sent messages to both Lenny Kravitz and Eric Johnson that part of the secret to getting great tone was using weaker pickups and coil cables. The coil cables add a lot of capacitance and inductance to your signal chain, therefore, when you're playing through a Marshall, you're cutting back on the high frequencies. When we were doing the In Step album with Stevie, I had an endorsement with Monster Cables. They would send me all of this free stuff and I was very excited because I could manage these things for a guy like Stevie, who really didn't even know how to wash dishes. All he knew how to do was play the guitar, but God bless him for that, because he really did something with what he knew. Anyway, I took these cables we got to Stevie and he said, I hate these things. I asked him, Why, man, they're the best cables in the world? He said, They pass to much electricity. Those were his exact words, and I'll never forget it as long as I live. They pass too much electricity.

    TQ : They were too efficient.


    CD : Yeah, so he sent me out to the local Radio Shack and told me to buy every gray coil cord they had and not the black ones, only the gray ones. And I thought, Hhmm, this freakin' hick from Dallas is telling me this? I got them and ran them through my capacitance meter and found out that they added like almost .05 mfd to the signal chain. That made it sound solid and it was like having a tone control, and the brightness and harshness that the Marshalls had was eliminated. There isn't a single picture of Hendrix back then they already had high-end cables, but there isn't a single picture of Hendrix where you see him playing with a straight cable. Why? This is something I brought up to Eric Johnson and whether he heard me or not I don't know, but it could be the second coming of coil cables.


    TQ: You seem to have paid a lot of close attention to Jimi Hendrix.

    CD: Well, yeah, that's how I made money and how I got the job with Stevie. I've been...
    *****

    The whole interview is here : Cesar Diaz - the last great interview from "The Tone Quest Report" - LickLibrary Forum

  26. #25

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    I've been using long cables for gigging forever. I like their high frequency loss, and the ability to check tone/volume levels on the other side of the lights. I prefer cloth-covered when I can find them, and always wear brown jersey gloves to handle cables. My last cable purchase was a long coil cord. Weighs a ton. Sounds sublime.
    Best regards, k

  27. #26

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    Re: length -- if you're so inclined, buy a 5', 10', and 20' cable (go for inexpensive for this experiment!), and compare them. They will sound different, and whether you like them or not is another thing. [One cable guy I found likes "fuller," and recommends shorter, but as others have said here, longer removes some sound (treble), and they like that.]

    Just beware of the "unicorn hair infused, 100% organic" type marketing from some brands!

    Edit: Here's a fun list from Intex.
    Last edited by marcwhy; 07-07-2019 at 11:19 AM.

  28. #27

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    There’s a product called ZeroCapCable that claims to remove the effects of cable capacitance at audio frequencies using an active device at the far end. I haven’t tried it, but their web site seems to be based on actual engineering rather than a bunch of woo.

    Even though I don’t think I need their product, their “Guitar Pickup Tone Database” is useful for understanding the effects of cable capacitance. For example, I used it to create this frequency response comparison between three hypothetical cables: a 10’ low capacitance cable, 20’ high capacitance cable, and a ZeroCap Cable. The latter is roughly equivalent to having a wireless transmitter plugged directly into the guitar, or plugging a guitar directly into the amp a very short (e.g. 1’) low capacitance cable.

    I chose Gibson neck humbuckers with 500K volume pots for this comparison. Note that their analysis assumes the volume pot is set to 10, which results in more coupling between the pickup and cable than if the volume pot were turned down a bit. I wish they allowed the comparison to be made with lower pot settings, as I think the results would be a bit different. The pickup-to-cable coupling may explain why high capacitance seems to increase the frequency response in the midrange (around 1000 Hz). I wonder if that presence peak might disappear as the volume pot is turned down.
    Here’s the site where you can enter your own parameters.
    The Guitar Pickup Tone Database | Atlantic Quality Design, Inc. Musical Products

  29. #28

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    More info about instrument cable effects.
    Measuring Guitar Cables – Mission Engineering

  30. #29

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    Excess treble is easily fixed, at least for my, either by the guitar's tone control, the amp EQ knobs, or both. I prefer having everything possible going to the amp in most cases, and then dealing with the treble with knobs instead of crappy cables. But YMMV.

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic View Post
    hendrix used coil cables from his guitar to 3 or 4 pedals...that had 2 or 3 short cables between them...and then ran another long cable from last pedal to his amp...which usually fed another cable (out the extra input jack) into another marshall stack

    with all that going on...5 or 6 cables!! plus a noisy single coil strat!!!...& its hard to attribute the frequency response of his tone to any specific point! haha

    cheers
    Once the signal hits the first preamp or buffer, the capacitance of the cable past that point doesn’t matter much because it’s completely isolated from the high impedance pickup. So, the long cable after Hendrix’s pedal board may not have had much of an effect when his pedals were engaged.

    Many (most?) modern pedals are buffered. “True bypass” pedals are only buffered when they are engaged. That’s often advertised as an advantage, but it means that when a pedal is disengaged the cable after it won’t be isolated from what came before. That’s why a number of people recommend that pedal boards have buffered pedal early in the signal chain.

    The reason professional mics are low impedance or active is to allow long cable lengths to be run without screwing up the frequency response. That’s the same principle.

    More geeky stuff on buffers, true-bypass, and cable impedance here:

    The case against true bypass

    and here:
    When Is True Bypass Appropriate? | Neunaber Audio

  32. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    Excess treble is easily fixed, at least for my, either by the guitar's tone control, the amp EQ knobs, or both. I prefer having everything possible going to the amp in most cases, and then dealing with the treble with knobs instead of crappy cables. But YMMV.
    My personal experience is different. The one thing I always find myself searching for in a guitar for jazz is a sweet mellow top end.
    And it's just not that easy to find. My ES-175 has it, my Strat does not. BTW, I'm not dissing on my strat -- it's a beast!
    I've been through a pile of jazz boxes (and pickup swaps etc) that just don't do that sweet singing top end.