The Best Instrument Cable

There are many brands out there touting the “best” instrument cable. It is true there is a difference in quality & attention to detail in instrument cables. To better understand which is actually the best cable for you though we need to know a few things about how a cable is made and just how it transfers the magic from inside your instrument's output jack and into your amplifier.

There are 3 main things that can effect the quality of sound in an instrument cable; length, cable gauge, and shielding. The Length is an obvious one. Think about standing next to someone and saying something to them, it would be hard for them not to hear and understand everything you said. Now walk 25-30ft away and say the same exact thing with the same volume and projection as before. With all the sound interference and space between the both of you there will be some loss in what the other person hears. Cable length works the same way. Most sound engineers say 18.5-20ft is about as far as you want to go with an instrument cable.

“Size does matter” - In the cable world this is completely true. The thicker gauge of wire used, the easier it is to get the signal from instrument to amp without loosing/coloring any of the audio-information. Another way of thinking about this is, a thicker cable will equal a more robust sound transfer. 20 gauge (or 20 AWG) wire is recommended by most cable manufacturers however some build with a thicker 18 AWG wire, too!

The last thing to consider is the shielding. A cable is usually made up of two wires; a positive wire (+) in the center and a ground wire (-) surrounding the other, preventing precious audio from escaping and from letting outside signals such as radio, tv, lighting, etc.. from getting into your tone. The two kinds of shielding we usually come across in the music world are “braided” (looks like a lattice surrounding the positive inner wire) and “spiral” (just like the word states, this type spirals around the inner core). Spiral shielding is more flexible and can take bends and twists a little better but the shielding can vary from 95%-98% do to the structure. Braided Cable is more cohesive and maintains an almost 99% shield, however it is not as flexible and can brake easier than a spiral shield can.

So, now begs the question of which cable is the "best". Well, if you are not moving around very much or are recording more a shorter cable with a braided shield would be great! Move around a lot? Maybe a cable closer to 20ft with a spiral shield is more suited for you. The “best” cable is the cable that fits your application.

Most customers leaving the shop with a new cable these days are usually carrying a CBI Prism Cloth Wound cable in their hands. CBI makes an excellent cable for the price. The cloth wrap keeps the all-American made cable from twisting and fracturing internally. Bonus! they even have a limited lifetime guarantee. We usually stock 10ft and 20ft Prisms with options for straight and right angle ends in various color patterns.

Not sure if your signal is up to snuff? Come down and see us or write us here and we will get you squared away.