Instrument Cable Shootout
So you wind up some copper, then wrap that in any number of materials, then fire a signal down it. Signal comes out on the other end. Success!!! Or is it? There are a ton of companies out there right now making a killing on the “high end” cable market. Their claim is that the cable they make is somehow better than the cheaper guys in the game. More often than not, they’re not claiming a higher build quality, but rather a higher sound quality. Some guys buy into it, and swear by using only “brand X” cables. Others assume it’s nothing but hype and marketing and stick with their $10 or $15 guitar cables. So is their any merit to the claims? We shall see.
I’ve compared to cables that represent either end of this market. One is a typical Fender California cable. This is pretty representative of most cables in this price point, both in build quality and the perceived “sound quality.” The other cable I’m using is a Monster Rock cable. This costs roughly 4 times as much as the Fender cable and is par for the course for most of the cables in this price range from any number of higher end cable companies.
One thing worth noting before we get into the subjective stuff is the build quality. Anyone with fingers and a brain can tell that the Monster is built better. The jacketing is much more durable (I’ve dropped or rolled many a cabinet over this cable without doing any real damage), the connectors are heavy duty, and the whole thing just feels very solid. The fender cables, and many others in that range have a very flimsy jacketing which is easy to smash, crimp, cut, and eventually short out the cable. The connectors are your typical 1/4″ jacks, nothing to heavy duty, and the strain relief doesn’t seem all too great.
One other thing worth noting is the warranty. Almost every cable out there, cheap or pricey, has a lifetime warranty but to quote the great movie Tommy Boy, “A guarantee is only as good as the man behind it.” I’ve tried to get replacement or repaired cables from some of the cheaper guys out there before and it usually takes upwards of 5-6 weeks and it’s a nightmare getting the claim started at all. With Monster, and MOST of the other high end brands that I’ve dealt with, they’re very responsive, easy to get in touch with, and the two times that I can think of when I had to get cables repaired or replaced (both due to my own, or my friends’ stupidity), the replacements were at my door within a week. What good is a warranty if you have to buy a replacement cable while waiting months to get your free one?
Onto the subjective stuff. I won’t say which cable sounds better, or worse, as that’s for you to decide. I will simply say that I hear a massive difference between the two.
I hope you enjoyed the comparison. Let me know what you heard in the files above. Can you hear a big difference? Which do you prefer? Are you a cable fanatic or does it all just seem like snake oil?
Until Next Time
The Bearded Man