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.

Fender Cable:

Monster Cable

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


~ by beardsandgear on September 22, 2010.

10 Responses to “Instrument Cable Shootout”

  1. Well, monster is a joke. They want WAY too much money for the cable. Monster is only good at one thing, Marketing! Tear into a Monster cable and see how much rubber is there and how much and thick the actual cable is.

    I ordered a roll of Mogami and made my own cables and they are much better shielding and sound than the Monster. Surprisingly, they are cheaper to make too. (I don’t know about the pre-made ones when it comes to value.)

    • Mogami makes a great cable too, and making your own will definitely come out to be cheaper than Monster. But for premade cables you have to admit there’s a pretty big difference between the Monster and the cheapo, your distaste for monster aside. 🙂

  2. Cheap cable sounds cheap and there is reason for that. The Monster cables sound better no question however I build all my studio cables and I use Mogami. That said when it comes to my guitar rig a high end premade cable will out last everything else as in most cases we get what we pay for.

  3. Monster wins this shootout, hands down. Can we have a shootout with Mogami vs. Monster?

  4. That shootout wasn’t very fair. Looking forward to a more challenging competitor for the Monster Cable.

    • True, it wasn’t a fair fight, but it wasn’t meant to be. it was meant to prove to the doubters out there that there is in fact a difference between cheap cables, and expensive cables. To those of us who have always taken that to be true, this shootout was more validation than anything.

  5. so what is the difference between monster rock and monster studio?

    • All of the Monster instrument cables (Jazz, Rock, Acoustic) are “voiced” differently. The Studiolink stuff is meant to be as neutral as possible, whereas the instrument cables are meant to “accentuate” your guitar for the style of music you’re playing. I use quotes because I don’t know how much validity there is to any of that. At the end of the day I use the instrument cables because it’s appropriate for the setting, not because of the voicing voodoo that they advertise.

  6. I agree, Monster def is brighter and more transparent. My bassist uses a Monster Bass cable and it def has better low-mids. He shorted his out at a rehearsal, took it back to the store he bought it at, and they replaced it on the spot. That makes it worth 4x as much. On the mogami issue. I’m a firm believer that mogami makes the best cables for mics. The difference they make on low frequency instruments is ridiculous.

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