3 Tips To Find Out If Your Cables Are Killing Your Tone.

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Are Your Instrument or Wireless Cables The Most Neglected Part Of Your Rig Or Setup?

This is a question that applies whether you play guitar, bass, fiddle, keys, even drums.  My name is Dustin and I'm a Musician, a Tour Manager, a Gear Enthusiast, a Jack of few trades and master of even fewer....

 If you play live, at some point there has to be a connection between your instrument and the speakers of your amp or the PA itself. (or the console, if you're in the studio)

Somewhere in the never-ending hunt for better overdrive tone, preamp settings, classic tube amps, pickup selection, etc etc, something gets missed.  We are often left longing for something that we heard in our gear at one time, but has long since vanished.  

Maybe you're already using the best quality cabling on the market,  maybe you make your own like me (see links below for some of the gear I use), or maybe you rummage through the crappy sales bin at GC. 

Whatever the case may be, here are 3 easy steps to sussing out the "tone ditch" in your signal path.

1.  Buy ONE good quality instrument cable.  

  • It doesn't have to be very long or made with an Unobtanium/Vibranium core, just good dense copper in preferably 20awg or better if you can find it.
  • Take that cable and go straight to your amplifier.  This may sound pretty elementary, but take note of what you're hearing in the tones.  Try to strip away the idea of an overdrive or any other effect we are commonly used to hearing, and try to focus on the fidelity of the notes.  On my personal bass tone, I often equate this to striking a note on a fine, grand piano.  you can hear the harmonics and breadth of the string.  Repeat this step for each stop in your signal chain...Guitar to the first pedal, pedal to pedal, last pedal to the amp.

2.  Consider the length of all the cables in your signal chain added up.

  •  Specifically, your longer instrument cables.  Cable runs over about 45' feet produce a noticeable loss of brilliance or top end.  This is intended to be helped by buffers in a lot of mass market pedals, but they can have their own demons (for another post).  
  • Typically, patch cables on your board do not factor into this equation very much, unless they are of very poor quality. (i.e. the bulky ones, with a very thick outer jacket and only a minimal amount of wire inside.)

3.  Break out the Multimeter.  (here's the one I use)

  • Use the cable from steps one and two and measure the resistance of your pickups.  Don't worry if you haven't used a meter before as most are auto sensing now.  
  • Check with your manufacturer to find out what the pickup resistance should be and then place the prongs of the meter on the sleeve and tip of the bare end of the cable and insert the other end into your instrument.   The numbers should match but if not then you have a loss of resistance in that pickup and you might consider changing it out, or conversely there might be problem with a solder joint in the jack. 

     

    So there ya have it.  3 quick tips for figuring out tone loss.  That's it for this one but here's to many more to come.  Leave comments below, don't forget to sign up for our email list at the bottom of the page and check out the store.

    Cheers!


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    • mark cvitkovich on

      hello -
      I recently ordered two new cactus cables to use between my bass and my Line6 G50. I just tried them out today and noticed that when i use an active bass they sound great! When i use a passive bass, there is a severe drop in high frequencies compared to the original cable that came with the G50, or when compared to a hard-wired setup. Any ideas why? I love the build quality of your cables but this makes them unusable with any of my passive basses.

      thanks
      mark



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