Guitar Cable: Your Tonal Foundation?

Chris Buckley, founder of Practical Patch, takes a look at the benefits of owning a good guitar cable

Here at Practical Patch, our cable of choice for nearly all our products is Van Damme XKE Pro Grade and its thinner counterpart, Pro Patch. Why? Well, it's all about a quality tonal foundation.

Consider the following: Why are certain cable and connector manufacturers preferred? Well, it's simple: it's about longevity and reliability, specifically on the road. And in the UK, Van Damme cable is the industry standard for live music and studios up and down the country.

Reliability

Not everyone uses Neutrik or Van Damme in their bedroom, but imagine you're preparing for a Wembley or Glastonbury gig in the pouring rain...you’ve got way over 1,000 Neutrik connectors soldered to thousands of metres of cable, and every single cable must function as it should first time and every time it is used. Need a fix? You can't always just pull out a soldering iron and start fuming up indoor venues. Reliability and efficiency are key in these arenas, so why not apply the same quality and peace of mind to your home setup? 

Capacitance

You may already be aware of cable capacitance and how it can impact tone, but here's a recap: the longer the cable, the more treble roll-off you can expect and conversely, the shorter the cable, the less roll-off. Are there lower capacitance options than Van Damme XKE Pro Grade? Yes, there most certainly are. Are they always going to be the solution? Well, if what a lower capacitance cable offers is something you really need, then you are going to have to go down a long and expensive road to maintain that tonal quality. 

Van Damme cable offers a good foundation for tone. It sits at under 90 pF/m and is good for cable lengths of up to 10m - however I would try to avoid a 10m cable if at all possible! 

Here's a quick and simple way to figure out if your current cable is up to the task: 

  1. Plug your cable from your guitar straight into your amp. How does it sound? Good? Well thats good!
  2. Now plug it into your pedalboard, does it sound the same? In all likelihood it doesn’t.

Problem solving

So now down to the nitty-gritty. There are many factors to consider when it comes to guitar tone. For example, do you have a large pedalboard running straight into an amp, or a more complex setup involving the four-cable method or other devices such as rack units or attenuators with built in effects loops?

Is your pedalboard currently connected with a variety of different patch cables? Are both longer and shorter cables being used over the same distances? Do they differ in construction and materials? Do they all have equal capacitance and DC resistance? Has the conductive sheathing been removed by the manufacturer? Do they all work as they should? 

These are all questions you need to ask yourself, and in the name of peace of mind then you should aim for an all-identical cable set wherever possible.

Practical Patch Guitar Cables - Boost Guitar Pedals

 

Buffering

This leads us onto buffering, which is vital for more complex setups or those with long cable runs. Even if all your cable is all identical, low capacitance and well made, a buffer can make a difference. Whether it's a standalone buffer or a pedal with a fantastic buffer built in, consider using one in your setup. 

Making a difference

The good news is, a better cable does make a difference - to reiterate, start with a good cable foundation and work your way forward from there. 

If you are only at the beginning of your guitar and pedal journey then I would highly recommend picking up some quality instrument cables that are going to last a lifetime. We build ours using Van Damme cables and Neutrik jacks. And to add an additional layer of protection (and eye-candy), we wrap it in strong Techflex braid.

I would like to reiterate one last time that, in the endlessly absorbing world of instruments, amps and pedals, your cable foundation should not be the last thing you think about!