What is the difference between an instrument cable and a speaker cable?

It’s important to note that you can get poor quality audio and even damage instruments and equipment by using the wrong cable type. Speaker cables are designed to carry high signal levels from power amplifiers to loudspeakers and don’t require the shielding that is essential to preserve audio quality in instrument and microphone cables. Instrument cables are designed to carry low-level instrument signals over relatively short distances, and require the proper configuration of conductors and shielding to function optimally in each application.

What is the difference between a spiral shield and a braided shield?

A Spiral shield wraps around the outside of the insulated center conductor(s) in a single direction, and can offer great flexibility and affordability in the cable. Braided shielding is a mesh braid surrounding the insulated center conductor(s), providing increased strength and greater rejection of RF interference and can provide tonal advantages for guitar and other applications.

What is the difference between gold, silver and nickel-plated connectors?

Each material has different characteristics regarding electrical conductivity and susceptibility to corrosion. Gold is generally accepted as the premium finish material for maximum electrical conductivity and won’t corrode over time or with exposure to the elements.

Is a Y-cable mono or stereo?

It depends on the application and wiring of the cable. A Y cable lets you send one output to 2 places. It is important to purchase the correct Y cable for your application.

  • Mono-to-Mono Split: routes a single mono output jack’s signal to two mono connections, such as the output of a mono pedal board into two separate guitar amplifiers.
  • Stereo-to-Dual-Mono Split routes a stereo output jack’s signal to separate Left and Right connections, like the output of a computer to left and right inputs of a power amplifier. Stereo-to-Mono splits are also used for unbalanced Insert jacks, where the splits are used for Input/Output instead of Left/Right.
  • Stereo-to-Stereo Split routes a stereo output jack’s signals to 2 stereo connections, such as a headphone splitter.
Why do some cables have two stripes on the ¼” connector?

¼” cable connectors can be 2-pin or 3-pin.

  • 1 stripe indicates a 2-pin unbalanced connector such as an instrument cable or speaker cable.
  • 2 stripes indicate a 3-pin connector that may we wired as a mono balanced signal, or dual mono unbalanced signal.
Are a DMX lighting cable and XLR Microphone Cable the same thing?

No, DMX lighting and Microphone Cables are not the same thing. DMX is a serial data protocol that requires a 110-ohm impedance for optimum data transfer. Using a DMX cable for microphone applications can result in loss of sound quality. Using an XLR Microphone cable for DMX lighting applications can result in corrupt data transfer and equipment damage.

Why would I use a “Hi-Z Transformer XLR female to ¼” male” adaptor instead of a “Hi-Z XLR female to ¼” male” cable?

A Hi-Z (high-impedance) Transformer should be used when a professional low-impedance microphone (< 600 ohms) must be plugged into a ¼” unbalanced high-impedance input (such as an instrument amp or powered mixer). This will prevent a loss of high frequency response and -6dB signal loss resulting from an impedance mismatch. A Hi-Z XLR female to ¼” male cable (unbalanced) is designed for use with a high-impedance microphone (>600 ohms).

How do I plug my computer/tablet/phone headphone output into a sound system?

Your computer/tablet/headphone has a 1/8-inch stereo output jack. Check your sound system to see what jacks you need to connect to. If your sound system accepts a 1/8-inch input jack, sometimes labeled “aux” or “MP3,” you can connect your computer/tablet/phone using a stereo cable with stereo 1/8-inch plugs on both ends. But often sound systems require ¼-inch or RCA/phono plugs, with separate connectors for left and right. If that’s the case, purchase a stereo-to-dual-mono type Y-cable, with stereo 1/8-inch jack on one end, and 2 of the type of jacks your sound system requires on the other end.

What is the difference between Balanced and Unbalanced cable?
  • Unbalanced Instrument, Interconnect, and Patch cables are the standard for inter-connecting guitars, pedals and amplifiers, and for short line level connections in basic sound systems, like connecting a keyboard or DJ deck to a nearby mixer, or patching an effect unit into a nearby mixer. Technically speaking, they are designed for low signal levels over short distances (< 20ft), featuring a single center conductor (+ positive) surrounded by a shield (- negative/ground).

  • Unbalanced Speaker cables are only used for connecting speakers to amplifiers. Technically speaking, they are designed for high-energy signals, featuring 2 center conductors (+ positive and – negative) with no shield/ground.

  • Balanced Microphone and Interconnect cables are the standard for professional microphones, and line level connections over longer distances or in more complex sound systems, especially in applications where even small amounts of noise or buzz need to be completely avoided. Technically speaking, they are designed to avoid signal loss with signals that are low level and low impedance, and can be run >100ft without signal loss. These cables feature 2 center conductors ( + positive and – negative) surrounded by a shield/ground, and are intended for use with balanced connections on audio equipment. Part of the magic of this type of connection is “common mode noise rejection,” meaning any noise or interference a signal might pick up as it travels along the positive and negative conductors gets cancelled out as the receiving equipment gets the signal.
What is the difference between Shielded and Unshielded cable?
  • Shielded cables feature copper strands or foil wrap around the outside of the insulated center conductors to reject EMI (electromagnetic interference) or RFI (radio frequency interference) that would otherwise degrade low level signals, such as the audio signals of guitars, microphones, and line level equipment. Shielded cables include instrument, interconnect, and microphone cables.

  • Unshielded cables do not feature a shield around the center conductors. Speaker cables are the most common unshielded cables in the audio world. The relatively high signal level between power amps and loudspeakers means they can operate effectively without being shielded from the low level noise that would be a problem for low-level mic and instrument signals.
Why do some instrument cables have a right angle connector?

Right angle connectors work the same way as straight connectors, but can be an advantage when you need to closely space equipment, such as on a densely-populated guitar pedalboard.

Are thicker cables better?

In general thicker cables include more copper, resulting in lower resistance and less signal loss over a given distance. Thicker inner copper conductors for instrument cable may also provide a richer low frequency response.

What makes guitar cables sound different between series Elite, Advantage X, Advantage?

The sonic difference is related to the size of the center conductor and type of shield, which ultimately means more copper in the more premium cables.

  • Elite instrument cables feature an 18-gauge copper center conductor (our thickest) combined with a 95% braided shield, producing warm mid tone and solid low frequencies, plus strong protection from EMI or RF interference.
  • Advantage X cables feature a 20-gauge copper center conductor with braided shield, and generally produce a warmer tone.
  • Advantage instrument cables feature a 24-gauge center conductor and spiral shield, yielding a brighter tone.
What is oxygen-free copper and why is it better?

Oxygen Free Copper contains the lowest levels of oxide impurities (ie. rust oxidization) and fewer crystal boundaries than standard copper. The impurities and crystalline boundaries in standard copper can reduce tone or introduce distortion to the original audio signal.

What is a dielectric?

A dielectric is a non-conducting substance that doesn’t carry electric current, and various dielectrics can be used to form the insulation around a cable’s center conductor(s). A critical aspect of cable craftsmanship is choosing the ideal dielectric (shielding element) for each application, and properly handling the dielectric during manufacture. The choice of dielectric affects the durability, flexibility, thickness, tonal character and cost of the cable.

Instrument cables use a high-density polyethylene (PE) dielectric because it allows the proper balance of resistance and capacitance to yield the desired tone, while also providing great durability, and maintaining constant spacing between the center conductor and shield. We tailor the capacitance of the PE to provide the preferred tone, whether warmer or brighter, for our different cable configurations.

What is a strain relief? How does it work?

A strain relief is a feature that prevents the cable from bending sharply at the connector, which is critical to avoiding stress and damage to the inner copper fiber. A well-designed strain relief also provides additional strength to prevent the connector from separating from the cable. There are several types of strain relief:

  • Chuck-type: A durable clamp inside the connector clamps the cable in place, preventing strain on the solder joints when the cable is pulled.
  • Heat-shrink: Additional rubber tubing applied over the end of the cable before the connector is sealed, or over the connector. This rubber acts as a compression band, increasing the amount of force required to bend the cable.
  • Over-mold: Molded plastic connectors often include extra plastic material at the end of the connector that prevent the cable from bending at acute angles.