How To Choose A Good Cable

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Choosing a suitable cable for a guitarist is a crucial matter. In this case, you should not be guided by the advice of friends and advertisements of “star” musicians and manufacturers themselves. It is enough to have some knowledge that will help you take a sober look at the proposed product and evaluate it by its physical characteristics.

Let’s understand what characteristics are essential for instrument, microphone, and speaker cables. Wires are differentiated by their characteristics and purpose. Consequently, their requirements are also different: what is critical for one may be practically useless for another.

Tool Cables

An instrument cable is a wire for connecting a guitar to an amplifier, processors, special devices, and so on. These devices have a high resistance (about 100 ohms) in relation to the Earth. At the same time, they transmit weak signals with minimal discharges and low voltage. This is why instrument cables are so sensitive to electromagnetic interference.

A guitar’s output impedance is high, so the cord must have a small electrical capacitance and length; otherwise, it will not transmit the high frequencies in the sound well.

Essential characteristics of instrument cables:

  • Low capacitance: Own capacitance is a critical characteristic that should be paid attention to first. The lower it is, the better, and the less loss in high frequencies.
  • Good shielding: Good shielding will avoid noise from electromagnetic interference.
  • Durability. The consequences of using flimsy cords can be pretty deplorable, especially during a performance.

A minor criterion for instrument cables is resistance. It is only a few ohms (inexpensive and cheap variants), which is insignificant compared to high-impedance inputs on amplifiers, for example. It does not affect the signal level in the wire.

Microphone Cables

A microphone cable is essential to any recording studio or stage equipment. After all, despite the new wireless technologies, the most transparent sound can be obtained only by using a high-quality microphone connection. The wire quality directly depends on the quality of the transmitted signal and the possibility of interference.


Usual installation (asymmetrical). Apply where there is no need for perfectly clear sound, for example, for household purposes to connect dynamic microphones to music centers or karaoke.

Balanced (symmetrical) is ideal for creating a large-length connection. It has a high level of resistance to electromagnetic interference and can be used in all weather conditions.

Symmetrical microphone cable consists of two center conductors, insulation, screen, and outer jacket. These options are more reliable and can provide good quality voice support.

A microphone cable has two XLR connectors: “male” on one end and “female” on the other and a TRS jack or a USB connector for connecting directly to a sound card or digital recording device. It connects the microphone to the mixing console and is used for DI communication between the amplifier and the mixer. XLR cables essential for ensuring transparent sound transmission, are integral components of microphone connections.

Speaker Cables

A speaker cable is a wire connecting an amplifier to a loudspeaker. It is technically the opposite of instrument cables, as it connects the low-impedance output of an amplifier to low-impedance loudspeakers. Speaker cables carry relatively high currents and voltages. This is why, unlike instrument cables, they are not particularly susceptible to electromagnetic interference, but the entire circuit is extremely sensitive to the impedance of the cables themselves.

Critical criteria for choosing a speaker wire are:

  • low resistance, preventing signal loss
  • durability and reliability

Capacitance and shielding are irrelevant because of the circuit’s low impedance. Only immensely, very strong electromagnetic interference can affect a signal with a reasonably high current. Even a wire with significant capacitance will have a much greater resistance than the amplifier’s output impedance. Therefore, capacitance has almost no effect on transmitting high frequencies in the signal.

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