Over the years, I’ve played in several bands and owned a small recording studio in my time. During this, I’ve seen countless musicians on stage, studio and even counting myself using crappy instrument cables. Early on in my guitar playing days, I understood the importance of a good amp, good guitar, but never put much stock in the cables combining the two. I was poor, just like many musicians today, and could not understand the logic of paying $30+ for a cable, so I always opted for the cheap $5 cable.
The problem with buying a cheap guitar cable is.. you get exactly what you pay for, a $5 piece ‘O crap connecting your guitar to your amp. Problems that would often arise with a low quality cable are:
- Hum caused by broken ground
- Static or crackling caused by broken ground
- Dull tone or loss of signal
- Poor contact between jack and input causing cracking or popping when moved
- Poor wiring at the jack connection causing cracking or complete loss of signal
I remember having to buy cables often to replace the bad cable or having to pull the soldering iron out to repair jack connections, that would inevitably break down the road anyway.
About 10 years ago, I thought I would shell out $40 for a 20′ guitar cable by DiMarzio. I thought that was a little crazy, but after reading about the cymbal test (where they drop a cymbal guillotine style on a cable.. and passing) I figured it would be a good cable. My particular DiMarzio had the ‘fat’ plugs (I can’t remember what those plugs are, but I’m pretty sure they’re Switchcraft) and has treated me well. That cable has been my primary instrument cable over the next 10 years. I have NO problems with it. No cracking, no signal loss. I have never touched the jack wiring. I know I would have spent WAY more money buying crap over the years instead of shelling out for a decent cable. I’ve bought several other DiMarzios over the years (primarily so I don’t have to unplug between instruments or connecting to other heads) and have no problems with them. Looking at Musician’s Friend, I’m seeing they have a sale on these DiMarzio cables, but they don’t seem to make the ones with the fatty plugs any longer.
The other cable that I would have to recommend because a good guitarist friend has been using them for years with similar experience is the Monster cable.
I have to mention that the quality cables should not stop with your instrument cable but also should include your ‘jumpers’ between effects unit. This is a area that is very easy to skimp on, but you have to consider that you’re building a chain where your tone is in the balance. You don’t want any weak links in your tone chain, so buy some good jumper cables. These cables usually hold up pretty well since they’re not stepped on or moved very often. I like to make sure that the input jack seat tight in the stompbox.