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Connecting Amp Heads to Speaker cabs - what kind of cable do i use?

joel_ostrom
July 13th, 2009, 12:50 AM
This is probably fairly basic knowledge for most of you guys, but i just needed to know.

Can you use a simple guitar cable to connect your head to a cab?

I'm considering swapping my combo for a head & cab setup, and i prefer to solder my own cables for all intents and purposes cuz its just cheaper, and personally i think i can manufacture quality equal to or greater than that of something like Planet Waves or Yorkville.

anyways, if i was to make my own cable - what would i need? could i use something as simple as some Canare GS-6? Or would i need cable specially designed to handle the load coming from the amp head, like speaker cable?

is it best to use un-shielded cable?

what about the plugs? would i be okay to use just plain Switchcraft 1/4" male ends?

the thing that appeals to me is to have the ability to have the amp head right next to me, while having it connected via a really long (up to 50 ft.) cable and having the speaker cab situated someplace where the volume is contained, like in a backstage room or under the stage. This way i can control my tone, and keep the volume at a tolerated level without having to run back and forth to adjust settings.

Thanks for the help!

Joel

jh45gun
July 13th, 2009, 01:00 AM
you use speaker cable or unshielded cable or class 2 as it is called. Common lamp cord works good or any heavier speaker wire. DO NOT use sheilded guitar cable or Microphone Cable. Just use plain ol unsheilded speaker wire. A cheap speaker cord for a long run is a Extension Cord like a 25 or 50 footer. Nice thing about that is you have a white and black and a green wire I cut the green wire short and use the white for positive and the black for ground.

joel_ostrom
July 13th, 2009, 01:13 AM
what might the best brand(s) of speaker cable be? lots of people recommended Canare and Mogami cable to me when i rolled my own instrument cables, just wondering what a good name is for speaker cables (if they happen to be different than the ones mentioned).

also, what's the purpose of having different gauges in speaker cable? i see some come in 10, 12 or 14 AWG gauges, why is that? is it simply for a cable that's more "heavy duty"?

JohnnyCrash
July 13th, 2009, 01:36 AM
The reason you use SPEAKER CABLE with amp heads is related to the question about gauge.

Imagine hooking up a fire hydrant to a common garden hose - not good for the hose and it might cause you injury when it fails... this would be like using a guitar cable for connecting amps to cabs... NOT good and can cause damage to your amp.

Wire gauge has to do with impedance and the free flow of power. Like shotguns, the higher the number - the smaller the gauge, diameter, or size of wire. 22 awg is smaller copper than 18 awg. The more copper, the more "hose."

A guitar cord is tiny compared to speaker wire... NOT good for connecting an amp head to a speaker cab.

Tim Armstrong
July 13th, 2009, 01:37 AM
Yep, regular lamp cord works great. Or, if you prefer a more pro look (but no significant improvement in quality), two-wire speaker cord. The main thing is that you want two wires, one for postive, one for negative. Guitar/instrument cable handles incredibly small amounts of actual electricity, so using the braided shield for negative isn't a problem. Running a power amp's output will melt it!

Tim

cordellnut
July 13th, 2009, 01:43 AM
definitely go with speaker cable, your local music shop should have a few laying around, instrument cable is gonna severely reduce sound quality

Tim Armstrong
July 13th, 2009, 01:45 AM
definitely go with speaker cable, your local music shop should have a few laying around, instrument cable is gonna severely reduce sound quality

Worse than just that, instrument cable can lead to catastrophic failure (cable fails, output transformer blows, etc)...

Tim

Bswailes
July 13th, 2009, 02:06 AM
Yep, regular lamp cord works great. Or, if you prefer a more pro look (but no significant improvement in quality), two-wire speaker cord. The main thing is that you want two wires, one for postive, one for negative. Guitar/instrument cable handles incredibly small amounts of actual electricity, so using the braided shield for negative isn't a problem. Running a power amp's output will melt it! Tim

Great answers! I liked Johnny Crash's analogy, the only thing lacking, IMHO, was about the amazing relative amounts of ELECTRICAL signal being conducted (as you aptly pointed out): Very TINY for a guitar signal to an amp, (via instrument cable) MASSIVE going from an amp head to a speaker load (via speaker cable).

OK, my stoopid question: "How come you don't get shocked from a speaker cable coming from an amp?" (I've never tried, but I figured there would be warnings placarded all over everything near the amp to speaker output).

joel_ostrom
July 13th, 2009, 02:43 AM
The reason you use SPEAKER CABLE with amp heads is related to the question about gauge.

Imagine hooking up a fire hydrant to a common garden hose - not good for the hose and it might cause you injury when it fails... this would be like using a guitar cable for connecting amps to cabs... NOT good and can cause damage to your amp.

Wire gauge has to do with impedance and the free flow of power. Like shotguns, the higher the number - the smaller the gauge, diameter, or size of wire. 22 awg is smaller copper than 18 awg. The more copper, the more "hose."

A guitar cord is tiny compared to speaker wire... NOT good for connecting an amp head to a speaker cab.this is good stuff to know. i'm almost positive i've gone to guitar shops and seen guys just plugging heads into cabs with regular instrument cables. mind you they probably weren't running them all that hot, but still... recipe for disaster as it would seem.

so pretty much what i'm gathering is "the bigger the gauge, the better"??

what's a good, safe gauge to go with without being considered "overkill"? if i wanted to solder a cable used to connect a head to a cab in a 'long-run' situation (40-50ft. cable) - would a thicker gauge be better?

one thing i'm still puzzled about is using cable that has 4 inner wires as opposed to using cable that has only 2 inner wires.

what's the dif?

and in any case, suppose i tried to solder something like that to a 1/4" plug. would you simply solder two of them together to form the positive and the other two together to form the negative?

why might you choose this (Canare 4S11) (http://www.ramelectronics.net/audio-video/audio-cables/bulk-speaker-cable/canare-speaker-cable-4s11/prod4S11.html) instead of cable like this (Belden 5100) (http://www.ramelectronics.net/audio-video/audio-cables/bulk-speaker-cable/belden-5100up-14-awg-in-wall-rated-speaker-cable/prod5100UP.html)

jh45gun
July 13th, 2009, 11:54 AM
Like I said a cheap way to get a good cord for longer runs is buy a decent extension cord and only use two of the three wires. ( You know what I am talking about I hope those long usually Orange extension cords or other colors) This may be a cheap way but the wire is heavy in those extension cords and make good speaker cords I have used them for years to make Speaker cords for my PA systems and never had a problem with them. Plus they come in the length your looking for a 50 foot length. For short cords a common lamp cord works fine. Now for those cords you see in the music stores yea some one may be doing that but be aware there are Speaker cords that look just like Guitar cords on the outside but are of course different in the inside not being sheilded and have the heavier two wires for speaker hook up. Normally they are a bit heavier then guitar cords though but at a glance would look the same.

Yea heavier wire is better for a longer run which is why they came up with Monster Cable. Like I said a Extension cord is heavy enough for a 50 foot run and it will work fine.

jh45gun
July 13th, 2009, 12:01 PM
Your making it too complicated thinking you need the "best cable" on the planet to make speaker cords like Tim said Lamp cord works fine and it does expecially for short cab to head type cords several feet in length. For the longer run you want like I said a Outdoors type Extension cord works perfect for a longer speaker wire. Just clip the ground wire and then use the white and black wires for your positive and negative. Unless Canada goes with different color wires and I doubt they do?

Tim Armstrong
July 13th, 2009, 12:05 PM
Your making it too complicated thinking you need the "best cable" on the planet to make speaker cords like Tim said Lamp cord works fine and it does expecially for short cab to head type cords several feet in length. For the longer run you want like I said a Outdoors type Extension cord works perfect for a longer speaker wire. Just clip the ground wire and then use the white and black wires for your positive and negative. Unless Canada goes with different color wires and I doubt they do?

Yep.

There's absolutely no reason to spend time or money on more expensive cable. The signals being passed in a speaker cable are very powerful, and you won't notice ANY difference, unlike the very weak signals being passed from a guitar to an amp, which are more prone to being affected by resistance and capacitance...

Tim

milocj
July 13th, 2009, 12:21 PM
Your making it too complicated thinking you need the "best cable" on the planet to make speaker cords

Agreed. With a guitar cord the shielding and other factors add capacitance which can make a difference in how the instrument's signal sounds by the time it gets to the amp. With a speaker wire all you basically need is enough copper to carry the signal without overheating. Generally, for a guitar amp the 16 gauge lamp cord is all you should really need. The 50 foot run may or may not need something a little bit larger depending on how powerful your amp is. With a bass amp you commonly see 500-1000 watts and a lot of those speaker cables will be 12 gauge, but I'm not really sure when and where you need to get into those sized cables.

I'm sure that you can find a 14 gauge, 50 foot extension cord for $10 down at Home Depot or the hardware store. You can probably also find bulk length 14 gauge, two wire cord sold by the foot that is used for replacing power cords at those same stores and it will look just like a black speaker cable and will probably be a lot cheaper.

Any decent 1/4" plug will work fine with up to 16 gauge lamp cord. If you get into the heavier gauges or use the extension cord with cut-off ends you may need to step up to the "jumbo" plugs. Switchcraft and G&H make them (my local mom and pop store sells them) and they are the same as a regular guitar plug except that they are a little bigger around the barrel end so that the heavier gauged speaker wires will fit through the hole and the interior contacts are larger so you can solder the bigger wire to them. Here is an example:

http://cgi.ebay.com/G-H-1-4-TS-Jumbo-Black-Nickel-Plugs-2_W0QQcmdZViewItemQQ_trkparmsZQ7c293Q3a1Q7c294Q3a3 0QQ_trksidZp4634Q2ec0Q2em14Q2el1262QQhashZitem3a3d 1d3393QQitemZ250133427091QQptZLHQ5fDefaultDomainQ5 f0QQsalenotsupported

redstringuitar
July 13th, 2009, 12:32 PM
Unsheilded speaker cables are fairly easy to physically identify among a bunch of guitar cables, they are heavier and less flexible, due to the heavier-gauge copper and the jacks are heavy-duty and often crude-looking.

joel_ostrom
July 13th, 2009, 04:06 PM
i know a place where i can pickup some stuff like this

http://best-tronics.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=BMI&Product_Code=CA-0387&Category_Code=SPEAKER_

for $22, i could get a 100ft roll to make all the cables i need.

that was one other thing i was wondering about. if i decide to run a 50ft. length, should i go with a slightly heavier gauge (like maybe a 14 AWG)? i think for a simple 5 footer, for times when i'm just sittin' the head on top of the cab, i'd be safe to use a 16 AWG, right?

i just assumed it was similar to building instrument cables, that better quality cable helped prevent loss of signal tone

Thanks for the help, all you guys

Cheers,
Joel

strat a various
July 13th, 2009, 07:30 PM
14 gauge is fine for 50 ft. runs. If you use plain looking black cable with a full insulator, mark them somehow ... I use a silver Sharpie. Then, in the dark, at a gig, you (or someone else) won't confuse it for instrument cable.