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Low Capacitance Guitar Cables

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by Phostenix, Dec 2, 2011.

  1. Phostenix

    Phostenix Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 28, 2010
    Phoenix, AZ
    I recently decided to try some lower capacitance cables to get the benefits of a lower capacitance cable (higher pickup resonant peak, brighter overall sound, less loss of highs when rolling back the volume), so I did some searching to find info on the options. It was harder than I thought it would be to find good info quickly, so I'm starting a thread here specifically for low capacitance cables.

    I did find this chart, which was helpful:

    http://www.ovnilab.com/articles/cablechoice.shtml


    I had planned to buy the Bill Lawrence cable ( http://www.billlawrence.com/Pages/Connector_Cable.htm ), but according to the chart, the Elixir is the lowest capacitance "standard" cable (only the Atlantic Zerocap is lower). I had looked at the Elixir cable in several places, but no one (including Elixir) would give any specs on it. Lots of cables are advertised as "low capacitance", but are still the typical 30pF/ft, so I guessed that the Elixir's were something like that. The chart says they are 11pF/ft, considerably less than the Bill Lawrence cable (20pF/ft).

    So, I went ahead and bought a 10' Elixir and it measures out about 110pF. It's noticeably brighter than the ~220pF 5' cable I've been using lately. In fact, I think it's brighter than I'd like. I may go ahead and get a 20' Elixir to get the ~220pF cable that I've found I like the sound of and be able to go back to a 20' cable, too. Bonus!

    Here's the info on the Elixir cables:
    http://www.elixirstrings.com/products/cables/index.html

    I bought mine from an ebay seller for $35, including shipping.


    *standard no affiliation with any brands or sellers mentioned above disclaimer*
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2011
  2. Phostenix

    Phostenix Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 28, 2010
    Phoenix, AZ
    This video from Elixir is very similar to what I've experienced using lower capacitance cables:

     
  3. lckyjcky

    lckyjcky Tele-Holic

    526
    Nov 28, 2009
    Southern California
    Hype, more hype and marketing. If you repeat a lie a thousand times, most people begin to believe it.

    In the first demo, the guy played softer with ordinary cable and then played with bit more force with the Elixir cable. In the second demo, almost no difference, and it seemed the player was again influencing the tone, as you can see his whole body was moving more animated as if he was putting more effort when using the Elixir.

    What we need is a double-blind test. I bet Elixir would never consent to that.
     
  4. lckyjcky

    lckyjcky Tele-Holic

    526
    Nov 28, 2009
    Southern California
    I would submit to you that adding copper to shield guitar body cavity would increase the capacitance more than adding a 10' guitar cable. Yet, the consensus, at least yesterday, was that it (copper shielding) did not affect tone in any significant way.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2011
  5. Phostenix

    Phostenix Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 28, 2010
    Phoenix, AZ
    There's a very noticeable difference between a cable with 111pF of capacitance & one that's 660pF (the Elixir vs. the 20' cable I've been using for years).

    Higher capacitance cables lower the resonant peak of the pickups, which sounds more midrangey. It's why some people like big coily cables.

    This came out of a discussion here a few weeks back about treble bleed mods. The loss of highs when rolling back the volume is something that I don't like, especially on my Strat with pickups in series. Someone suggested using a lower capacitance cable instead of a treble bleed mod (or 50's tone pot wiring) to reduce the loss of highs. I tried a short (3') cable to see how it would affect this & was surprised at how much better it was. I also immediately noticed the difference in tone of my guitars (that I liked).

    The Elixir is doing a nice job of mainting the highs as I roll back the volume, especially with humbuckers. I'm also finding that I like the higher resonant peak on my different guitars (again, especially ones with humbuckers).

    I'm sure some people prefer the more midrangey sound of the typical cables, though. Or, if you already have a bright guitar with bright, high resonant peak pickups, a low cap cable might be too bright.

    I'm always skeptical of these types of things in the guitar world, but this has made a noticeable difference for me that I'm liking. YMMV
     
  6. bradpdx

    bradpdx Friend of Leo's

    Jul 16, 2006
    Portland, OR
    Nope. Shielding is too far away from the signal bearing wires to add significant capacitance. For coupling to occur, the surfaces have to have very close over a substantial distance - as in a cable.
     
  7. Phostenix

    Phostenix Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 28, 2010
    Phoenix, AZ
    I just tried the Elixir om my old PRS, which I haven't played in years because I just couldn't get the sounds I wanted from it. The low cap cable made a dramatic difference for the better.
     
  8. tazzboy

    tazzboy Former Member

    May 5, 2005
    Oregon
    I buy my cables through Lava Cables.
     
  9. bradpdx

    bradpdx Friend of Leo's

    Jul 16, 2006
    Portland, OR
    If one really likes the sound of your pickups through low capacitance cables, then a built-in neutral pre-amp is really the way to go.

    A simple unity-gain pre-amp in your guitar will expose the pickups to a completely consistent, low capacitance load and will allow you to drive long cable lengths with completely consistent tone over the entire range of the volume control.
     
  10. MrAstro

    MrAstro Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 11, 2011
    Sydney NSW
    Increase capacitance - sounds like vitrified snake oil...
     
  11. You can do the same thing by just turning up the treble on your amp? .......
     
  12. Phostenix

    Phostenix Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 28, 2010
    Phoenix, AZ
    I don't think so. The higher resonant peak has a different sound to it. The PRS is a great example. I find the pickups - especially the bridge - to be harsh sounding at full volume & then muddy when backed off a little. I could never quite get it right. It sounds great at all volume levels to me now. And I really like the bridge pup by itself into a clean amp, which I never cared for with my standard cable. There's also a noticeable movement up in tone in the midrange. I'm really liking the PRS now with that movement - on all pickup settings. And the single coils in parallel finally have the sparkle & chime that I've always felt was missing. There's more pick attack, too.
     
  13. Phostenix

    Phostenix Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 28, 2010
    Phoenix, AZ
    On my guitars with the Ghost system already in them, I am probably going to add a simple FET preamp, since the battery is already there. Plus, I need a siamese cable for those & this Elixir cable is pretty fat. I can use a standard cable for the piezo since it's driven by a preamp, but I'll have to make my own siamese cable to get the low cap cable for the magnetics. It might be easier just to add the preamp on those guitars.

    But, I would guess that most people would rather use a low cap cable than add a preamp & battery into their guitar.
     
  14. cowpunk

    cowpunk TDPRI Member

    Age:
    39
    57
    Apr 29, 2010
    Keller, Texas (DFW)
    I tried low capacitance cables once. Can't remember the brand as it was years ago. I just remember I didn't like 'em. I guess I actually liked how the increased capacitance of the old cables smoothed out my ice-pick-y strat pickups. Then again I don't roll the volume back very often. I'm more prone to use pick attack for dynamics.
     
    Geo likes this.
  15. David Collins

    David Collins Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 28, 2009
    Ann Arbor, MI

    I'm all for calling ballywho when I smell snake oil (gold plated connectors, polished cable surfaces, PIO vs poly caps, etc), but cable capacitance does not fall in to that category of far-flung eccentric claims and beliefs.

    The function of the capacitance of the cable is no different than jumping a capacitor straight from tip to ground at the output jack. If you change that capacitor value from 180pf to 600pf, it's not at all unreasonable to expect that a noticeable difference could be heard.

    There are loads of ethereal and esoteric voodoo surrounding cables, and much of it is no doubt complete bs. I also agree that the comparisons in the video are absurdly flawed, and provide no reliable evidence regarding what real effect the cables may have. Still, it would be very hard to believe that a significant change in capacitance at this point in the circuit would not affect a noticeable change in tone.

    More reliable research could certainly be done to establish how much of a change is required to affect a noticeable difference in tone, but of all the factors in a cable which could create a difference, this is perhaps the only claim which I believe can be considered entirely credible.
     
  16. Phostenix

    Phostenix Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 28, 2010
    Phoenix, AZ
    I'd have to agree that this probably isn't what you're looking for with an already bright guitar. With single coils, I also tend to just leave the volume up, but with humbuckers I work the volume a lot. Then, I wired my Strat with in-series choices and found myself rolling back the volume again. I hate the high end rolloff that usually comes with that and don't love the treble bleed or 50's wiring options. This cable really helps the high end rolloff. It's still there a little, but I'd call it "slight".

    The resonant peak thing is what has really surprised me. I really didn't expect that a) the cable would be as low of capacitance as it is and b) that it would make as much difference as it does.

    I can certainly see where it wouldn't be "better" for every guitar in every application, but I really like the differences. The higher resonant peak does what you would guess it would do - it makes the predominant voice of the pickups move up to a slightly higher frequency. I've gotten to where I prefer the sound of single coils over humbuckers, so I like the change. For those who like fat, midrangey humbuckers, they probably would not like the change.

    I should make some videos of my own, I guess.....
     
  17. Phostenix

    Phostenix Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 28, 2010
    Phoenix, AZ
    In my case, I went from 664pF to 111pF. The siamese cable I use live is 881pF.

    When we had the discussion a few weeks back about treble bleed mods & the suggestion was made to use a lower capacitance cable, I grabbed a 6' cable that I have (measures 220pf) and tried it. I don't remember which guitar I started with, but I was focused on the treble rolloff. It did, in fact, make a noticeable improvement in the treble rolloff, but what I noticed almost immediately was the difference in the guitar's tone. I thought I was imagining in, so I went back to my normal cable. There was a definite difference. That's what started all of this for me.

    So far, I've liked the change on every guitar I've tried although I don't have any really bright guitars.

    Here's what I've tried:

    Peavey Impact Milano (early 90's) that's now HSH with the SD Jazz & JB combo with a Lace Silver in the middle.

    '94 Strat Plus Deluxe with Lace Holy Grails.

    '94 PRS Custom 24 with stock pickups.

    Peavey Limited EXP HH with stock pickups.

    Peavey Limited EXP HH with SD P-Rails.

    Peavey Limited EXP HSS with stock pickups.


    I'm planning to put Bill Lawrence Microcoils in the Strat soon. It will be interesting to see how those interact.
     
  18. dalandan

    dalandan Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 15, 2008
    Jamaica
  19. Phostenix

    Phostenix Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 28, 2010
    Phoenix, AZ
  20. nyazzip

    nyazzip TDPRI Member

    10
    Feb 1, 2009
    chicagoland
    capacitance in cables is very real: long before i ever cared about this stuff, i noticed by accident that i got much different(hotter/brighter) tone when using 3' patch cables; i wasn't on a "quest for holy grail tone" or whatever, it was just convenient to use a short cable in the bedroom....
     
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