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Guitar cable capacitance -- how much is too much?

Discussion in 'Amp Tech Center' started by King Fan, Jul 25, 2020.

  1. 3-Chord-Genius

    3-Chord-Genius Poster Extraordinaire

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    It's great that SRV requested a Radio Shack curly cord, but has he ever said why? For a long time those coily cable were what pretty much everyone used. There are old videos of CCR (and tons of othert bands) using them. I haven't heard John Fogerty comment that he preferred their sound or capacitance, and I doubt he uses them today.

    Bonama$$a doesn't need to turn his knobs at all. He probably just changes guitars if he needs a little more high end....

    "Musicians who write and play great songs and are financially successful at it, buy amplifiers from hobbyists who have a fetish for technical minutiae, such as Howard Dumble." Jimmy Page? Eric Clapton? Slash? Hendrix? Those guys played Marshalls. There may be a few guys who prefer the "crystal lattice" amps, but they were likely successful long before venturing into that territory. They's have to be so loaded with money that spending that much money on an amp is no big deal.
     
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  2. tubegeek

    tubegeek Friend of Leo's

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    Another classic low-input-impedance effect: Fuzz Face. Also one of Jimi's faves.

    Serious question: I wonder if he had tinnitus? He certainly played loud for a long time.
     
  3. Left Coast

    Left Coast TDPRI Member

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    EXACTLY! 15-20 steps in all and they all make a difference. I watched a video of mass produced cables once and it took less than 3 minutes to pop out a cable-it takes me a lot longer than that!
     
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  4. Nicky cable guy

    Nicky cable guy TDPRI Member

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    You shouldn't notice a difference with a 10 footer. Just my opinion but I handmake cables!
     
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  5. mogeen

    mogeen NEW MEMBER!

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    You can measure total capacitance with a meter but cable capacitance is distributed capacitance and has a sweetening effect hard to replicate with a simple capacitor across a single point. This distributed capacitance is a good thing for overdrive and distortion. Low capacitance between the guitar and amp can make things sound more modern, thin and direct sounding. Our old heroes thought nothing of using high capacitance coil cables back in the day, it smoothed out the single coils in to a bright amp.

     
  6. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    Active pickups produce a low impedance signal so this does eliminate the capacitance issue. I have EMG active pickups in a Strat and I have to say I like them-- I like the way they sound, I like the zero hum, and I like the active SPC and EXG EQ controls. I'm not going out and buying active pickups for all my guitars by any means, but I do have increased respect for the advantages of active pickups, while also being cognizant of their disadvantages. One of the big ones is having to use a 9V battery to power them. Luckily for a Strat no routing is required since there's already enough room under the pick guard.
     
  7. Lowerleftcoast

    Lowerleftcoast Friend of Leo's

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    Still playing devils advocate:
    They all played modified Marshalls. Hendrix even reconed speakers as a mod for his taste. It is reported he would try every fuzz in the store and pick out the best sound.
    SRV was using the curly cord after it was a staple for the earlier bands. He had a tech Rene Martinez modding and advising on gear.

    And who doesn't pick a guitar by how it sounds and feels?
     
  8. ThermionicScott

    ThermionicScott Poster Extraordinaire

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    +1. Lots of great (even successful!) guitar players are very specific about what they like in fret size, tubes, cables, string gauges, pickups, you name it. That stuff just doesn't make for exciting articles, though, so someone along the chain of interviewer, interviewee, or editor decided not to mention it in the final copy you see in the magazine.
     
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  9. dmarcus30

    dmarcus30 Tele-Holic

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    Exactly...Go by what your ears tell you, not the capacitance specs. I've tried many of the primo high priced cables and have always come back to Klotz La Grange, a mid-priced offering that is extremely well built and bumps the mids a bit. Capacitance of 67 pF/metre (or 20pF/foot) I tried Evidence Audio and top of the line Monster and they both sounded sterile to my ears. George L is a good buy for the money but I need a thicker cable that will lay flat. Planet Waves cables sound great, too. I would like to try the Vovox cables but I can't justify spending that much.
     
  10. Left Coast

    Left Coast TDPRI Member

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    I agree about trusting your ears, however I think it is good to know what your ears are telling you and for that we need specifications-basically it boils down to the higher the capacitance the more the cable acts as as a low pass filter (simple explanation, but its more complicated than that). It is important to note that cables are passive components and can not add or boost a signal. When you say a cable "bumps the mids" what you are hearing is a cable that filters out more highs, and therefore sounds as if it is boosting the mid range.

    That being said there are cables on the market that offer differing capacitances for that exact purpose. Want a brighter cable look for one with low capacitance, want to tame some high end, look for a cable with higher capacitance-or add cable length which is why all of the coil cables were so popular when paired with a Strat and a Marshall. My earlier point is that all this talk about cables becomes nearly moot if plugging into a buffer, or if using active electronics.
     
  11. Fmalitz

    Fmalitz TDPRI Member

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    You’re
    Years ago, I used a high capacitance coiled cable because I didn’t know any better. It became defective and I forgot to buy a replacement cable on the way home from my day job. I had a gig within an hour. All I had in the workshop, in those days, were citizens band antenna cables. I made a new guitar cable. The difference was like getting a new amplifier. I couldn’t believe it. You could never make up for this with your tone controls. Not only were there more highs but they were sparkling and the entire mid range was more transparent. This was nothing like changing tubes. It was like changing the actual driver. Almost all cables today are low capacitance as a result. It’s usually audible. If you run through a complex paddleboard, it may not matter. If you plug directly in like a true Chicago blues artist, the difference is gigantic.
     
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  12. fernando

    fernando Tele-Afflicted

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    I find the cable difference in sound very notable.
    Using a good, thick, braided copper shield microphone cable or using a special low capacitance cable is really obvious, no BS at all.
    And note I said a good mic cable, not a cheapy.
    I'm a sound recordist but anyone will hear the difference in brightness.

    Just measured my two low capacitance cables with a Meterman 37XR meter : my Fender Gold 3 meter cable reads 580pF. My 5 meter Fender Custom Shop cable reads 500pF.
    So 166pF/m (similar to Canare GS-6) and 116pF/m (similar to Klotz AC104), from the table OP linked.
    I'll make another reading with a different meter later on.

    >Go with the sound
    Of course the most important is sound, that's why some of us matter about the cable if we like to preserve brightness
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2020
  13. MonkeyKing

    MonkeyKing Tele-Meister

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    I'm surprised that 4 pages in no one brought this up, so it'll have to be me -

    https://tapeop.com/reviews/gear/113/vari-cap-instrument-cable/

    undertone makes a cable that you can dial in the resistance you want. IF you think this cable capacitance is too small a detail, I think you're in for a shock.

    Really though, as long as your EARS are satisfied, if you are happy with your sound, nothing else matters. If you're going crazy cos you can't get the sound in your head, well, the rabbit hole beckons.
     
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  14. Musekatcher

    Musekatcher Friend of Leo's

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    Weighing in with no additional data, but some applied experience with Fender style amps and teles.

    I will say yes, I've experienced the difference in a long cable with highs rolled off (not necessarily a bad thing). I don't need a long cable, so I feel that it doesn't matter for me. I use a short cable, 10' or so to my pedal, and use a 10-15' to my amp. I've dialed in my pedal and amp with those lengths to satisfy my ear, so any influence of the cables no longer matter. If I needed a longer cable, I'd probably try a few, twist some knobs, and be done. The few times I've needed a 25' to my amp, I didn't really notice a difference. I also use a long cable intentionally to cut highs with piezo pickups on my fiddle. Same technique, I dial it all in so the cables are accounted for. I've not tested all cable brands and levels, but I routinely use Fender Pro and Custom Shop, Peavey PV, Monster, and I have a few cheapy MFs that I use occasionally.
     
  15. GPoint

    GPoint TDPRI Member

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    There is no one concrete answer to this question. It depends on your pickup's LCR (inductance, capacitance, resistance) parameters, guitar electronics inner capacitance and potentiometers loading resistance, tone filter cap's capacitance, next input CR parameters (capacitance, resistance). Then you can calculate the frequency of pickup's resonance peak (character) + peak's height you are looking for. The cable is just adding capacitance - lowering peak's frequency, it is just an additional loading capacitor. The formula is easy: C pickup + C inner installation + C cable + C next input + the minimal to the full effect of tone circuit's filter capacitor's C (depending on tone pot's resistance).
     
  16. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    Another interesting thought is that a lot of folks like having an "always on" pedal that they feel enhances their tone-- such as a Klon clone. Not only is that pedal adding grit and EQ, but it also might be brightening up ("making more sparkly and alive") the signal by eliminating capacitance issues between that pedal and the amp.
     
  17. gusfinley

    gusfinley Tele-Afflicted

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    Well..... go to youtube and check out the ProGuitar rig rundown with The Edge's guitar tech. He has his tech play back and forth between a cable and a wireless system and has him solder capacitors of different values into the wireless cable until they sound the same. This for ALL of his guitars and backups and he tours with A LOT of guitars.
     
  18. tubegeek

    tubegeek Friend of Leo's

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    The REALLY difficult part is eliminating the side-fumbling. So far as I know, only the Rockwell Retro-Encabulator was ever able to achieve this.

     
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  19. tubegeek

    tubegeek Friend of Leo's

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    Taking the edge off, so to speak.
     
  20. ezrydr

    ezrydr Tele-Meister

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    this should clear things up nicely

     
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