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fivedoor
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#1
22nd June 2006
Old 22nd June 2006
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balanced/unbalanced cable

Jun 21, 2006 05:43 pm

I've finally decided to get cost efficient & make my own cables but could use some advise on what cable /connectors -balanced/unbalanced are best?

need to know cables what kind of cable are best for:

connect XLR to XLR/jack for mics into preamps

connecting preamps to a mixer /tape machine (jack to jack)

sending channel signals from tape machine to digital desk or visa versa via motu 828. . . .


can you use balanced cable for simple a guitar lead?

can you use balanced coaxial mic cable with mono jack connectors to create balanced lead??

any advice appreciated
thanks!
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22nd June 2006
Old 22nd June 2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fivedoor
connect XLR to XLR/jack for mics into preamps
I use Mogami Star Quad cable and Neutrik connectors. Both blue wires pin 2 on both sides, both white wires pin 3 on both sides, shield braid to pin 1, both sides (and always connect the little tab to the shield to ground the XLR body and mic housing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fivedoor
connecting preamps to a mixer /tape machine (jack to jack)
Same as above, but I would only connect the shield to one end, most likely the mixer end.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fivedoor
sending channel signals from tape machine to digital desk or visa versa via motu 828. . . .
same as as preamps to mixer


Quote:
Originally Posted by fivedoor
can you use balanced cable for simple a guitar lead?
I have never tried this...I would most likely attempt to make a guitar cable using the largest Coax I could find connectors for, perhaps RG-8X

Quote:
Originally Posted by fivedoor
can you use balanced coaxial mic cable with mono jack connectors to create balanced lead??
Unless the signal is balanced then balanced cables will not be balanced, they will simply be unbalanced cables with extra wire(s) for neutral. This is not necessarily a bad thing, I do it occasionally for unbalanced line-level signals.
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22nd June 2006
Old 22nd June 2006
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You can use a twisted pair cable for guitar hook-up. In fact you can wire it up with a TRS on either end and still use it for ballanced lines.

One warning - Guitar cables is one place were cables can really change the sound. Especially if you are using it between a guitar with passive, high impedance pick-ups and an all tube amplifier.



-tINY

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22nd June 2006
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Hi
Only use star quad for mic cables as the capacitance is often greater than less twisted cables definately NOT for guitars unless it is a bass. Check the capacitance values for various cables before purchase. Lower values are best for passing high frequencies.
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22nd June 2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Syson
Hi
Only use star quad for mic cables as the capacitance is often greater than less twisted cables definately NOT for guitars unless it is a bass. Check the capacitance values for various cables before purchase. Lower values are best for passing high frequencies.
Matt S

surely you must mean low frequencies.. capacitive reactance is inversely proportional to frequency. Inductive reactance is directly proportional
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22nd June 2006
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Hi
No, a larger cable capacitance will 'short out' higher frequencies more than low frequencies.
If you don't believe me then put a 1 uF capacitor across the output of your mic or whatever, the HF will disappear.
Matt S
fivedoor
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26th June 2006
Old 26th June 2006
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thanks 4 that btw!

i've ordered some cable & connectors

now i just need to brush up on my soldering
#8
27th June 2006
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For balanced/unbalanced interconnections you may want to have a look at a RANE technical note if you are not totally clear what to do/not to do:
www.rane.com/note110.html
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28th February 2011
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You know, I've been going over & over this topic by myself. I even just got done reading all of the "RaneNote" - and I still can't seem to find whether balanced or unbalanced will make the "tone" of the guitar better. I understand that unbalanced can be more noisy - while have more interference. The confusion sets upon the idea that a higher quality signal can be thought of as two different perspectives, as either a "quieter cable" - or a cable that allows a "broader signal". I'm interested in having as much signal as possible going from my guitar to my amp (as little signal loss as possible). I don't really care about the noise as much as I care about the tone of my guitar. I'm using passive (non-active) pickups & a tube-amp. So which cables should I be looking at?
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28th February 2011
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If you want the lowest losses and you are serious when you say noise isn't an issue - then use a short run of 10 or 12 gauge speaker wire.




-tINY

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28th February 2011
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use balanced cable

Unbalanced cable has a loss of 300 Ohms and is inefficient, but cheap. Its noisy, too. Balanced loses only 75Ohms and is efficient. But balqanced cable has another quality. It has a separate grounding and doesn't buzz. Its shielded. That means you will see a wrapping with wire and aluminum foil. This protection from field effects is called a "Faraday Cage" (Actually Ben Franklin came up with the first one, but Faraday knew what it was) For balanced the only real choice is XLR males or females. Active mics have XLR and use their own power supplies, sometimes as little as 4 volts. Balanced cable handles most problems. Of course, unbalanced cables can be skinny, unobtrusive and inexpensive. Makes them good as Lavallier mics. If you are doing serious stuff, go balanced. A little more expensive and XLR connectors and plugs are outrageous. Its worth it.
#12
28th February 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MickeyPiedmont View Post
You know, I've been going over & over this topic by myself. I even just got done reading all of the "RaneNote" - and I still can't seem to find whether balanced or unbalanced will make the "tone" of the guitar better. I understand that unbalanced can be more noisy - while have more interference. The confusion sets upon the idea that a higher quality signal can be thought of as two different perspectives, as either a "quieter cable" - or a cable that allows a "broader signal". I'm interested in having as much signal as possible going from my guitar to my amp (as little signal loss as possible). I don't really care about the noise as much as I care about the tone of my guitar. I'm using passive (non-active) pickups & a tube-amp. So which cables should I be looking at?
Guitars and guitar amp inputs are unbalanced (single ended) so discussion of balanced or unbalanced cable is academic, it will always be an unbalanced interface.

For best "tone", or more correctly, most accurate signal handling, you want low capacitance cable to not attenuate HF content. This is a conflicting goal with better shielding that generally increases capacitance. While it is always true that any shorter cable will have less capacitance than a longer cable made from the same wire.

So perhaps well shielded shorter cables, or less well shielded longer cables. pick your poison, engineering is all about tradeoffs.

JR
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28th February 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seaumas View Post
Unbalanced cable has a loss of 300 Ohms and is inefficient, but cheap. Its noisy, too. Balanced loses only 75Ohms and is efficient. But balqanced cable has another quality. It has a separate grounding and doesn't buzz. Its shielded. That means you will see a wrapping with wire and aluminum foil. This protection from field effects is called a "Faraday Cage" (Actually Ben Franklin came up with the first one, but Faraday knew what it was) For balanced the only real choice is XLR males or females. Active mics have XLR and use their own power supplies, sometimes as little as 4 volts. Balanced cable handles most problems. Of course, unbalanced cables can be skinny, unobtrusive and inexpensive. Makes them good as Lavallier mics. If you are doing serious stuff, go balanced. A little more expensive and XLR connectors and plugs are outrageous. Its worth it.
This has got my head spinning. Please explain:

Unbalanced cable has a loss of 300 Ohms and is inefficient. ??
Balanced loses only 75Ohms and is efficient. ??
Its shielded. That means you will see a wrapping with wire and aluminum foil. (Unbalanced hasn't got these things?)
Active mics have XLR and use their own power supplies, sometimes as little as 4 volts. (confused with consumer electret?)
unbalanced cables can be skinny (there are skinny balanced wires toooo.)
#14
28th February 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnRoberts View Post
Guitars and guitar amp inputs are unbalanced (single ended) so discussion of balanced or unbalanced cable is academic, it will always be an unbalanced interface.

For best "tone", or more correctly, most accurate signal handling, you want low capacitance cable to not attenuate HF content. This is a conflicting goal with better shielding that generally increases capacitance. While it is always true that any shorter cable will have less capacitance than a longer cable made from the same wire.

So perhaps well shielded shorter cables, or less well shielded longer cables. pick your poison, engineering is all about tradeoffs.

JR

For guitar cables, the tradeoff is that with lower capacitance, microphonics becomes an issue because the guitar gets moved a lot. So, high capacitance is a necessary evil for guitar cables. That said, I have found a mighty fine guitar cable with only 20 pF/ft capacitance, which is relatively low, without the microphonic noise issues of low capacitance...

Cable and Plugs

I now use this and have replaced my Mogami 2524 guitar cables with it.
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28th February 2011
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I am not aware of any correlation between cable capacitance and microphonic cables. Generally the known tradeoff is reduced shielding effectiveness.

I also don't see how characteristic impedance of cables (mostly a high frequency, or long transmission lines phenomenon) has to do with guitar cables?

JR
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28th February 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MickeyPiedmont View Post
You know, I've been going over & over this topic by myself. I even just got done reading all of the "RaneNote" - and I still can't seem to find whether balanced or unbalanced will make the "tone" of the guitar better. I understand that unbalanced can be more noisy - while have more interference. The confusion sets upon the idea that a higher quality signal can be thought of as two different perspectives, as either a "quieter cable" - or a cable that allows a "broader signal". I'm interested in having as much signal as possible going from my guitar to my amp (as little signal loss as possible). I don't really care about the noise as much as I care about the tone of my guitar. I'm using passive (non-active) pickups & a tube-amp. So which cables should I be looking at?
JohnRoberts is right, as always.

Here are some more things to consider.
You can make an unbalanced guitar lead with unbalanced cable, or with balanced cable.
You can use one core, or two cores for the signal. Heck, a core contains many strands anyway.
In the end it's the total capacitance that counts. Read the datasheets!
Capacitance (needed) changes the tone of the guitar.
Less is brighter, more is warmer.
Capacitance also depends on the length of the lead.
Thicker cable has less capacitance.
A guitar cable doesn't "loose" signal. It's capacitance changes the signal, and the shield stops external interference.
Quality cable has less "microphonics", noise when you move it.
And less self noise. (I had once a roll of a reputable brand that had to be returned because of excessive "crackling" noise)

Here some info about how capacitance changes the sound.
http://buildyourguitar.com/resources/lemme/

And Mogami guitar cable.
http://www.mogamicable.com/category/bulk/guitar/
You see that the best is 130pF/m, and second best is 155pF/m.
This tells me that 4m of the best gives the same sound as 3.35m of the second best.
Or, if I would use 4m of each, the more expensive one would give a brighter tone.
If you want this or not is up to you.


One more thing about XLR plugs.
Maybe others want to chime in on that.
I always thought that you had to connect the braid to the housing of the FEMALE/CHASSIS SOCKET ONLY, and NOT to the MALE plug.
If you connect both, it creates a small ground loop. The housing of the male is grounded anyway through the female socket.

Leo..
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1st March 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnRoberts View Post
I am not aware of any correlation between cable capacitance and microphonic cables. Generally the known tradeoff is reduced shielding effectiveness.

I also don't see how characteristic impedance of cables (mostly a high frequency, or long transmission lines phenomenon) has to do with guitar cables?

JR

Alright, let me explain the way I understand it: It is difficult to make cable that has low capacitance and yet is well protected against microphonic noise. The materials and construction that make a cable well immune to microphonic noise have the unfortunate side effect of increasing the capacitance of the cable. So, in the process of trying to make the cable immune to microphonic noise, manufacturers are forced to take the penalty of high capacitance. In effect, high capacitance becomes a necessary evil because protecting against microphonic noise takes a higher priority. For example, hear is what I read from the description of the Mogami 2524:

"Most musical instrument sound pick-ups such as those in electric guitars are comprised of high impedance circuits driven by voltage, in other words by very small electrical current flow. Therefore, so-called MICROPHONICS (noise) becomes a critical problem. (Microphonics means noise that is generated when the cable is moved and or tapped when the cabling circuit is a high impedance link.) Guitar cables must be counter-measured against this, so, a conductive PVC layer is placed under the shield conductor in most cases even though it may have a bad affect on audio sound quality."

The "bad effect on audio sound quality" it is talking about is the loss of high frequencies due to the increased capacitance of the cable.

It is not low capacitance per se that causes microphonic noise, just that you can't have both ultra low capacitance and good microphonic noise immunity at the same time (speaking of cables used in high impedance circuits -- guitar cords, that is). Thus, many guitarists are in the unfortunate situation of having to use high capacitance cable that robs the highs lest they would face the much bigger problem of microphonic noise.
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1st March 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtl777 View Post
Alright, let me explain the way I understand it: It is difficult to make cable that has low capacitance and yet is well protected against microphonic noise. The materials and construction that make a cable well immune to microphonic noise have the unfortunate side effect of increasing the capacitance of the cable. So, in the process of trying to make the cable immune to microphonic noise, manufacturers are forced to take the penalty of high capacitance. In effect, high capacitance becomes a necessary evil because protecting against microphonic noise takes a higher priority. For example, hear is what I read from the description of the Mogami 2524:

"Most musical instrument sound pick-ups such as those in electric guitars are comprised of high impedance circuits driven by voltage, in other words by very small electrical current flow. Therefore, so-called MICROPHONICS (noise) becomes a critical problem. (Microphonics means noise that is generated when the cable is moved and or tapped when the cabling circuit is a high impedance link.) Guitar cables must be counter-measured against this, so, a conductive PVC layer is placed under the shield conductor in most cases even though it may have a bad affect on audio sound quality."

The "bad effect on audio sound quality" it is talking about is the loss of high frequencies due to the increased capacitance of the cable.

It is not low capacitance per se that causes microphonic noise, just that you can't have both ultra low capacitance and good microphonic noise immunity at the same time (speaking of cables used in high impedance circuits -- guitar cords, that is). Thus, many guitarists are in the unfortunate situation of having to use high capacitance cable that robs the highs lest they would face the much bigger problem of microphonic noise.
You have mainly just restated your belief.

Cable Distortion and Dielectric Biasing Debunked — Reviews and News from Audioholics

Here is a good technical description of cable microphonics from a respected engineer, while he is talking about extreme audiophile applications.

Premium guitar cables generally take this into account. While guitar cables get moved a lot, the voltage coming from hot guitar pickups can be relatively strong (volts) so this should not be a huge problem.

JR
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1st March 2011
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don't connect xlr pin1 to the chassis tab.
do connect mic cable xlr pin1 at both ends so you phantom mics will work.
follow the rane notes - they'll work 99% of the time.

if you want things to work well and reliably in all situations buy the right type of high quality cable - belden, canare, etc. - not audiophile grade nonsense - with just the right number of conductors, shielding and jacket for the job.

this is not emerging technology - the engineering has been done.

go nuts with the guitar cable, but not the rest.
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1st March 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JazzYoda View Post
I have never tried this...I would most likely attempt to make a guitar cable using the largest Coax I could find connectors for, perhaps RG-8X
You would no be happy doing this. Impedance-wise, most guitar cables with published specs are nominally 50 Ohm, so that will match. But, while RG8X is stranded it is not nearly as tactical and durable as a guitar cable. Even if the conductor gauge is comparable, the conductor strand count won't be nearly as high and the outer jacket will not be nearly as stage friendly. Also, as it has been stated, you will likely get a great deal of handling noise, more so in high gain applications.
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1st March 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnRoberts View Post
You have mainly just restated your belief.

Cable Distortion and Dielectric Biasing Debunked — Reviews and News from Audioholics

Here is a good technical description of cable microphonics from a respected engineer, while he is talking about extreme audiophile applications.
What I'm trying to say is that the materials and construction that manufacturers use to protect a cable against microphonics have the undesirable side effect of increasing the capacitance of the cable. Where in that article does it say that this is not true?

I'm only basing my beliefs on what Steve Lampen of Belden told me, that they had done countless lab tests on this at Belden. Their ultra low capacitance cables would have microphonic noise issues when used as guitar cable, and they had to settle for their higher capacitance cables (such as Belden 9394) when recommending for guitar.

I wanted to test this but just don't have the time. Besides, I believe Steve anyway, so for me there's no need to test. After all, he's a cable guru who is well known in pro audio circles and is the author of this book, Audio/Video Cable Installer's Pocket Guide, as well as many articles in radioworld.com.

Maybe you would like to test it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnRoberts View Post
Premium guitar cables generally take this into account. While guitar cables get moved a lot, the voltage coming from hot guitar pickups can be relatively strong (volts) so this should not be a huge problem.
For active pickups, yes, but for passive pickups, no. But who am I to argue with you?

BTW, what is the capacitance of the best premium guitar cable that you have seen or known of? Just wanted to compare it with my favorite guitar cable.
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We are probably more in agreement than disagreement.

My quibble is that cable microphonics is not directly related to capacitance or vice versa, while in practice for merchantable flexible cables, that may be the net effect. in other words to make a cable that people would use and actually buy, the capacitance would likely increase.

I don't claim expertise in guitar pickups technology but IIRC there were some healthy peak voltage output pickups made after they started to apply neodymium and other rare earth magnets to that area.

JR
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7th June 2011
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Quote:
For active pickups, yes, but for passive pickups, no. But who am I to argue with you?
This is not true. I measured my Les Paul Custom with Classic '57s passive humbuckers, full on the bridge pickup. The maximum signal I recorded into a 1Meg load (similar to a tube amp) was almost 4V peak. That is not a small signal. The biggest difference between active pickups is that they are generally buffered, meaning the source impedance is low, which incidentally, is more important if you want to decouple the impact of cable capacitance from signal transmission.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seaumas View Post
Unbalanced cable has a loss of 300 Ohms and is inefficient, but cheap. Its noisy, too. Balanced loses only 75Ohms and is efficient. But balqanced cable has another quality. It has a separate grounding and doesn't buzz. Its shielded. That means you will see a wrapping with wire and aluminum foil. This protection from field effects is called a "Faraday Cage" (Actually Ben Franklin came up with the first one, but Faraday knew what it was) For balanced the only real choice is XLR males or females. Active mics have XLR and use their own power supplies, sometimes as little as 4 volts. Balanced cable handles most problems. Of course, unbalanced cables can be skinny, unobtrusive and inexpensive. Makes them good as Lavallier mics. If you are doing serious stuff, go balanced. A little more expensive and XLR connectors and plugs are outrageous. Its worth it.
The impedance of cable says nothing about signal loss unless you know the source and load impedance. With a small source impedance of say 10 ohms, cable impedance of 300 ohms, and a load impedance of 10k, and applying ohms law, you will lose 0.265 dB.

The cable impedance spec it generally NOT a DC resistance of the cable though, is is the characteristic impedance of the cable, making your loss for the above configuration at DC and low frequencies 0.008 dB. The characteristic impedance spec is the high frequency impedance of the cable, the square root of the inductance divided by the capacitance and plays a role when you cable starts to act like a transmission line. You treat a connection as a transmission line when the wavelength of your signal approaches the physical dimension of your connection. For 20kHz, the wavelength is almost a mile, so your safe to ignore transmission line effects as long as your guitar cable is less than a mile.

Whether you are using balanced or unbalanced is generally dictated by the design of the gear you are connecting, not a choice on cabling. Transformers are the low cost way to convert balanced to unbalanced (as in the Rane note that was linked to describes), but transformers have practical problems with response and distortion, particularly at the low end of the audio spectrum.
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7th June 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dabler View Post
The impedance of cable says nothing about signal loss unless you know the source and load impedance. With a small source impedance of say 10 ohms, cable impedance of 300 ohms, and a load impedance of 10k, and applying ohms law, you will lose 0.265 dB.

The cable impedance spec it generally NOT a DC resistance of the cable though, is is the characteristic impedance of the cable, making your loss for the above configuration at DC and low frequencies 0.008 dB. The characteristic impedance spec is the high frequency impedance of the cable, the square root of the inductance divided by the capacitance and plays a role when you cable starts to act like a transmission line. You treat a connection as a transmission line when the wavelength of your signal approaches the physical dimension of your connection. For 20kHz, the wavelength is almost a mile, so your safe to ignore transmission line effects as long as your guitar cable is less than a mile.

Whether you are using balanced or unbalanced is generally dictated by the design of the gear you are connecting, not a choice on cabling. Transformers are the low cost way to convert balanced to unbalanced (as in the Rane note that was linked to describes), but transformers have practical problems with response and distortion, particularly at the low end of the audio spectrum.

That saved me having to answer...lol

Knowledge gained from good quality education + experience (having to prove the theory puts one on the right road), dispels Myths & BS

Compare the price of an AUDIO Transformer to a balanced input stage, OP-Amp built.

The links are examples only...
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7th June 2011
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Guitar Cables

As a guitarist and an practicing design engineer who has spent almost 15 years professionally designing various types of audio equipment, I have a few comments to add on guitar cables.

Your options for preserving you high end with passive pickups and standard cables, assuming you are running straight from your guitar to amp:

1. Keep cable runs short, 10ft and your fine.
2. Noise matters, picking up a radio station will ruin your track. Buy quality shielded cable that has a braided shield and plastic conductor and minimal capacitance per foot. The Belden 9778 works great and is relatively affordable (no audiophile hype pricing).

Passive connections are most susceptible to loss, but in my experience, you have to have some petty long runs before things are unusable for guitar. I personally would not sweat the cable thing too much. Unless you are playing giant stages and need +25 foot of cable between your passive instrument and whatever you are running into (pedals, rack, amp?). Perhaps if you for some reason want to play your amp in another room while you monitor on headphones you might need to deal with a longer cable, and the issues that can occur.

I think you may find that you can get a wonderfully usable guitar tone even with some high end cable loss. Don't forget that guitar generally does not extend up to 20kHz, and for YEARS guitarist have gotten awesome guitar tones using amps and pickups that did not have stellar high end performance by modern standards. Remember CBS screwed up many of the blackface fender circuits by trying to make them more technically correct (i.e. more stable, flatter response, extended high end, etc.), resulting in the silverface Fenders from the 70s, not exactly the tonal holy grail.

If you really want to maximize your high end, install active pickups and/or a buffer with a 9V battery in your guitar (many places sell these as kits for various guitars). The low output impedance of the buffer will let you run a very long cable with very little high end loss due to the cable. But some guitarist believe that the interaction between your guitar pickups and the amplifier input impedance is responsible for tonal nirvana, and if you are buffering you are intentionally removing this interaction.

One final note though, is that high end can also spoil a good guitar tone. Too much high end leads to harsh and ice picky tones that, IMHO, suck. Yes you can correct after laying down the tracks, but why not make it sound good first and minimize the post EQing required? The cable rolling off the high end with a first order slope (6dB per octave) can actually help your guitar tone. The classic guitar tone control uses this same type of circuit, albeit adjustable. There is something to be said though for keeping control of the your high end on that tone control and not in the cable, but from a practical standpoint, some HF loss will not stand in the way of tracking good guitar tones.

Finally, as with all things guitar, don't focus too much on what is happening technically. Just use your ears, make it sound good, and you will be fine.
#27
7th June 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexDaCat View Post

That saved me having to answer...lol

Knowledge gained from good quality education + experience (having to prove the theory puts one on the right road), dispels Myths & BS

Compare the price of an AUDIO Transformer to a balanced input stage, OP-Amp built.

The links are examples only...
And add to that, you only get the benefit of removing the single ended cable if you place this close to your guitar, which either means inside the guitar or clipped to your strap. And then you have to power it which means another cable from a power supply or batteries.
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7th June 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dabler View Post
And add to that, you only get the benefit of removing the single ended cable if you place this close to your guitar, which either means inside the guitar or clipped to your strap. And then you have to power it which means another cable from a power supply or batteries.
Phantom power the electronics...
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