Instrument Cable FAQs
Why do you have two instrument cables (CoreB and CoreM)?
About CoreB and CoreM Instrument cables:
The selection of connectors across our range was straight forward and based on our extensive experience in musical distribution and musical performance businesses. We knew that for our range to be the best, we had to use the best. Neutrik was, without doubt, the winner in terms of quality and reputation.
With regard to the actual bulk cable, it proved to be a bit trickier to source a winning product. There are many criteria which determine how an instrument cable will perform, not only the technical and manufacturing specifications but considerations such as:
- How does the instrument cable feel?
- Is the instrument cable manageable, is it flexible?
- How easily does the instrument cable coil?
- Are the manufacturing processes and quality control of the instrument cable consistent?
And of course … how does the completed instrument cable sound?
All the cables used across our ranges have low capacitance and low resistance values and are quite simply some of the best manufactured cables available in the marketplace, however, during our product listening trials and focus group discussions it became increasingly evident that there was no ‘one cable fits all’ solution. We had not anticipated this result and continued our development discussions with guitarists and bass players. We embarked upon further listening trials, utilising a variety of musical styles, instruments and amplification products.
The outcome of these discussions and trials resulted in our decision to offer two product specifications. These will appeal to the broad spectrum of players who care about a superior sound and reliability.
This instrument cable will appeal to guitarists who are partial to rock guitar including drop tunings and bass players who love rounded bass tones with a full range of trebles. This cable has proved a great performer when used with acoustic instruments giving great definition and clarity across a full audio range.
This instrument cable, while retaining a great full round bass tone, will appeal to many electric and acoustic guitar players with crisp punchy trebles which cut through the mix. Bass players will be particularly impressed with some great slap and funk cutting tones. CoreM also comes into its own with acoustic instruments displaying a great definition of tone and clarity across a full audio range. Trialled across a range of 6 and 12 string acoustics, mandolins and violins during our development work, this cable has exceeded our expectations.
Why do I need a high-quality instrument cable?
A vibrating string in the presence a guitar pickup generates a very small electrical signal, a signal which is then transmitted, via an instrument cable to an audio amplifier, which in turn magnifies the signal.
This much stronger signal is then used to power a speaker cabinet.
The initial signal generated by the guitar pick up is very small (typically 250 mv) and it is critical, to retain the integrity of this signal, that it travels to the amplifier in the most efficient manner possible. To do this we need to a quality instrument cable to minimise any potential signal loss.
Several factors influence the efficiency of the instrument cable, factors such as conductivity, wire gauge, copper content, type of copper, cable resistance, cable capacitance, RF Shielding and cable length. Additionally, we must consider how the final cable will perform in real life, the cable must be flexible, hard wearing and managable…… It’s a lot to ask.
This is a very ‘deep’ subject, it gets a bit technical and many of the factors are interlinked, but lets consider some of the detrimental effects of these factors and some of the mitigating steps that can be taken to minimise the signal loss and create a great instrument cable.
Resistance of the cable:
All cables have a resistance which can be detrimental to the transmission of the generated signal from the pickup to the amplifier and the longer the cable, the greater the risk of a potential signal loss.
As musicians we have two compromises available to us to mitigate this signal loss. We can use as short a cable length as possible and use a superior low resistance cable.
Wire gauge and copper quality:
The more copper and the higher the quality of copper in a given length of cable assists in an efficient transmission of the low voltage signal to the amplifier stage.
Again, the only compromise available to us to minimise signal degradation is to use as short a cable length as possible and use a high quality copper OFC (Oxygen Free) cable.
Capacitance of the cable:
The overall capacitance of a cable is directly related to length of the cable. It has been demonstrated in trials that a (relatively) high capacitance can adversely affect the signal and at a higher capacitance we may see a ‘roll off’ some of the audio frequencies resulting in a ‘muddy tone’. As we touched on at the beginning of this article it is desirable to retain the integrity of the original signal to have the fullest frequency response as possible.
The compromises available to minimise frequency loss is to use as short a cable length as possible and a low capacitance cable fitted with quality soldered connectors.
This is the outer braiding that you see when you strip the outer insulation from the bulk cable. This shielding helps minimise ‘signal noise’ and helps to reduce RF (Radio Frequency) interference.
A compromise must be considered during manufacture, as too rigid a shielding may make a cable that is unmanageable and difficult to coil (as an illustration think of the coax cable used to carry signals from a roof top ariel to a television) an instrument cable needs to be more flexible and managable in use.
As you will appreciate designing an ideal cable can be a difficult and while using a short cable length to direct record into a mixing desk may give great results, we need to consider the practicalities of live work. To maintain the integrity of your sound when using a longer lead, the cable and components need to be of the highest quality and technical specification.
Thankfully, several manufacturers have specialised in making quality bulk cables for use in instrument applications that will help us meet the specifications detailed above and minimise the compromises that have to be made.
The Music Cable Company have analysed the best of these cables and further to extensive prototyping, listening tests and focus group sessions, have selected the products which we have incorporated into our Core range.
What are the technical specifications of your instrument cables?
Cable specifications (abridged) from our supplier’s data sheets here.
Why is CoreB instrument cable not available in the Denim/Fire/Camouflage weave options?
This is a very hardy cable and in combination with Denim, Fire or Camouflage weave products, the final diameter of the assembled CoreB cable is approximately 9mm.
During our trials we have found that this diameter has proved difficult for the Neutrik NP2 connectors to comfortably handle and as such (for the moment) we have removed these three weave options from this product range.
Should you wish the CoreB with any of these three weave options, we can offer the cable terminated with Neutrik/Rean ¼ Mono Straight Jacks. (as illustrated)
For information, the barrel and shrink on this connector is approximately 19mm, we have found this compatible with most recessed guitar jack sockets but please check your instrument prior to purchase.
How do you measure cable length?
For instrument and XLR cables, all cables are cut to the length detailed on the product page menus plus an additional allowance for connector termination. For example, a 3mtr cable will be cut at 3m 14cm allowing 7cm for termination at each end.
For patch cables, all cables are measured pin to pin (see patch cable diagram ‘S’ and ‘U’ for more details). There will be a degree of tolerance on this but a 20cm patch lead will measure 20cm from the centre pin of jack 1 to the centre pin of jack 2.
Can I use an instrument cable as a speaker cable?
The quick answer to this is no.
CoreS Speaker cables use heavier electrical conductors than instrument cables and are designed to safely handle the higher voltages generated by an amplifier to drive a speaker cabinet.
Instrument cables (CoreB and CoreM) are designed to handle much lower signal voltages. The use of an instrument cable as a speaker cable is not recommended and may damage your sound system.
Patch cables: ‘S’ and ‘U’ configurations explained
CoreP Music Cable Company Patch cables are fitted with low profile connectors and can be wired in either U or S configurations as shown below.
All lengths quoted for the CoreP range are measured from ‘pin to pin’.
Can you make me a custom cable?
All Music Cable Company cables are handmade to order in our workshop in the UK. It is very easy for us to adapt the Core range for special requests such as cable length changes, alternative connectors, weave colours or similar. If you don’t see what you are looking for on our website, please send us an email via the contact page (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your request and we will get right back to you.
Why don’t you use molded connectors and plugs?
Molded connectors tend to be used on budget cable ranges where the wire/connector termination is placed in a jig and a hot rubber solution, once set (cured) seals the joint.
There is nothing wrong with this method of assembly and the from the manufacturers point of view, it produces a quick low cost effective cable joint.
The major downside of this using this method is that should the cable joint fail while in use the cable cannot be easily repaired and other than removing the sealed plugs, prepairing the wire ends and soldering a new connector in place, the only option is to buy a new lead.
The Music Cable Company will never use this method of assembly, we believe in using quality branded soldered connectors which use effective internal clamping glands to grip the cable. We also fit heat shrink sleeving wherever possible to minimise any strain on the soldered joints.
The big benefit from using this method is that our cables are repairable and if they have been damaged in use they can be easily repaired. That is one of the reasons that we have great confidence in our products and offer a 5 year warranty and aftercare package on all our own manufactured products, handmade in the UK.
What tests do you perform on your cables prior to shipping?
All Music Cable Company cables are fitted with quality branded soldered connectors terminated using quality (lead free) solder products.
The soldered connections are sleeved (where physically possible) prior to final assembly of the connector cable glands. Connections are then electrically tested, all screws and clamp glands are secured and heat-shrink strain relief collars fitted.
As a final test, prior to packaging and shipment, the assembled cable is again tested for electrical continuity and subjected to an audible frequencey test to check that the cable meets our quality control standards.