Best Guitar Cable

From: Lord Valve
Subject: Re: A LOT of CABLE!Re: What cable and connectors?
Date: 11 Dec 1999 00:00:00 GMT
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X-Server-Date: 11 Dec 1999 19:14:34 GMT
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Monte Barnett wrote:

“Lord Valve” wrote:

>>That was just the bays…three 144-point Switchcraft TT bays
>>with 20-foot tails on every position. All soldered, no punchblocks.
>>I had wire strung all over my store. I was using three colors
>>(red, black, and blue) and it actually looked kind of festive.
>>Took forever.

>Speaking of cable, I ran across something last week
>which was new to me: conductive “insulation”. In the
>process of minimizing the cable situation on my
>pedalboard, I had cut a pre-made 3′ Peavey cable in
>half and made it into two 1.5′ cables using some
>solderless straight .25″ connectors. I checked the
>connections using the “audible short” function on my
>meter, and everything was fine. Two hours later at
>practice, I had almost no signal from the pedalboard
>to the amp, so I started bypassing effects and swapping
>cables until I had a good signal with at least my
>Fulldrive II & DejaVibe. In troubleshooting the problem
>later, I found that both of the smaller cables I’d made
>had high-resistance shorts between the shield and center
>conductor. Turns out that the black sleeve between the
>braid & center conductor insulation was conductive,
>and was barely making contact with a *single* wire from
>the center conductors on each cable. I’ll admit to not
>having done much cable-building in the past couple of
>years, but this is the first time I’ve run across this.
>Is it common with good cable nowadays, or mostly with
>cheaper stuff?

Lord Valve Speaketh:
Actually, it’s the *good* stuff that has that. The
“conductive insulation” you ran across isn’t insulation,
it’s electrostatic shielding. This can be plastic or
cloth based; Canare cable uses plastic and Belden uses
cloth. It’s there to reduce mechanically generated
noises; high-impedance cable can be quite microphonic,
and can also make scritchy-scratchy noises when it’s
slithered around on the floor. This is due to random
“stray” charges generated within the cable itself (like
“static” electricity) and also to changes in cable
capacitance as the wire flexes, slightly changing the
distance between the outer shielding and the inner
conductor. If you’re making your own cables and you
encounter what appears to be an extra layer of
“insulation” between the center conductor and the
shield, take care to remove it from the exposed portion
of the center conductor before you solder everything in
place. If *any* of it touches the copper portion of the
center conductor, you will have a high-resistance short
from tip to sleeve; as you found out, using the low-ohms
range on your meter to check from tip to sleeve will *not*
detect this condition. What appeared to be a perfectly
good cable when you were finished making it became a
source of signal attenuation in the field. (BTW, this
is *another* reason not to use “solderless” connectors;
you cannot *see* the actual connections inside the plugs,
and all kinds of bogus crud could be in there.) I learned
early on that whenever I sell someone a piece of good-
quality cable, I’ll either need to spend five minutes (now)
telling the dude (or dude-ette) how to prepare it for
soldering or spend ten minutes (later) listening to him/her
bitch about the “shitty” cable I sold. For guys what rolls
their own, here’s the best combo I’ve found: Canare GS-6
cable and Switchcraft 280 plugs. I know the temptation
is to use the snazzy-looking Neutrik plugs; they are hard
to solder to without a *really* powerful iron, and the strain
relief system is bogus. They cost twice as much, too. Stick
with the Switchcraft; they were good enough for Grampaw and
they’re *still* the best. (I sell both kinds, in case anyone
is wondering.) If you want to make a cable that is damn near
indestructible, use a piece of 3/8″ HST over the inner part
of the plug; fill the inner portion with hot-glue and slide
the shrink over the glue while it’s still hot; it’ll begin
to shrink immediately. Finish shrinking it with your heat-
gun (or a 1000W Par-64 can, or a propane torch set on low,
or a cigarette lighter, or a hot-air popcorn popper [all of
which I have used successfully in the field]) and wait for
it to cool before removing any glue that squished out the
edges while you were shrinking it. This is the *best*
termination system that I’ve been able to devise; I have
guitar cables in the field that are still going strong after
more than a decade of use. So Sayeth the Lord.

Lord Valve

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