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Cables: The Topic

Discussion in 'Accessories / Connections' started by Cresta, Dec 15, 2006.

  1. Cresta

    Cresta Active Member


    hello all :)

    I would like to buy a very good (electric) guitar cable, a "preamp to soundcard" cable, and two MIDI module mono cables (from the module to the soundcard, or module-->mixer-->soundcard).
    Since I really don't know if there are differences among them, I am asking for your help :)

    I may also buy them from web stores if you suggest some...


    hope this thread will be used for all cables-related questions, so the forum will not be invaded by thousands of other posts asking always the same thing
  2. CoyoteTrax

    CoyoteTrax Well-Known Member

    Everybody has their favorites but my fave guitar cable is my Mogami Gold. A little costly but well worth it. If a little noise isn't an issue, I have a Fender ElectroVolt that's lasted me 6 years so far with no problems.

    For preamp to soundcard I love my mogami silver series cables from REDCO (balanced and unbalanced). REDCO has great prices and excellent service BTW.
  3. Cresta

    Cresta Active Member

    uhm... the noise is a big problem: my goal is to get the best from my stuff (preamp/soundcard), so I think that a very good cable would help me even if I haven't the ultimate state of the arte preamp or soundcard, may be "my first step" toward a higher level of sound quality :)
  4. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    There are lots of good brands out there, but it's more than just good cable required for low noise...

    Noise is an issue in any environment, you should be using a preamp out that is either firewire or USB 2 going to a soundcard/computer with a similar inferface. This way, you're already leaving the box in digital form. (When you're ready someday, you can worry about high end pre's and converters)

    Going into the analog input of a soundcard is risky and prone to additional noise, both from the outside world and the guts of the computer & CPU. 99% of the time, this is an unbalanced input, and prone to more noise than a balanced or all-digital input would be. (If you're not up on balanced vs. unbalanced stuff, do a little poking around/reading up on it..)

    Most of the cables you mention will be unbalanced (hot and ground - 2 conductor), with a center conductor and a shield around the insulated core. Balanced is three conductors - & +, with a neutral/ground as the third (shield) connection. Chances are, you'll be going into the preamp from your guitar with an unbalanced cable. Your guitar preamps and effects, etc., are all prone to AC hum and noise, so even position of the instrument is key in keeping noise down at this phase. Depending on the type of pickup and ambient AC floating around your room, it may simply come down to which way you sit and hold the instrument.

    When using unbalanced stuff, keep your runs as short as practical/possible, keeping them away from transformers and power cables, noisy light sources and CRT displays, etc. MIDI data should be fine over all but the cheapest cables, but keep them as short as needed as well - it never hurts.

    That's just a start for what you want to do, but hopefully it'll help you a bit getting going on purchases. I don't think you'll need $100/ft exotic cable to get great sound, just common sense and good basic recording techniques.
  5. Cresta

    Cresta Active Member

    well thanks VERY much for your precious advices!!!! :shock:

    may be that knowing what exactly I am using you should be able to get a more precise image:

    my preamp is a C-Valve by Samson Tech.
    its spec are:
    Frequency Response 20Hz to 20kHz + - 0.5 dB
    Dynamic range 95 dBu, un-weighted, 22 Hz to 22 kHz
    THD 0.008 % typ. @ +4 dBu, 1 kHz
    Crosstalk 90dB 22 Hz to 22 kHz

    ok it is not the ultimate preamp, but it is cheap :)

    my guitar cable is:
    "Bespeco Noiseless Low Capacity Coaxial Cable - Flexible and Insulating Jacket"

    my microphone cable is:
    Neutrik NC FXX

    currently I am connecting the preamp to the soundcard (M-Audio Delta 192) through the digital digital cable.

    I do not use any effects/pedals between the guitar and the preamp so the signal arrive "clean"; I do add all effects with the PC.

    The sound is very good to me, but I suppose I can go always further, so.. why not? :)

    btw this I don't understand:
    is there a balanced guitar cable? :shock:
    sorry for being this noobie :oops: but I would gladly appreciate if you will explain :)

    thanks :cool:
  6. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Looks like you're off to a good start; I'm assuming you meant you're going into the sound card via a USB or Firewire cable. (Digital)

    Didn't mean to confuse the issue on balanced/unbalanced guitar outputs... I have seen some rare "balanced" guitar output schemes, but they're few and far between (AFAIK). It requires a small active preamp inside the body of a guitar, and a modification for an XLR jack, etc. 99% of the time, it's unbalanced wiring used by almost everyone else, which works fine for most situations; in live use you may go right to a wireless beltpack (on the strap, etc.) or studio/live you simply go 10-15 feet of cable to a group of pedals on the floor, or right to an amp. Either way, it's not a very long run, and you don't lose much signal this way.

    "coaxial" (unbalanced) cable as you list is simply defined as a center conductor (the core, carrying the signal) surrounded by an insulated sleeve, wrapped by the ground wire. Some cable also uses foil along with this ground to keep interference out in a more complete coverage scheme; some cable just uses the ground wire itself, and some older cable (the vintage, good stuff!) uses a maddenly complex "weave" of the wire itself - brass, silver or copper, depending on the brand - to cover the entire center core/insulator. If you ever work on this stuff manually to roll your own connectors, repairs, etc., you'll know what I"m talking about. It's a total PITA to work on it, but it's also the best insulator out there, next to the solid foil insulator.

    One way to check on how cheap or good your unbalanced cable is to do this: while the unit is plugged in and the circuit is complete/on, turn the volume up a bit (not TOO loud, of course) and SHAKE the cable, either at the ends or the middle. Hear any crackling or handling noise? (it's called microphonics, for obvious reasons). General rule of thumb is: The more noise you hear, the cheaper the cable. Not always, but generally true. (Some cables will make noise no matter what because of the preamp gain, effects config, local interference, etc.)

    But again, your setup sounds pretty good, even for basic startup. Since you're going strictly DI and using amp sims, plug ins, etc., you'll probably want to learn to create the sound you want INSIDE the box. Some swear you have to use amps, cabinets and mics, etc., some do a great job with plug ins and ampsims. Only you can decide what's best and how you like your sound warmed up (or chilled out...)

    Oh, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but after the instrument itself and the recording gear, there's really only one other way to get your sound much better.....it's the same way you get to Carnegie Hall. :roll: (Sorry, couldn't help myself!)
  7. Cresta

    Cresta Active Member

    mmh, I feel a bit relieved :)

    I am using a coaxial RCA connector, S/PDIF IN of the soundcard connected to the S/PDIF OUT of the preamp :)

    sure, I am already VERY satisfied with the sound I get, the only improvements I wish for (well, a part from my own skills :lol:) are "less noise" and "more dynamic" :)

    I totally agree with you, even if I just play/record for hobby (I am absolutely not a professional) I try to study hard :)

    again thanks so much for your help, I owe you two beers!!! :)

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