Buying a new guitar cable is far from the most exciting thing you’ll ever do as a guitarist, but it’s certainly an essential piece of gear you can’t do without. Cheap cables break, usually at the most inopportune moment, like when you’re midway through the first song of your headline set. Making sure you’re armed with the best guitar cables possible ensures that you’ll always be ready to rock, with the handy side effect of offering a tonal improvement.
As well as putting up with the rigors of the road, a good quality guitar cable will ensure a clean signal path, rejecting unwanted noise and maximizing your sound quality. Even if you don’t have a massive pedalboard, the clear signal of a good cable will offer a small, yet noticeable difference to the sound of your guitar. You spend enough money on guitars, amps, and pedals, so why not extend that to the cables you use?
Guitar cables come in a variety of different prices, and you can pay quite a lot when you move further up the ladder of quality. These cables will last longer and sound better, but you can still get an excellent cable for the $40/£30 mark.
With so many cables out there to choose from, which is the best? Well lucky for you dear reader we’ve put together a list of the best guitar cables on the planet, no matter what your budget may be.
Best guitar cables: Our top picks
It’s the industry standard found in recording studios worldwide which is why the Mogami Gold Instrument Cable claims our top spot. Coming with a lifetime guarantee, the clarity and frequency response of this cable is unmatched, and best of all, it doesn’t cost the earth to grab yourself one.
Money no object? When only the best will do you have to go for the Evidence Audio Lyric HG. Okay so that price might raise an eyebrow or three, but it is one of the highest-quality cables available today. John Mayer uses one, which should be endorsement enough for anyone!
If you’re a bit cash-strapped at the moment, we’d go with the Fender Professional Series Instrument Cable. They’re reliable, resistant to kinks, and more than durable enough to put up with plenty of abuse on-stage. We’ve used a set of these for our own live rig for years now and they’ve never let us down.
Best guitar cables: Product guide
The Mogami Gold Series Guitar Cable is already used throughout the world for professional audio work in recording and broadcast studios, so it’s unsurprising that its range of guitar cables is pro standard.
Manufactured in Nagano, Japan, the company publishes the Gold Series’ capacitance rating at a reassuring 39.7pF/Ft – and its build continues that quality.
A conductive PVC layer is placed under the shield conductor to drain away high impedance voltage and to reduce unwanted microphonic noise dramatically. It’s also available in shorter lengths with right-angled connectors for patch cable use.
EA very much believes that less is more when it comes to building their cables - and this is obvious through their intentions. The Lyric is a cable that, to our ears, almost disappears from the signal path.
It contains a dual solid-core crafted from IGL copper, which ensures the audience will be bathing in a smooth, true-to-life recreation of your tone. The solid core carries your signal far better than the braided alternative, but in turn, the prices hike. If you’re after the purest possible tone money can buy though, then look no further.
A cost-effective solution for your cabling needs, the Fender Professional Series Instrument Cable is manufactured to exacting standards. Coming in a variety of size options, they’re perfect if you need to wire your pedalboard or expand your reach onstage.
It’s a nice and fat gauge cable, lending it a feel that’s more premium than the price tag would suggest. It’s wrapped in a PVC casing that’s been specially formulated to have no ‘physical memory’, preventing it from getting into a tangled mess no matter how quick your changeover is.
The interior of the cable reduces unwanted noise thanks to the 95% OFC spiral shielding, helping to transparently transport your guitar’s signal. They’re handily available everywhere too, so you won’t have to look too far if you decide you want one as a backup.
Planet Waves are a D’Addario brand that’s well-established in the accessories market, and this is its flagship cable with specs to match. Plugs are built to Planet Wave’s design by the industry standard supplier Neutrik, and we’ve had good experiences with the fit using a number of guitar models.
The American Stage cable also features an ‘In-Line’ solder process, which creates a permanent bond between wire and plug. This helps create a clear connection and enhances durability.
Read the full Planet Waves American Stage Instrument Cable review
Some guitarists prefer a woven guitar cable casing because it’s less likely to tangle. Let’s be honest, it also looks more exciting than the usual black, that’s for sure.
Though black is available, funkier choices of Neon Pink and Orange will ensure you can see your guitar cable on low-lit stages, though we’re rather partial to the red, blue, and white design ourselves.
Crips highs and rich harmonics ensue with this cable thanks to the dual conductors. You're also assured of a low-noise floor thanks to the well-shielded construction.
Boss has always been the benchmark of durability and reliability in the world of effects and accessories. At the end of the day, we all need to know that our cables are going to last a while and won’t die on us mid-gig.
Boss’ instrument cable comes in various lengths with various jack combinations, to ensure that you get the cable to suit your needs. Constructed with care and attention, the oxygen-free cable and corrosion-resistant 24k gold-plated connectors ensure minimum signal degradation - keeping your tone sounding bright, lively, and precisely as you like it.
A highly durable braided cable jacket completes this crucial element of your setup, delivering strength that is surprisingly impressive for a cable of this price point. There is plenty of competition from other brands in this sub £/$25 corner of the market, but Boss has just as much of a right to be here as anyone else.
You just know it’s going to be good when PRS have put their name on it. Widely respected as one of the world’s greatest guitar manufacturers, their accessories are making a name for themselves too.
The gold plugs are courtesy of Neutrik, and the cables are made in conjunction with Van Damme Cabling. This means that PRS instrument cables have low capacitance and fantastic noise rejection, so there’s no compromise in strength and tonal fidelity for the studio or the stage. There's also a 'Silent' version available just in case you want something even more perfect, and a 'Classic' version if you're on more of a budget.
Though they’ll give you the classic visual vibe of Jimi Hendrix, Brian May, and Jimmy Page, coil cables have a reputation for being inferior due to the added length of cable used to make them and how it may be unnecessarily detrimental to your guitar signal. Vox helps offset that by investing in an unusual copper for an instrument cable.
The audiophile-grade 99.9% purity OFC copper conductors here offer improved clarity – especially in the mid-range. Vox also notes that the multi-gauge design uses bespoke conductor types optimized for specific frequency ranges for a fuller, more organic sound. Using two separate shields also improves noise isolation.
Pedalboard real estate is precious – every inch counts in a pursuit to add more stompboxes. That means we need patch cables to be… less! Ernie Ball clearly understands this because the flat-angled ends of this patch cable help move your pedals closer together if needed. A real godsend if you have a mini pedalboard.
We’ve had good experiences gigging with these great value patch cables, and Ernie Ball even makes the Flat Patch Cable in white as well as the ubiquitous black.
If you need custom lengths for your pedalboard, a solderless kit is an easy, accessible option that won’t require an electrician’s skills. And if you’re skeptical about how Evidence gets around the lack of soldering on the connections here, rest assured that it’s all about precision for a connection Evidence confidently claims is ‘better-than-soldered’.
The inside of the tips of the brass SIS right-angled plugs (eight are included with the 5ft kit) are precision machined to have threads. These threads cut and reshape the soft IGL copper conductor of the Monorail cable when turned around it several times. Need more convincing? David Gilmour, Noel Gallagher, Graham Coxon, Guthrie Govan, and Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien all use them.
Best guitar cables: Buying advice
Will a better guitar cable improve my tone?
The quality of your guitar or patch cable will definitely influence your tone. You’ll feel the effects of different guitar cables much more if you're using passive electric guitar pickups rather than active ones. This is where ‘capacitance’ comes into play – capacitance is a buzzword you'll often hear around guitar cables, and for good reason.
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A capacitor is formed between two electrical conductors that are in close proximity. The larger the surface area of these conductors (in your guitar cable), the larger the capacitance. Large amounts of capacitance are measured in units of farads, so named after 19th-century English physicist Michael Faraday.
Electric guitar cables contain smaller amounts of capacitance, which are measured in picofarads (pf); each one million-millionth of a farad. A decent quality audio cable should offer 40pf per foot with the highest quality offering around half that.
Most noticeably, capacitance has the effect of reducing high-end treble in your tone, but it can actually have an effect across the entire spectrum. Combined with the inductors that are your guitar pickups, it can actually add mid-range gain.
As a general rule of thumb, the longer your cable length, or the more capacitance the cable itself has for its given length, the more loss of high-end you’ll notice.
You may even want this, but if you’re lacking some high-end brightness, a low-capacitance guitar cable could make a positive difference to your sound.
Impedance (Z) is the measure of the total opposition to current flow in an alternating current circuit. It is made up of the sum of two components, resistance (R) and reactance (X). The output from most electronic audio devices is usually low impedance (around 150 ohms), but it can be much higher for passive guitar pickups.
Active pickups contain a preamp that offsets any issues with impedance by converting it to low impedance, and it can drive a cable without any loss of high frequency.
And this means it is more adversely affected by capacitance from a cable to create a filter on your sound – as capacitance and impedance increase, this filter comes into effect more. In theory, the ideal setup for wide frequency response in your tone is a low-impedance pickup and low-capacitance cable.
When it comes to smaller patch cables between your pedals, their capacitance isn’t as important as the cable that goes between the guitar and the first pedal in your chain. That’s because pedals have low impedance outputs, though if your pedals are true bypass, they’ll have more effect on the overall capacitance in your signal.
Are guitar cables balanced?
Guitar cables are unbalanced, which means they’re prone to interference. This is part of the reason we’d always advise getting a good quality cable, as you won’t be opening yourself up to more potential noise, particularly useful in complex setups with loads of pedals.
An unbalanced cable is mono, so only sends one copy of the signal which is what makes them likely to pick up extraneous interference. A balanced cable sends two copies of the signal, one inverted, which cancels out any noise or interference.
Despite a balanced cable being objectively better, unfortunately, as guitarists, we cannot use them with our setups due to the way our pickups work. They can also present issues when plugging into our amplifiers, as some amps won’t be compatible with the TRS-style connector on a balanced cable.
Can guitar cables cause buzz?
This is actually quite a complex question, purely because there are so many components in your signal chain that could potentially cause buzzing. Whilst a bad cable certainly can cause a buzz, it wouldn’t necessarily be our first port of call when looking to get rid of a noise issue.
The truth is buzz is far more likely to be caused by your pickups, or interference from electric devices in your home - particularly true with single coil equipped guitars. A faulty cable usually results in your whole signal cutting out, rather than just noise by itself. Of course, this isn’t a solution for every potential problem, but if you fear your cable is faulty, try it on a different amplifier or guitar and see if you can recreate the issue.
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