Ok, here's the ultimate test of your ears - maybe. I was in a local guitar shop today and they have Lava Cables hanging on the wall. I asked them if they are really different and what would you expect them to say? They said these $120, 12 foot guitar cables sound incredible. They claim that anyone can hear the difference. Now to me, this sounds like fish and fairies, but there is a whole cadre of believers out there.
Anectodally, this was my experience:
I was tired of Guitar Center cables that were microphonic and broke easily, so I ordered some Canare GS6 and Neutrik connectors so I could build my own indestructible cable. The minute I plugged it in, I thought I heard a sonic difference, especially in the highs. But now I'm not so sure it was really different. I was only trying to build a more durable cable, so I wasn't expecting a difference in sound. And yet, I think I heard a difference.
So what do you think? What about these $120 cables with silver plated conductors and so on? Different? Worth $120? My local guitar guy thinks so.
Sure... cables make a difference, but it's a matter of whether it's a better difference or not. For me, I'm looking for consistency, which is where a particular 'brand' of cable can become important (for instance, if I need to replace it and don't have time to A-B a bunch of them).
Interestingly, Hendrix used weak (bright) strat pickups with a high capacitance (dark) coil cord, on purpose, to warm up the tone. Scott Henderson uses strats w/ very short, low capacitance mogami cable, but he rolls his tone controls way down. Mike Fuller's (Fulltone) cables are not the brightest or most transparent (also, spec'd on purpose), but they're consistent.
That said, I'm more interested in getting a "tone" and being able to duplicate it if something in the chain goes awry.
I use the 12 foot Monster Bass Cables ($99) IMHO they preserve signal better for Electric Guitar than any other cable availible. I used to use Standard Monster Electric Guitar Monster Cables ($90) but I made the switch and there is a HUGE difference in the sonic atmospehere. Now I know why Hillsong and Tomlin's guitarists all use Monster Bass cables.
*Keep in mind that there were different version of each series of Monster Cables. I don't know if there still are or not, I haven't bought cables in some time
Bass is one area where you would notice a big difference in cables. I'm looking online - is it just called "bass cable"? I can't find one that's $99.
I have this dual personality thing going on with Monster though. On the one hand, every time someone brings me a cable to fix, it's a Monster. The built in strain relief seems ineffective. However, the shielding and construction of the cable material is better than most.
I'd be interested to hear if you've tried Mogami Gold, or any cables that contain Canare GS6 cable as compared to the Moster bass cable. I've been a big fan of those two and find them to sound excellent.
Ha ha - vintage vibe usually means "warmer".
There are some very expensive and exotic cables out there - look on Lava Cable's website.
Thanks to Steve Fox Angel, I'm now trolling around looking at different discussions about cable. Just when I though I didn't care any more, the engineer in me got cranked up. Here was an interesting link:
And then there was this;
1. van Den Hul Intregration Hybrid - Quad alloy (sliver/copper/zinc) design 26 pF/ft
2. Tara Labs Spectrum - Twinax solid copper (99.99% pure) 33 pF/ft
3. ((((((Zaolla Silverline - Coax Solid Silver w/copper winding 28 pF/ft)))))))))
4. Evidence Audio Lyric HG - Twinax solid copper capacitance N/A
5. Lava ELC - Coax stranded (10 - 99.99% pure) 15 pF/ft
6. Cardas Golden Chord - Twinax litz copper 23 pF/ft
7. Evidence Audio Melody - Coax solid copper capacitance N/A
8. Klotz La Grange - Coax stranded (7 OFC) 23 pF/ft
9. Sommer Spirit - Coax stranded (21 TC) 24 pF/ft
10. Gepco GLC 20 - Coax stranded (26 BC) 32 pF/ft
11. Canare GS-6 - Coax stranded (127 OFC) 49 pF/ft
12. Mogami 2524 - Coax stranded (41 OFC) 39 pF/ft
13. George L's - Coax stranded (7 OFC) 25 pF/ft
So if impedance means anything, Lava ELC is the deal. But I don't think it's all about that and I remember seeing where some guy offered $1M to anyone who can hear a difference in "lower" and "high" end cables. Truth be told, the Lava ELC is not priced horribly and is very durable, so it has that going for it. But then Canare GS-6 is quite durable and I hear no lack of high end in my cables. In fact, I'm often cutting highs.
I suspect most decent cables offer more high frequencies that we really need - the proof being that most of us don't need our treble maxed out while cutting mids & bass. There might be a subtle shaping of the tone by a cable, but that's all. Biggest difference is likely to be if you have a problem with dirty jacks and connectors or a bad solder joint.
I was just turning that over in my head. In reality, many of the unpleasant tones that I have disliked in my guitar signal have been in the upper end, so I end up contouring treble down a bit. Electric guitar isn't a broad spectrum thing, so where high end cable might help in a hi fi situation, it might actually hurt guitar. Considering that I rarely turn my strat tone knob above 6, I think you should go for "good" sound quality and "excellent durability". That being said, I'm amazed at the price of Lava ELC in bulk. It's quite affordable and very durable at the same time. But then I can get GS-6 for half that. I did have one musician tell me that he loves his Vovox cable, but can only tell the difference on Acoustic guitar.