Best Guitar Cables (2020) – Preserve Tone & Lower Signal Loss
What makes a guitar sound amazing? If you’re talking about electric guitars and acoustic-electric guitars, the guitar cable matters just as much as the strings, pickups, tone controls, and everything else.
The best guitar cables on the market can make a huge difference during a show or when you’re recording an album.
11 Best Guitar Cables for Improved Signal Clarity
Check out my top picks and buying guide to understand why guitar cables are so important.
Table of Contents
- 11 Best Guitar Cables for Improved Signal Clarity
- Guitar Cable Connectors
- Length and the Myths of Signal Loss
- Core Materials
- The Importance of Shielding
- Durability and Flexibility
Although this guitar cable won’t set you back too much, it’s as premium-quality as guitar cables can get. The cable comes with great shielding and can be used for playing live or for recording in the studio. The manufacturer offers this cable in five lengths, and the 10ft version is perhaps the most popular.
The Magami Gold Instrument cable features polymer shielding as well as a spiral shield. The PVC anti-static shielding will help prevent the pickup of interference and noise. The oxygen-free copper core is an excellent signal conductor and a much better solution than the traditional copper wire strands that most budget-friendly guitar cables feature.
With good EMI and RFI shielding, the Mogami Gold Instrument-10 is all about the signal quality under all conditions. What’s also cool is that the cable comes with a lifetime warranty.
If you’re looking for a super premium guitar cable for live performances or even recording, the Mogami Platinum might be a great choice for you. The cable has been designed for explosive dynamics and minimum signal loss.
The cable features the Neutrik silentPLUG connectors which allow for silent hot-swapping. Although it comes in a lot of different lengths, just keep in mind that only cables longer than 12ft come with these Neutrik connectors.
Compared to many other guitar cables, the Platinum Guitar-20 seems to have superlative RF noise reduction.
A 30ft guitar cable is not for everyone. That said, if you have a very large studio or if you want to play live, the more length and freedom of motion, the better.
The signal purity is middle-of-the-road to high-end, partly thanks to the nickel-plated plugs. This cable is probably best paired with guitars of a vintage tone.
As a coiled cable, I recommend pairing it with single-coil pickups. The cable has a higher capacitance and might add a measure of smoothness to the sound of your guitar. The higher capacitance may minimize noise pickup in the long coiled cable.
If maximum versatility is on your mind, then you may not need to look any further than the D’Addario Planet Waves American Stage cable. You can find them in lengths of 10, 15, 20, and 30ft. You can also find three connector configurations: straight to straight, straight to angled, and angled to angled connectors.
The cables also come with custom connectors. They feature something called a Geo-Tip, which is a different tip design that should enhance the fit for all kinds of jacks.
The solder joints improve the already good conductivity of the oxygen-free copper core. It’s important to understand that that these cables are unique. That’s because the plugs are patented by Planet Waves. This is one fit and type of tone that you just can’t find elsewhere.
If you’re a Fender enthusiast then you’ll be pleased to know that guitar cables made by Fender can be premium quality too. As I say that, obviously it's not imperative to use Fender cables just because you have Fender instruments.
This 10ft cable has good range and very good signal stability. The cable comes in eight different lengths, each one equipped with the same 95% oxygen-free copper spiral shielding and of 8mm diameter thick. Black PVC electrostatic shielding is used to improve the signal purity.
The nickel-plated connectors do a good job but they’re not exactly premium-quality. The good news is that Fender offers this cable with either straight to straight or straight to angled connectors, which means that you can easily use this cable with a wide range of instruments.
GLS Audio is an industry-leading brand when it comes to pro and home audio cables. This electric guitar cable is rugged and flexible and it’s protected on the outside by a tweed cloth jacket. It features both right angle and straight angle connectors which should make it compatible with a wider range of devices and offer a more reliable fit.
Due to the cloth jacket, the cable won’t be prone to tangling. Although it may not look professional enough for some studios, many may agree that the brown and yellow combination makes for a flashy stage accessory.
The reinforced connectors are a nice bonus for this price range. The GLS Audio cable also uses oxygen-free copper in the core and insulator shielding.
There are four available versions of the KLIQ guitar cables. Although they come in both 10ft and 20ft lengths, I recommend the 10ft model as it’s just enough length for most studio setups. Unless you plan on using a cable on stage, then the 20ft length model might just get in your way.
The 10ft KLIQ cable also comes with different connectors. You can choose between straight to straight and straight to angled connectors. This cable is perhaps thicker than most due to its multiple layers of insulation and shielding.
Surprisingly, the cable remains flexible and kink-free. The signal clarity is very impressive and the rugged jacket provides much-needed durability for any environment. You can also find the cable in three color options of black, blue, or red, but the overall quality and lifetime warranty offer a lot of value for the money.
A reliable accessory on stage or in the studio, the Red Dragon guitar cable is one of the best noiseless cable solutions for the modern guitar player. It has a tough jacket and thick PE insulation.
The cable also has some impressive aesthetics to go with its flexibility and durability. The oxygen-free copper core allows for superior conductivity. I should also point out that there are three variations of the cable: 10ft with straight to straight connectors and 20ft with straight to straight or straight to angled connectors.
The model with an angled connector is slightly pricier than the others but it has its uses, especially if you’re using an electric jazz bass. All connectors are soldered and reinforced for minimum movement and signal loss.
PigHog is not the most popular guitar cable manufacturer. But, while many guitarists tend to stick to brand names, others aren’t afraid to keep an open mind and try out more brands.
The PCH20BKR guitar cable comes in a 20ft long and a straight to angled connector configuration. This makes the cable highly adaptable for a wide range of guitars and other electric instruments too.
One of the best features of the PCH20BKR cable is actually the woven jacket, which gives the cable impressive ruggedness without compromising flexibility. As with most premium-quality cables, the PCH20BKR also features oxygen-free copper spiral shielding and core.
As a result, the connectivity and signal strength will be optimum at all times. Of course, the gold-plated connectors also help to maintain the signal strength and ensure that the tone of your guitar exits the amp exactly how you have it configured.
10. Hosa GTR-220
The Hosa GTR-220 is a guitar cable with straight to straight connectors than comes in five lengths. Regardless of the size, the GTR-220 is one of the most affordable solutions for guitarists who are desperate to preserve tone and maintain signal quality.
Oxygen-free copper has been used for its superior conductivity. It’s pretty much the industry standard so you can’t go wrong with it. The same material can also be found in the 90% braid shielding.
Although this may not be the most durable cable (due to its slimmer diameter), it is still flexible and long-lasting as long as you handle it with care. At the end of the day, if you’re looking for something cheap and with good EMI and RFI rejection, you are likely to find the GTR-220 satisfying.
This guitar cable is affordable and comes equipped with Velcro straps for easy storage. Rig Ninja offers this cable in 10ft or 20ft with either straight or angled connectors. However, if you want more range, you will have to settle for straight to straight connectors as only the 10ft cable comes with an angled connector.
The cable has been engineered for a no-hum, no-crackle tone. It’s capable of carrying a noise-free signal. It also has a low capacitance in order to limit the interference and minimize the cable’s impact on the tone of your instrument.
The uncolored tone is one of the main draws of this guitar cable. Of course, those of you looking for a budget-friendly accessory might also be pleased with what the Rig Ninja has to offer.
Guitar Cable Connectors
There are guitar cables with 1/4" connectors and guitar cables that can plug into standard 3.5mm holes. You’ll only ever want the latter if you play a lot with your guitar directly plugged into a computer. That said, it’s sometimes still better to get a high-end guitar cable with 1/4” connectors and just use a 3.5mm adapter.
The connector plating will matter too, as will the design of the connector.
In terms of plating, it’s best to aim for silver or gold-plated plugs. Silver has by far the best conductivity but gold is far more resistant to oxidation. Nickel-plated connectors come close but they’re almost never used in premium guitar cables.
When it comes to the shape, this doesn’t always matter for the signal but it may matter for the fit. Angled connectors are always at a 90-degree angle and may make cable management better for certain instruments or jack hole positions.
Some jazz bass players prefer using angled connectors on their instruments and regular straight connectors for the amp, generally speaking.
Length and the Myths of Signal Loss
Most people will tell you that shorter cables are always preferable. That’s because the longer the cable is, the higher the signal loss. While this is true to some degree, any signal loss is only measurable in the labs. The human ear doesn’t have the greatest precision in the world, so it’s very unlikely for anyone to be able to hear a difference.
For example, 10, 20, 25, and 30ft cables have minimal noticeable signal losses. Once you go above 30ft length, things may start to change, especially for those who possess the so-called “golden ears”.
This may not be a huge problem on stage when you’re plugged into powerful amps, but it may have a serious impact on your recording.
One more thing that’s worth considering regarding length is that the longer the cable, the higher the chance of it getting tangled, punctured, etc. Therefore, there’s no reason to get a cable that’s very much longer than needed.
The core is one of the most important conductive components of a guitar cable. While most generic guitar cables feature standard copper as the main conductor, higher-end cables use oxygen-free copper for the core and shielding.
Note that not all manufacturers will list the quality of their oxygen-free copper. Those that do will likely list it in percentages. 95% and up is the most common ratings for oxygen-free copper found in guitar cables, but you may see high-end cables in the 99% range.
The Importance of Shielding
As previously mentioned, oxygen-free copper shielding is very important. It’s effective in blocking EMI and RFI so that your guitar tone remains unchanged. How that shielding is done is also important.
Some manufacturers swear by braided copper shielding while others prefer spiraled shielding. Both are good at protecting your guitar signal from sonic interference. But, whether one is better than the other is quite hard to tell.
That’s because it’s not just the oxygen-free copper shielding that influences the amount of interference that can get to the center of the conductor.
Note that some cables will probably have foil shielding or serve shielding. These options are more cost-effective but not amazing by any means. They certainly don’t offer anywhere near as much protection as a good copper shielding.
Durability and Flexibility
It’s a misconception that flexible cables are more prone to tangles. You generally want guitar cables to be less rigid to make sure that nothing inside breaks when they’re in storage.
The durability of a guitar cable will often be given by the outer layer or jacket. The jacket is the component that protects everything on the inside from pressure, impact, and weather while also providing a bit of extra shielding.
There’s no real right or wrong answer here. You may find that a rubber jacket better than a cloth jacket, and vice versa. It all has to do with the thickness and ruggedness of the outer layer. What you might want to keep an eye on is the design.
Woven cables tend to look better on stage than regular cables. As for a coiled cable versus a straight cable, this design shouldn’t impact the durability of the cable. The only thing that a coiled design really influences is the capacitance.
Because more conductive material is used, coiled cables are known to have a high capacitance rating. This alters the guitar tone slightly, giving it what’s often referred to as a darker tone. Single coil pickups go well with coiled or high capacitance cables.
Preserve Your Guitar Tone with the Best Guitar Cable You Can Afford
By now you’ve probably already picked one, two, or even more guitar cables that fit your needs. There’s nothing wrong with getting more than one, using them, and listening carefully for the tonal differences. But, no matter what you pick, remember that too much length will sometimes work against you.