There are a lot of parts of being a musician that you never really consider when you’re first starting out, because odds are that you’re likely to be the first musician in your immediate family. Things like cables, matching ohms between a head and a speaker cabinet, and finding the best patch cable for your needs aren’t really explained to you until you run into a situation where you need to figure these things out for yourself.
Luckily for you our articles are aimed at exactly that. If you’ve ever run into issues trying to figure out how to select the best patch cables for your needs you’ve come to the right place. The sections below will give you all the information that you need to make an informed purchase. So without much further ado, let’s get into the meat of the article.
- What Is A Guitar Patch Cable?
- What Should I Look For In A Guitar Patch Cable?
- Top 5 Guitar Patch Cables
What Is A Guitar Patch Cable?
For those of you who weren’t already aware, a patch cable is a small cable that is typically used to connect effect pedals to one another. Patch cables shorten the amount of total length that you’re signal needs to travel through.
Think of it like this: your guitar, your pedals and your amp form a circuit. The more cable your signal needs to pass through the weaker it will become. This is why you’re going to sound a bit different if you use a 50 ft. cable as opposed to a 12 ft. cable. As your signal becomes weaker the top end frequencies are the first to go, so if you’re using too much cable eventually your tone is going to become muddy and inarticulate.
This is where the patch cable comes in. Rather than using a full cord (generally the shortest full sized cord commonly produced is still around 6 ft. long) utilizing a patch cable allows your signal to maintain integrity and a full frequency response. Most patch cable are between 6 and 12 inches long. The more pedals you have the faster this difference adds up.
Patch cables are also significantly cheaper than full sized cables, which if you have four or five pedals could easily save you $40 or $50.
What Should I Look For In A Guitar Patch Cable?
Unlike a lot of other musical accessories, shopping for instrument and patch cables is really easy. Contrary to what some would have you believe, you really don’t need to invest in expensive components to get better results. You don’t need cables made from gold (not the entire cable, just a piece of it) or anything else absurdly expensive. Basically, if you can’t immediately understand the real world applications of every part of your cord odds are they’re trying to sell you something that you don’t really need.
Really, the most important things you should be concerned with are durability and quantity. There are manufacturers that sell a six pack of patch cables for roughly $10 bucks. These patch cables should last you a year or two so long as you don’t excessively abuse them. If you go this route make sure to buy a spare pack in case they start going out at an inopportune time. Higher quality cables are a bit more expensive, but they do last longer under normal conditions. Both choices are going to end up costing you roughly the same amount, so it’s really a matter of personal preference.
Top 5 Guitar Patch Cables
As always, our recommendations are selected with widespread applicability in mind. Ideally, every musician reading one of our articles should be able to find a product that is realistic for their needs and budget. So while we recognize that more expensive instruments and instrument accessories are generally objectively better, it doesn’t matter how good a piece of equipment is if you can’t afford it. So just try to keep in mind that the best choice for you may not be the best choice for your neighbor, and vice versa.
Planet Waves Classic Series Patch Cables
A little-known fact about Planet Wave is that they actually started out just producing guitar straps. The company was founded in 1994 by Howard and Robert Silagy in Hicksville, N.Y. Unlike a lot of independent companies they actually focused on producing simple and utilitarian options for working musicians, that while inexpensive were still up to the rigors of live performance and consistent practice.
Planet Waves as we know them today wasn’t truly established until the company was acquired by D’Addario in 1996. D’Addario envisioned the brand as a line that would be able to fully service musicians of all kinds. They stuck to the original ethos of the company (providing inexpensive yet quality accessories) though they expanded the scope of the company to produce a wide array of different products.
One of the more notable products produced by Planet Waves while under D’Addario was their innovative cables. For the majority of the guitar’s history the impact of the materials used in cables was overlooked, with no thought given to the tonal qualities they could impart. Most companies were actually just using stock cables and connectors, which while serviceable had a tendency to reduce clarity.
By researching the effects of different alloys and metals in instrument cables Planet Waves ended up sparking a new line of innovation in the market, which in turn led to a huge upswing in the amount of choices available in regards to instrument cables.
The company continues their trend of innovation and a commitment to sleek utilitarian designs with the Planet Waves Classic Series Patch Cables. The most notable feature of these patch cables is the In=Out technology. Essentially, this is a design feature which emphasizes low capacitance. The lower the capacitance the less of an affect the cables will have on your signal, which helps to maintain clarity and the tonal characteristics of your instrument.
These cables are also shielded, which reduces the amount of signal interference that’s introduced. Because of certain properties inherent to electric guitars, certain frequencies can interfere with your overall sound. A good example of this is 60-cycle hum in single-coil pickups. While the overall impact this is going to have depends on a wide variety of factors, it is a nice feature if you plan on gigging or recording.
These cables are also right-angled, making them ideal for use on a pedal board. If you’ve ever used straight-angled plugs in conjunction with pedal boards you known how much space is wasted. If you happen to use more than one or two pedals this becomes very inconvenient very quickly, and it makes wiring up your pedal board a true hassle.
Lastly, Planet Waves Classic Series Patch Cables have molded plugs. This helps to reduce strain on the cable, which enhances the overall lifespan of the product.
These cables also have a limited lifetime guarantee, so should you happen to receive a lemon you won’t be out any money.
The Planet Waves Classic Series Patch Cable offers a level of quality to superior to that of many of its competitors, and when you consider the features it boasts and its limited lifetime guarantee it makes purchasing these cables a no-brainer.
Hosa IRG Patch Cables
Since the company’s inception in 1984, Hosa Technology has been synonymous with quality. This Buena Park, California based company’s dedication to consumer-based innovation has made them one of the preeminent manufacturers of a wide variety of musical instrument and professional audio products.
Hosa is actually one of the leading producers of live sound connectivity solutions, and since its inception has expanded to include full lines of audio, video, and computer products. Everyone from the burgeoning basement guitarist to the dedicated audiophile can find a great solution to their needs, and judging by the company’s track record this isn’t likely to change any time soon.
Cables are kind of a funny product. Some musicians believe that anything but the bare minimum in regards to features and materials is nothing but snake oil, while others swear by positive effects they receive from investing in quality cables. While this review isn’t going to settle a debate that’s been raging for decades, hopefully it helps to inform your purchase one way or the other.
First and foremost, these cables use a lot of technical terms to describe their design. To have a good understanding of what they mean would require a lot of independent research, but put plainly all they’re saying is that these cables are relatively resistant to electronic interference and boast a superior signal quality when compared to cables that don’t have these features.
Terms like Oxygen-Free Copper and OFC Spiral Shielding aren’t really much more than techno-babble intended to make the cable sound like it’s utilizing advanced technology. Which to be fair, companies do have to sell their product. This is doubly true when considering the amount of competition most manufacturers face in a global market place, but it’s really not important that you have an in-depth understanding of the processes involved.
On the other hand, something that is really important to know if you’re considering buying this cable is that it features all metal plugs. All metal plugs are great because they help to enhance the durability of sensitive areas on a cable, which means you won’t have to be buying a new set of patch cables every few months because your other ones broke. Ideally, cables with all metal plugs should last you for several years. They are more expensive however, so you may or may not benefit from them depending on your situation. For example, if you only have two pedals you’ll only need one patch cable. You can buy a six pack of generic patch cables for $5-$7 which will last you for a few months per cable, so it really just depends on your needs. They are more expensive than other options, but they’re also more durable and utilize higher quality materials.
The Hosa IRG-600.5 Low-Profile Right-Angle Guitar Patch Cables are made for musicians who require a lot of durability out of their patch cables. They are more expensive however, so musicians who don’t gig or travel with their equipment consistently might be better off going with a cheaper product.
Mogami 1.5RR Gold Patch Cable
A high-end manufacturer of instrument and pro-sound cables, Mogami is arguably one of the names when it comes to cables for musicians. Mogami’s story begins decades ago, when the company’s R&D division began researching the causes of audible variance within different signal cables. Much like other high-end cables, the results of Mogami’s research were dubbed controversial as the majority of engineers at the time believed that the majority of cables (provided they were properly made) were the same.
However, as they say the proof is in the pudding. There’s a wide variety of notable professional musician who use Mogami cables exclusively, some of which include: Peter Frampton, Slash, The Blue Man Group, Dave Mustaine, Imagine Dragons, Crosby Stills and Nash, Jerry Horton, and Nick Raskulinecz (three-time Grammy award winner and the record producer for Alice in Chains, Deftones, and Rush).
Mogami undoubtedly owes a large portion of their success to their design philosophy. They’re goal is to produce a wide variety of products that solve different issues faced both by musicians and audio engineers. They’re aware that there’s no perfect choice when it comes to recording because there are so many factors at play, so they dedicated themselves to producing a wide enough array of products that they’d be able to alleviate most of the problems commonly encountered in live sound, performance, and recording.
The first thing you need to know about this cable is that it’s aimed at professional musicians who require a crystal-clear sound quality. As such, they use the finest materials that are commercially viable. However, it’s arguably that a lot of musicians wouldn’t really benefit from this. Unless you’re working a professional recording studio or gigging to large audiences you may not notice the effect that this cable will have on your signal. Problems like this are amplified tremendously in a professional setting and not readily apparent if you’re playing a smaller show or just jamming out in your room.
That’s not to say that the cable is all snake oil however. There are a lot of really great features packed into this product. The inclusion of a gold-plated plug isn’t really going to affect the majority of musicians, because the difference between a gold plug and a standard plug is relatively minimal.
The real utility of this cable is the quality of the shielding and the durable construction. Shielding is the most important part of a cable because it helps prevent the introduction of different frequencies into your signal. This helps to reduce unwanted noise and buzz, which depending on the situation may actually turn out to be a very noticeable change in your rig.
The durability of the cable is also widely lauded among professional circles, which likely plays a heavy role in their adoption in a wide array of major label studios. In fact, most people cite the durability of Mogami as the main reason why they chose to invest in these cables. The only concern is that the cable can tend to be a bit inflexible, but this is obviously going to depend on the situation it’s used in. For smaller pedal boards a shorter cable may be more ideal than this 18” model.
Lastly, all Mogami cables come with a “No Excuse” warranty. This means that at any time if you’re experiencing trouble with a cable that you purchased from a licensed reseller you can receive a replacement. You have the option to either swap out your cable at a participating Mogami dealer or to ship your cable back to Mogami and have a replacement sent back.
This cable is definitely more expensive than similarly outfitted products, which isn’t ideal if you’re on a tight budget. However, the no questions asked warranty makes this cable way more attractive at its price point because regardless if it becomes damaged or you happen to receive a lemon you can get a replacement for free.
Donner Pedal Coupler
Patch cables are so ubiquitous in the eyes of modern guitar players that many of us forget that there is even another option available. While patch cables may inherently be more flexible, they do create a lot of waste space. They’re also not known for being the most durable piece of equipment around, which requires musicians to constantly be repurchasing cables to ensure that they’re always going to be able to use their pedals without fear of any technical mishaps.
Thankfully, there is another option available: couplers! Couplers are kind of like patch cables, except they aren’t really cables. They’re just the two male ends of the patch cable sandwiched together, which while they aren’t as maneuverable as patch cables they are definitely way more rugged.
A notable producer of couplers is Donner, who with their Donner Pedal Coupler ¼ Inch For Guitar Effect Pedal Connector has given musicians a great option that many probably weren’t even aware that they had.
So the first thing you need to know about these couplers is that they’re arguably one of the best options available for those of you with a lot of pedals. Pedals tend to be arranged in rows, so rather than sacrificing valuable real-estate on your pedal board by using patch cables, use these to take advantage of the layout of your pedals.
And though this type of accessory may not be incredibly common, it really does perform the same function of a patch cable. This coupler in particular is guaranteed to be compatible with Boss, Marshall, Korg, Dunlop, and Fender effects pedals. This also means that it should work with the majority of pedals on the market today, as the vast majority of them use the same inputs and outputs.
Another thing to note about couplers when compared to patch cables is that they dramatically shorten your signal chain. Basically, the more cable you run the more high-end frequency response you’re going to lose, which in turn results in a lack of clarity. This can be especially frustrating in large venues, where because of the size you need an excessively clear and articulate tone in order to be heard by your audience.
Even better, it means that you don’t have to invest in as large of a pedal board. With the space you save by using couplers you could easily squeeze another pedal or two onto most reasonably sized pedal boards, which can help to increase the overall flexibility of your rig without necessitating a large investment.
Because this coupler is straight it works best with pedals of the same height, so if you happen to use pedals with a higher than average casing you may not get the best results. However, if you happen to predominately use pedals from one manufacturer you’re not likely to run into problems.
Because couplers are less popular than patch cords, you wouldn’t be remiss in being hesitant to try them out. However, they’re only going to cost you $10 bucks (so long as prices remain consistent). So while you obviously can’t be sure if they’re going to work for you until you try them, considering the low price they’re at least worth a shot if you’re trying to save space on a cramped pedal board.
Pedal couplers are an important addition to the rig of any guitar player, and the ones made by Donner are incredibly affordable and just as well made as any similar product.
Lava Cable Tightrope
If you’re a musician, odds are that you already know what your dream instrument is. And what your dream amp is (if you use an amp). We think about what kind of band we’d like to play in, the songs we’d like to write, how if we work hard enough one day we’ll be able to travel the country playing our music.
One thing we never think about is patch cables. They’re really not an exciting subject, and many of us just purchase what’s cheap and hope that it lasts long enough to get us through a few gigs. We never stop to consider the effect it may be having on our tone, or the results that we’d get if we invested in even a moderately better cable.
So if you think you’ve hit a plateau in your tone and the clarity of your instruments signal, it might be time to invest in a higher quality patch cable. Thankfully, Lava Tightrope’s Patch Cable with Premium Gold Plating has got you covered.
The defining feature of these cables is the company’s commitment to utilizing both high quality components and a low profile design. It’s not that these cables use unheard of technology, it’s just that the designs implemented are done so with a higher degree of fidelity and a more astute attention to detail that what you’d find with a budget minded option.
The cables themselves are professionally hand soldered with a proprietary 4% silver solder blend, which was developed in house by the company World’s Best Cables. They also use a proprietary nitrogen assisted soldering process, which is exclusively used by the company and works to create a cable with an impressive amount of joint integrity. The company exclusive process ensures that the cables exceed the highest industry standards, which results in a cable which is many times more durable than many of the products offered by its competitors.
The low profile of the cables will also come in handy if you happen to use a large amount of pedals, because once you get to the point where you’re using even five or six pedals it can be a bit overwhelming to make sure they’re all properly hooked up and still fit on your pedal board. That’s why the cables utilize a pancake design, which helps to limit the amount of space that they take up.
If you’re gigging professionally and you need a cable that delivers a great performance regardless of the situation you’re going to get a lot more value out of these than someone who generally plays at home. You can also rest assured that these cables are incredibly unlikely to let you down at inopportune times, which also helps to offset their cost. By being more reliable than your standard cable they can actually end up saving you money, because you won’t have to worry about your professional reputation taking a hit due to technical problems.
These cables are great if you’re a professional musician, or if you have the money to afford a cable that you know is always going to perform well. However, while they are a great product the majority of weekend warrior musicians and bedroom guitarists likely are not going to be getting their money’s worth with this purchase because they require less from their gear. So in short, they’re great if you can afford them or if you’re a professional but there are cheaper options available for hobbyists.