For such a seemingly simple component, the guitar cable - also generically known as an instrument cable, or a 1/4” cable - is one of the most discussed, dissected, and often criticized components of a guitar rig. Want to start an argument amongst guitarists? Go to any music gear forum and start a discussion about guitar cables.
In this article, we’re excited to help you (and ourselves) find the best guitar cable for your budget and needs. There is a lot of confusion when it comes to cables and understanding what to look for, how much to spend, and what models to consider can be rather overwhelming, especially to the beginner or intermediate guitarists. Even those of us that have been playing guitar for a long time can’t help but be a bit “guitar-cable-curious” about what else is out there.
Do Expensive Cables Sound Better?
Ah, the age-old question. In the grand scheme of things, does having a top quality guitar cable really matter? You’re going to hate this answer, but yes and no. Ask ten guitarists and you’re going to get ten different opinions.
Luckily, there is one thing nine out of ten guitarists can agree upon:
avoid bargain-bin guitar cables.
Even if you’re on a shoestring budget and swear it doesn’t make a difference, we would advise staying away from the FOR SALE bin full of $5 guitar cables. More often than not, these are built with inferior components and are not made to last. What good is a $5 cable if you have to replace it over and over?
So, do expensive, high-end cables sound better? In our findings, there is probably something to this, but the extent to which it’s true completely depends on who you’re talking to. There are some guitarists that talk about the nuances of how a cable affects their tone the same way an art critic would dissect a Picasso painting. On the other end of the spectrum there are those who swear that expensive instrument cables are a bunch of overpriced marketing junk, and that there’s absolutely zero difference in tone. These actual quotes we found are good representations of the types of things you’ll read all day long:
There is absolutely NO difference in sound quality from a 10 dollar cable and a 200 dollar cable. Period!!!! The difference comes in the form of "esthetic" durability (how long the cable looks new), flexibility and the "feel" of the jack, also the packaging and branding of the cable. You pay mostly for the cables advertisement costs. Essentially you’re paying them to sell their cables to you! Very sad.
you guys are stupid if you think the sound quality is the same for all cables, why don’t you actually test them out and you will see that there clearly is...especially when you have so many cables through your pedal boards
As you can see, we’re not going to come to a consensus anytime soon!
The argument about high-end guitar cables being “overpriced” is subjective. All we can say is that if you can afford a very high-end guitar cable, then go for it. The guitar cable is worth what you’re willing to pay for it. Even if you can’t “hear the difference,” buying a more expensive cables with a better build quality might be a good investment in the long run. Mastering guitar and getting your setup just right is challenging enough without your guitar cable giving you problems. So, to recap, if you insist you can hear the difference in more expensive cables, or you can afford to buy expensive instrument cables with a superior build quality that’ll last longer, then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!
What To Look For in a Guitar Cable
After polling dozens of people we discovered the majority of guitarists are seeking out cheap but reliable cables. If you’re in this camp, you’re in luck, since we have some great recommendations for you. In fact, if you simply want to skip to them now, click here. We feel strongly that whenever you spend money on gear, you should know the basic ins and outs of what you’re buying. Here are factors to consider when choosing which instrument cable to buy:
Shielding is intended to block interference from the outside world (such as radio station signals, fluorescent lights, etc) from reaching the center copper conductor where your signal is passing through. If a cable is not shielded adequately, a hum, buzz, or radio signal can interfere with your sound.
» Connecting Ends
The connecting ends (aka jack connectors) of a cable are very important components. The jack connector, and the joint where it attaches to the actual cable, is a point of weakness in a cable since strain will be put on this part each time you plug it in or out or yank the cable. You’ll want to pay attention to how your guitar cable’s connecting end is connected to the cable. Several brands are known for making the best connecting ends, and other brands use those on their own cables. These brands include Neutrik, Amphenol, Switchcraft, and G&L. If the cable you're considering is using any of those, odds are the rest of the cable is quality. Also, be aware of marketing hype when it comes to jack connectors, such as “gold-plated” ones. Sure, gold is good against corrosion, but there’s no benefit to the signal.
Your cable is going to get thrown around, stepped on, rolled over by your chair, and yanked in and out of guitar amps and pedals repeatedly. It’s super important to get one that’s reliable! The reliability of a cable is the sum of a lot of different factors. Some manufacturers like Mogami and Monster are known for making high quality cables that last longer. Aside from your own personal experience with a cable, the best way to gauge reliability is to read as many user reviews of a cable as you can, and get a sense for which brands make the most durable cables... lucky for you we’ve done that hard work for you, and we're reporting the results in this guide! Another gauge of reliability is to see what cables pro guitarists are using, since between studio sessions and touring the world they tend to put cables through a good bit of strain.
» Cable Length
Whichever guitar cable you choose will be available in different lengths. From 3 feet, to 6, 10, 15, 20, 30, and beyond. It’s important that you select a length that’s appropriate for where you’re going to be playing guitar - in your bedroom 10 feet might suffice, but on stage you might need double that. The longer cable you get, the more the price goes up. Think about it and choose carefully! If you pick one that’s too short, you’ll get annoyed at always stretching it to the limit, and tugging at it can put undue strain on your guitar and amp jacks, as well as the cable itself. Pick one that’s too long, and your signal can suffer (several tests have proven that signal can degrade when running cable that’s very long). If you can help it, we recommend keeping your cable under 20 feet to preserve signal quality.
» Style of Music
If you mostly play jazz, you definitely want to get a cable that’s advertised as being better suited to jazz... right? Wrong! Some cable manufacturers have cables marketed to certain styles of music. Well, that’s all it is - simply marketing. The style of music you play does not matter when selecting a guitar cable.
» Electric Guitar vs. Bass Guitar Cables
Some manufacturers out there will have you believe there's a substantial difference between a cable made specifically for bass guitar versus electric guitar... which simply isn't true. Any of the cables we recommend in this guide are equally well suited for both instruments.
It’s worth checking if the cable you’re buying has a decent warranty. The more premium cables tend to have lifetime warranties, where the manufacturer will provide a replacement anytime you want. You simply send them your damaged cable, and they’ll send you back a new one. A good warranty is a good reason to spend a little more money on a guitar cable.
How Did We Choose the Winners?
In order to put together a list of the best guitar cables, we searched the web far and wide. We found dozens of forum threads where guitarists are recommending their favorite guitar cables. The problem with a single person’s recommendation is they might be naturally biased towards the one cable they have experience with. To eliminate as much bias as possible, we considered hundreds of opinions and made a master list. We got our hands on a few dozen cables ourselves, and put them through our testing rig.
In a few cases we're going to group a few of models made by a single brand. Don't worry, we’ll mention specific models we prefer and give you their pros and cons. The only thing we don’t make a recommendation on is length, since there’s no such thing as the best length!
7 Best Guitar Cables
Without further ado, here is our list of the best guitar cables for most guitarists.
D'Addario Planet Waves American Stage
D'Addario Planet Waves Guitar Cables are a tremendous bang for your buck. In guitarist forums, communities, and publications, people heap praise on these. Reason being, the majority of hobbyist guitarists are looking for cables that are inexpensive and reliable, and Planet Waves fits this criteria perfectly.
Planet Waves makes several models of cables, but after careful review, there are two models we recommend above all others: Planet Waves American Stage, and Planet Waves Circuit Breaker. Price-wise, these are both quite budget-friendly.
Planet Waves American Stage are available in 10, 15, 20, and 30 ft lengths (Straight to Straight ends, and Right-Angle to Straight ends are both available). They use high quality Neutrik plugs, which is fantastic for a cable with a price as low as this one. Another thing we love about this cable is the patented Geo-Tip, which basically gives you a satisfying “click” as you insert the cable, letting you know you’ve got a secure lock into a jack.
Planet Waves Circuit Breaker cables (also available in 10, 15, 20, and 30 ft lengths) are the ones to go with if you find yourself playing live, or frequently changing what guitar you use. The connector has a Mute Switch which mutes the signal when you take a cable out or plug it back in, which eliminates the noisy crackle. The Circuit Breakers also feature 24k gold-plated plugs for corrosion resistance. Be aware that while the connectors feel very well-built, they are rather large which might be an issue if you’ve got a recessed or angled cord jack. On the plus side, this cable is quite stiff and feels very high quality. The cable tie is also a nice feature.
Of the two, we favor the Planet Waves American Stage, since you just can’t beat having Neutrik plugs at this price-point, not to mention the Geo-Tip design is very functional. In terms of reliability, users mention using these for 5, even 10 years before the cables have any issues. D'Addario offers good customer service, and given the warranty these cables come with, getting a free replacement will be as easy as giving them a quick call.
Bottom Line: For most guitarists seeking out reliable, clean sounding, and inexpensive instrument cables, Planet Waves American Stage are the best bet and the ones we highly recommend. If the mute switch on the Planet Waves Circuit Breaker cables sounds like it would be useful to you, you can’t really go wrong with those either. Simply put, D'Addario Planet Waves offers an excellent combination of value, durability, and tone quality.
Fender Professional Series
From industry stalwart Fender comes a no-frills, reliable and affordable guitar cable. Fender Professional Series are quite inexpensive and built to last.
One great thing about Fender Professional Series instrument cables is how many length and connector options you have. They are offered in 6", 1', 3', 5', 10', 15', 18.6' and 25' lengths.
While we love the Neutrik plugs on the D'Addario Planet Waves American Stage cables a little more, Fender is no slouch and feels like a well built cable with nickel-plated connectors. In our tests it did not twist up and tangle excessively, and operation was quiet and transparent.
Bottom Line: Backed by a name like Fender and a lifetime guarantee, the Fender Professional Series guitar cables are fantastic entry level cables considering their budget-friendly price tag.
Monster Standard S-100 Instrument
Another strong instrument cable contender is Monster Instrument Cables. This is perhaps surprising, because more so than other brands, Monster cables have a bit of a reputation for clever marketing and high prices. We urge you to read on, because you’ll be surprised at how affordable Monster instrument cables actually are.
Our favorite Monster cable is the Monster Standard S-100 Instrument, which comes in the following lengths: 6 ft, 12 ft straight to straight, 12 ft angled to straight, and 21 ft.
The thing with these Monster guitar cables is that they just about get everything right. Good clean sound, quality components, reasonable price, and an excellent lifetime warranty. Three things make these cables stand out:
- Durable injection molded connectors: The molded connector design feels both strong and flexible.
- Color coded bands: These come with interchangeable bands in multiple colors, so you can color-code your cables to stay better organized.
- Lifetime warranty: Monster cables have one of the best warranties around. Need a replacement cable? No problem, call them up and they’ll hook you up with a replacement. We’ve had personal experience with this and Monster came through for us with no issues.
There’s honestly not that much more to say, and we think that’s a good thing!
Bottom Line: The bad rap Monster cables have garnered for being excessively priced turns out to be more from their home theater cables, but we’ll save that discussion for another day! Just know that Monster Standard S-100 Instrument cables deliver in a big way when it comes to quality and reliability.
Mogami makes some of the most premium cables money can buy. We’re going to touch on three specific models: Mogami Platinum, Gold, and Silver - and no, we’re not talking about Tequila here!
At the highest end of the range, you’ve got Mogami Platinum cables, available in 3, 6, 12, 20, and 30 ft lengths. By no means budget-priced, these cables are made from the highest quality components. However, these are much more than just well-built cables. They'll bring out the tone of your rig like no other cable is able to.
It may be an extremely subtle improvement, but our review team picked up on cleaner and fuller highs lows and mids.
Slightly more affordable are Mogami Gold cables (3, 6, 10, 18, and 25 ft lengths available). If you’re ready to invest in a premium guitar cable, we highly recommend these. A 10 ft Mogami Gold cable, while not exactly cheap, is relatively attainable (here is Straight to Straight, and here is Straight to Right-Angle).
And finally, for a price more comparable to non-premium cables, you’ve got the Mogami Silver series. We love the very high quality Amphenol plugs on these. You’ve got 3 ft, 12 ft, 18 ft, and 25 ft lengths.
Bottom Line: Mogami have paved their way to the top of the guitar cable pile. Sonically, these cables are on another level. To make the steep price tag easier to swallow, because of the fantastic warranty, keep in mind buying a Mogami cable is a lifetime investment. If you’re ready to make the jump to the world of premium cables, we very highly recommend you go with Mogami. Mogami Platinum are a little expensive for our taste, but we feel that Mogami Gold is a very good compromise.
George L 155 Guage Cable
George L makes guitar cables that have amassed quite the cult following from guitarists. Most of the recommendations we read for George L cables tend to be quite passionate, from people that have been using them for 10+ years. Coming in around $40 for a 10 foot cable, these are not for the most budget-minded amongst us. That said, with George L you are definitely getting a reliable cable that provides a very clean and transparent sound. We were able to find them in black, blue, and red colors in both 10 and 15 ft lengths.
George L is known for making DIY cable kits such as this one. The great thing about George L guitar cables is that the ends are easy to fix without need for soldering. Also, the way this cable feels differs slightly from the other cables on our list. The .155 gauge cable size is thin, and one minor negative point is that they're a little stiff.
Aside from the stiffness, everything about these cables screams quality. Aside the quality jack connectors, they are clean, quiet, durable, and transparent.
Bottom Line: While maybe not as ubiquitous as Monster and Planet Waves, George L cables have their fair share of enthusiasts. If you’re looking for a premium quality cable with the ability to easily swap out the plugs, give these excellent instrument cables a try.
Spectraflex Original Series
Another worthy inclusion to the linup of best guitar cables are the Spectraflex Original Series instrument cables. What makes these cables stand out is rather than the typical rubber coating, these have a woven fabric covering. They’re available in a variety of colors, from red to black to tweed (we love the way tweed looks). They not only look great, they are also practical, as the coating makes it very easy to unwind and untangle them. Spectraflex Original Series are available in 6, 10, 14, 18, and 21 feet.
We got our hands on a 10 ft tweed-color Spectraflex, and really enjoyed using it. There’s just something about the woven fabric coating that feels superior. The jack connectors feel solid enough, although we slightly prefer the way the connectors feel on the Monster and Mogami cables. It’s a minor gripe, but the heads of the Spectraflex cable tend to get loose over time, which causes us to have to tighten them up occasionally.
The lifetime warranty Spectraflex offers is also a plus. In terms of sound, we love what we hear - or more accurately, what we don’t hear! They have a very quiet operation, with no clicks, scratches, or hums as the cable drags around on the floor.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a quality cable and are prepared to spend $30-45, Spectraflex Original Series is a great choice, especially if you’re drawn to the woven fabric covering and color selection. If the fabric covering is not for you, then we would suggest Monster or George L over this one, since the connectors on those are slightly more hassle-free.
Ernie Ball Instrument Cable
If a reliable guitar cable from a trusted manufacturer isn't enough, and you want a bit of a stylistic flair, take a look at the Ernie Ball Instrument cable. It comes in a standard black, but more notable are the options like neon orange, pink, and yellow.
While the color options are plentiful, one small downside is these are only avilable in 10, 18, and 25 ft. lengths. Luckily that should suffice for most players. Similar to Spectraflex, these Ernie Ball guitar cables feature a braided jacket exterior for tangle-free living.
Ernie Ball is synonymous with quality guitar components and these cables are no exception. They feel well built and we were not able to discern any specific weak points. They have one straight plug and one 90 degree plug which is a nice touch.
Sound-wise there's nothing to scoff at. Operation was quiet and transparent across all the guitars, amps, and pedals we threw at it (we tested the 10' version).
Bottom Line: With a good price, killer style, and a brand known for quality and reliability, this is a good choice if you prefer the braided jacket exterior, and demand a guitar cable that will let you express yourself with a variety of color options.