Post Number: 47
|Posted on Thursday, September 15, 2005 - 10:24 am: |
There seems to be some question as to what type of cables to use with a bass. I am no expert but am just wondering if any of you electronic heads can answer a few questions for me.
1. Does cable quality make a difference to the sound of a bass?
2. Are "tuned for bass" cables like those from Monster cables any better for the bass and why or why not?
3. I have been using the same cable on my bass for over ten years. Does the sound quality of a cable "degrade" over time.
4. Does cable length make any difference to the sound?
5. Does the same thing hold true for cables used for effects, speakers, etc.?
6. Does the quality of the jacks themselves make a difference as well?
What cables are people using for their basses?
Post Number: 1053
|Posted on Thursday, September 15, 2005 - 11:13 am: |
With brevity in mind, I'll give you the quick and dirty answers as I see them (i.e., IMHO):
2) Maybe. If a cable is designed specifically for that purpose, I don't see why it can't, with varying degrees of success, do just that.
3) Sometimes yes, sometimes not. Good audio cables tend to improve sonically with age...unless the materials physically oxidize (i.e., conductors and connectors) and/or the dielectrics disintegrate (chemically or physically) or are damaged.
There have been several threads on this very subject here, so you might wanna do a site search.
Everyone uses something different, some buy 'em, some make 'em themselves. There are hi-dollar audiophile-grade cables, low-priced junk, and everything in between. While there is a difference, we're dealing with the "Law Of Diminishing Returns" here: it takes exponentially more dosh to get an infinitessimal improvement in sound quality. I'm currently using Monster, having had good results using them for my hi-fi rig, but their instrument cables exhibit microphonics (i.e., tap on the cable and you can clearly hear the thump through the amp!), which is unacceptable to me. People brag about Pete Cornish's stuff, others use MIT (a good audiophile cable), while others get Canare or Mogami wire and make their own. Alembic used to make their own years ago, but are apparently way too busy to bother these days. Listen for yourself and make-up your own mind. Bear in mind that old "A chain is only as strong as it's weakest link" axiom.
Everyone else: please feel free to chime in here.
Post Number: 18
|Posted on Thursday, September 15, 2005 - 11:24 am: |
I like what I get from Butch at Bayou Audio Cables, Inc.. He uses Canare, but, more important, he'll build cables to your specs. I don't see how you can set up a rack without custom-spec'd cables.
Post Number: 185
|Posted on Thursday, September 15, 2005 - 12:02 pm: |
I have both Monster and Bayou Audio Cables cables.
For my speaker cables, rack patch cables and stereo instrument cable I have Bayou. All are well made and the price was excellent.
For my mono instrument and effects cables I use Monster. I have no complaints about sound quality. The biggest thing I like is if something goes wrong with one I can walk into any GC or Sam Ash and replace them on the spot.
Post Number: 484
|Posted on Thursday, September 15, 2005 - 12:08 pm: |
I am an old curmudgeon fart, and I like Belden cables for nearly everything except speakers. I do have Monster speakon speaker cables and 12-gauge generic zip cord 1/4-inch speaker cables. Swithcraft or Neutrik connectors are a necessity. The cheap stuff falls apart and/or doesn't seat properly.
Post Number: 2360
|Posted on Thursday, September 15, 2005 - 5:06 pm: |
I pretty much agree with the above responses.
I too have started getting cables from Bayou. But there are a number of other mom and pop type makers of quality cables. Several of our fellow club members make their own.
If you are pushing a lot of power to your speakers, you do not want to be using 1/4" phone connectors; you should use speakon or banana plugs.
As Kevin mentioned, there have a been a number of discussions, some quite detailed, on this subject in the past. It sounds like you are interested in this topic enough that it would be well worth your time to run a search. I need to do that as well since this would be a good topic to add to the Must Reads section.
Post Number: 59
|Posted on Thursday, September 15, 2005 - 7:16 pm: |
I've been using George L's cables for about 10 years. I love the clarity. They are very reasonably priced as well. http://www.georgelsstore.com/home.html
Post Number: 2
|Posted on Saturday, January 28, 2006 - 11:10 pm: |
I once thought the "boutique" cables were snake oil until I tried an Evidence Audio cable.....
They use a solid copper conductor and the difference is amazing!!
They will also sell cable only at a great price if you like to build your own.......
Post Number: 144
|Posted on Sunday, March 12, 2006 - 2:29 pm: |
hey has anyone used belden cords with neutrik plugs?
alembic used to make these called supercords. has anyone tried them?
Post Number: 3438
|Posted on Sunday, March 12, 2006 - 3:36 pm: |
I think a lot of the custom small shop guys use Belden and Neutrik. I think some of my rack cables and speaker cables are Belden and Neutrik.
Post Number: 3439
|Posted on Sunday, March 12, 2006 - 3:45 pm: |
I just checked; my most recent cable purchases were Canare, not Belden. The connectors were Neutrik.
Post Number: 1779
|Posted on Monday, March 13, 2006 - 6:25 am: |
If you buy speaker cables with Speakons, so far you have your choice of any manufacturer, as long as it's Neutrik, LOL!
FWIW, Neutrik's connectors are generally excellent across the board.
Post Number: 56
|Posted on Monday, March 13, 2006 - 5:31 pm: |
I make my own cables and patch cords. For my series 1 I use Belden 8424. I buy it by 50' or 100' rolls. I use one 20' cord for home practicing and one for playing out. I use Canare L2T2S cables for patch cords and make them as short as possible. I use Neutrix and switchcraft connectors. You can never have too many cables.....
Post Number: 31
|Posted on Wednesday, April 12, 2006 - 8:45 am: |
Hi guys, is there really a big difference in sound quality for speaker cables from say a 2 foot lenght to a 6 foot length? I guess I am trying to figure out what a good lenght would be. I have a 3 foot cord for my speaker, and AFAIK it sounds great, but would I really hear a difference (same manufacturer) if I went to 2 feet or even 1.5 feet?
Also what about instrument cable? Is 20 feet too long????
Post Number: 220
|Posted on Wednesday, April 12, 2006 - 8:54 am: |
AL, from my past experience if it's a good quality cable 20 feet should be fine. As for the speaker cables I can't see anything under 10 feet making that big of a difference as long as its good quality cables.
Post Number: 53
|Posted on Wednesday, April 12, 2006 - 9:58 am: |
I actually read somewhere (or maybe I dreamed it) that Jerry Garcia was a fan of long cables, like 20' or more and that this somehow made the tone better. Does this ring a bell with anyone?
Post Number: 221
|Posted on Wednesday, April 12, 2006 - 10:25 am: |
I guess the signal degradation of a real long cable could affect the tone but I'd rather get a TRUE signal and therefore the TRUE tone of the instrument. I never use a cable over 25' but prefer under 20'. I used to go wireless but don't anymore. I don't care how good of a wireless rig you get, they just don't compare to a hard wire. Same thing goes for "inline" effects. I'd rather run my effects through the loop on my amp rather than use "stomp box's" or the likes of the Bass Pods or GT-6. Anything that is between the instrument and the amp changes the signal. Sometimes up somtimes down.
Post Number: 32
|Posted on Wednesday, April 12, 2006 - 11:53 am: |
Thanks Oli and Laytonco! I appreciate your insight. It was just what I expected. I do not know why I got nervous, it's not the end of the world!!
Interesting info about Jerry! could be a fun test to run using some major length instrument cables.... um, maybe another day.
Post Number: 157
|Posted on Wednesday, April 12, 2006 - 2:57 pm: |
Small differences in speaker cable length like you've mentioned don't matter if you're using normal speaker cable (at least 18 gauge conductors; usually commercially marked speaker cable is heavier that that). If you went from 2' to 80' two things will happen - you start to lose power from the resistance of the cable and you start to lose tightness in the bass because you're reducing the damping factor of the amp. For normal rigs (not 2000 watts) speaker cable length isn't a factor.
Now, if you use an instrument cable between your amp and speaker, it IS a big deal. The conductors for low-level signals are much smaller, less than 22 gauge.
For passive guitars and basses, the capacitance of the cable will degrade the treble in as little as 10'. By 30', it would be hard not to notice the difference even with good quality cable. The tone knob (treble cut) is implemented in the guitar with a little capacitor in parallel across the output and that's exactly what the capacitance of the cable looks like to the amp.
With active pickups or EQ, the impedance picture changes and the capacitance of the cable is no longer a factor, so you won't see any treble loss from your Alembic for any reasonable amount of cable.
Some people may prefer the gentle roll off of the highs from a long cable, but that's really just like finding a different cap value for the tone control and turning it down.
I don't know about Jerry Garcia liking long cables, but many of his guitars had onboard preamps to eliminate these cable effects.
Post Number: 734
|Posted on Thursday, April 13, 2006 - 4:03 pm: |
May I take advantage of your expertise?
While I get it regarding so-called 'high/passive' and 'low/active' impedance pickups, what are these setups I've seen with passive pickups ganged with a 9V/active bass/treble,etc.?
Do these reamain high impedance? Does the tone network drop it into the low impedance range? Or does it just turn into an in-between 'Frankenstein' setup?
Not to single anyone out, but I remember Carvin sells the same pickups to wire up passively or with a 9V network. Same with some of the EMG HiZ setups I've seen on import basses.
J o e y
Post Number: 158
|Posted on Thursday, April 13, 2006 - 4:54 pm: |
When you add an active EQ circuit to an instrument with passive pickups you gain all the well-known benefits of "active electronics". This includes the ability to drive long cables without any loss of treble and usually the ability to turn the level down at the guitar without loss of treble or tone.
The sort of hybrid configuration that you mention is very common and isn't just hype. Those Carvin, EMG-HZ+ active EQ systems are all set up this way. Most Bartolini setups on high-end basses are high-Z pickups with active EQ. In fact, this appears to be the way that all the Alembics are made with the exception of the Series basses. It's a real improvement with real benefits.
The only pure active systems would be EMG-equipped instruments or the Series bass. In these cases, the raw output from the coils is too low to be amplified directly by normal equipment. They require the inline, onboard preamps to get to a regular output level. Each active EMG pickup has a powered preamp built right into the pickup housing. In the Series bass, there are three preamps that amplify the output from the two pickups and the dummy coil so they can be blended without loss. Active systems with preamps for each pickup can do some things that the hybrid systems can't - you can smoothly blend the pickup outputs for instance. They also have the potential for a different kind of tone. Because they know that there will be an active preamp and raw output can be low, they designers can wind much less wire on the coils or use different and much weaker magnets. This will give extended high end with less coloration. This is why EMGs claim greater sustain on guitars - it's not just higher output from the preamp, they also have less magnetic drag on the strings which really does increase sustain.
What's really going on here?
You make a pickup by winding a lot of wire into a coil which surrounds a magnet. Your bass' strings pass through the magnetic field from the pickup. When the strings vibrate, they interfere with the magnetic field that that interference (literally) generates an output voltage which is the signal from the pickups.
You have to use quite a lot of wire for this to work. This wire has resistance if you measure it from a DC perspective. The signal from the bass is AC which means that we really care about the impedance, which is sort of the AC analog to DC resistance. They're similar - more wire means higher impedance - but not exactly. Because electromagnetic fields are involved, the impedance varies with frequency, for instance.
By adding in the active preamp between the pickup and output jack, the onboard electronics are completely isolated from the cable and amp. The onboard preamp is set up to get the output level you want but has super-low output impedance so the effects of the cable become negligible.
It's pretty cool stuff. Alembic was the first implementation of active guitar electronics and it's quite a testament that 30 years later I don't think anybody has even come close to the design that Ron put together. There are many really novel aspects - purpose-made pickups, the hum canceller, powered amps on all channels, stereo out, external power, etc.
Post Number: 1212
|Posted on Thursday, April 13, 2006 - 5:10 pm: |
The method you address - adding a 9v powered preamp to passive pickups has also been employed by Alembic for many years in the form of the Stratoblaster which drops into a stock strat setup. I first used one of these about 25 years ago and they're still turning them out today as the Blaster!
Post Number: 30
|Posted on Thursday, April 13, 2006 - 7:58 pm: |
Nice Description, David. Thanks!
Post Number: 739
|Posted on Wednesday, April 19, 2006 - 3:19 pm: |
I took a friend to see a used Series in a local store, and he asked about the 'three pickups': I began to explain it to him, the quality of the components, etc., but it really fried his brain when I explained it had 48v phantom power, and all of this had been designed THIRTY YEARS ago.
' . . . now I know why they cost that much!'
J o e y
Post Number: 143
|Posted on Wednesday, April 19, 2006 - 8:27 pm: |
Actually, it's technically not phantom power (nor is it 48 volts). Phantom power is a scheme by which power is run along the same lines that carry the signal. The Alembic system has it's own lines for power. It's also a plus/minus system (ie there is a positive and negative power line as well as ground) while phantom is simply +48.
Post Number: 740
|Posted on Thursday, April 20, 2006 - 7:26 pm: |
No, Ed, it's not pedantic. While I feel like I understand setup pretty well, as I said before, you DON'T want me loose with a soldering iron! So this is education to me and I really appreciate it!
I really wish there was a book that explained pickups, pots, and the basic electricity involved so i could begin to wrap my head around this part of our instruments.
J o e y
Post Number: 3674
|Posted on Thursday, April 20, 2006 - 7:40 pm: |
Joey; I think it has something to do with the practice of Alchemy.
Post Number: 144
|Posted on Sunday, April 23, 2006 - 10:31 pm: |
There are some good books out there that do explain this stuff. Adrian Legg's book is pretty cool and Craig Anderton has a lot of stuff out there as well. There are also some websites that explain these things as well. The basics aren't really that involved (although I am pretty amazed that it all works. Physics is magic!). If I run into some actual titles, I'll list them, but if you do a search for guitar electronics at Amazon, you should come up with some good places to start.
All the best,
PS The soldering iron is your friend!:-)