Cable FAQ

Q: What is a cable without a sleeve, and why do I want or need a sleeve?

A: The “sleeving” I refer to is an outer mesh material made by a company called Techflex that I manually add over the Mogami cable. You can see the sleeving in several of the pictures of the INST product. The Mogami cable is inside of it. This sleeving adds durability and looks great (imho).

Some people love the sleeving due to this durability and look but also for the “feel” of the overall instrument cable. I like it myself.

I will say that the sleeving does not affect my warranty on the cables in any way (limited lifetime – please see here for details). So from that standpoint, one does not “need” the sleeving. Also, if you play on hard, smooth surfaces I do NOT recommend the sleeving option as it can be quite slippery when stepped on.

Q: Are there differences between cables for acoustic guitars and electric guitars?

A: Sonic Nuance instrument cables will work equally well with both. All Sonic Nuance products are meant to be sonically “neutral” and not alter the tone of what goes into them.

Q: Can I use an INST cable to connect my amp to my speaker?

A: No, you should not do this. Speaker cables have very different requirements and construction than instrument cables. At lower power levels it might not matter, but as the power levels increase this could make a big difference and could (in extreme cases) heat up the cable and cause a fire.

Q: Why don’t you offer quiet plugs on your INST cables?

A: I generally don’t use so called “quiet” plugs as they aren’t as robust as the non-quiet due to moving parts. Most employ springs and I have found that fidgeting with the mechanisms caused noise through the signal chain… I could hear the moving spring of the plug through an amplifier! In addition, all the quiet plugs I have tried do nothing for preventing a “pop” when inserting into an active instrument.

Q: I have an amplifier far away from the stage driven by a buffer. What cable length can I get?

A: I have had great results using 70 feet due in large part to the quality of the coax cable I use. I would have no problem running 100 feet as long as the signal is buffered going to the amplifier. I feel the same for the return line of an effects loop as long as it has a low impedance (which will be 99% of the time).

Q: What length cable should I purchase?

A: If you have a passive instrument, I recommend the shortest length that allows you the freedom of movement you require. This way the high frequencies won’t be affected as much by the RC filtering of the cable and output impedance of the driving source (instrument, preamp, etc). For an instrument with a preamp (will have a battery powering it), the length won’t matter much. Thus for that case, I recommend any size you want to allow the freedom of movement you prefer. I generally like longer 15-18 foot cables for my instruments as they are predominantly have preamps and I like the freedom of movement.

Q: Why is low capacitance cable an advantage?

A: When using a preamp and/or active pickups, generally speaking, the cable capacitance will have little effect as the source impedance is so low and the resulting lowpass filter will be at a frequency high enough to ignore. With passive pickups, lower cable capacitance allows more of the high frequency signal to make it to the end of the cable. With the high source impedance of a passive pickup and the cable capacitance, a lowpass filter is created which removes some of the high frequencies.

If your instrument has a preamp (it would require a power source like a battery), the resulting lowpass filter formed by the output impedance of the preamp and the cable’s capacitance would be at such a high frequency that your downstream electronics would filter it out anyway.  For example, lets say your preamp has an output impedance of 100 ohms (which is pretty high actually so I’m being conservative) and the cable is 20 feet with a 40pF/ft capacitance spec.  Doing the math and using first order approximations (assuming the cable gives a simple RC filter, its resistance is negligible, etc) the resultant 3dB frequency is almost 2MHz – well beyond human hearing which is generally accepted as 20kHz (100 times lower frequency).  I doubt any guitars put out much signal  close to 20kHz.  Using these approximations you would need about 2000 feet of cable to get a rolloff in the 20kHz range.  Alternatively, if you have a 20 foot cable and 100 ohm output impedance, the cable would need a cable with 4,000pF/ft – higher than any manufacturer of instrument cables makes to my knowledge. Admittedly at these lengths the first order approximations start to break down, but suffice it to say you would need a LOT of cable and/or a cable with a lot of capacitance per foot when using an instrument with a preamp.

Q: Can you teach me how to make my own cable?

A: I can point you in the direction of some resources, but it would not serve my business well to divulge my parts, processes and procedures.

Q: How close to the rated length should I expect the cables to be?

A: All cables less than two feet will be within ½ inch of specified length. All other cables will be within 1 inch of specified length. Note that this is for the cable itself. The plug modifies this a bit. Generally I err on the side of making the cables longer rather than shorter.

Q: Can you make a custom cable length for me?

A: Except for the EL-SNAKE cables, generally the answer is “no”. Keeping the number of different options low is one of the ways I streamline the manufacturing process. However, if you ask during a period where I have more time, I would be happy to accommodate you.

Q: Can you make a (vintage, colored, standard, coiled, etc) cable for me?

A: Ruggedness is a very important design criteria for the cables and thus I have settled on a “recipe” to add strength, durability and provide moisture resistance to the cables. I do offer limited runs of colors from time to time, but currently black is the main offering. One of the reasons I can offer a robust warranty on my cables is because of the extra effort put in the design and the extra ruggedness it provides. There are plenty of great companies that offer cables that I suggest you look into if you don’t find what you want from Sonic Nuance Electronics. Call or email and I will be happy to point you in a direction. However, Lava Cable is one company I suggest you consider.

Q: Do you recommend gold or nickel plugs?

A: Well, it depends. I personally like the look and the anti-corrosive properties of gold but realize that it is often quite a thin amount used on plugs and covers nickel in most cases anyway. Gold is the most non-reactive of all metals and is benign in all natural and industrial environments. Gold never reacts with oxygen (one of the most active elements), which means it will not rust, oxidize or tarnish. Having said that, I have yet to see a nickel corrosion issue – the wiping action of inserting the plugs into the jacks tends to clean them. However, over time the gold will likely wear off with repeated connections/disconnections of the plug into a jack – usually after many years of use. So, I generally recommend gold plugs. I will be the first to tell you that there is NO sonic difference between the gold and nickel plugs in my experience.

Q: Do you use oxygen free copper for the cables?

A: Oxygen free copper is used. There is a continuing debate concerning the use of oxygen free copper wire. This type of wire contains lower levels of oxide impurities and fewer crystal boundaries than standard copper. Since these impurities form tiny semiconductors within the wiring, the theory is that the cable itself introduces signal distortion, especially of low-level “detail” information. I’m not sure I believe the physics of this, but since Mogami offers oxygen-free copper as a default and I trust their expertise, that is what I use.

Q: What brands do you use for the components of your cables

A: Check the specifications section for each product. If you don’t see the information you need, feel free to email or call.

Q: Can the HEXT cable be used to interface with wireless systems?

A: Yes, as long as the connector plugs are the same type it will be fine.