This is part two of a two-part post. For part one, click here
Types of Cables - Patch Cables
Patch cables are essentially the same as instrument cables, save the thickness of its core, and subsequently, its jacket. Patch cables are usually slightly thinner with core AWG at around 22 to 26. The thinner cross section will allow the cable to be even more flexible and allow it to fit into tighter spaces. With patch cables, I highly recommend a stranded core over a solid core. Although a solid core cable will allow tighter corners, the solid core is likely to crease, when doing tight bends, and weaken the structural integrity of the core. Imagine bending tight corners back and forth on a solid piece of soft metal, it will crack and break over time. However, solid core patch cables do allow great presentation opportunities, as it can do tight right angle turns and hold bend shapes. At the end of the day, though, a cable’s reliability is more important, than looking good. Since patch cables share the same architecture as an instrument cable, they also share the same problem of capacitance. So it is always best to keep these as short as possible to prevent tone loss issues.
Types of Cables - Speaker Cables
These cables are totally different in form and function from an instrument/patch cable. Speaker cables almost never feature a concentric design. Instrument cables use a concentric design as they carry low voltage, high impedance signals (from the guitar) which is very susceptible to noise. The shield being wrapped around the core allows the shield to block and/or absorb any RF from its surroundings and short them to ground. Speaker cables carry a different signal by nature; they carry a low impedance, large current signal (current is what moves speakers, not voltage!), of reasonable voltage. Since RF induced noise is not so much of an issue for these signals, speaker cables can afford to forgo the concentric design. Also, since the signal is high current, the conductors for the hot and ground signal must be thicker. Thin conductors would have too much resistance per length, which would cause the conductor to heat up when a large current passes through, causing the cable to ‘melt’. This is often seen when amateurs think instrument cables can be used as speaker cables. So in order to fit the requirements of a speaker cable, we would need two large conductors, that does not require shielding - and that’s how pre-made speaker cables are. Most of them just feature a twisted pair of thick, low AWG, wire. Since these cables have thicker components, they are almost always thicker than instrument cables. This in turn affects the kind of plugs which can be used with speaker cables.
What to use?
Almost all the cables we use on tour are custom made in-house. For our custom cables, we almost always use Mogami cables, 2524 for instrument cables, 2319 for patch cables. The reliability of Mogami cables is second to none. They offer great tone and great jacket material, all at a reasonable price. The speaker cables we use are also from Mogami. However, we use a quad-core cable, using pairs of conductors for hot and ground connections. For TRS cables, Canare cables work great for these as they are high quality too and are easily available locally.