Best patch cables 2024: tidy up your ‘board with our pick of the best patch leads

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Close up of a pedalboard with patch cables

(Image credit: Future)

1. Product guide
2. Buying advice
3. How we choose products

If you're building a pedalboard then trust us, you're going to need a bunch of the best patch cables to go with it. Making a pedalboard is a super fun experience, but can be frustrating without the right cabling. To get everything neat and tidy you're going to need various lengths, and you'll have to think about the connectors you need to fit into your setup.

Crafting a 'board with cheap patch cables is fine for the guitarist who plays at home, but if you want to take your stompboxes on the road with you, you're going to need something far more durable. There's nothing worse than having to hunch over your pedalboard during your band's opening number, frantically trying to find out why nothing is working. We've been there, and since then we've never cheaped out on quality cabling.

If you're new to pedalboard building make sure you have a look at our buying advice section, which has loads of common questions answered by guitarists who've been there and got the t-shirt. If you just want to get straight to the good stuff, then keep scrolling.

Alex Lynham author photo
Alex Lynham

Alex Lynham is a gear obsessive who's been collecting and building modern and vintage equipment since he got his first Saturday job. Besides reviewing countless pedals for Total Guitar, he's written guides on how to build your first pedal, how to build a tube amp from a kit, and briefly went viral when he released a glitch delay pedal, the Atom Smasher.

Best patch cables: Product guide

Best patch cables: Buying advice

Boss BPC-4 patch cables

(Image credit: Boss)

There are quite a few different options when it comes to patch cables, so we'd always advise planning your pedalboard out before committing to purchasing. In this section we've featured loads of common questions, all answered by actual guitarists with vast amounts of experience playing at home, on stage, and in the studio.

Does the quality of patch cables matter?

Many dwellers of the internet will say that patch cable quality should be an afterthought, and whilst we have many old, cheap, cables that are still going, we've also experienced the other side of that particular coin.

If you're a bedroom player, then by all means cheaper cables will do the job just fine. However if you're playing with a band, your cabling is going to be subjected to all kinds of stresses, strains, and vibrations when playing live, which can often result in failure.

It's happened to us twice on the road, and it's not fun having to find the source of a problem while the rest of your band soldiers on. We learned this lesson the hard way, so if you're planning on taking your stompboxes on the road with you, buy a quality cable that will put up with plenty of abuse.

Are shorter patch cables better?

In audio the general rule is you'll want your cables as short as possible. A longer cable run means more chance of exposure to noise and potential signal loss, particularly when a cable is made of cheaper materials.

That said, at some point you're going to need to jump a longer distance on your pedalboard so while buying loads of short cables will seem like a good idea, it may be you end up needing something longer. If you've got two tiers of pedals on your 'board, then at some point you're going to need to jump up. Similarly if you use a multi-switcher then longer cables will be much easier to manipulate.

Planning out your pedalboard before buying any cables means you'll be able to get the best mix of longer and shorter cables. It's also pretty fun knocking up a plan of what your pedalboard is going to look like when you finally get it completed.

Close up of a Strymon Blue Sky on a pedalboard

(Image credit: Future)

Do I need TS or TRS connectors?

Most of the time you’ll need cables with TS connectors, which are the same standard as you’ll find on regular guitar instrument cables. TS stands for tip-sleeve and this kind of cable carries a mono signal, which is perfect for most guitar pedals because they’re usually mono too. 

Even if you do own a stereo pedal or two they are likely to have distinct left and right input and/or output jacks that still require mono TS cables. You’ll just need one for each stereo channel or, better still, a dual cable.

Occasionally, you may come across a stereo pedal with a single input and/or output jack that can be configured for mono or stereo by flipping a tiny internal jumper switch. When set to mono it’ll take a regular TS cable but in stereo mode you’ll need to use a TRS cable. TRS stands for tip-ring-sleeve, and it can either be used to carry a stereo signal or a balanced mono signal. 

It's worth reiterating that for the vast majority of pedals you’ll just need a bunch of mono TS patch cables. So, if you’re not working in stereo, don’t sweat it.

What’s hidden inside a TS patch cable?

A TS cable is coaxial, with a core of multiple copper strands that carry your audio signal and a braided copper sheath that acts as both shielding and a ground. Between the two will be  layers of insulation plus, of course, there’s an additional thick outer layer of protective insulation too, usually made of PVC. In order to carry a signal, the core is soldered to the tip of the connector, while the woven sleeve is grounded to the body. 

Many premium brands are quick to point out that they use low capacitance, oxygen-free copper and gold plated connectors, but are these upgrades worth paying for? Well, oxygen-free copper will provide greater signal reliability and is more resistant to corrosion. Just. 

The fact is, almost all copper destined for cabling manufacture will be free of oxygen anyway. And, while it’s true that capacitance can rob your tone over long cable runs, it’s hardly an issue for short patch cables. Similarly, gold plated connectors are more corrosion resistant, but the coating is soft and wears rapidly.

Our take is that the performance claims you’ll read about for capacitance, oxygen-free copper and gold plate aren’t just snake oil, there’s some good science behind them. But, in the real world, the benefits are almost insignificant. That said, gold-plated connectors do look rather fine, and will match your gold lamé suit!

Buying the best patch cables for you

You can trust Guitar World Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing guitar products so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

The main things you need to consider when investing in the best patch cables are the type of jack end and the length of the cable.

Most jacks won't be straight, as pedalboard real estate is limited. These days, in addition to standard right-angle jacks, there are lots of different variations on the low-profile, or 'pancake' jack. Particularly for pedals that have side-mounted jacks rather than the now-standard top-mount jacks, having a few pancake jacks to hand is invaluable.

Standard lengths are usually about 15cm, 30cm, 50cm and various lengths up to a meter. If you are building cables from a patch cable kit, then you can custom-build your cables to exactly the right length.

There's also the question of aesthetics – some cables, like the Fender custom shop patch cables, look amazing, but that aesthetic does come at a cost. At the end of the day, cool patch cables make for great Instagram content, but we've not found that they improve our tone or playing.

A few patch cables are available in a rainbow of different colors, which may look a little gaudy but can be immensely useful for finding your way around a complex pedalboard.

If you decide to build your own, then you need to choose between solderless and a kit that you need to solder. It's possible to make robust cables using a solderless kit, so to some extent the choice is about personal preference. It's worth investigating, assuming you have the tools and the confidence to use them. Here however, we've only recommended solderless kits.

How we choose the best patch cables

Here at Guitar World, we are experts in our field, with many years of playing and product testing between us. We live and breathe everything guitar related, and we draw on this knowledge and experience of using products in live, recording and rehearsal scenarios when selecting the products for our guides.

When choosing what we believe to be the best patch cables available right now, we combine our hands-on experience, user reviews and testimonies and engage in lengthy discussions with our editorial colleagues to reach a consensus about the top products in any given category.

First and foremost, we are guitarists, and we want other players to find the right product for them. So we take into careful consideration everything from budget to feature set, ease of use and durability to come up with a list of what we can safely say are the best patch cables on the market right now.

Read more about our rating system, how we choose the gear we feature, and exactly how we test each product.

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