If you've committed to building a pedalboard, the initial driver is likely to be a combination of organisation and portability. Having lots of random, mismatched guitar cables is stressful if something goes wrong mid-set. Not only are longer cables untidy and make it harder to move your ‘board, but they’re heavier too. When building a board, we’d recommend purchasing a brace of the best patch cables you can afford to give your organization (not to mention your confidence) a boost.
Off-the-shelf patch cables (also sometimes called pedal couplers) are excellent, with mechanical failure rates way lower than they used to be, even at the budget end of the market. You can also build your own patch cables to ensure you get the right sizes, and there are solderless patch cable kits from several companies. In this guide we’re going to look at the top patch cables you can buy right now.
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Best patch cables: Guitar World's Choice
Based on both the low price, and the fact that they've been rock solid for us, we've got to recommend the Donner Pancake Cables. With six in a pack, there's enough to wire up a good chunk of your pedalboard, and they don't look ugly either. The only downside is that they're more difficult to come by in some locations depending on distribution. If you can't get the Donners, then the Planet Waves 3-pack is also excellent value, though a bit higher-profile at the jack end.
At the highest end, there's Mogami cables, but we don’t feel there's much benefit to cables that plush. A better compromise is something like the Ernie Ball Flat Angle Patch Cable or Fender Angled Jack Patch Cable, which are still premium, but not excessively so. In the case of the Ernie Ball, they also come in a pancake version, ideal for tighter pedalboards.
Best patch cables: Product guide
There's not a lot to say about this cable. Like Planet Waves' larger offerings, it's solidly built, and the stealth black aesthetic is to the point. They're shielded to reduce noise, and are made in the USA.
This three-pack option is affordable enough that you could wire up a smaller pedalboard cheaply. All three cables in the pack are the same length, but Planet Waves also offer longer right-angle-to-right-angle patch cables up to a length of 3 feet.
They even offer a double-ended jack for the very tightest of spaces, but beware – we've found this kind of inline connector to be prone to breaking.
Where you can get them, the Donner low-profile patch cables are one of the best value options on the market. They have a robust metal pancake jack, and a large pack size of six.
They're copper shielded, with oxygen-free copper for low noise. Donner claims that the polyethylene insulator they use is more heat resistant and durable than using PVC, but we can't recall ever having an issue with insulation sheath damage.
Six packs are available with lengths of either 15cm or 30cm, meaning that all but the longest cable runs should be covered.
For some reason, distribution and availability is spotty for these cables.
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The super-bright color options of the Ernie Ball Flat Angle patch cables may not be for everybody, but we love them. Should you want something less loud, there are white and black options, as well as different jack configurations.
We've singled out the pancake option here because, in our experience, space is always at a premium. Like most quality cables, these are shielded, and have a tough PVC outer shell for durability. While they're not the cheapest, for a three-pack they're hardly extortionate.
Ernie Ball offers both 15cm and 30cm options as three-packs, so you can mix and match between those. However, this is only if you opt for regular right-angle jacks instead of pancakes.
We've always spent our money on high bang-for-buck utilities, or things that make fun noises. As a result, spending this much cash on a single cable has never been on the cards for us.
That said, we do know people who swear by these, and for the price they do at least come with a bombproof reputation.
The cables themselves feature an oxygen-free copper core for low noise, which is pretty standard, as well as a spiral shield. The main deviation from the norm is that the jacket is 'carbon-impregnated' to eliminate handling noise and improve durability.
For about the same price, there's also a ten-inch and eighteen-inch length option.
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We love the look of the Fender Custom Shop cables, and the tweed option is the coolest patch cable on the market, hands down. On top of the standard PVC cable sheath, there's a paracord fabric outer, available in a classic straw tweed and black tweed finish.
They look slick, they're reliable, and are guaranteed for their lifetime by Fender. Whether you are likely to ever use that guarantee is another story.
The main drawback is that they are expensive compared to the other options. You can get them in a two-pack but there's usually no discount for doing so.
Fender also makes a 30cm right-angled patch cable, but it's only available in a plain finish, and not with the tweed outer.
An affordable option in the custom cabling stakes, this widely available Boss set has the benefit of being solderless. There's a price to pay for the flexibility of making your own cables though. Not only the ticket price, but in debugging time if something does go wrong with your custom creations.
Luckily, these are pretty foolproof as custom cables go. If that's the sort of thing that's likely to play on your mind though, then it may not worth the hassle.
The BCK-24 is only a little bit more expensive in some stores, and is double the size, with 24 connectors, and 24ft of cable – one for guitarists taking on a bigger pedalboard.
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The 'go-to' pancake, or low-profile patch cable, the Hosa is a workhorse. It's cheap, widely available, and rock solid.
Although they sit at the budget end of the market, they're low-noise, with oxygen-free copper conductors and spiral shielding. This will keep EMI and RFI interference under control.
Hosa makes many different cables and lengths. Should you want 30 or 45cm long patch cables, Hosa makes them with both standard right-angle and low-profile connectors.
The only drawback to the Hosa product line is that some more exciting looking patch cables, like the louder Ernie Ball offerings, are now available at a similar price.
Every pedalboard has one or two annoying cable runs that need an odd length. Usually, this is from one 'row' of a stepped board to another, or due to a weird-sized pedal like a wah, whammy or multi-effect.
Rockboard have a wide range of patch cable lengths available, with moulded ends that are even lower-profile than a pancake cable.
The cables have low resistance and capacitance as well as full copper shielding. They make short TRS patch cables, which will help with expression pedals that take TRS. A small number of pedals also use TRS for stereo input or output.
Competing with Boss in the mass-market solderless kits territory is D'Addario. They've done something strange with this kit, beating their competitor on price, but offering an odd number of cables. Their assumption is either that most boards require more than five, or it's a sneaky marketing move.
The cable is a low-capacitance, shielded cable as you'd expect from a premium offering. The kit comes with a mini cable cutter and screwdriver, should you not have those tools available.
The main advantage of these over the Boss option is the semi-moulded right-angle jacks. It's splitting hairs a bit, but you might prefer that to the metal housing of the Boss jack ends.
Best patch cables: Buying advice
Now, if you’re wondering whether the type of patch cables you choose really matters, the honest answer is that there's not a huge amount of complexity when it comes to off-the-shelf options. In our experience, there's only a small gap in quality between the cheapest cables you can buy and the most expensive.
If you get generic patch cables off eBay, you might come unstuck, but we still use patch cables we bought for $1 fifteen years ago that are still going strong. That said, if buying online, it could be that you want the peace of mind that comes from a branded cable with a guarantee.
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.
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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.
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.