If you've committed to building a pedalboard, the initial driver is likely to be a combination of organization 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.
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 Guitar Patch 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 guitar 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.
- Solid build
- Affordable option
- No issues at this price
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.
- Compact design
- Solid build quality
- Affordable and available in multi-packs
- Not super widely available
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.
- Super cool looks
- Pancake low-profile jacks are ace
- Slightly more expensive than the norm
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.
- This is the premium option
- Quality performance
- There are better things to spend money on
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.
- Stylish, vintage looks
- High-quality feel and build
- Pricier than some
If you just want a set of cables that ‘does the job’ then this pack from MXR should tickle your somewhat restrained fancy. There’s no pretentiousness, they just do what they say they do – patch.
You do get oxygen free copper wire, flexible PVC outer jackets and ultra-low profile pancake-style connectors for cabling those inevitable tight spots (every board has at least one).
They only come in one length – 15cm – and a single colour – black – but other than that, at this price what’s not to like? After all, if anyone knows good pedalboard tone it’s MXR.
- Basic, inexpensive solution
- Low profile for a trim and tidy board
- Only available in black
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.
- Enables custom wiring for your pedalboard
- Costs more than a pack of pre-made cables
Trust those quirky Swedes at EBS to come up with a patch cable that looks this bling. However, it’s not all style over substance. The connectors feature a tough, die-cast zinc housing that’ll take a few knocks, and naturally the cable core and shielding are made from premium oxygen-free copper.
Those tough connectors are genuinely ultra-low profile too, fit for the tightest pedalboards. And, in case you hadn’t noticed, they’re also bathed in 24K gold.
What we love though is the super-compact flat cable that really will make any pedalboard setup look a whole lot neater.
The PG patch cable is only available singly but in four lengths: 10, 18, 28 and 58cm.
- It looks blingtastic
- Super compact
- Not cheap…
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.
- Good value
- Not much cheaper than Ernie Ball
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.
- Very compact design
- Good variety of sizes on offer
Kirlin makes some simply exquisite woven guitar cables in a multitude of patterns and colors, but sadly this patch cable is more prosaic. Nevertheless, it’s inexpensive and a couple of sets will keep your guitar sounding sweet and your pedalboard looking fly.
The connectors have traditional pancake style heads, so you can squeeze all your pedals up nice and tight. The core and shielding are made from oxygen-free copper and there’s a conductive PVC shield to cut the risk of noise.
You’ll find two cables in the pack, but once again it’s a shame these cables aren’t available in a variety of colors or, better still, woven patterns. Now, that would look cool.
- It’s a shame there’s no woven option
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.
- Jack ends very good for a kit offering
- Custom length cables
- Price compared to off-the-shelf cables
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.
TS or TRS?
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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
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.
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