Instrument cable vs speaker cable: What’s the difference?

The back panel of a guitar amp, showing the speaker, footswitch, and power inputs
(Image credit: Future)

For most guitarists, a 1/4-inch cable is a 1/4-inch cable. We know speaker cables exist, but until you actually try plugging one in from your guitar to your amp, you might not be able to immediately spot the difference between a speaker cable and a guitar cable (also referred to as simply an 'instrument cable'). It’s pretty difficult to be fair, as guitar cables share a similar connector and look nearly identical to the one you should be plugging into your guitar cabinet.

In this article we’re going to break down the differences for you, giving you the reasons why you shouldn’t use them interchangeably. We’ll also detail how to identify each type of cable, preventing you from making the mistake in the first place. Upping your knowledge in anything guitar is always a worthwhile endeavor, so let’s get cracking…

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Matt McCracken
Junior Deals Writer

Matt is a Junior Deals Writer here at Guitar World. He regularly tests and reviews music gear with a focus on guitars, amps, pedals, modelers, and pretty much anything else guitar-related. Matt worked in music retail for 5 years at Dawsons Music and Northwest Guitars and has written for various music sites including MusicRadar, Guitar Player,, Ultimate Guitar, and Thomann’s A regularly gigging guitarist with over 20 years of experience playing live and writing and recording in bands, he's performed everything from jazz to djent, gigging all over the country in more dingy venues than you can shake a drop-tuned guitar at.