What the best guitar cables lack in excitement, they make up for in sheer importance and durability. There’s no point in looking for the best guitar, amp and effects that you can buy and then playing it cheap with a poor-quality lead. But surely, you ask, it’s just a cable – what difference does it make?
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The answer is: everything! More often than not, a cheap guitar cable is a false economy. Within months, maybe even weeks, you’ll be in the store looking for a replacement lead, or driven mad by tone suck, or noise wrecking the signal.
Our buyer’s guide - featuring great options from companies including Planet Waves, Mogami, GLS, George L’s and others - will help you avoid those scenarios, and help you get the most from your gear.
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Best guitar cables: Guitar World Recommends
You’ll get a ‘no excuses’ lifetime warranty with the Mogami Gold Series, but with premium components and construction this is one durable cable. That's why it's top pick for the best guitar cable you can buy right now. They’re pricey, sure, yet they perform immaculately with low noise and excellent frequency transfer.
A great value option is the widely available American Stage cable series from Planet Waves. It’s a favorite for very good reason. It has D’Addario’s patented Geo-Tip connectors so that it fits securely in whatever jack you’ve got. The excellent HelioFused soldering in its connectors will stop them crapping out on you, while the cable is another that doesn’t step on your tone. For the money, these cables are difficult to beat.
Best guitar cables: buying advice
Buying the best guitar cable for you can be a confusing business when there’s no shortage of vague information out there. Often the cable’s full specs aren't even available online. There are a few things to keep in mind when buying your next guitar cable...
We’ll reiterate this: avoid super-budget cables. The $9.99 cheapo cable will no doubt fail you quickly, or introduce all kinds of horrible extra noise. Conversely, spend as much as you can, but a great cable need not cost hundreds of dollars. And it shouldn’t.
Play the short game
Always buy as short a cable as possible. There is naturally a positive correlation between the length of cable and unwanted noise, and other undesirables such as frequency loss. All guitar cables have a capacitance, typically measured in picofarads-per-foot, or per-meter. The higher the capacitance of your cable, the more high frequencies are rolled off; and the longer the cable, the higher the total capacitance.
Now, here it gets complicated, with some saying that the higher capacitance works great with single-coil pickups, citing Jimi Hendrix, but we would advise looking for as full a frequency response as possible, and seek your EQ solutions elsewhere. So, low capacitance cables are a plus.
Gold-plated plugs and connectors are nice to look at and they don’t corrode, but they don’t add anything tone-wise, and make things more expensive. They’re not the be all and end all.
Also bear in mind that all guitar cables take something away from your tone, however slight. Don’t sweat the conductor core material too much; they will typically be made of copper and be similarly conductive.
What we are looking for here is a low-capacitance cable with enough shielding around its conductor core to carry your guitar’s signal with a minimum of noise, that isn’t too stiff or thin and tangly, and one that will ultimately stand the test of time.
The best guitar cables you can buy right now
The Mogami Gold Series guitar cable has an ultra-high density (UHD) spiral shield and conductive polymer sub-shield to help kill noise and preserve that signal. A conductive carbon-impregnated PVC layer will stop all the sort of microphonic pop that you can get from handling cheaper guitar cables.
The copper core conductor might be heavy gauge but the Gold Series is still easy to handle and easy to pack away. Gigging musicians might wish to upgrade to the Gold Series Silent, which use Neutrik silent plugs so you can change your instrument without having to switch your amp off.
This cable comes with a “no excuses” lifetime warranty and is offered in a wide variety of lengths.
Planet Waves’ patented Geo-Tip plugs are a big draw with this best guitar cable entrant. They have a slightly flattened tip and longer shield, made by Neutrik in Liechtenstein to Planet Wave’s spec and no matter what jack is fitted in your guitar, these should fit nice and snug with no crackle or pop. That tinned-copper braid should stop rogue frequencies wrecking your signal too.
The HelioFused soldering is another feature unique to Planet Waves and this 180-degree inline connection helps make the American Stage a tough, durable and stage-ready cable.
They are also affordable and available pretty much anywhere, with right-angled options.
George Lewis’ is famous for selling his .155 cable in bulk so that guitarists can take advantage of their solder-less connector design and build their own cable. His cables are also famous for their ultra-low capacity. Eric Johnson swears by them. You would be hard pushed to find another guitar cable on the market with a lower capacitance per meter. The frequency response is excellent and your signal is well shielded.
Readymade, these come out the box with George L’s solder-less .155 connections and despite the vintage feel of the low-diameter cable - and its tendency to coil a little - they feel like you could tow a trailer with them.
For those who find the .155 too thin, the .255 offers an identical sonic performance but with thicker and heavier cable.
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All of Ernie Ball's guitar cables are built to last, but these braided models are designed to be particularly robust, and they're tangle-resistant too - ideal for guitarists who spend a lot of time on the road, or who prefer to stuff their cable straight into the gig bag rather than coil it carefully.
Inside each cable, dual-conductors help ensure your guitar tones are clear, with crisp highs, tight mids and rich harmonics, while internals are shielded well to reduce noise and preserve the signal.
When it comes to lengths, there's not loads of choice, but EB's braided cables are available in 10, 18 and 25ft varieties.
There’s a good reason why David Gilmour, Jeff Beck and John Mayer all favor The Lyric – the design features a dual solidcore made of refined IGL copper, delivering a noticeably purer signal path and tone than a stock multi-strand cable.
By the firm’s admission, the solid-core format means it’s a little stiffer, but with braided copper shielding and a tough nylon/rubber outer, it should be pleasuring your audience’s ears for years to come.
The list price for these guitar cables at various lengths sits around 60 bucks so there is a whole lot to be saved from ordering from GLS direct. The tweed outer jacket looks great in black, impeccable in brown, and the feel of the GLS Audio Tweed is excellent; it coils nicely, is durable, and for the vintage enthusiast this might be too hard to resist.
The cable is double-shielded and low capacitance, so again it should be quiet enough without choking the high-end. There is no price difference between straight-to-straight and straight-to-right angle formats.
Fender’s Deluxe Series might fly under the radar when it comes to guitar cables, but with a lifetime warranty and excellent construction they offer a high-performance product at a very competitive price.
The custom-molded plugs have strain-relief in-built and make for a solid connection, while the Deluxe Series’ shielding holds its own against more expensive cables when it comes to killing extraneous noise.
They are a beefy 8mm diameter but coil nicely and come with a cable tie to encourage you to look after it. To our ears these are bright and transparent – the 10-foot cable especially – and certainly feel like a cable durable enough for the road. A worthy addition to our best guitar cables buyer's guide.
The British amp giant has a respected sideline in cables, using high-grade oxygen free copper for improved signal clarity and articulation, nickel-plated 1/4-inch jacks for corrosion resistance, and multiple shielding layers to kill the dreaded crackle and hum of electromagnetic interference.
They might have a citrus finish, but Orange Crush cables are no novelty item, with heavy-duty features including a heat-shrunk outer sleeve that guards the inner cable and terminals from the rigours of the road.
Canary Cables fly in with an Auto-Mute Switch cable and a larger diameter cable for their Stage and Studio series (a solderless pedalboard cable kit is also available). The Auto-Mute Switch cable has a tiny switch integrated on the sleeve of the gold plug, so there is no need to push any mute buttons. This low-diameter cable becomes active once inserted into your instrument, and dead-quiet with no popping noise once removed. The cable has a transparency that’s discernibly evident, we only wish it was available in a longer length.
The Stage and Studio cables are a serious upgrade for anyone looking to get a pro-spec cable, but you’ll have to get used to the beefier diameter here, especially in the 20ft length. With a low capacitance and durable PVC shielding that removes extraneous noise, the cable offers a detectable sonic difference, with more high-end sparkle and clearer fidelity compared to other widely available instrument cables.
The Auto-Mute Switch and Stage/Studio cables may not have the colorful braiding or sleek styling of some other cable companies, but at more than a fraction of the price, they are no-nonsense, professional cables.
Paul Reed Smith swears by these cables, which are handmade in London by Van Damme Cabling, but of course he has to say that. What’s more impressive is Van Damme’s client list, which includes the likes of the Foo Fighters, Radiohead and Abbey Road Studios.
PRS and Van Damme play the exact spec close to their chest, so we can’t say for sure what the capacitance is other than it is “carefully tuned”, but we would interpret that as low, as these are bright, crystal-clear guitar cables that make all the difference in carrying those mids and highs.
They are lightweight, low-diameter, and the option of silent plugs allows for hot-swapping – a 25-foot cable with silent plugs will set you back 90 bucks, which is decent value for a pro-quality, road-worthy cable. There is no crinkling, no hint of microphonic pop, just a pure signal. Which is exactly what you should expect from a premium cable. And there is no extra charge for straight-to-right-angle options.
Available in all the lengths and all the finishes of braided nylon you could ever want. You want cowprint? Pink? No problem! The SpectraFlex N-Flex takes its name from the addition of Neutrik plugs, and is an incredible, hard-wearing cable that coils well, feels great, and sounds pretty darn transparent.
Those Neutrik plugs will never crap out of you and the SpectraFlex say the precision-engineered one-piece tip ensures you get a nice clean contact and no breakages. This is another you could use in haulage it’s so tough.
The total C-PVC shield coverage kills microphonic interference, making for a super-quiet guitar cable. The frequency response seems pretty even, the tone transparent.
Here is another favorite, no doubt because the likes of Slash and Zakk Wylde are fans of Monster’s Pro Studio series, but also because these are some of the best guitar cables for build quality. The 24k gold contacts and construction of the signature Monster turbine plugs are a little OTT with the bling, but there’s no denying these are durable cables.
They are also very well shielded. Monster’s multi-twist construction tightly twists the positive and negative conductors within the cable to help with noise-cancelling, citing Bell Labs as using similar tech. But let’s assume your amp is in the same state as you, these still do the business.
Time Correct windings are used to minimize the skin effect, where bass frequencies can be fractionally delayed by the magnetic field at the heart of the conductor.