About Cables

As I was setting up my shiny new Samson S-Patch Plus patchbay, I was thinking a lot about cables. I have a relatively small studio rack with about 10 separate components. Even so, somehow it's just a web back there these days. I thought about doing a quick inventory and adding up how much I've paid for cables over the years, and found that I just didn't have the heart for it.

Why? Because cables aren't fun in the same way, say, a new preamplifier is. There's no endless knob tweaking joy - you just plug it in and forget about it. Also, a cable won't keep its value in the same way a piece of gear like a popular microphone might. It took me a long time to come around to grudgingly spring for a decent cable along with whatever far more exciting item I was buying. 

Eventually, though, I learned to just roll this expense in with the cost of the product. And I've come to grips with the fact that the long term benefits of quality cables far outweigh the couple of bucks you save up front.

Here are a few reasons why you should always buy the best cables you can reasonably afford for your studio.

  • Sound quality: I will be the first to admit that I would likely fail a blind hearing test between very inexpensive cables and very inexpensive cables. However, there are sound engineers who can, and even for the rest of us it's possible to start hearing the difference between a mix of many tracks recorded with low quality cables vs high quality cables. Also, if you are using a patchbay or multiple components in a chain, each connection point represents a connector and some length of cable.
  • Build quality: No one wants to stop his or her workflow to try to determine if the sound cutting in and out is because of one of the components or one of the cables that connect them. Cables with better build quality will be less likely to have issues with the connectors or the cables themselves.
  • Shielding: Better quality cables will be better shielded from radio frequency and electromagnetic interference, which even at low levels can become audible when the preamp boosts the signal.
  • Warranty: Many mid to high quality cables come with a lifetime guaranty. 

For an excellent write up on how XLR cables work and some of the differences between the quality of various cables, check out this post at B&H

I personally have either Mogami or Canare cables in my system. They are not the most expensive on the market, but they are certainly not cheap. However, I have had no problems with either, and both come with a lifetime warranty so that if I do have problems I can always get a replacement at no charge.

When I bought the patchbay, I also had to buy TRS patch cables along with a few more XLR > TRS to hook up existing gear. I chose Mogami Gold since the majority of my existing cables are the same type. As might be expected, this purchase (12 patch cables + 4 XLR cables) was more than double the just over $100 cost of the patchbay. But considering I could potentially have them for a lifetime of worry-free, high quality use even if I decide later on a different patchbay (or a different use altogether), I'm feeling pretty good about it.

Until next time, cheers!

-- Joel

Oh, the cables...

Oh, the cables...