David Lamkins picked up his first guitar a long time ago. As best he can recall the year was 1967: the year of the Summer of Love. Four decades later David has conjured up an amalgam of folk, rock and jazz solo guitar music for the occasional intimate Portland audience.
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location: Portland, OR USA

Facets: cables, comparison, evaluation, physics, @musings info

Cable Nuances Revisited

I've been saying all along that total capacitance is the sole contribution to the "sound" of an instrument cable. My last article on the subject left me wondering, though, how an "insignificant" difference in capacitance could produce a clearly identifiable difference in a blind test.

My argument was that it should take a significant shift in the resonant frequency of the guitar (caused by the change in capacitance between different cables) to cause a detectable difference in sound. I realized the error in my reasoning while reading some articles on mastering.

The issue is all about what constitutes a detectable difference. Listening to pure tones in isolation is different from evaluating subtle shifts in tonal balance in a musical context. Mastering engineers routinely make EQ changes of less than 1 dB at specific frequencies. So if a fractional-dB EQ difference is detectable in a mix, could it also be detectable while playing your guitar? I'd argue that it is. Every note has overtones. You normally play multiple notes at once. There are body resonances. In other words, a guitar does not produce a pure tone; it should be possible to detect small changes in EQ.

Accordingly, a small shift in the resonant frequency of a guitar's pickups - caused by a change from one cable to another that doesn't have the exact same total capacitance - should be detectable in a listening test.

What does this mean in a practical sense? The chances that you'll pick up two cables having exactly the same capacitance are slim; you'll hear a difference and you'll almost certainly prefer one over the other.

The rest is marketing and wish-fulfillment. You make a choice based upon your careful consideration of advertising copy and peer reviews. You need to believe that your choice was not ill-advised, so you either live with your choice or find something "better" in a different model or brand.

June 15 2008 06:05:58 GMT