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Thread: Cable Length: Affect on Guitar Tone or "Snipe Hunt"

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    Question Cable Length: Affect on Guitar Tone or "Snipe Hunt"

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    When I saw last night the Line 6
    Relay G10S device, I noted that one of its features is that it it is said to be able to emulate cable lengths of ten feet and thirty feet. I have been working with electronics and guitars for years, starting in the days when in Oklahoma we talked about "jack cords." I know that, especially when very long cords are used, the tone will be affected because of the resistance of the wire and the capacitance distributed over the length of the cable. I know the effect of capacitance on tone because the simple tone control on a single-pickup guitar is generally a rheostat and capacitor connected in series between the hot and shield sides of the line; that network "short-circuits" high-frequency tone to ground so that it does not reach the amp.

    But my question is how much does the tone change whether you have a ten-foot cable or a thirty-foot cable between your guitar and your amp? Will this effect be noticeable to anyone with reasonable hearing and skill on the electric guitar? I have always thought that the goal is to use as short a cable as you can while still doing all that you need to do in your performance. Maybe a thirty-foot cable would be desirable if you were going to dance around the stage or perform all kinds of acrobatics during your act (hopefully without tripping over the extra cable); but I have used ten-foot cables in my recording studio because that is enough for me.

    The reason I used the words "snipe hunt" in my title is that I wanted to advance the possibility that a feature claimed to emulate a couple of different cable lengths might be somewhat like the mythical snipe hunts sometimes done at night in boys-type camps to have them out in the dark - perhaps for storytelling - but ultimately not to hunt for anything, certainly not snipe because they don't exist as real animals. I admit that I don't know here; that's why I posted this message - in hope of starting a thread to explore the real effect of cable length on guitar tone and whether you would deliberately introduce a significant amount of extra cable solely for the purpose of getting a particular tone. Certainly, it is claimed that this cordless link between guitar and receiver/amp will let you emulate two cable lengths; I just wonder why would you care about cable length as long as it is enough for your performance needs? I might be missing something here, but I question whether that feature is of any value, and I doubt that it would influence my decision in selecting a cordless link between my guitar and amp. I invite discussion on this matter.

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    I don't subscribe to all the audiophile stuff or the teeny-weeny tonal differences in this and that, BUT - cable length, or more accurately, cable length with unsuitable cable does make a difference my age limited hearing can detect without any thought. My bands's stage setup has me and my bass amp stage right, guitar in the middle and keys right - with space so the drummer, who sings many of the leads can also be seen. On deep theatre stages and festival stages - which can easily be 15m wide, and 12m deep, a 10m cable from the amp to the mic line is pushing it, and if I use decent cable (Canford HST is my favourite) the capacitance is enough that 10m means I need to turn the HF up quite a lot and it gets hissy as a result. 6m of HST is hardly noticeable. 6m of less good cable can be heard - I have a ten metre cable and a spare, but I use the shorter ones whenever space allows.

    I will use radio when I can - Line6 was the best sounding, but had fragile battery compartment cover that cut out, but the Sennheiser G3s are pretty decent. On festivals though, coordination of radios is often very poor - so cable it is. I can't think why anyone would wish to emulate the dull sound of long cables, but people are often weird and want to replicate noise and other artefacts - weird!

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    Does their cable length emulator also increase the amount of stray radio signal picked up in your track?

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    Yes it makes a difference, yes I can hear it, and yes some people want it. Plenty of people will go out and buy those coiled cables that look like an old telephone cord specifically because the present more capacitance and knock off that little bit more of the extreme top end and gets them that little bit closer to whatever vintage rocker’s tone (usually Hendrix) that they’re trying to emulate.



    Edit to add because I am actually a nerd like that...

    The idea of the capacitor to ground LPF “shorting” the treble before it gets to the amp is sort of correct, but it’s more useful to think of it as a voltage divider. A simple resistive divider is two resistors connected together. You hook your input “hot” to one of them, “ground” to the other, and take your output “hot” from between the two. The division is dependent on the ratio of the “bottom” resistor (connected to ground) to the total resistance of both. That works out so that if the top R stays constant and the bottom R gets smaller, the output gets smaller. Now, if that bottom resistor is a capacitor, then it looks really big at low frequencies and gets small at higher freqs. Lower frequencies get almost no attenuation and higher frequencies are divided down more.

    Now of course this also depends on how big the top R is. If the bottom stays constant and the top gets bigger, you get more attenuation. If the C we have on the bottom is a given value at a given frequency, that frequency will be attenuated more if the top R gets bigger. When that top R is a whole passive guitar, it’s a bit complex (we’ll get there) but can generally be considered pretty darn big at high frequencies - much bigger than most any other source we have in our studios. This is why we can run much longer cables for active sources without treble loss than we can for a guitar.

    Now that IS the same thing that happens on your guitar’s Tone control WHEN it’s all the way down. But realize that the rheostat is part of the “bottom resistor”, adding it’s value to that of the cap at any given frequency. As that value gets bigger, the contribution of the cap is less, and before you’ve turned up the pot very much, the cap because mostly meaningless in the action. On its own, this is actually a high shelf which gets very close to flat pretty fast as you turn it up. But the “top resistor” is actually a pickup which is an inductor which is basically the opposite of a capacitor. It has a fairly large resistance even at DC, and gets bigger at higher frequencies. Frequencies where this value is large compared to the pot value plus the cap’s value get attenuated, and when the pot is big enough that the cap is negligible...well the cap is negligible... The T control would work fine without the cap, except that it would go all the way to silence. I mostly think of it as actually setting a minimum frequency to the sweep of the inductive LPF. Course when you connect inductors to capacitors it gets actually complex - like complex numbers, imaginary numbers, vector math, trig - but it usually just means resonance, so yes when you have the pot all the way down, you get a little resonant bump which couldn’t happen without the cap.
    Last edited by ashcat_lt; 1 Week Ago at 11:38.

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    They are deluded and gullible in the extreme. The effect off cable capacitance increases with frequency and is a simple curve, easily replicated with EQ, even old fashioned EQ.

    I suspect that if people like a particular guitarists sound, and point that like to historical cable defects, perhaps they should remember that frequency response changes due to cable length were known about before WW2, and EQ to flatten it was well understood. If some musicians were stupid enough to think in the 50s that if they used a long cable their guitar sounded mellower, we must be even more stupid to try to replicate it. The idea of reproducing and replicating defects just makes me squirm. For years people have strived to improve sound by all sorts of crazy ways, some even work - to believe anyone would want to spend money replicating it is just silly. They're the same people who instead of believing gold plugs and eccentric cable gives them a better hifi sound, now believe old cables do the same thing. It's their money, but they're very sad people!

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