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Microphone Cables

Back to the Gear Room

eric b
Apr 12, 2009 9:37 PM GMT

Hopefully this hasn't been been posted previously,but I'm in the market for a high quality 1/4"(at both ends)cable.I remember seeing a review years ago on a harp discussion board.If My foggy memory serves Me correctly,the general concensus was "Monster" cables...the thing is they reviewed the "rock""jazz""and"blues" cables,and I can't remember the suggested type.I'm looking for as much signal strength/output as possible.

Thanks in advance.

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Comments (23)

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Apr 12, 2009 11:44 PM GMT
John P Replied:

Monster jazz cables. Time aligned, directional. Hard to believe a cable can significantly improve sound quality, but they do.

Btw, i don't think there is a monster "blues" cable.

Apr 13, 2009 3:38 AM GMT
eric b Replied:

Thanks John!2 out of 3 taint bad...hence the "foggy" memory part.

Apr 13, 2009 6:50 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

I use Mogami cables and if you check on Ebay, you can get a good deal on them.

Apr 13, 2009 11:00 PM GMT
BlowsMeAwy Greg Replied:

"Time aligned, directional" ???Forgive me, but as a scientist with a degree in computer science and a fundamental understanding of the laws of physics, THAT is a load of crap.

There are 3 and only 3 ways in which a cable can affect tone.

1) Resistance. The less, the better. More wire equals less resistance. Shorter distance equals less resistance. It's straight math.

2) Capacitance = if the cable acts as a capacitor, it can alter the tone. Capacitance is a function of lots of variables - any good quality cable has very low capacitance.

3) Shielding - the quality of the shielding determines how much or little the cable acts like an antenna, absorbing (most 60 Hz) RF energy and injecting it to the signal. Unshielded wire is bad for microphone cable (though its fine for speaker cable.) But any decent cable made for the purpose should have adequate shielding.

Monster cable is well known in the stereo industry (in which I used to work) as a way to separate fools form their money. Many, many people have held their own blind taste tests and nobody can hear the difference. (IF you don't do it blind, so that the listener knows which is the monster cable, they'll swear they hear the difference if they bought it. On the other hand if you tell them the opposite, they'll swear the lamp cord makes the speakers sound better. Try this yourself. I have. )

I'm NOT saying there's no difference in mic cables - there is. But "time aligned" and "directional" are two properties that a) don't exist in metal, of which the conductive part of cables are made and b) make no sense at all. Directional? The audio signal is AC for chrissakes!!! It moves in both directions, on both leads. If a cable somehow resisted the flow of electrons in one direction more than the other, it would be a BAD BAD thing. (It would also be called a semiconductor.) "Time aligned"? To what frequency? Sorry but hearing this kind of shameless bullpoop from manufacturers taking advantage of people who simply didn't choose to get educated in basic electronics or physics just sends me RIGHT UP THE WALL.

Apr 14, 2009 2:36 AM GMT
John P Replied:

Greg,When i first saw these cables and asked why they were so expensive, I was told they were "time aligned" so that the bassfrequenciesmove along the cable at the same speed as the treble frequencies. Originally, i thought this was a lot of nonsense and just an excuse to charge a higher price. But, after i tried one, i wassurprisedand impressed. The tone was audibly deeper, richer and fuller compared with other guitar cords I had used. i have no idea if this time alignment claim is true or not, but using these cables the signal definitely seems to have a somewhat fuller bottom end. What you are saying may be absolutely correct. But for whatever reason, these cables do seem to carry a richer signal quality. I don't know why this is so, and I have no technical expertise. I didn't do a blindcomparison, but I don't thinkit's my imagination. When i first tried one I was fully expecting/hoping that it would sound no different than anything else.

If you want, I'll let you borrow one to check out and then you can tell me if I'm delusional or not.

Apr 14, 2009 3:35 AM GMT
Civet Cat Replied:

Hey Eric: Take my word for it there is no better cable available then a Zaollo ( ). It's not a matter of opinion, really it's simple science...The cable is made with Molten silver center the most conductive metal known manwhich displays99.99997 % pure conductivity and is shieded as good or better than anything else on the market. With a monster cable, George L, lava, or any other cable you WILL hear an improvement over a normal cable but what you will hear is an improvement in high and high mid frequencies only. Most people hear this and are stoked forgetting that their lows are getting lost or buried by high end and over time as they adjust to the cable end up turning their bass up gradually on their rig or their ear begins to get numb to the high frequencies and craves even more of those over time producing a bitey tone. The Zaolla broad casts the purest all round sonic representation of your sound that you have actually never heard! The cable is UNREAL expensive!!! I paid over 100.00 for a ten foot one but to me it is ne of my most favorite peices of gear right up there with my best custom harps. My guitar player friend Shawn Keller man ( Bobby Rush, Carlos del Junco, Paul Reddic and his own group) said it added an extra nothc of volume alone. Thats enough out of me.


Apr 14, 2009 4:39 AM GMT
BlowsMeAwy Greg Replied:

"so that the bassfrequenciesmove along the cable at the same speed as the treble frequencies. "

Audio signals from a microphone are simplyelectricalcurrent - alternating current in fact - at somewhere between 0 and about 2 volts. Electrons move through the cable at something very close to the speed of light (NOT the speed of sound, which is orders of magnitude slower.) Every electron is unique - it has no idea what the frequency of the bass component of the signal is, or the treble component or any other. This time alignment stuff is pure snake oil.

If a cable sounds better than another, it is because it has lower resistance, lower capacitance, or both. I do encourage everyone to orchestrate a REAL, BLIND test. Use an A/B switch so you can switch back and forth immediately, time after time. I would LOVE to hear the difference between cables. And maybe it exists. But if it if it does, it ain't from "time alignment" or "directionality."

Apr 14, 2009 6:53 AM GMT
eric b Replied:

Wow, this has started to get juicy,thanks for all the info gents...much appreciated.

Apr 14, 2009 6:38 PM GMT
Civet Cat Replied:

I don't know anything about time alignement or any of that and Zaolla never makes that claim...I only know this cable sounds better and you CAN hear the differance between it and a monster.and the material alone is a scentific testament to it's operation alone no voodoo.

Apr 14, 2009 8:45 PM GMT
John P Replied:

I think i got the "time alignment" jargon from the guy at the music store. Here's what Monster actually says in its promo material:

  • Dual multi-gauge Time Correct wire networks improve clarity and presence across the entire dynamic range
  • MicroFiber inner dielectric isolates magnetic fields for accurate tonality across the entire audio bandwidth
  • Multi-Twist construction tightly winds negative and positive conductors together for superior noise rejection
  • 95% coverage copper braided shield rejects RFI and EMI for a lower noise floor and increased resolution
  • 24k gold-plated contact 1/4" connectors are durable and corrosion resistant

I don't know what most of the above actually means. But, I still think the Monster Jazz cables sound perceptibly better than the generic guitar cords I had been using before.

Apr 15, 2009 3:55 AM GMT
Civet Cat Replied:

Zaolla eric zaolla!

Apr 15, 2009 4:36 AM GMT
eric b Replied:

Zaolla does sound tasty,butI dont know if I can afford fillet mignon right now...heh.If I do take the plunge I'll make sure to post.

Apr 17, 2009 12:20 AM GMT
BlowsMeAwy Greg Replied:

John - I don't intend any disrespect. But you're listening to a bunch of artfully crafted big words and assuming they actually mean something. This Monster stuff is gibberish. Please allow me to translate bullpoop into plain english:

  • Dual multi-gauge Time Correct wire networks improve clarity and presence across the entire dynamic range
"Dual": it has two wires. All mic cables have one or two plus shield.

"multi-gauge": gauge is the size of the wire. Given that the shield is different from the inner wires, all cables could be said to be multi-gauge.

"Time Correct": this is pure and utter bullpoop. There is no such thing as "time incorrect" wire. Electrons DO move at different speeds through different media, including different types of metal. But given that the difference is slight and the speed is close to the speed of light, there cannot possibly be any audible difference, even if your cable is hundreds of miles long. (It isn't, right?) I like how they capitalized "Time Correct" - makes it seem Really Important, doesn't it?

"Wire networks": OK - multiple wires in a bundle. We're calling that a "wire network" to impress you.

"...improve clarity and presence across the entire dynamic range" - given the clearer definition of the terms they use to convince you in the first place, do you now see that there is no basis for this claim?
  • MicroFiber inner dielectric isolates magnetic fields for accurate tonality across the entire audio bandwidth
"MicroFiber inner dielectric" - the insulation between inner wires and the shield is called dielectric. Its key function is electrical insulation and low capacitance. Microfiber is made from plastic, same as most dielectric materials.

"Isolates magnetic fields" .... DId you take Physics? Plastic doesn't interfere with magnetic fields. SPACING the inner away from the outer does - and ALL cables do this with the dielectric - some sort of magnetically andelectricallynon-conductive material.

"for accurate tonality across the entire audio bandwidth" - again - sounds like a great benefit, but it is completely generic once you understand what they're saying about how they accomplish it.

  • Multi-Twist construction tightly winds negative and positive conductors together for superior noise rejection
"Multi-twist construction" Oooh! Sounds so sexy. All audio cables with 2 inner conductors have those wires twisted internally for noise rejection. Guess what. So does telephone wire. It isn't new, or innovative. Its just obvious.

"Positive and negative conductors" ooooh! I'm getting hot! Pretty much can't have an audio cable without two conductors. That's why (guess what) ALL cables have at least two conductors. You can call them positive and negative, red nad black, or Ramona and Loomis for all I care - the fact is audio is an AC signal and the current actually moves in both directions in both wires. (Oh wait, that was part of the anti "directional" claim we talked about earlier.)

"for superior noise rejection": Compared to what? Another audio cable with twisted conductors, like, all of them?
  • 95% coverage copper braided shield rejects RFI and EMI for a lower noise floor and increased resolution
ALL microphone cables have a "shield", usually of copper wire, either wrapped or braided around the dielectric containing the inner wires. Its job is indeed rejecting RFI (radio frequency interference) and EMI (electromagnetic interference.) Some shields are indeed made better than others. 95% is fine - but unless you know how much coverage other cables have, you can't conclude this cable is better. For the record, basic run of the mill, plain vanilla, every music hall, bar and theatre uses it Belden microphone cable (far cheaper than Monster) has 95% coverage too.
  • 24k gold-plated contact 1/4" connectors are durable and corrosion resistant
Can't argue with that. Gold plated connectors are a reasonable idea. They lower the resistance of the connection and help avoid corrosion. However the resistance across any connectors in decent shape is way, way less than 1 ohm, so I defy you to hear the difference.

"I don't know what most of the above actually means."

See, I DO know what most of the above means. Which is why I can tell you you're falling for a line of jive.

"But, I still think the Monster Jazz cables sound perceptibly better than the generic guitar cords I had been using befor"


Maybe, because like all of us, you like to feel good about what you spent good money for. Why don't you have a friend switch between generic and monster cable without you looking. See if you can tell the difference. If you can, see which one you like better. You don't have to tell us - just be honest with yourself.

Sorry for the rant, folks, but it just makes me crazy to see people throw money away on stuff they don't need or that doesn't help when there is SO much that DOES and is worth real money. Monster Cable is Good Marketing. Its perfectly good cable too, but electrically it is no better than decent quality stuff costing much, much less. Please, buy better harps, better mics, better amps, and practice your amplified technique every chance you get. I promise you, you will receive a significantly higher return on investment.

Neat! My cat just brought me a live lizard. Gotta go.....

Apr 17, 2009 10:49 AM GMT
Civet Cat Replied:

But Bob translate Solid Molten Silver for us? A lizard in Boston??? WTF?

Apr 17, 2009 12:19 PM GMT
Kingley Replied:

I use Van Damme cable. I buy it from Maplins in the UK, it's fairly cheap and is great cable. I have leads that I have been using for over 10 years without any issues at all.

Apr 17, 2009 7:58 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

Using better quality cables is a must and I can hear a difference when you have a side by side comparison almost immediately. When they changed the JT30/BB to the XLR to 1/4" setup, I used to run into more bad cables than when they used to have the screw on connector. Many of the XLR setups were basically 1 was ground 2 was hot and 3 (if they chose to use a 2 conductor lo-z cable to turn it into high-z) would get grounded together with #1 at the 1/4" plug end, which was OK, but when retrofitted back to the old screw on style connector using a single conductor cable (which is what a guitar cable is), the sound was definitely much better.

Getting the screw on connector cables is harder to find now, but back when it was widely available, I used to buy the raw MC1F connectors from Switchcraft (the screw on connector model#), get those old military plugs, and get Belden raw wire #8410 and make them myself. The only thing that was a pain in the butt was making sure that you got that thick cable thru the ground spring properly and the ground wire setup so that it was secure and soldered properly to the ground spring.

The best setup for those screw on setups was getting the screw on to 1/4" jack adapters and getting a high quality guitar cable and there's tons of good ones to choose from now.

Apr 18, 2009 12:08 AM GMT
Civet Cat Replied:

Bob what about the Lizard?

Apr 18, 2009 2:17 AM GMT
jawbone s Replied:

C'mon Jas - the lizard is "time aligned" and "directional" and Bob got thru a whole post with no caps, no bold and no red, it was a pleasure to read - do not provoke him!!!

Apr 18, 2009 5:13 AM GMT
BlowsMeAwy Greg Replied:

Bob said:

"...the screw on connector cables is harder to find now"

I make them. I charge $20 + $1.25 per foot. That makes 20' cable $45. Sounds like a lot, doesn't it? Turns out good cable ain't cheap (I use Belden custom microphone cable), nor are decent connectors. Properly assembling the screw-on, as Bob says, is an art form.There is a right and wrong way to do both the ground and center conductor. Cheap cables allow the cable to rotate inside the strain relief spring. The spring is not tight enough to prevent this, and if the cable can rotate, the connector will fail quickly. I GLUE and DOUBLE shrink wrap this section, and with every cable I ship a little educational flyer to tell people how to protect their investment. My cables last a long time.

The adapter you screw on that lets you plug in a 1/4" cable is called a Switchcraft Type 332 adapter and I have them too.

Personally I like the solid screw-on connection and don't like to use the adapter. Too easy to step on the cable when the 1/4" is plugged in and ruin a perfectly good solo. When you step on the cable with the screw-on connector, it just pulls on the mic, your head and hands come down with it and keep right on playing. Most of the time I throw the cable over my shoulder so I don't step on 'em much any more.


Apr 18, 2009 9:33 AM GMT
Civet Cat Replied:

JawBone That was some funny S H I T.

Apr 18, 2009 12:55 PM GMT
John P Replied:

Afriendof mine was going to help me do ablindA/B test with Monster Jazz cable and a lizard, but we didn't the right impedance matching transformer.

Apr 20, 2009 7:13 PM GMT
sgsax Replied:

Ah, but the difference between a gecko and a salamander is obvious to anyone who blows their harp through both. Pretty damn hard to cup, though.

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