Extensive compressor reviews and FAQ

 
Audio Cables Compared and Recommended:
The purpose of this page is to help you find the best value in an instrument cable. I've tested 27 cables so far, all between 18 and 21 feet long (5.5 to 6.4 meters). I'll add more cables to this page over time, such as Sommer, Van den Hul, and other brands and models.
 
Cutting to the chase, here are my personal top recommendations so far:
• Lava "ELC Tweed"
• Armor Gold
• DiMarzio (standard, nylon braid)
• Live Wire "Elite"
• Elixir
All of these deliver truly top-shelf performance, with no BS, at reasonable prices. Some of the super-expensive ones I've tested don't even work as well as these.
 
I came to those choices by comparing all the cables side-by-side according to several parameters, such as capacitance, ruggedness, and price. I rated them from 1-10 (one being worst, ten being best) on each parameter, by my subjective judgment. I then averaged those scores, and sorted the averages according to standards that I think are most important. Here is a chart of all the parameters:

BRAND and MODEL

CAPACITANCE
(SCORE)

FLEXIBILITY

RUGGEDNESS
of CABLE

QUALITY
of PLUGS

ASSEMBLY

HANDLING
NOISE

AMBIENT
NOISE

PRICE
(SCORE)

Analysis Plus "Bass Oval"

50 pF/ft (2)

3

8

8

8

1

9

$159 (1)

Armor Gold

34 pF/ft (7)

5

9

5

8

9

7

$45 (7)

Atlantic Quality "Zerocap"

3 pF/ft* (10)

8

5

8

8

8

2

$110 (3)

Bullet "Silver Bullet"

33 pF/ft (7)

2

9

6

6

5

9

$40 (7)

DiMarzio

35 pF/ft (7)

5

7

6

7

9

9

$27 (8)

Elixir

11 pF/ft (10)

3

6

8

7

8

7

$69 (5)

Evidence "Lyric HG"

38 pF/ft (6)

1

8

9

9

9

10

$155 (1)

BRAND and MODEL

CAPACITANCE
(SCORE)

FLEXIBILITY

RUGGEDNESS
of CABLE

QUALITY
of PLUGS

ASSEMBLY

HANDLING
NOISE

AMBIENT
NOISE

PRICE
(SCORE)

Fender "Platinum Acoustic"

147 pF/ft (1)

1

10

5

6

1

9

$85 (4)

Klotz "La Grange"

21 pF/ft (9)

7

5

9

7

2

8

$89 (4)

Lava "ELC Tweed"

25 pF/ft (9)

5

8

8

7

6

8

$60 (6)

Lava "Magma"

31 pF/ft (8)

9

3

8

6

9

4

$30 (8)

Live Wire "Elite"

50 pF/ft (2)

5

6

9

7

9

10

$45 (7)

Live Wire "Soundhose"

38 pF/ft (6)

4

5

7

6

7

8

$20 (9)

Mogami "Gold"

38 pF/ft (6)

8

3

8

5

9

7

$60 (6)

BRAND and MODEL

CAPACITANCE
(SCORE)

FLEXIBILITY

RUGGEDNESS
of CABLE

QUALITY
of PLUGS

ASSEMBLY

HANDLING
NOISE

AMBIENT
NOISE

PRICE
(SCORE)

Monster "Bass"

36 pF/ft (6)

7

6

5

4

3

8

$50 (7)

Musician's Gear "Braided"

34 pF/ft (7)

9

1

5

7

8

8

$9 (10)

Planet Waves "Cable Station"

16 pF/ft (10)

4

3

4

2

4

7

$34 (7)

Planet Waves "Custom Pro"

34 pF/ft (7)

5

5

5

7

3

8

$30 (8)

Pro Co "Starguards"

40 pF/ft (5)

7

4

5

8

5

4

$15 (9)

Rapco "Horizon Standard"

26 pF/ft (9)

9

2

5

5

9

5

$11 (10)

BRAND and MODEL

CAPACITANCE
(SCORE)

FLEXIBILITY

RUGGEDNESS
of CABLE

QUALITY
of PLUGS

ASSEMBLY

HANDLING
NOISE

AMBIENT
NOISE

PRICE
(SCORE)

Solid "Dynamic Arc Ultra"

47 pF/ft (3)

5

9

10

8

5

9

$182 (1)

Spectraflex "Fatso Flex"

42 pF/ft (4)

8

7

7

8

9

8

$40 (7)

Spectraflex "Original"

42 pF/ft (4)

7

7

7

7

9

8

$33 (8)

Vox "Vintage Coil"

27 pF/ft (9)

10

2

3

4

10

5

$35 (8)

Whirlwind "Leader Elite"

33 pF/ft (7)

6

5

7

6

8

7

$25 (9)

Whirlwind "Standard"

34 pF/ft (7)

9

2

7

3

7

7

$17 (9)

Zaolla "Artist"

36 pF/ft (6)

8

7

8

8

9

8

$183 (1)

*The Atlantic Zerocap is actually 60 pF total regardless of length, due to its active component; I only call it 3 pF/ft because it's a 20' cable, for apples-apples comparison with the other cables.

To explain some of the parameters:
"Quality of plugs" is a tricky one because it's common to have a good-quality straight plug and a poor-quality right-angle plug. This is what dinged the score of cables with Amphenol plugs like the Armor Gold, for example. Note to cable manufacturers: use better-quality RA plugs!
"Assembly" is how well and securely the plug is attached to the cable, including strain relief. A rock-solid soldered connection doesn't always have good strain relief, and vice-versa.
 
"Cable ruggedness" and "flexibility" kind of cancel each other out: the higher the ruggedness of a cable, the lower its flexibility will be, in most cases. And for many people, ruggedness is the most important thing. So here are the top five (by averages) if we remove the flexibility score:

BRAND and MODEL

CAPACITANCE
(SCORE)

RUGGEDNESS
of CABLE

QUALITY
of PLUGS

ASSEMBLY

HANDLING
NOISE

AMBIENT
NOISE

PRICE
(SCORE)

AVERAGE
of scores

Lava "ELC Tweed"

25 pF/ft (9)

8

8

7

6

8

$60 (6)

7.43

Armor Gold

34 pF/ft (7)

9

5

8

9

7

$45 (7)

7.43

DiMarzio

35 pF/ft (7)

7

6

7

9

8

$27 (8)

7.43

Evidence "Lyric HG"

38 pF/ft (6)

8

9

9

9

10

$155 (1)

7.29

Live Wire "Elite"

50 pF/ft (2)

6

9

7

9

10

$45 (7)

7.29

 

For some people the price is not important, as long as they are getting the best real quality for their money. So here are the top five (by averages) if we remove the price:

BRAND and MODEL

CAPACITANCE
(SCORE)

FLEXIBILITY

RUGGEDNESS
of CABLE

QUALITY
of PLUGS

ASSEMBLY

HANDLING
NOISE

AMBIENT
NOISE

AVERAGE
of scores

Zaolla "Artist"

36 pF/ft (6)

8

7

8

8

7

9

7.57

Evidence "Lyric HG"

38 pF/ft (6)

1

8

9

9

9

10

7.29

Lava "ELC Tweed"

25 pF/ft (9)

5

8

8

7

6

8

7.29

Spectraflex "Fatso Flex"

42 pF/ft (4)

8

7

7

8

9

8

7.29

Armor Gold

34 pF/ft (7)

5

9

5

8

9

7

7.14

 

This shows that there really can be some cases where you can get better quality by paying a premium. But note the gap in price! The Zaolla and Evidence cost two to four times as much as the others, and offer only marginal gains in performance or quality. One case where I feel you actually get something significant for paying a higher price is the Elixir, which has incredibly low capacitance, for the brightest high-frequency content. So to select my personal top 5, I took the "minus flexibility" list and kicked out the expensive Evidence cable, replacing it with the Elixir.
 
I also measured the resistance and distortion of these cables, but the values were generally much too small to be meaningful in comparison. One interesting exception is the Zaolla Artist, which has resistance (2.34 ohms) about 10 x higher than most of the other cables! The whole point of the Zaolla is that it's made of silver, because silver is supposedly more conductive than copper. Well, I can tell you for an empirical fact that the Zaolla is less conductive than even the cheapest of the copper cables. That difference is probably not audible though. The other exception is the Atlantic Zerocap, which has much higher distortion than any other cable.
 
Again, I will be adding new cables to this page in the days/months to come, so all of the "top 5" lists are subject to change in the future. Also, for anyone keeping track, my opinions now may not be the same as previous opinions I've expressed. For example I used to be pretty unimpressed by the Evidence Lyric HG because I thought it should have lower capacitance, and better flexibility, for such a high price tag. But now that I've taken a keen look at all its qualities, I have to admit the Lyric HG is a damn good cable. I just wish they wouldn't use so much meaningless hype in their product descriptions.
 
I'm looking for input from you about the reliability of specific cables over the long term. Some cables may perform brilliantly when they're new, and degrade significantly over time; others may perform like champs for years and years. I'd like to figure out a way of including that in my reviews, but it's a tough one--there's no way for me to buy all of these both new and old/heavily-used in the same lengths. I'm open to suggestions (see the "contact" link on the FAQ page).
 
Click here to see spectrum analysis of several of these cables.
Click here to see oscilloscope analysis of cable vendor claims about "transient response" and "harmonic detail".

 
 
All text on this page written and owned by Cyrus J. Heiduska, 2006-2014, all rights reserved.
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