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May 2014

Guitar Cable Roundup, Part Two - Page 2

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Mogami Platinum
About the cable: $145 for 20'' cable at select Guitar Centers

The first thing that Phil Tennison of Marshall Electronics (distributor of Mogami) mentioned is that the cable does not contain any Platinum. It just signifies that it is a step up in quality (and price) from their "Gold Series".

The step up in quality and sound has a lot to do with a step down in Capacitance of the cable.

The new cable features Mogami’s fine-stranded 20 ga center conductor now surrounded by a fairly thick foamed, high dielectric poly insulator, which is in turn surrounded by a double spiral wrap of fine copper shielding and a lead-free poly jacket.

Mogami believes in trying to optimize the overall sound intended by the pickup designer without revealing frequency anomalies often found in some other high end cables.

In Phil’s words: "I would definitely clarify that I don’t think revealing is the right concept, but that the designers are expecting a specific range of electrical load on the pickup. If it is too far off the mark, the frequency response will be messed up."

The Platinum is terminated by Neutrik connectors, with the instrument end utilizing their cleverly designed "Silent Plug," which silences the signal automatically when the plug is removed and reinstates it immediately and automatically when it is plugged into the instrument
Bob says: This cable sounds good enough to eat. With its ample tight bottom, muscular mids, and sweet voluptuous highs… well, you get the picture. It has great dynamics and punch as well. It is somewhat thick and heavy, possibly due to the extra layer of spiral wrap shielding, but is flexible and handles well.
Dan says: Great detail, with a high-mid emphasis and excellent transients. Really a clear-sounding cable that should be nice for slappers. It’s a bit heavier and thicker than some, but still flexible and relaxed. The Neutrik silent plug is a nice touch, letting you change axes without any buzzing. The built-in strain relief in these plugs makes for a sturdy cable.
Alleva~Coppolo Artist Cable
About the cable: Sold directly through Alleva~Coppolo. Call for pricing.

Jimmy Coppolo is a renowned guitar and bass maker located in New York (though he''s relocating to California soon). He designed his cable to optimize the sound of his instruments when played through high quality amplification. He has been working for several years with a cable designer/manufacturer in the U.S. to get it just right and prefers to keep the details of design in house.
Bob says: The Alleva~Coppolo exhibited excellent tonal balance with a slightly hyped, but sweet high end. There was excellent detail. Both natural and artificial harmonics came through nicely and there was good sustain.
Dan says: Excellent definition, both in the transients and the high end. Good bottom, too. This should make an excellent bass cable for muddy rooms. It made my Jazz bass bark. The cable design is a bit thinner than some, yet somewhat stiffer than expected – probably because of the 95 percent shield. The single heat shrink under the G&H plugs could be a bit longer, but it does the job.
Klotz
About the cables: The slim profile of the La Grange guitar cable and the even slimmer T.M. Stevens "Funkmaster" Signature cable belie the underlying sophistication of the cable design. There are six layers to these cables: an inner core of stranded copper is surrounded by insulation. This inner insulation layer is surrounded by the key ingredient in the design, which is a white conductive plastic layer that is not terminated at either end. That conductive plastic is in turn surrounded by another layer of insulation which separates it from the spiral copper shield; it is all held together by a rubber jacket.

Kendrick Amplifiers provided two cables, both manufactured by Klotz in Germany, a very large cable company making a wide variety of cables for the European pro audio market. Kendrick is the US distributor and vendor.

Gerald Weber, master of vintage sound and head of Kendrick Amps sums up the theory behind the cable design:

"The German engineers at Klotz have rethought guitar cable design. Instead of using the standard ‘center conductor/insulation/shielding’ scenario, which is used by virtually all other cable manufacturers, Klotz adds a conductive plastic material in between the center conductor and the copper shielding. Of course, this conductive plastic is insulated on both sides from the conductors (center conductor and the shielding). The conductive plastic is not connected to anything electrically, so it is not a path to ground. The electrons on the copper shielding cannot "see" the center conductor through the conductive plastic shielding and the electrons on the center conductor cannot "see" the copper shielding through the conductive plastic shielding, so the electrons are forced to go all the way to the amplifier''s input rather than "jumping ship" across the cable. How does this affect tone? The signal getting to the amp is the same signal that came from the guitar, resulting in noticeably longer sustain, more focus, and better clarity. The clarity is particularly noticeable when playing close voicings, such as a major 7th or a minor 9th. But most of all, it lacks the filtered sound found in other cables."

The LaGrange is terminated by premium Neutrik plugs and the "Funkmaster" by custom spun anodized gold aluminum connectors that would look just right with that silver lame jump suit you’ve been just dying to wear, but didn’t have the proper accessories.

LaGrange ($89.99 for 20'')

Bob says: The LaGrange was loud and punchy, with a full range guitar spectrum that was well balanced. The mids were well-detailed and highs very present without being strident. Good picking attack transients combined with excellent sustain. Definitely a cable I could listen to for hours.
Dan says: The LaGrange has a big bottom and clear top, nicely detailed with super transient response. The traditional diameter cable is a bit stiff and coily, but not really a problem. The built-in strain relief of the Neutrik plugs should help this cable last a long time.

T.M. Stevens "Funkmaster" ($88.99 for 20’)
Bob says: The "Funkmaster" is designed primarily for bass but is a pretty nice sounding guitar cable. I sort of nicknamed it the "smile" cable because it had strong lows and highs, with the mids sounding a bit attenuated. Both cables handled very well in their rubber jackets, with the thinner Funkmaster getting the nod for flexibility. Both are well made and should hold up well under duress.
Dan says: The "Funkmaster" has a warm but clear top with good detail and transient response and a bit of midrange emphasis. It has a typical cable diameter with good flexibility. Its unusual orange aluminum plugs have heat shrink over the connections, plus an unusual spring strain relief. Should be a sturdy cable that brings home the funk.

Zaolla Sliverline Cables
About the cables: Zaolla cables are distributed by Hosa Technology and use hi-tech coax design combined with unique material choice: a solid silver center conductor. The cable itself has nine, yes nine separate layers. That’s a lot of jam in that jelly roll.

The core conductor of the cable is 20 ga pure silver wire; with an emphasis on the pure. More on that later. That core is encased in a high dielectric insulator which is in turn wrapped with enameled copper wire. The copper and the silver are connected on both ends at the tip of the plug. The next layer is an FPE precision foam high dielectric insulator which is encased in a conductive PVC shield which is then surrounded by a braided oxygen-free copper braid. There is then a surround of Teflon lubricated paper to provide some slippage between the conduction core and the jacket, which has two layers of PVC.

In other words there are redundant center connectors and shields.

The cable is terminated by premium grade G&H connectors. In the Artist series, the cable is sent to G&H and the connections are crimped by a proprietary pneumatic process which provides solder-free contact. In the Standard series, the plugs are soldered at the factory using high silver content solder.

The only difference between the standard series and the Artist series is the method of attachment of the plug.

There is no dispute that silver is a more efficient conductor. However, there have been some concerns about its durability. Rob Manning of Zaolla has assured us that there is a very large difference in the durability of alloyed silver used in other applications and the pure silver used by Zaolla, with the pure being far tougher. In fact, Rob states, "We never had a cable returned because of breakage." He says there had been some problems with the plug previously used on their cables, but absolutely no problem since switching to the G&H premium plugs. A trip to the G&H website demonstrated to me exactly how well these plugs are built.

Silverline Artist (MSRP $178 for 20'')
Bob says: I found this cable to be very revealing of tones not heard previously from my Tom Anderson. The top is very bright and uncovered a certain brittleness in the very high overtones. The midrange sprang from the speaker cone with super detail and the lows were full and weighty. Transients were handled well with a bit of extra sparkle. All of this detail and top end detracted a bit from single note punch and chords came through as overly bright. I was able to compensate with EQ adjustment; but this just shows how much more signal is present in this cable than the average. Oh, yeah, this cable is loud. Considering how much "stuff" is built into this little gray snake it was agreeably flexible, but a bit on the heavy side.
Dan says: A bit thicker sound than the standard version, this cable seems to have great bandwidth, detail and transparency. As with the standard model, it’s a thicker cable, a little stiffer and heavier than many.

Silverline Standard (MSRP $155 for 20'')
Bob says: This is the exact same cable as the Artist except for the soldered connectors. It sounded the same except that it was not quite as bright. I found this cable much easier to listen to with my reference settings. If you have a guitar with an "ice pick" bridge pickup, this might balance things out a bit better.
Dan says: A bit rounder sounding top end, with a liquidy tone on the Jazz and an even low end, although not overly deep. Well-defined sound without being harsh. As might be expected from this cable’s construction, it’s a thicker cable, a bit stiff, coily, and heavy. They’ve made this one with a nice heat shrink over the top of the plug. I wonder about the durability of a solid center conductor, but that should be taken care of by the thicker jacket and stiffer design.
Evidence Lyric HG
About the cable: Twin 20 ga solid copper signal conductors of extra high grade copper surrounded individually by conductive carbon wrap provides the core which is then insulated from the braided copper shield by a high dielectric foamed poly. All is surrounded by a two-color woven nylon jacket and terminated by premium Neutrik connectors. $155 for 20'', distributed by Audionova.

Tony Farinella at Evidence Audio has been perfecting his cables for over 20 years. Cable designers and builders all have a somewhat different take on what constitutes an ideal cable.

Tony states that if he could build a perfect cable it would have absolutely no effect on the sound emanating from the output of the source device, and that has been his design goal over these many years. To accomplish this, he relies on premium solid copper conductors in 20 gauge size, which he feels is compulsory for unimpeded signal flow. The conductive carbon wrap around each conductor reduces microphonics in high gain situations. The high air content of the foamed poly insulator greatly reduces cable capacitance. The high density braided copper shield does not carry signal; that task being the sole responsibility of the conductor pair; one carrying the hot side and the other the return side.

Tony is the first to admit that the necessary components of this cable add up to it being rather stiff.

An interesting aside is that this same cable is terminated with XLR connectors and sold as a microphone cable for studio use, where it has developed a devoted following of well-known engineers. Now, that is saying something about signal quality.

The cable specs out with a bandwidth of 20-20k Hz. With this kind of bandwidth, the Lyric HG is ready for any complexity of signal thrown at it and will handle it with ease, adding no coloration of its own.

Very open mindedly Tony recognizes the validity of other cable design philosophies and realizes that a very revealing cable is not for everyone, saying, "I would prefer that no one purchase anything without listening to it."
Bob says: The Lyric HG cable was very open sounding with an extended high end that I had heard somewhat on the Silverline Artist. The extended top was combined with a smooth bottom and a detailed mid to give the Anderson mini-buckers a rather clinical sound. I did miss the punch of a couple of the other cables, but good dynamics helped make up for that.
Trying to coil this 20 footer was like wrestling with a live snake, and if I were to use one for gigging I would probably go for a shorter length. Tony also mentioned that the cable tended to loosen up with time. I’m not sure if that is good or bad, as the solid conductors already would tend to have a shorter service life. A fine sounding cable especially for studio and complicated stage rigs.
Dan says: This cable has one of the brighter top ends we’ve heard, extra transparent. It has nice bandwidth and transient response, with superb focus on the lower end. However, this is the stiffest cable I’ve tested, which isn’t a surprise given the two solid inner conductors. The nice braided cloth jacket is somewhat coily on the floor. The Neutrik plug provide great strain relief.

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