Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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Using Canare GS-6 to Make Guitar Cables

While I'm in-between stages on the repaint of the booster, I need to find something else to get into trouble with.  And I found it.

Before I go any further, my disclaimer:  this is my experience.  It may not be yours.  It is only mine.  It's not meant to be a rant, but is just a reflection of what happened to me.

During the testing of the recently finished amp, I went from frustrated to exasperated with my George L's guitar cables.   For a few years, I had read the reviews (hype) surrounding George L's and other 'boutique' (overpriced marketing hype) cables.  And I finally succumbed about 2 years ago and bought about 25 feet of George L's and some cable ends.

From the start, it was a dodgy affair.  The cables are of ok quality - not awful and not terrific.  But the cable ends are what make George L's, shall we say, "special."  They're designed to be solderless.  Now, personally, I am solder boy.  I know which end of a soldering iron to pound on.  However, I can understand the desire to create a 1/4 inch phone plug to attach to the end of a coax cable without soldering.  George L's is one company which has tried this. Unfortunately, the George L's plug leaves a bit to be desired.

The basic design of the George L's is such that one inserts the coax into the connector, where there is a pin that (supposedly) pokes into the center (hot) conductor of the cable.  One then turns a set screw on the side of the connector, which goes through the outer core and into the coax shield, establishing the ground-side connection.  Then one slides a 'strain-relief' connector over the whole cable end of the plug.

You can see the set screw and the relief in the picture.

They look great - I went for the purple cable, and it looks pretty neat with the black plug cover.  But frankly, I never noticed a difference in tone, noise, anything, with the George L's.  Disclaimer:  this is only my experience.  I know others have claimed not to have seen these issues.  There are also plenty of folks just like me out there - Google is your friend.

The problem is that the center pin is too small, and frankly, isn't shaped so that it consistently makes contact with the center of the cable.  Plus the cover is incredibly hard to get over the plug, and the natural way to try to slide it on means holding the cable and sliding the plug in the opposite direction - e.g. pulling the cable away from the plug!  So even if you have established a good center contact, you may pull it apart when putting the relief on.

After many, many, MANY dis-and re-assembles of this stoopid plug, and the subsequent crack, pop and silence of intermittent or no signal into my amps, I gave up.  I have never had this many problems with a guitar cord. 

I should note that I have Lava Cable in my pedalboard - and I really like it.  The cable is decent quality, and the Lava solderless design is first-rate.  If you want solderless, check out Lava.  (Side note: Lava themselves sell cable made by other companies as well).  But I think you can do better with a true professional quality cable and traditional connectors.  Which lead me to building my own.

I did a little research and discovered the two giants of Really Good Professional Cable.  I think of them as the Nikon and Canon of the cable world.  They are Mogami and Canare.  Both are Japanese, and both make good stuff.  Turns out that any recording, television, cable, etc., professional worth their salt (and whose livelihood depends on reliable cable), uses one or the other or both.   I wound up buying some Canare GS-6 guitar coax and some two-conductor microphone coax.  I also snagged a bunch of slightly used Switchcraft 280 plugs from that internet auction site which shall remain nameless. 

And, I spent less on all of the cable and connectors than I had spent on 40 lousy feet of George Ls!

So, on to the Making of The Cables.

Here's a hunk of the Canare GS-6 cable.  It's thicker than the George L's and is much better quality.  It's also incredibly light and flexible - I was surprised when I first handled it.

Here we have the GS-6 cable stripped and ready to go into a connector.  The black layer is a conductive plastic shield.  It's there to keep noise, such as that which gets picked up when the cable is dragged on the floor, to a minimum. 

Since it's conductive, I stripped it back a bit from the end so there's no chance of it touching the center conductor and shorting out the whole cable.

This stuff strips like a dream - really nice to work with.

Sweet Home Chicago (apologies to Robert Johnson).

Switchcraft is first-rate quality.  I snagged 24 of these puppies for $1.00 each - with free shipping.  New ones go for about $6 or so.  These are essentially new - they were cut off new equipment and resold.  Score one for me!

There is a relief clip built into the connectors, but I wanted to add a little extra in the way of strain relief.  I put a 30mm length of shrink tubing over the connector, then I put an overlapping 40mm length over that. 

Finally, the Switchcraft clear insulator goes over the tubing(s). 

(Yes, call me metric boy.) 

The whole cable end with the outside cover in place.  The tubing works pretty well to support the cable, and the cover is a nice tight fit over the insulators.

So far, the cables work great.  I don't expect any more connector issues.

How does the cable sound?  I notice maybe a tiny bit more high end.  Maybe.  I suspect the Canare cable has lower capacitance than the George L's, but I'd have to measure it.  (Making note to self...).


Post a Comment 4 comments:

  • Lungfixer said...
    September 16, 2012 at 11:45 PM
    Nice review and great information. Thanks for posting this.
  • Yr Fthfl Blggr said...
    September 17, 2012 at 3:40 PM
    Thanks for the kind words!
  • Austin said...
    December 21, 2012 at 12:48 PM
    I know its a bit late now but have you looked into Canare's connecters there is also Neutrik. I'm a production sound recordist and I depend on Canare cable for quality sound and I use Neutrik connectors. I have to say with day and day out abuse of the job they hold there own. Great choice in cables and connector.
  • Yr Fthfl Blggr said...
    December 23, 2012 at 12:20 PM
    Yes, I'm now using Neutrik connectors also. I had to make up more cables recently. I really like them. Easy to connect and the strain relief is a great design.

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