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From: Shootout Guitar Cables UKBest Guitar Cables Explained

See also: The Shootout Guitar Cables Range

So in the perfect world we figure that we don't want a guitar cable at all right? We don't want to be tied down by a cable, and have to think about capacitance, or make sure the vocalist doesn't trip over it for the third time at the gig.

Indeed wireless freedom generally sounds like a plan, but there are problems and with WiFi one of them can be a huge problem; but we'll start start with the little ones and work our way up!

1. Cables are still needed for pedals, and from pedals to the amp.

2. Wireless WiFi guitar transmitter systems need batteries and batteries run out, so one more hassle and then there's the bulk.

2. Tone junkies won't like running through an A/D and D/A conversion before the guitar signal even gets to a pedal or an amp, some top digital delay pedals even mix in the digitally delayed wet sound with dry to avoid this. Studio recording engineers generally try for convert once only.

However this won't matter where application emulations are used, as WiFi rids the need for a computer audio 'breakout box', and PC application emulations are still a long way off modelling tube amps and analogue pedals properly, so mediocre conversion will hardly be a concern!

Simply plugging in via a guitar to usb cable with built in conversion is much cheaper and presumably low latency* as it is just A/D conversion, and ultra low latency is certainly needed to avoid adding to system latency!

* We don't sell or make guitar to USB cables currently, so haven't measured latency. However looking at cable types used it seems obvious that noise will be an issue. Breakout boxes with hi input impedance instrument jack socket are the way to go. Use a Guitar DI box for instrument inputs with low input impedance.

3. Active pickups are often not favoured by guitarists, an inductive passive guitar pickup interacts in a special way when plugged into dirt pedals and amps especially, hence why buffers are recommended for use after dirt pedals, especially fuzz. WiFi loses the direct passive pickup connection totally, and so the signal needs D/A and reamplification let alone just buffering.

4. Almost zero capacitance and no way of changing it by using a longer cable! We are used to hearing guitars with some cable capacitance, but almost zero capacitance and no way to control it is a big restriction if you don't like the sound of zero cable capacitance.

5. Latency is the bugbear of digital signal paths whether it be A/D and D/A conversion, plugin processing latency, or monitor processing latency, they all add up, and it doesn't take much to completely wreck the experience of hearing what you play being amplified as soon as you play it.

When latency is noticeable it's an inspiration killer, and much past that point you simply can no longer play in time if you are hearing the latency affected signal, it's a horrid experience easily emulated by running a guitar signal through a delay pedal with a tiny slapback length at 100% wet and trying to play (especially in time!), and especially if you can't hear your guitars acoustic level easily.

To make matters worse, each track you add of latency affected sound to a multitrack recording, the worse the situation gets (unless you start audio quantizing those tracks and then you have even more problems).

Companies like Digidesign (now AVID) with their low latency Pro Tools time division multiplexing hardware systems and Universal Audio with their low latency effects for recording have put huge effort into eradicating latency as much as possible as it is such a huge problem for musicians.

So let's have a look at some digital wireless latencies.

Bluetooth latency is a whopping 150 milliseconds, it's a complete non-starter for guitar playing.

Compressed audio bluetooth is getting better but at around 40 milliseconds, it's still a disaster for real time instrument play and tracking.

So what about WiFi reduced to say around 13 milliseconds?

Well anyone who has dabbled in midi guitar over the years will have fretted over two major problems 1) tracking accuracy and 2) latency.

The latest very best midi guitar system is only just good enough for fairly low frustration use on high and midrange guitar notes but on low notes the latency creeps up to around 12 milliseconds and added to even 128 sample DAW signal processing latency and A/D and D/A conversion with analogue monitors at a metre away still feels a little sluggish, and annoyingly noticeable, but it is worth the hassle to be able to play violin or a massive synth on a guitar. This huge compromise is however made only to avoid having to learn to play the keyboard, electronic drums etc. and to replace an orchestra, roomful of synthesizers, drum kits etc.

So 13 milliseconds latency for all the notes on a guitar or bass with a WiFi virtual guitar cable just for the sake of getting rid of the cable? No thanks!

For the time being we consider both Bluetooth and WiFi of some systems as a total non starter firing stuttering blanks vs an analogue guitar cable's speed of electricity unquantized full fat tone bullets ;O)

One day, with near zero latency, it maybe of some use for serious musicians, and worth the battery hassle, expense and bulk, but we think not today!*

* The situation regarding digital wireless is developing rapidly, not necessarily with official 'Wi-Fi' labelled technology but similar. Fairly high priced systems are coming to market with usable latencies, however many well known players still value the no-signal-break analogue system even on large stages for various tonal reasons as mentioned above.

If considering a wireless system, make sure to check the latency is very low and usable first, then look for the quality of signal path to go with it.

Also in this guide:

Guitar Cable Capacitance and Resonant Frequency

Guitar Cable Capacitance Chart

Guitar Cable Length and Signal Loss

Guitar Cable Myths and The Cable Fairy

Guitar Cable Shielding and AC Hum

Guitar Cable Microphonics and the Triboelectric Effect

Braided vs Spiral vs Foil Guitar Cable Shielding

True Bypass Pedals vs Buffered Pedals

Silver Plated Copper Cables and 'Red Plague' Galvanic Corrosion

Copper vs Silver Signal Conductor Guitar Cables

Gold Plated Guitar Cable Jacks and Galvanic Corrosion

Guitar Cables vs Guitar Pedal Board Patch Cables

Low Capacitance vs High Capacitance Guitar Cables

Buffer Pedal Placement

Oxygen Free Copper Guitar Cables

Cheap vs Midrange vs Expensive Guitar Cables

Glued Heat Shrink vs Unglued Heat Shrink Guitar Cables


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