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Author Topic: Polarity of guitar cables  (Read 9222 times)

Offline David Tomkins

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Polarity of guitar cables
« on: January 08, 2011, 11:19:21 AM »
whilst in the music store today, we were chatting about the $50  ($77) Monster Cables and the subject of  polarity came up.  My  friend always connects his cables the same way round, in terms of input/output.  He says that 'quality' cables work better one way than the other.  Eric Johnson apparently agrees.
Is this true?  Can a piece of wire conduct electricity better in one direction than the other?

Parker forumites, what say ye?  do you obsess over cable direction/polarity as well?
« Last Edit: January 08, 2011, 11:19:58 AM by David Tomkins »
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Polarity of guitar cables

Offline Bill

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« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2011, 11:42:21 AM »
Depends on whether you are in the northern hemisphere or southern hemisphere. I always turn the cable around when I cross over the equator. [:D]



I do know that when I sing, the tone sounds different depending on which direction the air moves. Smells different too. [:I]


The direction electrons flow through the cable makes no difference. The direction air travels through the alimentary tract, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. I can't sniffatize this enough.




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« Last Edit: January 08, 2011, 04:09:10 PM by Bill »
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Polarity of guitar cables

Offline sybersitizen

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Polarity of guitar cables
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2011, 12:22:51 PM »
quote:
Originally posted by David Tomkins

Parker forumites, what say ye?

I say I'm amazed that people apparently spend time thinking about this and money buying things from people who think about this.


quote:
do you obsess over cable direction/polarity as well?

Nope, never. But I'm sure that many guitarists do have superstitions such as 'my lucky cable orientation'.

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Polarity of guitar cables

Offline Patzag

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Polarity of guitar cables
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2011, 12:31:54 PM »
IMHO the difference should be non existent.  But I've witnessed more odd phenomena.  I suggest you plug in and listen.  And if it makes any difference to YOU, then who cares what we think.  If it pleases and inspires you and for whatever mysterious reason sounds better, then by all means mark down the guitar end of your cables.

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Polarity of guitar cables

Offline Paul Marossy

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Polarity of guitar cables
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2011, 02:05:49 PM »
quote:
Originally posted by David Tomkins

whilst in the music store today, we were chatting about the $50  ($77) Monster Cables and the subject of  polarity came up.  My  friend always connects his cables the same way round, in terms of input/output.  He says that 'quality' cables work better one way than the other.  Eric Johnson apparently agrees.
Is this true?  Can a piece of wire conduct electricity better in one direction than the other?


That is totally, absolutely ridiculously proposterous. Cables are not directional, ever. There's a signal and a ground, and that's it. Electrons are traveling down the wires the same way regardless of which end is plugged in where. The difference between hot and ground IS the polarity. Switch that around, and yes, it does make a big difference. But then the cable would be wired wrong and you would probably have no signal at all because your signal would be grounded out by whatever piece of equipment it is plugged into.

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Polarity of guitar cables

Offline David Tomkins

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Polarity of guitar cables
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2011, 02:40:21 AM »
quote:
Originally posted by Bill

Depends on whether you are in the northern hemisphere or southern hemisphere. I always turn the cable around when I cross over the equator. [:D]



haha that made me chuckle!

thanks guys.   I was pretty sure it makes no difference myself, I certainly couldn't think of any scientific reason why it should, but then I've never put a cable on an oscilloscope or anything to be able to conclusively test it.  Eric Johnson famously said he preferred the sound of a particular brand of battery in his pedals , which sounds almost as ridiculous, but due to voltage differences between brands and how it held charge before draining, it DID show a difference when tested, but begged the question whether anyone's hearing was good enough to actually hear it in a blind test.

The next question was whether a $50 ($77) cable was worth it...

(see what I spend my saturday afternoons doing?........)[:D]
« Last Edit: January 09, 2011, 02:44:35 AM by David Tomkins »
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Polarity of guitar cables

Offline gryder

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Polarity of guitar cables
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2011, 03:55:08 AM »
The world of hifi is full of silly priced ($400/m) cables and most speaker cables have direction on them. I ran one of mine speaker cables backwards for a year without noticing (shock horror!). I agree with the statement, if you can hear the difference, then go for it, else put the pseudo science blurb down and get on with playing guitar :)
 

Polarity of guitar cables

Offline Nefarius

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« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2011, 04:55:01 AM »
Also make sure your guitar output jack is higher than the amp's input jack.
Otherwise the signal would have to travel uphill which could lead to unwanted compression! [:P]

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Polarity of guitar cables

Offline 908ssp

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« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2011, 08:56:39 AM »
If the question is just about cable quality of the construction and sound then the answer is yes there is a difference. Do you have to spend huge to get quality the answer is no. Cables do have capacitance and can cut high end and ONLY high end. When a person claims it gave him more mids or bass they are full of it. An easy test is if the cable looses more high end when the guitar is turned to say 8 than another cable the duller one has higher capacitance. Most will sound fine at 10 and the cheap ones will sound dull at 8. A standard Dayton mic cable with Switchcraft jacks works great.
Alex

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Polarity of guitar cables

Offline Paul Marossy

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« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2011, 11:54:32 AM »
quote:
Originally posted by David Tomkinsthanks guys.   I was pretty sure it makes no difference myself, I certainly couldn't think of any scientific reason why it should, but then I've never put a cable on an oscilloscope or anything to be able to conclusively test it.  Eric Johnson famously said he preferred the sound of a particular brand of battery in his pedals , which sounds almost as ridiculous, but due to voltage differences between brands and how it held charge before draining, it DID show a difference when tested, but begged the question whether anyone's hearing was good enough to actually hear it in a blind test.


You wouldn't see anything on an oscilloscope because there is nothing to see other than a signal passing thru the cable at some frequency and amplitude. BTW, I have an oscilloscope and know how to use it. [;)]

There are some differences between battery brands, but most of them start out at about 9.5V and dwindle down from there. However, I seriously doubt anyone could really tell one brand from another in a blind taste test. Now there is absolutely a difference between carbon zinc and alkaline types, which I believe is what Eric Johnson may be talking about. A carbon zinc battery drains differently (and much faster) than an alkaline, and some people like to use them in their Fuzz Face pedals - which EJ also uses.

Like Alex says, there is a difference in cable quality and longevity between a more expensive cable and bargain bin types, but I will not ever pay for one of those ridiculously expensive Monster Cables because they are simply way way overpriced (you're paying for a audiofool brand name). Nor will I buy an "oxygen free copper" cable, either. Another gimmick to get money outof your pocket.

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Polarity of guitar cables

Offline Strandwolf

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« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2011, 05:32:15 PM »
quote:
Originally posted by Bill

Depends on whether you are in the northern hemisphere or southern hemisphere. I always turn the cable around when I cross over the equator. [:D]



I do know that when I sing, the tone sounds different depending on which direction the air moves. Smells different too. [:I]


The direction electrons flow through the cable makes no difference. The direction air travels through the alimentary tract, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. I can't sniffatize this enough.




A few Flys in my soup



Thank you for this aromatic post, your 4000th such by the way!

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Polarity of guitar cables

Offline jester700

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Polarity of guitar cables
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2011, 08:50:09 AM »
One thing that people foften orget when dealing with opinion, from audio to medicine and all manner of pseudoscience, is that human perception is fallible and human memory of that perception is even worse.  Many things that people have thought were "sure things" vanish when proper controls are applied, including many aspects of cables and the difference in sound.  What I'm saying is, when you hear a slight difference, maybe there IS a difference - and maybe it's in your head.  Same as a ball player who can't hit without wearing his lucky cap ;-)
 

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Offline Paul Marossy

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« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2011, 09:22:10 AM »
quote:
Originally posted by jester700

One thing that people foften orget when dealing with opinion, from audio to medicine and all manner of pseudoscience, is that human perception is fallible and human memory of that perception is even worse.  Many things that people have thought were "sure things" vanish when proper controls are applied, including many aspects of cables and the difference in sound.  What I'm saying is, when you hear a slight difference, maybe there IS a difference - and maybe it's in your head.  Same as a ball player who can't hit without wearing his lucky cap ;-)


Yeah, that's a subject called "pyschoacoustics". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychoacoustics

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« Last Edit: January 10, 2011, 01:36:33 PM by Paul Marossy »

Polarity of guitar cables

Offline billy

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« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2011, 02:00:00 PM »
actually, what needs to happen is that you have to alternate which side goes to the amp and guitar after turning off the amp.  (People always forget this important bit of info.)

That's because the guitar pushes the electrons through the cable towards the amp, and then when you're done playing, the cable is loaded with electrons at the wrong end.

So when you switch the cable around, then the cable is pre-loaded at the "good" side, and you get a better sound.  

this is what's known as the "turning effect."

You should do this with all cables in your rig.  All that switching around is why EJ takes 10 years to cut a cd.



yes, I'm joking.  But also looking for a job in marketing.  [;)]  couldn't resist.

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Polarity of guitar cables

Offline Bill

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« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2011, 03:15:46 PM »
Man you had me going there for a second.

Not that I believed you, just that I was thinking you were nuts [:D]

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