Thursday, 9 May 2013

Cable Connundrums Part 1

Last week I made the bold statement that cables are in actual fact the most important component of any sound system. My reasoning for this is simple. Cables connect all of the components of your system. You have cables connecting to your microphones which connect to your mixing desk. Cables connect your mixing desk to your drive-rack which uses cables to connect to your amplifiers which need great big heavy cables to connect to your speakers.
You even need power cables to get power to all your instruments and equipment around the stage.

How many musicians do you know that turn up to a gig with an old brown suitcase with a whole pile of mismatched and ragged cables stuffed in it? Have you also noticed it is often these same musicians that seem to spend hours setting up, they rush around at the last minute trying to find why the left side of the PA is working but not the right. Or every time the guitarist sings in his mic there is a big crackle through the PA and suddenly you see them riffling through their brown suitcase looking for a replacement cable.
Then when they find the offending cable, it gets chucked back in the brown suitcase and forgotten about until the next gig where it turns up as the main system feed to the amp rack and causes the entire PA to cut in and out during the gig.
Often the PA gets blamed as being dodgy, but the reality is that all the individual components of the PA may be fine, its just the cables connecting them.

If this is you, then my advise is to spend some time sorting your cables out. Often its better to start from scratch with a full new set of system cables. Its easy to spend thousands of dollars on cables, but in reality a functioning cheap cable is better than a non functioning expensive one. My advise is to spend as much as you can afford to on mic cables and speaker cables.
  • A good speaker cable costs at least $100 for a 10m cable.
  • A good mic cable costs between $10 and $40 depending on the length.
  • A good power cable (go for black not orange or yellow) is $40 to $90 depending on length.
If you have time and the skills, make your own mic cables and cut them to the exact length you need for your standard setup. If you don't have good soldering skills, don't even attempt to make your own cables. Even the cheap Chinese ones will be better than a half baked DIY attempt.

Next week we will continue the discussion on cables and discuss how to maintain your investment in cables to ensure they last and continue to perform for a long time.