Guitar and bass are both strings instruments and produce slightly different sounds. Bass is an octave lower than the standard guitar and is the lowest pitch instrument out of this family. However, a rookie won’t be able to tell the difference between the two because of the similarities in the construction and sound of the two instruments. So, the question arises, are guitar and bass cables same too?
Fortunately, yes, any ¼’’ inch instrument cable should work fine for both guitar and bass. Some may argue that a cable with a higher capacitance may work better for bass. However, in most cases, the improvement is too negligible to be caught by the human ear.
In this post, let’s understand why guitar and bass cables are interchangeable, why some companies make different ones for both instruments and the worth of these cables.
But before going into the details, let’s look at why we use cables with these instruments:
What is the purpose of Guitar and Bass Cables?
Guitars, basses, and other instruments of this family use strings to produce vibrations, which transform into electricity through pickups. To control the sound strength of the instrument, an amplifier amplifies it to the desired level, and this is where cables come in.
Guitar cables, generally known as an instrument cable or ¼’’ cable, have a plug that allows you to connect your guitar to the amplifier and makes it audible to your audience. These cables are coaxial, with an inner layer attached to the jack plug and an outer layer, which shields against noise, connected to the sleeve tag.
An instrument cable always has the following components: an inner conductor, a copper shield, an insulator, and an outer jacket. Some cables may not have any electrostatic shield. However, any company with a good name in the cable market will not miss this essential component.
Is there any difference between Guitar and Bass Cables?
Companies that sell different guitar and bass cables only differentiate them based on their capacitances. In most cases, the lower the capacitance in a guitar cable, the better it sounds due to a higher frequency response.
However, for bass cables, a slightly higher capacitance may translate into a better lower pitch sound, which is the requirement for bass guitars.
In reality, quality should be your only target when it comes to instrument cables. You may use the same cable for both your guitar and your bass, but make sure it has an adequate length, the connectors have a proper geometry, and it doesn’t pick up too much noise.
If your pickup is active, capacitance should be the least of your worries. These picks are rarely affected by cables and work themselves to produce a clean sound.
Are there separate Guitar and Bass Cables available in the market?
No, most companies sell 1 ¼-inch jack cables for guitars, basses, and keyboards. The cables may differ in the material of connectors and lengths, but they don’t distinguish between the cables of the two instruments.
Out of all the well-known brands, Monster is the only one with a separate range of bass and guitar cables. They claim to have different construction for bass cables to help with their lower frequencies, but there’s no way to prove this.
Will having the same Guitar and Bass Cables affect the sound quality?
Since guitar and bass cables are interchangeable and have the same construction, the quality of sound should remain intact.
Longer cables tend to have a poorer sound quality than shorter ones. Furthermore, if your cable doesn’t carry proper shielding, it will capture a large amount of noise. The amplifier will amplify it along with the music, and you will hear a crackling quality to your strums. So, while looking for an instrument cable, focus on the length and shielding instead of whether it’s for a guitar or a bass.
In theory, if the cable produces less high-frequency noise and you increase the amplification, the lower tones of the bass will be more audible. However, this is not a difference you will be able to detect if you are not looking for it.
Are your Guitar and Bass Cables interchangeable with the Speaker Cables too?
While you can conveniently use a single cable for both your guitar and bass, this is not the case with a speaker cable and an instrument cable.
An instrument cable is fit for carrying lower power signals; using it for a speaker signal can damage its insulation and make the wire dead. Similarly, a speaker wire carries minimal shielding, so it captures a large amount of noise, leading to poorer quality music.
What is the cost of Guitar and Bass Cables?
While pursuing your hobby of music and melodies is not cheap, instrument cables indeed are. Even the most expensive instrument cable costs less than a hundred dollars.
You can buy instrument cables in the range of $10-70, whereas the most premium cables lie in the range of $30-70. However, in most cases, your $20 cable is adequate for your stage performances or a room full of audience.
These prices vary based on cable length, the thickness of the outer jacket, and connector quality. Some companies sell longer cables for higher prices; however, those produce poor-quality sounds.
Cables with thicker outer jackets provide better protection, and hence, they tend to be more expensive. Similarly, gold connectors are better at resisting corrosion, and you will find them at higher prices than nickel and silver connector cables.
You will find the same distinction between all instrument cables, whether the same for guitar or bass or separately sold.
You might fall for the market tactic of selling separate bass cables if you’re a newbie. But unless you find legitimate reasons to believe the claims of how a different cable can work better for your bass guitar, don’t buy it.
Musicians collectively agree that the difference offered by these cables is often indistinguishable or, in other words –it doesn’t exist. So, when looking for an instrument cable, look for the quality, not the instrument it is made for.