Most players know that it is generally best to keep cable lengths as short as possible. (And if you didn’t, you do now.) The difference is easy to see visually and equally easy to hear audibly.
No matter how high quality the cable is, a long cable will always act as a low pass filter and kill much of the detail in your sound.
Long instrument cables are generally a necessary evil. The signal has to get from the guitar to the amp and sometimes the amp is farther away than we would like. While this is a problem, (one that we will tackle in another post) we are here to talk about a less obvious tone sucking monster.
That’s right kids. All those delicious little true bypass boxes of wonder and all the cables that connect them are sucking the high end out of your signal like a hipster in a Pabst commercial.
The reason is because of a little thing called CAPACITANCE.
Every cable that is on your board and every length of wire in each pedal adds up. It’s super easy for a board to add 25 extra feet of cable.
The classic solution is to buy a buffer or a pedal that has a quality buffered bypass option. This is great, and really should be implemented on larger boards. The problem is many pedals react in unwanted ways when hit with a buffered signal. (Generally it will be some sort of fuzz giving you fits.)
The way to minimize the high end loss is to do some research on your instrument and patch cables. Most manufacturers list all the specs of importance to players on their packaging or website. The main number to look for is the cable’s capacitance rating.
Capacitance is rated in picofarads. (pF) For large pedal boards the lower the number, the better.
Capacitance increases with cable length. The longer the cable, the more attenuated the highs are. This means a pedalboard with a lower overall capacitance rating will sound clearer and closer to how a guitar sounds plugged straight in to an amp. This especially important for those occasions when all your pedals are off. I know, it sounds weird, but it happens sometimes.
So there you have it. For long cable runs and big ole boards go with lower pF ratings and love your sound again.