The old saying “you get what you pay for” isn’t always true, but when it comes to guitar cables, I’ve found that it is often the case. Investing in a good quality cable, in my experience, saves a lot of frustration in the long run.
It’s good to be skeptical when you hear about certain features of audio equipment, that promise to make a huge difference to the product. Oftentimes, these things turn out to be nothing more than marketing gimmicks.
Gold-plated guitar cables promise better performance than other types, but is this really the case? In this guide, we’ve got the answer and some important information on the topic.
Are Gold Plated Guitar Cables Worth It?
Gold-plated guitar cables offer some improvements compared to nickel-plated cables, but the difference is minimal. Gold is slightly better at resisting corrosion and is a little more conducive. However, it’s not worth paying a significant amount more for these benefits.
Are Gold Plated Guitar Cables Better Than Other Types?
Some guitarists claim that gold played jack cables provide them with noticeable improvements to their tone. Others dismiss this and say there’s no distinct difference between the way gold-plated guitar cables sound and other alternatives like nickel.
There are some differences between the way gold and nickel perform on a guitar cable, but the significance of these differences is debatable.
What Is a Gold Plated Guitar Cable
A gold-plated guitar cable is the same as any other instrument cable, except rather than having a connector made from nickel, it has a layer of gold. These cables are often more expensive than their nickel-plated alternatives.
Other than having a gold-plated connector, these cables work in the same way as a normal guitar cable. They are plugged into a ¼ inch jack and used to connect a guitar or other instrument to an amplifier, effects pedals, or recording device.
Do Gold Plated Guitar Cables Make a Difference?
Some audiophiles claim that they notice a significantly better tone from gold-plated guitar cables, compared to nickel-plated cables. The general opinion is that gold sounds brighter, and is, therefore, more suitable for lead guitar parts.
This would make sense, because of the difference in the lower capacitance of gold-plated cables compared to other materials. Capacitance is the only aspect of a cable that is likely to impact tone.
The pickups that are installed on a guitar also impact capacitance, due to the impedance they create. If the impedance from the guitar is higher, this also causes the capacitance to rise.
I know guitarists who say that they can tell a very small difference between the way gold-plated and nickel-plated guitar cables sound. To my ears, the change is so slight that it’s very hard to notice.
Gold vs Nickel Plugs
Guitar jack cable plugs are most commonly made from brass, which consists mostly of copper mixed with a smaller amount of zinc. The connector is then either plated in nickel or gold.
There has long been a debate amongst guitarists over which metal plating is better for guitar cables, in terms of sound, clarity, and longevity.
One thing that we can be pretty certain of, is that nickel-plated guitar cables remain the most popular, as they tend to be more affordable and readily available than their gold-plated equivalents.
Conductivity is an important factor to consider when discussing gold and other materials that are used for guitar connector plating. Of all the metals that can be used for this purpose, it is silver that is the most conductive.
After silver, copper is the second most conductive, then gold comes in third place, before aluminum, zinc, and finally nickel.
You can see from this order why some guitarists feel that using gold is likely to provide them with a superior tone to nickel. Some manufacturers even make cables with silver plates, to get the maximum benefits from the metal’s conduction.
It’s important to take into consideration that there are other variables at play here, such as the quality of the gold that is used for the jack cable. Subpar gold may be less conductive than aluminum, so cheap cables should be avoided if you want the best performance.
Why Are Guitar Connectors Plated?
The brass material that guitar jack plugs are made from is susceptible to a process known as oxidation over a period of time. Oxidation is easy to rectify with a thorough cleaning, but it eventually causes the signal of the cable to degrade.
This happens as a result of a layer of oxidation building up and preventing the guitar cable end from being able to touch the plug. The contact points become blocked, and this then renders the cable useless.
Guitar cable manufacturers have made plating a standard practice, as it is an easy and effective way to prevent damage from oxidation.
Plating the cable has no negative impact on the signal from the guitar, so other than the small cost of sourcing the gold or nickel, there is no downside to installing a plate on the connector.
Gold is highly resistant to oxidization, which is one of the arguments for gold-plated guitar cables being a worthy investment. The only problem is that gold eventually wears away and exposes the plate because it is a relatively soft type of metal.
Nickel plating isn’t as resistant to oxidization as gold, but it is likely to last longer and therefore many guitarists perfect it for their cables.
Angled or Straight?
Guitar cables come in two varieties – angled or straight. Angled cables have a connector that sticks out at 90 degrees, while straight cables run parallel the to rest of the wire.
It’s possible to get gold-plated guitar cables in both the angled and straight varieties. One advantage of angled cables is that they can be slotted into effects pedals more easily, and without putting strain on the connector.
Likewise, angled connectors are easy to connect to amplifiers. The only drawback is that they tend to break more easily, especially if they are stretched. Straight cables are more robust if they are used properly.
Do Gold Guitar Cables Make a Difference?
Many musicians prefer to use gold-plated audio jacks because they believe that these cables offer a superior sound quality to nickel-plated alternatives.
Ultimately, if a guitarist likes the way any piece of equipment sounds, they should use it as part of their rig. Other guitarists may prefer nickel-plated cables, and some people may feel that there is very little difference between them.
I’ve used many different cables over the years I’ve been playing guitar and other instruments, and some have performed better than others. One thing I’ve learned is that it’s wise to invest in a high-end guitar cable rather than trying to save money.
Most of the cheap guitar cables I’ve used have broken fairly quickly. The sound starts cutting out, or the cable produces noise issues and crackles when the connector is moved.
I’ve found a select few instrument cables that have lasted me for many years, and never give me any issues. Here are a few that I would recommend.
Mogami produces some of the best instrument cables in the world. The Mogami Gold Instrument Cable is highly robust, and if you look after it, you’ll get many years of use from it. Its sound quality is clear and there are no interference issues with this cable.
In addition to the gold-plated connector, high-end cables like this one by Mogami also have a copper core that is free of oxygen. This has a significant effect on the sound, as it ensures maximum transparency.
Furthermore, the PVC outer layer is excellent and prevents noise when the cable is moved, and the spiral shield is dense enough to protect the inner components of the cable from wear and tear.
Mogami also makes some excellent nickel-plated guitar cables, like the MCP GT R 10, which have essentially the same design as the gold-plated ones, but produce a slightly less bright sound and are perhaps more likely to last for longer.
Guitar Cable Maintenance
Regardless of whether your guitar cable has gold, nickel or silver plated, the most important thing is that you use it properly and with care. Cables can last for very long times if they are coiled properly when not in use, and used correctly.
Stretching an audio cable will wear it out quicker, as will stepping on in. If you put tension on the jack connector, this will also increase the chances of it breaking.
Gold plated guitar cables are worth it if you want a slightly brighter tone, but overall, you can get good quality cables with any type of metal-plated design. The important thing is to find an option that suits you, and use the cables carefully so you don’t need to replace them often.