Often, the cables that connect our instruments to our amplifiers can be an afterthought; we grab whatever ones work from among the those we haven’t lost or left at the last gig, and throw them in the gig bag. Of course we have heard that higher quality cables can make a difference in tone, but few of us have had the opportunity to test a variety side by side. And even if we have, we usually discover that the ones that are audibly different can cost as much as that new pedal we covet. That kind of money seems steep for something we are likely to lose, and what the hell, we can always turn up the treble on the amp.
The fact is, cables do make a difference. So when Planet Waves announced that their American Stage cable utilized “exclusively designed technology to ensure optimized ‘sweet spot’ capacitance and impenetrable shielding to achieve [their] trademark transparency,” I figured I should check them out.
For the spec fans out there here they are: Designed and manufactured in America, these cables feature in-line solder joints for increased conductivity and strength. They have 22AWG Oxygen Free copper centers for enhanced signal transfer, and a 100% shield cover with 95% tinned copper braid and conductive PVC under jacket to provide electromagnetic interference rejection and remove handling noise.
Their in-line solder process utilizes micro flame technology and specially formulated RoHS compliant solder to create a permanent bond between wire and connector, for strain relief and durability. The connectors are designed to Planet Waves’ specs and built by Neutrik in Lichtenstein. Flexible cable construction provides reduced tangling. The company performed extensive tests in designing the Geo-Tip to ensure that it provides a seamless and secure connection in any instrument, pedal or amp jack.
About now you might be wondering if this is just more marketing hype for what is actually a typical cable. The answer is a resounding no! I tested a 10′ and 15′ American Stage cable against a couple of other manufacturers and a normal Planet waves cable. I found the 20′ American Stage exhibited more high end than a 10′ competitor’s cable.
My pedal board is wired with George L’s low-capacitance cables, but I have never felt comfortable using George L’s to connect the guitar to the board or the board to the amp. Using normal cables I need a buffer preamp to avoid a muddy tone through my Egnater Rebel 30 head. Turning up the treble on the amp does not produce the kind of high end that I lose through the cables. Using the American Standard cables to connect to and from the board produced enough clarity that I could dispense with the buffer preamp.
Frankly, I wouldn’t have bothered with this review if the cables were as costly as the typical audiophile connectors, but Planet Waves is offering these cables at prices that compete with many of the tone-suckers out there.
Anyone who has attended a musical equipment trade show will tell you there are a lot of bad ideas out there: guitar picks that look like they melted in the sun; amplifiers with too many knobs and not enough tone; effects pedals that do complicated things that no one wants to hear. Planet Waves resides at the other end of the spectrum. Like Apple, if they come up with a new idea you can be pretty sure it is going to be a winner.
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to my minimalist strumming first without the American Standard cable and then with it, on this SoundCloud clip and you will hear the difference.