Can and do guitar cables cause buzzing? For this question, I reached out to the people from Yorkville.
First, I’ll summarize what they had to say in the following paragraph, then I’ll lay out their entire response.
According to Ken from Yorkville, there are two main reasons why a cable can cause humming or buzz: one is due to bad solder connections, which occurs from repeated usage, which ends up creating an intermittent short and thus a grounding issue.
The next reason could be due to the fact that less expensive cables use “stranded cable” design as a shield, which means that thin copper wires are wrapped around the core wire, in comparison to a superior cable that uses a “braided wire,” which is like taking all the thin copper wires and weaving them together in a braided cover for the core wire.
In other words, braided wire is a more effective way of covering the core wire, because the wires are braided into a much thicker shield.
With that said, it’s not uncommon for a guitar’s pick-ups to pick up on extraneous and unwanted noises, so it could be the case that it’s not actually the cable that is the problem in this specific instance.
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And here is the long-form explanation for what the reason is for a bad cable:
According to Ken from Yorkville, “humming or buzzing from the cable guitar cable, in many cases, can actually be a consequence of the guitar’s pickups picking up on the electric hum in one’s house, depending on what way the player is facing.
The hum or noise you may be referring to can be due to a couple of things. If it has always been there and lessens or increases depending on which way you facing, it is most likely not the cable itself but the pickups of your guitar reacting to 60 cycles electric hum in your house.
If it has developed recently, and you’re sure it’s the cable, it could be bad solder connections. The solder connections in the connectors can break through repeated usage causing an intermittent short or a grounding issue, which can be fixed simply.
Moreover, it could also be a problem due to the construction of the cable itself. For example, depending on the type of shielding that’s used in the cable’s creation.
Shielding does precisely what the name implies. It is thin wire wrapped around the insulating material, which is in turn, wrapped around the core wire, to block the absorption and retransmission of exterior frequencies.
Less expensive cables rely on what’s called a “stranded shield” design, which is like a handful of hair-thin copper wires wrapped around a central wire. In most cases, such a shield is more than enough, however, as you might be able to imagine, it doesn’t provide a complete shield.
More expensive cables tend to use what’s called a “braided shield,” which is like taking that handful of thin copper wires and weaving it into a braided cover over the internal wire. Clearly, this is way more effective and results in a 98% shield.“
There are other reasons for buzzing cable as well, which has to do with the technology itself.
For instance, a lot of people find that when they touch the strings, what happens is that the player is actually grounding themselves through the strings. Like I’ve explained in my guide on balanced vs unbalanced cables, the guitar, and its strings are connected to the cable which goes into the amp’s chassis ground.
A person’s body actually acts as an antenna for noise and is a source of buzzing and noise, so when a player touches something on the guitar that’s grounded, what ends up happening is that you ground your body and the channel’s noise to the ground, which is a normal thing that happens.
Moreover, as was mentioned above, a guitar’s pickups can pick up on all kinds of other signals in one’s house, including fluorescent lights, computer monitors, transformers, dimmers, and so on and so forth.
Furthermore, if there is a bad ground connection in the cable, the buzz wouldn’t actually go away whenever the player touches the strings. In many cases, there might actually be external causes of the noise that are coming from the house, rather than the cable.
Now, let’s run through some of the available options for fixing a buzzing or humming cable, including direct solutions as well as indirect fixes that may be a cause of extraneous sources. That said, you may just have to buy a new cable. I prefer this Ernie Ball right-angled jack from Amazon.
Possible Solutions To A Buzzing Cable
1) Fix The Bad Soldering In a Cable
As was noted above, there may actually be an issue with the cable following years of use, where the solder joints become disconnected or the ground wire isn’t effective as it used to be. At this point, it might actually be a good idea to purchase a new cable.
If the guitar has a bad ground, there might be some soldering that’s necessary to fix the grounding issue. According to Ken from Yorkville, this is an issue that’s actually easily fixed.
2) Turning off other electronics in the room that interfere with the guitar’s set-up.
If your room or playing space is filled with electronics, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to actually turn some of it off. For instance, if you have a nearby computer running, maybe consider moving it away just a little bit.
Some users have even stated that a ceiling fan can cause issues like this. It’s not uncommon, especially nowadays, for players to be surrounded by all kinds of electronics, including a computer/laptop, monitors, audio interfaces, perhaps a TV in the room, an Apple TV box, and so on and so forth.
Maybe consider moving some of your setups around to eliminate or at least attenuate this issue.
3) Use A Power Conditioner
When musicians travel on the road, they often find they run into all kinds of problems, including the fact that not all power is the same quality. If the speaker/pedalboard/PA system doesn’t receive quality power, there could be some power interference.
Through the use of a power conditioner, one can actually eliminate the interfering signals from other devices used on the same circuit, including dimmer switches, stage lights, and so on.
A Furman PST-8 Power Station (from Amazon) is an example of a power conditioner, which essentially uses circuit technology to ensure that your gig and setup uses clean and filtered AC power.
This has the effect of actually reducing noise and ensuring the use of great power and performance from one’s gear. According to Sweetwater, power strips actually wear out over the course of a few years, but before they’re thrown in the trash, they end up producing erratic and low-quality power.
Additionally, cheap and poorly made components can actually cause serious fluctuations in new power strips.
While most people can’t detect when their gear is going bad, a person’s gear can actually pick up on it, shown through extraneous and unwanted noises and hums.
In other words, bad power can actually cause all kinds of problems, including damaging hard drives, burning out transformers, among other serious issues. A power station/conditioner is something that helps with this, so it might be worth picking up.
As you can see, there can be all kinds of issues with one’s set-up, especially in the case of audio recording and music production, due to all the variables on account of the recording equipment we all use.
In the case of a guitar cable buzzing or causing unwanted noise, it might just be time to purchase a new cable, because let’s be honest, they’re not that expensive anyway.
Just make sure you purchase a premium cable whenever you get your hands on one, and you should be fine.