Do you play the guitar and would love to know more about your beloved instrument? If so, then we will be answering a commonly asked question of whether or not guitar cables are shielded.
Types of guitar cables
There are two common instrument cable types that you’ll come across in the world of audio. They are TS and TRS for balanced connections.
- TRS – TRS or otherwise known as Tip, Ring, Sleeve is a guitar cable that resembles a standard 1/4″ or 1/8″ plug. However, the main difference between TRS and the standard instrument cable described above is the TRS has an extra ring on its shaft. Apart from that, TRS instrument cables have two conductive wires plus a ground or shield. This type of instrument cable is commonly use for running both left and right mono signals stereo headphones or to connect balanced equipment. TRS connectors can also be found on the stem of Y cables. These instrument cables are also used for mixer insert jacks where the signal is sent out through a specific cable and returns back through another one.
- TS – TS is another guitar cable. In full TS means Tip Sleeve and it is a type of 1/4″ or 1/8″ cable that is set up for 2-conductor, unbalanced operation. This cable has an insulator ring that separates the sleeve and tip. The sleeve is where the shield or ground is connected and the tip is considered the hot, or the cable that carries the signal. This cable is also referred to as the line-level or guitar instrument cable.
While we are at it, I might as well mention some other instrument cable types but are not necessarily guitar cables. These are also unbalanced:
- XLR – XLR cables have 3 pins. These pins are ground, negative, and positive. XLR connectors are used to balanced line-level or transmitting microphone signals. You commonly see this cable connecting various outputs to powered speakers and microphones to mixers.
- RCA – Another type of cable is RCA. This cable is used to connect most consumer stereo equipment. RCA cables are commonly used to connect CD or tape inputs and outputs. These instrument cables are used for S/PDIF connections in the digital realm. However, it is advisable to use true S/PDIF cables for such connections.
- speakON – This type of speaker cable is used to connect power amplifiers to stage monitors and PA speakers. SpeakON cables have the ability to lock into place. That is why they hare preferred over 1/4″ TS speaker cables. Because it not recommended to use an instrument cable to connect a speaker with an amp, this type of connector helps avoid risky cabling mixups.
- Banana Plug – A banana plug is another type of connector. This type of speaker cable is designed for the specific purpose of connecting audio cables, such as speaker cables to a best guitar cabinet to special jacks called banana jacks or to the binding posts located on the back of most power amps. Banana jacks are located at the ends of binding post receivers on the back of power amplifiers. A locking screw holds in place the ends of the speaker cables.
What are shielded cables
This guitar cable is also known as a screened cable. This is a type of cable that has one or more insulated cable that is enclosed by a common layer that can conduct electrical signals. The shield or insulator is made of a layer of conducting polymer, a winding of copper tape that is not braided and is spiral, or a strands of copper core or other types of metals that is braided. This shield is usually covered with a jacket.
The purpose of a shield on a cable is to act as a Faraday cage which the effects of electrical noise on the signal. Apart from that, the shield also reduces the interference of electromagnetic radiation on other devices. This shield also reduces capacitively coupled noise from other sources from affecting the signal. For this shield to be effective, it must be grounded. Their also be a continuous flow of electricity for the shield to be effective. This can be achieved through cable splices.
Balanced vs Unbalanced Cables
Ever asked yourself what is the difference between a balanced and unbalanced cable is. Well, this is the difference. A balanced electrical signal runs through a balanced cable. This cable has three wires, namely a positive, negative, and ground wire. The positive and negative wires carry the same signal. The only difference is that they run in opposite polarities to each other. Any interference that the cable picks up along its length will affect both legs or wires. If the destination is balanced, the device receiving the signal will change one signal and return the signals to polarity with each other. This phases out the common noise by itself, therefore, eliminating it. This is known as Common Mode Rejection. Because of this feature, it is highly recommended that you use balanced cables especially if the cable runs for a long distance. The cables used to transmit balanced audio signals to balanced devices are XLR and TRS instrument cables.
The difference between shielded and unshielded cables
The individual pairs of wires in a shielded guitar cable as wrapped in foil. These wires are also wrapped again for more protection from external protection. On the other hand, each pair of wires in an unshielded cable are twisted together. The wires are wrapped again, but they are not wrapped in any protective material.