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  1. #1
    New Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Pendleton, OR USA

    Speaker vs. Instrument cables

    Can someone explain the difference between speaker cable and instrument cable, and how to tell the difference? And when is it appropriate to use each? I have been told it can damage equipment if used incorrectly.

    Thanks -

  2. #2
    In general, instrument cable is designed to carry low-level signals. That means:
    1) The wires are fairly light-gauge.
    2) The cable is shielded to prevent interference pickup. If you ever try connecting a guitar with a speaker cable, you will find out why this is necessary.

    Speaker cable is designed to carry high-level, high-power signals. This means:
    1) The wires are heavy-gauge to handle the high power levels.
    2) The cable does not need to be shielded because the impedance is so low and the level so high that interference is usually not a problem. In extreme cases, using a shielded cable for speakers can put enough of a capacitive load on the amp to push it into oscillation, which is a Very Bad Thing.

    Also, there may be compatibility issues, the worst of which occurs when using 1/4" phone plugs. Speaker circuits are typically unbalanced, and speaker cables use 2-circuit (mono) phone plugs. If you plug that into a balanced mixer output, you short one side to ground, which can also be a Very Bad Thing depending on the mixer.

    The best way to stay out of trouble is, in a given system, use 1/4" connectors only for instrument and line level signals, or only for speakers - not both. Not always possible, but a Very Good Thing if you can do it.

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