Splicing is an effective method for changing the length of wires and cables. Two wires are combined to carry the electrical current, and the process commonly includes stripping the cables and soldering them together.
Can you splice a guitar cable?
It is possible to splice a guitar cable relatively quickly, providing you disconnect the wire from the ¼ inch connector, then prepare and solder it together correctly. It’s a simple process, but you’ll need to follow the necessary steps and have access to some equipment.
Quarter-inch cables are essential for connecting a guitar to an amplifier. They’re also used to carry unbalanced signals, and for other line-level devices like keyboards, preamps, and effects pedals.
If you need to adjust the length of a guitar cable or repair one that is broken, splicing is an effective solution. In this detailed guide, I’ll explore the topic of splicing guitar cables and provide you with all the information you need.
Splicing & Guitar Cables
Guitar cables are the unsung heroes of any rig. They are often overlooked in terms of importance compared to the amplifier, effects pedals, and indeed the guitar itself.
While guitar cables may not produce the dramatic, exciting results that the aforementioned components do, they are integral to the functioning of the whole rig. If your guitar cables are faulty, too short, or prone to noise issues, the rest of your equipment will suffer as a result.
If you’re interested in learning whether you can splice a guitar cable, I’m going to hazard a guess that you’re either experiencing noise-related issues or you need to tailor the length of the cable to better suit your setup.
Whatever your reason is for wanting to splice a guitar cable, you’ll be pleased to learn that it is possible to do so without any prior experience.
All that is required, is some basic equipment and the patience to follow a set of instructions to ensure that you splice the guitar cable effectively.
Indeed, as with any electrical-related undertaking, it’s also important to take the correct safety measures. In general, splicing guitar cables is a very safe practice.
The main quality that is required from a guitar cable is resistance to signal loss. A guitar cable that isn’t performing to a high standard is likely to cause electronic hums or buzzes, which diminish the overall quality of your guitar’s tone.
The table below shows the popular cables used for audio purposes and their main qualities:
|Cable Type||Balanced/Unbalanced||Main Uses|
|TS Jack||Unbalanced||Guitars, keyboards, line-level devices|
|3-Pin XLR||Balanced||Microphones, preamps, monitors|
|RCA||Unbalanced||Vintage audio equipment|
|TRS Jack||Unbalanced/Balanced||Various purposes|
One of the most frustrating things about guitar cables is that they tend to break when used heavily over substantial periods. Most of the time, the ¼ inch jack connector becomes loose or faulty, and consequently, the audio quality suffers.
No matter how good the rest of your equipment is, if the guitar cable isn’t performing well, the detrimental effects will be present throughout your rig.
Thankfully, splicing a guitar cable is a great way to solve many of these problems. Rather than having to constantly reinvest in new cables every few months, if you learn to splice them you can diagnose the point in the connection that is causing the issues, and make a new connection at a different point.
You don’t need to be a qualified electrician to splice guitar cable. All you need to do is follow the simple instructions that I’ll provide in the following section, and acquire the necessary equipment.
Preparing A Guitar Cable For Splicing
One of the great things about learning to splice a guitar cable is that you can use the process to make your cable in the future if that interests you.
When you splice a guitar cable, you are essentially cutting out a problematic area, or shortening the length to better suit a specific purpose in your guitar rig. It’s also a great way to learn about how guitar cables work.
There are a few methods you could use for splicing a guitar cable, but I’ll present you with, in my opinion, the simplest one. Before you get started, you’ll need the following equipment:
The following equipment is optional but advised:
The first thing you’ll need to do is decide where you would like to splice the guitar cable.
If you’re simply shortening the cable, find the optimal length and make a mark. If you’re repairing the connector, you’ll need to disconnect the cable from the ¼ inch plug.
To do this, simply unscrew the cover from the connector. Some guitar cables have several layers of covers that will need to be carefully removed until you can see the wires at the plug end.
If the reason that you need to splice the guitar cable is due to a faulty connector plug, you can analyze the condition of the wires after removing the cover.
In the majority of cases, the problem will be easy to identify.
- A common problem with guitar cables is that the small wire that is located in the center of the cable comes loose and breaks away from the tip connection.
Now that you’ve identified the problem, you can cut the wires away from the connections.
Be careful to only cut the wires, and avoid the actual plug connectors. Using your de-soldering tool, remove the solder from the wire. If you have a drill nearby, you can drill a small hole in the sleeve connector, when makes re-soldering a little easier.
To get the guitar cable’s wires ready for re-soldering, you simply need to cut the end of the cable. If you need the cable to be a particular length, make sure you’ve measured it beforehand and marked the ideal cutting point.
Then, you should figure out how much of the guitar cable needs to be stripped to facilitate the connector. Using your wire cutters, cut through the outer layer carefully. This is the shield-wire layer, which surrounds the insulated core wire.
The final step before re-soldering the guitar cable is to take the shielding wire and gently twist it together. It should form a single wire, with no loose ends sticking out. It’s important to avoid twisting the wire too tight as this could cause problems later on.
Soldering & Splicing A Guitar Cable
If you’ve followed all of the previous steps, your guitar cable should now be prepared for the final stages of splicing.
Before you pick up your soldering iron, ensure that you have put the cover back on the guitar cable and that it is facing the right direction.
This video is useful for learning the basics of soldering and splicing a guitar cable.
Here’s a simple breakdown of the next 5 steps you need to take when splicing your guitar cable:
- Feed the shielding wire through the drilled hole
- Attach the connector clamps to the cable’s insulation layer
- Solder the shielding wire and the sleeve connector together
- Tidy up the new solder joint
- Ensure that none of the insulation has been melted or damaged during the previous steps
After you’ve soldered the sleeve connection, you need to repeat the process but this time, to attach the center wire to the tip connection.
Again, you’ll need to strip the wire before starting, place it into the hole for the tip connection, solder it, and clean up any messy soldering retrospectively.
As you can see from the process, it’s pretty simple to splice a guitar cable. You might need to invest in some equipment, but none of the tools you require are particularly expensive.
In the long run, having the ability to splice guitar cables will likely save you money anyway. Instead of having to replace your cables when they become faulty, you can quickly diagnose the problem, splice the cable and start using it again.
Be sure to follow the necessary safety measures when using a soldering iron. Although they are considered to be quite safe tools, they do produce high temperatures and can be dangerous if used irresponsibly.
If you don’t want to use a soldering iron, you could technically splice a guitar cable using electrical tape to form the new connections. This will probably work fine at first, but the tape is likely to come loose over time, and therefore, it’s not the best long-term solution.
Can you test a guitar cable with a multimeter?
To test your guitar cable with a multimeter, you need to set it to resistance at a small scale. Then, place both of the plugs of the cable on a wooden surface. Touch both of the sleeves with the probes to test the cable.
Can you splice XLR cables?
Although it’s possible to splice XLR cables, it’s not advised. This is because doing so can place strain on the 3-pin connectors, which over time could diminish their sound quality.
Is TS or TRS better for guitar?
The best-suited cable for guitars is undoubtedly the TS jack. TRS cables have three conductors, while TS cables have two. This makes the TS jack cable less prone to noise when used for guitar.