Welcome to Day 10 of 31 Days to Better Recordings.

I worked for a few years as a salesman for Sweetwater Sound. (Check out my insider’s review here.) I was always fascinated by customers who would buy a really nice $1,500 microphone, then they would run it through a $6 cable.

I would constantly remind people that cables are the weakest link in your studio. Your system is only as good as its weakest link.

A whole rack of ridiculously expensive studio equipment isn’t nearly as effective with cheap cables.

I’m not here to sell you cables. Don’t worry. But I do want you to think about cabling, and make sure you’re not shooting yourself in the foot by using sub-par cabling.

Think about it.

Virtually everything in your studio connects to something else via a cable. Your entire mix (that mix you’ve been working on for hours) is traveling to your speakers on two little cables. Doesn’t make sense to ensure that these cables aren’t harming the signal at all?

That’s what you get with cheap cables.

The Cons

Here are the cons of using cheap cables:

  • Noise – Cheaper cables usually aren’t shielded very well, which makes them more prone to allowing noise into the audio signal.
  • Broken Connectors – The cheaper cables I’ve used tend to have weak connectors that break over time. For example, the cable starts to break away from the XLR connector on a mic cable.
  • Replacement Cost – While you may save a few bucks buying cheap cables, chances are you’ll have to replace those cables in a year or two. Then again in another year or two…then again….and again. Those costs can add up.
  • Cable Failure – Obviously, ALL cables are capable of failing, but if you’ve got cheaper cables, they’ll be more likely to fail…and more likely to fail in the middle of an important session.
  • Degraded Audio Quality – Some cheaper cables can actually take away a lot of the high and low end of your audio signals. Sometimes, simply switching cables causes everything to sound so much warmer and brighter.

The Pros

And here are some pros for getting good cables:

  • Low Noise – Better cables reduce the amount of noise that gets added to the recorded signal.
  • Stable Connectors – Good cables will usually have metal connectors rather than molded plastic, which tend to last a LOT longer.
  • Lifetime Warranty – Good cables (like ProCo and Monster) include a lifetime warranty. If the cable fails tomorrow or 10 years from now, they’ll replace it. You only have to buy the cable once. Once you stock your studio with a good batch of cables, you’ll never have to buy them again. That’s awesome.
  • Thicker Wire – Good cables are usually a good bit thicker than their cheaper counterparts. This keeps them from bending, kinking, and helps them last longer, especially if you’re constantly wrapping/unwrapping them.

Day 10 Challenge

Your challenge today is to take a look at your cables. Are you cutting corners? Let us know by leaving a comment. If you are, let us know what you’re going to do about it.