First of all, let’s be clear: By “patch cables,” we mean those short cables you use to connect all the guitar pedals on your board together. To choose the best patch cables for your situation, you have to consider not just sound quality, but price, the economy of space, and reliability. In this review, we’ll discuss all these topics and compare ten of the leading patch cables you can buy. Then we’ll make some recommendations based on your requirements and preferences.
But first, let’s get familiar with the details of patch cable construction.
Basics Of Patch Cable Design
The audio cable industry is rife with dubious claims, myths, and outright hokum. There are indeed certain characteristics that make a good audio patch cable. Unfortunately, there are others that don’t make any difference except to raise the price. Separating fact from fiction can be daunting.
Let’s examine this more closely…
What Makes A Patch Cable?
A guitar patch cable connects the output of one pedal to the input of the next. In order to build a compact and uncluttered pedal board, these cables are usually quite short. At each end, they usually have right-angle 1/4-inch plugs to save space. At the point where the cable connects to the jack, some kind of strain relief is generally provided.
In the center of the cable is stranded copper wire, which is really several very thin wires twisted into a spiral. This conductor is encased in a thick layer plastic (PVC) insulation and connected to the “hot” tip of the plugs at each end.
Solid wire might conduct electricity a little better, but would be so stiff that it would break if it were bent or twisted very much. Stranded wire is much more flexible.
The American Wire Gauge (AWG) standard is the US measurement of wire thickness. Smaller numbers represent larger wire, and a difference of three gauges represents a doubling in size. So AWG 21 wire is twice as thick as AWG 24.
Audio cables are subject to “handling noise” and microphonics. It’s an electrostatic effect caused by friction between different internal materials rubbing together. It’s very important to minimize this noise in a guitar cable, less so for a stationary patch cable. Better-quality cables have a way to mitigate this noise, usually with a conductive shield surrounding the core insulation.
Outside this layer is the ground shield. It catches electromagnetic radiation, in particular 50-60 Hz hum from power line wires and transformers, and routes it to ground. Usually, the ground shield is another layer of copper wire strands that spiral in the opposite direction from the center conductor.
On more expensive cables, the strands are braided. This shield connects to the ground “sleeve” of the plugs. Sometimes, a thin layer of metalized polyester foil is placed under the braided shield to provide even better hum rejection.
All of this is wrapped with a tough outer layer of PVC insulation. In a cable with molded plugs, the insulation is one continuous surface, getting wide to encase the plugs.
Finally, some cables have an outer layer of tough woven fabric. It’s there to protect the cable from getting overly stretched or deformed.
What’s Important To Look For In The Best Patch Cables?
A thicker conductor has less electrical resistance (it’s more conductive). Less resistance equals a stronger signal, but not nearly as much as you might think. One foot of relatively thin AWG 24 wire has a negligible resistance of 0.025 ohms per foot, which is negligible except for extremely long cables, or for speaker wires. However, a thicker conductor will last longer.
A cable’s signal and ground leads work together to form a small capacitor. The more capacitance per foot, the more the high end will be rolled off. On a large pedalboard, ten pedals connected with 12-inch patch cables is equal to one 9-foot cable.
Capacitance in each cable adds up, so using low-capacitance wire for patch cables is important. Unfortunately, cable manufacturers often don’t publish this in their specifications unless it’s extra-low capacitance and becomes a selling point.
Good shielding is necessary to keep hum from getting into the signal. With spiral shielding, the strands can spread apart over time from bending, until gaps appear where hum can leak in.
Braided cable is more robust because the strands stay bound together and form a tighter shield. It’s more expensive to manufacture and harder to work with, so braided-shield cables are often significantly more expensive. Even better shielding results from adding a solid foil shield under the braid.
A foil shield provides 100 percent coverage, except when it tears. Spiral and braided shields inevitably have small spaces between the individual wires. So a braided shield alone provides about 90 percent coverage. A good spiral shield is usually 90 – 95% effective. It can deteriorate after a lot of flexing, although for a pedal board patch cable, that could take a long time.
The quality of the plugs are what can make or break a good cable. If these are separate metal connectors, the conductor and shield must be solidly connected, the casing should contact the outer insulation to help hold it in place, and some kind of strain relief should be added where the cable enters the plug casing. If plugs are molded into the outside insulation layer, the strain relief is built into the covering.
Most plugs are nickel-plated steel. Over time, the surface of the jacks can become oxidized, the shiny silver color turning to very dull gray. Oxidation creates electrical resistance, causing signal loss. Even worse, it can behave like a diode, which will cause unpleasant distortion. To prevent this, cables need to be removed and the plugs cleaned from time to time. More expensive cables have gold-plated plugs that don’t oxidize.
A major consideration when selecting patch cables for pedals is the height of the plug casing. How far does it stick out from the surface of the pedal? Flatter plugs let you place your pedals closer together and save valuable space.
What’s Not Important?
One of the biggest myths about cables is the superior conductivity of “oxygen-free copper” (OFC). This is copper that’s been refined to remove almost all the oxygen from it. However, even the most expensive OFC is only about 1 percent more conductive, a trivial difference. Nor does OFC have any measurable effect on cable capacitance or hum rejection.
A woven outer jacket is great for protecting a guitar cord that gets flexed, stretched, and stepped on frequently. That level of abuse is uncommon for a patch cable mounted on a pedal board. So it doesn’t add much value.
It’s also important to take reviews and comments by other guitarists with a grain of salt. If someone replaces an old patch cable, that has oxidized plugs and possibly a broken shield, with a shiny new one, of course, it will sound better!
Top 10 Best Patch Cables Of 2020 Reviews
1 Donner 6 Inch Patch Black 6-Pack Guitar Effect Pedal Cables
Donner classic patch cables have a hefty conductor of AWG 21 stranded copper wire (oxygen-free, for what it’s worth), and an outer PVC jacket. The manufacturer claims “ultra-low capacitance” without being specific. They don’t include a static shield.
The molded right-angle plugs include adequate strain relief. The casing has a height of 0.9 inches, so pedals with input and output jack on the sides need to be nearly 2 inches apart. The cable’s outer diameter is .315 inches (8mm).
Donner patch cables are available in 6-inch or 12-inch lengths, in packs of three or six.
- AWG 21 signal wire.
- Excellent value.
- Large plugs not convenient in tight spaces.
2 D’Addario PW-CGTP-305 Classic Series Patch Cable
D’Addario Classic Series (formerly Planet Waves) patch cables look very well-made. The manufacturer claims they’re low capacitance because the copper is “ultra-pure oxygen-free,” a dubious claim. These are six inches long, though they are also available in 1-foot and 3-foot lengths. They have dense spiral shielding and are treated to reduce handling noise.
These cables have molded plugs with substantial strain relief. The casing is nearly one inch, so they’re not ideal when space is very tight.
- Sturdy construction.
- Good value.
- Molded plugs are a little bulky.
3 Other Patch Cable, Black, 6 Inch (3PDCP06)
Despite the listing description, these 6-inch cables come from famous guitar pedal maker MXR. They feature oxygen-free copper conductors and spiral shield with 90 percent coverage and a PVC outer jacket.
Flat plugs make it possible to position pedals closer together. Also, they’re soldered on, not molded, so if a connection is broken (the most common cable fault), you can repair it. They’re wider than normal, so you might have to reposition a pedal up or down slightly.
The cables are quiet, so hum isn’t an issue. A few users have claimed to hear slight tone loss when using several of them, but such reports are always subjective. On the plus side, they come with a limited lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects.
- Flat plugs save space.
- 6-inch length means less tone loss or added noise.
- Lifetime warranty.
- More expensive than some models.
- 90% spiral shielding is just average.
4 Neewer 3 Pack 1 Feet Guitar Patch Cable
This product contains three 1-foot Neewer patch cables. They have soldered-on right angle metal plugs, and an unusually long PVC strain relief to better protect against a broken connection. The plugs are nickel-plated, with the shell extending out from the jack about 3/4 inches.
The manufacturer states that the cable is “ultra low capacitance,” This is good, but it doesn’t reduce 60-hertz hum or crackle noise as they claim. Handling noise is reduced by impregnating the insulation with carbon.
The PVC-insulated cable is enclosed in a durable black and white woven jacket. This can help protect it from being damaged by too much stress. The cables are also available individually or in packs of six.
- Woven outer jacket.
- Strong strain relief.
- Metal plugs take up space.
5 Fender Professional 6″ Cable – 2 Pack
Fender Professional 6-inch patch cables feature metal plugs with a fairly flat profile, so your pedals can be placed closer together. They include a very strong PVC strain relief that extends about two inches and covers most of the plug. This makes them stiff, nearly impossible to bend close to the plugs.
The signal conductor is AWG 21 stranded wire. The shield is also stranded, providing 95 percent coverage. Cables have an outer diameter of 8mm (.315 inches). The package includes two cables, and they’re also available in lengths of one to 25 feet.
- AWG 21 conductor.
- Low-profile metal connectors.
- Excellent strain relief.
- More expensive than some other models.
6 Ernie Ball Flat Ribbon Patch Cable, 6 Inch (P06226)
Ernie Ball patch cables are available in lengths of 3, 6, 12 and 24 inches. The manufacturer brags that the copper connectors are 99.95 percent oxygen free, which makes them more resistant to oxidation (it doesn’t).
More significant is the dual-shielded design. A stranded copper outer hum shield sits over an electrostatic shield to reduce handling and noise and microphonics.
The nickel-plated metal plugs are perfect for fitting on a pedal board, very flat, and with a small base. They’re soldered rather than molded, so you can repair any that might fail. However, they don’t have much in the way of strain relief.
- Dual shielding.
- Plugs are the optimal size for a pedalboard.
7 EBS Cables PCF-10 Flat Patch Cable
EBS is a Swedish company that makes patch cables with an innovative design. The cable is flat (rectangular) rather than round, 7 x 3mm (.276 x .118 inches), and 16cm (about 6.3 inches) long. So it’s very easy to flex them into position on a pedal board.
Inside, the main signal conductor is 20 strands of 0.12mm wire, which is roughly the same as AWG 31 wire. This is surrounded by polyethylene and a conductive PVC electrostatic shield. On the outside is a spiral ground shield comprising 38 strands of 0.12mm wire.
The cable has a rated resistance of less than 0.01 ohms per decimeter (about 4 inches), and a rated capacitance of less than 10 picofarads. This is about average for high-quality audio cable. Signal fidelity loss won’t be an issue.
The molded plugs are flat and nickel-plated. There’s no strain relief, but the rectangular design and thick package minimizes the chance of damage.
Well, EBS patch cables were chosen for the Guinness World Record Largest Pedal Board (at Sweetwater Sound in 2019), with 500 feet of cables connecting 319 pedals.
- Innovative flat cable shape.
- Compact plugs.
8 Hosa CPE-106 Right Angle to Right Angle Guitar Patch Cable
Hosa Technology is an American company whose cables are a top choice among musicians and audio professionals. The CPE-106 patch cable lives up to that reputation. It’s six inches long, but it’s also available in 12 and 18-inch lengths. You can also buy a 6-pack of 6-inch cables.
The conductor is AWG 24 stranded wire. And as with most of the cables reviewed, the CPE-118 has a spiral oxygen-free copper shield.
The all-metal nickel-plated connectors have a low profile, but they’re bigger than so-called “flat” plugs. They have a long housing and an even longer stiff PVC strain relief that provides maximum protection against kinking.
- Very strong connectors.
- Large strain relief.
- More expensive than many other models.
9 Mogami Gold Instrument-0.5RR Guitar Pedal Effects Instrument Cable
Mogami Gold Instrument patch cables are designed for very low noise or signal loss, where price is no object. This cable is 6 inches, the shortest available. Other sizes available are 10 and 18 inches, and 2, 3, 6, 10, and 25 feet.
This cable is built to last a lifetime. The conductor is AWG 20 stranded OFC. Surrounding the core is a conductive polymer sub-shield. The spiral ground shield is labeled “ultra high-density (UHD)” because of the larger number of wires strands used. And the outer jacket is carbon-infused PVC to prevent handling noise.
For the 6-inch cable, the conductor resistance is only 0.005 ohms, and total cable capacitance is a mere 20 picofarads.
Heavy-duty molded plugs are gold plated to prevent oxidation. The extended plug casing, plus stiff PVC sleeves, provide excellent strain relief. The plugs aren’t the flat style, so they do stick out a bit.
These cables feature Mogami’s lifetime “no excuses” warranty.
- Heavy-duty plugs.
- Very low-capacitance cable.
- Lifetime warranty.
- Significantly more expensive than other brands.
10 D’Addario DIY Solderless Pedalboard Kit
The D’Addario Solderless Pedalboard Kit offers a different solution for wiring up your pedal board, with a couple of key advantages. First, you can make the cables exactly as long as you need and no longer. This keeps both noise and clutter to a minimum.
Second, the kit includes D’Addario’s American Stage cable, with a braided shield. This provides superior shielding that won’t deteriorate over time. You get ten plugs and 10 feet of cable to work with. If you buy two kits, you can make nine 13-inch patch cables and a 10-foot cable to run from the last pedal to your amp.
Plugs are plated with 24-carat gold, so they’ll never oxidize. These are solderless connectors, and a screwdriver and mini cable cutter are included, so you don’t need any other tools.
This method might sound less reliable than soldering, but the connections are, in fact, very strong, as long as you can use the tools properly. Components are covered by a limited lifetime warranty.
- Customized cable lengths.
- Braided shield.
- Easy to put together with included tools.
- Poor results from sloppy work.
- Relatively expensive.
Need Some Pedals To Connect Together?
Having the best quality patch cables will make you a very happy guitarist, but their not much use without some great pedals to run in-between them. So, check out our reviews of the Best Uni Vibe Pedal, the Best Digital Delay Pedals, the Best Compressor Pedal, the Best Flanger Pedal, and the Best Analog Delay Pedals currently available.
You may also enjoy our reviews of the Best Guitar Pedalboard to arrange everything on.
So, What Are The Best Patch Cables?
We’re going to cheat a little and give more than one answer. Do you want the highest-quality patch cables, regardless of price? Or do you need to find the best alternative on a tight budget? Or somewhere in between?
Best Patch Cable At Any Cost
Mogami Gold Instrument cables are hard to beat. They’re made with top-quality components and have a lifetime warranty. If your budget can afford them, you’ll almost certainly never have to worry about cable problems.
Best Patch Cable For The Working Musician
EBS PCF-10 flat patch cables have an innovative design that simplifies pedal board cabling. The specs are outstanding. Although they’re a bit pricey, you’ll be grateful later for the money well-spent.
Best Value Patch Cable
It’s hard to beat Donner patch cables for getting your pedalboard wired up without spending a small fortune. They work, they’re quiet, and even if you’re unlucky enough to have one failure, these are still your least expensive option by far, so very easy and cost-effective to replace.