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What Is The Difference Between Speaker Cable and Instrument Cable

Is there a difference between speaker cable and instrument cable? Although these two types of cables look similar (both types have ¼ -inch plugs on both ends and an insulated cable) their inner composition and purpose of use and function are different.

This means that you thought to use the instrument cable in place of a speaker cable, you do need to learn the difference between these two types of cables. Read on, to learn what you need to know about instrument and speaker cables. But before that, let’s share some words on what are the concrete features according to which different cable types are distinguished.

In general, the main function of a cable is to transfer a signal from one point to another, while eliminating inasmuch interference as possible without changing the quality of the signal.

Wires:

  • Number and size of conductors;
  • Space and insulating material between different conductors;
  • Shield and its specific construction;
  • Outer insulating jacket.

Electrical Characteristics

  • Power consumption;
  • Capacitance between conductors;
  • Triboelectricity – noise generated by static charges moving;
  • Shield capacity for rejecting external interference.

Difference Between Speaker Cable and Instrument Cable

Instrument Cable

You will also find this cable under the names Patch Cable or Guitar Cable. The main function of this cable is to transfer a low-power and a high-impedance signal on short distances. The instrument cables are constructed of two wires, a signal wire that carries the signal and a ground wire that is braided around the signal wire with the purpose of protecting the signal from outer interference. The instrument cable shouldn’t be longer than 60cm, because the longer it is, the higher the interference will be. Instrument cables are most commonly used by musicians with the purpose of connecting a wide variety of musical instruments to various equipment items in the music studio. Also, this type of cables is used for connecting different hardware within the studio.

Speaker Cable

The main function of the speaker cable is to transfer amplified signal between two points, located on short or longer distance. This cable is composed of two wires of the same thickness. One of the wires is negative while the other is positive. Unlike the instrument cable, a shield is not a part of the inner construction of the speaker cable. More specifically, there’s no need for the shield because the signal that is transferred within the wires is amplified. This type of cables carries and transfer signals that are much stronger than the line level signal. The high-strength amplified signal is almost completely immune to outer interference. The gauge (thickness) of the cable depends on its length and the strength of the signal that is transferred.

Can you use instrument cable in place of speaker cable and vice versa?

In simplest words possible: No, you can’t nor you should mix and match them. Why? Well, because of the simple reason that these two cables have completely different inner construction. Wonder what will happen if you mix or match these two cables? Nothing good, as you may guess. For instance, if you use a speaker cable for your guitar, the first thing you’ll notice will be a very loud noise. In this way, you also risk damaging your and instrument. Likewise, if you use instrument cable instead of a speaker cable it’s more than probable that you will damage the amp, melt the cable and even cause a fire. Same goes for the microphone cables. So, don’t play with fire and avoid such experiments.