Guitar cables are typically mono cables, which means that they are unbalanced TS (Tip-Sleeve) cables. These cables are usually used for all mono instruments and are very commonly seen in all guitar rigs. However, is it possible for a guitar to use any other types of cables? What if a standard mono guitar cable is not available? Can you use a stereo cable for guitar?
You can use a stereo cable for guitar. This type of cable will not damage your guitar or any part of your guitar rig and will not hinder your guitar tone. Using a stereo cable for guitar is possible, but it does not improve the sound of the guitar or rig as a guitar has a mono output.
Standard guitar cables are just that, standard. Every guitarist uses them, and we never question whether or not our rig could benefit from using another type of cable. This may lead some guitarists to experiment with using stereo cables. Let’s explore the use of stereo cables for guitar, whether or not it is possible, and what will happen if you do.
Can You Use A Stereo Cable For Guitar?
Guitars all around the world are usually used with standard instrument cables, which are mono-signal cables or TS (Tip-Sleeve) cables. These cables carry one signal down the conductor and have a shielding line that protects the cable from outside radio frequencies (RF) to a certain extent.
These cables are used for guitars because most guitars have a mono-signal output, which means that they only produce one line of signal.
The audio signal that is produced by an electric guitar requires no more than a mono cable to be transferred from the guitar to the rest of the guitar rig.
For this reason, mono cables are usually perfect for use with an electric guitar, but what if a mono cable or not available, or if you have purchased the wrong cable for your guitar? Are mono cables perhaps not the best cables to be using? Can you use a stereo cable for guitar?
You can use a stereo cable for guitar. It is possible so long as the stereo cable has a standard ¼” connecter that fits into your guitar output jack.
Stereo-signal cables, also known as balanced or TRS (Tip-Ring-Sleeve) cables, are cables that send two polarized signals down one cable, with earth shielding to protect from outside RF.
These cables can be used for guitar rigs, but they will not generally be more functional than standard mono cables for a guitar rig.
Stereo cables can be used for guitar, but guitars and guitar gear are not made to make use of the balanced signal capabilities of these cables. This means that using a stereo cable will make no real difference when used for guitar.
Will Using A Stereo Cable For Guitar Cause Any Damage?
Stereo TRS cables are very safe cables to use. They are usually seen in the form of microphone or XLR cables, and they are generally seen in studios or on stages running to the sound desk.
Stereo cables are meant to deliver an audio signal that is as clean and free of outside noise as possible, especially over long distances.
These cables are very different in design and functionality compared to mono cables, but using a stereo cable for your guitar will not cause any damage to your guitar or the other elements of your guitar rig.
As far as your guitar, amplifier, and pedals are concerned, there is no difference between a standard mono guitar cable and a more sophisticated stereo-signal cable.
Using a stereo cable will in no way damage your guitar, and it will in no way hinder the tone of your guitar or rig either. The signal from your guitar will not be negatively affected if you use a stereo cable, and it will not negatively affect any components within the guitar or rig.
Just be sure that the stereo cable connector is the standard ¼” jack size, or it will not even be able to fit into your guitars’ output or any of your other guitar gear.
Could Using A Stereo Cable Make My Guitar Sound Better?
Using a stereo TRS cable for your guitar rig will not cause any harm to any of the components nor to your instrument, but neither will it improve the way your guitar sounds.
This may surprise some guitarists, but using a stereo cable will in no way improve the tone or signal strength of your instrument. The signal coming from a regular guitar is a mono signal, which means that using a stereo cable will make no difference to the way it sounds.
The signal from the guitar will only be sent down one of the channels within the stereo cable, and when it comes out the other side, it will sound precisely the same as if a regular mono cable were used.
There is a misconception that using a balanced cable for a guitar rig somehow makes the guitar sound better or clearer, but the truth is that the signal is the same, and the sound that comes through the cable is the same.
The only difference here is that the signal from a balanced or stereo cable will be cleaner over long distances, and there will be no interference from outside radio frequencies when in a particularly signal-heavy environment such as a studio or a big live show.
Other than the distance advantage, there is no real-world benefit for using a stereo cable for most guitarists. Especially if the guitar that is being played is a standard, mono-signal output guitar.
What Are The Advantages To Using A Stereo Cable?
While most guitars use a standard mono-signal output jack, there are some guitar players who have installed stereo outputs into their guitars in order to run their guitar to two channels on a console or into two amplifiers simultaneously.
This will cause a stereo sound that can be desirable for some applications and can make live mixing and studio recording the guitar signal more flexible and dynamic.
If the guitar that is being used with the stereo cable is a standard guitar with a mono-signal output jack, there are no tonal advantages to using a stereo TRS cable.
However, there are still advantages that come along with the nature of the cables that can be useful in certain circumstances.
Balanced TRS cables are very useful if the guitar signal must be sent over long distances. Using a standard guitar cable is far too susceptible to outside RF interference to be used over long distances and generates too much noise to have a useable signal at the end.
Using a balanced cable shields the signal from outside RF and produces a clean signal at the output end, even over very long distances.
The other advantage to this type of shielding that is found in stereo cables is that the reduced RF interference helps keep noise levels down when recording in a studio.
Studios have plenty of RF emitting equipment all crammed into one space, and so signal noise can be a real issue. Using stereo cables can eliminate this issue and produce very clean signals for recording.
Using a stereo cable will in no way damage your guitar or your guitar rig, and it will in no way hinder the signal that your guitar rig produces. In fact, it will not affect the signal much at all.
Using a balanced output cable, such as a stereo TRS cable, does not have any practical benefits for most guitarists.
These cables are useful for guitars with stereo-signal output setups and for those who need to send guitar signals over a long distance or who are recording in a particularly busy studio.
Other than these applications, stereo guitar cables have no real advantages for regular guitars and guitar rigs.
If there is no other cable on hand, or if you have accidentally purchased a stereo cable instead of mono, do not be afraid to use it as it will cause no damage whatsoever!
If you have bought a stereo cable hoping that it will somehow improve tone, do not be surprised when it doesn’t, but enjoy the noise-free signal anyway!