Treat Your Cables Right

I wrote a post a few days ago about cables and how their quality really can, and does, affect the quality of the audio signal going through them.  Today I want to share a few tips on how to help make sure your cables stay in good shape and last longer for you.  You may already know some of these things, so if you do, bear with me for a few minutes, but if you haven’t heard these ideas before, you are about to add a few more simple things to your bag of tricks that will help make your music gear life easier.  Understand that these concepts can be fairly difficult to explain, so I will be updating this post with more links to visual resources—as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words…

With that, let’s dive in.

Over/Under

This is a concept with any type of cable, whether it’s an electric extension cord or your guitar cable.  The natural instinct is to coil the cable using the same hand motion. For a right-handed person, for example, one would likely start with one end of the cable in the left hand, with the palm tending to be facing up, and grab a length with the right hand, with the palm tending to be facing down, bringing the two hands together to coil the cable in consecutive loops.  However, when you go to uncoil your cable, you will end up with a series of knots down the length of the cable.  The way to get around this is to wrap the cables over/under.  I correlate this term to how the right hand alternates the palm face up and face down when grabbing each consecutive length of the cable.  What you end up with is a cable that will unwrap without knots.  Here is a good article explaining this method in more detail, with some pictures to give a visual step-by-step description on how to wrap your cables with the over/under method.  I had this drilled into my head working as an audio engineer at a national sound company many years ago, and it has become second nature for me wrapping any type of cable.

Arm Winding 

Never, ever, ever arm wind your cables, the wrapping of cables between your elbow and hand.  This is a sure way to degrade the life and quality of your cables.  By doing it this way, the tension of the winding stretches and eventually breaks the wire inside the cable, not to mention you will also face the same knotting issues described above.

End to End 

At the end of a gig, usually after 2 AM, the first thing on everybody’s mind is getting packed up as quickly as possible and getting home.  My time at the sound company taught me the quick exit way to getting cables wrapped up, the end to end method.  You start by taking each end of the cable and bring them together, leaving you with half the length.  Then, grab the other end and bring those 2 ends together.  Do this until have the shortest resulting length and are still able to then tie off the cable in a simple single knot.  This will get the cables wrapped up quickly—it is up to you as to whether or not you choose to rewrap the cables using the over/under method.

Strain Relief

Strain relief does not deal with the wrapping of cables, rather the way the cables are connected.  This is particularly important when cables are grouped together or snaked, resulting in heavier total weight which puts additional strain on the individual cable connectors.  If you have ever seen and wondered what that little wire loop at the end of an audio snake is, it’s to take the strain off the connectors by hanging it from anything that will act as a hook, taking on the weight of the bundle of cables (the snake) instead of the connectors.

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