So what is cable capacitance and should I care?
Capacitance describes the ability of two conductors, separated by an insulating material to store charge and is measured in pico farads per meter (pF/m) or pico farads per foot (pF/ft). It is also cumulative, so for example a cable rated at 100 pF/m that is 5 meters long will have a total capacitance of 500 pF/m.
The key take away with capacitance for guitar cables is that the longer the cable, the higher the capacitance and degree of high frequency roll off (or loss of highs) that will be observed in guitars utilising passive pick ups or pickups with high output impedance.
So is a cable with a high capacitance value bad, not necessarily! It all depends on how the cable's capacitance interacts with your pickups tonality and the rest of your rig. This may actually produce a desirable warmth by taming some harsh highs increasing the perception of pleasing mid range. Legends such as Hendrix and Santana come to mind. On the other hand if you have passive pick ups and your core tone to the amp sounds a bit muddy, a cable that sounds best to you with a decent buffer pedal might be what you need.
Some might roll their eyes at this point at the idea that cables sound different, they do but not for reasons such as high price or other claims made in well executed marketing campaigns. The interaction of cable resistance, inductance and capacitance with the pickups circuitry and output impedance and everything else within the chain will differ with each cable brand and have some influence on overall tone the discerning professional should not quickly dismiss.
For guitars using active pick ups, capacitance is less of a concern because the active electronics create a low output impedance that won't roll off high frequencies and can generally drive long cables. So for those with active pick ups the focus might be on finding the cable that best achieves your core tone to the amp.
The Capacitance League Table
Here is the list of capacitance values for the professional cables we hold in stock. So if you have passive pick ups and looking for the least impact on your tone perhaps its one of the top three in short length or one with higher values in long length (generally 15m/50ft and longer) to roll off high frequencies.
One thing you'll notice is that the lower the pF/m and pF/ft the thicker the cable diameter as they start to resemble proper coax cables at this level. This might be less cosmetically appealing and limit your customisation options specifically around Techflex braiding, connector brand choice and heatshrink label placement so some compromises may need to accepted if you are after the lowest capacitance cables.
|Cable||Capacitance pF/m||Capacitance pF/ft||Cable Diameter|
|Sommer SC Spirit LLX||52||15||7.2 mm|
|Klotz AC110||65||19||6.9 mm|
|Gotham Ultra Pro||70||21||6.3 mm|
|Sommer Tricone (White)||85||25||5.9 mm|
|Sommer Tricone MKII||85||25||5.9 mm|
|Sommer SC Spirit XXL||86||26||6.8 mm|
Van Damme Pro Grade XKE
|Klotz AC104||115||34||6.1 mm|
|Sommer Stereo Instrument Cable||120||36||N/A|
|Mogami Gold (W2524)||130||39||6.0 mm|
|Belden 9778||148||45||5.9 mm|
|Canare GS-6||160||48||5.8 mm|