Like many guitarists I have had plenty of guitar leads that have stopped working, and when I first started playing I went through quite a few budget leads in a relatively short amount of time. Sadly low price leads really are a false economy. As well as often being poorly shielded, they dont stand up well to being tugged at sharp angles to the plugs and eventually start cutting out. Many people will fix their leads which is doable provided they don’t have moulded plugs, but it’s not ideal if it stops working during a gig or when you aren’t within walking distance of a soldering iron. Better quality leads usually last longer, are more robust, often with extra features and (maybe) sound better. At least better than the static crackle of a lead on its last legs. The other main advantage of good, name brand leads is that they often have some kind of lifetime warranty, which you certainly wont get that with a £1 bargain bin lead. As with all things you might want to return, keep the receipt!
In the last few years I have settled on a couple of different reasonably good quality leads that I use a lot, and haven’t needed to replace them in quite some time!
The planet waves circuit breaker has been my go-to lead for some time now. I have 1 that goes from amp/board in to guitar/bass and it is in fact the same one I bought 7 years ago. One of the plugs has a push-push switch that, as you probably guessed, acts as a circuit breaker. This is incredibly useful when switching guitars or threading your lead through your strap, without touching anything on the amp. The plugs also have colour coding rings which is probably useful if everyone in your band is using them (mine have long since gone) and the lead comes with an attached elastic cable tidy, which is so useful I am amazed more leads don’t have them. The reason mine has lasted so long is that, should you damage the cable in some way, you can unscrew the plug, cut the cable and reattach it. Solderless cables like these are available in pedalboard packs, which leads me to:
Neutrik make some very good quality guitar plugs and jacks. When I wanted to make up some patch leads for my pedalboard I simply bought a dozen or so plugs and a length of cable. These are still going strong although the same cant be said for:
I’ve had one of these for about 8 months. I bought it on a whim because despite the moulded plugs I really liked the look of the tweed cable (shallow I know). It worked great but just recently one of the jacks has started cutting out. This is very disappointing given the extra long bit of shielding designed to prevent that sort of thing, but such is life. Happily I got in touch with Fender UK and they are sending me a new one, which is nice. I’m sure quality control isn’t that much of a problem for them, given that I have had the following entry in the list for almost 5 years!
Fender Koil Kords, apart from looking very cool indeed, supposedly add a certain extra presence to the signal from your guitar. A slight hump in the midrange perhaps brought about by the coils. I A/B’d my lead with a few others (whilst sniffing a cork and rubbing my guitar in snake oil) and I could certainly notice a difference, although obviously there are other variables (cable length, plugs) that would also contribute. While I’m not sure if it sounds better or worse, curly leads are particularly useful for me because they, well, curl up. As such they don’t contribute to the usual tangle of wires that sits around an amp and pedal board.
So there you have it. What leads do you use? Feel free to suggest any particularly good (or bad) alternatives.