Hands-on review: Elixir Cables = music to your ears

(Dave Molter | Posted 2010-09-08)

Hands-on review: Elixir Cables = music to your ears

Using the logic that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, Elixir (the company that first brought you coated guitar and bass strings) rolled out its new line of cables at Summer NAMM 2010 in Nashville, inviting attendees to "hear the difference." And guess what? Most users could.

The Elixir booth provided a quick-switching setup with several Hardwire effects pedals connected in one loop by Elixir cables, and by and Monster cables in the second loop. The setup used a standard Elixir guitar cable and shorter patch cords to route signal to a headphone setup. There was well over 20 feet of cable involved, more than enough to introduce noise and signal loss in any setup. It took me only a few notes to discover that the signal through the Elixir cables was substantially different than that through the Monster cables. Exactly what the difference was is open to interpretation. To my ears, the Elixir cable setup sounded more clear -- sparkling, in fact -- and seemed to prove Elixir's claim that "other" cables boost mids and cut highs, drastically affecting the signal of any instrument.

But playing in a controlled environment through headphones isn't what most musicians do for a living, so I asked Elixir to provide MGR with a complete cable setup that we could put through its paces in a live situation. Armed with two 15-foot cables and three, 6-inch patch cords, we were ready to roll.

The setup
Being primarily a bassist, I first used the Elixir cables with my USA Lakland 55-94, a bass that sounds good set flat in nearly all situations. I'd been using Monster cables and, while happy with the tone they produced, I wasn't crazy about their tendency to retain the shape they'd been stored in (coiled in my case). The first thing I noticed about the Elixir was their flexibility: they're heavy, yet softer than most other heavy-duty cables. Best of all, they stayed flat when uncoiled -- no more danger of tripping over my own cord onstage.

I normally set the EQ on my Genz-Benz 6.0 near flat with the Lakland, which produces a hi-fi yet punchy tone that cuts through. I'm not a fan of honking midrange bass and, with Monster cables, normally engage the midscoop on the Shuttle. With the Elixir cables, I actually found that I could leave the midscoop off and get a very pleasing, Precision-bass Motown sound. I next set up three bass effects -- distortion, chorus and octave box -- switching between Monster and Elixir patch cords. Overall, the pedals seemed to like the Elixir cables better. I can't specify why in terms of exact frequencies, but I have to think that it was because the effects were receiving a more unadulterated signal through the Elixirs.

I also let my guitarist try the Elixirs through his multi-effects setup, and his reaction was primarily the same as mine. Chorus and echo used on his Fender Telecaster seemed a bit more transparent with the Elixirs. He did comment that he preferred the tone of his Monster cable for clean and distortion effects on the Tele. However, when he connected the 15' Elixir to his Gibson acoustic and sent it straight to the PA system, he very much preferred the Elixir sound.

I also used the Elixir 15-foot cable for a recording session with three different basses, and to the ears of both the engineer and myself, the Elixir sounded more pristine than my Monster cable.

The bottom line
There are several companies offering high-end instrument cables these days, and why not? Spending thousands of dollars on a great instrument but using cheap cables is like wearing flip-flops with a tuxedo. Based on our experience at NAMM, live and in the studio, Elixir is doing things right with its new cable line. You really can hear a difference. Whether that difference is what you're looking for is up to the individual, but it's hard to argue that improved clarity and flexibility is bad thing.

Elixir patch cables feature dual-shield construction to protect against both EMI and handling noise and use an abrasion-resistant jacket for maximum flexibility while still providing superior cut resistance. The cables are also crush resistant and use a heavy-duty center conductor. Patch cables are available in 6-inch and 12-inch lengths with a right-angle-to-right-angle plug configuration. The standard 15' foot guitar cable, available in straight-to-straight or right angle-to straight configurations, has street price of around $60 USD, which compares favorably with other high-end cable brands.

Dave Molter is Managing Editor of MusicGearReview. He has played bass professionally for 45 years. Send question or comments to Dave: dave at musicgearreview.com

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