Current recording engineers - what cables used?

Two sets of questions for currently active recording engineers participating on this forum:

1) what cables are you using for power supply and low level signals in your recording studio? What is the overriding factor in this decision - cost, durability/reliability or performance? If higher quality is desired in certain applications, where and why? If these are trade secrets, tell us anyway :-)

2) what cables are you using in your home system, if you have one, and do you consider yourself an “audiophile”? What is the overriding factor in this decision - cost, durability/reliability or performance?

Some aftermarket suppliers of audiophile cables boast that their products are used in pro studios.  Others posting here have suggested that use has more to do with durability than exotic design and performance.  This makes no sense to me because I have build bullet proof power cables with hardware store parts at low cost that could be dragged through hell and work for years, but did not come close to more exotic design in terms of audio performance in my systems.

I would assume this forum focused on audiophile home gear might select for recording professionals that are more informed on the audiophile cable “market” and have more developed opinions on this, and so do not represent a general crossection of the pro industry.  But had to ask anyway.
Ag insider logo xs@2xknownothing
I remember an Abbey Road cable loom....

Here is something that may be of interest to you:

An excerpt from HiFi Pig Magazine:

"Studio Connections are a cable company building their cables in the UK and headed up by Michael Whiteside. Here Dan Worth takes a listen to their Platinum digital cables costing £1350 for 1m, terminated lengths.

Studio Connections takes a radically new approach to making cables by centring the design process on how the brain perceives spatial and positional information with sound. They first delved into the biology of how sensory receptors deduce position, distance and depth.

In developing the products, designer Michael Whiteside draws from a BSc in Electronics and over 30 years of recording music, manufacturing cables and building studios that have included recording and mix studios such as the BBC, EMI Abbey Road and King’s College, Cambridge.

“The technical result for our cables is that they have very accurate timing across the broad, high frequency spectrum, that is essential for our ability to interpret spatial awareness. The musical result is that the cables deliver faithfully, allowing us to hear incredibly natural sound and stereo with realistic dimensions.” says Michael."

............. " Most notably during all of my listening sessions with this cable was just how unforced and musical the sound was, ever so less digital and the imaging was just so much tighter, giving a feel of more accurate timing with realistic reverbs and decays. Everything I was hearing made more sense over all the other high-end digital cables I’ve heard to date and I felt the review item was really just ‘fit and forget’. Nothing stands out but everything is better – if that makes sense?"

Here is an interesting interview with David Gilmour in regards to his studio . Scroll about half way down and he talks about the 23 different cable manufactures they listened to before choosing Van Den hul
Very entertaining read. Great interviews can take you back with a level of appreciation not achieved much nowadays.
shadorne, you are, of course, composing a letter to David and Phil informing them that their equipment is poorly designed and/or faulty since they report to have clearly heard significant differences in cabling, and, oh my, power cords!!! Horror of all horrors: audible differences from the directionality of wire!!! Worst of all, this pronouncement coming from a professional studio engineer using ATC speakers!!


"What was the difference that you heard? A difference in clarity, I suppose. One way it sounded a little middle-ier, and a little more distorted than the other direction. Anyway, back to audio cable. We went though all these regular cables that people wire studios up with that are fairly inexpensive. And the one that we ended up using was made by - this is for the 23 kilometers of cabling - was made by a high end hi-fi audio manufacturer called Van den Hul from Holland. I’d actually later found out they had originally designed this cable for the Philips Studio in Holland. Now because they had a lot of stock on the shelf, ready to go, I was able to negotiate a terrific deal. It only cost five times more than a regular cable would cost. But it was worth it. It was our one chance."

"And all the cabling is all, every run, directionalized correctly through the whole place. It’s all running in the right direction in regard to the signal path. And every termination is made with silver solder rather than lead solder, because again, it sounds better."

"We realized many years ago the AC power, the mains as I call it, can make an incredible difference to the sound, to the audio. Most people, or a lot of people, are unaware of that. They think that if you plug something in and it lights up, fine, it works, with no conception that it could sound different."
I think this is a great thread.  Haven't had time yet to go and read the articles but really looking forward to it.  For my part, I've been using an Apogee Wyde Eye digital cable for years and can't seem to take it out of my system.  Stupid cheap by audiophile standards, but just sounds like music.  After all the fidgeting and expense we incur messing with wires it'll be interesting to hear more of what the sources of our music actually use. 

They found out that cables are critical... But these differences were found on very long lengths, right? Not 5ft of interconnects or 10ft speaker wires?
I appreciate the posts so far.  23 kilometers of cables @maplegrovemusic , golly. Anybody have an answer for @chrisr ? 
All cables are critical at all lengths. You want a mediocre system and sound? Ignore it.
Yes, all cables are critical. Also, the longer the cable the more signal loss. I did hear an opinion that with digital cables and power cords you don't want the shortest cables possible, I think 5ft minimum was recommended. With digital rationale was, and I have no clue of these things, that there was some data bouncing back to the transport, and with power cords that they need certain length to filter out the interference. I cannot confirm any of this, I have no digital cables and all my power cords are 5" - 6".

+3 on the pink floyd article.  Thank you! It seems that much of the perfection that goes into the sound; the placement of instruments, the room itself, the equipment, the cables is lost when the final product (millions of units in this case) is manufactured and sold to consumers.  How frustrating that must be for the musicians, techs, producers etc.. I particularly like the comment about resolution- when it's gone it's gone.


Here is a video of the setup

It is a 100 foot Victorian houseboat. Van den hul make similar excellent microphone wires like Canare - in a starquad configuration for low noise. Of course they needed very long runs of high quality (low noise) cable to wire up all the rooms. A microphone has a very small output. These are not line level signals like you use in your home consumer stereo.

Noise from power is a common problem in studios - often electrical is run above and drops down - this is to keep electrical away from microphone level cables. When they turned the houseboat into a studio no doubt they should have done the electrical wiring again... hundreds of feet and microphone level signals present challenges.
All, thanks again for your input.  Not sensing overwhelming participation in this thread by active recording and mastering engineers, but perhaps they are not generally on this forum.

@shadorne , thanks for sharing video of studio so well described in the interview.  Very interesting.

@chrisr , I am going to take a wild guess that: 1. Many of the cable runs in David Gilmour’s studio (or any pro studio) are long, 2. That they are not all long, and 3. That the engineers use high quality cable for each application regardless of length because each are important and they believe based on their (exhaustive) testing that using better cables yields better results. (I mean really, changing directionality of the earth ground noticeably affects the sound of all other gear!?!)

My own experience (with only 0.06km of total cable length of all kinds in my main system) is that even changing out a 0.5m interconnect can have a favorable or unfavorable effect on sound.  This because as I have stated previously elsewhere, one of the important functions of good cables is to protect signals from stray electrical fields in the environment behind your rack, and the most polluted area is the square foot behind your gear where digital, power and low level and high level signals are all converging. In a pro studio, this electrical mayhem may be prevelant everywhere, but in your home it is at least occurring or likely to occur without adequate preventive measures at the back of your gear - so your wires better perform well in that environment.

And so, my take is sure, you want to protect and maintain signal integrity and linearity across frequency and time domains in cables, and long runs present a particular challenge all other things equal. But in especially “dirty” electrical environments you need to protect signals in even short runs AND THEIR CONNECTIONS. These latter challenges are faced by both pro studios and audiophiles, wherever cables of various types come into close proximity, REGARDLESS OF OVERALL LENGTH.
Another interesting takeaway from the interview @maplegrovemusic posted is that according to the studio manager, digital cables matter a lot.  This is a subject of special torture well down the lower rungs of cable forum hell here on Agon, and it is interesting to read where some especially compulsive engineers make the claim that digital cables and data transfer are an important, perhaps even critical, part of the overall recording process. I may share the link to this interview elsewhere on the forum just to stir the pot and see what bubbles up.
With 60 meters of cable and every half meter making a difference it is wonder you ever get to listen to any music at all. 

Imagine you have 3 cable manufacturers and 3 possible lengths of each and 3 spots for each cable and EVERY cable, position and length makes a difference.

27 different possibilities to test...

Now considering break-in of 200 hours for each change

5400 hours testing.

This above is not the same as choosing a well engineered cable from van den hul and ordering 23 Km to outfit your entire setup. 

One is paranoia. One is just taking a cost effective practical approach.

Uh, @shadorne the studio tested 20 different cable types before settling on Van Den Hul, then they bought 23km.  Is that paranoia, or just being thorough?  Is testing the directionality of the earth ground paranoia or just being thorough?  I guess it depends on your perspective.

Funny how we can all read the same thing and come up with, whatever that was. Back then they discovered that wire is directional and they just happen to be highly respected musicians that practically everyone loves. I guess some distraction was in order. 

Look at these numbers over hear and forget what you just read.

Wire itself is NOT directional. Wires are designed to be non-directional. However, the choice of which end of a shield is grounded can make a difference in some cases. Recall that audio is using alternating current - so any directionality in wire would be totally detrimental to the sound and that detriment would apply equally whichever way round the wire is installed.

Phil Taylor is a guitar tech - the interviewer works for a rag that advertises cables - so dont believe every detail you read..

The disclaimer that one shouldn't believe every detail in an article because of some loose and inevitable connection that would occur in any music or stereo article is quite a reach. To single out the mention of cables since they are advertised in that rag would beg the question: what about acoustics, speakers, mixing boards, reel to reel machines, etc. Should they all be discounted as well, or just the one you prefer?

All the best,
douglas schroeder wrote:
All cables are critical at all lengths. You want a mediocre system and sound? Ignore it.
#1 thing to not ignore is low resistance, especially with low impedance speakers and/or those that drop low.  In other words, high-copper quality and heavy-gauge (at least 13awg) is in order.
#2 ?
I’m an audio engineer at a midtown Manhattan commercial studio. I’ve worked in recording studios for over 20 years. I’m also a fair audiophile and have considered myself an avid listener for all of my 40 years. Take what I’m saying with a grain of salt, as I’m only one of many who could easily have widely varying opinions on the matter.

The case of outfitting a studio with cabling is rather simple. You buy the best you can with the budget you have. Most people in studios would easily limit spending in this area if they could afford another great microphone or preamp or other outboard. It’s not as important. And they’d be correct. The most important items, and the ones which get you biggest bang for the buck in capture, are generally regarded in this order (keep in mind it’s not always more money equaling better product here):

1. Microphone. Bar none a great mic will have more impact on the end recorded sound than anything else. 
2. Preamp. After listening to dozens of preamps in widely varying price points, it becomes painfully obvious that there are just some that can’t cut it next to others.
3. A-D interface. If it’s going to be a digital recording (and let’s face it, 99% of anything newly recorded will be), this is as important as #2.
4. Cable. Not that it’s not important. Just the things above are far more bang for the buck than cable.

So a typical chain for vocals might be like this, if I’m lucky:

Telefunken U47 tube mic > Neve 1073 preamp > Prism Sound interface > Pro Tools at 32/192, all using Mogami or better cable.

ideally, we’d use better cable. I don’t even have the budget for the above chain on most projects. (David Gilmour does!)

Bottom line here is that for the most part, to a certain degree, all engineers know that better cable will yield better results. If I spend 10x as much on a mic, I probably perceive it getting 10x better. 10x as much on a preamp or interface and I’d say we’re getting 5x better. 10x as much on cable and most engineers would perceive maybe only 1.5x better sound. It’s also about experience. More engineers and mixers have had way more experience with varying quality mics, preamps, and interfaces. Cables are generally whatever’s there, as long as it’s not crap.

the more experience you have with comparing what’s good to what’s better, the more likely you will opt for what’s better. At home, I’ve gone from Kenwood and Fisher, to McIntosh and Paradigm, to DeVore and Line Magnetic - all this because I found them and I found spending a little more could get me better. It’s encouraged in every studio environment I’ve been in, but the money is not always there.


That does not mean we’re losing much detail on the way. The detail on any of the world’s greatest home system playing back a commercial release is marginal percentages lower than what it was in the studio. It’s gotten so much better over the years of course, but there’s still some integrity lost between the master and the release. Hearing a 1/2” 2 track album master on a calibrated Studer in a recording studio and then hearing that album on CD - there’s no comparison. High rate fidelity downloads are so much better now. That’s clearly another topic! What I’ll say is that we would not be satisfied losing large percentages of signal recording anything. We’re trained to hear. I know what the real sound is in the live room and what it sounds like in the control room, and I do my damnedest to get all of it. There’s a small but vocal part of the world that still cares about fidelity, and that includes engineers. 
1. Microphone. Bar none a great mic will have more impact on the end recorded sound than anything else.
2. Preamp. After listening to dozens of preamps in widely varying price points, it becomes painfully obvious that there are just some that can’t cut it next to others.
3. A-D interface. If it’s going to be a digital recording (and let’s face it, 99% of anything newly recorded will be), this is as important as #2.
4. Cable. Not that it’s not important. Just the things above are far more bang for the buck than cable.
I come from a similar perspective in that I'm a professional recording engineer with 20 years experience and a. audiophile to the extent my time and budget allow. I agree with your list except that there are a few elements preempting what you have here: 
1. Musician
2. Instrument
3. Space 
then microphone, pre, converter, etc.
Though you may have assumed this in your example it cannot be stressed enough that the best equipment in the world won't compensate if any of these elements is lacking.

I wholeheartedly agree with (what I believe to be) the crux of your post in that we're careful to capture as much detail as we can given all the budgetary (incl. time) constraints. Whether we're able to better the playback from what the end listener is capable of will often be debatable. The listener doesn't experience the same constraints the engineer does. We have minutes [to soundcheck and commit to the sound we're capturing], while you have hours [to listen and critique the quality of sound]. Yes to some limited extent, we can change the sound after the fact, but any engineer worth anything will agree you've got to get it right at the recording stage. Back to the constraints, clients expect us to make qualitative decisions quickly and to commit those sounds to 'tape' (really hard disk unless you have the luxury of recording to analog tape). 

As an engineer, yes. I spend my money on good mics, preamps, and conversion, as well as studio monitors and headphones I can trust. I use good mic cable, and good snake cable for mic and line-level signals. I believe the father down the.line from the microphone, the less important cable becomes. 

At home, I have good sources, DAC / preamp, power amp and speakers. i'm bi-amping to get the most from my amp. I'm slowly upgrading my cables as budget allows. This is tricky because I need four pairs of same or similar length cables. However in the meantime I've spent a lot getting the system updated to where it is now. The sound is on a similar plane to what's in my primary studio, which is of great help to me. Still it's a work in progress. 

It's nice and appreciated to hear from engineers on these threads. Now, whenever someone chimes in and says they've been to a studio and all they use is cheap cabling, we can take it with a grain of salt. That old saw should finally be laid to rest but mark my words, it will surface on a regular basis now and again. 

All the best,
This may go down as one of the most important threads in Agon history. No, I'm not being sarcastic. Hearing from engineers who respect the potential for the impact of cabling may finally quiet some of the naysayers who have been plaguing cable enthusiasts for years. 

What we are seeing here is further evidence of what I have asserted for along time - money rules the discussion. The budget constrained audiophiles at home insist that cables make little difference, while budget constrained engineers are forced, even when they think otherwise, to opt for low cost cabling. IOW, the wallet dictates a LOT of discussion on this topic, not necessarily experience (excepting our two engineers), or performance. 

Obviously, most would agree with the principle that what is upstream in a studio is considered of more critical importance. It is largely accepted also that what is lost upstream in a HiFi rig cannot be recovered (That is not to say it cannot be substituted). It seems budget is the primary impediment to better cabling being used, not a disdain for what cabling can do when improved. 

I predict these cordial, informative engineers who are branching out into better home HiFi will find over time that the overall significance of cabling in the home system is much different than in the studio (I'm not saying in an absolute sense that cabling would be less important in that environment, only that it seems not to be explored much at this point). While a perceived 10X difference may exist in studio between mic and cables, in my experience building hundreds of HiFi systems that extreme of a disparity does not exist in home setups between components and cables. I have many, many times yielded as strong/noticeable a change in systems with a loom of cables as with any component, i.e. amp, preamp, source. So, as shocking as this may seem to the engineers, my ratio of potential sonic benefit from a loom of cables to a component is... 1 to 1, yielding every bit as much performance change as a component! My guess is they may scoff at that comment, until they spend more time with looms of cables in home systems. Then, they will see that I am correct. It's a very different ball game. 

I look forward to continued input from recording engineers at this site. Thank you for your informative and helpful comments! 
I would agree that the keys to recording music are the artist, room, and microphone choices as the main influences on the final sound - but, there is an entire chain that effects sound far beyond something like cabling.

What you have to understand about making a final recorded product is that the sound goes through so many processes to get to a final recording, that cabling adds or detracts marginally in the final product.

Today, you choose how you're going to record (analog or digitally) and then plan the entire processes based on the original recording format.  Few recordings are made analog anymore, but you have a few people, like T Bone Burnett, who use tape for specific projects (New Basement Tapes as an example). 

A friend owns a 48 track studio (48 in, 48 out, with 6 side channels) and what he is interested in is the lowest noise through the entire system.  He uses high quality, balanced line cords throughout the system. 

The first choice you make is the microphone as the microphone response curve and characteristic can shape the sound at the source.  There are real sound differences between something like a Shure 57 and a Telefunken ELA M251.  With some microphones you can change patterns and that has an effect on the sound as you can choose to incorporate room acoustics or exclude them.

Recording digitally is a process choice in itself.  What type of digitizer, bit rate, compressor (digital plug-in or hardware), reverb (digital plug-in, or hardware), editing software, etc. 

After recording, the raw recorded audio has to be mastered - and then the sound is going through a completely different system including the mixing board, amplifiers, compressor / limiters, etc. 

One of the last considerations is what is the final format?  MP3, CD, SACD, etc?  That choice may drive all of the other choices made from the beginning of the recording process.   

Then you have the music reproduction system it's going to be played through - which has its own effect on the sound. 

If you think about how many times the sound has been handled, all of the different equipment its gone through and take all of that into consideration, any effect cabling has, beyond being neutral and low noise, is marginal at best.

Agreed. The advice here is excellent. In summary, component equipment is so much more important than cables. Not to say good cables are not important at all, as a good connection and good shielding can really help and low capacitance becomes important for long runs (studios have much longer runs than consumers). Mogami and Canare make excellent but expensive XLR cables.

Of course microphone cables are orders of magnitude more important than line-level interconnects simply because the signal level is soooo small. XLR becomes critical for microphones. And just as Blue Jeans say - if your digital cable works well (no dropouts) then there is NOTHING you can do to improve a digital signal. No such thing as a rounder 0 or a sharper 1 with digital.
mok, charlienyc, and buckhorn_cortez, thanks for your contributions. Great to get perspective from the folks who are recording the music that we try so hard to reproduce faithfully.  Some comments based on your input:

1. There are a lot more variables in recording than playback, and how those variables are addressed in the studio have  much greater consequences than in playback because they’re essentially permanent.

2. Cost is a constant overidding factor in decisions about what gear to get and where to invest limited resources in a studio, and cables are a consideration, but not the first consideration for any contributors here.

3. That said, quality cables are recognized as valuable.

4. It is interesting that the musicians and the microphones are listed as especially critical parts of the recording chain, paralleling the “source first” philosophy in some hifi playback quarters.

5. The relative importance of ADC’s parallels the focus of some in the playback side on good DACs.

Thanks again, appreciate all input here.


Thanks for the props on the thread.  Trying hard to cast more light than heat on these issues.

In my experience, Blue Jean is incorrect that a digital cable doesn't make any sonic difference as long as it works. I believe it may be in their best interest to make a statement such as that but I've achieved a real sonic improvement when changing from the audioquest cinnamon coax cable to the VH Audio silver coax cable. Just my experience.   
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I agree with all of your points. On one hand I'm lucky enough to have a fully digital system. It starts with the shortest runs possible to digitally-controlled mic pres around stage. From there it is converted with excellent ADCs to 24/96k and stays that way straight through the entire production chain. The only time it goes down to 16/44.1k is for radio production deliverables, but that's with careful utilization of dither via an excellent SRC. That it goes out for distribution to radio stations which each use their own flavors of equalization and compression is disturbing. In my market however, these are minimal, and the end product isn't too incredibly different from how it sounded upon capture.

But I digress! I mentioned on one hand I'm lucky to have a fully digital system. My predecessors had tools I drool over every time I think of them: tube and ribbon mics everywhere, tape machines, huge audiences (I primarily record live performances) and better hall acoustics. While it's debatable whether the talent was better now or in the 50s, 60s and 70s, the attitude towards recording certainly was better then. Orchestras spent large sums of money to capture recordings well, conductors cared what their product sounded like, and musicians lived to play their parts with conviction and heart. Would I trade what I have for what they had? That's a tough one! 

Sorry I got a bit off-topic. I think of any crowds, though, this one would forgive me. 


In the case of a digital coax cable it is carrying the clock signal which is an analog signal. The reconstruction of the analog clock at the other end (in your DAC) is usually through some form of phase locked loop but these systems often fail to eliminate jitter.

The best solution is to find a properly designed DAC that will reject all the audible incoming jitter on the coax, USB, Toslink or any cable. Unfortunately most DACs are terrible at rejecting jitter and this means that any tweaking of the clock signal through a cable change may audibly effect the DAC.

The problem is not the cable. The problem is the DAC.