Quarter Inch Cables (TRS & TS): Best Choices in 2019

A quarter inch cable is an audio cable that acts as the conductor for an electrical signal as it travels between two pieces of equipment, such as a guitar and an amp, or an audio interface and a pair of studio monitors. They are very similar to XLR cables with the only big differences being that the connectors are different and XLR cables are always balanced.

These cables can come in several variations. Some quarter inch cables are TRS (tip ring sleeve) cables, referring to their connectors. And some are TS (tip sleeve). The big difference between these two has to do with signal balancing and number of channels (mono vs. stereo) which we’ll get to later.

This buying guide will go into detail about the differences between quarter inch TS and TRS cables and what to look out for when making a purchase. Then, we’ll go through the list of the best quarter inch cable choices in 2019.

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Quarter Inch Cable Choices: The Bottom Line

After much research, reviews, and a personal purchase, I recommend the Canare L-4E6S Star Quad quarter inch TRS cable for those of us looking for a balanced stereo connection.

If you’re looking for a mono TS instrument cable, I suggest going with the Gotham Audio GAC-1 Ultra Pro. Get a look at the details below!

Top Pick: Canare L-4E6S Star Quad Quarter Inch TRS Cable

This quarter inch TRS cable from Canare is a top-notch choice and ideal for studio or recording work where balanced audio is a necessity. The cables utilizes a four-conductor arrangement that enhances the effectiveness of the signal balancing to eliminate nearly all noise, resulting in a pristine signal. This cable also uses the well regarded Neutrik-Rean NYS228-BG TRS connectors and advanced soldering methods to deliver a cable that will be sure to last.

Runner-up: Mogami Gold TRS-TRS Cable

The Mogami Gold TRS-TRS cable is a close runner-up in this overview of the best quarter inch cables. Mogami has built their reputation as the best in the industry over the years. Many pros swear by their cables. These quarter inch TRS cables use 4 conductors just like the Canares, and also use 1/4″ Neutrik TRS connectors. They come in a wide selection of lengths and a lifetime “No Excuses” warranty from Mogami. The only reason these are in 2nd place is their high cost, but some buyers mention that they are still using the same Mogami cables they bought from 10 years ago. This, coupled with the warranty, is more than adequate justification for spending the extra money on these.

Also Great: Gotham GAC-1 Ultra Pro TS Cable

Third place belongs to the quarter inch TS cable from Gotham. This cable boasts the lowest capacitance on the market – important to note for you guitarists out there. High capacitance cables will actually filter out high frequencies from your guitar signal. The TS cable also has four shields to make up for it’s unbalanced nature. If you’re a guitarist looking for a quarter inch mono cable that can potentially brighten up your sound, this one is hard to beat. Check it out below.

TS vs TRS Quarter Inch Cables

First, we’ll look at the two most common quarter inch cable connectors you will encounter in professional audio applications – tip sleeve, aka TS connectors, and tip ring sleeve, aka TRS connectors.

Tip sleeve connectors can only transmit unbalanced mono signals. Their name comes from the parts of the connector that make contact with the female end – the tip and the sleeve. The tip transmits audio, and the sleeve is for grounding. Use TS cables with unbalanced inputs and outputs.

Tip ring sleeve connectors can transmit balanced stereo signals, but will work with mono signals too. For balancing to work, we need two conductors, hence the extra “ring” section of the connector. The sleeve still acts as ground. If you try to use a TS cable for a stereo signal, you’ll only get one channel.

quarter inch cable trs vs ts

A Canare L-4E6S TRS cable and a mono TS cable from George’s Music.

Manufacturing the Best Quarter Inch Cables

In the professional audio world, quarter inch cables, both TS and TRS, are commonly used for recording, patching, and general signal flow between hardware. They create an audio signal bridge between the instruments, monitors, and other hardware such as audio interfaces. A balanced and noise-free audio signal connection is mandatory if you plan on doing professional recording work.

Watch Out for B.S.

As with a lot of high-end audio gear, pseudo-technological marketing jargon is our worst enemy. Things like “oxygen-free copper” and “nitrogen infused insulators” come to mind. These can add to the price without significantly increasing the quality.

That being said, I wouldn’t necessarily get angry at a manufacturer for doing this, since they are most likely just trying to match their competitors in terms of perceived technical superiority (the key word here is “perceived”). Many consumers just don’t know better, so it puts the manufacturer at a disadvantage when their product is compared to the “superior” 99.9999999% oxygen-free snake oil cables. Anyway, my rant is over. Here are a few things to look into when buying the best quarter inch cable:

Balancing

  • Balancing is a technique that electrical engineers use to further reduce noise interference.
  • It works by summoning invisible unicorns who absorb and then beam the inverted radio frequency noise in the area back at the cable, thus cancelling out the original induced noise in the signal.
  • Well OK, that’s only half true. I’d suggest getting a look at this informative video from ThioJoeTech instead!

  • Cable lay is the distance required for one strand of the conductor to make one revolution. Quarter inch TRS cables can have 2 or 4 conductors and they are woven in a spiral pattern around each other. A shorter lay means more revolutions per unit length, and better performance when it comes to balancing.

Shielding

  • The cable’s shield is a woven or spiral mat of copper strands that encapsulates the conductors.
  • Shielding reduces electromagnetic interference from external radiation sources over longer spans of cable by absorbing RF radiation and then sending it to ground.
  • Common shielding materials are plain copper, tin plated copper, and aluminum laminate foil.
    • Foil is cheaper and lighter, but less rugged. It will not last long on the stage.
    • Braided copper is more effective because of copper’s high conductivity
    • Spiral copper is more flexible than braided copper, but the potential for gaps in the shielding is increased
    • tin plated copper reduces corrosion.
  • Some manufacturers use combinations of different shield types to achieve maximum coverage and flexibility

Core & Conductors

  • The conductor is the wire that actually carries the audio signal from point A to point B, and copper is the best choice of material for a balance between cost and conductance. (Silver core cables like these Zaollas are actually more conductive, but they’re expensive and their mechanical properties are not so great when compared to copper).
  • Oxygen-free copper is not known to have any significant increase in conductance. This is some of that marketing pseudoscience I warned you about.
  • Some manufacturers place cotton between the conductors and shield. The cotton reduces friction and therefore reduces static charge buildup what can cause interference.
  • Stranded conductors are better for us, because they are more resistant to flexural stress and more reliable. More strands means a more durable and flexible cable that will stand up to physical abuse in a live performance.
Stranded-vs-Solid-Cable-Image

Image Source: blog.tektel.com

Cable Length

  • Your quarter inch cable is basically an antenna, so the longer cable is, the more likely it will be to absorb stray radiation and add noise to your precious signal.
  • Keep your cable as short as possible – measure twice, buy once!
  • Something less than 30 ft is the most practical. Over 100 ft and you may start to pick up noise.

Capacitance

  • Capacitance is important if you’re looking for a guitar cable
  • Many manufacturers market their TS mono instrument cables as “low-cap” cables
  • Having a cable that has too high of a capacitance will cause it to act as a low-pass filter, which can remove higher frequencies from your guitar signal – not necessarily a bad thing but something to consider
  • Capacitance is reduced by increasing the wire gauge (reducing the diameter) and using thicker insulation

Connector Quality & Materials

  • many low-quality quarter inch cables break at the connectors – more specifically the solders where the conductors meet the connector tabs
  • gold plated contacts are highly resistant to corrosion but not 100% necessary unless you’re using them in a corrosive environment. Either way, it’s a very small amount so it won’t add to the cost much.
  • silver contacts are actually more conductive, and also cheaper than gold contacts
  • Neutrik makes great TS and TRS connectors

Neutrik NP3X 1/4 inch connector

Specific uses

  • a cable that will be used on stage will need to be built to withstand the abuse of a live performance
    • high-quality connectors that utilize a strain relief chuck design
    • dual spiral braid shielding enhances flexibility
    • stranded conductors
    • higher wire gauge translates to smaller diameter and therefore a less stiff cable
    • low-cap cables are good for guitarist wishing to brighten up their sound
  • a cable that will be used in the studio won’t need to be as rugged as one used in a live performance
    • PVC conductor insulators are best
    • braided shield (non-spiral) has better coverage but can reduce flexibility

These factors along with the prices, buyer reviews, and some personal experience were all taken into consideration while formulating this list of the best quarter inch cables available in 2019. Let’s take a look.

7 of the Best Quarter Inch Cables in 2019

Gotham GAC-1 Ultra Pro TS Cable

Gotham GAC-1 Ultra Pro TS Cable
25 Foot - Gotham GAC-1 Ultra Pro - Premium Low-Cap (21 pf/F) Guitar Bass Instrument Cable - w/Neutrik Gold Straight to Straight ¼ inch (6.35mm) TS Connectors - CUSTOM MADE By WORLDS BEST CABLES
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

First up are the Gotham GAC-1 Ultra Pro TS cables. Gotham Audio is a company specializing in pro audio cables since 1976. At first, Gotham cables were imported to New York City from across the puddle in Germany. Back then, the company innovated by utilizing a dual shield that maximized RF rejection.

These unbalanced cables are ideal for live guitar performances due to their ultra-low capacitance and not two, but four layers of shielding. While these cables may lack in the balancing department, they far surpass the competition when it comes to shielding, making them one of the best choices out there for a mono TS cable. They also use a pair of sturdy Neutrik NP2X-B gold-plated TS connectors. Take a look at their technical specs here.

Features

♦ Neutrik NP2X-B TS connectors with gold contact material
♦ Very low capacitance
♦ Two 100% copper shields, two PVC shields
♦ Stranded copper conductor
♦ Ideal for guitar in live settings

View & Check Price on Amazon!

Gotham GAC-2 AES/EBU TRS Cable

Gotham GAC-2 AES/EBU TRS Cable
6 Foot - Gotham GAC-2 AES/EBU (Purple) - Low-Loss, 2xCore 2xShielded Balanced Digital & Analog Audio Cable w/ Neutrik NP3X-B ¼ Inch (6.35mm) TRS Plugs - CUSTOM MADE By WORLDS BEST CABLES
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Next up, and also from Gotham, is the GAC-2 AES/EBU cable. Like the previous Gotham cable we covered, this one has some seriously heavy-duty shielding. On top of that, it’s balanced making this beast of a cable great for covering very long distances.

The two spiraled conductors are also held in place by a pair of polyethylene strands to maximize the effect of the signal balancing and prevent misalignment between conductors over long distances. This cable also uses some nice Neutrik NP3X-B connectors with strain relief design to mitigate any risk of connector failure due to rough handling.

Features

♦ Neutrik NP3X-B TRS connectors with gold contact material
♦ Two 22 AWG stranded copper conductors
♦ Two 100% copper shields, two PVC shields
♦ Ideal for very long runs (over 300 ft)

View & Check Price on Amazon!

Mogami Gold Instrument TS Cable

Mogami Gold Instrument TS Cable

Mogami is known throughout the professional audio world specifically for their exceptional cables. Mogami cables are produced in their Nagano, Japan facility under stringent standards and under the supervision of their founder. Marshall Electronics located in California distributes Mogami cables for North America.

These Mogami Instrument TS cables are a great choice for anyone looking for a well-regarded instrument cable. They use dual shields, one made of conductive PVC and one made of spiraled copper, to deliver very good noise reduction. The conductive PVC cuts back on microphonic handling noise generated when a cable is moved. The only negative aspect of these cables are that they are pricey, but you’re paying for a product that will probably last you years and is backed by a lifetime warranty.

Features

♦ Neutrik NP2X-B TS connectors with gold contact material
♦ 22 AWG stranded copper conductors
♦ Lifetime manufacturer warranty
♦ Dual shield – spiral copper and conductive PVC
♦ Comes in 3 ft, 6 ft, 10 ft, 18 ft, and 25 ft lengths

View & Check Price on Amazon!

Mogami Gold TRS-TRS Cable

Mogami Gold TRS-TRS Cable

This quarter inch TRS cable from Mogami is basically the balanced, stereo version of the one mentioned above. They are also quad cables, meaning they have 4 conductors which enhances the effectiveness of the balancing. This cable would be an excellent choice for a studio setting, and to connect your monitors to your audio interface or sound card.

We already know Mogami’s material selection, build quality, and reputation are top-notch. So, again, the only downside to these is the price. But if you look at them as an investment for many years to come, it makes sense to go with Mogami. They are very conscientious about the technical data surrounding their cables, take a look.

Features

♦ Neutrik NP3X-B TRS connectors with gold contact material
♦ Contains 4 conductors (quad cable) rather than 2 for refined noise control
♦ Lifetime manufacturer warranty
♦ 95% shielding with braided copper shield
♦ Comes in 3 ft, 6 ft, 10 ft, 20 ft, 30 ft, and 50 ft lengths
♦ Made for studio and high-RFI environments

View & Check Price on Amazon!

Canare L-4E6S Star Quad Quarter Inch TRS Cable

Canare L-4E6S Star Quad Quarter Inch Cable
2 Units - 6 Foot - Canare L-4E6S Star Quad, Patch Cable terminated with Neutrik-Rean NYS ¼ Inch (6.35mm) Gold TRS Stereo Phone Plugs - CUSTOM MADE By WORLDS BEST CABLES.
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Up next, and also from Japan, is the L-4E6S quarter inch TRS cable from Canare. This cable takes first place for several important reasons. First, we have quad conductors that eliminate nearly all noise via balancing. Then there is the connectors. These Rean connectors are a step down from the Neutriks but still maintain very good characteristics.

 

It seems like you’d have a hard time breaking these connections. Underneath the hood there are also two plastic sheaths that cover the solder points and add to the cable’s rigidity. For the price, these are a great choice.

Features

♦ Neutrik-Rean NYS228-BG TRS connectors with gold contact material
♦ 21 AWG copper stranded conductors
♦ Braided copper shield
♦ Made for studio and high RF environments

View & Check Price on Amazon!

Monoprice Premier 1/4 Inch TRS Cable

Monoprice Premier 1/4 Inch TRS Cable
Monoprice Premier Series 1/4 Inch (TRS) Male to Male Cable Cord - 25 Feet- Black 16AWG (Gold Plated)
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Monoprice, a company specializing in cables and other consumer electronics, gets the spotlight next. Here we have a budget option for those of us who simply can’t afford to shell out the cash for high-end cables. Some buyers say these cables are a hit or miss, but this quarter inch cable comes backed with a lifetime warranty from Monoprice.

Another feature that sets this cable apart is it’s thick conductor wire gauge at 16 AWG. Thicker conductors mean higher capacitance but this is only a real concern over long distances. These cables would be good for someone on a budget who’s putting together a bedroom studio with short runs and just getting started in music production or editing. I personally use a pair of these to connect my audio interface to my monitors.

Features

♦ Monoprice TRS connectors with gold contact material
♦ 16 AWG copper stranded conductors
♦ 97.5% coverage braided copper shield
♦ Lifetime warranty
♦ Made for studio applications

View & Check Price on Amazon!

Zaolla Silverline ZSS-110 TRS Cable

Zaolla Silverline ZSS-110 TRS Cable


Zaolla is a brand of Hosa Technology out of California. They’re known for their high-end Sliverline audio cables. If money is not a concern for you, continue reading. These Zaolla cables are expensive due to their solid silver core conductors.

Why silver? Well, it’s simply more conductive than copper and reduces resistance as the signal travels from point A to point B. Silver is also more rigid than copper, so these may not fare well on tour. Whether or not silver conductors makes a real difference or are just smoke and mirrors is up for debate. Some users report a night and day difference between copper, yet some are still skeptical. There isn’t much data out there, and it doesn’t help that the frequency responses of our ears are all different, either! If you’re interested, here’s a lengthy forum thread on the topic.

Features

♦ Solid silver conductors
♦ Low capacitance
♦ Braided copper shield

View & Check Price on Amazon!

Wrap Up

Ultimately, your decision here should be based off what you need your cable to do! For a live guitar performance, you’re going to need a mono TS cable. Additionally, if you want the most accurate representation of sound from your guitar, you should go with a low-cap cable like the Gotham mentioned above.

If you’re getting started, a budget pair of cables like the 16 AWG Monoprices may be better suited for you. For a professional studio or broadcast applications, quad cable will reduce any stray noise nearly to zero. The Canare and Mogami TRS cables are the way to go.

Anyway, that’s all for this guide. Thanks for reading, and I hope this helps you make a great choice for your quarter inch cable purchase!

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