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Make your own reliable, great sounding custom patch cables

 

Patch cables are a necessity for modern guitarists, but they are often treated as an afterthought; cables rarely have the same sex appeal to guitarists as a new pedal, amp or instrument, but their importance shouldn't be underestimated. I've seen all kinds of random assorted cables used to connect pedals on stage or used to wire up pedalboards, but as with any chain, your signal path is only as good as its weakest link, so using quality cables is mandatory if you care about sound quality. Today we're looking at two products from respected cable manufacturer Evidence Audio - their Monorail cable and new SIS (Screw In Solderless) plugs - that can be used together to create your own custom length, very high-quality patch cables.

Evidence Audio Monorail cable and Screw In Solderless plugs


What You Need To Know

  • The Evidence Audio SIS Screw In Solderless 1/4" phone plugs are designed to work exclusively with their Monorail cable.
  • Externally, the American-made Evidence Audio Monorail cable is pretty thin, so it won't get in your way as much as a thicker cable - it's only 0.155 inches in outside diameter, and has a rust colored jacket. Internally the Monorail cable utilizes Evidence Audio's solid core 20 AWG IGL™ copper primary (center) conductor.
  • The SIS (Screw-in, solderless) plugs use a two piece design consisting of the main plug and a compact screw-on metal cap. The only tool you'll need for patch cable assembly is a pair of wire strippers; a rag and pair of pliers are optional, but helpful.


SIS plug internal detail

  • SIS plug and Monorail cable construction stepsConstructing a Monorail cable with SIS plugs is a fairly straightforward process, and clear instructions are posted on the Evidence Audio website. First you strip the external jacket so that 10mm of the shield is exposed. Pull that back along the cable jacket, then strip the white center insulator so that 4mm of the solid center conductor is exposed, leaving 2mm of insulation as a spacer between that and the shield.
  • Once that's done, you push the cable into the stem and turn the stem clockwise one or two turns, as seen when looking down on it from the tip. The inside brass core of the stem is threaded, and it actually cuts matching threads into the solid copper conductor. Give it a tug to make sure it's started to thread and has grabbed the conductor, then attach the end cap and continue to turn the stem until the cap and stem are fully connected.
  • Once assembled, the plugs are extremely compact and only protrude about 0.50" from the jack when plugged in. They're also roughly the same size in diameter, so they are perfect for those small pedals with closely-spaced top mounted jacks. The compact size also minimizes the amount of spacing distance required between pedals, allowing for more space-efficient pedalboard layouts.
  • Compactness is nice, but not if the plug isn't reliable. The SIS design really excels here. Once you get the center conductor screwed in, it creates a solid, air-tight connection - you can yank on that puppy all you want and it's not coming loose any easier than a soldered connection would. The connection of the center conductor with the SIS plug is much more solid than any other solderless system I am aware of. The ground contact of the assembled plug is similarly consistent and air-tight, and the entire finished assembly looks great and is rock-solid and exceptionally reliable.


Monorail cable before and after threading

  • Okay, it's compact and reliable, but how does it sound? In a word - excellent. The Monorail cable is low capacitance, so you won't hear the highs being rolled off, and the solid core IGL™ copper center conductor provides detailed transients and exceptional clarity overall. The spiral shield is easier to deal with than braided shielding, and provides 98% coverage. Noise and RFI were never an issue in my testing.


Limitations

  • Monorail cable would not be a suitable choice for instrument cable use onstage since it's stiffer than a stranded center conductor equipped cable and the jacket is too thin to hold up in that application, but that all works to your benefit for more stationary wiring, such as on a crowded pedalboard or when wiring up a rack since Monorail cable is so svelte and can be bent to whatever configuration your routing requires and will tend to stay where positioned.



Conclusion

This isn't magic cable sprinkled with some kind of wild claims and audiophile fairy-dust, nor is it designed to color the signal; Evidence Audio's Monorail is a no-bull, high-quality cable with a very detailed, neutral and unobtrusive sound. If you're using lesser-quality cables the improvement in transparency, transients (note attacks and definition) and overall clarity is going to be a real eye-opener for you, although you may notice a less dramatic improvement if you've been using other premium low-capacitance cables.

When coupled with the cleverly engineered SIS plugs, Monorail cable creates custom length patch cables of outstanding quality. Assembly is quick and easy, and really hard to get "wrong." True, it can occasionally take a bit of effort to get the stems and caps screwed together; mainly because sometimes the stem can be hard to grip and turn, but it's nothing a rag wrapped around the stem to protect it and a pair of pliers won't quickly overcome. Even better, you can disassemble and re-use both the cable and connectors again and again if you need to reconfigure your setup later, and the resulting patch cables and plugs are exceptionally compact and utterly reliable. The high-quality Monorail cable would also be very suitable for use as hook-up wire in other places where shielded wiring is required, such as inside amps, guitars and effects pedals, and can be used with soldered plugs too, although with solderless units with the quality of the SIS plugs available, I can't imagine why you'd want to go to the extra effort of firing up the soldering iron.   

If you're looking for a solution to your pedalboard or rack wiring needs, Evidence Audio's Screw In Solderless plugs and Monorail cable are well deserving of your attention. In this reviewer's opinion they are the finest DIY solderless patch cables currently available due to their combination of ease of assembly, compactness, outstanding reliability and excellent sound quality.



Resources

Evidence Audio Monorail cable ($2.95 per foot MSRP)

Evidence Audio SIS Screw In Solderless Plugs ($7.95 each MSRP)

Evidence Audio product web page


SIS assembly video

 

 

Want to talk about pedals, pedalboards and patch cables with fellow musicians? Then be sure to check out the Effects Forum right here on Harmony Central!





Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  

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