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R&M Tone Technology PowerWire Active Guitar Cables

Meet the cables where you get out more than you put in

 

by Chris Loeffler

 

 

Despite the obsession many players have over the purity of their signal path, buffers, and tone loss, most still rely on passing a passive signal through 10’ to 30’ of cable. Although electronic instruments create a line-level signal at the output, the signals from guitar and bass pickups (except for active ones) typically experience signal degradation until they hit a buffer or op amp. R&M Tone Technologies saw this as a challenge that could be overcome, and introduced their PowerWire line of powered instrument cables at Winter NAMM 2017.

 

What You Need to Know

 

The R&M Tone Technology PowerWire series of instrument cables are available in 20’ lengths and feature built-in amplifiers to boost your instrument single directly from the guitar jack.  R&M PowerWire instrument cables currently come in four versions- CB6 Clean Boost, CB0 Clean Boost, SS Super Sizzle, and TS09 Dynamic Distortion. All four are powered by an included pair of 675 button-cell batteries, and average about one year of usage between battery changes. Unlike passive cables, PowerWire cables are directional; the amplifier section must plug into the guitar jack.

 

The CB6 and CB0 Clean Boost cables contain transparent preamps in them, so the tone of the guitar’s pickups I used was fundamentally unchanged, other than being more immediate and stronger by reducing or removing signal loss due to cable capacitance. The difference between the two is the CB0 does not boost the volume of the signal; it simply makes it active so there’s less chance of tonal degradation downstream, whereas the CB6 features a pronounced 6 dB boost that can drive (or even overdrive) anything thereafter. The longer the unbuffered signal chain after the instrument cable, the more noticeable its effect was.                         

                                                                               

The Super Sizzle SS increases the gain and lowers the sub frequency to under 20Hz. On the guitar, there was a noticeable beefing up on the low end in both single coil and humbucking pickups that was most pronounced when fed into overdrives or fuzzes, and the mids and treble weren’t perceptibly changed to my ears. However with a bass and bass amplifier, the bass increase made a considerable difference, with much deeper and slightly growlier lows.

 

The TS09 Dynamic Distortion, as its model number probably tips off guitar players, has a fixed tube-screamer-styled preamp in it. An “always on” tube screamer translated better than I expected, cleaning up with the guitar’s volume knob to go anywhere from clean and warm (with single coil pickups) to classic, cranked overdrive with pronounced mids, a slightly reduced low end, and round treble. The compensated volume boost balanced out the volume differences as the guitar’s volume control was used to clean up or boost the gain.

 

While the jack plug (where the amplifier and batteries live in the cable) is slightly larger than many cables, I didn’t find it to be an issue with various types of guitar outputs, even ones recessed in the body along the bridge. The cables have a sturdy feel and didn’t display any potential worries as far as reliability during the four weeks I evaluated them.

 

Limitations

 

Batteries will need to be replaced eventually, and without an indicator light there may not be much warning between the cable working or not. That said, a 20 pack of replacements was available for sale on Amazon for less than $8, so it shouldn’t be a big deal to replace them.

 

A couple of vintage germanium fuzzes with low-impedance inputs didn’t like being fed an active signal and became brighter and harsher than they were with a standard passive signal.

 

Conclusion

 

I can easily see why most players would benefit from starting their signal chain with one of the four R&M Tone Technology powered cables, whether it be simply to strengthen their pickups’ signal with a CB0, kick everything up a notch with a CB6, boost and reinforce lows with the SS, or gain the tone sweetening and instant access to overdrive afforded by the TS09. While $149 prices them firmly in the “premium” tier of instrument cables, the fact that you’re also adding an effect circuit without needing to shuffle the pedal board may make that well worth it.  -HC-

 

Resources

 Bonus: From the Manufacturer:

We're so convinced Harmony Central readers will fall in love with the amazing tone of PowerWire active cables that we're giving HC readers 50% off to try it for themselves. Get yours now through August 31, 2017.

Use code HCSAVE50

 

Buy R&M Tone Technology CB0 Clean Boost Powered Cable ($149.00)

 

Buy R&M Tone Technology CB6 Clean Boost Powered Cable ($149.00)

 

Buy R&M Tone Technology SS Super Sizzle Powered Cable ($149.00)

 

Buy R&M Tone Technology TS09 Dynamic Distortion Powered Cable ($149.00) 

 

____________________________________________ 

 

Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer. 

 

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