19 November 2012

Accesories: Neutrik Timbre Plug Test


If your rig is limited to just one guitar and one amp (despite of one or more pedal effects), you can spend some time looking for the guitar cable that better fits your needs.
When you are using instead very different guitars and amps, the characteristics of a certain cable can be unwanted for a certain rig.
By example, imagine that we are using a Fender Stratocaster with vintage-correct single coils in an amp that's naturally trebbly (like a Vox) with a trebbly speaker (like a Celestion V30) and, using a high end cable that preserves or even pushes the high frequencies. The results can be really harsh and ear piercing.
Or, imagine that we are using a darker amp, with darker cab and/or speakers, with A2 humbuckers and, we use a cable with high capacitancy that still roll offs lots of trebles. The results can be really tud, muddy or dark, liveless.

So, it seems that the best approach wold be to preserve the most of your high frequencies possible and, being rolling off those later. But, this can lead to some other issues.
If you are using certain amount of pedals between your guitar and your amp (because you love pedals or because you cannot crank your amp and need a bit of help), you will probably end adding some buffer at the beginning of the chain, to feed the rest of pedals with a quality signal that preserves frequential content and signal strength.

Well, this last is my case. I was unable to remove the excesive high end that the Evidence Audio The Forte cable was delivering at the input of the pedalboard. So much high end makes the sound honky, a bit bonny, sharped and without body. The different gain stages (gain pedals) in the chain were increassing the loudness of such a high end, delivering a final sound that didn't liked to me.

Traditional approaches would be to roll off some high end content from your guitar, rolling off the tone control (what works the most of times) or to get a warmer cable, with higher capacitancy that can get rid of that excesive high end.

Some time ago, I saw some interesting video demoing the Neutrik Timbre plug. A plug that has 4 different positions that help to change the frequential response of your cable. I checked the price and, even that expensiver than other plugs, was affordable for just an extreme of a single cable so, I went for it and bought it. This is my short experience with that plug.


Nothing great. Just a plastic bag with the plug dissasembled inside. No instructions.
You need to go to Neutrik's home page and search for assembling instructions to determine if the red wire inside the plug goes to ground or hot. It goes to hot (to the tip).

Assembling it

Overall, Neutrik plugs are very well designed and are easy to solder and mount. Just a child's game.
But, in the case of the TimbrePlug, things go a bit different. In first place, if you don't peal enough of the external isolant layer (the instructions say 2 cm, what ISN'T ENOUGH), the assembling screw (THAT IS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WIRE PATH!) will be a mess and, to put everything together becomes a hard work. While to prepare an standard Neutrik plug can take me about 5 mins, I spent more than 20 mins traying to assemble it in the right way. So, take into account to peel more external isolant layer than specified in the assembling instructions, check the clearance between signal wire, shield and that screw.
If you take this into account, this will become easier.
The red cable of the Timbre plug should be soldered together with the signal wire to the plug's tip.

Testing it

I've prepared a Mogami 2524 Intrument cable (with cooper strands, not platted), with such a plug and one silent plug in the other extreme. I've plugged my guitar, direct to the amp to check both things: the Timbre Plug and the cable. I had another Mogami cable of same length, with an standard plug in one side and one Silent plug in the other side, for comparison.

That was weird!. I've switched on the amp and, inmediatelly was scared... The volume was weak, weak, weak and, the sound was dull, dark, distant. I've checked the 4 positions of the TimbrePlug and, just a bit of enhancement or darkness in one or the other positions but, same incredible low volume.
I played with the amp controls, increassing the gain (that basically increassed the floor noise) and the volume that seemed to do nothing.

For a moment, I've run in panic: were my amp's tubes went wrong?.
I've switched the other two amps and tested the guitar in both and, same results.
So, I decided to test the other cable (regular + silent plugs) and, the volume became normal.

At this point, I desoldered the TimbrePlug and mounted just a regular plug in this cable, tested again, and everything was as usual.

I am then very disapointed with the TimbrePlug but, I am still not sure if the issue was the plug itself or that, due to the difficult assembly and narrow space between wires and screw, maybe the screw drilled the isolant layer of the signal wire and created some kind of derivation to ground, what can explain the weak signal.

Since the second thing that I wanted to check is how that Mogami cable worked, in comparison with the Evidence Audio and the Sommer SC The Spirit ones, and liked what I've heard, I will delay a further test of that TimbrePlug for any other day in the future.

I am now recabling the pedalboard with Mogami 2524, because I am suspecting that the current Sommer SC The Spirit, that has a tin plated cooper strands core is the responsible for this excesive high end. My experience with plated cooper strands says me that this kind of cables are very bright sounding. While silver plated ones seem to deliver a more even response (but still bright), tin plated ones seem to be really harsh sounding.

After recabling the pedal board with Mogami 2524, I will compare again Mogami 2524 against the Evidence Audio cables that I am currently using from Guitar to pedal board and from pedal board to Amp.

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