Friday, January 22, 2010

Elixir Instrument Cable Review

Hey, check out this cool 20 foot instrument cable Elixir sent me to review. As much fun as it is to get free stuff, I am not going to let that influence me and will give my honest opinion.

First off, I have been a huge fan of Elixir guitar strings for a long time because, like most people, I like to save money. So what, if you spend a couple of bucks extra to buy the strings if they last three times as long as anything else out there? My personal favorites are the Nanoweb strings. They just don't wear out or lose tone and, I usually don't change them until I break one. I play a lot and gig at least a couple times per week and still get several months of use out of a set.

But, back to cables; this is a new product for Elixir and I want to see how it compares to the two cables I normally use - Monster and Century Music Systems. Just looking at the package, first impression is that this is substantial cable - a big fat, heavy wire with nice gold plated connectors that are large enough to actually get a grip on without having to pull them out by the cable.

Let's get this thing unpacked and see how it sounds. That's the bottom line anyway, now, isn't it? The unpacking is my first criticism - this sucker is welded into some kind of super strength, space age polymer that, I suspect, Elixir engineers somehow retrieved from the future in much the same way transparent aluminum arrived in Star Trek IV. Somehow I managed to unseal this vault without cutting the cable or an artery.

My second minor criticism is that the cable could be a little more flexible. You can forget about it every coiling up in a neat little circle like your Monster cable, nor is it going lie really flat on the stage. I got this cable yesterday and actually played a gig with it last night and wondered if I might hang a toe on it on stage but, it didn't seem to be much of a problem. It pretty much laid down after I walked around on it for an hour or so.

Now, packaging and flexibility are part of the picture but, the real test is sound. This morning I got the Elixir cable out along with my favorite Monster cable and Century Music Systems cable. I hooked these up, one at a time, between my Stratocaster and Fender amp. Without changing any guitar or amp settings I tried all cables. I admit, I had a preconceived notion that the differences would be very subtle, if any. Therefore, I got Peggy, our keyboardist, who has a much better ear than I, to listen as well. We were both surprised at the differences and both agreed that the Elixir Cable beat the others by a mile. I was not expecting this result and would not have believed it if I had not heard it with my own ears.

Here is the result that we both agreed upon: First was the Elixir cable, a distant second was the Century Music Systems cable followed closely by the Monster cable in third. Just to confirm the results I did one more test. I had Peggy, with the great ears (other parts are pretty darned good too), do a blindfold test. As I randomly changed cables, she was able to identify, with 100% accuracy, which cable I was using. This was a real eye opener for me!

As for price, I have not had a chance to compare prices yet but, I intend to start using these cables and would say, they would be worth something extra. I'm not saying they definitely cost more than say, Monster - I just don't know what they cost but, they are better, without question.

Update on Rio Grande Valley Gigs

One of the main reasons we come to the Rio Grande Valley every winter (this is our 10th year) is for the music and dancing. This year, we have really gotten busy! In addition to playing music at least two nights a week, we are teaching GED classes four days a week as volunteers at the Pharr Literacy Project. The teaching thing has made our schedule pretty intense but, it is very rewarding and we both have become quite involved with our students. Lloyd is teaching math and Peggy is teaching English. It is such a pleasure teaching adults who really want to be there.

Starting with about our second week here this winter, we starting playing gigs in the evening. Played the first one at the Cactus Club over at Victoria Palms and have been trying to play over there about once a week since. Most of those have been jams where we set up our sound system at had other musicians join us. Even have some audience members come up and sing some.

Two weeks ago we picked up a regular weekly gig at the Weslaco, TX Elks Lodge. We play there every Thursday night from 5-8 and, beginning Feb. 11, we will start teaching a free dance lesson at 5 just before we start our show. It will vary from week to week but, we will be teaching Two-Step, Jitterbug, Triple Two Step, East Coast Swing, and Waltz. Here is a photo from the other night at the Elks:

It is kind of funny but, we have really had to adjust to playing here in the Valley. This older crowd does not like loud. :( Back in Austin we can just blast it and, electric instruments are more fun to play when they are cranked up. Here we have this 800 watt sound system and only use about 5% of it. We have the mains barely cracked open and most of the house sound is just what spills over from the stage monitors and, trust me, if it was up to me those would be louder too.