Back to basics.
“I am submitting this question in an attempt to win the prize for the “Most Basic Question Ever.” You do have a prize for this, don’t you? What is the difference between a “guitar cable” and a “regular” unbalanced cable? I have seen the latter referred to as “line level” cables, so I assume that the answer would lie there, but in taking apart a guitar cable, I could not find any obvious difference.”
Yes, there is a prize for the most basic question ever. This question probably isn’t even a contender, but what the heck. I make the rules and I say you win. Your prize is… drum roll please… an answer to your question. The crowd goes wild…
A guitar cable is basically the same as a standard 1/4 inch line level cable. The connectors can be the same and the cable can be the same. For all practical purposes they can be used interchangeably. Some cables come with extra thick jackets or jackets made out of special fabric and other exotic materials, and those are marketed as guitar cables because they are likely to be more durable than a standard cable (plus many of them look cool). Can you use them to connect the crossover to an amp in your amp rack? Sure. Conversely some cables may come with extra small jackets and foil shields (which are not as durable as braided shields, but often better at rejecting unwanted signals), which makes them better suited for permanent connections like the inside of a rack. Can they be used on a guitar? Sure, the first time you roll a road case over it you’ll probably break it, but it will work until then. So they are basically interchangeable, but you need to apply a little common sense.
There is a lot of debate in the industry about the merits of different types of cables, and some exotic cables cost 10 or 20 times more than a generic off-the-shelf cable. Some people say they can easily hear the difference and others say it doesn’t matter as long as the cable meets some minimum requirements. Further, some companies (Monster Cable for one) claim there IS a difference in performance between cables used for different tasks. Thus they manufacture cables optimized for bass, guitar, keyboards and more (they even make some distinctions for musical style). Some people declare this is marketing BS and that there is no real difference, while others say it absolutely makes an audible difference. Monster does have a lot of pretty impressive names on their client list so it’s hard to vehemently argue that there is no difference at all. If someone says they hear it, then you have to give them some benefit of the doubt. In general most people will agree that you simply want to use the best cables you can afford. Maybe your budget doesn’t quite allow you to stretch up to an exotic brand like Monster or Mogami, but you would be well served to get as close as you can. Our technical support department claims that nearly 50% of all of their calls relate in some way to cabling. We say to spend the money and do it right so you don’t have to chase your tail later.