I'm constantly surprised when I go to watch bands in pubs and smaller venues, at how many people are using really poor guitar leads.
Its not uncommon to see people with guitars worth hundreds (sometimes thousands of pounds) and an amp also worth several hundreds (again, sometimes worth 4 figures) but using cheap, flimsy and usually noisy cables linking them. And thats before we get into pedals and pedal boards too!
So when we break it down and think about it, you can spend all the money in the world on guitars and amps. If you can't cleanly get the sound from one to the other, then the benefit of having great gear (which is capable of producing a great sounds) kind of disappears. Which makes spending hundreds or thousands of pounds (on the 'big' or 'important' stuff kind of futile!
So - what should you look for in a guitar cable?
Unlike cheaper cables, noiseless cable means that you won't get that awful 'rattling' sound degrading your sound everytime you move around. In particular look for oxygen-free copper guitar cable, and also gold plated tips aid conductivity to keep your signal strong.
Strong Cable Clamping
It can happen when you play live. Singer stands on your guitar lead while you're moving around, your cheap cable rips away from the plug, then no-one can hear you. Cables with quality plugs will be automatically gripped by the internal mechanism of jack plug, meaning they won't rip away. Cables which use 'spring cable relief (basically a spring stuck out of the plug) tend to lose the spring quickly, then the lead is very easy to rip away from the plug.
Colour and Length Options
While their is the 'fashion' side to the colour cables - some people like all their gear colour co-ordinated as part of their look on stage, there's also the practical side of things. Not many people have coloured cables, so you can spot your gear a mile away when the bass player is trying to snaffle your leads into his box when you're packing up. Also using the right length cables helps - its better not to use un-necessarily long cables for both signal quality and safety. The less cable lying around, the less likely the singer will trip over it and go head first into the kick drum. Unless you'd like that to happen to them, of course ;-)
Any cable worth its salt will come with some kind of warranty. Quality cables will come with at least a 5 year, if not a lifetime warranty. Any cable which the manufacturer won't stand behind with a good warranty should set off alarm bells!
Its 2018 as I type this - you don't have to just rely on your mates opinions. You don't have to work out whether to trust what a seller of guitar leads is telling you. There are a plethora of reviews out there from real world users - just like you - to help you find whats good and whats not. Use them to your advantage and you can easily find the best value in your quest.
But to close - the main thing is that you're doing yourself a misjustice by using cheap guitar leads. The best thing is, you can get great quality cables for less than the price of a couple of packs of Ernie Balls nowadays.
What type of cable do you use in your setup? Tell us below in comments!