Quarter-inch phone plugs aren’t glamorous. You plug one end into your guitar, the other into some electronic device—done. But Neutrik, known for its professional connectors, has an interesting take on the kinds of functions you can bundle into plugs.
Neutrik makes three plugs specifically for guitar: SilentPLUG ($10 street), TimbrePLUG ($20 street), and UltimatePLUG ($35 street). These are intended for do-it-yourselfers, either to retrofit an existing plug or serve as the basis for creating your own cable. However, the SilentPLUG is available on some manufactured cables from companies like Mogami, ProCo, and Gotham. (Also note that Neutrik isn’t alone—Switchcraft, G&H, and Gibson have their own noiseless plug designs.)
WHAT THEY DO
If you switch guitars on stage, SilentPLUG is great. It shorts the hot conductor to the shield until plugged in fully to your guitar, so there’s no buzz or pop when you plug in. Neutrik offers both straight and right-angle SilentPLUG models.
TimbrePLUG emulates the effect of cable capacitance. This may seem silly, but knowingly or not, many guitarists rely on cable capacitance for their tone, and using shorter cables with devices such as audio interfaces or wireless body packs changes the tonal quality. TimbrePLUG incorporates a small four-position rotary switch, where one position includes no capacitance, and the other three add in different amounts of capacitance.
UltimatePLUG combines the TimbrePLUG switch with the SilentPLUG noiseless feature.
TimbrePLUG and UltimatePLUG are available as right-angle types only, so they’re ideal with SG and 335-type guitars with front-facing jacks. However, I also tested the plugs with Strat- and Les Paul-type jacks, and they fit fine. If the TimbrePLUG feels a little clumsy plugged in to your guitar, it can plug into your interface, body pack, etc., with a standard plug going into your guitar. However, the SilentPLUG or UltimatePLUG must plug into your guitar for the silent switching feature to work.
Of the three, SilentPLUG requires minimal soldering and construction chops. The plug barrel and plastic cable sheath both have semi-circular tabs (see photo), and as long as you line them up, you won’t have any issues.
The other two are more finicky to assemble, depending on the shielded-cable thickness: 1/4" diameter is the absolute maximum, and a thinner cable makes life easier. It’s important to follow the assembly instructions, which are downloadable from the Neutrik site if you want to see what’s involved.
When using a thicker cable, loosening the two halves of the plug rather than screwing them down tightly makes it easier to insert the chuck that restrains the cable and the screw-in bushing. After tightening down the two halves, trying to pull the cable out of the plug would probably snap the wire before detaching it from the plug.
You can teach old plugs new tricks—and it just might be time to warm up your soldering iron.
Craig Anderton has played on or produced more than 20 major label releases, mastered hundreds of tracks, and written dozens of books. Check out some of his latest music at youtube.com/thecraiganderton.