Review: Spin X guitar cable (aka Mad Professor RED Cable)

N.B.:

When I wrote the original (Finnish) version of this review, the company behind this guitar lead, Spindeco Oy, had been making tentative noises about marketing the cable using the Spin X brand name. Since then I have been informed that Spindeco won’t start marketing this lead, after all. The cable will continue to be sold as the Mad Professor RED Cable – same specifications, different colour.

For the sake of clarity, the English version the review will refer to the product as the Spin X cable, too.

Spin X 2

Seldom has there been this amount of Internet chatter and general hysteria about any guitar accessory, as there has been about the Finnish Spin X cable, which is only a guitar lead of approximately 75 cm length, with two giant 1/4-inch connectors (a female input; a male output).

The Spin X cable (sold for 129 € as the RED Cable by Mad Professor) is manufactured by a Finnish company called Spindeco Oy. The cable promises to improve the efficiency of its conductors by means of a nano-electrical phenomenon, known as the electron spin. Special graphite-coated conductors are meant to rearrange the signal-carrying electrons in such a way, that the signal flow is improved. Spindeco claim that the main benefit of this technology in a guitar lead is an improved phase correlation between the different frequency bands of the signal. Apparently, traditional leads tend to pass high frequencies quicker than low frequencies, which tend to arrive at the amplifier with a very tiny time lag.

Using the benefits of the noble search engine, I quickly ascertained that the electron spin is, in fact, no voodoo, but rather generally acknowledged quantum physics. Still, we guitarists are interested in audible results; we ask questions like:

Does the Spin X cable do what it says on the tin? Is there truly a discernible difference in sound? Do I have to own one if I want to be a Tone God?

****

I was given a Spin X cable for reviewing purposes.

There’s been some rumours about miniature transformers, or buffers, inside the lead’s giant connectors, which is why I had to take a closer look inside. Nope, it’s just a bunch of different conductors – some left unused – attached with traditional soldering tin!

The short length of the Spin X cable has also been the centre of some speculation. Guitarists have been asking: ”Why is it just a short extension cord, instead of a full-length guitar lead?”

Take a closer look at these pictures (click on them for a larger view), and the answer becomes rather obvious:

Spin X cable – plug 2

Spin X Cable – jack 2

It seems that Spin X relies on two identical conductors to function in the desired way. One is the hot (signal) conductor, while the other goes to earth (ground). But using this type of cable results in a less-than-ideal setup, when it comes to mains hum and electromagnetic interference.

guitar cable

coaxcable

Traditional guitar cables are built as coaxial leads, where a centre conductor carries the guitar signal. The centre conductor runs inside a layer of insulation, which in turn is covered by one (or several) shields. The shield is connected to ground and serves two purposes – one: its the audio signal’s earth; two: it’s a Faraday cage that shields the signal conductor from extraneous interference, like mains hum.

If you connect only the Spin X cable to an amp, and turn up the volume, you will be greeted by an unacceptable amount of hum and microphonics, but as soon as you plug your regular lead into the Spin X, all the noises disappear. This means that the Spin X needs the traditional, coaxial guitar lead to do away with all the interference.

****

The Spin X cable seemed reasonably rugged and well made.

The only thing that bothered me in the road-worthiness department were the badly secured strain relief cuffs in both connectors of our review sample.

****

I wanted to find out, whether you could ”measure” any real speeding up of the guitar signal in the confines of a home studio. I came up with the following setup:

I recorded the acoustic sound of a Fender Stratocaster using an AKG C3000 condenser microphone onto the left channel of a stereo signal, while direct-injecting the high-impedance guitar signal going through a Whirlwind Leader cable into my sound card.

Whirlwind Wave

As you can see above, the DI’ed guitar signal (waveform on the bottom) is a tiny bit behind the miked up acoustic sound.

Spin X Wave

This picture shows clearly that the Spin X doesn’t ”speed up” the guitar signal in any way noticeable in a standard audio sequencer.

The listening test also doesn’t reveal any noticeable differences between using only the traditional lead or adding the Spin X cable. If anything, adding the Spin X might even add a minuscule amount of time lag to proceedings, at least to my ears:

****

I then recorded a series of sound clips, using my trusty Blackstar HT-1R valve combo. In each clip the first half is played through just the traditional Whirlwind lead, while the second half has the Spin X cable added into the signal chain.

For comparison purposes here’s a clip of a Fender Stratocaster DI’ed into the sequencer (first half Whirlwind only; second half Whirlwind plus Spin X):

A Strat through the Blackstar:

Gibson LP Junior:

Hamer USA Studio Custom:

Gibson Melody Maker SG:

****

Next I took the Spin X to the guitarist of Rock-Ola & The Freewheelers. Sami Saarinen went through several different vintage and custom shop guitars and amps at band rehearsal volumes – both straight into the amp, as well as using a pedalboard.

The differences in sound between using only a traditional guitar lead and adding the Spin X cable seemed a little bit more pronounced using Sami’s setup at higher volume levels, compared to what I could make out in my home studio.

****

Spin X 1

For the last bit I wanted to make sure that the Spin X cable’s function was not dependent on valve technology:

I borrowed my son’s Marshall MG30CFX combo for a short test run. All sound clips start with only the Whirlwind cable connected; the Spin X comes in at the halfway point.

Fender Telecaster (neck pickup):

Both pickups:

Bridge pickup:

****

Based on my tests I have to state that the Spin X cable really does add a little ”something” to the sound. The Spin X’ effect is more easily spotted with a quality guitar and a quality amp at slightly higher volume levels. It also seems that the tonal effects are more pronounced in singlecoil-equipped guitars – like a Stratocaster, a Telecaster, a Les Paul Junior, or a non-reverse Firebird – than when using humbucker-carrying guitar models.

The Spin X’ ”sound” is similar to the effect a buffer amp has on a long signal chain. You will get a slightly more refined top end, a whiff of added presence and openness, as well as a tighter and more pronounced bass. Strats and Teles will sound a tiny bit more HiFi, while a P-90 pickup will lose a little of its lower-mid congestion.

The Spin X seems to make the signal louder by an inkling, but this could also be a mere psychoacoustic effect, caused by the added presence.

****

Spin X 5

There’s no simple and straight answer to the question, whether the Spin X cable genuinely ”improves” your tone. Many Rockabilly, Punk or Metal guitarists wouldn’t want to make their guitars sound ”more polite”. Some styles and genres simply demand a gritty, unruly top end, and some chunky mid-range grind.

For some tone hounds and sound aesthetes, however – players following the in the footsteps of guitarists, such as David Gilmour, Michael Landau or Eric Johnson – the Spin X cable’s tiny tonal changes might make all the difference.

In any case, it is up to you to decide how much this minuscule fine-tuning of your guitar signal is worth to you.

****

Spin X Cable

For more info on the Mad Professor RED Cable go HERE.

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