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Straight Plug or right-angle plug?

Guitar-cable ettiquette and how not
to break an expensive pickguard

Seeking the definitive answer but finding none, you have gone through every issue of Guitar World, scoured the Internet and even sent an e-mail to Dan Erlewine. What is the best plug for your vintage Wandre 12-string, a straight plug or a right-angle plug?

It's an age-old question: When guitarists get together, it's usually the first topic of discussion and debated in bars, studios and behind the scenes at the Grammys. Rumor has it that Jeff Beck smashes his guitar in the famous Yardbirds Scene in Antonnio's film "Blow Up" Burns marqueebecause he blew his top after bandmate Jimmy Page mercilessly poked fun at him for using a straight plug when he obviously should have used an angle plug.

But don't you go stuffing the headstock of your '57 Tele through the grille cloth of an old Vox AC30 once owned by George Harrison, just because you don't know which plug to use on your guitar cable. Nine times out of 10, it's a personal preference. Either will do the trick and neither will do any lasting harm.

Straight out of your amp
Most agree that it's best to have a straight connector coming out of your amp. As for the guitar connection, it's really up to you — with a few exceptions. Here's one: ALWAYS use a straight plug on your guitar cable for a Tele. Sometimes the jack socket is too deep, and a right-angle can't seat correctly.

Guard your pickguard with an angle
In guitars where the jack is on the front of the guitar (as opposed to the guitar's edge like a Les Paul), it's usually best to use an angle plug, especially in the Gibson electric hollow bodies and the Burns London guitars. As you can see, in a Burns Marquee (above right), a straight jack sticks straight out of the plastic pickguard, just begging to be whacked hard by a hand or an errant bar-stool edge. A good whack and you've done busted your pickguard, a costly bit to replace.

This is not a far-fetched scenario of pickguard misadventure. We have seen it happen too many times for it to be a rare occurrence. Worse yet are the Gibson semi-hollow bodies. Whack a straight plug sticking out of one of those, and you risk cracking the whole body of the guitar. We've seen it done, and it ends up pretty much being the end of the guitar.

For a complete list of which plug works with what guitar, see the list below.

Which works better for which guitar:
a straight plug or a right-angle plug?

As mentioned previously, there is no right or wrong (except for front-mount jacks and Teles; see the earlier comments), but here are a few suggestions, hopefully in alphabetical order by guitar manufacturer:

Brian May (see Burns); Burns London Brian May, Steer, Marquee, Scorpion, Double Six, Bison (basses and six-strings) — DEFINITELY angle plugs (it's easy to whack a straight plug and crack the pickguard); Ibanez (RG370DXGP, JEM7V, RE2EX1, RG4EXQM1, RG3EXQM1, JS1200, RG1470) — we like angles; ESP (LTD Deluxe EC-1000, F-50) — we'll shove an angle plug in there and be happy with our choice; Fender Jazz and P-bass — a Death Valley guitar cable with an angle (but straight is fine also); Dean (VX, Vendetta XM, Evo XM, EVO Noir, Z-X Electric, MLX, ML Noir XT, Baby ML, Dimebag Razorback, Explosion Razorback, Dime-O-Flame — an angle plug on a Death Valley Cable Company guitar cable; Gibson Les Paul (and clones) — we like angles (especially the G & H angle plugs on one of our handmade guitar cables).

Les Paul Junior — also angle; Melody Maker — angle; Gibson emi-hollow bodies ( Casino, Wildkat, Sheraton, ES-175, ES-335, ES-137, Korina Explorer, Dot Archtop, Dot Studio — angles, especially when the jack is in the body front (you can crack the body if something whacks into one of those straight plugs sticking out of the body, and we have seen it happen).

Gibson SG — an angle danglin' on the end of a DVCC guitar cable; Gretsch (G5120 Electromatic Hollowbody, G5135 Electromatic Corvette, Pro Jet, Electromatic hollowbody, Junior Jet, G5265 Jet Baritone, G6131SMY Malcom Young I Signature) — angle plugs; Jackson (JS30RR Rhoads, RR3 Rhoads, DK2M Dinky, WRXT X Warrior, KE3 Kelly, DK2 Dinky, Custom 24, CE 24 Maple Top, Custom 22 10 Top, xtSA with Synth Access, LGXT) — snap in an angle plug; Line 6 Variax — angle; Mackie mixers — straight plug on a DVCC guitar cable.

PRS (SE Single Cut, SE Custom) — angle; — Strat-type guitars — usually straight but angle will work; Schecter (C-1 Hellraiser, Damien -FR, Omen 6, C-1 Classic, Gyphon Limited Edition Flametop, C-1 Artist Limited Edition, Vengeance Standard, M-200FM, LTD Viper-100FM, LTD FX-260 Spalted Maple, EC-50, KH-202 Kirk Hammett Signature Model) — we like angle plugs (on DVCC guitar cables of course), but straights work just fine; Steinberger (all models) — an angle plug and a Steinberger go together like, well, pancakes and syrup.

Telecaster-type guitars — DEFINITELY straight (plug won't seat in some deep jacks); Washburn (A20 Flamed Top, HH Ash, HH, Lipstick, Stardust Retro-H 12-string, NJC Bich, STR-1 Pro Electric Sitar) — we like angles; Yamaha — all angle plugs (terminating a 20-foot length of CBI guitar cable).

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