On the far end leave the shield unconnected, and connect the - to the outer RCA shell and the + to the center pin.
It helps if you mark them before assembling. :)
I’ve experimented extensively with the"floating shield" architecture that Erik describes, also using the BL1 and agree, but with one little modification, if the source does not have a ground pin on the power cable, I attach the end connecting neutral + shield + drain, to the component in the "chain" that has a ground pin on the power plug.
Components that have no ground pin cannot remove the noise from the interconnect effectively and it is passed onto the next component in the chain.
In the event neither component has a ground pin on the power cable, grounding the case(s) reduce noise levels.
All my IC's use this architecture
Thanks for your responses!
What confused me about the BL1 is that it does not have a shield but rather is a twisted pair with a drain wire (as opposed to coax that has one wire with shield)
@williewonka what you mention is interesting. One of my sources is a VDAC2 (w/ VPSU) and that uses a C7 (figure 8) connector without ground. In that case you are suggesting using the end with the shield to my amp?
On a slightly different topic, I am also trying to assemble a power cord for the VDAC2. Since its a C7 it does not have ground and only requires 2-core cable, but the bulk wire I found was only 3-core (I bought some Furutech). I wasn’t sure whether to just float the ground wire on both sides. I asked Furutech support and they said to do it that way
For components that do not have a ground pin the following approach can be used
1. using the continuity test option on a multi-meter, determine if the neutral side of the RCA socket is connected to the case
2. if the RCA neutral is "grounded" to the case, then simply run a single wire from the case to a mains ground point and then connect the interconnect cable as erik stated
3. if the RCA neutral is not connected to the case - the only option is to connect the end of the interconnect with ground and neutral joined to the next component in the chain - hopefully that component will have a ground pin on its power cable.
With a floating shield architecture, it is always better to have a grounded source, that way connecting the interconnect as erik stated, i.e. to the source component, ensures that any "induced noise" in the shield is not transferred to the next component in the chain.
Grounding those components that do not have a ground pin ensures the quietest possible operation of your system - if done right
I've tried this many times and it works very well - but you can't blindly ground everything - the neutral side of the RCA socket on the component must have an electrical connection to the case/chassis for the interconnects to work properly
Not sure of that clarified things or not :-)
The drain is in contact with the shield across the length of the cable. It IS the contact for the shield. You never solder or crimp to a delicate foil shield like this directly.
Connect the drain at 1 end only, and place it towards the source for best RF removal with RCA cables.
With balanced, of course, you connect the drain wire to pin 1 and the outer casing.
Since itsikhefez and Erik_Squires both appear to be quite comfortable with DIY projects, I thought I’d share the links to the interconnect and power cables that I now use throughout my system.
They outperform some high priced commercial products (exceeding $2k) from some very big names that I have also tried in my system.
With the IC’s, I have experimented with many permutations of conductor type and RCA plugs over the past few years, from inexpensive CAT6 conductors for all conductors, to the more pricey conductors used in the articles, which I found outperformed all other combinations. The one constant in later iterations of their design were the KLE Innovations RCA plugs. I would recommend starting with the Silver Harmony as a minimum starting point. The price for the hardware recommended in the article is around $300 for a one meter pair. They can also work extremely well as Digital interconnects and with the added benefit that the Copper harmony can be used without any loss in SQ. I also use the Absolute harmony on my turntable leads because they convey exquisitely fine details no other RCA that I have tried can compete with.
The power cables take a little more effort, but a 5ft cable is priced somewhere between $100 (using DH Labs Power Plus bulk cable) and $200 (using Furutech 10 gauge Cable) for the live conductor and the IEC/Mains connectors specified
One thing all these cables require is sufficient burn in...
- Power Cables - at least 60 hours before they start to sound their best
- Interconnects - They start off sounding very good, but then SQ degrades a little from 35-55 hours, but then start to really shine around the 80 hour mark and just keep getting better after that.
The one drawback with these Interconnects - they resolve to extremely fine levels of detail and although you will notice a difference from installing just one set of cables between two components like a DAC and an integrated amp, but if your system has a pre-amp + power amp you would have to install a set between these two components also in order to hear them at their very best.
- a much deeper and more controlled bass performance
- unsurpassed clarity across the entire frequency range
- extremely fast dynamics across the entire frequency range
- a holographic image that dissolves the walls of your listening room
- a color-free presentation with exquisitely natural timbres
- extremely fine details that recreates the realism of the recording venue
As for speaker cables - I use the KLE Innovations gZero6 model.- I have not yet tried building a helix version because I require a 10 ft pair and that gets a little tricky to build.
I found these cables elevated the performance of my modest $14k (CDN) system, surpassing systems exceeding $50k, so as you might guess - I’m a pretty happy listener :-)
One very surprising observation - my components run significantly cooler using these cables - strange, but true.
Start with one pair and see where it takes you :-)
Are there better cables out there? probably, but at what cost?
@williewonka Thanks for the detailed post and links. Those designs do look interesting although seem a bit more complicated than what I can get into currently but will reference them surely in the future.
I’m starting my first DIY IC’s now with Mogami 2534 and BL-1 as stated in this post and will be doing some comparisons between the two.
For the Mogami I used Neutrik Profi and the BL-1 will be terminated with Furutech FP-126.
I am a bit regretting not getting the KLE. I’m not convinced there should be any noticable difference (hence comparing myself) but they do seem to be recommended all over.
I am also planning on assembling a power cord with DH Labs Power Plus and standard Marinco connectors.
itsikhefez - Really? - using the BL-1 with the Furutech FP126 was one of my earlier cables also (LOL)
The first RCA I used that was not of the "normal design" was the original Eichmann Silver bullet, which I added to a pair of Stager Silver Solids IC’s
The Silver bullet was a significant step up performance wise from the RCA’s that came with the Stagers and I also found they were better than the Furutech FP-126 RCA’s.
The Silver Bullet’s only drawback - the small pins were difficult to solder without melting the housing
ONE TIP: when soldering wires to the pins of any plastic bodied RCA’s like the Harmony line...
- if you have an old component with RCA’s or an RCA socket - plug the RCA into the socket to conduct excess heat away quickly, preventing the housing from melting
So, I wrote a review on my blog about how good I found the Silver Bullet to be on the Stagers and was subsequently contacted by Keith Louie Eichmann, asking to review his new Copper Harmony compared to the Silver Bullets when mounted on the Stager’s. I found the Copper Harmony was noticeably better than the Silver Bullet. The rest is history :-)
As you step up through the Harmony Product Line, you get improvements across the board each step of the way, but the cable has to be able to resolve to the same level. I found using solid silver signal conductors to provide the best result - but the neutral only needs to be made from a high quality copper conductor. For best results I found using 28 gauge solid silver for the signal and 20 gauge copper for the neutral conductors not only provided the best sound quality, but it made the cables more affordable
I have toyed with the idea of using 32 gauge solid silver signal and 18 gauge copper neutral also, but figured it was time to focus on the music and let another DIY-er try that one ;-)
The Harmony line proved to be much better than the Silver Bullet and the new design incorporated much larger pins to solder too.
I tried using the BL/1 after a long period using the Van den Hul D102 III Hybrid cable. There was really not much difference and the BL/1 was more affordable.
The BL/1 is pretty good, but the Stagers really improved SQ performance.
I haven’t tried Mogami, because the BL/1 perfprmed so well. My move to the Stagers was promted more by their twisted pair geometry as opposed to the more standard "two conductors side by side", as in the BL-a and many other cables for that matter.
Cable geometry (or architecure) plays a huge part in improving performance of any cable, as opposed to just using better quality copper or moving up to silver. As proof of that I made up a pair of IC’s in the helix geometry using CAT 6 throughout and they performed better than the Van den Hul D102 III and the BL/1 IC’s, both of whish use silver plated conductors
It’s a slippery slope once you get bitten by the bug - but totally worth it
itsikhefez - re: the mains connectors - I've tried a few of those as well and the Silver plated copper connectors from Sonar Quest provided exceptional performance.
The silver plating is quite thick and I am yet to see the copper after many connections to the mains supply and to my components.
The IEC connector clamps like a vice - so much so that I've found plugging it into an old component first helps make seating in it the working component a little easier when in the rack
Most connectors use brass pins/clamps, which is not the best material for conducting electricity.
I have also tried the gold plated copper from Sonar Quest and it is an extremely good "second choice", but the silver plated copper delivered the fastest dynamic response.
Here's a link
SILVER PLATED COPPER...
GOLD PLATED COPPER
If some readers consider the spiral helix architecture is a little too adventurous, braiding is another geometry I have tried, using the conductors from a piece of DH Labs Power Plus, Encore and even Furutech.
Granted, you have to "butcher" the cable to remove the three internal conductors from the sleeve + shielding, but the results were significant.
The acid test....
- I made up two power cables, one with Furutech and one with DH Labs bulk cable
- I then removed the three conductors from a 12 gauge extension cables from Home depot and braided them.
- all were terminated with the same mains/IEC connectors
The braided home depot cables provided deeper bass, faster dynamic performance and larger image than both the stock DH labs and Furutech cables
So I then butchered the Furutech and the DH Labs and braided the internal conductors - the results were extremely good and better than the Home Depot braided version
But the best architecture of all is still the Power Helix!
With braiding or the power helix architecture, you do not need to worry about a screen/shield, since the architecture actually rejects any RF that is present in a normal home audio environment. Recording studios may present more problems though.
Sorry to go on, but this is all the stuff I've experienced over the past 4 years - so I'd like readers to get to benefit from it :-)
Based on your experience, do you think that would be worthwhile with the BL-1?Re Let's put it this way - the Copper Harmony will allow the BL-1 to perform to it's fullest potential.
They are also the easiest RCA's I've ever had to connect to a piece of wire.
You can always transfer the Copper Harmony to a better cable at a later date. I've connected some of my Harmony RCA's to different cables several times.
Just some additional comments. I have used the BL-Ag in the past, which is somewhat similar to BL-1, but uses 2 x 23awg solid-core silver. I have done the floating drain wire scenario, but I could never get the cable to sound open enough. I ended up just soldering both the 2 x 23awg solid-core conductors directly to the signal pin of the RCA and soldered the drain wire to ground on both sides of the cable. This really opened up the sound (a single 23awg conductor just sounded too closed in).
Since the BL-1 uses 2 x 20awg stranded conductors, you may not have this problem, but I’ve always found that larger awg will allow more punch/power in the bass and overall better open sound (essentialy, less resistance in the entire cable, and it’s easier and faster for the preamp/source to charge the cable when pushing waveforms). You could experiment with soldering both 20awg conductors to signal pin and soldering drain wire to ground on both sides of interconnect.
On my interconnects nowadays, I always use 2x20awg solid-core for signal conductors (making a 17awg interconnect). This has proved to be the best solution so far.
When I used the BL-Ag I was doing a single-ended RCA cable. RCA only has one signal conductor, the other is just ground (not negative like an XLR). Using just one of the 23awg conductors in BL-Ag for the main signal wire (and doing the ground/floating drain solution) was not enough for good sound. It wasn't until I combined the two 23awg together for the signal wire that it really opened up the imaging/soundstage. The drain wire was just soldered to ground on each end of the RCA cable. The drain/ground wire does not necessarily need to be the same gauge as signal. The ground wire on the RCA doesn't actually carry a signal - it just connects to the ground plane on both source/target circuits.
As far as my own cables are concerned, they are all balanced XLR anyways. I use two sets of braided 20awg solid-core, so each XLR conductor (positive/negative/ground) has two 20awg wires (6 wires total in the cable). This proved to be better than just using one braid of 20awg (3 wires total).
Auxinput 10-27-2016Although of course for a current to flow a complete circuit must be present, and therefore the current corresponding to a signal sent from one component to another must also return to the component which provided the signal. In the case of an RCA cable the return path will usually be the shield if the cable does not provide a separate return conductor. Some fraction of the return current will also follow a different return path if one is present, as would be the case if a ground loop exists. And if the cable includes a shield and a separate return conductor, and if both of them are connected to the RCA ground sleeve at both ends, the return current will divide up between the two paths in inverse proportion to their resistance.
I’m sure you realize all of this, but I thought I’d point it out since others reading the thread may not.
Um, assuming there are no ground loops, and perhaps no other ground path, then the shield would absolutely become part of the circuit. Consider devices without a ground pin, otherwise yes, current would be distributed exactly as stated above.
If I’m paying for pure silver conductors, or fancy litz, etc. with an aluminum foil shield and AL drain, then I would want to avoid having any current in that shield at all. To do that I must avoid connecting the drain at both ends.
Now, what you may like to listen to is another story. :)
@almarg - thinking about this, you're right. There may be a little bit of current going back and forth on the RCA shield/ground, since this connects to the electrical ground on both source/target circuits. However, the primary driver of the audio signal is the main signal wire - as it is the only one connected to the input/output legs of the operation amplifier circuits.
@erik_squires - I understand what you're saying. In a perfect world, it would probably be better ground the shield on only the source end to act as a ground/drain for any EM. I'm just posing an alternate method for experimentation. I never had any problem connecting shield on both end of the RCA cable. In the end, I suppose it's up to whoever is building the cable to decide on isolated drain/shield versus a larger signal conductor with less resistance.
Auxinput 10-27-2016To clarify further, in the case of an unbalanced input the active stage receiving the signal will respond to the difference in voltage between what it receives on its input signal connection and its own circuit ground. That stage will have a certain input impedance, which represents the impedance between its input signal connection and its own circuit ground. Any current flowing into that stage via the signal connection can be thought of as flowing through that input impedance to that circuit ground, and from there back to the source of the signal, via whatever path(s) is or are available. If no return path is available, no signal current will flow, and the input will "float," with unpredictable and perhaps damaging results if the signal line is connected by itself.
So the signal current and the total of the return currents that flow through whatever return paths exist will always be equal, while alternating in direction on each half-cycle of a given frequency. Just as the currents in the hot and neutral conductors of AC wiring are equal and opposite.
Similarly, the output stage of the component providing the signal can be thought of as an ideal voltage source (meaning a voltage source having zero output impedance) in series with some output impedance. And the current it provides can be thought of as flowing through that voltage source and that output impedance, between the output signal connection and the circuit ground of that stage. And if the only return path that is present between it and the component receiving the signal is via the ground sleeve of the RCA output connector, equal and opposite currents will be caused by that voltage source to flow through the center pin and the ground sleeve of that connector. And correspondingly through the cable. Although the currents may be unequal if other voltage sources contribute to what flows through that ground connection.
I don’t know why people are getting confused. It’s exactly the same as with a speaker or AC plug. The circuit, to be a circuit, is a loop.
Try cutting off the neutral wire on an AC plug and see how well your amp plays then. :)
I think part of the confusion is the AC safety ground. You should never rely on the chassis, and AC ground conductor to carry a signal. That’s not what it’s there for. The signal ground and chassis ground should either be completely disconnected, or have high impedance isolation.
And never disconnect the AC safety ground pin.
@williewonka I'm waiting on some cable then I'll be building a couple of your power cables.. I'm interested to hear what change they bring, if any. I'm currently using diy cables I made based on the VH audio designs. However, I filled the PVC tubing that contains the conductor and neutral with aluminum oxide powder to act as a mechanical damper. My conductor and neutral are silver plated copper..
Thanks for posting the designs. I love diy! I just made a y cable using your helical architecture and some plenum cat 5 cable for playing music from my phone. It sounds great and looks pretty. Which is more than I can say about myself..
Todd - if you follow the parts identified on the site I think(hope) you will be pleasantly surprised - but allow the prescribed burn-in. The power cables aren't too bad at 60-80 hours, but the IC's take 300-400 hours before they sound their best - I have no idea why - perhaps the low voltages at play?
What components are the power cables for?
Do you have a good outlet in the wall? I like Pass and Seymour MRI grade outlets from Take Five audio - they clamp like a vice and are reasonably
Here's what PC's I have on my gear so you can get an idea of my setup...
- in the wall - Pass and Seymour MRI outlets
- Power Helix 10 gauge from wall into a distribution box with Pass and Seymour
- Power Helix 10 gauge from wall into a NAIM 5i mkII integrated
- Power helix 12/13 gauge from box to Moon Phono stage
- Power Helix 12/13 from box to Schiit Bifrost
- the Bifrost has a split USB cable - one side power one side signal with a stable external power supply
- all IC's are the Helix MK V
- digital IC - Helix Mk V Digital (which has the Silver Harmony RCA's and copper signal wire - I found a standard Helix MK V with Absolute Harmony and silver signal wire made no difference to the sound when used for digital stuff
I tried different permutations attaching the PC's to components, but the usage described above provided the most optimal results.
I used both DH Labs and Furutech for the live conductor on the PC's and I really can't tell the difference anymore. But that may well depend on the component it's attached too
Keep me posted - I would be most interested to hear your experience.
I finished the cables and they sound great from the start. Though I think a lot may be attributed to the silver plug and IEC connectors. I have a DIY power box wired with 10awg silver plated copper straight through a DIY power cord like the VH audio cords. No IEC connector, just outlets to plug, which I upgraded to a silver Sonarquest during this project. My outlets (wall and box) are all Hubbel 5362 and I have a dedicated 20 amp line to the two outlets in my room, though i only use one. Unless I’m vacuuming.
I made 2 10awg cords.
I ended up using the innards from a power cable I found through your power strip post. It’s the place you purchased your chassis from: vt4c.com. I bought GY-PW8000, which only has two conductors and a smaller gauge ground, but the conductors are teflon insulated, monocrystal (whatever..) rectangular, multigauge copper. And they’re fat. My contact there said they were approx 11awg, but I found them to be fatter than 10awg, maybe not quite 9awg.
I bought the silver sonarquest connectors. It’s funny, my previous DIY cords also had sonarquest, but I hadn’t noticed the silver before.
The cables are for a dared MC-7P tube preamp and a crown xls-1500 amp. I’ll make one for my CD player next. I’ll probably give interconnects a try too, though just in copper so i can compare the sound difference to my current copper cardas cable DIY ICs. I’m a bit limited in budget, as you can tell by my meagre gear, but it’s capable enough for me to be able to notice differences in cables, especially now that i’m beginning to sort out room acoustics.
todd.... glad to hear the cables are working out for you
Your other power upgrades provide a very solid foundation for your system, great choices.
The power cables do sound good from the start, but they do get better with time :-)
The IC's also sound good, but after about 20 hours they start to sound a little harsh. By about 60 hours they start to smooth out and just get better from there.
As for your so called "meagre gear" - your setup is more than capable of highlighting the improvement these cables are capable of conveying, as you will discover :-)
Your system would love the Helix Mark V IC's, but rather than opting for the design on my site, you can scale back to the Silver Harmony RCA's and use a quality copper signal conductor in place of the silver and still get great performance. You can then "upgrade" as time and budget (and desire) allows.
what speaker cables are you using?
You are pretty much following the same route I took, in that first I selected some good components, then sorted the cables and finally sorted the room treatments,
keep me posted on your progress
Todd - something that came to mind - with components that have higher quality power supplies - improvements tend to be more "subtle"
For example - for a component with a small power supply - you might hear an improvement in dynamic performance, bass depth and control etc..
Whereas for a component such as your pre-amp - you will probably find more subtle improvements in things like dynamic speed, clarity, resolution and a mode complete image with more subtle venue acoustics
Noticing the subtleties was something a I had to really listen for, but once you notice them they become something you easily find missing in other less adept systems.
@williewonka , I just wrote you a novel, but it wasn't posted for some reason.
I definitely noticed more of a difference when I put a power cable on the amp than when I put one on the pre.. But the amp has a switching power supply, so I think they are more susceptible to current restriction..
I'm waiting on a small inline component before I build any new ICs.. Then I'll start messing with building them, as the component well require different terminations.
My speaker cables are DIY, braided cat5 plenum cable. 7 lengths braided to form a 9awg cable, terminated with audioquest silver plated BFA bananas. I love their sound..
Thanks for all your posts, by the way. They've been a great source of info.
Todd - regarding the Harmony connectors...
I have tried all of the connectors on both analogue and digital versions of my Helix cables and here are my observations/opinions...
For digital SPDIF interconnects...
--- I found the Silver Harmony were more than adequate and provided better SQ than the Copper Harmony
--- using either the Pure Harmony or Absolute harmony did not improve SQ in my system
--- having said that - my highest digital resolution is 24/192
For analogue interconnects...
--- I would not bother buying the Copper Harmony because the Silver Harmony are so much better and well worth the additional expense
--- I would also not bother with the Pure Harmony because for the additional expense of the Absolute Harmony they provide much better SQ
I have also tried them all on my TT’s once piece loom and stand by my findings for Analogue IC’s above
Having said that - we all have a budget that constrains us, so pick the very best RCA you can afford for the application it is to address.
When soldering the Harmony RCA’s - plug them into an unused component (if you have one) or get an RCA socket - it helps dissipate the heat so as not to melt the plastic housing and also makes for a much better joint
FYI - the Harmony RCA's take time to settle and burn in also - so give them lots time.
- 1-2 days to settle after connecting OR re-connecting them
- upwards of 100 hours to burn-in - 200 hours yields their best performance
Regarding Speaker cables...
My only stab at DIY was using CS-122 and D-352 bulk cable from Van den Hul, which performed very well and were in my system for a very long time
I did try a couple of models of Kimber Kable, but found the Van den Hul performed better in my system
But just as an FYI...
I later had the opportunity to try KLE Innovations gZero 2, gZero 6 and an older version of one of their newer ZPURITY cable.
- the gZero2 bested my DIY cables significantly
- the gZero6 provided faster dynamics, deeper bass and better image than the gZero2
- The zPurity provided marginal improvements over the gZero 6 in my system - but not enough to warrant my buying them
- I had all of the above cables in my system for 2-3 weeks, which allowed a certain amount of settling and burn-in time
At first glance, I found the KLE Innovations cables skinny, compared to my 10 gauge D352's, which left me wondering how they would compare - it only took one track to hear the vast improvement.
I currently use the gZero 2 on my AV system and gZero 6 on my Audio system and have stopped looking.
I have also tried some other pretty expensive big name brands, but have not found anything that outperform the KLE Innovations products - yet :-)
I have not tried a DIY solution along the lines of the Helix geometry for speaker cables - mainly because making long cables in the Helix style becomes very difficult.
But I’m still pondering a solution :-)
Dude, thanks or that list! A great starting point for me.
I could conceivably do helix speaker cables since I only need 5 ft cables.. Though might length differences in the + & - adversely affect the sound? I understand why they won't in the power circuit, but I don't know enough about the speaker output circuit to know if length differences matter. Do you?
Again, thanks for the knowledge.
Todd - The extended length of the neutral conductor will not impact SQ at all - in the grand scheme of things, when you are travelling at close to the speed of light - a few extra feet is nothing.
What's more important in the helix design is the low capacitance and inductance and their ability to reject EMI/RFI.
You will notice that for the power cable and the IC's, the neutral conductor is thicker than the signal/live conductor - so adhere to that design point.
For Speaker cables I would try a high quality solid copper conductor of 14 gauge and for the neutral I would use two 14 gauge stranded standard quality conductors (equivalent to 11 gauge)
Keep me posted as to how you get on
This is quite interesting actually.
I built 2 IC's, one with Mogami W2534 and Neutrik Profi, and one with BL-1 and Furutech FP-126.
Listening with my Senn HD650 (Creek 5350SE amp + Creek Destiny CDP) the BL-1 is very bright, even harsh sometimes.
This is odd because the Destiny is a very smooth player and the HD650 have the reputation of being rolled off the top.
At first I thought this was because of a recent recap of the CDP, but I dont have this issue with the Mogami IC.
I am reluctant to conclude that the BL-1 could have such an impact, but there is no doubt that the sound is harsh with that cable. It is very noticable (painful in the ear at moderate volumes), and that is not the case with the Mogami.
Wondering also if the Furutech RCA may be the difference here and not the cable