Anyone else making their own cables?


Over the years I have owned a lot of different brands of very sought after and very expensive cables(interconnections both balanced and single ended and speaker cables). Each time selling and then trying another. I recently have been experimenting with making my own. I have been doing a lot of reading on the subject of design. Also I have been dissecting some old inexpensive ones I had lying around. I am starting with ic's. From my experience and what I have read, when done right balanced is the superior method. What I had not realized is that single ended cables can be balanced as well. In fact Annolog(vinyl) starts out as balanced. This is the way I have chosen to make my cables. Also I have found that grounding at the receiving end and simply connecting the grounds at the sending side works best and in my view is the only real reason for directional cables. I have been using wbt and eichmann ends. I would like to hear from others with knowledge of design, cable types and materials, soldering, end type(brands) and their benefits and covers to improve final appearance. I would also be interested in any other point I have not mentioned or to simply disagree with any assertion I or anyone else makes on this subject. I do realize that cables are the single most controversial subject in this hobby. I am not trying to settle that argument. Just offer another option. It may even prove cheaper to buy a brand cable then make your own. I do not have a degree in engerneering nor am I an electrician or computer genius. Just a long time audiophile. My single ended cables are for vinyl set up(turntable to step up transformer to phono stage). Balanced everywhere else. My system is fully balanced(as earlier described) from end to end. Thanks for informative insights.
Convert?fit=crop&h=128&rotate=exif&w=128pkoegz
Pkoegz,

I make my own cables -- balanced ICs, speaker wires and PCs. I run the ICs in series with Elrod and Shunyata and the PCs in series with Shunyata.
you may want to post on AA cable asylum there are many DIYers. Duster seems to know his stuff but there are many others.

fwiw
Constructing your own cables can be rewarding, fun and educational. IMO you are off to a good start by;

1. owning a lot of different brands of very sought after and very expensive cables,
2. experimenting with making your own,
3. doing a lot of reading on the subject of design,
4. dissecting some old inexpensive cable you had lying around, and
5. realizing the benefit of balanced construction, whether for balanced or single-ended cables.

I have taken apart more than a few manufactured cables and what I typically learn is that (other than those with network boxes, active dbs, etc.) cables are basically wire, insulation, geometry and connectors. Several have been quite disappointing in how uninspiring the construction was, compared to the marketing hype.

In my experience the most important attributes, in order of most important to least important, are wire gauge and geometry; wire material, metallurgy, purity, and processing; wire insulation; connectors and method used to attach the connectors; cable length; cryo and/or magnetic treatment, and cable conditioning with active signals (e.g., cable cooker). Cable routing between equipment is also important.

The main advantages of manufactured cables are the R&D that goes into choosing the final materials and geometery, and the uniformity of construction that is somewhat beyond what can be achieved by a typical DIY construction. One way I have found to remove the uniformity issue is to construct DIY cables by terminating some of the excellent bulk wire/cable available through on-line vendors. Although, I also believe a carefully constructed DIY cable, using good materials and geometry, can beat many of the manufactured cables out there.

Good luck. Keep us posted on your progress and results. Also, as Phil says, you may get more activity on a post like this over at AA cable asylum.
I've basically stopped buying commercial cables years ago, not a good value IMO, and instead went to making my own, much better value and much better results vs cost.

You can make a kick ars cable for under $100 that would cost you $700-2500 from a cable company.Y(EARS)MV, but you should give it a try.
"What I had not realized is that single ended cables can be balanced as well."

Actually, single ended cables can't be balanced, otherwise they would be balanced cables and not single ended. I think you meant to say, cables with xlr connectors aren't always balanced and you need to be careful as to what the internal make up of the cable is before you buy it.
Zd542, no I ment what I said. Single ended phono cables are balanced. They have two conductors attached to the rca plug. One to the center plug the other to the outside housing. Plus a shield ground wire that is separately attached to the sending and receiving units housings. Some times the ground is connected at only one housing end(my preference the receiving end) and just both cable grounds together at the other end. A standard single end cable has a single conductor to center plug and a shield wire attached to housing of the plug. Some times they have two conductors except one of them meets at the ends with a shield wire which connects both together to the outer housing of the rca plug. This is not balanced. Now both single ended balanced and standard balance cables are only of value if the sending and receiving units are balanced as well. The phono cables I have dissected are all wired this way as well as all the balanced ended connector type cables. Also it is my understanding as this is how the phono cartridge and tonearm are wired. Also well designed balanced phono stages, amps and preamps among other audio electronics are designed this way as well. Sorry for the long and maybe poorly explained description. If someone sees flaws or can articulate it better please do.
The cable that grounds the chassis together is not the same as a balanced cable.

A balanced cable is related to balanced circuit design.
Did not say that but please explain Raymonda if you have some other way the cable is designed. I only know from what I have seen and read. I am very willing to listen(read) and learn from others. Please explain?
01-26-15: Pkoegz
If someone sees flaws or can articulate it better please do.
Here's my take:

Single-ended by definition means the same thing as unbalanced. So a single-ended cable or connection cannot be balanced.

It is possible for a balanced connection to be implemented via RCA connectors, but that is not usually done.

A balanced cable will have two symmetrical conductors, which are often twisted together and are often surrounded by a shield.

A balanced connection, which can also be referred to as a balanced interconnection or a balanced interface, will utilize a balanced cable, and the interface circuits in the connected components will utilize the cable in a manner such that the two conductors have the same impedance between each conductor and ground.

A balanced connection will often, although not always, convey signals on the two conductors that are of essentially the same amplitude but have opposite polarities. On the other hand, if one conductor is provided with a signal and the other is provided with zero volts (i.e., ground), that still constitutes a balanced connection, as long as the two conductors are symmetrical and have equal impedances to ground.

A balanced cable terminated with XLR connectors will have a signal conductor connected between pin 2 of the two connectors, and the other signal conductor connected between pin 3 of the two connectors. The shield will be connected between pin 1 of the the two connectors, and occasionally also to the housing of the connectors.

Some manufacturers use the same wire type for their XLR and RCA cables. In those cases, if RCA connectors are used one conductor will connect the RCA center pins together, and the other conductor will connect the RCA shells/sleeves together. The shield will usually be connected to the RCA shell at just one end. That end should preferably be connected to the component which drives the cable, as Pkoegz indicated (although I think he inadvertently left out the word "not" when he said "I have found that [NOT] grounding at the receiving end and simply connecting the grounds at the sending side works best and in my view is the only real reason for directional cables").

RCA jacks are available in forms which may or may not isolate the shell from the chassis of the component they are mounted on. Well designed modern components usually utilize isolated jacks.

Components utilizing XLR connectors should ideally connect pin 1 to chassis, but in many cases connect it to circuit ground/signal ground instead, resulting in increased susceptibility to ground loop issues or other adverse consequences. See this paper.

Regards,
-- Al
Since I am so ignorant of the technical details of electrical or electronics that I still don't understand the difference between chassis ground, circuit ground, and signal ground, I am very hesitant to suggest that Al may not be 100% correct. However, fools rush in, so please take this with a grain of salt...

While there may be a pro audio standard for how XLR plugs and jacks are wired, I believe that there is no absolute standard in consumer audio equipment. Some audio gear uses a different pin out/in. I had an Electrocompaniet EMC-1 CDP that was wired differently and so I had to have custom-wired XLR cables made up.

Also, remember that some equipment has XLR jacks and/or plugs, but the circuits they tie to are not true balanced circuits. In that case, the jacks or plugs function as adapters.

I hope that Al (Hi, guy, get much snow?) or someone else will correct me if I am wrong.
Hi Michael (Swampwalker),

I don't see any inconsistency between our two posts.

Regarding the EMC-1 you had, equipment that is made in some European and Asian countries sometimes applies the non-inverted signal in the balanced signal pair to XLR pin 3, and the inverted signal to pin 2, rather than the opposite which is the usual convention in the USA and many other countries. In those cases, to maintain correct polarity/absolute phase, if one considers that to be audibly significant (and if one is using multiple sources, so that absolute phase cannot be restored by swapping + and - at the amplifier outputs or the speaker terminals), the cable would have to connect pin 2 at one end to pin 3 at the other end, and vice versa.

I suspect that is what you are referring to. If not, and if pin 1 were used for a signal connection, that would have been really oddball, and incompatible with conventionally designed cables and components.

Re your last question, fortunately and surprisingly Snowmaggedon didn't materialize down here. Only about 8 inches so far. Seems like the storm moved further east than expected, and eastern MA and southeastern NH are having the worst of it.

Best,
-- Al
If I can jump in on the topic, I don't believe the OP meant that single-ended cables can transfer a signal in the same way a balanced cable does, or that single-ended cables can interface between two balanced components, but rather that the design of a signal ended cable is sometimes referred to as a balanced design in cases where the positive and negative conductors are of the same type and gauge, and treated the same geometrically. This is most prevalent as a twisted pair type cable, most often made with a separate braided ground shield that is only connected at the source end. This type of single-ended cable is in contrast to those where the positive and negative conductors are dissimilar, such as in coaxial cables where the braid shield also serves as the ground/return conductor.
Thanks, Tim (Mitch2). Well said, as always. After re-reading PKoegz's posts I suspect that you are right. If so, my suggestion would be that it would be better to refer to such cables as having a symmetrical pair of conductors, or something to that effect. Or perhaps saying that they employ symmetrical construction, or perhaps even that they employ balanced construction. Saying that some "single-ended cables are balanced" seems like an oxymoron.

Best regards,
-- Al
Hi Al- Not really on-topic but no, the EMC-1 did not have inverted phase, it flat out did not work w conventionally wired XLR cables. No sound. Nada.
Hi Michael,

That's really strange. I took a look at some rear panel photos of the EMC-1, including the -UP and MkIII versions as well as the no suffix version. The XLR connectors appeared to be standard 3-pin male XLR's, as would be expected for outputs. In most cases a pin diagram for the XLR connectors was marked on the rear panel, which showed the standard convention used in the USA and many other countries of pin 1 = ground, pin 2 = +, pin 3 = -. The physical locations of the pins that were depicted in the diagrams properly corresponded to the indicated pin numbers.

The only possible explanation I can think of for why you got no sound using a standard cable is that the connectors were not wired per the diagram, but were miswired with pins 1 and 2 swapped (a mistake that's not hard to make, because those pins are symmetrically located), AND the design of the unit was (as is sometimes the case) such that the signal on pin 3 is generated by an inverter stage whose input is the signal that is applied to pin 2. In that situation both signals in the balanced signal pair could very conceivably have been forced to 0 volts (i.e., grounded) when the CDP was connected through a conventionally designed XLR cable to a preamp having pin 1 grounded per the standard pin convention.

Best,
-- Al
Al said
In most cases a pin diagram for the XLR connectors was marked on the rear panel
Interesting...it's been quite a while but as best as I can recall, the unit I had did not have the pin-outs marked. And I think I remember that it was "upgraded to -UP", so maybe it was an early version that had non-standard pin-out, which was changed for later production. When I sold it, I sold it w the cables since they would not have been good for anything else. Or maybe I dreamed the whole thing...
Pkoegz - you can see the construction method of my cables if you look at my "System" Link below

The IC's are all single ended and mostly use the KLE Innovations Absolute Harmony RCA's - the SPDIF uses the Pure Harmony.

I've played with different architectures for a couple of years and the current design works best with the least cost.

They take around 300 hours to fully burn in and their cost range from $180 to $240 for a 1 meter pair - depending on the RCA's used.

I'm currently running my DIY IC's on my digital rig and they are exceptional performers.

I've compared them to some expensive silver Kimber XLR IC's, priced around $1200, on a friends more expensive system and found my DIY's to be significantly more detailed, dynamic and engaging.

The power cables provide the best performance I am still yet to beat with store bought cables - not that there aren't many that may beat them - just not for the price of their construction.

I've compared my power cables to a couple of store bought cables priced $1000 and $1200 for a 5ft cable and mine appear to be on par with their performance.

The SPDIF was my latest experiment - I never thought it would work as well as it does. I've tried both 1/2 meter and 2 meter cables and there was no difference in performance using sample rates from 16/44 to 24/192.

They are significantly better than my old Van den Hul SPDIF cables and edged out one very good cable I borrowed priced around $700 (1 meter). I'm currently using this between my v-link192 and my Schiit Bifrost DAC.

I believe the KLEI Harmony RCA Plug range are largely responsible for the effectiveness of my IC's - using other RCA's will not yield the same results - I've tried Furutech and a few other brands - but they all pale by comparison.

Some "light" reading... Cable Architecture

Hope you find it of interest :-)

Reards...