Does it matter the wire gauge used in interconnects?


I am thinking of trying my hand on building some DIY interconnects. It will be balanced (XLR) and 10 feet long. I have seen interconnects made with thin 30 gauge wire, is there an advantage using super thin gauge wire?
I was thinking of using 20 gauge but is that too thick for interconnects?

ozzy
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grannyring,
Thank you for chiming in. I don't understand why doubling up the cable is better than just using a heavier gauge wire? And, I need 10 foot lengths.

ozzy
Back in the early 2000s, quite a few of us were building cables, which generated quite a bit of discussion over at Audio Asylum. In response to this question:
What are the ideal LRC specs for analog interconnects and loudspeaker cables? Would a zero value for all three be ideal?

Jon Risch, a speaker designer for Peavy who used to post often on AA about cable construction, replied:

According to theory, yes, zero for all three would be nice, however, since this is not possible, there must be trade-offs. Any attempt to lower inductance will often cause the capacitance to rise. Interconnects like a low capacitance, while speaker cable shine when their inductance is low. Low resistance is critical for a speaker cable, while it is not much of an issue for IC’s.
In my experience:

  • 20-28 awg wire is common for IC construction
  • geometry including spacing and uniformity is critical
  • dielectric material, shielding, stranded vs. solid core wire, and connectors are also important
  • regardless of the connectors used, they most often get plugged into bog-standard Neutrik connectors that most equipment manufacturers use
  • I often used the expensive Furutech 601/602 and Xhadow connectors (which use silver plated pure copper) are also good while for a less expensive option Vampire XLRs are good
I finally concluded that I could make better sounding ICs by using manufactured bulk cable, which will have much more uniform geometry than what we can do by DIY. Here are a few sources for pretty good manufactured bulk cables, although there are others:

Unfortunately, when they stopped manufacturing OCC wire, IMO the quality of bulk cable choices declined. Interestingly, Furutech sort of breaks the mold by offering some larger gauge bulk IC cables all the way up to 14awg (see link above) - I have no idea how those sound.

Other choices would be to use a variety of bulk Belden wire available including their 8402 cables that the designers of the SPEC amplifiers consider to contribute to the "Real Sound" they desire. I made a couple of pairs of those and they do have a nice tone. You can read about the SPEC folks and their cable choices here:

Back in 1990, when I had Stan Warren mod by Philips CD-80, he told me to just go to a jewelers store and get some thin, high quality silver wire and use an oversized sheath (I forget which terminations he reco'd). 

All the best,
Nonoise
You can build your 10 foot XLR ICs this wavy Ken. First, the double sounds best based on my testing and builds over the years. I have built some 400 sets of ICs over the past 4 years and taken the time to listen to all manner of conductors, gauge, shielding and geometry.

I highly suggest you build using the Helix Method as given in the link provided. I would use the Vampire pure copper XLR connectors. Use the VH Audio 18 gauge solid core Copper Airlok conductor on pins 2 and 3. Twist conductors 2&3 every 2 or so inches. The VH Audio wire costs $4 foot so that will cost you around $160. For the ground wire on pin 1 you use Take Five Audio 16 gauge stranded copper, silver plated, cryo’d wire. It costs some $1 per foot. Use a 4-1 ratio to the VH Audio conductors. So you will need a total of 80 feet. Your total cost will be around $300 - $350 if you make this standard, not double, Helix XLR IC. The cost is closer to $600 if you double up on the conductors and make a double helix. The double will sound the best, but not twice as good 🙂.

Another way to build a nice set of XLR ICs in a more conventional manner is this...,

Use the same VH Audio conductors, twisted pair on pins 2&3, and use a high quality tinned copper braid shield tube as the pin 1 conductor. The VH Audio twisted pair runs inside the 1/4 inch or so diameter copper braid. Now you have a shielded XLR cable which will sound very good. Not as good as the Helix, but very good. I have compared. The Helix design is special giving the blackest background and most open sound I have yet to hear in a cable. Very resolving, but smooth and natural at the same time. Uncanny. The outer Helix acts as a Faraday cage.

Both of these builds can can be improved sonically by doubling up on the conductors.

Helix Double

- Two twisted pairs of VH Audio conductors for pins 2 & 3. One twisted pair to each pin. I would twist the two individual twisted pair sets together every 3-4 inches.
- Two TFA conductors for the Helix ground.

Standard Shielded XLR

- Same individual tinned braided copper tube shield as the single - pin 1.  
- Two twisted pairs of VH Audio conductors as above - pins 2&3. 

Use 4% Silver WBT solder. Be careful not to nick or mar the wire conductors when striping off the insulation. Use as little solder as possible to make a secure solder connection.
I will share here that I have made double helix RCA ICs and SPDIF cables for audio friends that preferred them to cables costing up to  $7800.  Not joking here. It really happens regularly.