I'm not a serious DIYer, but I have a couple comments. I've read about several speaker cable manufacturers touting the benefits of multiple individually insulated strands of smaller gage wire. If I recall correctly in the 22-24 gage range. This is essentially what you did with the CAT 5 wire. Repeating that with higher quality wire would be the next step. In the case of silver wire that could be expensive, but the benefit may be worth it.
A lot goes into making a cable. You have to be careful especially if you are using silver. Before you spend money on parts, have a look at Clear Day Cables web site. They make solid core silver speaker cables for prices so low, its hard to believe. You can spend just as much, if not more for DIY, but its not likely that you'll be able to build a better cable.
That's what drew me to the idea of the cat 5 in the first place. The reports I keep reading of solid silver in a loose dielectric are universally positive, with many saying it's the best they've heard. But damn, silver wire isn't cheap. But none of the higher grade materials are. I guess that's why this is a step up... Better materials cost more.
@sfall - I checked it clear day when I started researching silver cables. They are a great price, but not quite as thick as I want. I think they were 14 gauge.. my DIY cost for 10awg cable is about the same as the cost of their finished cables, whatever gauge they are.
The silver I'm considering is the same type clear day uses: .999 dead soft.
Thanks for the heads up. I heard great things about them, which is what lead me in this direction in the first place.
I've done the cat 5 with Teflon plenum, overall sound surprisingly nice... very high capacitance, you would need to be aware of that when using these... As far as silver solid core in Teflon, I'm sure that you are aware that silver can get bright on you in some configurations. For me that's expensive if I ended up not liking them. My cables that I like best are litz... similar to what you've done but true pure litz in cotton...It you can get some light gauge solid core litz, it is a highly detailed full and dynamic cable. Good luck,
@timlub @steakster thanks gentlemen. When I was researching 'recipes' I did come across mentions of the high capacitance of cables made from many individually insulated wires. Neither of the class D amps I've used the CAT 5 cables with have had a problem with that. And steakster, I remember reading something you wrote (I think it was you..) extolling the virtues of using 20awg wire to make PCs. If it wasn't you, then there's someone else out there with your love of 20awg! Thanks for the links.
Todd - me again :-)
From what I understand, one method of construction that appears to work
- only the signal/live wire needs to be silver - stranded will be better for longevity (more flexible)
- you can get away with a single 18-20 gauge conductor for the signal/Live
- the neutral only need to be made from good quality OCC copper
- the neutral should be 2-4 times the gauge of the signal
- the neutral can be made from 2-3 seperate conductors tiwsted tightly together
- the neutral should be loosely wound around the signal - not tight like the Helix Cables - one wind every 2-3 inches
- add 2-3 layers of expandable nylon sleeve over the signal to separate the two conductors.
I have tried the helix design on a short cable and it works very well
- I use conductors from Kimber cables - great quality copper and easy to separate the braids
Hope that helps
Thanks gentlemen. @williewonka I’m sceptical of using such a small signal conductor.. but I was thinking about a helix type design to save the cost of a silver return conductor.
@czarivey was there any particular solid conductor wire you found better than any other? Or are you not that bothered with endless messing about and just want to listen to the damned music already? :-)
Well, when there was time I was really willing to experiment, but definitely not now when I prefer just to listen to the damned or divine music depending on the mood or desire.
By that time I didn't have much choices or brands, but can assure that I used uninsulated bare copper wire shaped so they don't 'kiss' each other literally clamping that bare wire onto each terminal speaker and amp.
Todd - conventional wisdom says use larger gauge wire.
I was using 10 gauge silver plated wire from Van Den hul.
Then I received a pair of KLE Innovations gZero2 speaker cables - I wondered how could these skinny little cables better my 10 gauge?
Well - they trounced the Van den Hul.
They use a smaller gauge signal and a heavier gauge neutral.
Many power cvables are using 18 gauge wire and this application is for speakers, which carry a lot less power at normal listening levels.
I would try it first with some cat6 first a single strand and then a double strand to see what the differences are. Then you could move up to silver once you’ve found the correct gauge formula.
You could try the conductor from Vanden Hul IC cable - its great copper and silver plated. Or to start with try the conductors from DH Labs BL-1 IC cable - it's a lot cheaper
Hope that helps
Todd - here's an 18 gauge Van den Hul speaker cable made specifically for speakers. High quality silver plated copper you could use for the signal - cheaper than solid silver and very effective
I used VDH cables for many years and they always provide excellent sound quality.
Another option would be a 16 gauge silver plated Mil Spec wire from Take Five Audio
If you go with a helix design you can ease up on the number of "winds" per in inch.
I would start with one wind every inch and then try 3-4 winds per inch.
The problem will be keeping the neutral evenly wound. This might help
I've also found keeping the two conductors completely separate by an air gap wider than 1/2" worked very well - so give that a try as well
Keep me/us posted on your findings - Thanks :-)
I have previously stated my own speaker wire solution. I take a one foot pair of the top of the line MG Audio Design speaker wires and attach them to my speakers. Presently the are a pair of Martin/Logan SL-3's. The MG Audio Design wires are the very same ones that Arnie Nudell and Paul McGowan personally in their own personal audio systems. A one foot pair of their top of the line speaker wires go for $900. OK, between the MG Audio Design speaker wires and my amplifier I am using 18 gage Jenna Lab's hook up wires. They cost $6 a foot. I am using 3 individual Jenna Lab's hook up wires to each of the individual MG Audio Design wires-that is 12 of them total. As I have my audio equipment right next to my chair-to the right. Thus I require long stretches of speaker wires in total. Thus the lengths of the Jenna Lab's hook up wires are of unequal lengths. I am using 6, 17 foot lengths of them to my left speaker, and 6, 10 foot lengths on the right speaker. It averages out to a 14.5 length in total. Total cost cmes to $1879, with $7 postage added for the Jenna Labs's wires. OK< the result is a truly top end sound. That is for sure. I discovered such a combination of wires by mostly chanch. but generally got the idea well over 30. ears ago when I used to deal with Ken Mavrick, an audio dealer at the time in West Hollywood, California. Ken used to be a dealer for Bud Fried and learned much about speaker construction from Bud himself. Then Ken began experimenting with rewiring speakers with Randall Research hookup wires at the time. Anyway, long ago Ken went thru Randall Research, next Cardas, then Kimber, and finally Purist Audio Design hook up wires. About 10 years ago I got back in contact with Ken and learned about Jenna Lab's wires. About 10 years ago I was able to get a one foot pair of Shunyata's own top of the line speaker wires for free. I then began experimented using them and Jenna Lab hook up wires in different combinations and eventually came up with my present solution. It really works. If there is any loss by adding the Jenna Lab's 18 gage hook up wires it is very little. For myself it is the choice between mediocre audio audio reproduction and audio to die for. It is as simple as that. Cost verses performance. Arnie Nudell, Paul McGowan and many members of the Colorado Audio Society prefer MG Audio Design speaker wires to the latest Nordhost top of the line wires. The top of the line MG Audio Design interconnects go for $1600 for a one meter pair. Nordhost cost $16,999 for a .6 meter pair. I am presently using half meter pairs of MG Audio Design wires-they go for $900. By the way, Paul McGowan is planning to offer a version of the MG Audio Design interconnect wires himself. He stated thus last month in his own daily internet post. Check it out. Living myself within walking distance of PS Audio in Denver I will have to visit them one of these days. By the way, my speaker wire combination only took minutes to create. It is so simple. And it works. Something like this can only be tried out to see if it works. It either works, or it does not. My wire combination works. I am retired and home almost always. If one is in Boulder Colorado, give me a call at (720) 550-6908 and check it out.
Wow, some great ideas in here! Willie, damn you! I was all set to buy some silver, make some cables and call it done for a few years. Now you've got me thinking and wondering about all kinds of possible ideas. Though, to be fair, in a cable discussion months ago we talked about helix speaker cables.. I just never got around to it.
Alan - I would love to hear that set up. I will call when I'm back in Boulder. Your wiring solution sounds very non typical and interesting, but is 6 times my budget, so that's not an option. Maybe one day, after I hear it, I'll sell my children for funds.
toddverrone give me a call when you get back. The prices that I quoted are for a long run, necessary as to my audio setup. A regular speaker wire pair would most likely be between say 6 to a 8 foot pair in total. Obviously the shoter length of speaker wires, the greater the cost. When I eventually made my present wire system I had by chanch all the wires that I am presently using so there was no added cost at the time. As this is a very simple process to actually put it all together, one can figure out beforehand what exactly to order. The only actuall work is cutting and stripping the 12 Jenna Lab 18 gage hook up wires. Is very simple and just takes minutes to do.By th way, if using the same mono Baskim King amplifiers as Arnie Nudell and Paul McGowan, possibly the same $900, one foot pair of MG Audio Design speaker wires that I myself am using in my own speaker wire configueration. That is something to think about.
Todd - an 18 gauge twin lead mains cable is rated to handle 10 amps at mains voltage
And - that is continuous power - it can handle much higher transient spikes - and music is just a series of transient spikes - not a continuous current draw - e.g. like an electric motor.
I do not believe your amps, driving your speakers would come anywhere near the current limitations of an 18 gauge cable - even when driving them at insanely high volumes.
Granted, transient spikes could reach fairly high peaks in current levels
But the higher quality signal conductor you are using will handle those fast moving transients with ease.
Once the current is "used up" i.e. by moving the drivers in the speakers - the residual current in the neutral is, by comparison, quite small.
So - you might be thinking that the neutral should be of a smaller gauge at this point ?
Wellll - that larger gauge neutral conductor is required to keep the neutral side "of the entire circuit (amp included)" as close to zero volts as possible. So the "thicker pipe" will conduct that residual current away very quickly
If you are still concerned - you could use 16 gauge for the signal.
To answer your question - my amp is 50 watts (but those are NAIM WATTS) and my speakers are 89db - only one db more than your own speakers.
NAIM is a high current design the uses a large toroid transformer. Even at high levels it’s always been cool to the touch. Which may be an indication that the "real time" current drawer is actually quite low.
Hope that helps :-)
And keep us posted as to your progress
Thanks! I will keep you posted. I understand the big neutral conductor. Makes sense. I'm just so sceptical of going less than 12 gauge for the signal. I could do 12awg signal then 2x12awg for neutral.. thoughts?
And I'm glad I'm experimenting again with cheaper materials. I just blew my budget for silver wire on records and pool chemicals. Ha!
Todd: Actually I am only using the same exact Odyssey Khartago extreme amplifier that Johnathan Vallin wrote about a few years ago. Supposidly it is the same ampliier that Alan Wolfe of Magico personally used to evaluate his speakers. Although it is rated at 110 watts, I am using an Audio Research tube LS27 line stage preamplifier at high gain. On my Martin/Logans they work great. Still it is the next upgrade I would make if I had the money. In my personal opinion, a true high quality tube amplifier is the way to go, but it is not practical for my situation. Anyway, with my speaker wire combination. there should be no problems at all. Actually right now, depending on the audio source being used as well as the type of music being played, a readout on my LS27 of only 10 to 12 is usually sufficient. That is very low, although again, that is on it's high gain setting. One would not believe how "big" a 110 watt per channel amplifier can perform.
Todd: I must add that my speaker "solution" is of true refrence quality. I am not kidding. It is mainly the MG Audio Design wires themself, but the numerous Jenna Lab's 18 gage hook up wires make possible the essance of the MG Audio Design wires audio reproduction itself. And, considering what I get out of this wire arrangement, I truly believe that they justify their cost. Overall if one simply considers attempting to come anywhere close to the performance of say the Speaker wires that say Michael Fremer himself uses and their cost, and my own speaker wire "solution"', and consider the cost difference-well then you would understand where I am coming from.
Todd - Without getting into the design specifics of your amps,,,
From the web...
Can I get a shock from the speaker connections on my Amp?So in very "general" terms, suppose you amps output voltage is 50 volts
- To deliver 500 watts output would require 10 amps.
In order to keep it simple - and in very general terms...
- the current carrying capacity of a conductor is specific to the gauge of the conductor.
18 gauge conductors can handle 16 amps contiuous for chassis applications
Power transmission limits of 2.3 amps are for much longer runs than those employed for a speaker cable
So the 10 amp rating previously quoted seems about right
Also remember - THIS IS CONTINUOUS POWER !!!
The amp will not come close to the 10 amp continuous at the loudest of levels.
But - if it makes you feel more comfortable use 12 gauge
Regards - Steve :-)
Steve - I understand. I’m aware that 18 awg is plenty to handle the current of most amps.. but from past experience, fat cables sound better in my system to me.
However! That may be because of the fatness of the neutral.. I’m willing to keep an open mind, but I tend to keep operating based on what has worked in the past until I’m satisfied that the new way of thinking is legit. I’ve no reason to doubt you, my mind just works that way.
Alan - I find your solution very interesting, in that just a 1’ piece of wire could make that much of a difference. And I’m happy you’ve found something that works for you and is unique. I definitely don’t judge you or think poorly of you for spending what you have on cables. I just don’t have that kind of budget right now. Thanks for the input though.. I keep hearing great things about Jenna..
I have tried Silver Cables, Both from clear day cables and then building my own from Neotech Silver. Overall i found the sound transparent but fatigue would creep on session that lasted over an hour.
Neotech Hook up Copper Solid may work but their is a seller on Ebay selling Neotech cables for cheap.
Todd - I know exactly where you are coming from - I was that way too - up until quite recently :-)
I used to have 10 gauge Van den Hul D352 silver plated copper that I thought were terrific.Never found anything to better them. I started with VDH 14 gauge, then 12 and finally the 10 gauge D352 - each time the bass got better
Here's what changed mt mind
Here's what cemeted my new found beliefs
Short Story - I no longer make pre-listening judgement s based on cable girth - like I had done in the past.
- make a set of neutral conductors from the wire you will finally use
>> make 2 sets of signal wires
------one set from an 16 or 18 gauge extension cord (home depot)
------ a second set from a 12 gauge extension cord (home depot)
- the copper will be of a similar quality
- so any difference in sound will be down to the gauge of the conductor and the geometry of the finished cable
I've taken this approach with my helix cables and it is an affordable way of proving a theory - it is time consuming, but rewarding
Hope that helps - Steve
Todd - I have not "dismantled" either gzero2 or 6 cables, but the visible part of the gZero6 leads has two conductors twisted tightly together for the neutral - the signal conductors looked identical. The individual neutral conductors may have bee a slightly large gauge also
Very early on I purchased Stager Silver solids, which were a tightly twisted pair. From what I have read, twisting conductors tightly disrupts the effectiveness of RFI/EMI - hence a screen is not necessary.
I have never made my own speaker cables simply because tightly twisting a 10 ft conductors would prove extremely difficult.
However, I did find this wire the other day - it might be useful for a neutral conductor
The two 16 gauge conductors used as a single wire would be 13 gauge - Using two of them would give you a 10 gauge - used with a 12 gauge signal/live would probably work well
I think the fact they are "tinned" would be OK for the neutral, but I would not use them for the signal
If I did construct some speaker cables I'd probably try this cable together with the MilSpec 18 or 16 gauge running through this teflon tube
https://www.takefiveaudio.com/categories/118-convoluted-teflon-tubing-flexes-without-kinking (from above)
Sorry I could not provide better info.
Regards - Steve
Todd - take a look at these conductors from DH Labs
I like DH Labs wire a lot, as you know - best bang for the buck in my books
BTW the pricing on the AG- wires is incorrect - the price on their web site is for silver plated copper and not solid silver
BTW - I just ordered the twisted Beldon wire above and the 16 gauge silver plated mil-spec.
Figured I'd give it a whirl :-)
I also have some Vanden Hull CS-122 that I can use in place of the 16 gauge Mil Spec to see if there is any difference from a gauge perspective
What's with all the posts removed? Thanks Steve. I'm aiming to buy wire today. I like the wire steakster posted as well, but I'd have to braid it because it's small. Then I'd be mixing architectures. Which could be good, but also confusing trying to figure out what is impacting the sound. Hopefully nothing! Ha!
Ok here's my plan: I'm going to buy some of the take 5 audio 12awg cryo'd silver plated OCC wire. I'll be using this as my neutral conductor, two runs of it per cable. Then I'm going to experiment with some cat 5 cable to find the optimal combined gauge for the center conductor. I've really been enjoying the sound from the last two sets of cat 5 speaker cables I made and think that a signal conductor made of braided, individually insulated solid wires will be most to my liking. Or, if I change my mind, I could always go one solid silver conductor instead and keep the neutral coil.
Todd, that sounds like a very good plan. The CAT5 is a known entity for you and will let you hear the benefits of the Helix geometry. Replacing the signal cable at a later date will build on what is hopefully a very good speaker cable.
This is very similar to my own approach when I made the helix IC’s and mains cables. When I made the IC’s I started with the silver signal conductor and then refined the the number of individual conductors using CAT5 in the helix neutral. I then replaced the CAT5 with a higher quality conductor.
How many 12 gauge conductors are you planning for the neutral?
How long are the cables you are making?
On the power cable I just finished instead of 2 x 12 gauge i decided to try 3 x 14 gauge - which came out to 9.262 AWG as opposed to 9.011 AWG for the 2 x 12, but much easier to work with.
Here’s a link to a useful wire gauge calculator
For the speaker cables I am going to build I’m trying a twisted pair for the helix neutral and a single 16 gauge mil-spec from TFA. It’s more to try the twisted pair as the neutral.
Regards - Steve
My helix PCs are all 6', so I'm not worried. With regards to the neutral, you've suggested it's not necessary to wind it as closely spaced as for the PC. What do you think, 4 wraps per foot? Or shall I space them closer, like every inch?
Thanks for the input. My only problem at the moment is that I won't be able to do a biwire configuration. There's no way I can get 2 12awg wires plus 2 14awg wires all into the same connector at the amp end.
Todd - I was so pleased with the performance of a single run of the gZero2's on my Bi-wired Tannoys that I just put quality jumpers made from a similar gauge/type wire as the cable,s at the speaker end
I'm guessing, but I think the Helix cables (using conductors you've selected) in a non bi-wire approach will deliver a similar level of performance as my gZero2 cables (but with more bass) , so you should be very pleased.
I think one wrap per inch will suffice for speaker cables - since the signal in the cable is not amplified any further, the need for 100% screening is not as great..
I've ordered 10ft of signal and 20ft of neutral so I can let you know how many wraps per inch that comes out to.
FYI: I plan to leave about 6" of the neutral straight at each end for easier connection, as in the photo in this link
Hope that helps =- Steve
I was thinking of actually doing the math and calculating how much neutral I'll need. I'll be assuming a radius of 1" for the helix.. and yeah, I was thinking of just make jumpers out of whatever wire I end up using in the end, since biwire is not practical with this design
I'll definitely be leaving a nice straight end for each conductor. You can see how I terminated my current cables on my system page.
@toddverrone - for IC’s I use a ratio of 3.0 times the length of the signal wire.
For the latest Power cable I increased that to 2.6 because I used a smaller gauge (14) neutral conductor and wanted maximum coverage to maximize the screening ability of the 9ft cable. Generally, all of the other Power cables have been around 2.3 because of the thicker gauge conductor being used
For the speaker cables I will be making this week I will be reducing that ratio to 2.0, since screening is not as important with a cable carrying a signal that will not be amplified any further. I see no point in wasting money on wire that has minimal effect :-)
My take on it is ...
- if the signal is going to be amplified at all then use more neutral conductor
- otherwise reduce the amount of neutral - i.e. within reason
My early Helix IC’s and power cables were probably all closer to 1.8, but I can’t say I noticed any difference in the noise floor between those and the later versions with more neutral - I guess I am just playing it safe with the ratios above.
Increasing the ratios to greater than 2,6 (power) and 3.0 (IC’s) by too much more is not possible due to the thickness of the conductors in play - the helix ends up being longer than the signal.
Hope that helps
@toddverrone FYI - I just purchased these bananas - I think they do spades as well.
Another spade/banana option is Furez - great quality and the do work exceptionally well - but a little more expensive,
I have something similar on the gZero6's and they appear to work very well
I like the fact they are silver plated
Regards - Steve
Steve - great minds! My current cat 5 speaker cables are terminated with those exact same bananas. I bought some copper crimp sleeves from Lowes to put over the bananas, as I prefer a crimp connection to a solder when dealing with many individually insulated conductors.
I think, though, this time I’ll terminate the speaker end in spades and use the bananas to make jumpers, since biwiring is not an option.
@toddverrone - UPDATE...
Todd - I’ve built one of the cables with the conductors that I have identified above and I encountered some minor annoyances...
I’ll let you know how they sound once I’ve installed the bananas (still in transit) and allowed some burn-in
Interesting. With all the cables I've built, the most challenging and fun part is figuring out how to finish them so they look good, are sturdy, and the geometry isn't compromised.
I ordered 50' of 12awg silver plated copper in Teflon. I am going to see about still trying to biwire. I have an idea to make the connectors work. But I'm starting with a single run..
Interested to hear about what you hear.. I thought that twisted pair cable looked like it might be a bear to wrap. I bet having to go around its own radius also made that twisted pair use up is length pretty quickly.
@toddverrone not being able to wait for the bananas to arrive, I crimped some bananas from an old pair of speaker cables onto the Helix.
Here are my findings...
For starters - 16 gauge appears to be perfectly adequate for bass reproduction
- the bass does change and I found I had to play several tracks to appreciate just what changes had taken place.
- the bass is now very detailed and very controlled, so on some tracks it appears the bass has diminished, but that is due to a less bloated bass
- on my bass test track - a song called Undring, by Sigmund Groven and Iver Klieve the bass on the pipe organ was actually fuller, more vibrant and very well controlled - important for pipe organ reproduction, whilst the hamonica was very detailed and stood out more than usual
- Albums by Stevie Wonder and Peter Gabriel also confirmed the bass is in fact fuller and more dynamic
Clarity is amazing.
The dynamics are exceptionally fast.
Image width did not change a great deal, but the depth and height is much improved.
I thought I had very good speaker cables - I do now :-)
This has been a total surprise - I tried this because you had decided to try the helix, which inspired me to see what helix could do for speaker cables on my system
So I thank you for that :-)
Since the conductors I selected were very good, but not what I would call exceptional, I thought I would be lucky to match the cables I was using - boy was I wrong.
Can better conductors improve things even further? I might get around to testing that one day :-)
Seems the helix design works very well for speaker cables.
The new bananas should also improve thing a little
I’m listening to some orchestral tracks while I type this and the sound is very natural sounding with improvements in the venue acoustics being very noticeable.
What I am wondering is - will the 12 gauge bring out the same level of details and expand the depth of the image as my 16 gauge has?
BTW - I normally wait for the burn-in process to complete before posting results, but these improvements were so startling I thought I’d give you a taste of what should be coming to your system.
I really hope you get to experience the same level of improvement.
FYI - all my cables are now of the Helix design.
Keep me posted and let me know what your findings are.
@tsugury that's funny. That was one of the first articles I read on DIY speaker cables when I first started making them about a year ago... Never tried them though. I doubt that same extension cord is still available. I like fancier designs anyway. Thanks for the share though. Have you tried them?
@williewonka excellent! I'm excited to experiment with mine. I'm interested to hear what gauge signal I like best. I have a feeling it's the bigger neutral that makes the most difference and that having a large (10-12awg) signal conductor will also sound good, as long as the neutral is double the signal. But we'll see! Or hear..
@toddverrone - a very quick burn-in update..
At the 12-18 hour mark the cables threw a bit of a "wobbler" - they presented some noticeable anomalies...
- the image became unbalanced...
- certain instruments appeared to come directly from one of the speakers rather than behind the speaker with the rest of the image.
- instruments moved towards the front within the image as the track played, where they had been more towards the rear.
- there was slight distortion in the upper register of higher pitched instruments, like violins and oboes etc..
This "wobbler" resolved itself by the 24 hour mark and they are now sounding very balanced and cohesive.
I believe the movement issue is due to cables affecting the phase of the left and right channels
Since you are trying different gauge signal conductors either
- complete your assessment before the 16 hour mark
- or go past the 24 hour mark
I actually streamed internet radio continuously to push the burn-in along.
These anomalies are consistent with what I observed with the Helix IC’s I have built
That’s it for now - keep me posted as to your progress