CAT5 is not made for audio. It is made for telephone/network. I would avoid it and would certainly never modify an amp to accomodate it.
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I braided up a pair of biwire Cat5's...BIG improvement over what I had, though admittedly I was starting from a pretty basic cable. When I first tried them out I sat back with a "whoa, what's this". Until then I didn't put much stock in the cable craze...now I'm a bit more 'open minded'.
I run a McCormack DNA-1 & no issues with the capacitance. I asked Steve M about the DNA-1 stability with highly capacitive loads...he said "if there's a problem you'll know right away"...something about a blood-curdling howl....there wasn't & it didn't.
I also recent spun up eight of VH's silver IC's(various systems)..VERY VERY NICE.
The only real test is to give them a try. The price of admission is reasonable. Until someone..anyone..can offer a physical explanation of how/why different cables do what they do & how this relates the changes in the sound of a system then, by definition, any option is fair game.
Granted there are some cables & geometry that are off limits, but the group of those that are inside the 'useable' framework is huge.
Of course there's always the option of some company using Cat 5 (or other DIY material), dressing it up beyond all recognition, charging a beyond-healthy sum for it, and calling it a critical, cutting-edge audiophile design. In this case the Cat 5-roots would then become one of the good cables already available to try.
Its not the price of the cables its the time making them. It looks like it would take a long time to make them which is not a problem if they are good cables. It seems a lot of people on this site think the HD 14 gage zip cord is as good as anything. If that is right a lot of people are getting ripped off.
I made them. I made the full 27 pair with the recommended Belden Teflon-insulated 24ga wire. Mine were only 5 feet long, but it's still bloody hard work.
If I had to do it again, I'd only use one pair of the 4 pairs inside the Cat 5 cable (each pair is a different colour and has a different twist rate for noise rejection).
I caution you NOT to braid them too tight - it's much harder and you can easily get a short. Loose is better.
Use the best spades you can find - I used Kimber Postmasters - because you have to get 27 copper wires in there, and it's not easy with cheap spades.
Don't use any covering over the braid.
They take quite a while to break in, but they were stable in my system and sounded very nice.
They are quite a challenge to build but one does feel some degree of success at the end that far exceeds going to a store and buying something.
I eventually replaced the Cat 5s with hand-made silver foil cables.
I made a set using a modified technique of what is referred to as "Gomers" on AA:
Back when Radio Shack was having a half-price sale on cable (among other things) I purchased enough CAT-5 (Teflon) to make a bi-wired pair of the CVH braided CAT-5 speaker cable. I bought a lot of cable because, at the time, I needed 15' (!) of speaker cable. Well, as those who have made this cable can attest, making a 15' 27/9 bi-wired pair of these cables is a lot of work (to say the least). Bottom line, I gave up - even if those cables were magical, there was no way in hell I was going to commit the hours required to complete the fabled braided CAT-5 speaker cables.
So what the hell was I going to do with all that CAT-5?
Well, due to some re-arrangement of how my system is set up, my speaker cable length requirement decreased to just over 4 feet. A CAT-5 speaker cable was now practical. However, one aspect of the CVH recipe that I didn't like was that no matter how carefully I braided, I didn't feel that I had inch-by-inch consistency of my braids. Plus, it still would be more effort than I wanted to commit. Time to do some research on AA.
I noticed some CAT-5 recipes that suggested a star-quad twist. But some still required more work that I was willing to do (separating the individual pairs of CAT-5, using only one color of wires, etc.). The star-quad CAT-5 concept still seemed appealing. So...here's my approach to the star-quad CAT-5 cable:
I started out with about 50 feet of CAT-5 cable, stripped of the outer-blue jacket. I secured the ends of all 4 pairs in a vice, and secured the other ends in my drill. As I made the 50' length taught, I noticed that the 4 pairs of cables naturally were twisted in a clockwise manner. I used my drill to further twist the 4 pairs in a clockwise manner until the wires were tightly twisted together into a single rope.
I then cut this rope into 4 equal lengths, and aligned all the ropes so that, as you looked at them, they were all twisted in a clockwise manner. I secured the ends of the 4 cables in my vise (actually, it was the door to my garage) and the other ends into my drill. This time, I twisted the cables counter-clockwise, again, until they formed a single, tight rope (the diameter of which was just over 1/4 inch (8 mm).
What impressed me about this approach was that I no longer had a bunch of single pairs of wires, but a single tight rope. No matter how much you bend, the rope acts like a single wire. Plus, the twist was very consistent from end to end. I cut this rope into 4 segments of 4 1/2 feet each. This whole process took about 30 minutes. Time to terminate.
I wrapped electrical tape in a band around the cable 3 inches from one end and 2 inches from the other to prevent unraveling when terminating the ends. In hindsight, I'd make the leads just a bit longer (maybe 4 inches each). I separated the 4 bundles from the rope, then proceeded, one bundle at a time, separating the solid colored wires from the returns. I stripped the ends and twisted the solid-colored wires into a bundle and then twisted the returns into a bundle. After I did this for all 4 original bundles, I twisted all the solid colored bundles into a "positive" lead, and all the return bundles into the "negative" lead. I crimped on some Radio Shack spades to complete the end. Again, in hind-site, I'd use better quality spades. This took about 15 minutes per end.
After 2 hours, I had 2 identical sets of my Modified Star-Quad CAT-5 cable. I connected it to my system in a true bi-wire manner.
I should describe my current cables before getting into my immediate impressions of my creation. I was using 15' runs of Audioquest GR-8 cables. I bought these as an introduction to "higher-end" cables. I recognize these cables for what they are - good but not great (definitely better than long runs of zip cord (IMHO)).
Immediately I noticed these cables were...different. But within an hour of use, I noticed how annoying I was finding my vinyl copy of Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"...and I realized why. There was all of this "stuff" going on in the background of the recording that I never really noticed before. The sounds were no longer abstract, but recognizable. Distinct. Identifiable. Surprisingly, the low end was much better with these cables. I actually decreased the crossover point of my REL by 4 Hz (32 to 28 Hz) and lowered the gain.
The question remains...
Is this just a great (or at least better) cable, or are the perceived benefits because:
a. I went from a 15' cable to a 4 1/2' cable?
b. I went from a internally bi-wired cable to 2 physically separate cables?
c. My cables no longer lie on the floor?
d. A little bit of all of the above.
One issue remained...This process puts a lot of stress on the copper. So, I contacted Lee over at Cryo-Freeze.com and had him soak my creations using his cryo process. Nice. Very nice.
The pair I made has an "unfinished" look to them, so I set out to make a set with a polished appearance. Unfortunately, they are too short for my system (1 m) and while the spades are Cardas, they are soldered (not crimped). They have not been cryoed. If anyone would like to try them, contact me and we'll make arrangements.
I have made 4 sets of DIY Cat 6 speaker cables using the Chris VH's recipe. The lengths are 4ft. 7ft. (2)8ft. I use only one color for each set of speaker cables. The 4ft pair uses only the orange pair. The 7ft. pair uses only the brown pair. One of the 8ft pairs uses only green and the other uses only the blue pair. The Cat 6 is a little thicker than cat 5. And make around a 9awg cable for each post. Cat 5 is around 10awg.Yes DIY CAT 5 or 6 speaker cable does sound good BUT can be made to sound much better. How? by coating (soaking) the entire cabe in BEESWAX. After you finish braiding your cables and before you strip or twist the 27 pairs together, melt a block of Beeswax and coat the whole cable with it. Once coated use a heat gun and go up and down on an area and melt the dried Beeswax on the cable. Do both sides of your cables the same way and work your way down. Be careful of course, but this is were it pays to make sure your DIY CAT 5 or 6 is ALL teflon insulated NOT PVC. The BEESWAX will melt on to the Teflon CAT 5 or 6 with no damage at all to the Teflon cable if you just watch what your doing. This is a labor of love which gives you the max out of your DIY cables.You can hear the differenc on the BEESWAX coated cables immediately,all for the better. I use Audioquest direct-silver CF spades. This coating of the cables takes the DIY Cat 5 or 6 to a laughable level when you think of what you could spend on speaker cables. And just think, you made it yourself and it smokes.
I to would not put any covering over the cat 5 braids. It is important to note that this type of cable design is VERY susceptible to vibration, both air and surface vibrations. And to much vibration anywhere in your setup robs you of the ability to here your system at it's best. And we all know the speaker cables are the last link before we get to the speakers themselves. So if your speaker cables are prone to excessive vibrations(DIY Cat5 or Cat6)you will lose that needed(emotion)and gain something you don't need(somewhat sterile sounding cable). Your DIY Cat5-6 will sound good, especially good for the money. Then you will say "MAN IF THESE CABLES HAD A LITTLE MORE... THEY WOULD BE GREAT". Enter the BEESWAX. What it does is quiet the cable down. Stops the excessive vibration in the cable to a degree that notes that once sounded etch(thin) now are full. The music come out of blackness(not dark).You will hear and feel musical cues on a much greater level. You will be hard pressed to believe it is the same speaker cable. Low level information will come through lower,fuller with slam and emotion. Emotion is what is added when you apply BEESWAX to your DIY CAT5-6 cables. You take wire that was made to TALK over and turn it into wire that is now ready to sing. Beeswax on telephone cable is "OLD SCHOOL" it goes back to the MA Bell days or earlier. If you use this type of cable or plan to make a set,than you owe it to yourselve to go all the way and apply the Beeswax with all the scepticism you can muster. That is until you press PLAY.
Technically speaking, this design has a lot going for it in certain areas and drawbacks in others. As can be expected, there are some big sonic improvements in some areas over basic cabling with some drawbacks too.
The first thing that i noticed about this cable is that it has a VERY solid and powerful bottom end. Top end is slightly "tizzy" or smeared sounding, probably due to uneven length paths from the multitudes of unevenly twisted & braided conductors and / or all of the stress that the conductors undergo when doing braiding i.e. fissures and cracks developing from metal fatigue. Tighter braiding produces a more consistent impedance ( one of the BIG problems with this design ), but also results in greater stress on the metal with increased potential for microphonics.
I'm certain that cryo'ing would help somewhat, but the problem with cryo'ing is that the cables must be moved and "bent up" when trying to re-install them. As such, "burning the cables in" installed IN the system using high powered dummy loads may work better, if one were interested in going to such lengths.
Extremely labour intensive and time consuming. If you have access to cabling at little to no cost and were going to build them in your spare time i.e. while watching TV in the background, etc..., have at it. Probably better than what you think, but how they turn out will ultimately depend on the quality of materials used and the consistency of the build. Sean
I have done the receipe... They are okay, Lamp cord monster cable/types of copper or Home depot 12 - 10 gauge are more normal sounding, in otherwords lamp cord has basic detail, a little midrange ruff, but have better bass than the CAT 5... Now I have owned kimber stuff, and yeah the cat 5 is very similar, and I would not waste the money again on kimber in retrospect, however I don't like EITHER the CAT 5 or kimber much. Go with a better simpler Litz or stranded single wire design in my opinion. CAT 5 is great if you have 200.00 old Cerwin vega or optimus speakers sitting in the garage or basement to save a few bucks, then it is good wire.. But for a more full body and depth musical feel I find other stuff better, yeah it costs more but its only my opinion that it works better...Getting all the tiny cat 5 strands to be in perfect geometry for not causing too much resistance, inductance, capacitance whatever to carry a Hi current audio signal is not perfectly easy either. But I am no expert, just know what I felt about it in the end. For how cheap it is give it a shot, but its a real pain to make correctly is all. I have interest in hearing Mapleshades wire, it is something very similar and is suppose to sound very warm in comparison to Kimber and cat 5.
Some of the best cables I have ever heard.
Cat6 with FEP insulation has been a long decade favorite of mine.
With cat5 another major breakthrough is realized in sound quality even with a non superior jacket material.
Recording a live event can be very demanding on a speaker cable and if the Board man is unfamiliar with the speaker cable and speakers used, the sound can be altered from one recording to another with the same material. Especially with non powered speakers "which I build and Prefer" to powered speakers that use Class D amplifier designs. Without throwing everything into a tizzy, most studio monitors in recording studio's are now powered and most use class D. The reason, cheaper more power less weight, and in my opinion weaker, dirtier and uninvolving , and the loss of warmth even in the new digital era.
I consider this a lost art.
Lets go back to when say Barbra Streisand recorded in the studio with a amplifier SPEAKER WIRE set up. Say SSL board Studer A820 Crown amps JBL L300's
or Altec's and high end lamp cord. The sound was simply mind blowing, alive and full of emotion.
This is the feeling I get today with properly designed speaker cables and Cat5 and Cat6 definitely take the cake for price versus performance without getting into the exotics that cost more than the equipment!
Cat5 and Cat6 all the way if you want the best sound versus cost. Been making silver plated hyper pure solid silver/copper interconnects and x-overs for 20 years now and have found Cat5 and Cat6 speaker cable to simply sine brighter in the sky with a purity that is simply worth an ear in the High End.
Oh yeah, I make my own, you can too.
I don't take credit, but I may have been the Cat 5 speaker cable pioneer before anyone offered them. Newer Cat 6 cables have higher specs WAY out of audio signals, improved crosstalk, BUT, are less flexible. If making more, I would stick with the flexibility of Cat 5.
"Cat5E and Cat6 cables both typically use 4 twisted pairs in each cable, and incorporate copper wires. Cat6 cables have more stringent specifications for reduced crosstalk and system noise. Cat6 cables provide performance speeds up to 250MHz. Cat5 cables in contrast, only provide speeds up to 100 MHz. A longitudinal separator (or spline) was incorporated into the Cat6 design, isolating each of the four pairs of twisted wire. This made Cat6 cables more rigid."
I borrowed/tried so many fancy expensive cables/wires, that my wealthy audiophile friend bought/went thru.
After much reading, I decided multi-strand, small diameter, solid strand, individually insulated, made the most logic to me. Hey, cat 5? Off to radio shack. That's it, done!
Twist a few feet, tape it, twist it other direction, tape it, keeps you from needing to keep on flipping the whole length over and over.
I put colored tape on the positive cable at the ends. I have 3 sets, red, blue, green, one end with right angle spades the width that fit either Fisher or McIntosh speaker terminals; other end WBT tighten/locking high contact banana plugs, to switch from SS to tube system.
Get some nice gold plated connectors
I've never been tempted to try anything else. I made a set for my audiophile friend, all his pricey stuff in a box somewhere.
You want to twist the bare ends ONCE, connect solidly, leave them alone. IF you change them, say shorten them, or new connector type, clip some off, strip fresh ends, make proper connector.
You mentioned 'unstable'. I don't know about that, never studied those technicalities.
I used mine, 15 feet long, with 30 wpc Fisher 80Z tube mono-blocks; 30 wpc Fisher 500c tube receivers; 320 wps McIntosh SS; now Cayin A88T tube: 22 wpc triode/45 wps ultralinear; never an issue.
btw, always make your speaker cables the same length, even if amp is/will be closer to one speaker.
clarification. I just read about weaving your own.
my method is to use Cat 5 out of the box, which is jacketed, within: 8 individualy insulated small diameter solid strands. Twist a pair of them, gives 8 wires positive, 8 wires com.
Everything individually insulated, everything internally twisted.
Strip the 8 wires, pressure them into 1 squished copper mass ready for a gold plated connectors, DONE. In no way difficult.
Badcap - I have not tried CAT5 for speaker cables, but I have tried it for interconnects. The results were OK, but far from stunning.
From a design perspective the cables you mention would be of a higher capacitance, which is something to consider if you are using them with a Solid State high current design amp. The amp could experience oscillation, which could seriously damage the amp.
If you are into DIY, take a look at the following...
The helix cables are the best I have built to date. They outperform most of the commercial cables I have auditioned, some of which were quite expensive.
You can use any wire you like, but the wire identified on the site has been tried recommended by myself and other DIYer's and offer the best performance to date.
Don't be put off by the looks - they are pretty easy to build and even though the coiled neutral might lead some to believe their Inductance would be an issue, I have measured it at 1.1uH/meter, which is well within acceptable levels. Their capacitance is in the low-medium range at 60 pF/meter.
Unfortunately, construction of the coiled neutral for most DIYer's can get tricky if you want cables over 12 ft long.
I have had feedback from others that have tried them and it has all been extremely positive. The cables seem to work very well on both tube and solid state.
They provide stunning dynamics and clarity, with a well controlled and deep bass and a very spacious and detailed image
If you have any questions, just ask - Steve
I have done it myself but I think the cable may have a bit too much capacitance. The sound lacks a bit of transparency and the bass is a bit compromised. And those CAT5 cables are not cheap. I think you're better off buying some decent affordable speaker cables such as QED or the likes which have quite better transparency.