In this post of “Audio cable design and fabrication” I will discuss a few designs and a few of my favorite products. The first design shows more information of the gas filled tube design with a suspended conductor. The goal in the designs presented below is high performance without a “house sound”. For an analog cable that means the goal is a flat frequency response and fast for low distortion. A conductor suspended in an air tube has the lowest capacitance of any cable design I know of which translates to a flat frequency response and fast signal propagation.
Before you install solder connectors on a cable it is best to practice on an inexpensive connector of similar design. When stripping cable ends for connector installation use hot tweezer instead of the typical wire stripper so you don’t scratch or cut into the wire. Tiny cuts marks on the wire will cause a weak spot in the conductor where it is likely to break in the future. This is especially true with silver wire.
We suggest to customers that are considering equipment and cable upgrades that the cable upgrade be done first. The change in total system performance is often very dramatic with an upgrade to the latest properly designed and matching cable system. This usually leads to better equipment upgrade path with less stress on the consumer.
This is an example of a chassis wire upgrade using Silver 20 awg wire sealed in a polyethylene tube. The sealing section in this situation is a short distance. This works well in a stable environment where it will be soldered in place, but useless for an interconnect or speaker cable. You can see I have added color coding to the tubes. The color coding is useful during installation. I refer to this as a construct, call it whatever you like.
Shield foil has been added to the construct. Notice the color code is still visible. This foil is thicker than you will find in most foil shielded cables, 0.004 inches annealed high purity aluminum. This design is basically coaxial cable and is formed into a multi-conductor cable with a shield drain wire. This will be more apparent in the next picture.
A final layer of jacketing has been added. The color code is still visible, still an ohm meter is handy for double checking during install. The copper shield drain wire is visible. The jumper improved the performance of the integrated amp considerably. Chassis wiring upgrade is definitely worth it on some equipment. A very good option is products from Cardas, I prefer US products made from US materials when they are available and they perform exceptionally good.
Basic 6 wire speaker cable. The conductor wire is 20 awg Cardas top of the line bare copper wire. The 6 wires are wrapped around a seventh tube. These are wrapped not twisted. Twisting stresses the wire, not a good thing to do wire. The outward appearance is the same. Some manufacturers twist their cabling products, but not all. The difference can be as much as 3% difference in conduction.
The picture also shows a longer length of tubing has been fused together at the ends. It is needed to handle several installations and house cleaning near the cables.
This set of speaker cables has the outer layer jacket covering the entire cable. This makes the cable more rugged. This set is silver and has signal preservation technology on the inside. A signal passing through a conductor has a smearing of the signal that occurs. You can find more on this in electrical engineering texts. The question is how do you correct the problem.
The outer jacket material used on these XLR’s is fabric. It can be used in harsh environments like under the hood of your car. It has mechanical vibration dampening characteristic that are useful in sound reproduction environments. The fabric is a heat shrink tube which is also useful when making harnesses or cable snakes.
These cables started life as an ordinary audio grade power cable. Shielding was added and Furutech connectors were added. The shielding makes a larger difference than you might expect. The shielding in this design is for RFI only. EMI shielding requires magnetic shielding which is more expensive. The jacket material is neoprene. If you want something prettier add another cosmetic layer, not a good idea to replace the neoprene with something like a pretty fabric. To learn how to connect the shield material in this design see the Furutech videos, “DPS-4.1 Power cord build instructions”.
To the best of my knowledge, this is the first USB cable with the connector pins fabricated on the ends of the conductors. That means there are no solder, crimped, or welded joints on the conductors in this cable. This is a Silver USB cable in my personal collection. There have been several production versions of this design. This design improvement makes a huge difference with streamed material from a music server or a computer.
These are some nice RCA connectors by Oyaide. They also make an XLR that is top notch. Oyaide connector products are worth consideration.
Furutech connectors are great performing connectors and are easy to work with. Unlike the WBT RCA’s the locking collar can not be removed when installed on a cable. These are the connector I use in my personal system. This particular connector has a rhodium plating which I prefer.
These are relatively inexpensive speaker cable terminations from Furutech and they perform well. I use the spades in my personal speaker cables.
All of these designs are hand made and can be fabricated by consumer with proper skills. The performance level that can be achieved is astounding. There is of course, always something better. Consider the cost of the tools needed to construct such products before deciding to build them. Cutting corners does not work and often leads to short life of the product and poor performance. If you use heat shrink make sure to use the proper processing temperature for the product.