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Studio Looms - Worth it to go high end?

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Studio Looms - Worth it to go high end?

Postby Will_m » Fri Feb 08, 2019 3:11 am

I'm looking to get my first patchbay and to go with it I'm needing a studio loom to go from the patchbay to my interface. I have 8 ins and 8 outs so looking to get a 16 way jack loom.

Looking around at looms there seems to be a pretty massive price difference. At the higher end of things I can get a 16 way TRS with Neutrik jacks and Van Damme multi-core for about £250.

On the lower end there is this one from Studiospares, 16 way for just £50.

https://www.studiospares.com/Cables-Leads/Looms/Studiospares-16-Way-Loom-Stereo-Jack10m-Balanced_689560.htm#rtabs2

I guess my question would be are the higher end options worth it and what are cons of the lower end?

As it for a patch bay I'm thinking I need to consider the whole of the signal chain and the patchbay itself, which will be a Samson S Patch+.
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Re: Studio Looms - Worth it to go high end?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Feb 08, 2019 10:37 am

The price difference comes down to the build and component quality, primarily, with some marketing hype thrown in in some cases! But it's basically as simple as that.

The cheapest looms use generally low-quality moulded connectors, hurriedly crimped onto the cable which may itself be of poor inappropriate construction. They tend to be difficult if not impossible to repair and may be more prone to breakages, particularly if plugged/unplugged often.

The most expensive looms tend to use higher quality cables (better screening, flexibility and ruggedness), and good quality standards-compliant connectors skillfully hand-soldered. They are much more easily repaired if necessary, but less likely to break in the first place.

For situations involving the static cabling from a patchbay to an interface and other fixed hardware), the cheap looms are often perfectly adequate because once installed they tend not to be unplugged or moved again (other than the annual clean!), and in that situation they are unlikely to be stressed and broken....although some (really) cheap plugs can sometimes tarnish more quickly resulting in dodgy connections.

Personally, I would recommend making your own looms. It only involves basic soldering skills -- of which I advocate any studio engineer should be capable -- and it allows you to make looms of the precise length required, rather than having to purchase and store excess cable in stupid places to collect dust and unwanted interference! And if you don't yet know how to solder, this is the perfect project to get you started and it will save you hundreds (if not thousands) of pounds in the cost of ready-made cables in the years to come.

I'm still using looms I made thirty years ago with Neutrik connectors and mostly Canford or VanDamme cables -- and several have been modified more than once as my studio infrastructure has changed over the years.
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Re: Studio Looms - Worth it to go high end?

Postby ef37a » Fri Feb 08, 2019 11:03 am

I heartily second Hugh suggestion that you Roll y Own! I can also suggest ways to save you even more money and speed up the build process.

You can buy foil screened "balanced" cable and for static sites it is superior to braided cable because it gives a 100% RF shield. The ground is taken through by a tinned "drain" wire that eliminates the fiddly "combing" of the braid and also removes the fear of whiskers causing shorts. I have a sample of such cable and it is a sniff under 4mm OD making bundling and routing a bit easier.

Plugs: Nukes are of course excellent and I would always recommend them on any working cable but for statics you can buy 2 or more plugs for the price of one Nuke. You can even get them Gold plated which removes tarnishing problems (for the plug at least) Note the Gold on cheap plugs is very thin and does not last long but they will only move once as year? An alternative is a wipe with a rag moistened with WD-40.

Have you already got the patch bay? If not even more saving are to be had by getting one with solder tags instead of jacks and, to my mind, removes one source of possible unreliability?

I shall see if I can find the source of this 4mm foil cable. Had 6-7yrs or more. It is red.

I used to find making up cables very theraputic and would happily have done it for costs and a drinky-poo for peeps post retirement if other issues had not intervened.

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Re: Studio Looms - Worth it to go high end?

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Feb 08, 2019 11:29 am

+1 for foil screened twin, dead easy to work with and costs balance out compared to 8 or 16 way multicore. I have even used it for 'occasional' use short TRS > XLR adapter cables with success though it is not built to be used in that way.
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Re: Studio Looms - Worth it to go high end?

Postby ef37a » Fri Feb 08, 2019 11:55 am

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Re: Studio Looms - Worth it to go high end?

Postby Kwackman » Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:06 pm

If you do go down the make your own route, it might be worth getting on Canford's mailing list as they do clearance sales and you can pick up a bargain with offcuts of cable (they sell in bulk, so what's an offcut to them can be enough for a whole home studio) and connectors etc.

Currently...
https://www.canford.co.uk/ClearanceList
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Re: Studio Looms - Worth it to go high end?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:12 pm

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Re: Studio Looms - Worth it to go high end?

Postby John Willett » Fri Feb 08, 2019 1:20 pm

I agree with Hugh.

I made all my own with cables from Canford Audio - and I still have some of the very original Neutrik connectors still going strong.

If it's for a permanent loom that won't be moved, foil screening is great as it gives an excellent screen (jiust not so good when cables are moved a lot).

In these days with mobile smart phones and wi-fi, I would strongly recommend using the Neutrik EMC connectors which will minimise any RF interference. A bit more expensive, but very well worth it. :thumbup:
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Re: Studio Looms - Worth it to go high end?

Postby James Perrett » Fri Feb 08, 2019 3:11 pm

My studio seems to run on a couple of Horizon multicores which I bought over 20 years ago and then cut into suitable lengths. I fitted the appropriate connectors to the bare ends and they're still fine. In fact, I've just found another spare length which I've just turned into a loom for the 2" tape machine.

I've also been impressed with the very cheap TRS to 25 way D-type cable that I bought from CPC a few months ago - it uses standard connectors rather than the moulded connectors they often use on their cheap cables and the full manufacturing drawings are available on their website. I can't actually find them on the CPC site at the moment but it might be worth a look.

In both cases I found that buying a ready made cable and adapting to my needs if necessary was cheaper than buying the components and making them myself from scratch.
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Re: Studio Looms - Worth it to go high end?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Feb 08, 2019 4:02 pm

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Re: Studio Looms - Worth it to go high end?

Postby Will_m » Sat Feb 09, 2019 12:51 am

Thanks guys, really appreciate the advice here. I came across a great deal on Ebay for a 16-way Neutrik/Van Damme loom for £90 so I've gone with that.

I'm definitely going to start making my own cables, I think the loom might have been a bit much for a first project though and I'd need to invest in a soldering and a few other tools first.

It would also be nice to be able to do repairs should the need arise.
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Re: Studio Looms - Worth it to go high end?

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Feb 09, 2019 1:27 am

DSince Maplinhave gone I can't suggest a place to get a temperature controlled soldering station but RS in Stockport would be a good place to start and they can get 'proper' solder (with lead included) :shock: It is definitely easier to use than modern 'lead free' stuff and, while I wouldn't suggest using it every day, I doubt you'll be harmed by using to for the odd cable, and it is pretty much essential when repairing old kit. Even the normal practice of chewing a bit while thinking doesn't seem to have caused me serious harm (though YMMD and I was only ever a relatively talentless amateur at that electronical stuff).
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Re: Studio Looms - Worth it to go high end?

Postby ef37a » Sat Feb 09, 2019 8:57 am

I have had one of this brand, https://uk.farnell.com/duratool/d00661/ ... dp/1296771
Solder stations for many years. Originally from Maplins it has served me well and I was spoiled! I used a Weller 50W Magnastat station for best part of 50 years. Very good but the pencil alone is now ~£100!

Yes, get some 60/40 flux cored lead solder. So long as you don't eat, smoke or drink when soldering you will be safe (I did all four for 20yrs, virtually everyday and I am still fairly sane?) . Wash hands when finished. My exposure to Lead must be hundreds of times greater than most folks at SoS because I am older and was soldering a lot, all day. Only in the last couple of decades has good fume extraction been mandatory in factories.

Tips: Don't use a damp sponge to wipe the iron tip. Use brass wool or, my choice, kitchen paper and follow the regime...When up to T, tin tip with solder, wipe, tin again and solder job. Wipe and tin frequently as you work. Don't leave the iron "cooking" when not in use. It only takes 30 secs or so for a T controlled iron to get to working temperature. Cooking will cause the tip to blacken and that is hard to clean. But DON'T resort to a file or emery paper! You will go through the iron plating and ruin the tip. Keep up the "tin wipe" regime and it should come clean. You can buy wee tins of tip cleaner. Good but very aggressive so use sparingly.

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Re: Studio Looms - Worth it to go high end?

Postby Mike Stranks » Sat Feb 09, 2019 10:41 am

ef37a wrote:Tips: Don't use a damp sponge to wipe the iron tip. Use brass wool or, my choice, kitchen paper and follow the regime...When up to T, tin tip with solder, wipe, tin again and solder job. Wipe and tin frequently as you work. Don't leave the iron "cooking" when not in use. It only takes 30 secs or so for a T controlled iron to get to working temperature. Cooking will cause the tip to blacken and that is hard to clean. But DON'T resort to a file or emery paper! You will go through the iron plating and ruin the tip. Keep up the "tin wipe" regime and it should come clean. You can buy wee tins of tip cleaner. Good but very aggressive so use sparingly.

Dave.

Thanks for that Dave! Why no damp sponge? Both my iron holders have one incorporated and I've always used one to clean the the iron tip.
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Re: Studio Looms - Worth it to go high end?

Postby ef37a » Sat Feb 09, 2019 10:48 am

Mike Stranks wrote:
ef37a wrote:Tips: Don't use a damp sponge to wipe the iron tip. Use brass wool or, my choice, kitchen paper and follow the regime...When up to T, tin tip with solder, wipe, tin again and solder job. Wipe and tin frequently as you work. Don't leave the iron "cooking" when not in use. It only takes 30 secs or so for a T controlled iron to get to working temperature. Cooking will cause the tip to blacken and that is hard to clean. But DON'T resort to a file or emery paper! You will go through the iron plating and ruin the tip. Keep up the "tin wipe" regime and it should come clean. You can buy wee tins of tip cleaner. Good but very aggressive so use sparingly.

Dave.

Thanks for that Dave! Why no damp sponge? Both my iron holders have one incorporated and I've always used one to clean the the iron tip.

Not quite so bad for Lead 60/40 temps Mike but the Weller tech's told us that especially for the hotter Pb free solders the thermal shock cracked the iron plating. That was in a factory of nearly 100 Weller stations and 3 flow soldering machines.

Kitchen paper folded to a wad works well but beware Pb free tips! The temperature is close to 451F and I have had a few flames! (Weller tip #9)

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Re: Studio Looms - Worth it to go high end?

Postby Mike Stranks » Sat Feb 09, 2019 11:24 am

Thanks

I was a good boy and used lead-free for a while when it was introduced. I quickly realised the error of my ways! :lol:
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Re: Studio Looms - Worth it to go high end?

Postby John Willett » Sat Feb 09, 2019 11:28 am

Canford Audio do soldering irons :thumbup:

See HERE and HERE :thumbup:

I agree with using lead solder for making cables - easier and a far less chance of dry joints and damaging the connector for leaving a hot iron on too long.

I have a Weller iron at home (a high end one that I bought for a song from Sennheiser UK when they had to go lead-free) and I also have a gas iron for emergency repairs on site (rarely used it though).
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Re: Studio Looms - Worth it to go high end?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Feb 09, 2019 11:35 am

Yes, definitely not a wet sponge.

I use one of these which is very good:

Image

https://cpc.farnell.com/pro-s-kit/sh-1025/cleaner-soldering-tip/dp/SD01015
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Re: Studio Looms - Worth it to go high end?

Postby ef37a » Sat Feb 09, 2019 11:42 am

John Willett wrote:Canford Audio do soldering irons :thumbup:

See HERE and HERE :thumbup:

I agree with using lead solder for making cables - easier and a far less chance of dry joints and damaging the connector for leaving a hot iron on too long.

I have a Weller iron at home (a high end one that I bought for a song from Sennheiser UK when they had to go lead-free) and I also have a gas iron for emergency repairs on site (rarely used it though).

Yes John Lead is easier for the newb and for "legacy" repairs. If you have to go Lead free there are factors that help.
Get a really high quality solder, ones with some Silver* in are best I think.
Use a REALLY hot iron and one of at least 50W capacity. That way you spend very little time melting the solder on the job and less chance of damage. The principle applies equally well to 60/40 solders. Never buy a solder rig under 50W. I used an 80W Hakko. Tiny pencil but superb even on big tags.

Lead free solder is mechanically stronger than Lead and "freezes" quicker and makes circuit "lashups" a doddle.

*Not to be confused with "Silver Solder" or more correctly "Silver Brazing". A really useful technique that needs around 1000 C and is great for fixing steel parts, especially on firearms.

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Re: Studio Looms - Worth it to go high end?

Postby Mike Stranks » Sat Feb 09, 2019 1:28 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Yes, definitely not a wet sponge.

I use one of these which is very good:

Image

https://cpc.farnell.com/pro-s-kit/sh-1025/cleaner-soldering-tip/dp/SD01015

Drat! I put an order into CPC last night...

Saved for 'next time'. :)
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