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Frugal cable decision query

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Frugal cable decision query

Postby Beans57 » Thu May 23, 2019 9:03 pm

Hi there

Upgrading of what was a small, hardware based recording kit to DAW (Samplitude). With that, I thought to start upgrading of the cabling that I've used for years. Most of that cabling is unbalanced, but I have paid attention to critical instruments needs (DI box for HB35 guitar, J48 DI for Rhodes or ElectraPiano) with all going into a Soundcraft M-series mixer and in/out from RME UC when/if software DAW considerations (I'm still using my AW1600 for much practice/comp work as I have a fair ease with it).

Anyway, back to the cabling . . . With very meagre economic means of late, what of cabling beyond the above is best to deal with next for results: line level from synth etc to mixer? short patch cables to/from mixer/UC? XLR mix outputs that I am currently routing through an isolation box for unbalanced to my combo amp (at some point move some active monitors into play so as to have bal from mixer to monitors which I have plenty of XLR:XLR)? my Aux send/return to pedal rack?? . . . . . Yes, all of these currently unbalanced.

There is a subtle noise in this system that I can't account for with all attempts at rooting it out and this has led me to suspect its in the unbalanced cabling system I have in place.

So again, limited funds, what cables next in the upgrading sequence would benefit me the most?

Many thanks in advance . . . .
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Re: Frugal cable decision query

Postby The Red Bladder » Fri May 24, 2019 9:05 am

Beans57 wrote:So again, limited funds, what cables next in the upgrading sequence would benefit me the most?
I run a two-room commercial recording studio and much of the wiring (e.g. going to and from inserts and some of the FX inputs) are either unbalanced or just pseudo-balanced and nobody has ever complained about noise. Quite the opposite - I get praise for the pristine and noise-free signal and recordings we get.

As long as the output signal from any piece of equipment is as 'hot' as is sensible, i.e. you have proper control of gain settings and nothing has to suck-up a tiny signal and amplify its t'ts off by having to have input gain set to near max, things should be OK.

Assuming you are careful with gain settings and output settings, that just leaves equipment. For my money, that Yamaha digital box is the most likely culprit. You can find out where noise comes from usually by switching things off one at a time - but if that lot were my stuff, the Yamaha box would be in the bin anyway. Well, stick it on eBay - with a bit of luck, someone will want it for about £100.

There's quite a bit of potentially noisy stuff there - e-pianos and the like, but I would start with earthing first. Everything that can be earthed must be earthed to Planet Earth. Every housing, every box, every bit of outside metal must be linked to the ground under your house. Get the old multimeter out and test all the earth wires and do not assume that metal pipes are earth - they usually are not! Water comes in via plastic pipes nowadays.
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Re: Frugal cable decision query

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri May 24, 2019 9:21 am

Beans57 wrote:Anyway, back to the cabling . . . With very meagre economic means of late, what of cabling beyond the above is best to deal with next for results

The very first thing to do is run as many as possible of the interconnections as balanced; that will avoid most potential noise problems from the outset.

Unbalanced sources like synths, and unbalanced destinations, are likely to be the most problematic connections, but how you deal with them depends on whether the source/destination is class-1 (safety earthed via its mains power connection) or class-2 (double-insulated and no safety earth in the mains connection).

Ground-loops are likely with class-1, but not with class-2.

Class-2 devices can be hooked up with standard unbalanced instrument leads without any problems, but if you have hum/buzz problems with class-1 gear you'll either need to use line-isolating transformers to balance and isolate the output at source -- I like to use ART DTI boxes, but there are many others available -- or, if you're handy with a soldering iron, you can make up a 'pseudo-balanced' cable which avoids a direct earth connection to prevent a ground-loop.

There is a subtle noise in this system that I can't account for with all attempts at rooting it out and this has led me to suspect its in the unbalanced cabling system I have in place.

Almost certainly... ground-loops can be tricky little devils to track down!

H
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Re: Frugal cable decision query

Postby ef37a » Fri May 24, 2019 9:47 am

Hi Beans, as Hugh says, run balanced as much as you can. You can also make considerable economies on audio cables by using a smaller diameter, foil shielded product for all but those applications where ruggedness and flexibility are needed. Microphone and guitar say.

You can buy a 50 or 100mtr drum of 4mm OD two core foil shielded cable for far less than the 6mm+ "proper" mic cable*. The stuff is also much quicker and easier to terminate. No million little wires to gather from the screen (and cause crackles and shorts when you miss one!) the earth is a single strand of bare or tinned "drain" wire.

Now, Neutrik jack plugs are lovely but! 'Spensive and it is pointless having 20 of them stuck forever in the back of a mixer/patchbay whatever. A look on Zon will find you great deals on plugs, they can suffer from poor cable clamps and strain relief but the intelligent use of heat shrink will fix that.
I would however stick to Nukies for XLRs.

Once all wired up you can often track down low level hums with headphones and download Rightmark Analyser. That can run a plot of the system and pinpoint spurious hums etc down to the noise floor.

*Don't pay out for "guitar" cables. 6mm mic cable with the cold wire tied to screen has just about the same capacitance as expensive geetar leads and is more rugged.

Dave.
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Re: Frugal cable decision query

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri May 24, 2019 10:09 am

I remember trying that many years ago using IIRC, Belden mic cable. It was the most microphonic guitar lead I've ever had and completely unusable :headbang: I haven't bothered since and decent single conductor 'guitar' cable is easy to get these days. I use Klotz AC104 for £1.20 a metre.
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Re: Frugal cable decision query

Postby ef37a » Fri May 24, 2019 11:46 am

Sam Spoons wrote:I remember trying that many years ago using IIRC, Belden mic cable. It was the most microphonic guitar lead I've ever had and completely unusable :headbang: I haven't bothered since and decent single conductor 'guitar' cable is easy to get these days. I use Klotz AC104 for £1.20 a metre.

Ah well! I am betting Sam that you didn't wire it the way I said? (told to me by ex Soundcraft man Cliff Brown) If the cold core is tied to screen and just the hot wire used for signal, not only does this reduce capacitance to a minimum but also goes a long way to minimize "clunks" when the cable is bashed.

BTW Beans. If you still get residual hums connecting unbalanced gear into the system you could try the wiring technique I have dubbed "screened return"? This means the screen is tied to the cold core at one end but only the cold core is connected at the unbalanced source earth. PM me if you need more help.

Dave.
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Re: Frugal cable decision query

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri May 24, 2019 2:12 pm

ef37a wrote:
Sam Spoons wrote:I remember trying that many years ago using IIRC, Belden mic cable. It was the most microphonic guitar lead I've ever had and completely unusable :headbang: I haven't bothered since and decent single conductor 'guitar' cable is easy to get these days. I use Klotz AC104 for £1.20 a metre.

Ah well! I am betting Sam that you didn't wire it the way I said? (told to me by ex Soundcraft man Cliff Brown) If the cold core is tied to screen and just the hot wire used for signal, not only does this reduce capacitance to a minimum but also goes a long way to minimize "clunks" when the cable is bashed.
Dave.

I can't remember, it was a long time ago but I'm fairly sure I would have wired it as you suggested. But to ain't beyond the realms of possibility that I wired it wrong even if that's what I had in mind :headbang:
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Re: Frugal cable decision query

Postby James Perrett » Fri May 24, 2019 9:22 pm

ef37a wrote:Now, Neutrik jack plugs are lovely but! 'Spensive and it is pointless having 20 of them stuck forever in the back of a mixer/patchbay whatever. A look on Zon will find you great deals on plugs, they can suffer from poor cable clamps and strain relief but the intelligent use of heat shrink will fix that.
I would however stick to Nukies for XLRs.

If you are in the UK it might be worth looking at Studiospares current B-stock list ;)
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Re: Frugal cable decision query

Postby Beans57 » Sat May 25, 2019 6:38 pm

Many thanks for the suggestions to date. This weekend time to back up and take another look at this . . . . . . But as well, pulling out a long unused soldering gun and with shaky hands might look at this as the most frugal answer to hardware needs.
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Re: Frugal cable decision query

Postby ef37a » Sun May 26, 2019 9:47 am

Beans57 wrote:Many thanks for the suggestions to date. This weekend time to back up and take another look at this . . . . . . But as well, pulling out a long unused soldering gun and with shaky hands might look at this as the most frugal answer to hardware needs.

I had a solder gun in my teens (now in my 74th year) quickly ditched the clumsy thing for a Henley Solon "proper" solder iron and even that was pretty crap really compared to the Weller Magnastat. That last is however very expensive (I never bought my own!) but you can get an excellent Solder Station for £50 or so from CPC and the likes.

Yes, a bit of an investment but you will struggle with a gun even on XLRs and jacks and don't even think about a 3.5mm jack. DINs? No chance!

Whatever you do get a reel of 60/40 Lead/Tin solder while you still can. Perfectly safe so long as you don't solder, eat, drink or smoke and wash hands after.

Dave.
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Re: Frugal cable decision query

Postby Dan LB » Sun May 26, 2019 11:49 am

I’ve been using a Weller Magnastat (W61) for years now and love it.

However, I recently bought a soldering station from AliExpress based on a recommendation from a Midas service engineer. I paid around €50 for the station and a few different tips and I couldn’t be happier with it. It gets up to temperature (usually 370deg) from cold in around 7 seconds! It has an ‘idle’ function where it will cool to a user defined temperature after a certain amount of time of inactivity (also user definable) and will ‘wake up’ again when the motion sensor in the handle detects you picking it up. There’s also a sleep function where it will turn the tip off after a longer time of inactivity (again user definable).

I’m using it all the time now and the Weller hasn’t been switched on since I took delivery a couple of months ago. Shipping took nearly 2 months though :headbang:

http://s.aliexpress.com/22ymQvQ7
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Re: Frugal cable decision query

Postby ef37a » Sun May 26, 2019 12:15 pm

Wow Dan! That station looks brilliant!

I do very little soldering now and have a decent "Dura tool" station (Maplin) but I might just get one of those just in case they go from the market JUST when the Maplin jobby breaks.

Op!?? NO BRAINER.

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Re: Frugal cable decision query

Postby Dan LB » Sun May 26, 2019 2:22 pm

Yeah I think it's worth it given the relatively small outlay but I'll have to wait and see how long it lasts.

All available handles come with a nice heat-resistant silicone rubber cable too.
I bought the one with the black and blue handle which has a nice short 'tip to grip' distance which is great for fine work.

I've recently taken delivery of the aluminium handle that's available for it too and I really like it. :thumbup:

My only concern with the station is that the IEC inlet is soldered directly to the PSU board so has the potential to crack the joints over time if plugging and unplugging regularly - I'll probably mod it at some stage to avoid this issue.
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Re: Frugal cable decision query

Postby shufflebeat » Mon May 27, 2019 7:40 pm

@Beans

PM sent.
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