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I would like to try and make my own audio cables, suggestions for where to get the parts?

Postby seriousnewbie » Thu Feb 11, 2021 3:07 am

Sorry if I butchered the title a little bit :headbang:

I am interested in making my own cables, more specifically XLR, XLR-TRS, TS-TS, etc. I am not doing this JUST to save money (although that's not a bad bonus :D ), I really think that it would be fun to try out. It seems like "high quality cables" are pretty expensive, and I haven't really been able to figure out how much the price actually matters. Of course it does when we are talking about distance, but it's easy to find a 15 ft TS cable for $10 and another for $50. I do understand there will most definitely be a difference in the price range that I just used as an example, but how far does that go?

Anyway, I am just wondering, to those of you who do make their own audio cables already, where do you get your parts from?

I only recently started thinking about this, so feel free to give me more details.

P.S. just in case your wondering by any chance, here is the video plan on using: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgKQO6W-xos
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Re: I would like to try and make my own audio cables, suggestions for where to get the parts?

Postby Watchmaker » Thu Feb 11, 2021 4:00 am

What part of the world are you in?
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Re: I would like to try and make my own audio cables, suggestions for where to get the parts?

Postby seriousnewbie » Thu Feb 11, 2021 5:02 am

Watchmaker wrote:What part of the world are you in?

the US.
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Re: I would like to try and make my own audio cables, suggestions for where to get the parts?

Postby blinddrew » Thu Feb 11, 2021 11:21 am

Can't recommend any suppliers in the US but I'm sure someone will be along soon.
What I will say is that making cables is a great way to get the hang of soldering and learn some of the tricks/best practice. You probably won't save much money but you'll be able to make custom lengths/connections and the great thing about cabling is that if you completely balls something up, the worst you have to do is just chop a couple of inches off and start again.
But get a decent, high-power iron.
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Re: I would like to try and make my own audio cables, suggestions for where to get the parts?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Feb 11, 2021 11:37 am

I've no experience of them personally, because I live on the other side of the water, but I'd look at companies like mouser.com or jameco.com -- electronics components suppliers. They should be able to supply suitable connectors and cables.

I think most of us here rate Neutrik connectors very highly, but you might find Switchcraft or Cannon ITT connectors more cost-effective where you are. Cannon designed the XLR in the first place, and Switchraft soon copied it. Both are high quality, but perhaps not quite as quick and easy to work with as the Neutriks -- although I came across some recent Switchcraft connectors that are actually quite good.
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Re: I would like to try and make my own audio cables, suggestions for where to get the parts?

Postby shufflebeat » Thu Feb 11, 2021 11:50 am

Avoid budget end plugs, they are often made with plastic that melts easily and metal that bends and makes connections it shouldn't.

I like Neutrik plugs, partly for their quality materials but also because they are thoughtfully designed to ease the assembly process. The Neutrik-Rean budget range is not good unless for installations which won't be moved much.

I've recycled the same Neutrik XLR several times for different cables as my needs evolve and have even bought a bunch second hand on eBay although this can be a bit of a lottery.
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Re: I would like to try and make my own audio cables, suggestions for where to get the parts?

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Feb 11, 2021 11:58 am

Another UK resident here but +1 for a good soldering iron, specifically a temperature controlled soldering station. And buy decent connectors, Neutrik are solid and reliable for both XLRs and Jacks, they also make Rean which are a good budget alternative but less durable*. Mid priced cable, Sommer for example, is fine, expensive stuff like Klotz or Belden is more durable and nicer to handle but won't sound any different.

* Agree with Stuff, cheap connectors are false economy for gigging cables though I've not had trouble with Rean only with cheaper 'own brand' Thomann stuff (which is generally 'orrible) and old 'no-name' cables from way back. Solder joints can be resoldered but female XLRs that become loose/unreliable need to go straight in the bin.
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Re: I would like to try and make my own audio cables, suggestions for where to get the parts?

Postby Luke W » Thu Feb 11, 2021 2:57 pm

shufflebeat wrote:I like Neutrik plugs, partly for their quality materials but also because they are thoughtfully designed to ease the assembly process.


:thumbup: The design/build of the connectors makes a big difference. Putting quality aside I'd still happily pay for the likes of Neutriks in most situations just for the ease of working with them. I think this is probably quite important if you're new to soldering as well, it'd be quite easy to get frustrated and put off of the idea entirely if the first connectors you ever had to do were a pain to work with.
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Re: I would like to try and make my own audio cables, suggestions for where to get the parts?

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Feb 11, 2021 3:24 pm

This ^^^

Oh, and while you are buying your soldering station, get a decent cable tester at the same time. Buzzing them out with a DVM is fine but a plug in tested is much easier if you've got a dozen to check...
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Re: I would like to try and make my own audio cables, suggestions for where to get the parts?

Postby James Perrett » Thu Feb 11, 2021 3:42 pm

I've seen Markertek often recommended and they seem to have a reasonable selection of connectors...

https://www.markertek.com/category/audio-connectors

and cables...

https://www.markertek.com/category/bulk ... l-h&page=1
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Re: I would like to try and make my own audio cables, suggestions for where to get the parts?

Postby MarkPAman » Thu Feb 11, 2021 4:23 pm

Couple of things regarding the video you linked to.

Connecting pin 1 to the barrel of the plug often creates more problems than it solves - I certainly have removed that link far more times than I've had to add it.

Pinching the connector round the wire - never seen that before. I guess it may make the connection slightly stronger physically but it's also going to make any future repair more tricky, though if you've done it correctly those should be few!

I find this a useful reference when making cables: https://www.ranecommercial.com/legacy/note110.html
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Re: I would like to try and make my own audio cables, suggestions for where to get the parts?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Feb 11, 2021 4:57 pm

MarkPAman wrote:Connecting pin 1 to the barrel of the plug often creates more problems than it solves - I certainly have removed that link far more times than I've had to add it.

I agree -- linking pin 1 to the outer shell is mandated in the AES spec, and it does make technical sense... but it's not necessary for the vast majority of applications and, in the real world of legacy and badly designed gear, it does tend to cause more problems than it fixes. So I'd advise leaving it out!

Pinching the connector round the wire - never seen that before. I guess it may make the connection slightly stronger physically but it's also going to make any future repair more tricky, though if you've done it correctly those should be few!

I was always taught that a connection should be mechanically sound without solder... and hence the idea of crimping the connector terminals... However, in the real world again, there is a risk of damaging the pin by crimping in that way, and it makes future repairs all but impossible... it's another unnecessary step. A better option, in my view, would be to use either a Hellerman rubber sleeve or a heatshrink sleeve over the joint to provide some extra mechanical security and insulation against stray wires!

If you're really doing the job properly, the braid screen wire should be sleeved, too, which he omitted. (I don't usually bother either, but if we're talking about doing the job properly...)

And a last word about cables. Star-quad cables as shown in the video do have better rejection of very near-field interference sources than standard twin-core cables. But it's rare to need that level of rejection outside of a very electrically hostile environment where the mic cable is laid alongside nasty lighting cables and such like. So a TV studio, yes fair enough... for a typical home studio it's a waste of money and makes the cable-making job longer and harder.

Also, while the video is right that a braided screen gives a high percentage of shielding cover, it's a pain in the back end to have to shred and sort out. And, I've found over the years that braided screen cables can kink and the braid opens out in a way that doesn't happen with lapped cables.

Some lapped screens certainly are poor, as he showed in that example, but not all by any means. Buy a decent cable from a reputable manufacturer and a lapped screen is absolutely fine. Best option by far is actually a double-lapped screen, sometimes called a Reussen screen!

Anyway, most modern cables now supplement the screen with either conductive foil or conductive plastic too, and usually provide a simple drain wire for the connector, which makes life easier still.

Finally, use a reasonably large chunky bit on the soldering iron to transfer a big chunk of heat quickly, and use a temperature-controlled iron rather than a stand-alone cheap one. leaded multicore solder is easier to work with if you can get it and is fine for use in cable connectors. Unleaded solder needs a slightly higher temperature iron.

And 'tin' both the wires and the connector solder cups before trying to solder them together (he didn't appear to tin the screen braid which is probably why he had to keep the iron on the terminal for so long and go back to it two or three times!
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Re: I would like to try and make my own audio cables, suggestions for where to get the parts?

Postby seriousnewbie » Thu Feb 11, 2021 8:28 pm

James Perrett wrote:I've seen Markertek often recommended and they seem to have a reasonable selection of connectors...

https://www.markertek.com/category/audio-connectors

and cables...

https://www.markertek.com/category/bulk ... l-h&page=1
thank you! that's perfect!
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Re: I would like to try and make my own audio cables, suggestions for where to get the parts?

Postby seriousnewbie » Thu Feb 11, 2021 8:34 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:This ^^^

Oh, and while you are buying your soldering station, get a decent cable tester at the same time. Buzzing them out with a DVM is fine but a plug in tested is much easier if you've got a dozen to check...

Thanks for letting me know, definitely sounds like a smart idea! :D

Anyone have any recommendations? I haven't looked very much yet, but this is what I think I might get, seems reasonable enough:
https://www.amazon.com/MFL-Rectangular- ... s9dHJ1ZQ==

Would I be able to plug a 1/4" jack into the TRS input, or would that break something?
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Re: I would like to try and make my own audio cables, suggestions for where to get the parts?

Postby Luke W » Thu Feb 11, 2021 9:33 pm

seriousnewbie wrote:Anyone have any recommendations? I haven't looked very much yet, but this is what I think I might get, seems reasonable enough:
https://www.amazon.com/MFL-Rectangular- ... s9dHJ1ZQ==

Would I be able to plug a 1/4" jack into the TRS input, or would that break something?

I've got a very similar tester, that design is branded and sold by lots of different companies. I've had it for a fair few years without any issues.

You can use the 1/4" input for TS as well as TRS plugs as they're the same size and shape, so no problems there. One thing to watch out for, is that when you test a correctly wired TS cable the tester will show a connection between the sleeve and the ring, as the contacts in the socket will both touch the sleeve. On a TRS cable that would indicate a fault, so it might catch you out if you weren't sure what you were looking for.
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