Line/Mic Level Cables

Discussion in 'Recording Studio Instruments' started by Guitarfreak, May 3, 2011.

  1. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Guest

    I need some consultation about certain applications of Line Level and above audio signal with regards to using the right cables. I have begun building my own cables from bulk cable and connectors. I am re-cabling my guitar rig and recording rig, so far the guitar rig is taken care of (for the most part) but I need some advice for the recording rig.

    -I need to replace my mic cables and I am considering either Mogami or Canare XLR bulk cable. This is simple enough, but I am curious as to what guages of conductor wire are traditionally used because I want to use that or a guage above.

    -I need to replace an XLR cable from my DI box to my interface. Would I use the same standard Mic cable just like from my mics to my interface?

    -I need to replace a TRS to XLR cable from my interface to my reamp box. Again the same standard bulk Mic cable, but just one connector is TRS instead of XLR?

    -I need to replace my interface to L and R Monitor cables. Standard 2 conductor speaker cable of around 14 guage?

    -I don't need to build these right away, but I'm wondering what type of cable would be ideal here. The application is cables for my tube amp's effects loop. Instrument cable? Speaker cable? I know the signal level is at line level, so probably something of a pretty significant guage of around 16 guage would probably do well without loading the amp's preamp. Shielded? One or two conductor?

    Lots of specific questions I know, but I'm just looking to "Do it right, do it once."

    Thanks
    -Jake
  2. moonbaby

    moonbaby Moderator

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    Your guitar amp's FX loop should be serviced by standard, good quality instrument cables, SHIELDED. 16-gauge is kind of big for that, you'll probably find 22- or 24-gauge more suitable.
    For the monitor speakers, 14-gauge should cover most passive applications. Keep the length as short as possible, UNshielded (always for speaker useage).
  3. Jeemy

    Jeemy Guest

    I use George L's for all in/outs to tube amps and pedal/effects loop interconnects. Its coaxial cable, albeit quite decent quality, and solderless crimped connections, allowing you to custom-make easily and rewire simply. Invaluable for me when I change my pedalboard arrangement more often than my underpants (twice a year hehey!).

    It really does reduce all noise as a single-coil player.
  4. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Guest

    Thanks. MB, you mentioned that the 14 guage would work well with passive monitors, but mine are active. Does that mean that I should use smaller conductor wire instead? Are there any drawbacks of using thicker guaged wire? I am using 18 guage shielded wire for guitar and pedal connections and 14 guage unshielded to go from my amp to cabinet. I really like the openness of the sound with the thicker wire, and I don't think I've gone overboard as these are still pretty reasonable values I think, but I do think that I prefer using thicker wires.

    How about for Mic level signal? I see Mogami cabling which uses two 22 guage conductors and a spiral shield. Would there be any benefit if I used two 18 guage conductors and a shield? Just wondering, I don't think it's necessary, but I don't see any harm either. I'll probably just end up getting the Mogami mic cable with 22 guage conductors. Would this work for the ins and outs of the DI box and Reamp box as well? Obviously the parts which go from the interface to the boxes themselves and not the throughput.
  5. Jeemy

    Jeemy Guest

    I'll let MB who is more knowledgable comment on the active/passive issue. But I would append that the coax cable is the best kind of shielding available afaik, its a similar internal braiding to Canare and so its very good value for your guitar lines.
  6. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Guest

    That sounds pretty cool. I bought Canare GS-6 instrument cable which is 18 guage (which is what I wanted, I was really pretty anal about this) and braided shielding. It was a pain to unbraid all of the shield material without losing too many strands (the wire used is quite possibly thinner than human hair) I brought a cable with me to a friend's house today and we took rounds trying it out next to other cables we had on hand and we both agree that these cables sound fantastic! Really much crisper and more responsive than anything else on hand. There actually is quite a difference in sound quality due to cables for anyone reading this wondering what I'm going on about. I really didn't believe it myself until I started doing it myself.
  7. Jeemy

    Jeemy Guest

    Yeah its a major pain, and worth it. I worked out it takes about 2-3 mins to unbraid a connector and when we rewired the entire studio with Canare there were approximately 400 cable ends to do. This worked out at 18 hours or so. It was horrible allocating the time. This is why I love the George L's for guitar. You just screw the end on and it bites into the shield and you are done. Its very reliable and sounds great - I don't know the physics about a thick solid core but although the cable tends to twist, I prefer its sound to anything else. I can't tell the difference between Accusound, Mogami and Canare on a mic line, but I can damn well tell the different on a guitar line when I can feel the responsiveness.

    And its not just the sound quality. I use a very complex setup (complex by virtue of being simple, if that makes any sense). Every pedal is converted to be true bypass, and I use multiple A/Bs and multiple-channel amps so I can press one button, and flip several effects. Anything digital bypasses the preamp section, and I use a guitar synth. All in all I never have more than 2 pedals running at once, but I use about 8 in total and the MIDI synth too. It means when I used to try to DI into the PA, massive hum, and there was no way around it until I tried the co-ax cable. I used to have to mic up my guitar cab, just to feed monitors so guys on the other side of the stage could hear me. Its an amazing noise reducer.
  8. moonbaby

    moonbaby Moderator

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    If they are ACTIVE monitors, then NO you do not want "14 ga speaker cable". You want a low level instrument /line level cable just like everything else. I assumed that you had passive speakers because you said "speaker cable". And you only use real , unshielded speaker cables when you are connecting a power amp to the speakers. That obviously does not happen in an active box. 14 gauge is pretty thick, are there manufacturers that make shielded cables that heavy?
  9. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Guest

    Not that I know of. I was just talking about using unshielded two conductor cabling because I was under the assumption that that's what I was supposed to use.

    I could essentially order more of the Canare single conductor shielded instrument cable and use it for the monitors as well then?

    EDIT: Actually, I just looked at the connectors on the monitor cables that I am currently using and they are TRS, so should I use the Mogami dual conductor 22 ga shielded cable instead? And buy TRS connectors I would assume. If it helps, the monitors I am using are KRK RP5's.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2011
  10. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Moderator

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    For dealing with the braid on Canare or other similar wire, get yourself a dental pick or a small pointed bent pick. Then you push/pull the braid several times to loosen the braid and gently pick it open. Twist it together and you're good to go.

    I second the admonition of Moonbaby. Line or mic level signals get standard mic type wire. Speakers get heavy gauge wire (relatively) because of the current load it's handling.
  11. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Guest

    I wish it took me 2-3 minutes to unbraid the shield. It took me a few hours one night to prep and solder two cables. Maybe it gets faster with practice. I can appreciate your comment on mic lines vs guitar lines because people think I'm nuts talking about the things I hear in guitar gear, but I swear I can hear or feel a difference in the smallest things. It's probably different with mics and studio gear though, as you said, so I don't see any problem with going to a smaller wire guage for that purpose. Mogami or Canare should be fine I think. Out of curiosity, which Canare cable did you go with for your studio?
  12. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Guest

    Thanks. I'll have to try loosening up the braid before picking it next time.

    I believe it. Going outside of mic/line signals though, aren't guitar pickups inductors which are current based devices? So wouldn't it make sense that in general a guitar signal could benefit from using thicker wires as well? Tonally anyway, nothing is going to break or be damaged from using too thin a wire like it would when talking about speaker wire.
  13. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Moderator

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    Remember you don't have to pick all the way around. You just unweave a "line" straight down. Once you get the trick it goes pretty quick. The key is definitely to loosen the braid first.

    How much current do you think you are sending to the guitar?!?
  14. BobRogers

    BobRogers Moderator

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    Yes. Use the same cable as the for mic/line signals. Your powered speakers get a line level signal. You don't want to use separate housing for the L and the R. The point is to run them together so that the difference in the two signal cancels any common noise.

    I'm with Jeemy for the George L's cables. If you are wiring a pedal board, the soundness of connectors is the key. The gauge of the cable doesn't matter in a 3 inch run. George L's are well shielded and the connections are dead easy. If anything ever starts crackling you can fix it in 30 seconds with a wire cutter and a screw driver. I use if for long runs as well, but the advantage is not really as big as it is in a pedal board. Eric Johnson (who claims he can tell the difference between different brands of batteries in his pedals) swears by them.
  15. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Has Studio Services

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    Some slight confusion here. You need to use separate balanced (2-conductor) screened leads for the L and R cabling to the powered monitors. Within each cable, the + and - conductors pick up the same interference, and this common-mode noise is attenuated by the action of the differential input of the monitor.
  16. BobRogers

    BobRogers Moderator

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    Yes, that's more than slightly confusing, sorry. I meant the L and R in XLR not the left and right speakers.
  17. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Guest

    ahh, haha, I've been undoing the entire braid of about 3/4" to an inch of cabling haha, what a waste of time. I would assume that you mean "from" the guitar and not "to" but I know it's dependant on whatever the guitar is plugged into. The amount of current produced by the pickup is relative to the pickup itself, the guitar wiring, and any other loads that it is connected to. The pickup can only produce a signal relative to the load it is producing into. Other than that basic understanding, I really have no idea what typical current ranges are.
  18. treidm

    treidm

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    In the electrical field I have used shielded cables up to 10 AWG, but they are very expensive
    For electrical signals generally, bigger is better, but there is an extreme point where it becomes too big
    The amount of strands in each wire (Which can vary), will make a big difference
    On twisted pairs, the tighter the twist the lower the noise
  19. BobRogers

    BobRogers Moderator

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    The basic idea here is that if the current/voltage is small (line, mic, instrument level) than it is susceptible to external electrical interference, so shielding is far more important than the gauge/thickness of the wire. If the current/voltage is high (after a power amp) then it will be relatively unaffected by outside sources, but the guage/size of the wire is more important in allowing the flow of that much current.
  20. treidm

    treidm

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    Why are you saying current/voltage is small or high?
    as if they relate as both are higher or lower? If you raise voltage which is just a "potential", it lowers the current. They don't relate in that way. It's the whole reason commercial business uses 277v lighting opposed to 120v. At the higher voltage it takes less current to provide the same power, so it's cheaper $$ But shielded cable will provide more protection from frequency bleeds, eddy currents etc..
    Power amps are affected by the same problems, you just can't hear it as easily. Frequency interference doesn't care what voltage you are at, although eddy currents do change with the voltage & current levels.
    In electronics most shields are doing nothing more than reversing phase to cancel out noise, then taken to ground. In some applications it's necessary to actually have a "blind" wire. One end of the shield is left disconnected, while the other is connected.
    The size of wire is very important for max current flow that is correct, but the insulation is very important also. If you take a smaller gauge wire to it's current limits it will start to over heat and can break down the insulation and big problems start from there. If you are not anywhere near the current limit of a particular gauge of wire and the insulation is rated to a high enough temperature, you will reduce any problems.
    The Shielding, Gauge, Insulation, Twist Ratio if applicable all have a direct affect on problems. Whether they are balanced or not is certainly important too.
    And oh yes, the more strands in a wire is better. Current flows on the surface of wires NOT the center.

    Shielding IS more important than gauge in this application, that much is very true. But too small of a gauge or lousy cheap insulation etc. will cause problems too.
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2011
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