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DIY Cables

Discussion in 'Accessories & Connections' started by jonmmartin, Apr 17, 2008.

  1. jonmmartin

    jonmmartin Guest

    I would like to make my own cables. What recommendations do you have for quality cable and connectors. I need to make balanced 1/4 to 1/4 and XLR, as well as instrument cables. I want quality but have a limited budget.
    Thanks for your help.
  2. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Fredericksburg, VA
    Hey jonmmartin -

    Welcome to DIY cables! It's fun and addicting. Here are a few tips -

    1 - Get a good soldering iron (if you don't already have one of course...) A good Weller soldering station with variable output is a great solution.

    2 - Get good solder. At a minimum, get Kester silver-bearing solder. WBT is good as well, but a bit more expensive. DO NOT use plumbing solder or pretty much any other kind of solder that you can buy from Lowes or Home Depot.

    3 - Make sure you make good connections - never a cold joint. (If you're not familiar with soldering techniques, read up a lot and practice on stuff you don't care about.)

    Good cable brands include:
    Canare (my favorite for most applications)
    West Penn (inexpensive and quite nice especially given its price)

    Then you have to decide whether you want quad, non-quad (4 leads, 2 leads respectively) braided shield, non-braided shield, etc. Mogami uses a non-braided, twisted shield which is easy to work with but I find is less effective. Canare uses primarily a braided shield which is a pain in the ass to work with be incredibly effective. Belden goes either way depending upon the cable.

    The reason Canare is my favorite out of the brands listed is because of quality and because the jacket is smooth and coils easily. I can't say the same for all others.

    Oh...one last tip. Have good ventilation. Solder is nasty stuff - the fumes will kill you (literally) if you're not careful.

  3. jonmmartin

    jonmmartin Guest

    J, Thanks for the reply and information. Another question. What should you expect to pay for cable and connectors?
    Thanks again,
  4. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Fredericksburg, VA
    Connectors are roughly $2-$3 per piece (Neutrik XLR and TRS).

    Cable itself can run you anywhere between around $.20 per foot up to $2 per foot (for single cable) and $1 per foot up to $25 per foot for snake cables.

    Solder should set you back about $30-$50 per roll but will last a bit.

    You'll likely need some shrink tubing as well (which is inexpensive). A hot hair dryer can shrink it, but a cheap heat gun works best (Lowes - $39 in the paint aisle.)
  5. jonmmartin

    jonmmartin Guest

    Thanks again, Where do you shop for these things?
  6. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Fredericksburg, VA
    I use Markertek and Redco.

    The prices will vary between the two and when I buy in bulk, I get better discounts from one than the other on certain things.
  7. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    Nov 13, 2001
    did someone say ... DIY !!

    be a little careful when using Heat Guns as they do have enough grunt to melt cable outers
    and some connector parts
    and damage the heatshrink tubing itself

    Soldering is much easier with a real solder station and a selection of iron tips
    I use a Webber but many use the Hakko

    it may suprise people to learn that I use the simple plastic (Cliff) 6.5mm TRS connectors
    this is for inside racks where repeated use is not an issue

    cheap with a good chromed outer
    accepts solder well
    does tarnish like others do

    yes the Neutrik and Alcate (Canon)l XLR and TRS connectors are what I use in the ... open ... so to speak
  8. stealthy

    stealthy Guest

    Cucco, for some reason it will not let me PM you. i have a question for you about your custom cables. Please send me a PM so that i can (hopefully) reply!
  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Fredericksburg, VA
    SOrry...my PM box is full. I get way too many PMs here.

    can you e-mail me?

  10. stealthy

    stealthy Guest

    sure thing. email sent.
  11. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    Aug 28, 2008
    Cincinnati, OH
    Home Page:
    Searching for info on soldering, found this post.
    Also found an epic thread about some fellow mutilating a nice old mic w/ bad soldering techniques.

    So I ask you Cucco (or anyone, for that matter), what are your recommendations on information?
    I have some very basic soldering skills and a cheap kit (brief stint @ ITTs Electrical Engineering program), but have realized that while what I have may be sufficient for practice, I'm gonna need some instruction and eventually a better setup.

    Since I've decided to do this job in one form another, I've decided to acquire the necessary skills. Like making my own cables and fixing bad connections.
    Besides, I just got a cheap old BlueTube on eBay that came in a rackmount (no top piece) with a BlueMax - and it's got a lot of noise (AC & RFI). One channel does better than the other.
    I've decided to make it work properly, starting w/ grounding/iso, and then further if necessary.
    I only mention the BT b/c it made me realize I really need to be able to tinker w/ things better - rather than have the local guy charge me more than the cost of the item to fix it. We do call ourselves engineers?

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