Should I make my own cables?

Discussion in 'Accessories / Connections' started by Bjarne, Apr 4, 2005.

  1. Bjarne

    Bjarne Guest

    Hey guys. I think I need some cables which are wirered differently than the ones I can get in the store. So I'm thinking about trying to make the cables myself. The problem is that I have almost no experience in soldering :oops: , so I'm wondering what the risks are if I try to do it? I know it will probably be time consuming, but what happens if I do a bad job? I guess I could test the cables for shorts before using them, but what if the cables are wired correctly but I did a less than perfect job with the solder (too much solder or too little or something like that), will I then experience a degrade in sound quality?
  2. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    What are you trying to wire? It is certainly possible you do need non-standard cables, but companies like HOSA, make an awful lot of cable variations...

    Other than that, I can solder OK. You can too. Just do it over, over, over, until it looks/tests/works well. You may want to buy several connectors and more than enough cable for "practice", along with a nice set of wire cutters to "eliminate" your kistakes/misteaks, ahh...screwups. But I still try to find a real expert(Not hard to find) when I need a good job done - like for "work stuff". Up to now though, I have generally found someone, somewhere, that makes what I want already.

  3. Bjarne

    Bjarne Guest

    Thanks, I need an unbalanced cable, XLR to jack, for the LynxTWO soundcard I'm going to buy. The problem is that the cables I can find have pin 1 and 3 connected, whereas the Lynx manual says that the cable should have pin 1 connected to the shield, and then the shield should not be connected at the other end :?
  4. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    Nov 13, 2001

    but then that's the sort of answer most people would expect from me

    I DIY, therefore I am
  5. rudedogg

    rudedogg Guest

    even if you don't need to, make your own cables.

    i have to agree with kev on this one. we need to put the engineering back into engineer. it amazes me the amount of people who are "pro" audio engineers and producers and what not, and wouldn't know how to solder a cable if a terrorist put a gun to their head.

    DIY or die! :) (think 80's skateboarding games)
  6. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    Nov 13, 2001
    oh yes
    I like it !
    can I borrow that ?
  7. perfectwave

    perfectwave Guest

    :cool: :cool: :cool: on the 80's skateboarding games
  8. Bjarne

    Bjarne Guest

    Thanks... you've got me convinced :D

    Now I just need to buy some tools. Will a cheap soldering iron be fine for making cables? and is it important what kind of solder I use?
  9. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS use resin core solder, NOT the acid core stuff they sell at plumbing supply. :!:

    Otherwise, you can find most of what you need to get you started at Radio Shack. (good for beginner stuff, and just enough for the basics.) Markertech and other online vendors have better stuff, ( brands like Weller, etc. )you'll know you need it when the time comes.

    Get a good clean, well-lighted work area, with a sturdy, smooth surface you can work on. (counter-top, etc.) Remember you may be dropping the occasional blob of solder on it, so you don't want to use the dining room table.

    A couple of basic tips should get you going:

    1. work with a good soldering pen, 15-30 watts or so (Not an iron - that's overkill for most applications.) Use a stand to hold the iron when you're not using it, (Cutting, crimping, etc.) or warming it up.

    2. Keep the tip cleen; use a sponge or pad (the better soldering stations have a little bay to hold these). After you've tinned it (Melted solder on it), you'll want to occasionally wipe it between soldering uses. This gets the burnt resin off the edges, and keeps your solder flow cleen. Also, keep the tip TIGHT in the socket (use pliers to tighten it if it's already ON and hot, of course! :? ) A loose tip won't transfer heat very well; and a new iron may require that you tighten it a bit.

    3. Keep your exposed crimps as short as you can, but be aware you may end up melting or burning some of the insulation. You'll get a feel for this with each brand of wire you use. Some of the better brands are more heat-resistant than others.

    4. Make sure your connections are clean; they'll either be brand new, or you'll have to melt the old solder away and remove the junk if you're repairing or replacing something previous.

    In that case, you can use an iron with a attached vacuum plunger, or solder-wick or a "solder-sucker" to remove it while it's hot. Solder-wic is a braided strand of wire designed to "drink up" and remove excess solder from circuit boards and connectors. RS sells it, so does many others. It comes in various sizes for the job at hand, and it's a great tool to have in your kit.

    A "Solder-sucker" is a small bulb with a flame-proof tip that you hold on or near the joint as you solder it; you keep the bulb squeezed ahead of time, and once the solder gets molten, you release the bulb & let it suck-in the hot stuff - which goes harmlessly into the bulb as small pebbles (to be emptied later)

    In a pinch, you can also just get it hot enough to "drop" or bang the whole connection onto your work-space table. and let gravity or the impact do the job for you. It's messy and you could get stung by flying solder (it's kinda like bacon grease at that point), but it works too, in a pinch.

    5. For braided wire (probably 99% of what you'll be working with), it's usually a good idea to "tin" it first, before you actually stick it to something (like an XLR connector, etc.) Get your wires all prepped to go, then gently heat the exposed wire itself and let a small amount of solder flow onto the area. It will magically absorb the solder, and then become shiny & rigid - ready to be used in your connector. (Remember: let the solder melt onto the heated wire, NOT the tip of the iron.)

    6. The overall rule of thumb for soldering connections is to make sure it's a good PHYSICAL connection first, so that the solder simply makes sure things stay the way they should. (Think tube sockets, transformer lugs, volume/tone pot stand-offs, etc.) whenever practical, you should wrap your clean, newly exposed copper wire around a stud and then thorougly melt new solder onto both.

    HOWEVER, with XLRs and other tiny connections (some of them surface-mount technology), that's not as easily done, or even impossible. In those cases, "Tinning" the wire (and the targeted area - as in an XLR connector's spade/lug, or circuit board trace, etc.) is a good way to prep it all first. Once that's done, you don't need to do too much more than heating the two areas TOGETHER, sometimes adding a little more solder as you go, to make sure it's solid. (You'll need THREE hands to do this type of thing, so have some support clips or clamps, or even have something to plug the jacks/connectors INTO, to hold them solidly in place for you when soldering. I use a cable testor box to "hold" my XLR & 1/4" connectors stable, while I'm soldering something onto them.)

    In most cases, less is more; don't overdue the solder with big huge blobs, and;

    MOST importantly: watch out for "cold" joints - that's when not enough heat has been applied to one or the other parts of the connection, and hot solder has simply melted onto or around the joint, FOOLING you into thinking it's a solid connection. What often happens is the resin acts like an insulator instead of a facilitator for the electrical flow. You end up with a tiny layer of insulation, instead of a good solid mechanical bond. "Cold" solder joints sometimes even look quite OK to the naked eye. (Sometimes simply reheating a "Cold" joint will fix it.) REMEMBER: Heat the connector and add solder to the CONNECTOR, not the tip of the iron - thats' a VERY common mistake!

    Take a look at how OTHER people have made connections and joints for an idea of how your work should look, and try to emulate that. (There are BAD ones out there, too, so check 'em all!)

    Keep it lean & clean and you should be fine.

    good luck, and happy soldering; you may find you really like DYI'ing it.
  10. Reggie

    Reggie Well-Known Member

    Dec 20, 2004
    Thanks for all that, man. I've been trying to work up the nerve to built some SCA pres myself. Might have to get one just for a $260 soldering lesson.
  11. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    All that said, I have a LynxOne and have never failed to find any cable or adapter needed at local music stores... Again, HOSA has about everything and the quality is fine.

    Lynx themselves sell the proper adapters and at least short cables(Which can be used with "normal" longer cables.).

    Still, always check the pin-outs!

    "Balanced" does not always mean - wired the way you need! I'm told that countries can have different standards for "balanced" cable pin-out.

    And, yes, a kit is a great place to learn soldering - some come with soldering instructions. In the past there were kits designed primarily to teach soldering(?), where you ended up with a little gadget of some sort... Best place to learn though, is under the tuteledge of an expert. If you know a radio station or studio engineer or other electronics-type, they could be an excellent resource...

    An advantage of learning how to solder well, is that you are more likely able to find "bad soldering", all by yourself(One of THE major problems in equipment failure!). I had a "SUPER" name keyboard(Yes, that one...), that never worked right. An engineer friend, with his magnifying glass, found 128 "cold/bad" solder joints! A simple "touch-up", of each joint and the unit worked fine. This has happened MANY times since, for me and often I have "fixed it" myself...

    Education can be a good thing.

  12. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    Nov 13, 2001
    Joe !
    very cool
    I don't need to add anything there.

    As I said above ... I DIY
    if you need any help I'm never far away.

    It's all good
  13. Bjarne

    Bjarne Guest

    yeah thanks Joe (and everybody else) :cool:
  14. rudedogg

    rudedogg Guest

    Get an SCA KIT. I can't speak highly enough of how easy these things are to put together, and then you have a wonderful sounding mic pre for half of what it would cost you to buy one.

    What kind of cable do you guys use? There are a lot of kinds of Mogami cable, and frankly I get confused which stuff to buy.

    Anybody want to drop some tips on which cables and/or connectors for all of us newbs.

    DIY or die!!

  15. Reggie

    Reggie Well-Known Member

    Dec 20, 2004
    Cool mang.
    Pretty much any of the Neglex Mogami is good. I think they have some kind of budget "Silver" series or something that isn't as good. Mogami W2549 or Mogami W2534 are both fine (I think 2534 is supposed to be best?). I'm pretty sure I have both and I haven't heard a difference.

    Now question for you: I'm having a hard time understanding where the opamps fit into the design on the A12 SCA pre. I didn't find mention of it in the assembly instructions. Is it just really self-explanitory once you buy the opamp and see it? And is it one opamp needed per A12? And do the J99 or N72 need to have one? :?
    Whew; Thanks.

    Are you kidding? Australia might as well be the dark side of the moon as far as I'm concerned! :p :lol:
  16. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Feb 10, 2001
    Hello Bjarne,
    I had never made my own cables before in my life. Until joining this forum. I must have saved about $800-$1300. And it was pretty easy. And the more you do the better you get. After awhile you wonder why you ever bought cables in the first place.
    I owe alot to the guys on this forum. It really has saved me alot of $$$$.
    Not to mention how much more it is gonna save me in the future. And unlike any guitar stores that sell cables, you can get a cable on a Sunday. In just a few minutes. And ya dont gotta pay for gas, you dont gotta leave ya house, no lines to wait in, and it's ALWAYS in stock. :D
  17. dpd

    dpd Active Member

    Sep 29, 2004
    A damn fine post!

    I always get into arguments with my production people on this, but I tend to solder with a very high tip temperature (700-750 degrees) and always use a temperature-contolled iron (expensive, though).

    The idea is to heat the tip of the wire and the joint and NOT the whole connector and rest of the wire. That leads to melted connector insulation and, worse, melted wire insulation. The object is to get on the joint, apply the solder, and get off the joint as quickly as possible. Therefore, the iron temp needs to be high to flow heat into the joint quickly.

    Solder sticks best to solder so tin everything: the (clean) tip of the iron, the wire, and the connector.

    Alpha is a good solder vendor. Beware bad solder-wick (the braid used for desoldering) - some of it is corroded/oxidized and won't wick up solder without applying lots of heat - then you are back to melted connectors. Be careful with the vaccuum tools, too (at least on circuit boards) - it's a great way to lift pads and fatally damage a circuit board.

    Just takes patience and trial and error. Enjoy the fumes!
  18. bounce

    bounce Guest

    excellent post joe h.!
    a lot of the studios here in los angeles use mogami cable for snakes and canare quad cable for mic cables. you can save an absolute ton of money making your own and get far superior cables for less than the price of a cheap Hosa. plus canare comes in many colors to make your studio look superfly and all elitist and crap : ) most use neutrik connectors. if you're rich you can buy some zaolla cables. they rock, but a 6 ft. mic cable is about $200 (solid silver i believe?).

  19. rudedogg

    rudedogg Guest

    thanks! i've been wondering about that. i bought some 2792 for making patch cables, and i wasn't sure if i could use it for mic cables too. i think it is not the right cable for that.

    For the A12 you have to buy the op amps separate. i got the SCA ones just cause this is my first diy project. plus i read that they sounded pretty good. i might eventually replace them with the 2520s or something else. i think it is 40 bucks for the SC25 opamp.

    the N72 and understanding is that the N72 comes with everything that you need to build it. i believe it uses transformers instead of an opamp. the j99s don't come with the opamps. and you have to buy 2. if you go to the SCA page, it lists the manufacturers you can buy them from. i believe a lot of people are just buying the john hardy ones directly.

    i am a complete newbie to the DIY, but i found the A12s an absolute breeze to build. next is gonna be 2 N72s once i get some more money. and then on to the diy 1176, LA2A and ssl bus compressor. woo hoo.

  20. Reggie

    Reggie Well-Known Member

    Dec 20, 2004
    Awesome, thanks. Yeah, an LA2A sounds like fun. In order to practice my DIYing skills, I just ordered a 6-channel headphone distribution amp in kit form from Paia electronics. I was needing one anyway, and the kit was only 85 bucks. I've heard they come with great instructions for the beginner, so should be fun. :cool:

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