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CaptainVinyl1's picture
Last seen: 5 years 4 months ago
Joined: Mar 15 2012 - 9:00pm
DIY cables

Over the years I have experimented with numerous low-budget alternatives for interconnects and speaker wires. When I say low-budget I mean low-low budget, as I just cannot justify even relatively modest expenditures to replace equipment that works "perfectly" well. In that regard I have been longing for a new turntable to replace my seriously compromised Pro-Ject 1.2 for many years now. But even in it's compromised condition, I still love playing records on it and thoroughly enjoy the sound, thus rendering moot any discussion of a new one.

years ago in The Absolute Sound, one of the writers had written in high praise of the use of a 14 gauge extension cord from Home Depot as speaker wire. So I figured what the heck and purchased a 25' 14 gauge extension cord and within 15 minutes of getting home with it, I was listening to music with them. I liked the sound. Definitely better than the bulk 16 gauge stuff from Radio Shack, so I used them for a while.

The downside is the inherent weight and stiffness of such a cable. My speakers are up on top of the wall to wall bookshelves/entertainment center in my family room, about 6.5' above the floor. The weight of these cables would move the speaker out of place if the cable was touched or shifted in any way.

Then I decided to experiment with braiding, after seeing on Chris VenHaus site about using Cat 5 cable to make massive cables each using 27 strands from the Cat 5. I was not willing to pop for an entire box of Cat 5, so I went to work with the bulk 16 gauge speaker wire from Radio Shack.

I measured 12 identical 12' lengths of the speaker wire. Fastening one end down to my workbench with a clamp, I inserted the other end into a drill. Pulling the cavble tight, I spun the drill until there were twists every 3/4 inch (I should have counted turns for consistency rather than just eyeballing 3/4" spacing). Once I had the desired twist I eased the tension, and the cable sprung back slightly, leaving 1" twists.

I then clamped three such twisted cables to the bench and braided them. I spliced the six wires into two groups of three, with one being the positive and one the negative. One end got Monster banana plugs to connect to my receiver, and the other got a Monster "spike" to attach to the binding post of the speaker.

I used these exclusively for several months. I definitely was hearing more on the bottom end than with previous cables. The braided cables were much lighter and not as stiff as the extension cord, and certainly looked much cooler, even though they were virtually unseen from the room.

Then I read an old artical by Art Dudley describing the use of small gauge magnet wire as speaker wire. Surely I though such a minimalist approach-a single 30 gauge vs. the triple braided 16 gauge - could not possibly work. So I paid about $5 for some spools of magnet wire from Radio shack, plus another $4 for a set of 8 RCA plugs.

I laid out an 8' long piece of 1 1/2"packing tape, sticky side up, om the work bench. Then I laid one of the magnet wires on the tape, about 1/4" in from the edge of the tape. The second wire went 1/4" away from the first. I then folded the other half of the tape over, and basically completed the construction, other than attaching the Monster connectors.

I was expecting somewhat tinny sound, but no! It sounded to me just as good as any of the other methods tried so far. I was so impressed I made up 3 sets of interconnects from the remaining wire and plugs. To date I still have 2 sets of the interconnects in place, but have now gone back to the triple-braids for the speakers, as they seem to offer a tone slightly more to my liking.

So of the three methods, the extension cord was the most expensive but easiest to make, with good sound but heavy weight and stiffness. The triple braid was less expensive but the most difficult to make. They offered excellent sound with less weight, and they look cool if your wires will be visible. The magnet wire was cheap, pretty easy, and sounded darned good also. I did have an issue with one of the interconnects where the thin wire snapped after getting kinked.

I also used the heaviest, 20 gauge magnet wire that came as part of the set from Radio Shack, as the internal wiring on my DIY speakers.

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