Building cables

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If you want to make a decent sounding speaker cable it's not terribly difficult. Go down to Home Depot and buy yourself a roll of 12/3 Romex cable. Cut two identical lengths and use the one for + (red) and the other length for - (black). Each of the two lengths has three solid core copper wires inside. Take the center one and strip it back long enough to work into your speaker and amplifier's binding posts. Take the other two conductors, strip them back and tie them in parallel to the center one a reasonable distance back, say six inches, leaving the center one sticking out to connect to the binding posts. Then, repeat the process for the other channel. You now have a decent sounding speaker cable for about $20.

No, it doesn't look pretty, no it isn't spectacular sounding, but it's actually pretty darned good. It uses a couple of techniques that are important for us to understand if we're interested in learning how to make cables sound good. They work because they use multiple, separately insulated solid core conductors. These multiple conductors have a good deal of surface area that helps the higher frequencies travel easily down the wire, yet a decent amount of solid internal 'meat' inside each of the conductors to help with bass.

These cables don't have the greatest low frequency control and impact nor would they have the best top end. So, what might we do to improve both areas? For the bass notes we could add more 'meat' meaning another, heavier gauge solid core conductor in parallel. For the top end, we could do the opposite: add multiple smaller gauge solid core conductors in parallel. I think you get the idea.

These explain just a few of the rudimentary tools cable designers have at their disposal to 'tune' the sound of cables connecting amps to speakers. The other variables are many, including the types of insulation used for the conductors, the geometry of the conductors in relationship to each other (parallel, braided, right angles to each other etc.).

Tomorrow let's start a discussion on bi-amping, moving up the scale from bi-wiring.

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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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