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DIY cables: XLR to RCA


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21 replies to this topic

#1 of 22 Owen Bartley

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Posted September 16 2005 - 02:21 PM

Alright, from my BFD question thread, I have decided that I can in fact use one, and now the next step is custom cables.

I've pretty much decided to go XLR to RCA over 1/4" to RCA, just for the novelty and I think XLRs look cool. If anyone has a legit reason to go otherwise, I'd switch. I plan on using connectors from Zaolla because I really like the way they look. I'll basically be replicating one of each of these:
Posted Image
With the RCA to male XLR being short (receiver to BFD) and the female XLR to RCA being long (BFD to sub).

So, this brings me to my first question. Where do I source my cable? I think RG6 quad shield is the appropriate type, is there a certain brand to look for? I'd prefer something fairly flexible, like mic cables or guitar patch cord, but I'm not sure if that's possible. I thought RG6 was easy to pick up at Home Depot or similar stores, and I would like to pick it up locally if possible (Toronto). Any tips?

Next question is the finish. I was thinking a layer of white techflex under a layer of clear techflex. But I've also seen some smoother nylon sleeving in black that looks great. Has anyone seen that in white anywhere? Also, is there anywhere to pick those things up at a local retail store?

Last question for now is will I need a specific stripper for a job like this, or can I get away without one?

That was a lot longer than I intended. But I'll reward any answers with a fully detailed thread of the build process. Posted Image

#2 of 22 Leo Kerr

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Posted September 17 2005 - 12:36 AM

cables involving XLR connectors are rarely coaxial. Generally they're more a 'twisted pair' type thing, where you've got, say, 2 18ga signal lines and a seperate ground wire.

Going away from coax will also make a 'proper' cable stripper unnecissary, as you will merely need something to cut the outter jacket, and then a conventional wire-stripper to strip back the signal leads.

Do be aware, of course, that you need to combine the proper pins (that is, short them) at the XLR end - unless, in this particular instance, you need one of the three pins unconnected.

Leo

#3 of 22 ThomasW

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Posted September 17 2005 - 02:50 AM

Generally these are mic cables and certainly can be shielded with a twisted pair inside the shield.

You can't use 3 leads unless you want to create a 'telescoping' ground setup with a drain wire. But you certainly can use and benefit from a standard shielded coax. I think quadshield is just a bit over the top considering how stiff and difficult it is to work with. RG-58AU is low buck and makes VERY good cables

#4 of 22 Owen Bartley

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Posted September 18 2005 - 02:42 PM

Thomas, is there a subject on this board you CAN'T give good advice about? Posted Image

Thank you both for the tips. I really didn't know where to start, so I had planned to follow the advice from this page. I guess the coax version would be something like this one:
Posted Image

And the twisted pair would be this one:
Posted Image

So I guess I'm going to look into the RG-58AU and some twisted pair cable, and see what I can come up with. I think I like the twisted pair for lack of need for a stripper, but I'll check into both.

#5 of 22 John Wes

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Posted September 21 2005 - 01:29 AM

Owen, you don't need a fancy stripper for coax if your going to solder the tips. Just use a sharpe knife or an exacto knife and work carefully to not cut yourself.

If you end up going the coax route, find something flexable. Not that it matters over anything else but it's more convienient imho...

#6 of 22 Owen Bartley

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Posted September 21 2005 - 04:08 AM

Thanks John, actually I picked up some 3-conductor 18 gauge wire at Home Depot last night. It is very flexible, with a black, rubbery outer layer, and it says it's waterproof. It cost me about $6.00 CDN for 5 metres, so if it doesn't work, it won't be a tragedy, but I'm liking the feel of it. Right now though I'm not sure if I'll have enough room to do the double layer of techflex I wanted, since I don't know the measurement of the hole in the RCA jacket. I guess it's time to order the RCA's and see, then I'll order the techflex after when I'm sure I have some room (or can safely drill out the hole a bit). I should order some white heatshrink too just in case.

#7 of 22 ThomasW

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Posted September 21 2005 - 06:50 AM

Well you certainly have a different set of priorities. You spend money on XLR's which are only cosmetic in this instance, TechFlex which is only cosmetic, buy fancy machined RCA plugs, then buy wire intended for use with a doorbell or thermostat?

#8 of 22 Owen Bartley

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Posted September 21 2005 - 10:31 AM

Thomas, maybe I have identified the wire wrongly. It certainly seems heavy for doorbell use. It seems pretty close to what is on the pictures of the factory cables in my first post, and any mic cable I've seen before. Either way, the choice was much less about priorities than just about me not knowing what I'm doing. I didn't intend to go with 99.9% silver wire or anything, I just wanted to make something reasonable.

I thought what I had found was along the lines of what I needed, but here are some pics to clarify:

Posted Image
Writing: "CAROL 18/3 90C (UL) WATER RESISTANT SJOOW CSA (-40C) FT-2 P-7K-123033 MSHA MADE IN USA 300V"

Posted Image
(those are stranded, not solid, sorry for the poor focus)

If I'm way off base here then I can change to something else I just thought this would do the job nicely.

#9 of 22 ThomasW

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Posted September 21 2005 - 03:31 PM

That's AC power cord wire.

If you're going to do this properly you need to get some shield coaxial cable.

#10 of 22 Ben Ch

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Posted September 21 2005 - 03:39 PM

SJOOW is cabling for extension cords (the OOW stands for outdoor-oil-wet, as in environment)

I make all my extension cords for my power tools and test rigs that I use on my job out of this or out of SJTW.

I believe a trade name is cab-tar.

#11 of 22 Owen Bartley

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Posted September 21 2005 - 11:10 PM

OK, Thanks guys, I'll go back to the coax plan. I'll see if I can find some RG-58AU.

Edit: Just making sure - I want solid core, right?

#12 of 22 ThomasW

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Posted September 22 2005 - 02:51 AM

You might want to google around to learn about wire designations. RG58AU has a stranded center.

This is a big supplier of different brands and types of cables http://www.markertek....ff=0&sort=prod

#13 of 22 Owen Bartley

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Posted September 22 2005 - 03:02 AM

Thanks again, Thomas. I found a local place that is supposed to carry it, but the guy insists that the 58 is solid core and they don't carry any stranded core coax. Looks like I'm going to have to keep looking around.

#14 of 22 Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Posted September 22 2005 - 03:22 PM

Owen,

Ditch the coax and go with standard audio cable - shielded single-conductor or dual conductor mic cable. No offense intended here, but you gave yourself away as a novice DIY cable builder when you brought in the 18-gauge power cable. I’m an expert cable maker, and I have used RG-59 coax with RCA connectors. But I wouldn’t attempt to use coaxial with an XLR connector. While I’m not familiar with the AU version Thomas mentions, generally speaking coaxial is unwieldy and not especially conducive for use with XLRs. Even a stranded coax will have a stiff center insulator that will be difficult to maneuver and position under the connector barrel. The shield is often a problem, too – many coaxial shields won’t accept solder, the strands are brittle and break easy etc.

Also, even a coax with stranded center conductor will be less flexible than your regular audio cable because it will have a stiffer jacket than the audio cable.

Bottom line, as a DIY cable novice, I think you’ll find regular audio cable much easier to work with. At the Markertek link Thomas gave you can find some excellent choices from Canare. They Dayton cable Parts Express sells is also fine. This is merely a subwoofer connection, no need for anything esoteric.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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#15 of 22 ThomasW

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Posted September 22 2005 - 05:22 PM

The stiffness of cable depends on the insulation used, some have a foam center dielectric that's quite flexible.

BTW, my bad on the RG58, the RG58U is the stranded version and it's very flexible. This cable is also very "transparent" from an audio standpoint. A while ago I bought some Canare RG59 coaxial cable thinking it would be an upgrade after reading a review in Speaker Builder Magazine (aka AudioXpress). Unfortunately it's not. The RG58U is sonically superior.

FWIW, the Canare RG59 is (as advertised) a very good video wire, and fits the Canare solder-on connectors perfectly

#16 of 22 Owen Bartley

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Posted September 22 2005 - 11:00 PM

Wayne, no offence taken! When it comes to cables, I think I've proved I'm a complete novice. I've read a lot about it online, and I thought I had a good idea of where I was going, but putting that thought into practice has proven a lot more difficult than I had anticipated. I remember reading something about a Monster interconnect being tested (by Secrets maybe?) and cut open to reveal what was basically power cable, so I figured I couldn't go too wrong. Wrong. Posted Image

I will look into getting some mic cable, because it will probably be easier to find locally as well. Out of probably 10 or 15 stores I called only one had the stranded core coax, and was out of stock till next month.

Thank you both for the continued assistance, I really do appreciate it. I can picture you experts reading this thread and smacking your forehead saying "what the hell is this guy doing now??" Your advice would definetely earn a round of beers at the least if we were closer.

#17 of 22 Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Posted September 23 2005 - 11:15 AM

Wow, that Monster stuff sounds pretty scary. Posted Image Wonder what it was?

Quote:
I can picture you experts reading this thread and smacking your forehead saying "what the hell is this guy doing now??"
Nah. What, you think we were born like this? Posted Image We all had to learn from someone. In fact, I’ve learned a lot about subjects I was already fairly knowledgeable about from people on this and other Forums. Posted Image

So hang in there – knowing how to make your own cables is a very useful skill for any audio nut. You can make your own custom-cut interconnects (i.e., no bundles of excess piled up behind your system because you needed them 7-ft long but had to buy 12-ft instead), you can repair them when they break (instead of having to buy a whole new one), make any weird thing you might need that you can’t buy off the shelf (need an XLR to d-sub mini? No problem!), etc.

Quote:
I will look into getting some mic cable, because it will probably be easier to find locally as well.
Try a guitar or pro-audio store, or maybe an electronics hobby shop. You should be able to find the cable the foot. Bring an exact knife and strip back a half-inch or so and take a look at the shield. It should be densely braided or spiral-wrapped. If you can see the center conductor(s) underneath, the shield is too sparse – take a pass.

Thomas,

Quote:
BTW, my bad on the RG58, the RG58U is the stranded version and it's very flexible.
As I mentioned, I’m not familiar with RG-58 or its applications, but as far as I know, the “U” indication for RG-59 and -6 means the cable is rated for direct burial (something else I picked up on this Forum Posted Image ). Maybe there is another designation for a stranded center conductor coaxial?
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#18 of 22 ThomasW

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Posted September 23 2005 - 03:54 PM

Here's a reference guide from Belden
http://bwcecom.belde...01/coaxrefc.pdf

#19 of 22 Owen Bartley

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Posted September 23 2005 - 05:25 PM

Thanks Wayne. I stopped at a music store on the way home tonight, and found some mic cable that is shielded, but the shield isn't super-dense. Is this going to be a big problem? I (once again) thought I found the right stuff so I grabbed it anyway. I think I'm going to give it a try, unless it's going to be a huge problem. I'd say it's about 50% shielded or so.

#20 of 22 Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Posted September 24 2005 - 03:46 AM

So you can see everything under the shield because it’s not tightly wrapped? Not a great cable, obviously. The worst that can happen is that it might get a little hum, since it’s more prone to interference. Give it a try and see what happens. If nothing else it will get you by until you can mail-order some good stuff.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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