I have no choice, speaker wire splices, any harm?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Inspector Hammer!, Sep 29, 2001.

  1. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    I'm in the process of moving all my equipment to a new rack closer to my monitor and I have enough speaker cable that will all reach the reciever, but the problem is I have to splice the wire for my rear speakers, I have to add about 6 feet.
    I usually discourage the practice of splicing two ends of speaker wire together, but in this case it is much simpler as I won't have to gut the room and pull up the carpeting like I usually do, I hate doing that, it's a major pain in the ass, and it would be cheaper to do this as well, I won't have to spend another 30 bucks for just 6 feet of cable. My question however is, will I degrade the signal at all by doing this?
    In theory I shouldn't right, as long as I wrap the ends good and secure with electrical tape right?
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    God bless the USA and the men and woman of our military and their families!
     
  2. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    i don't have an answer, but i'm curious too.
    the only thing i can recommend doing is a test. move your rear speakers close enough that you can use the "original" wiring and take a listen. then add the splice and see what happens.
    in my mind, i also do not like to splice and i believe it will cause signal degredation, but i have no evidence to back it up. just seems to make sense to me.
    if you do test, would you mind posting your results? i'd be curious as to what happens.
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  3. brucek

    brucek Second Unit

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    John,
    If you extend these wires properly, there will be no loss of performance. In this case crimping would be the superior method of connection. The crimp connectors and the crimping tool can be purchased at Radio Shack. They're quite inexpensive. Be sure to get crimp connectors for the appropriate wire gauge that you are using for your speaker wire - i.e 12gauge.
    Certainly, if you're so inclined, you could solder the new extensions onto the existing cables, but in my experience I have observed that soldering is a skill not many do particularily well.
    I'm not saying you aren't skilled at soldering, just that an imperfect job will be far worst than a crimp will provide. I've been trained to Nasa soldering standards and believe me, in my 28 years in electronics I have seen some pretty crummy soldering jobs.
    It's been documented that a proper crimp will equal or exceed a solder joint in reliability.
    To properly carry out a crimp connection, cut off a couple inches of the existing wire and ensure to strip back the insulation and expose clean shiny copper wire. This is important as it removes the oxidized copper (cupric oxide) on the old exposed end. Then insert the wire in one end of the in-line crimp connector and clamp down firmly with the tool. On this fresh area you are essentially creating an air tight crimp at the point of contact between the wire and connector that will last indefinitely.
    This crimped area will remain a good joint even if all the wire around it oxidizes. It's only the joint that is important, the oxidation on the rest of the cable is of no concern other than it may be unsightly. Tape the joint if you want to hide it.
    Do the same for the new extension wire you are attaching to the existing cable. Each speaker cable will obviously require two crimp in-line connectors. Ensure you don't have any exposed wire showing outside the crimp connector that could short to the other wire - in other words, when you strip back the insulation on the speaker wire, expose enough wire to make the crimp joint, but leave enough insulation to push home in the crimp connector to make the whole assembly insulated with no exposed bare wire. This will be obvious when you do it. Don't forget to pay attention to the phasing of the cables.
    brucek
     
  4. Jon_R

    Jon_R Stunt Coordinator

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    I had to do the same thing and I soldered the wires.
    Soldering is very easy, but there is a trick. If you have a soldering iron that is in the range of 15-25 watts then all you need is some good quality silver solder and some flux. Both available at Radio Shack. Flux is very important. Here is what I do. (this is sorta long)
    turn on the soldering iron, obviously make sure it isn't touching paper or something flammable. I have set the upper part of the tip (the coolest part) on cardboard before as I don't have a stand. In my experience it didn't catch on fire, just blacked the cardboard a bit. Don't burn down your house!
    If the wires are a low gauge, you know fairly thick stuff, then you will need to strip a bit more, otherwise if they are fairly then strip about 1/2 inch of the insulation off. Basically enough that it would go into the wire nut. Make sure there aren't frayed wires sticking out after you twist the two wires together.
    Now here is the secret. Dip the wires in the flux. Flux is an odd sorta stuff, its kind of a very thick viscous gel. I can't really think of anything to compare it to. Anyway, don't be too concerned about how much flux you get on it, just don't glob it on.
    The flux prepares the wires for a proper bond. Now take your soldering iron, which is probably now hot and see if it will melt the solder. I always leave the solder connected to the roll and just pull about 8 inches out. However you think is best. You only need to melt about 1 inch at first. (high grade silver solder is really thin)
    Now take the wires coated in flux, and the iron with the solder on it, and lightly touch the wires with the iron. You want to make sure not to burn yourself as wire insulation gets hot enough to hurt way before it actually melts. I sort of paint the solder on. The amazing thing about flux is, often you only have to "paint" on side and the other side already has solder on it. You might need more solder, if so do just like we did before. You know you are done when the connection is silver coated and no copper is exposed.
    Blow on it a few times and give it a taut pull (within reason of course). It won't come apart if soldered correctly. If it comes apart you might want to clip the wires and start over. Otherwise you should be done. Wrap the wires seperately in electical tape to make sure they don't touch. I don't see how this could degrade perfomance, but I but the guys over at audioasylum would disagree.
    I mention all this because soldering is easy and very useful to repair stuff. Sure its not an everyday thing, but if you solder your car audio connections in your dash, its a bit more piece of mind knowing it won't come loose.
    Good luck,
    Jon
     
  5. Guy Kuo

    Guy Kuo Supporting Actor

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    Jon, you've described how I would warn a new technician NOT to solder. The soldering iron is never used to carry solder to wire, but is cleaned and coated with just enough solder to allow good heat transfer. The hot iron is applied to the joint to be joined. Once the wire is heated sufficiently to melt solder, the solder is touched to the wire but never the iron itself. The solder melts on the wire and naturally wicks into the joint flowing towards the source of heat. This sequence ensures adequate heating to reduce the risk of a cold joint.
    I would sternly warn against using a piece of cardboard to hold the tip or shaft of a soldering iron. A metal soldering iron holder is much safer. At the very least, place the iron on a large non-flammable surface like a ceramic tile. We don't want to encourage hazardous behaviour.
    I agree that flux can make a tough joint easier to wet with solder. We should add that it is often desirable to remove the flux after the joint is made. The residue can be removed after the soldering is completed with some alcohol or flux remover.
    Other tips for the newbie solderer.
    a. Use rosin core solder -- NEVER acid core for electrical work. Acid core flux will eventually corrode through the wires you have joined.
    b. Make the wires mechanically secured to each other prior to soldering. The solder is to seal the electrical connection. The mechanical strength and electrical connection should already be present due to the wires from being twisted together. There are many fashions in which to twist the bare ends together. The easiest for beginners are probably pigtail (wires approach each other and bare ends twist together projecting at right angles to the rest of the wire) or western union (two wires approach each other axially and the bare ends wind around each other like a double helix). Doesn't matter which, just make them mechanically secure.
    c. Insulate the connections adequately. Ideally you wrap an equal thickness of electrical tape as the insulation you removed. Overlap the windings and make sure the tape extends well onto the wire insulation.
    d. If splicing two dual conductor wires, mechanically displace the solder joints so the splices for the two conductors can never come into contact with each other even if your electrical tape fails. This is easily done by cutting the two conductors at differing lengths. The add-on wire is then cut to complementary lengths so the joints are displaced like this.
    --------------x----------------------------
    ----------------------------x--------------
    e. Be absolutely sure no motion occurs until the solder cools. Any motion before the solder fully solidifies will create a cold joint composed of solder with unpredictable crystalline boundaries and fractures. Cold joints eventually fail. A good solder joint looks smooth and mirror like.
    f. Keep a damp sponge handy for cleaning the soldering iron tip. Tin the tip to coat it with a shiny coat of fresh solder but wipe off excess blobs of solder from the tip on the spong. An occasional wipe will help reduce oxidation on the tip that slows heat conduction. If you do a lot of soldering, get iron plated tips and NEVER clean them abrasively. Instead use a "tip cleaner" which is a compound in a small metal container into which you dip the tip to both clean and retin.
    g. Practice on scraps of wire. Good solder joints take some skill. The joints should be well coated with a shiney silver appearance and never look like blobs of solder are hangin on the wires.
    h. Eye protection please. On occasion soldering can splatter. A blob of 600 degree molten metal in ones eye will diminish the home theater experience considerably.
    Back to the original question. Yes, go ahead and splice the wires. You won't suffer a signal problem if you make good joints. The crimp on connector method is easier provide one adequately crips the connections. I prefer to solder, but takes some practice to do well.
    ------------------
    Guy Kuo
    www.ovationsw.com
    Ovation Software, the Home of AVIA DVD
     
  6. Jon_R

    Jon_R Stunt Coordinator

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    Hee Hee... [​IMG]
    That first line was classic... how not to solder. Anyways, perhaps crimping is a better idea. [​IMG]
    In my defense, and I think it is required here, I have an old soldering iron and tip that really needs replacing. However, now that I think about it, I ususally put the solder on the wire and then heat. Since I'm such a stinky solderer I don't have a technique.
    Anyway, glad you set me straight.
    Jon
     
  7. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

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    Thanks for the responses guys, but I don't have the foggiest idea about soldering, I was just going to expose about an inch of bare wire from the two ends, twist them together good n tight, and insulate them with electrical tape, will this suffice?
    ------------------
    God bless the USA and the men and woman of our military and their families!
     
  8. John Morris

    John Morris Guest

    Guy: I agree with your soldering techinques. I was alway taught that the iron should heat the connections to solder melting point and not directly to the solder. Otherwise, you have a brittle connection. In the situations where your have meltable base material, like motherboards, you must be carefull not to heat the trace too much and the solder too much too...
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    merc
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  9. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    John,
    It will cost you $15 for the soldiering iron and some rosin core soldier. I personally wouldn't entend wires without soldiering.
    ------------------
    Philip Hamm
    Pat's the best!™
    AIM: PhilBiker
    click on the little green house to see the evolution of my home theater!
     
  10. Rich Kraus

    Rich Kraus Stunt Coordinator

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    phil, he stated above he didnt want to spend the 30 bucks to pull all new wire, so hes not going to want to buy a proper solder set up.
    id pull new wire, its the only way to do it right. any splicing, no matter how good, is second best to a single un-spliced piece.
    ya, ya, you wont hear it, i know. wire is wire right?
    why take chances, get a roll of new wire and do it right. insted of pulling up the carpeting, cant you use the old wire as a fish to pull the new, longer wire under the rug?
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    'Till next time,
    Rich (the kite guy)
    My DIY audio page!
    Use your ashtray please, dont throw um on the street. thanks [​IMG]
     

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