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synkrotron

Audio Cables [advice required]

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Hi Peeps,

Now that I am finally admitting to myself that I have a bit of a cable issue, I need to start looking into replacing some of my current cables for "critical services."

I have googled the phrase "balanced cables" as this is what I am interested in and, to be honest, like most things, it is a bit of a mine field.

Who is telling me the truth about their gear?

For instance, I already have cables that have "high quality" or some such statement printed on the cable but is that just a load of rubbish? How do I know for sure what the real quality of an audio cable is? Is there some sort of standard I should be looking for? Again, I have searched for that and all I find are reviews by third parties or claims by manufacturers that their cables are best.

Can anyone recommend a particular brand of cable?

 

And, of course, there is more to cables than just the actual wires.

The means of connecting those cables to your equipment are probably just as important as the actual cable.

The two that I am looking at are XLR male plugs and 1/4" TRS  jacks.

I seem to recall, going back twenty years or so, that Neutrik were a good brand, and they are still available today. Are they that good? Are there better?

 

And, finally, is it best to make up your own?

DIY cables, to me, seem to be the only way of ensuring any kind of quality, providing that you are handy enough with a soldering iron. I've spent an hour this morning searching the interwebs and I struggle to find just the right cable, in terms of length and end connector configuration. So I am definitely considering buying the bits in and making my own. That way I can make the cables exactly the right length and configuration to suit my exact requirements.

 

Okay Peeps, hit me!

 

cheers

andy :)

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The quality of cables is, at least to me, about quality of materials and connectors.

e.g. copper quality and thickness plus number of strands in each conductor, if shielded the density of the shield, braided or wound, the construction of the plug and thickness of the nickel plating on the mating parts. (Sorry)

Also impedance and capacitance of the cable make a slight difference. So the type of insulation used can make a small difference.

Then there's their application whether they're intended for +4dBu or -10dBV use (pro 600 ohm impedance or domestic use), balanced or unbalanced.

The latter is decided by the electronics both at the driving and receiving ends of the signal. The cable should match the electronics.

Yes, Neutrik make excellent plugs and sockets in my experience. Many cable suppliers use Neutrik connectors in their offerings.

Edited by JohnG
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Thanks @JohnG :)

I am currently looking at this place in London:-

https://www.studiospares.com/

They appear to have a load of stuff on their website, including a selection of Neutrik connectors.

Having a look at their cables, though, and I can't find one that is 600 ohm impedance. And is that a per metre figure? And I can't find any reference to +4dBu or -10dBu either. So I'm still doing a lot of head scratching here.

Okay, I shal get more specific.

I want to connect my OCTA-CAPTURE audio interface audio L+R outputs to my Tannoy Reveal Active nearfield monitors with balanced cables.

Spec of the OCTA-CAPTURE output, from the manual, is as follows:-

Nominal Output Level +0 dBu (balanced)

Output Impedance 1.8 k ohms (balanced)

 

And the Tannoy monitor specs are:-

Input 32 kΩ balanced on combined XLR/jack
Sensitivity 0 dBu

 

I'll be honest, the above doesn't make much sense to me and isn't really helping me to decide on which cable to get.

Perhaps I should e-mail Studio Spares and hope that they offer me the correct cable for the job.

cheers,

andy

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No, 600 Ohms is the characteristic impedance of the load that a pro audio cable, e.g. XLR to XLR or TRS, is working into.

The cable itself is a very much lower resistance than 600 Ohms.

Resistance and capaitance change as the length of the cable increases, and hence impedance.

Take a look at Thomann in Germany under the tag PA.  They have their own sssnake cables and snake pro. They advertise in English too.

When I lived there I bought a few snake pro cables, as far as I recall they used Neutrik connectors, unsure now.

But with all/most of the cables they sell you'll find there are two grades. The more expensive ones, of the ones I bought, were definitely better quality.

I did try a few brands and all of the slightly more costly versions were well made. Never spent a fortune.

The cable itself felt better made, the connectors were quality not flimsy.

Gold plating of the plugs is too soft if you're connecting disconnecting often and only any good if the socket is gold plated too.

Quality nickel is the thing, hard as hell.

Edited by JohnG
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Okay, sorry, I've been cooking lunch.

No Becan, but a roast garlic chicken with roast potatoes, Kenya green beans, some leeks, gravy and a little bread sauce. A glass of chilled wine to wash it down.

Burp! Pardon me.

So, and I'm really going back a long time here, I did my electronics training, would you believe,  back in '64 to '66! Yup, I'm an oldie, 70+.

I've used StudioSpares before, but a long time ago, they were good back then, but that's maybe 15 years ago.

Basically, according to those specifications, any standard decent balanced cable should do.  More specifically ...

The output of the OCTA-Capture is TRS according to the pictures and the spec you quoted.

Input of the Tannoys, again balanced, a combined jack means it usually has a TRS socket contained within an XLR socket. So an XLR with a large hole in the middle.

Both output and input measured at 0dBu. dBu is a professional way of measuring signal level  into an electrical load of 600 Ohms impedance.

The important thing is that they match. It's normal to have a lower impedance output (in this case 1.8 k Ohms) driving a higher impedance input (32 k Ohms).

So that's all good.

So you can go TRS to XLR lead or TRS to TRS lead. Check that I'm correct about the combined XLR/TRS combined socket on the Tannoys.

Radiospares call their TRS to TRS "Stereo leads", "cables" are without terminating plugs.

My own choice would probably be one of their "Pro" range e.g.

https://www.studiospares.com/Cables-Leads/Leads-Jack/Pro-Neutrik-Balanced--Stereo-Jack-Lead-5m-Black_579320.htm

That's five metres I think,  but double check the sockets first, okay? A cable like that should last a lifetime depending how much traffic/footfall it gets across it.

JohnG.

P.S. Check Radiospares Ts & Cs to see whether if you get a dry joint they'll quickly replace the lead. (it happens, rarely, even with the very best soldered connectors.)

Edited by JohnG
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Choosing a quality cable is easy:

  • Does it cost 10x what it should?
  • Does it claim to be made from unobtainium?
  • Have they removed all the oxygen from the metal?

 

Using it is also a piece of cake:

MonsterCableArrow.jpg

 

😆

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Oh yea!

Forgot to mention OFC and directional. SOOOOOO important. The 25 micron gold plating is also ULTRA critical.

Thanks for the reminder, Craig, now how did I forget that?

Except ... that's a -10dBV lead and unbalanced too. Naughty, naughty.

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Thanks for that, @JohnG :)

I assume that XLR is considered to be more robust than TRS phone jack but I'm not taking stuff on the road anymore so I reckon that TRS phone jack will be fine, and it will save me a bit of cash.

cheers

andy

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I looked closely at making my own cables but decided that for me it was ultimately cheaper to buy what i need.

I use cables that don't crackle. I use the shortest cables reasonable for the task. I try not to walk on cables.

I do have favorites.

Regarding cabling, the best thing I've bought is a patch bay.  This gives me easy access to everything. I love it. I plug mics into pres but most of the cabling into my interface always stays the same.

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Lengths of cable is important! don’t buy a 10 m unbalanced cable and expect it to be sound clean. Don’t have longer cables than you need and don't blend them with the power cables in a pile behind where nobody can see them.

Edited by ØSkald
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6 hours ago, Gswitz said:

I looked closely at making my own cables but decided that for me it was ultimately cheaper to buy what i need.

I use cables that don't crackle. I use the shortest cables reasonable for the task. I try not to walk on cables.

I do have favorites.

Regarding cabling, the best thing I've bought is a patch bay.  This gives me easy access to everything. I love it. I plug mics into pres but most of the cabling into my interface always stays the same.

Heh, I used to have a patch bay in every rack (along with a Furman power conditioner)!

 

Oh yeah, and my entire setup was balanced.

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57 minutes ago, craigb said:

Oh yeah, and my entire setup was balanced.

You mean your set up was cabled with balanced cables? Mine too.

Examples of why I like this...

1. I can send any pre-amp to any dac input.

2. I can take any dac output and send it to my amp for recording my send to the amp before it hits the amp. This is useful b/c I can cause feedback that gets recorded with the direct. I can also send the channel after playing it to the amp for re-amping.

3. I run the feed from my rock-crusher (amp attenuator) back to any input I like. I can mic the amp if I like but I don't have to.

4. I can take any output to my compressor and back in to any dac input.

5. I can split some pres to send one channel directly to the compressor while the same gets fed into the dac.

6. I can plug in sends to monitors, headphones or mains right there in front without messing around in back.

** I have done all these things since before I had the patch-bay, but now it's easier and involves less crawling around with a flashlight.

Edited by Gswitz
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I had so many cables I had to use detailed spreadsheets and blue tape to keep everything straight!

Studio2010-10.jpg

Studio2010-08.jpg

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12 hours ago, Gswitz said:

I looked closely at making my own cables but decided that for me it was ultimately cheaper to buy what i need.

Possibly, as you may have some soldering fails.

The main problem with buying made up leads is you have to compromise on length and end up with cables that are a little bit too long.

Fortunately, after looking at @JohnG's link above, Studio Spares offer a range of sizes for the same product and although I could make them cheaper it removes any uncertainty, and lots of burning flesh and melting surface tops.

12 hours ago, Gswitz said:

Regarding cabling, the best thing I've bought is a patch bay.

I appreciate the usefulness of patch bays but my setup is small and I therefore do not foresee the need of one. The OCTA-CAPTURE interfaces have four inputs on the front so if I need to I can temporarily connect other instruments there, if need be.

 

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7 hours ago, ØSkald said:

Don’t have longer cables than you need and don't blend them with the power cables in a pile behind where nobody can see them.

Indeed :)

I always try to make sure that I have some separation between data, power and audio cables. Of course, with equipment all over the place it is difficult not to have stuff crossing but I have tried to keep this situation to a minimum.

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I got a fairly expensive inline UPS - got it 1/3 price at £250 as it was being discontinued. It's one that generates it's own clean 240V sine wave, and always goes through the battery - so there's no switch over on power loss.

I do notice a reduction in hiss (i.e, there's practically no hiss now). I used to hear a short buzz/click when the freezer switched itself on and off, but not now.

It does absolutely nothing for noise generated by the computer though.

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20 minutes ago, msmcleod said:

It does absolutely nothing for noise generated by the computer though.

Oh dear... No good for me then...

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Having power cables crossing signal cables is usually not a problem, or minimally so. Right angles is optimal.

It's when they're run side by side for any length that mains hum can be induced into the signal. Best to find an alternate route via a different part of the stage.

Balanced cables used on unbalanced electronics is a waste of money. But I imagine you already know that?

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Balanced cables used on unbalanced electronics might not only be a waste of money, it can also lead to some bizarre results (of the "not so good" variety).  You can probably guess how I learned this... LOL!

 

One other tip which I rarely see due to the tediousness of using it or, for some, just the looks is this:

Put all audio cables into aluminum conduits (aluminium for you Brits😉) then wrap the power cables softly around the OUTSIDE of the conduit.  I did this with a living room where I had a really nice surround-sound system and over-head lights.  I had the conduit going up the corners of the walls and ceiling (both horizontally as well as vertically) and then I covered them with a nice crown-molding.  Although using the 90-degree rule works most of the time, it's almost impossible to do in a normal room setup.

When I can finally have a nice studio again, I will definitely be incorporating the above!

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