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Is it better to make my own XLR Cables?
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DJCam
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#1
7th May 2013
Old 7th May 2013
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Is it better to make my own XLR Cables?

I go to Full Sail and I am taking a class called Audiotronics and they are teaching us how to make our own xlr cables and how to repair cables when they go bad and how to re solder them. How does the sound quality compare to a homemade xlr cable that is built well vs a monster cable or a guitar center or radio shack brand?

I would use Neutrik connectors , but i'm not sure what kind of wire to use exactly.

Is it cheaper to make them at home? and is the sound quality just as good if not better?
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7th May 2013
Old 7th May 2013
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Roll your own. I don't have the typing skills (or the patience) to explain all the reasons but if you have the time and the skill it is a total win.
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#3
7th May 2013
Old 7th May 2013
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It's all about the type of cable you use. Van Damme cable and Neutrik connectors are the only brands that make it into our workshop at work.
I would never buy an audio cable. You either solder it yourself, or you pay a premium for someone else to solder it and package it.
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7th May 2013
Old 7th May 2013
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7th May 2013
Old 7th May 2013
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Your questions all have the answer: "it depends".

Do you have more time than money? If the answer to that is 'yes' then you should continue to consider making your own XLR cables. But do not stop with XLRs, also make TRS to XLR male, TRS to XLR female and TRS to TRS.

Will store bought or home made cables sound better? If you use high quality cable, good connectors AND your solder does not suck, then the ones you make should sound no worse (and no better) than the best you can buy. Skimp on any of those three things and then a high quality store bought cable will probably exceed the quality of what you make yourself.

Is it cheaper to make them yourself? Well, if you have more time than money, it is cheaper to build yourself, in my experience. But you need to do some shopping for the parts and you need to buy a bulk reel of cable. And the price benefit will only be seen if you are making a lot of cables. Maybe you don't make them all right now, but if you make a lot of cables over the next five years, it will be worth it.

I am not sure which wire to use, I have a spool but it is not handy and I can't remember what it was I bought. I know there are just a couple balanced cable types you should be looking for. Do some searching and you should find it. Belden is one company to search under. Or maybe someone will post the answer in this thread. I have seen where folks have mentioned what XLR cable to buy on Gearslutz before, so maybe a more thorough search on here would reveal the answer to you.

Now there are certainly some other benefits to building your own cables that have NOTHING to do with saving money....

#1--you'll get to practice soldering if you have not done much of that up to this point. It is a worth while skill IMO for someone who is pursuing a career in the audio world. It can be where you develop your soldering skills to tackle more involved electronics projects that can save you a lot of cash in the future, assist in repairs of other gear or permit you to make stuff you can't buy even if you do have unlimited funds.

which brings us to #2--you can build specialty cables that meet your specific needs that you either can't buy anywhere or will have a hard time finding and even then the specialty cables could be ones you might not be able to afford. Plus the unusual cables that you might need that you CAN find in stores may well be lower quality than you could build yourself, especially after you have honed your soldering chops!

Think of unusual lengths of TRS/ balanced cables for in your rack---you could build them specific to your task. Think of a 150' long mic cable in the odd chance you might need something like that---I needed one for a press conference today to run across a long ballroom. Who knew, right? Yes, yes, yes, you can simply plug two or six XLR cables together to accomplish the same task, but then you have all those potentially wobbly XLR connectors waiting to get stepped on and break the circuit.

So to close, I do indeed advocate building your own with those certain caveats I listed above. At first you will be building a skill set, so think of it as a college expense, similar to text books or the like and then it might be easier to justify. Eventually you will get really good at it and then you'll have awesome cables to use for a variety of tasks.
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7th May 2013
Old 7th May 2013
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I only have 8 fingers, 3 of which have no feeling the other 5 are arthritic and I make all my own, so with some practice Ill bet you can.
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#7
8th May 2013
Old 8th May 2013
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By all means make your own cables. Get a bunch of connectors and try a few different brands of audio cable. I recommend Gepco X-Band, Belden low capacitance audio (1900 series) and Gotham GAC-3. I'm not a fan of quad cables, especially for studio use, but feel free to try some and see what you like to work with and what prefer sonically. I just did a long-term test (soon to be posted at RecordingHacks.com) of many cables and basically found that most Belden, Canare, Gepco and Mogami fall in the middle of the sonic spectrum. Let's say from "cloudy" to "neutral" to "Clear", those brands fall in the "neutral" zone, with some variation between them. There are a handful of cables that fall in the clear category, but you probably don't want to pay for the raw cable or the finished product. Cables from Vovox, Neotech, Accusound and Audioquest and Requisite (many others, too) definitely live in the "clear" range. Copper type, capacitance and dialectric material are the biggest indicators of the sound of the cable. Do your research and see what's out there...

Don't simply rely on price, but good cables with good connectors are not cheap. Some crappy cables are priced very high, so do your homework and check out what materials and processes the high-end cables use and see who makes a fair-priced version of that.

BTW, I am only speaking of balanced cables for mics and line-level. Instrument level cables have a whole different level of complexity, at which your favorite tone becomes the most important. Next would be durability.

Hint: see who some of the top microphone companies use to supply them with cables (AEA, Brauner, etc...)
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8th May 2013
Old 8th May 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kags View Post
By all means make your own cables. Get a bunch of connectors and try a few different brands of audio cable. I recommend Gepco X-Band, Belden low capacitance audio (1900 series) and Gotham GAC-3. I'm not a fan of quad cables, especially for studio use, but feel free to try some and see what you like to work with and what prefer sonically. I just did a long-term test (soon to be posted at RecordingHacks.com) of many cables and basically found that most Belden, Canare, Gepco and Mogami fall in the middle of the sonic spectrum. Let's say from "cloudy" to "neutral" to "Clear", those brands fall in the "neutral" zone, with some variation between them. There are a handful of cables that fall in the clear category, but you probably don't want to pay for the raw cable or the finished product. Cables from Vovox, Neotech, Accusound and Audioquest and Requisite (many others, too) definitely live in the "clear" range. Copper type, capacitance and dialectric material are the biggest indicators of the sound of the cable. Do your research and see what's out there...

Don't simply rely on price, but good cables with good connectors are not cheap. Some crappy cables are priced very high, so do your homework and check out what materials and processes the high-end cables use and see who makes a fair-priced version of that.

BTW, I am only speaking of balanced cables for mics and line-level. Instrument level cables have a whole different level of complexity, at which your favorite tone becomes the most important. Next would be durability.

Hint: see who some of the top microphone companies use to supply them with cables (AEA, Brauner, etc...)
THIS is why I love Gearslutz! I love learning new stuff. It may not be anything I can merge into my workflow, but that is not the point here. I am benefitting from another person's research and that is a very cool thing. Thank you for sharing.
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8th May 2013
Old 8th May 2013
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8th May 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Sutton View Post
Roll your own. I don't have the typing skills (or the patience) to explain all the reasons but if you have the time and the skill it is a total win.
LOL
if you have the time and the skill: ) .
I buy some I make to many.
just had to make three cable the other day at two in the morning to get a project set up.
The next day I found I had half a doz. in another room.
Life goes on.
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8th May 2013
Old 8th May 2013
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You will save some money - you will learn how to solder..

If you're not billing all your hours at a rate higher than the savings, roll your own. If you are - buy a monkey to do it.

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8th May 2013
Old 8th May 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ddageek View Post
I only have 8 fingers, 3 of which have no feeling the other 5 are arthritic and I make all my own, so with some practice Ill bet you can.

Have you been wounded fighting the analog vs. digital wars ?
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8th May 2013
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Originally Posted by Capashitor View Post
Have you been wounded fighting the analog vs. digital wars ?
I was in the trenches, but this was not work related !
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8th May 2013
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Making your own is good for several good reasons; not that hard, make them what ever length you need and what ever connectors you need...

There is nothing worse than being in a session on a Sunday night and NEED two more cables...
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DJCam View Post
I go to Full Sail and I am taking a class called Audiotronics and they are teaching us how to make our own xlr cables and how to repair cables when they go bad and how to re solder them. How does the sound quality compare to a homemade xlr cable that is built well vs a monster cable or a guitar center or radio shack brand?

I would use Neutrik connectors , but i'm not sure what kind of wire to use exactly.

Is it cheaper to make them at home? and is the sound quality just as good if not better?
Cable? I would have Mogami 2549 & 2552, several connectors, XLR's, 1/4", TT's, Good RCA's..
#16
8th May 2013
Old 8th May 2013
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I made all my studio cables by hand with exception of my mic wires. It's a lot easier to make your own custom snakes and patch cables because you can fabricate custom lengths and configurations and know that the quality is only as good as your work. I bought a lot of snake cable (i.e. - multiple channel balanced wire) and a lot of TRS connectors and went for it. Never had one problem with any of the wires since.

My biggest suggestion is to buy a nice soldering station with digital temperature control and get a lot of practice first. There's excellent units out there by Tenma and others that can be had for under $100. This makes all the difference in the world and a good item to have to fix wires and electronics in general. The other good item would be a cable tester that accepts XLR, 1/4" TRS, and RCA connections.
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8th May 2013
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Well they sound just as good or better for the price, and it's quite fun to make them. I've made quite a few of my own using various connectors and cables, ranging from budget to mega expensive. I'd challenge anyone to pick the difference in a blind test though, they all sound about the same to me. Cheaper ones sometimes slightly more microphonic.

Get a good soldering station, good solder and avoid cold joints and you're good to go!
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