ssabripo's cat5e based DIY Speaker cables Tutorial: Audiophile wires on the cheap! - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 104 Old 10-23-2006, 06:41 AM - Thread Starter
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Ok guys, sorry for the delay, but here it is Finally: Cat5e based Speaker cables - a cheap and high quality alternative to boutique high dollar speaker wires!
(click to enlarge)

Hope you enjoy it, and let me know if there are any questions. As an alternative, you can read more about different braid types and wires to use at this Audioholics Article.

Materials/Tools:

some of the tools you will need:
1) Cat5e cable (you'll need 4x# of ft per cable)
2) GLS Audio Locking Banana Plugs (you can get them cheaper on ebay or here! )
3) Wire Stripper and cutter
4) TechFlex 1" shell (http://www.partsexpress.com/pe/pshow...number=082-444)
5) Techflex 3/8" sleeves (http://www.partsexpress.com/pe/pshow...number=082-332)
6) scissors
7) 19mm HeatShrink and Heat gun
8) 1" heatshrink
(click to enlarge)


Construction:

Step1
Cut the desired length of Cat5e cable you will be using; in this example, I have used a 10ft length per cable, and cut 4 x 10ft per side for a total of 80ft. I suggest you cut all the lengths at once. To help you with the process of braiding, it may be a very good idea to spend a few minutes and try to stretch the cable so it doesn't tangle as easy when you are braiding.

Step2
Once cut, you will need to tape up each end of two sets of wire with electrical tape or something to distinguish them so you can tell them apart when you are done braiding; each pair will be your positive and negative connection.

Step3
Braiding! It's not that hard, and you are certainly welcome to try different patterns if you like. I found the woven "jamaican" pattern to give me the tightest yet flexible enough pattern to handle this cable, and plus, two of the conductors act as cores to minimize noise.

Basically you start with all 4 wires aligned, and you can tape them to a door knob, or anywhere were you can start working on the braid...give yourself about 8" of non-braid ends. The pattern goes left outer mostwire over to the right, then right outer overtop, and continue that patter so that each wire gets a turn, as shown above. When you are done, your braid should look like this;


Step4
Now that we are done with the Braid, and we have taped each end, we need to put the outer (major) techflex on. Measure the length of your braided cable, and cut the appropriate length up to where the braids start/finish minus 1". Slide the cable into the flex, and tape up the end of it with electrical wire (very LITTLE, just enough to hold it in place). Cut a 5" section of 1" heatshrink and with the heat gun put it on with the exception of the last 1"!! do NOT heatshrink the end yet (see step 5)


Step5
Cut the 3/8" techflex to about 3" and slide down each pair of wires at the ends, and insert beneath the nonheaated portion of the heatshrink in step 4:

Once you have this portion inserted, then proceed to finish heating the rest of the heatshrink...this will hold both techflex portions together:
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post #2 of 104 Old 10-23-2006, 06:42 AM - Thread Starter
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Step6
Strip the outer jacket of the Cat5e cable, and leave about a 2" section:

Then with a 22awg wire stripper, proceed to strip of the inner wires...all of them:

Before continuing onto step 7, make sure you cut about 2" of the smaller 19mm heatshrink, and slide it down each wire pair BEFORE you goto step 7, or you will be sorry!

Step7
The GLS plugs are very solid quality, 24K plated gold, and have two screws that you will need a very small flathead screwdriver to loosen up with:

Once you have stripped the wires in step 6, proceed to twist them together as tight as you can, and then bend them backwards to give you double coverage inside the GLS plugs; you can measure by eye and strip off the ends. Once you have it, with slight force, push the wires into the plug, and tighten the screws. Make sure you have the locking outer in the bottom of the wire!!! I myself forgot this once, and had the take it apart and redo! When you are done, it should look like:


Step8
We are almost there! Once you tighten the screws on the plug, take a pull and make sure they are nice and tight in there. If so, then screw the outer metal jacket into position, pull the 19mm heatshrink back on top of the plug, and go ahead and finalize the heatshrink:


So there you have it folks....you have now made yourself cables that have better and cleaner transfer than ANY Monster(crap), or even Audioquest wires Bedrock Speaker Cable. I've played with this cable against my old IXOS XHS806 gamma cables with Silver foot, and frankly, they were just better specially at reference levels.

My neighbor has the Monster Z4 cables ($300 a pop), and when I walked over there to try it out, he was shocked at how my DIY cat5 cables were just as "pretty" and cleaner overall at very high volulmes.....He even asked me to put his on ebay!!! LOL....but I just dont have time for it.


Hope this helps some of you, and enjoy!! Word of advice: in my experience, speaker cables do NOT improve your sound, but they surely PREVENT it from deteriorating! Don't go building these speakers thinking that it will make your Polks sound like B&Ws because it wont....but it will help your Polks NOT sound like computer speakers if you dont use good cables.

ps- more pics found at http://community.webshots.com/user/ssabripo (link in my sig)
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post #3 of 104 Old 10-23-2006, 08:03 AM
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Good job!! Now work on your camera skills. Here is a pic of my CAT5s:

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post #4 of 104 Old 10-23-2006, 08:13 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ericglo View Post

Good job!! Now work on your camera skills. Here is a pic of my CAT5s:

hehe...I know...I completely suck with the camera! I also have a ho-hum 4 year old Canon G3 camera

ps- dude, you should seriously consider new sneakers!
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post #5 of 104 Old 10-23-2006, 08:40 AM
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Actually, the shoes are in great shape. I just need to clean them. That is a build up of lots of different leather coatings in different colors. At least it is not damaging the shoes.

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post #6 of 104 Old 10-26-2006, 05:56 AM - Thread Starter
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I've been asked several times which type of Cat5 cable to get....I recommend you start by reading this article:
http://www.tnt-audio.com/clinica/cat5questions_e.html
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post #7 of 104 Old 10-27-2006, 03:48 PM
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Belden makes good solid core Cat6. Go with that stuff. Bonded pairs is probably not the stuff you want, though.
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post #8 of 104 Old 10-31-2006, 10:27 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JDHarding View Post

Belden makes good solid core Cat6. Go with that stuff. Bonded pairs is probably not the stuff you want, though.

you don't need to go Belden, although they are fine (such as 1701A CAT5). There are plenty of Cat5 cables that will work just fine.
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post #9 of 104 Old 11-08-2006, 08:24 AM
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Nice work, Sherv. Probably won't work for me though. I have the components at the rear of the room and run three pairs of 50 foot Soundking bi-wires to the front channels.
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post #10 of 104 Old 11-11-2006, 09:04 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrewB View Post

Nice work, Sherv. Probably won't work for me though. I have the components at the rear of the room and run three pairs of 50 foot Soundking bi-wires to the front channels.

Cat5 cable is cheap, and is EXCELLENT for long runs...that's the beauty of it.

the only question is how much patience do you have for braiding long runs!
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post #11 of 104 Old 11-13-2006, 08:07 AM
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Made my cables over the weekend. All I can say is WOW!! Love it. I replace all three front cables and my front imaging is a LOT better. Best $60.00 I have spent in a while.
Thanks ssabripo!!
I don't know if my fingers and hands are up to the rears......
One small tip. Mark your cables at both ends before you start braiding.

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post #12 of 104 Old 11-13-2006, 11:52 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by function12 View Post

Made my cables over the weekend. All I can say is WOW!! Love it. I replace all three front cables and my front imaging is a LOT better. Best $60.00 I have spent in a while.
Thanks ssabripo!!
I don't know if my fingers and hands are up to the rears......
One small tip. Mark your cables at both ends before you start braiding.



oh yes....mark those cables guys!! or you will be using your voltmeter to figure it out! See Step 2!!
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post #13 of 104 Old 11-20-2006, 11:49 AM
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Just found this thread....very cool!

How much better are these cables and are they worth it?

Oh wait...of course they are! EDIT: nah, seriously...how much is it average for a stereo pair that is 6-9ft long?

:P

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post #14 of 104 Old 11-20-2006, 01:30 PM
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What makes these CAT5 cables so good then? I have some thoughts/guesses:

1) Braiding? If so, what is the physical background?
2) Good quality copper? Maybe.
3) The fact that they are DIY and you made them. Definitely!
4) Hey, they can carry 1Gbit Ethernet signals. Why not audio? Well - the trick with Ethernet is that the signals are transmitted differentially in the twisted wire pairs (4pcs/Cat5). Not so with these speaker cables. If I understood the instructions correctly, you just connect all the pairs in a Cat5 together, not worrying about the twisted pairs. Busted.
5) Enough copper to achieve low resistance. Yes!

OK, I may sound a bit sceptical here. However, I it is a great idea to construct nice speaker cables from relatively cheap materials. You can make them the correct length and add your personal touch. IMO, speaker cable is generally good if it has enough copper = large enough cross section. This is the case here with 4 x Cat5!

Another way to construct cheap speaker cables that are electrically good too is to take 40 or even 80-pin flat computer cable. Separate the ends, strip the insulation and connect every other small wire to plus plug and the rest to minus plug. You can also keep two small wires together and connect every other of these pairs to plus and minus. This reduces work and the result should have even less capacitance.

The proposed flat speaker cable has the following pros:
+ has good electrical characteristics - low and controlled capacitance, low resistance and low susceptibility to interference (loop cross section is small because wires are close)
+ easily fits under carpets
+ even easier to make than the Cat5 speaker cable

Cons:
- relatively thin insulation can break under abuse
- looks may not be that high-end...

I have my main speaker cables made of 40-pin flat cable and they work great.
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post #15 of 104 Old 11-20-2006, 02:06 PM
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One of the big reason the Cat5 or 5e cable works better is the twist. Why does cruchfield, best buy, circuit city, Monster, and Kimber (just to name a few) sell a braided (twisted)speaker cable?
What is so great about the twist you ask?
Every time the pair and or braided cable (as in ssabripos cable) crosses it's self, it WILL cancel noise. It does a great job of this.
This is why other fields (car audio and home entertainment) are coping the design of the UTP cable. It does not need a shield because of the twist.
Does this mean it will cancel all noise? No.
You say you have no noise at your home! WRONG! Everything gives off noise. Unless all your power cords are running in metal (bonded and grounded) conduit, that cord is giving of noise. Your amp, TV, DVD player, PS3, and your lights are all giving off noise(EMI).
Go buy a tone generator and Amplifier (also called a tonner set) use to trace cables. Run the amplifier along you speaker cables. You will be surprized by all the noise it will pick up.
In a high noise environment you need a shielded cable. This shield then must be grounded! If it is not grounded then all you have it an antenna.

All we are doing is getting rid of some the noise. Less noise= Cleaner Sound
I will put up a twist pair cable up against a non-twist pair cable and the twist will always win!! Any brand!

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post #16 of 104 Old 11-20-2006, 07:09 PM
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function12, I'm not 100% sure if I understood the original instructions correctly but it looks like that way the advantages of the twisted pairs inside the cable were zeroed. The noise cancellation of a twisted pair only works if the signal output and return (speaker + and -) travel in the same twisted pair, not in a bunch of shorted twisted pairs. Of course, the braiding creates similar effect but is likely not as effective since the wires are much further away from each other, creating larger "antenna area".

It is easy to test if your speaker cables pick up noise from the environment: Switch your receiver to a digital input without signal. Turn the volume to max and go listen close to each speaker. If you hear anything else than typical amplifier hiss, then you might have some noise pickup. However, speaker outputs are extremely low impedance points that are normally not susceptible to low frequency noise (like 60Hz AC). If you have a radio station (and its antenna array) nearby, the situation could be different.

By all means, try even flat cable that has twisted pairs or try to connect several twisted pairs of Cat5 in parallel. I think in any case, all these DIY speaker cables give much more bang for the buck compared to the outrageously expensive audiophile cables.
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post #17 of 104 Old 11-20-2006, 08:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by function12 View Post

One of the big reason the Cat5 or 5e cable works better is the twist. Why does cruchfield, best buy, circuit city, Monster, and Kimber (just to name a few) sell a braided (twisted)speaker cable?

Because someone will buy it?

I for one don't buy into the fancy cable crowd, but it is a disscusion as old as tubes......

Thanks for the links to the construction thread.

I have 10 gauge speaker cord and consider that overkill really.

Lot's of low rent stuff stacked up into a medium rent pile.
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post #18 of 104 Old 11-21-2006, 06:54 PM
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just to clarify a small point.

twisted wire topologies like Cat5 do not cancel asymmetrical noise.
no cancelation at all. none.

What they DO help with is make any noise picked up more symetrical. So noise that WOULD have been asymetrical is now more symmetrical between the 2 conductors. Just as much noise, its just more evenly balanced between the two wires.

For eithernet computer networks that is very important for 2 reasons.

(simplified and arbitrary voltages listed)
1. The data is sent as a balanced square wave. For a pair of wires A and B:
Wire A would cary +100mv and wire B -100mv for a digital "1"
Wire A would cary -100mv and wire B +100mv for a digital "0"
The real signal is wich way the voltage swung 200mv. The swing is ALWAYS 200mv and it swings "up" or "down" to signal 1's and 0's.

If you have symetrical noise that adds 50mv to each line... who cares the difference is still the same. Asymetrical noise though is baaad news. If one line gets more noise then the other then you could end up with one line at only 150, 100 or 0mv higher then the other. Is that a 1 or a 0?

The pairs beeing closely twisted together effect cross talk to each other becasue the signal is balanced and thus any magnetice fields are also balanced and closely cancel each other other out. Not exactly though and the constant braid helps again to make the cross talk as symetrical as possable.

So, the twist shifts induced noise from asymmetrical to symmetrical. Now as for wich type has a larger effect on high voltage audio analog signals...

As mentioned above you would need to wire your cables so that one wire of each individual twist is + and the other - to get the most gain. Otherwise who cares if you get .5ma of current induced in 2 wires each or 1ma induced in one wire. Twisting the multiple cat5 strands together using individual cat5's per polarity is the same effect as using 2 conductor wire that is twisted. Note that the higher the number of twists the better.



One other note. While the noise induced in each individual pair is more symmetrical the noise induced in other pairs of the same cable while also symetrical will NOT be as symmetrical between pairs. The pair pair twist does help but it is not close enough for the same level of rejection. Multiple strands of cat5 have even less symmetry. So, each additional Cat5 cable you add lowers the advantage of twisted pair wires.
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post #19 of 104 Old 11-25-2006, 06:18 AM - Thread Starter
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excellent discussion guys...keep it going!

I'm off for thanksgiving with very limited internet access, but when I come back I wll put share some thoughts on this
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post #20 of 104 Old 11-25-2006, 08:57 AM
 
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Quote:


Every time the pair and or braided cable (as in ssabripos cable) crosses it's self, it WILL cancel noise.

So, it's not the differential inputs and outputs that actually cancel the common mode noise?

You should read up on differential signalling, before posting about it again.
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post #21 of 104 Old 11-28-2006, 11:42 AM
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I agree with others that ssabripo's cable would work better with individual pairs used both for positive and negative conductor, not whole cables, now it's just suboptimal IMO.

I'll be doing similar speaker cables from cat5 myself, just yesterday purchased 100m (328ft) of cheapo cat5. Most braided cables on the net are made of twisted pairs that have been removed from inside the cable sheath, but that's just too much work, I'll make my cables from intact cat5e cables like ssabripo... Just need to decide on number of cables and braid type...
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post #22 of 104 Old 11-28-2006, 03:16 PM
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maybe someone can give these a try:


http://www.venhaus1.com/diycatfivecables.html

they look like it would be a very challenging project with a lot of patience needed.

Angelo
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post #23 of 104 Old 03-05-2007, 07:05 AM - Thread Starter
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ps, you dont have to use the jacket....yes, you can work with the individual strand if you so choose to.
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post #24 of 104 Old 03-05-2007, 08:52 AM
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And shields in twisted shielded pairs should only be connected to ground on one end. The other end, most likely in our cases the speaker or component, should be left floating. Ground the end near the amp or other source.

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post #25 of 104 Old 03-17-2007, 01:45 PM
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So ideally speaking - one should separate the twisted pairs at the ends use one for +ve and the other for -ve for best noise cancellation?
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post #26 of 104 Old 03-18-2007, 08:04 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beboram View Post

So ideally speaking - one should separate the twisted pairs at the ends use one for +ve and the other for -ve for best noise cancellation?

There is no noise cancellation. Twisted pairs do not eliminate or cancel noise.
Differential (balanced) inputs and outputs cancel common mode noise...not the wire.
Amplifier outputs and speaker inputs are not differential, and do not have any noise cancelling properties....other then the fact that it is a low impedance circuit, that is not susceptible to induced noise in the first place.
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post #27 of 104 Old 03-18-2007, 07:24 PM
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Like Targus said:"There is no noise cancellation"
But I would separate the pairs, to make a low induction cable.
Which will theoretically give you better high frequency response.

Kevin
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post #28 of 104 Old 03-19-2007, 11:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Graf View Post

Like Targus said:"There is no noise cancellation"
But I would separate the pairs, to make a low induction cable.
Which will theoretically give you better high frequency response.

Is that strictly correct? Won't the magnetic fields of parallel wires close together have more mutual cancelation, and thus lower inductance, than spaced wires?

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post #29 of 104 Old 03-19-2007, 12:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HT Nut View Post

And shields in twisted shielded pairs should only be connected to ground on one end. The other end, most likely in our cases the speaker or component, should be left floating. Ground the end near the amp or other source.

Why? If everything is installed correctly then there is no reason to lift the shield at one end.

Matt D. Sherer CET, CTS-I,ISF-C
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post #30 of 104 Old 03-19-2007, 01:07 PM
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For some reason I was thinking Cat5 cables had a run limit. Is there any reason why I could use them for a 30'-40' run to my surrounds?
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