Rolling Your Own Instrument Cables

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by MglMatador, Sep 7, 2010.

  1. Did it die before your wedding day?:bag:

    You definitely don't want to do that!
    The shield must be used, otherwise you are going to get a lot of hum.

    Ever tried using a speaker cable as an instrument cable?
    Doesn't sound good, does it....

    OTOH, two hots plus the shield might work alright.
    You can make low-inductance speaker cables by braiding several insulated wires together in a random pattern, but of course, the impedance is much lower.
  2. scotch

    scotch It's not rocket science!

    Nov 12, 2006
    Albany, NY USA
    Please see Profile for Endorsement disclosures
    Seems like an awful lot of extra nonsense to make a mic cable into an instrument cable. With little to no benefit in sound.
  3. Not nonsense, but I agree.
  4. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Inactive Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    That was back 30 years ago. I've only been married seven. I have no idea how long rock pigeons live. Once it was old enough to not be eaten by the neighborhood stray cats, I let it go out in the back yard, where it joined a bunch of others on a clothes line. They used to nest in the rafters of the neighbor's house.

    No, there are two hots and a shield. The shield would stay grounded. That's how it works for a microphone.

    And vice versa.

    That's what I said.
  5. Well, it's not so much a sound problem as it is a wire gauge problem when you do it the other way around.

    When you start pumping a lot of current down a tiny instrument cable wire, you get trouble.:hyper:
  6. MglMatador


    May 5, 2010
    Ok here's the soldering sequence.

    Here's the other end of the cable after crimping the lugs and prepping it for soldering:


    First the iron is positioned under the center post where the center conductor is snaked through the mounting hole:


    The solder is positioned from above, right where the metal from the center post and the wire from the center conductor meet:


    The joint is then heated until solder starts to flow into the joint. You will see the solder be 'sucked' down into the hole and you'll keep on feeding solder until the joint is essentially filled. This joint should be bright and shiny, like this:


    Next the braid is soldered: hold the iron under the strap of metal that contains the cable crimps, and the solder should be fed into the braid from above, like this:


    It should be shiny too, and there should be solder soaking up most of the braid:


    After this you are done!


    Here's a pic of my other favorite cable, ProEL. It's constructed mostly the same as the Canare cable, however the jacket is made from a different material which is much thicker (and seems much more durable). The braids and center conductors are also tinned OFC:


    In terms of cables with foil shields: I like them, but not for instrument cable that will be used on stage. I think it's perfect for permanent installations (like studio routing in the walls, etc), but it doesn't hold up to flexing IMHO.

    Braided shields are a necessary evil for stage use, and you give up flexibility when you go to a foil-shielded cable, so the cable just doesn't feel right when you are walking around with it plugged in to your bass: it's just too stiff and it feels like you are anchored down when you walk around.

    That's just my opinion however. Foil shielded cables (in general) have better shielding properties and tend to have more constant capacitance per unit length.

    As for using mic cable and using the two center conductors for signal: I don't see the benefit. The whole point of the twisted pair with differential signals is to maximum the noise cancellation (by making the cable 'see' the same noise field when averaged over the length of the cable). If you switch from differential to single ended then that benefit is lost. To me it seems the cable reduces down to one 'virtual' center conductor and it should be exactly the same (from the point of view of the bass).

    I could be convinced otherwise, if the difference in capacitance per unit length could be measured definitively, taking into account the different materials used in the two different cables. In fact I would hazard to guess that the insulation material plays a far greater role in this than one conductor versus two in a twisted pair.
  7. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    It just depends what you have a roll of. In my experience (and I've got a TON of instrument cables both commercial and made by me) is that for just crap use any sale instrument cable is much cheaper. But often they are plastic wire and even the jacks are often not precisely made to standards causing troubles. OK for the bedroom but not serious playing.

    "High end cables" on the other hand are a HUGE rip-off. Extreme prices are charges for extravagant (and largely bogus) claims of performance.

    Hence for nice affordable cables making your own makes a lot of sense. It makes even MORE sense when you want something special. Say, a short interconnect cable of perfect length or something with a special plug (I need a very shallow right angle plug to fit my pedal board). Also rubber wire is by far the best. Plastic wire is very stiff and often highly microphonic! With a nice big roll of rubber instrument wire picked up somewhere on sale you can make really nice cables till the cows come home. Personally I used to love the gold plated plugs that Radio Shack used to sell. I don't think they have them any more. They always seemed to not get the noise that ordinary plugs develop with corrosion.

    And let me add that cord-making skills are also useful for fixing cables. I just got a really nice heavy rubber instrument cable off the "free" table at the local music store because it was shorted. Once you know what is said here, it was a small matter to take the plug off and fix the short. Didn't even need to put on a new plug. Just cut off a couple inches of wire and reinstall the plug. That price was right.
  8. Lazarus.Bird

    Lazarus.Bird Mr. Personality

    Aug 16, 2010
    Very nice tutorial :) I would just like to add that if you have no experience with terminating cables, practice makes perfect! You can go from hardly knowing what you're doing, to being able to do it with your eyes closed with just a little bit of practice and patience.
  9. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Aug 4, 2021

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