Speaker cable from extension cords?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by reachjkh, Aug 21, 2003.

  1. reachjkh


    Nov 21, 2002
    Columbia SC
    I've been thinking about going up to Home Depot and buying some nice large gauge copper electric cord and soldering some plugs on the end. I'd like to carry two or three two-foot speaker cables with me at all times as spares, and don't want to buy monster or some other brand name pricey cable.

    I assume that this will work fine. If not, I'd like to know why not. I don't see too many people doing this. Copper's copper I'd think, and it sure looks like the same stranded material to me.

    watcha think?
  2. I don't remember the technical reasons at the moment, but, if you have good equipement and use less than the best cables, your sound will suffer because of it. I'm sure a techie will jump in with the scientific explanation.

  3. reachjkh


    Nov 21, 2002
    Columbia SC
    Hey Michael, long time no read. We're going to have to start another one of those add-a-line stories sometime this year. That last one was a lot of fun.

    I know cables effect your sound, but whenever I look at the silly little speaker cable I've been using, it looked just like the stranded copper you get with electric cables (only smaller). I'd think that unless the copper was really poor quality, it wouldn't matter. Oh well, like you said, let's see what they say about it.
  4. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Dang, I don't have my book on sound tecnology unpacked (after a year), so I can't back up what I'm saying with absolute authority, but as I recall speaker cable is specially constructed to have exactly the right IMPEDANCE to connect speakers together and to connect speakers to amps.

    In other words, you can't use the same cable you use to connect your bass to the amp as you use for your speakers because the IMPEDANCE is different. One has HIGH IMPEDANCE and the other lOW.

    Your bass cable is insulated to reduce noise and prevent outside electrical interference. The speaker cable does not have that insulation.

    If I had my sound book handy, I could give you the exact data on these two distinctly different types of cable. I do know that the longer the speaker cable is, the greater degradation in sound quality even when high quality speaker cable is used. Monster cables are properly constructed, but also use gold jacks said to have better sound conduction.

    What I would guess is that if you use ordinary Home Depot grade cable for your speakers, you might get, at the very least, a low grade hum or louder. It isn't just the copper inside; it is the insulation around the copper. Cords designed for use with electric lights or samll appliances probably will not give you the sound quality you desire.

    One time way back in my garage band days, a band member used an orange cable of the type for a weed wacker extension cord to plug in his speaker to a wall outlet inside the house. You just wouldn't believe the hum we had as a result.

    I'm not sure form your post if you mean you are using the Home Depot cable to connect speakers or to plug the speakers into the wall. At least in the case of connecting speakers to amps or to one another, I advise you to use speaker cable specially designed with the appropriate impedance to enjoy the best quality of sound.
  5. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    If it hasn't been done, there is usually a good reason for it.

    Doesn't an electrical extension chord have 3 wires instead of 2? And isn't it shielded? My understanding of shielded cable as speaker leads is that it creates unwanted unductance (ie cutting of high frequencies).

    Techies where are you????????????
  6. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    I just found an excellent article on speaker cable after doing a search on Google.com. The article is titled (of course) "Choosing the Right Speaker Cable." Check it out. The article is technical, but not intimidatingly filled with techie jargon. I don't get the idea that the writer of the article would ever endorse the use of ordinary extension cords for use with speakers.
  7. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    you forgot the link Blop :)
  8. reachjkh


    Nov 21, 2002
    Columbia SC
    Thanks for the reply. Ok, let me clarify. I am not talking about instrument cable. I am completely convinced that George L, or Monster or one of the other designed cables is definitely the way to go there.

    I am talking specifically about speaker cable from the back of the power amp to the speaker.

    Speaker cable is supposed to have low resistance I believe, and it doesn't have shielding on it. This is why I'm thinking this will work. I've seen zipper cord sold for use with home stereo system speakers and it's used for lamps too. This is what started me thinking about this in the first place. It just seems that speaker cable is real low tech...just heavy gauge with plugs on it.

    Let me know if you do dig that book out and find anything. I guess the best bet would be to email Walter Harley from Cafe Walter. That guy seems to know this stuff off the top of his head. I'll post it if I get a reply from him.
  9. lneal


    Apr 12, 2002
    Lee County, Alabama
    It'll work. I've been using it for my PA speaker wiring for years. It's durable, and as long as it is at least 16ga. it will be great. The current carrying capacity of the conductors is what's important. You can get 2 conductor cables, too. Types that are good are: SJ, SO, SJO, SOW, SJOW. The higher the voltage rating of the wire, the thicker the insulation is and therefore more durable, and, in long runs (50' or more), has less capacitance. IE, 300 volt rated wire has thinner insulation than 600 volt wire.

    Ignore the naysayers. It is great for what we need it for. :cool:
  10. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Why don't you just buy speaker wire and jacks and do it yourself that way?

    wouldn't you save more money?
  11. You can use it. Reason alot of other people don't is that with a bigger diamiter wire and longer runs, treble frequency is lost from instrument to amp and frequecencys in the air find there way into the cable. With a PA cable, 16 aug or down, (14, 12 etc), this isnt a problem, as there is more than enough voltage going thorugh the cable to dispell any ambient signals. So in effect, do it for the speakers,not for the instruments, cause the quality WILL suffer, and you WILL notice
  12. AC extension cable works just fine as speaker cable. It's not shielded and will be fine as long as it's heavy enough to carry the current your amp can supply. In a lot of cases 'speaker' cable is exactly the same wire as AC cable, but with a different jacket on it. Any cable made with reasonable quality copper will have a very low impedance. The last thing you want in AC cable is appreciable cable impedance (losses, heat problems, etc)
    There's a lot of snake oil in the cable industry, don't get taken in.
  13. reachjkh


    Nov 21, 2002
    Columbia SC
    Well, there you go! It's cheap, heavy guaged, readily available, attractive(I might add), and....well, cheap.

    I will soon be sporting my new orange speaker cables out the back of my rack. That should save me enough money to go buy some George L's for out in front of my rack.

    So wattayathink? What contrasting color should I use for my shrink wrap?

    I'm just kidding. Blue of course... or maybe yellow.

    Thanks people.
  14. jondog


    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    Yup. I've been using thick ac cord from Lowe's as my speaker cable for years now. I cannot believe how much GC charges for a 3 foot speaker cable! The only thing I don't like about mine is that they're brown :meh:
  15. Bob Lee (QSC)

    Bob Lee (QSC) In case you missed it, I work for QSC Audio!

    Jul 3, 2001
    Chester, Connecticut
    Former Technical Communications Developer, QSC Audio
    There's no reason you can't use extension cords as speaker cable, as long as you cut off and don't use the AC connectors. It's not that they would affect your sound--it's just dangerous to have cables that can accidentally electrocute someone or blow up equipment.

    It would probably be cheaper, though, to just buy some two-conductor cable in bulk (probably about 20 to 30 cents/foot) and install your plugs/connectors on the ends.
  16. Captain Awesome

    Captain Awesome

    Apr 2, 2001
    Home Depot sells perfectly good bulk speaker cable-- about 20 cents/foot for 14 gauge and 50 cents/foot for 12 gauge. I use their 14 gauge and it works fine.
  17. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    I pulled out the appropriate electronics and hardwars catalogues. It's actually much of a muchness. Bob's way is slightly cheaper but there's nothing in it.

    However if your guitarist or PA guy is ever caught out with a dud speaker cable, no spares, it's saturday night and the only thing open is the local 7/11....... it's nice to know an extension chord and my trusty soldering iron will get us out of trouble.

    Of course a bass player would never let that happen. We always carry spares, don't we!!!!!!!!!
  18. reachjkh


    Nov 21, 2002
    Columbia SC
    Ok, it's done and looks better than any cable I ever bought. This was not about being cheap, but I do hate to pay big bucks for something I can easily make. It's more about conveniently available materials, and good price/quality.

    The cable I bought was 14g two wire electrical cable at Home Depot(.47 cents/foot). It looks and feels just like big music cable, and it has some nice cushioning material in there to help protect the wiring if you step on it.

    Here's my recipe...
    14g wire(.47 ft) / 2 big switchcraft plugs($5 ea.) / heat shrink tube ($1.50 ft.)

    Put the shrink tubing and metal sheath on the cable BEFORE soldering! (I discard the insulator that comes with the plug and use heat shrink)
    Strip 1.5 inch of the outer cover away.
    Crimp the "claw" that's on the long leg around the black wire right down by the outer cover.
    Shorten the black wire and solder to the long leg of the plug (keep it tidy).
    Shorten the white wire and solder to the short leg (again, tidy is the word).
    Repeat on the other end and test the cable.
    Fill all the empty space between black and white wires with hot glue (this works as an insulator and stress relief to the solder points.
    Shrink some tubing over the solder/glue area and down the cable a bit for insulation/stress relief. (I personally prefer shrink tubing under the metal case so you can unscrew the case for inspection.)
    I also put some shrink tubing on the metal case itself as a grip for help when pulling the plug from a tight jack.

    I always label my cables (and every other piece of gear) with my name and what type cable it is. I've gotten cables back that I forgot I loaned just because my name was on it.

    I realize the original question was about extension cords, and I actually might use them for long PA use, but this was for my rig so I went for the bulk cable which looked really nice.