Speakon Plugs Not Quite 100% Foolproof

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Jefenator, Dec 6, 2022.

  1. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    Oregon
    I now have to say the Speakon system is closer to 99.99% foolproof. After making about 10000 connections give or take over the last 20 years, I finally had a problem last night.
    My signal started cutting out on the gig. Moving the speaker wire around seemed to affect it. I thought I had it positioned okay, made it through one song, then we started another one and: silence. Grrrr...
    At first I thought it was the top plug but it turned out to probably be the bottom. I finally found a position that got me through the set with no more interruptions.
    During the break, I checked the connections. One set screw was just slightly loose. (The screwdriver tip on my Swiss Army knife can opener worked in a pinch.)
    I put it all back together and everything was fine.
    Speakon is without a doubt the best connection method in my book, but: lesson learned. I am going to start checking those set screws periodically, and keep my spares & tools more handy.
     
  2. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa Boogie, Development Engineer-Genzler (pedals), Product Support-Genz Benz
    Was the wire tinned?
     
  3. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast

    Aug 7, 2008
    Periodic maintenance is important. Screws can loosen. Never seen them tighten with time. Interesting physics behind screws.

    An engineer at Neutrik told me that oxidation occurs on contacts and it can be cleaned. I find that Neutrik Speakon connectors can go for many years without the need for cleaning.
     
  4. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    Oregon
    It was not.
     
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  5. 2112

    2112 Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2005
    NO electronics of any sort are ever 100% foolproof. That's why taking good care of them (keeping them clean, not abusing them, not leaving them out in direct sunlight for long periods, not exposing them to temperature extremes/fast temperature changes, etc.), preventative maintenance, and having backups are all important.
     
  6. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa Boogie, Development Engineer-Genzler (pedals), Product Support-Genz Benz
    Rules out that cause.
     
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  7. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    Oregon
    Phew - for a sec I thought maybe I was supposed to have been tinning the wires! :woot:
    If it makes the set screw connection more brittle therefore unreliable, I'm very happy to continue not doing it. :thumbsup:
     
  8. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    Hmmm, I do tin the wires before connecting them. Should I not be doing that?
     
  9. darwin-bass

    darwin-bass Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2013
    Salem OR
    To tin or not to tin. I'm here to learn.
     
  10. Redbrangus

    Redbrangus Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2018
    Under The X In Texas
    Don't tin them. Neutrik says that specifically.

    Any screw terminal can loosen over time -- they need an occasional inspection and retightening. IME, the screw terminals on shop-built electrical items, like the ubiquitous "quad box" are the most likely to loosen with use. @beans-on-toast is right -- nothing seems to tighten over time. When I was operating a PA company, the slow period of January and February was the time to go through all that kind of stuff and tighten things up. Almost inevitably, some alarmingly loose screw terminals would be found.
     
  11. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Do not tin stranded conductor in this application. The design is intended to clamp / splay / deform the bundle. Use Pozidriv for securing the connections.

    Riis
     
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  12. Stewie

    Stewie

    Jul 3, 2013
    Near Boston
    Anytime you come up with something “foolproof” someone else will soon come up with a better fool
     
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  13. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa Boogie, Development Engineer-Genzler (pedals), Product Support-Genz Benz
    Nope, don't tin them

    No, do not tin. Tinning allows the connection to cold flow under the screw pressure causing them to loosen.

    Nope, don't tin them
     
  14. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast

    Aug 7, 2008
    Why you should not tin twisted stranded wires that are going into a screw terminal or a crimp connector.

    When you solder a stranded wire, you have a blob of wire between strands. The problem is, when the speakon terminal is tightened, pressure is applied. The solder under pressure deforms and eventually moves. This is called creep and spaces between wire strands and a loose connection results. More details below.

    Creep (deformation) - Wikipedia
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2022
  15. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    Learn something new every day. Now I'm wondering if I should take the cables I made apart, cut off the tinned ends, strip them, and reconnect.
     
  16. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Kentucky
    Good info on this thread and always wise to be reminded of periodic checks.
     
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  17. Redbrangus

    Redbrangus Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2018
    Under The X In Texas
    No, I wouldn't bother. Open them up, inspect and retighten them every year or so. When you replace them, you can correct your mistake. But otherwise, I wouldn't worry about it too much.
     
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  18. Tom Bomb

    Tom Bomb Hypocognitive

    Apr 23, 2014

    I've understood this to be what they called cold flow — where solder, under pressure in a screwed terminal, tends to give way and can cause play as it flows, in time, out of the terminal. Where there's a screwed termination there's no need for anything other than the wire and the fastener. I'll always twist the wire and double it over if the terminal allows it — even solid wire gets doubled over and twisted before it goes in, if the terminal allows.

    Good idea not to scrimp on plugs either. Neutrik all the way:) Don't trust the others.
     
  19. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast

    Aug 7, 2008
    If you’re using an amp with tubes in the power stage with speakons, I would redo the connections. Otherwise you risk an open connection which could damage the amp. It’s the same as turning on the amp without a speaker cabinet connected.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2022
  20. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast

    Aug 7, 2008
    Cold flow is another term for creep. Creep BTW is a material science term.