DIY Interconnects review

Category: Cables

In an attempt to live up to a comment I made on a thread that was discussing interconnects and the over inflated costs, I agreed to do some research and try to build my own interconnects. I could then use fact in my discussions of the value of the manufactured cables. I did intense research for about four months, reading as much as I could on Audiogon, Audio Asylum, web sights dealing with designs by Chris VenHaus, Jon Risch and Allen Wright. I also attempted to go to all the manufacturers web sites and read what they had as a philosophy. Please forgive me for the length of this post, but it was important to me to be thourogh in my methodology so as to help those reading this understand the mission.

It should come as no surprise to most of you, there are as many opinions on what makes a good interconnects as there are companies. Dispite this fact, most every interconnect made today both profesionally and DIY have common methodogy in construction. Most every design I read about starts with a core, has any number of wires coming in a wide array of materials that are wound around the cord. Then the dielectric is created, again using most any material one can dream of. This is followed by most companies and DIY’s using some type of EMI/RFI sheilding. Then some type of fancy casing is used so that the cable looks nice. The casing is generally connected to the connector with shrink wrap and often some type of reinforcement to allow for the users who pull out their interconnects by the wire and not the plug.

Great I thought! Clearly these are all logical components that are being used, and of course I figured there was some science behind all this construction. In fact Cardas is using the Golden Ratio (first dirived in Ancient Greece) so this must be good. Not only is every wire praportional to the other, but the shielding (all nine layers) are also applied using this ratio. Now don’t get me wrong, The Golden Ratio is often used in my profesion of Architecture, it was conceptualized my DiVince the was incorporated in Michelangelo’s St. Paul’s Cathidal, and it has been used ever sense, but audio cables???

Well I took all the ideas I could find and went off to my (three) local Radio Shacks to buy their entire inventory of gold plated RCA connectors. I also picked up a better solder station, a good de-soldering devise, copper wire of every size as well as robbing my local hardware stores of foam backer rods, Teflon tubing, Teflon tape, cottom rope, poly-something tubing and any other thing that looked cool. Total cost of components was roughly $300 ($20 each pair of interconnects) and enough stuff to supply every friend I know with interconnects.

So my first generations started with the pholosophy that more is better, so I built some interconnects using 14 ga wire twisted around a 1/2” teflon tube. I tried one two and three wires per positive and negitive run in equal and unequal combinations. I then built the same concepts using 18ga, then 22ga, 24ga, 26ga, 28ga and finally 30ga. I then repeated the process using a 1/2” Teflon and 1/2”, 3/8” or1/4” cotton rope. On these mock ups I wanted to hear the wire and core intraction with no other variable so I used only cotton thread to hold the bare wire to the core. In each case I listened for a short time to get some concept of what these designs were doing, but only in comparison to one another. I was not yet listening for musicality nor even technical aspects, only an overall concept. I often dragged my friends into this to get a second opinion, but really this was easy to distinguis.

FIRST MYTH EXPOSED: WIRE DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE! Do not allow anyone to tell you otherwise. If they clain wire is wire, then they either have no experience with a decent system, or no experience trying cables.

It became clear to me that the thicker wire was woolyer , fuzzier and slower as a general response. I quickly drew my attention to 22ga and smaller wire for the next round of experiments. This round was bringing in a preconceved notion of my own that goes against vertually every cable design I researched. Almost without exception the only concept explored by manufacturers and DIY’s alike is twisting the wire around the core. My friends and I theorized that this allows the cable to be more flexable without fatuiging the wire. (like a spring) Spacing suggestions very, but almost without exception the cables are twisted. I used to own Nordost Valhalla cabling for about five years. The speaker cables are made up of forty very fine conductore that run parrallel to one another. This made me explore running my interconnect conductors parrallel as well. So in my next set of mock ups I tried variouse combinations of cable sizes and wire numbers either twisted or straight. Straight won every time! This was not subtle, it was very clearly less congested, and smoother sounding. The winding tended to make the sound feel constraned and mechanical. My personal explaination is wires running parallel on a two dimensional plane have only one chance to interact. Twisting around a core creates a three dimensional interaction and in sometimes many points of interaction. Someone once said, “keep it simple” and I think this advice fits pefrectly here. It also became clear that a single conductors in each direction was prefered every time over multiple conductors. (One conductor could be multiple stands bound as one conductor) The multiple conductor mock ups tended to be edgier or brighter, so I ended up focused on single conductor designs with 30ga or 28ga positive wires and 20ga to 24ga negitive as my prefered sound. I also determained I much prefered the cotton core to the Teflon.

SECOND MYTH EXPOSED: TEFLON SOUNDS BRIGHT! There has been quite a bit of discussion over the past couple years regarding the posibility that Teflon is adding a brightness, or a ringing to the sound of cables. This was bourn out in my mock ups to hold some validity; so next up was determaining what the best dielactric might be. I tried Teflon plumbers tape, cotton, paper, electrical tape and even wool on bare wire, teflon cased wire and enameled wire.. Again I tended to like the cotton, and it became even clearer that Teflon was an issue. Next step was to determain sheilding (if any) Now I know much has been talked up by manufacturers about sheilding, and I supose if you live next to a radio transmition tower… but if you look inside your components, wire is never sheilded, and these wires are running in, out and around transformers, power supplies and digital curcuits. I can not think of a harsher enviroment for EMI/RFI than this. So I must admit I entered this stage with serious reservations. I tried woven steel shielding, woven copper sheilding, copper foil wraps, aluminim foil wraps as well as some mock ups based on the Cardas Golden Ratio. Every one of these had some influence on the sound, but in my opinion always negitive. Shielding is a very dificult thing to do in a repeatable fashion for hand made cables, and I suspect one large area of cost for cable manufacturers. I ended up with no sheilding as my prefered direction.

Next up, two parallel wires run at different spacing. I decided on my own that even consistant spacing was important, so I tried a number of methods to build up a larger cotton core. This included multiple cotton ropes tied together, then in some cases covered in a cotton jacket with wire applied to that. Then another layer of cotton jacket… What a hassle, and clearly not repeatable. I did determain that their was a limit to spacing. Wires further than 7/8” apart began to lose cohenrency and naturalness to the sound. Less than 5/8” sounded brighter and more conjested. I settled on 3/4” spacing as the perfect compromise.

THIRD MYTH EXPOSED: INTERCONNECTS DO NOT NEED A CORE! I must be among the dumbest men on this world, luckly I have a lot of company. It finally hit me, interconnects can be flat. This was ground breaking for me. I’m sure everyone else already knew this, but hang in there, I’m a bit slow. I had purchased this 9mm (approx. 3/4” wide when layed flat) cotton sleeving from Audio Consulting. (Way too expenxsive) It comes as a flat sleeve, so I simply took my two wires, now in cotton jackets and sewed them into each folded edge of this tube. This was a sinple easy way to get a constant and repeatable 3/4” spacing for my wires. It also meant the least dieletric interface with material, leaving the majority of the dielectric as air. Air of course is the best dielectric, but bare wire hanging in space equidistant apart is hard to do, so given the makeup of cotton weave, it allows for about 90-95% air, with very little of the cotton even touching the wire. Perfect, NOT! Ever try to attach a cotton sleeve to an RCA connecter with two super fine wires holding it all together? The issue became painfully clear as I began breaking 30ga wire trying to devise a solution.

FOURTH MYTH EXPOSED: THE SCIENCE AND LOGIC OF A CABLE DESIGN IS OUT THE WINDOW THE MINUTE WE TRY TO MAKE THE CABLE INDISTRUCTABLE! Just take a moment and page through your favorite audio magazine and look at all the cables. Heavy outer jackets made from Kevlar, carbon fiber, Poly-something-man-made, indestructible Teflon uncoated… You get the point. Now look at the interface between this less than desirable dielectric jacket and the RCA. Heavy rubber shrink wrap as a minimum is used, often in layers. Air has a dielectric value of 1.0, Teflon is 2.0-2.3, (I know, they say 1.2 but I’m using a scientific table, not “what they say”) cotton is 1.3-1.4 and rubber is at best 3.0, Poly-something –want-a-cracker is 3.0-4.0 and so on. This means they claim to go through all this science and end up using some less than perfect materials because they need to, in order to make them stand up to us, the guys who pull out our interconnects by the wire. “OH YES YOU HAVE TOO, WE HAVE ALL DONE IT!” And yes, it makes sense that any manufacturer would build the product to withstand some abuse. So despite all the careful planning, the connector and wire interface is an issue.

I ended up trying a few designs; the one I settled on (if I felt the need to address this issue) was some very puffy cotton “piping” from a fabric store. (Thanks to my friends wife, I have not been in a fabric store before, there are some very interesting people hanging around in them) I used a ¾” rope cut in half (length wise) and put the flat cotton interconnect in-between the halves. I then wrapped a thread around the rope to hold it together. At the RCA I shrink-wrapped the last four inched of cotton rope to the RCA. This allowed for the rubber to remain as far from the wire as practical. It looks a bit goofy, but it’s remarkably strong. I did not feel the need to go to this extreme and instead pulled the 9mm cotton sleeve over the RCA and put a piece of electrical tape around it. Half the tape’s width hitting the RCA and half hit the cotton, I figured electrical tape was at least twenty times thinner than rubber shrink wrap, so it should have one-twentieth of the impact to the sound.

SO NOW WHAT? Well the design is complete, now I needed to determine the wire material and what RCA’s to use. For RCA plugs I tried Audio Note, Cardas, Connex, DH Labs, Eichmann, Monster, Neutrik, Radio Shack and WBT. There is not a great deal of difference between the Cardas, DH Labs, Neutrik, Monster and Radio Shack. The Audio Note and WBT were a bit more natural and certainly less congested, but in further testing I could not find a repeatable difference between Radio Shack’s $5.00 gold plug and WBT’s $70 connector. To my surprise the Eichmann was quite a step up. The sound opened up with clarity and speed not found in the others. (I should add that I used both the Silver Bullets and the standard copper connectors. I could not hear a significant difference between the $20 and $50 connectors) If anything I may prefer the copper, a bit more natural and not as bright. I guess it all makes sense that the Eichmann sounds different in that they are the only one with a different design. They use a pin for both the positive and the negative connection, so rather than a whole circle of signal connection on the negative it comes to single points. I assume this makes for a cleaner, more effortless signal transfer??? At any rate the Eichmann was my choice. I ended up with one set of silver and one copper out of default. If I had not already owned the silver I would have used copper for both sets of interconnects and saved a few bucks.

Selecting wire was a bit tricky, in that it can cost a lot of money and there are still a lot of variables. Rather than go through the entire process I will skip to the wire I settled on and hope you believe if it’s possible, I tried it! As a very quick overview I’ll make some general observations. Copper tends to be full, rich and makes for a nice neutral sound. Silver adds PRaT and dynamics not possible with copper. Silver also adds clarity and extension not possible with copper. Silver is also brighter, edgier and at times has an artificial tonality on the top end. Gold was the best of the copper and silver without the bright thin signature of silver, and the clarity was even better than the silver. I attempted to use silver on the negative run in order to keep the cost down, but the improvement between gold and silver is substantial, and worth the expense (my opinion) I did not try stranding silver and copper together nor did I try silver coated copper, (like Nordost) so there is plenty of room for experimentation in these areas.

I ended up using all gold wire, and because of cost I made some assumptions (meaning I did not try every combination possible) For the positive run I ended up using three strands of 99.99% pure 30ga gold wire (not twisted but loosely bound together in a 2mm cotton sleeve) and for the negative conductor I settled on one strand of 24ga 99.99% pure gold wire. How I concluded this set up was some trial and error and some faith on the articles I had read that fit my experience to this point. If I had the money I would have tried a cable using three 28ga for the positive run, I suspect this would be even better, but I used what I had already purchased (bulk purchases lower cost substantially) If someone want to buy me wire…

Much has been said about gold having a significantly lower conductance than silver and copper, but given the distance of one meter, it really is not an issue!!! Gold has a very low resistance as do the others, so my selection was based on sonic quality rather than scientific characteristics. The side benefit (but not my reason for choosing gold) is it does not tarnish and therefore sonically degrade like silver and copper.

Sonically gold was clearer, smoother, richer and more natural sounding than the other two. People have claimed gold is slow or too warm. Neither of these comments matches my experience. One reason for using 30ga was the pace it produced in my trials. This held true with the gold as I used it, and as I commented on in the paragraph above I suspect 28ga gold would continue to have excellent PRaT. I also suspect anything heavier would indeed tend to slow and warm beyond my goals. The interconnect I built is every bit as dynamic and fast as my Valhalla’s were, but with a much fuller and richer top end. I have not experienced the warmth issue either; in fact I believe the 28ga gold positive strands would be a possible improvement if it did add additional warmth. As of this writing I am still trying to determine if this is necessary, a bit more warmth would be welcome, but it might be too much if I tied to achieve this. Over the past two weeks I have spent over six hours every day enjoying music I have not pulled out in years. In ever case, I have no thoughts of what more to do or what is lacking. No fatigue at all and so musical! So altering this design might only degrade the success, but it might be better. Money would answer this…

SOOOOOOO you ask. How does it sound? Well thank you for asking, but as often with me, before we go there let me add a couple more comments.

As I said earlier, I owned the Nordost Valhalla cables for many years. Prior to settling on them I auditioned most every medium and high end cable made at the turn of the century. It is no exaggeration to say I became an expert on cables during a two year period of testing cables. I also learned there are a lot of cables being sold today that are inherently flawed sonically. Over the last six years the amounts of cables that have come to the market have increased many times over, and my personal experience has proven that most of these cables are no improvement over their predecessors. As the sonic quality has improved very little, the costs have climbed to an astonishing degree.

This is not to say that there are not some truly magical cables that have been developed. This topic has become the source of heated discussions on this site as well as Audio Asylum. I have heard so many people who call everything they do not agree with snake oil or an illusion. These people I have turned my back on for comments like this neither are mot worthy of answering nor correct. Cables make differences, and I have a very extensive background to back my claims. When I hear someone say they would never pay more than $100 on cables, I roll my eyes. When I hear people claim they can build a cable for $100 that matches the performance of, (fill in the brand) I get physically sick. These comments are made from people who either have very limited experience or a system that is not capable of appreciating what is possible. In fact this entire experiment began from comments like these. People claiming they can build a cable as good as (fill in the blank) are endless. Let me say hear and now, they are right. I too experienced the level of AudioQuest, Cardas, JPS Labs, Kimber Kable, Shunyata or any other brand you prefer. This is not too difficult, but is that the goal, to match the sonic quality of inferior or flawed cable designs? If that is the goal, I can offer any number of design options that will match that of the mass market cable companies. In fact if the goal is to match the performance of 90% of the cables available, then I suggest you can do this for $25.

My goal here, and in my discussions of this topic is to match or better the best Interconnects available. I have invested countless hours and money to build the best system I can afford and/or justify. I spend the time needed to fully understand the topics I discuss here and I offer my opinions to educate not brag or be the top dog. My ego is fine without this audio site, and therefore I enter this hobby for the enjoyment of music. I would hardly classify myself as an equipment junky or an ill informed audio nut.

My personal experience says that Nordost Valhalla’s are the quickest, most transparent cable made. The bass is so highly defined and the impact of the bass is beyond reproach. The downside of Valhalla is it tends to be thin and bright on the top end. My Reference cables today are Kubala-Sosna Emotion. These are the most natural and neutral cable in all frequencies that I have experienced. They are the best overall performer I have ever heard, the super black background, perfect extension and definition are beyond reproach, but they do not carry the slam and dynamics of the Nordost. A truly magical cable is the Purist Dominus line (both Rev B & C, with fluid or Ferox) of interconnects. The midrange and upper bass are so rich and believable they force you to overlook the lack of clarity on the top end and the lack of bass compared to the best in this area. These cables cast a three dimensionality to the soundstage like nothing I have experienced before.

I bring this up not as some have accused me of bragging, but to help you understand what I was attempting to match in this experiment. I wanted the speed, dynamics, bass and slam of the Valhalla along with the naturalness and blackness of the Emotions and the colour, hues and dimensionality brought out in the Dominus. My goal was to combine the three best I have owned. Along the way I discovered the formula for Valhalla’s detail and speed. I discovered a midrange equal to the Dominus and I found a naturalness of Kubala-Sosna but combining these attributes and then bettering it was not as easy.

So here’s the deal, and a source of disagreement with many at this site. People say:

“Cables do not make a difference.” This is wrong, naive and foolish and clearly not arguable in a logical discussion.

“Cable manufactures are overcharging for their cables.” Yes they are crazy expensive but I can not say they are over charging. My simple little cable takes hours to build, and if a guy is to market, travel, inventory, purchase the equipment needed to produce a repeatable product… then I’m not sure they are so inflated. Yes I agree it’s silly, but my design has about $655 in materials, (approx. $300 in 30ga wire, $285 in 24ga wire, $40 RCA’s and $30 in cotton sleeves) maybe eight hours, so what is that worth? If any comment is true it would be the low and mid priced cables is the scam. Charging a few hundred dollars for a $25 value is the rip off. The top end is closer to a bargain. So yes they are all pricy, buy not out of line if a business is expected to make a profit.

“People buy expensive cables to brag or whatever.” Give me a break; people buy expensive cables to improve the sound. Not everyone wants to do what I just did, and yet they deserve the best sound. It is not the consumer’s fault that it costs a lot, we continue to demand more from our systems, and the manufacturers continue to push the designs. It’s just a fact, cables cost money to build.

“You can get the same sound from a DIY cable at a fraction of the cost.” Absolutely correct, I have tried most every cable made over the years, and I can unequivocally state that in my experiments I would be willing to guess I matched most every cable made. That is not to say this is a good thing, but just that I too can build glare, brightness, poor imaging, bloated bass, slow methodical pace… I can also build bloom, warmth, blackness and silence, natural… I can build it all, good and bad, so? So what does that prove? Nothing to me. If I had not heard the Nordost Valhalla, and the Kubala-Sosna Emotion and The Purist Dominus I would have no way to judge what I was building. If all I had heard was a Cardas Golden Reference, then I guess I would be satisfied when I had duplicated it. It is not right to chastise those who continue to explore the possibilities just because someone thinks cables are too expensive.

We can not judge life without experience. How do you know you’re happy if you have never been sad? How can you judge success until you have failed? You can not, and it hold true in audio too. Without having heard most every cable made, I could not properly judge the results, and thus I could not have ended where I am. So for those who choose to pock the fire, fine, but it is you that is missing out, not me…

Enough soap-box, now let’s talk about the sound.

The sound is quite close to a perfect blend of the three best cables I know of. This design is stunningly fast, excellent slam, highly emotional, very full and rich, fully open and extended. The imaging is tight with great depth, dimensionality and soundstage. The background is more liquid and blacker than any cable I have experienced. The clarity is the best I have ever heard. There is a tonal richness that is hard to believe. Piano is tonally perfect although one of my local A’gon friends wants a bit more bloom around the notes. The colour and hue around all stringed instruments is so perfectly natural and portrays an endless palate of tones.

To this point I still had one complaint, the high frequencies although fully extended and extremely clean, had a slight haze remaining around the highest frequency notes. This haze was not apparent when compared to the other cables; it only became apparent when I tried one more component in my design. I used a Bybee Slipstream Purifier ($75 each) on the positive conductor at each RCA. (Four total or $300 on one pair of interconnects) When I compared the one with the Bybee vs. the one without the haze became apparent. When I added Bybee Slipstream Purifier to the second set of interconnects the top end remained extremely transparent but now without the slight edginess first sensed. The entire presentation took on yet another dimension of realism. This got me to the goal; I now have bettered every single aspect of my system, but all at once! The final produce costs me almost $1000 in materials.

So in the final analysis

As many of you know my health continues to be a problem and time is all I do have. Not only that, but as many also know I have been forced to keep down sizing my system repeatedly over the years. This experiment is successful enough that I will be selling my manufactured interconnects and will be able to pay a few more medical bills!!! As for speaker cables and power cords I do not believe it is as beneficial to build my own, at least right now. My lessons learned in this project do not apply to either the power cords or speaker cables, so it would take another extensive research and a lot more money. My next project is to research power conditioners. This is where I think the true robbery is taking place! So if you care to contact me about the interconnect project or my coming research I would be happy to share what I know

Below are links to some of the research and material suppliers I used. I hope this thread will help settle some of the controversy about cables, and possibly help some find a better cable than they ever dreamt of.

Chris VenHaus's DIY Silver Interconnects: The original web site for the DIY interconnects
John Risch's DIY speaker cable and interconnect web site
Allen Wright
Allen Wright’s web site
Make Your Own Audio Cables: some reading on DIY cables
Radio Shack Magnet Wire ICs: great sounding diy interconnects on the cheap
The $2.99 Silver Wire Trick: a quick rundown of DIY interconnects by the late Dr. Harvey Gizmo
The Science of Cable Design;
Wire Gauge Calculator
Interconnect and Speaker Cable Design:Part IandPartII at
Dielectrics Constants
Dielectric Constant Reference Guide

VH AudioSupplies, wire, RCA, casings...
Reference Audio Mod’sAudio Consulting wire and cotton sleeving
Parts ConnexionHuge audio parts supplier [url/]Tweek Geeks[/url]ERS/ RFI absorbent sheets
Home Grown Audio: Supplier of Teflon insulated silver wire, braided wire, and silver cable terminators
Myron Toback, Inc. Supplier of uninsulated 30 gauge fine silver wire
McMaster Carr:Supplier of Teflon spaghetti tubing for insulating bare wire
A-M Systems, Inc:Supplier of Teflon insulated silver wire
Michael Percy Audio. Supplier of all types of high end, exotic, and esoteric components
Parts Express Suppliers of various wire and cable terminators as well as other components
Scientific Instruments Services, Inc.Gold and silver wire.
Surepure gold, silver, copper wire
JD,I truly enjoyed reading this as well as other threads of yours !Thanks for taking the time !Ray
i'm not familiar w/ WBT crimping. if it has a VERY strong mechanical connection, then it ought to be OK.

soldering results in a very strong mechanical connection. as do screw terminals. crimiping usually applies uneven stress.

Just thought i'd add some recent experiences to this thread:

1) ground wire, as a friend reported to me, is extremely audible on XLRs. while sean was quite on point with his earlier comments to me re: volume shunt to ground (adding ground removed the phenomenon i described), the use of a 12ga ground wire has made the sound fat / slow, as my friend's experiments corroborated. in time i'll play w/ gauge until the fatness is ameliorated.

2) the cotton dielectric over a silver wire seems to exhibit none of the brightness that teflon dielctric have historically exhibited IME.

3) using a 1.5m XLR cable b/w pre & amp, i find that a shield is unnecessary based on lack of background noise / hum.

Rhyno: Not only does the gauge of the ground wire factor into the sonics, but also the proximity that it was placed in comparison to the geometry of the other conductors. Chances are, you changed the nominal impedance of the cable by a good percentage.

As far as silver and teflon being bright, that's a problem with the silver being used. I've got some cabling that uses a teflon dielectric with a silver conductor. I had NO idea that the conductors were silver until pulling it apart. Simply sounded like a very resolving and extended, yet warm and smooth, copper cable.

Then again, i've had silver / teflon cables that sounded very hard and "steely", even after "cooking" the cables for over SIX months on the burner!!! This was one of the very few cables that was "immune" to "burning in" in my experience. The funny thing is that the "shrill" sounding cable is HIGHLY reviewed and cost me three times ( on the used market ) what the other "unknown" silver cable did.

I also have several other silver / teflon cables, all of them ranging somewhere in the middle of those two. Obviously, there are various factors involved here and not all of them are known. Sean
I have been working on a balance design. I use the original "tape" concept to put the two positives 3/4" apart. I then apply a second 2" tape with a 3/4" tape running down the middle, sticky to sticky. One strip of the sticky side is taped to the "outside" of the already build flat pair of wires. Then wrap the ground into the other side of this strip. I then take a third 2" strip of tape with the 3/4" running down the middle, sticky to sticky. This is applied to the other side of the original pair of wires. Now placing a 1" diameter cotton piping down the middle of the original strip (on the 3/4" tape strip) and then folding the second and third strips around the cotton piping creating a long triangle. Then simply fold the sticky flap over strip. This can be used as is, or wrapped in a cotton and covered with a sleeving. It appears this is a easy and good sounding design.

As for the Teflon, now that the Teflon is out of my interconnects, I have noticed the effect of Teflon on the tube dampers I was using. I can no longer use them because the edginess is so apparent compared to a metal or rubber damper.

I am coming to believe natural materials are the answer. I just ordered some Duelund capacitors (all natural)for my tweeter crossover. The reports I have read on these seem to substantiate this assumption.

It would be very interesting to build two simple amps, one with cotton dielectrics and one with poly or Teflon. I suspect this would be very eye opening.

Silver oxidizes extremely easily and extremely rapidly. While Silver Oxide in itself is still highly conductive, the corrosion on the silver conductors can then spread onto the connectors and adjoining connected surfaces.

Having said that, there's something to be said for simplicity and avoiding complex "man made" materials. Too bad we can't find a way to combine the technology of modern man with the "all knowing" wisdom of God and his creations. Wait a minute. That sounds more like something out of a horror story written by Mary Shelley than an audiophile's dream : ) Sean
Sean, yes Silver Oxide is quite conductive. . . if you can get some, that is. Unfortunately the black-brown tarnish that routinely accumulates on Silver is not oxide, but a variable nasty mixture of Silver Sulphides, Silver carbonates and Silver hydroxides. . . and the tasteful little mess is not at all exceedingly conductive.
Guidocorona: I surely am not a chemist, nor do i play one on TV, but i was able to find this info on a website:

"Silver metal will oxidize spontaneously upon exposure to free oxygen. This process is commonly referred to as "tarnishing". The chemical reaction describing this proces is shown below.
4 Ag (s) + O2 (g) ® 2 Ag2O (s)
Silver metal is a grayish white color, silver oxide is a black color. This contrast in colors makes tarnished silver appear much different in appearence than untarnished silver. This explains why so much physical and chemical effort is spent in removing the tarnish from silver objects".

For reference sake, that website is as follows:

Other than that, it would seem "logical" that silver "oxide" is formed when silver becomes highly oxygenated. Like i said, i'm not a chemist and i can't argue the point with any form of conviction, but other sources seem to support my initial statements.

If i'm wrong, i've got no problem with learning why. Of course, some form of technical explanation in an easy to understand English format as a point of reference would be nice : ) Sean
Sean, here are some pointers to the nature of Silver Tarnish:

From Wikipedia at:
"This metal is stable in pure air and water, but does tarnish when it is exposed to ozone, hydrogen sulfide, or air with sulfur in it. "

"Chemically, silver is not very active — it does not react with
or water at ordinary temperatures, so does not easily form a silver oxide. However, the other metal in the alloy, usually copper, may react with oxygen
in the air.
However, silver is highly reactive toward
. Silver tarnish is the formation of black
silver sulfide
on the surface of the metal, and is caused by sulfur and
which attack the surface of the silver. Because of this, the rate of discolouration of silver by tarnish is worse with higher levels of these airborne

On the same page you may read how a protocol for removing common Silver tarnish from silverware does liberate Hydrogen Sulfide.

"Although silver does not react to many chemicals, it does react with sulfur, which is always present
in the air, even in trace amounts. The reaction causes silver to tarnish, therefore, it must be polished periodically to retain its luster."

It appears that Silver indeed combines readily with Oxygen at high temperatures, but the common black household tarnish is the result of a reaction with airborn H2S. I know I had seen the info on electrical properties of Silver tarnish on the Internet several months ago and was surprised that conductivity was a small fraction of Silver Sulfide conductivity of Silver. I do not seem to find the info right now. Perhaps a Chemist Audiogoner can help?
Sean, I found the missing info on Silver Sulfide resistivity right here on Audiogon on the "Do Cable Wear out?" thread. There is quite an exhaustive post on the subject, from which I am pasting here the following resistivity info:

Copper: 1.7 X 10^-8 ohm-m
Silver: 1.6 X 10^-8 ohms-m
Gold: 2.4 X 10^-8 ohms-m
Silver Sulfide: 1.5 to 2.0 X 10^-3 ohm-m
Silver Oxide: 1 x 10^+9 ohms-m

The post also seems to suggest that Silver tarnish is formed by a variable mixture of compounds depending on environment, where sulfide has the lion share, and oxide may have some role in Ozone-rich locations.
I felt it was time to update my progress. I did try the 28 gauge gold wire. It was not appreciable better and as it turns out it was also unnecessary because the treble came back to be very smooth and silky natural sound after about 100 hours. At its worst it was acceptable, but once burned in the top end is the best I have ever heard. So three 30 gauge gold wires with one 24 gauge negative conductor remains the perfect combination.

As for construction techniques I have continued to evolve into what I believe is an excellent process and one that is relatively simple and quite fool proof. I am still sleeving the wires into the 2mm Audio Consulting cotton sleeve. I sure wish I could find a cheaper supplier, but… I am then using the masking tape, 2” wide sticky side up with a ¾” strip of tape sticky side down running down the middle of the 2”. I then place the two conductors in there cotton sleeves at the outside of the ¾” tape and fold the 2” over to hold the conductor on the ¾” line. Repeat the process for the second conductor and you have the excellent qualities of cotton dielectric held perfectly straight with paper tape. Cotton as you recall has a 1.3-1.4 dielectric constant. The paper has a 2.0 but after a great deal of time reading and trying to figure out how far out from the conductor the dielectric holds an electrical field I concluded the important area was in the cotton. A concern about the dielectric value of the glue was raised off line. I called 3M, I have a ton of friends who work there and the best I could determine is the bulk of the glue is a poly something. It has a dielectric of 2-3. Although this is not great it is as good as most cables.

I then wrap the tape in cotton piping, now followed by a 1/8” cotton blanket wrapped twice around the entire assembly. I use cotton thread wrapped about an inch apart to hold it all together. The cotton piping and cotton blanket overlap the RCA, and I use a piece of the 2” tape to attach them together plus the tape adds a great deal of strength to this critical joint. The entire interconnect is about 7/8” diameter of basically cotton. My latest find, and I must say I am extremely happy with myself is a carbon fiber sleeve to use as the finish covering. Carbon fiber was chosen because of its use in stealth technology. Carbon absorbs high frequency interference, so this is my shielding! The carbon fiber is very soft to the feel and very easy to work with. I discovered an aerospace composite company that has some very groovy stuff. They have all sorts of extremely light weight sandwich panels with some wonderfully techie materials.

Oh be still my heart… Isolation revisited. Oh sorry I may be frequenting this company in the near future.

Back on task; I shrink wrap the carbon fiber that is almost fully covering the RCA. This gives me the benefit of carbon fiber shielding virtually over the entire connection. The carbon fiber made a surprisingly large improvement in inner detail I assume this is due to a lower noise floor, but my noise floor is already so low it is hard to hear something lower. I found a great improvement in soundstage depth and so much detail to stringed instruments. What is so special is the detail is not etched or analytical. No it is 100% natural. It literally sounds live, I mean the performers have body and area, it’s hard to explain. At any rate, the carbon fiber did seem to clean and lessen any remaining glare or edginess in the treble. Again I must point out I use these terms to describe the treble in a relative term. These babies are not bright edgy or glary in the least. Just silky smooth, black and pure.

So that is the gold wire update. I have also discovered a much cheaper alternative to the all gold investment portfolio. See I need to explain to my wife I have invested in gold. It is supposed to triple in price over the next couple years, so….. Yea that’s the ticket, an investment portfolio…

I have found a reliable overseas supplier of Vermeil gold wire: This is a gold mechanically plated silver wire. The silver wire is a 99.95% pure soft temper annealed silver wire. A 99.99% pure gold, 80 micron plating is mechanically applied (not gold filled or electro-plated) to the surface of the silver conductor. These wires are capable of giving a goodly amount of the performance of the all gold, but at a much lower price. The only downside I have discovered is because these are silver conductors with gold plating the inherent issues in silver, and the sonic signature of silver still is present. The gold plating lessens the negatives of silver, that being a clinical, edgy hard and possibly bright sound. As with all silver products, about 440 hour of burn in will make these attributes acceptable to most of us. The gold gives the silver a fabulous warmth and naturalness that I have never found in silver. The gold has a second benefit of protecting the silver conductor from corrosion and tarnish. This allows the cotton to be an acceptable dielectric where all silver in cotton will eventually degrade.

The Vermeil gold interconnect did benefit from a larger gauge. I am using three 28 gauge wires on the positive conductor and one 24 gauge and one 26 gauge in the negative. This turned out to be the best set-up and the closest to the all gold. For a balanced XLR I used three 28 gauge for pin number 2 and 3. I used the one 24 and one 26 on the number one pin. These sounded amazing, but what a pain to build!!!

So there you have it, I thought you all should know the latest greatest…

FYI on my experiments:

ground gauge is critical: i had 4*18 ga (effectively 12ga) on my XLR IC, and it was fat & a bit slow. cutting back to 13.5 ga made a huge difference in bass definition and speed.

i wouldn't have believed it if i (and another local audiophile) didn't hear it ourselves.

Try cutting it back even further. I believe this is a large factor in the clarity these cables exhibit. I too would never have believed it without going through all the mock ups I did.
I just want to put down a marker so I can find this fascinating thread again :-)
Thank you for this thread. This is the most informative and interesting thread I've read on DIY wires.
I thought it was time for a quick update. I have continued to try testing various new materials and configurations including titanium, platinum, palladium, palladium/silver, rhodium and gold alloys. For the most part I have not been overly excited by any of these materials except for platinum has some nice smooth coloring that I found enjoyable, but the cost is too high for full experimentation. Rhodium plated copper shows some signs of being an acceptable wire choice as does palladium.

In my tests, I discovered something that was very, very interesting. I tried different wires and gauges in both the positive and negative conductors, but in every case, the use of any additional gauge, wire count or material within the positive conductor was a step backward from the three strands of 30ga, pure gold wire. For the most part it was a step backward in clarity and definition.

To my surprise, this was not at all the case in the negative conductor. I found using one strand of wire (in a variety of gauge and material) had a noticeable impact on the characteristics of the cable, but never affecting the clarity. I continued adding of exchanging different wires in the negative to bring about the changes I was hoping to find.

I mention this as a guide for those who wish to experiment with different materials and wire configurations. My recommendation would be, “once you have found the clarity and definition you want keep this positive configuration and make your remaining variables in the negative conductor.” This is a great piece of information to have in that it eliminates one whole set of variables. So if you want to just start, try using (3) 30 gauge (or 32ga) copper wires for the positive, and one each of 24ga and 26ga for the negative. From this point you can test other setups. If you wish to try silver or gold use the same sizes, and try only making changes on the negative run.

As for materials, I found palladium to be relatively dry and two dimensional in the positive, but it added a nice edge in the negative. I found any more than one strand of 30ga palladium in the negative and the soundstage lost its depth. Palladium on the whole sucks out life from the rich gold, so use in my opinion should be very limited. Rhodium is fast and well defined, but has a lack of color. It did not seem to remove color and life like palladium, bit it was not overly engaging either. I did not try rhodium wire, only rhodium plated wire. I’m not even sure that rhodium wire exists. Platinum, as I stated earlier could be a very interesting choice. I may save some money and continue playing with it. It has a nice clarify, good dimensionality and good coloring. Speed was excellent as way dynamics. I just wish it was not so expensive to buy.

I had big hopes for silver/palladium alloy, but found it lacking human characteristics, wholeness color texture and the rest. It just seemed like a dry silver. Gold alloys could be further explored, and might be a good choice for a budget. Try 14K gold as a starting point, it has much of the favorable characteristics of pure gold. The clarity and wholeness will suffer some, but it will still be a step above silver. I preferred the gold plated silver over the alloy however. The dynamics and speed as well as bass definition is better on the plated silver, but the gold alloys are readily available where gold plated silver is a custom wire.

So that’s it for now. My primary message is try your testing to the negative run. It is amazing how much can be changed with a few wires on one side of the circuit.

Intriguing as usual JD! What were your results for Titanium?
Just for fun, here are the resistivity values for several metals:

Silver: (20 °C) 15.87 nO·m
Copper: (20 °C) 16.78 nO·m
Gold: (20 °C) 22.14 nO·m
Aluminum: (20 °C) 26.50 nO·m
Rhodium: (0 °C) 43.3 nO·m
Zinc: (20 °C) 59.0 nO·m
Nickel: (20 °C) 69.3 nO·m
Iron: (20 °C) 96.1 nO·m
Palladium: (20 °C) 105.4 nO·m
Platinum: (20 °C) 105 nO·m
Tin: (0 °C) 115 nO·m
Lead: (20 °C) 208 nO·m

JD has kindly provided me with the following info on his experiments with Titanium conductors, and suggested I may want to post them:

"I received some titanium leads from a medical device manufacturer friend. We were discussing my DIY interconnects when the topic of his wire came up. He gave me a couple strands of what feel
to be about 28-30ga. In a nut shell the titanium was super hard to work with (very stiff) and it sounded harsh but extremely sharp focus. Not musical in the least, so I ended my
experimentation quite quickly."

I suspect that Titanium wire may still be best used for repairing intestinal hernias. . . ouch! G.
Thanks for all your efforts and your sharing of your experiences. I hope your health is better, too.

I have tried most major cables through the years and found that there is a way to get SOTA performance on the extreme cheap. It goes like this: Use single runs of Wonder Wire with a loose cotton sleeve (available on-line VERY cheaply compared to, say, RAM's stuff you mentioned-- which I have also used myself. Yes, very expensive-- but good), surround with extremely lightweight fluffy cotton (available at any fabric store) for proper spacing. Then, using copper foil (easily bendable but not so thin that it requires many, many multiple wrappings), create a tube that you slide the wire into (you can use a garden hose trimmed to proper length with the ends cut off as a form for easy slide-off/removal.) GENTLY bend the tube to fit your curvature required; you can use the hose as a form for this, too, if the bend angle isn't too extreme. ALWAYS ground the copper shield (or it will crush your high frequencies and close down the sound!) but make sure you don't ground out the cable's wires. Hardwire the ends if possible. If you don't want to hardwire (understandable), SwitchCraft used to make killer super-cheapo RCA terminations ($5/pr), but I don't know about that anymore. (Hardwiring is best, though.) Also, Vampire's Wire's stuff has been very commendable for the money ($28/pr), but Bullet Plugs are supposedly FAR superior. (Wouldn't know, myself.) Support the copper tubes with rubber bands if in the air, or if on the ground, use wood blocks cut to height from 2x4s and band-sawed to a fine triangular support point that minimizes mass near the contact area. No need for those expensive cable supports! (And no, I haven't tried different woods for the support blocks. If anyone has, I'm all ears about the difference. I just use that super cheap pine from Home Depot. Works fine to my ears!)

This is a really inexpensive set-up that will blow your socks off. A very similar design was created some years back by RWA Cables with braided and tinned copper mesh shielding, cotton insulator and annealed connection between RCA and wire. Very expensive due to the handicrafting necessary, but incredible performance. My design gets you to the same place, but for WAY less than $100 per pair as opposed to nearly $1000 for a two meter pair. (Still, the RWA's were excellent. But this was a few years ago. Have no idea if the company is even around anymore.) You can substitute wires (silver, copper, gold) as per your preference. You'll be shocked.

Buy the stuff (copper foil, cotton sleeves) on the net. Michael Percy Audio has the bare Wonder Wire for about a buck a foot, so $30 gets you a two meter pair of wires. As for current SOTA solders, no comment ( I use Wonder Solder that I bought a ton of from Mike Percy about a five years ago. If anyone is up on today's hot solder, again, I'm all ears.) Another $40 gets you a half mile of the cotton sleeving (seriously). The copper foil is a little more expensive (bought by the dimensions/weight), and $ minimums are normally required, but you get a ton of it that you can use in lots of applications, like DIY power cords (remember to ground your shields!) Or get the copper mesh braid from Michael Percy cut to exact length neeeded. You can always go in with other audiophiles and get a bunch of whatever you need. Make 'em for your friends, astound your enemies! You'll all be overjoyed with the results.

Happy listening!
ALWAYS ground the copper shield (or it will crush your high frequencies and close down the sound!) but make sure you don't ground out the cable's wires.
What's your suggestion here? Load side, connected to return wire, or...?
This thread gets my vote as the Most Interesting Thread on Audiogon. I'd love to hear about your continued research JD, if health allows.

My best wishes to you, and thanks for all this brilliant research.
Hello Winston, Osgorth and of course my old friend Greg.

First off, I must thank you for your sincere concern for my health, and for the feeling within your words. I can not adequately express how important the love from my audio friends has been to me, and how much Audiogon has helped inspire me.

Since starting this thread exactly one year ago today my life has changed wholly because of Audiogon and the dear friends I have been fortunate enough to know. Audiogon is without question a perfect example of what is possible in this world if people simply take the time to be a positive part in others lives.

In answer to your question regarding my health, physically I experience more days with zero energy than I had before starting my business that was the result of this thread. As most know, I lost 80% of my heart function, now ten years have passed since they gave me a 5% chance of leaving the hospital and no chance of living beyond three years. That being said, I will be watching my last of three kids (Michael) graduate High School tomorrow night. This is a feat I never expected to participate in. Michael is disabled (CP) and requires 100% assistance, but is evidence of how little importance our bodies have on our lives. Michael has over seventy people who have requested tickets to the graduation ceremony; these are people who he has touched over his schooling. Michael is pure love and joy; I could have no better role model as I continue my personal journey. Last week I attended my daughters’ graduation (middle child) from collage. We are sending her off to Miami Friday, and again I feel so lucky to have been such a strong part of their lives.

My physical energy has suffered because I am continuing to share my love for this hobby with friends by now building them for sale only hear at Audiogon. This has been a true positive in my life however. My creative mind, nurtured by a very successful architectural career had become stagnate and was dying with every year that passed. My health just would not allow me to pursue my career, and I continue to struggle with the depression I suffer. But THIS, THIS wonderful hobby, THIS wonderful website and This wonderful thread have changed my mental outlook.

For the first time in ten years I am excited, I am alive and I simply can not stop my mind from creating. My creating is now in my head, brought about by my ears and delivered through my system. This has awakened a new spirit in me, and I am taking full advantage of every second of it. I am truly blessed; I have amazing friends on this website. Everyone who writes, either in interest of buying a cable or simply to say hi are my friends. I look at every email as an opportunity to gain a friend and share my love for this hobby and to share my life. Over the past seven months since starting this business I have gained friends in over thirty five countries on four continents.

This would not have been possible just ten years ago, but now I find how very small this world is. I have been invited into people’s lives, sharing this hobby, but more important sharing their lives. I hope I have been able to give back half of what I have gained, and maybe, just maybe helped to change a tinny part of the world. I try to share my love and my soul, and in exchange I receive their love in return. Our governments may try to dictate how we perceive one another, but as individuals our souls only recognize love. In a forum like this thread, we still can stand behind the protection of anonymity if we prefer. In emails, we are offered the opportunity to gain a friend, and maybe help change the perceptions our governments have created.

So the very long answer to my health is physically my cable building and experimenting is taking a toll, but mentally I am alive and my mind is in the creative mode I am happiest with.

This brings me to the second half of this post. I have continued to experiment and learn. I am sadly reluctant to post my thoughts in the forums regarding cables because I do not ever want to come across as one of “those” manufacturers who use the forums to self promote. There are a few who have been so blatant, and sometimes I am sure they even start the threads with a moniker that has never posted before, only to answer their own post. I despise this tactic, and I fear if I talk about what I have learned, I will appear to others as just another one of “them.” Therefore please if I ever do cross that line, write me and tell me, for I never want to become self promoting in the forums. I use my ads to promote, and have been trying to share what I am doing through the copy in the ads.

In this instance I will take a moment to share what I am doing, and what I have learned, for that however, please read the next post, this will keep the personal stuff from the information stuff.

Update on interconnect findings…

This past few months have been extremely educational for me, I have not only continued to evolve the interconnect design, but have been experimenting with speaker cables with some excellent results.

First off let me share my experience with shielding. I continued to find that metal shielding is detrimental to the sonic qualities of my cable design. Yet the quasi shielding I receive from the carbon fiber sleeve does seam to help. Carbon fiber has far less “darkening” of the highs than metal woven shielding does. I have found grounding of the carbon fiber can extend the highs but in some cases (if the carbon fiber is too close to the conductors, meaning not enough cotton between the wires and the carbon fiber) the midrange becomes a bit bloated and overly rich. After many attempts to resolve this issue, I found using a 0.01uF film/foil axial capacitor for what ever the reason did not have the midrange thickness and greatly opens the sparkle in the high frequency. This is best demonstrated on the high acoustic strings of a guitar or mandolin as well as on cymbals, harmonica and the like.

One lead of the capacitor is attached to the negative terminal (along with the negative conductor) of the upstream RCA. In practice this would be the CD side of the cable between CD player and pre-amp, or pre-amp side between the pre-amp and amp. I then take the other end of the capacitor lead and attach it to the shielding. I use the upstream so that any noise energy is transferred directly to the circuitry and not carried within the cable itself. I have no idea why this works, or even if it is correct engineering, it’s just what sounded best to me.

I have revised my construction method which eventual brought me back to where I started. Originally during the development process I used a ¼” cotton rope and attached the conductor to the rope. I tried twisted and straight designs eventually settling on the straight parallel design. This idea was sound, but the construction was not repeatable and not as “pure” of a design as I wanted, so I abandon the rope concept. I then tried countless ideas to keep a repeatable solution that kept the conductors separated by an equal distance for the entire length of the cable. Not until a local friend developed a “wrapping” machine using spare parts he had laying around and connecting it to an old sewing machine motor with variable speed foot pedal did the rope concept become practical for production.

The machine allows me to do what I was trying to do by hand. I now use a ¾” cotton piping found in fabric stores to separate the conductors. The machine wraps a cotton thread (like a barber pole) {are there still barber poles?} around the piping and by running the cotton sleeved conductors alone the length of the piping (180 degrees or directly opposite each other) this wrapping is able to successfully attach the conductors to the piping. The wraps are about ¼” apart, so you can see, doing this by hand over a one meter or longer length it took a very long time.

If you’re building just a few, this is not a big issue, so my new recommendation is to use ¾” diameter cotton piping to separate the conductors.

My next discover was the connectors I use. I still highly recommend the Eichmann plugs for a very neutral connector. These require soldering (I use Johnson, 4% silver solder. Most every other high grade solder is 3% silver. The Johnson requires a bit more heat, but not so much that it will not work for this application. It does however require too much heat to de-solder the Eichmann plugs without damaging them, so do not screw up! BTW, does anyone want to buy a bag of damages RCA plugs? ;-)

Through customer requests, I have tried some very exotic RCA connectors, and I am in love with Furutech connectors. (I am not affiliated with them) The rhodium FP-106(R) RCA is such a significant step above any other plug I have tried. They are silky smooth, I know you have heard this kind of comment before, but they really are. The clarity and high end extension is excellent, but without any haze, glare or brightness. The bass is tighter and more focused; they are just a great plug. I also have been using the Furutech rhodium XLR plugs. Hell, if they offered me a tee shirt, I would ware the Furutech connectors proudly on my chest. Unfortunately Furutech RCA and XLR plugs are both expensive and hard to find.

Check my next post for my latest experiments.

DIY Speaker cable experiments…

I have spent the last many months and now over 1000 hours testing speaker cable designs. Like the interconnects, the experiments started with some basic groundwork, and evolved completely based on sonic characteristics, not on engineering, science or any other fundamental knowledge. Therefore my ideas have received plenty of skeptics, but despite what “they” tell me, my cables experiments seem to end with some illogical conclusions. What I am saying it I do not twist these either. I have been told “they will not have the right impedance, they will lack bass, they will not de dynamic, they will sound like a megaphone, they will…”

I will take a few moments now to describe where I started, and the process I used to find the best wire configuration. I have received a great deal of “advise” regarding me sharing my ideas with everyone on the planet with no payback. I do understand these people, for I have given everyone the formula to an interconnect that is cheap and competes against the best. I continue to feel it is better to educate and help my friends learn and develop the best system they can. The rewards are not monetary but they are more valuable than any money.

Saying all that; I am not going to share the exact formula to my speaker cables in this thread. If will however guide you towards the solution so you do not waste too much time and money. Leave the wasting to me!!! I encourage you to try and experiment within these guidelines. The result will be some degree of great, but far more valuable is the education you will receive. I have learned enough that I can for the most part tell you exactly what wires to change based on what you hear.

Now for those who want to build their own speaker cables, but simply do not have the time to experiment, please write me, or phone me, and I will share exactly what I am doing. This way I am kind of protecting myself and my patent, but I am more importantly sharing this hobby with my friends.

I started out with the basic concept of having a conductor equal in area to a 10 to 12 gauge wire. I first tried the two conductors balanced (identical wire configuration) and then varying proportions of negative to positive gauge differences. This was done trying one 14 gauge, one 16 gauge, one 18 gauge… combined in amounts roughly equal to a 10-12 gauge wire. I discovered for my taste, 12 gauge in any combination was too much and the bass was way to fat and bloated. The cable was also very slow (probably because of the design as much as gauge?) and certainly not involving nor nearly refined enough.

Regarding the design; I tried only a few twisted wire vs. straight parallel wire experiments, and therefore my conclusions are not nearly as sound as the interconnect solutions were. After only a few attempts, I ended up following the same basic design concept as the interconnect.

{I experimented with separating the positive and negative conductors from ½” apart to over three inches apart. I found 1 ¼” to ¾” to be the best range. Anything further apart and the imaging began to suffer and anything closer and the tonality and clarity suffered.}

I continued to work on the speed and bass definition by reducing total gauge. At the same time I alternated between balanced and unbalanced gauge between the positive and negative. In my experiments, any time I used a wire heavier than 20 gauge the sound slowed and the bass bloated and became just noise.

I ended up with something more like 14 gauge total for the negative and a little more than half that much area for the positive. The wires range from 28 gauge to 20 gauge. These totals are using gold plated silver wire. I think the total gauge will be similar with different wire material, but I would speculate the actual amount of each will differ. Silver might need less thin wire (to prevent it from getting too bright) where copper might need more fine wire and less heavy gauge.

So how do you start? After many times building and dismantling and building again, I discovered a way to test countless wire configurations without needing to keep adding and subtracting wire through re-building. It will require a great deal more wire and cotton sleeving, but it will save a lot of frustration. I sleeved each wire in its own cotton sleeve and using a piece of tape I labeled each strand. Try starting with this:

Negative: (2) 20 gauge
(3) 22 gauge
(5) 24 gauge
(8) 26 gauge
(4) 28 gauge

Positive: (2) 22 gauge
(5) 24 gauge
(8) 26 gauge
(8) 28 gauge

The amounts above a quite a bit more than you need, but it will allow you many options to work with. I bundled all the negative strands (again using my friends winding machine) with thread to hold them together at one. I did the same with the positive and then separated them with cotton piping as in the interconnect design. I use Orchard Bay banana plugs (available from Steward at Sanctuary or Sound) to terminate the wires. These allow you to crimp the bundles into the plug by simple screwing and unscrewing the plug end. It makes it easy to add or subtract the wires.

I put all the wires into the plug at one end of the conductor, this was the speaker end. I then tried different wires combinations using the marker wires at the amp end. I was able to quickly change which wires I used without ever removing the plug from the amp. WARNING, mute you amp before you mess around with the wire.

At first it will be very obvious what direction to go. Use thinner wire for speed and tightening the bass as well as extending the top end. Use thicker wire for deeper bass or to make the image more solid. After a few hours you should be able to start focusing in on finer issues including how to change the imaging, soundstage depth, transparency, tempo and micro detail. Keep trying to develop the cable in one direction until you decide you went too far. Then back off to what sounds best. Work on just one conductor at a time. First the positive, then work the negative. Keep alternating until you have what you think is the best it can be.

***NOTE: You might find it best to start with about half of each gauge in the banana plug. You can use a piece of masking tape to tape the added strands to the plug as you try to quickly determine a range to work within. Once you have a rough good sounding cable, un-tape the wires and screw them into the banana. Then you can start again with adding or subtracting. Tape makes it easier to add and subtract, but if you are closing in on a final sound, you really should screw them into the plug.***

This is the time to call in your friends to lend their ears. While you have been developing these cables you will start to get overly focused on certain areas. It is your friends who will point our issues you could no longer identify. Once they are pointed out to you, it is easy to hear, and that is when you go back to trying wire combinations. It’s so cool how much you will learn about how wire effects the sound. After a while you will be able to tune your system to your taste. If you keep the cable with extra wire, you will be able to tune your speaker cables as your system evolves. A new amp might need a small adjustment to achieve the best performance. What you will have is an infinite supply of speaker cables. As you hear other systems and find things you wish you had, you will know how to change the speaker cable to pull out that characteristic.

I recommend you use a screw type mounting for your spade or banana plugs. This will allow you to easily adjust the cable configuration in the future. Do not solder the wires to a connector; this will only degrade the sound. Crimp type connectors are more a one use connector and will make it more difficult to modify the cable in the future. Some people prefer just the bare wires into the five way binding post on the speakers and amp. I am reluctant to do this because you may have stray wires that could short out and possibly damage the amp. I do however agree that no connector is best in that it reduces one more are of signal lose. For me, I prefer a connector.

Now do not be afraid to try different wire materials. Perhaps you will start with copper and then add a few strands of silver. You will here the silver, and the sparkle it brings forward. Try a strand of two of one of the many gold alloys being sold now on Audiogon, or if you have so much money that you can not decide whether to burn it for a recreational back yard fire, or maybe buy another Ferrari for the collection try solid gold or gold plated silver, or silver plated copper, or rhodium plated copper, palladium, platinum, or…

I believe the process I described above was the most educational experiment I have done. The understanding of how the sonics of our systems are altered by the wire combination used will help a DIY’er in most any audio project in the future. I highly encourage people to try this project; it is worth the time required.

I hope people feel the need to share what they learn with other so we all can learn. I am always reluctant to join in on these conversations, but when it seems I can help with some thoughts I will be hear to write those comments. Also do not be reluctant to write me directly if you have questions that you feel might not fit this post.

My entire goal with this great hobby, and with this amazing web site is to share what I have learned, and help all of us find the best results we can.

Enjoy and share the love!


I'm late to this feast of information and lollipops, so it took me quite a while to read this thread. I admit, I skipped a few comments....

My morning is ruined! Or is it? ;-)

I am most interested in your findings regarding speaker cables. Fascinating read. Nelson Pass has often stated that the "no twist" method is best, so you are not alone. I have used DIY wood spacers which are essentially little solid blocks of wood with holes drilled in them as a routing/spacer for each conductor. I see many other manufacturers have done this as well- so it's not breakthrough science or anything. My point is- keeping the conductors spaced makes a noticable improvement in overall performance. Juts more validation for 'ya....

I am also experiencing something that is new (to me). I recently started using a DEQX active crossover system and the results are jaw dropping. Aside from the room correction features (mine thankfully requires little) the ability to divide each portion of the frequency to the best suited amp and driver lends another benefit: The ability to choose a speaker cable and/or interconnect to best suit the range of given frequencies!! Rather than focusing on the holy grail of the do-all cable, there is a bit of a luxury in picking a seperate conductor and design with respect to how it performs with each amp/driver symbiosis within the confines of a given freq range. It allows you to bring out the best of each.

Turns out, a fairly robust 14awg 4n dead soft silver is quite amazing on an 18" driver when relieved of its midrange and high frequency duties. One conductor for the pos, one conductor for the neg. I have yet to experiment with much beyond that, but your postings have my curiosity peaked. Copper does midbass and midrange quite well when properly done, but silver does best here. I have yet to try gold for the uppermost frequencies but I think I'm in for a treat when I do!

It may sound like a nightmare with all the amps and drivers with different conductors- but it has to be heard to be believed. No problems with freq overlap and crosstalk because I'm using >200db/oct slopes. It's a proverbial brick wall of freq division. There remains a solid coherance to the end result thanks to the DEQX.

I look forward to reading more about your experiments. I saved it on my favorites list. I thank you for taking the time to do it, and mostly the time it took to share.

Hats off to you!

wow thanks for the interesting read, one of the most interesting and informative things I've ever read on Audiogon.
Hey just had to let everyone know that this ***hol* tube_lvr who posted right above me stole 1200.00 from me. He put an ad up for a cart and I sent him the money. He cashed the check and never sent me the cart and won't respond to phone calls or emails for 2 months now. Sorry just pissed me off when I read this thread and noticed he had contributed. Just wanted everyone on here to know what a piece of !@#$ this guy is.
I found this thread a couple of days ago and it motivated me to put some of my experiments on line. Some findings agree with JD others do not.

My methodology was very different: I put several cable designs in an oscilloscope and picked the one that interfered the least with the signal.

The findings seem to endorse Nordost Valhalla’s design as JD does "My personal experience says that Nordost Valhalla’s are the quickest, most transparent cable made. The bass is so highly defined and the impact of the bass is beyond reproach". They also seem to point to Allen Wright’s silver foil design as a comparable option.

Given that JD finds that "the downside of Valhalla is it tends to be thin and bright on the top end" these measurements also help to understand some of his choices including opting for cotton over Teflon and his likeness for the double helix configuration -- or so I understood.

I hope you guys find them interesting. I did the work in 96, but I had not put it on line till now.

Here is the link

Intersting, Ed.
It's also a good idea to bring this very important thread to the forefront, again.
Yes it is a great thread Greg. I learn stuff and get ideas every time I read a bit of it.

I have been rewording the text as I learn more. The measurements are the measurements, but the understanding is evolving. My curiosity also has rekindled and I may be redoing and expanding some of the tests. I wish I had a way to record the data directly in the computer.
Although much of the information is beyond my feeble gray matter, I am truly amazed at the depth and tenacity that you bring to your research.
I learned more reading this one post than I have in years.
If you decide to sell your interconnects please let me know, I would be honored to buy a couple of pairs.
My hat is off to you; here you are with health issues, and yet you take the time to post this information for the rest of the community.
You are the true mark of what most of us should strive to be…
All the best,
Hi Jan, I actualy did start to sell these through Jade Audio... Thanks for the kind words.
I wanted to resurrect this interesting post by JD. About six months ago I built interconnects made of Cardas 23 gauge solid silver hook up wire terminated with Eichmann RCA's. I used cotton to insulate each pos/neg lead and separated each lead by 3/4 inch which means they are un-shielded. If you read through this post, JD found IC's sounded best made with pure gold wire and in cotton, unshielded, etc. My IC's sound terrific but they did take quite a while to break in.

One of the most interesting things to read is that in many cases shielding is unnecessary and can hurt sound if not done properly.

Please read. Thanks JD.
I just wanted to say a big Thank You to JD!

I built an interconnect cable using 1x#24 and 1x#28 for the negative wire and 3x#28 for the positive wire with OCC copper wire from and with Eichmann plugs. What a difference it made comparing to my Cardas interconnect! Sound is more natural and smooth and pleasant! The soundstage is cleaner, more extended and better defined! And this is by a significant margin - no need for a/b! I really could not believe it! I encourage everyone to try this design. Using copper wire you can build excellent interconnects for under $100.

I want to mention that I slightly changed the design. I used the cotton piping from a fabrics store as a basis but instead of using cotton sleeves I used cotton batting wrapped around the cotton piping to keep the wires separate. I do not believe it makes any difference to SQ.

I will definitely keep experimenting and try using gold wire when my budget permits.