DIY Cables: braiding video essentials from the interwebs

So if you’ve ever looked at aftermarket cables, you’ve probably seen about a million braids. The most common is the quad braid, usually seen in a round variety, but I do happen to own a flat braid quad cable that I bought in the UK. I’ve not made any of my own cables yet, but think it is about darn time I start. Honestly, I feel bad asking a friend to do it for me. It’s lazy, and unnecessary.

So for braiding, we should have a number of wires in multiples of 4. The reason is because this is what you’ll need to make a balanced cable. When you see cables that only have 2 wires and are balanced, it’s because the wires have multiple enamelled cores that they are splitting out, so essentially the wires are still working in multiples of 4. Even if you are going to use a single-ended termination, there is no reason not to wire in a balanced pattern. You can go from balanced to single-ended, you can’t go the other way. Leave yourself the option to reterminate later if you change your mind. This means that we’ll be ignoring cables that are made with a multiple of 3 wires as these can only be single-ended until we get to 12-braid, which is just an absurd amount of wires to braid. Sure, you can do it. Yeah, 12 is still stupid. In IEM cables, a quad braid is probably all you’ll ever need, though I will say that an 8-braid does feel more solid. There is something to be said for having braids all the way from top to bottom, connector to jack. I did some AWG calculations for combining multiple wires for professionally made cables and the total AWG came out between 16 and 20. So I’d recommend using this calculator to target the range that professional cable companies seem to use, or you could just use the table—that’s probably a bit more efficient. I’ve found that 26 AWG wires are widely available with 24 and 22 not hard to find either. If you are looking for Litz wire, I’ve had a hard time finding sources outside of DIY wire from inside the UK. I’ve bought wire in the past from HiFiCollective. They have solid core, multi-strand and a small amount of Litz wire. The only Litz I found on their site was Cardas OCC copper Litz, which should be plenty good, in sizes between 15.5 AWG and 26.5 AWG (1.37mm down to 0.38mm).

Also, from Wikipedia, some rules of thumb, mathematics can be found over there. I’m keeping it simple here. For reference, 4 wires doubles the diameter of 1 wire, which means the decrease in AWG should be six sizes. Going to 8 from 4 isn’t a doubling of diameter. This is backed by the table below.

Rules of thumb

The sixth power of {\sqrt[{39}]{92}} is very close to 2,[5] which leads to the following rules of thumb:

  • When the cross-sectional area of a wire is doubled, the AWG will decrease by 3. (e.g., Two No. 14 AWG wires have about the same cross-sectional area as a single No. 11 AWG wire.) This doubles the ampacity.
  • When the diameter of a wire is doubled, the AWG will decrease by 6. (e.g., No. 2 AWG is about twice the diameter of No. 8 AWG.) This quadruples the cross-sectional area and the ampacity.
  • A decrease of ten gauge numbers, for example from No. 10 to 1/0, multiplies the area and weight by approximately 10, and reduces the electrical resistance (and increases the conductance) by a factor of approximately 10.
  • For the same cross section, aluminum wire has a conductivity of approximately 61% of copper, so an aluminum wire has nearly the same resistance as a copper wire 2 AWG sizes smaller, which has 62.9% of the area.
IEM Cable #Wires Individual Wire AWG Combined Wire AWG
Effect Audio Ares II+ 4 22 16
Effect Audio Ares II 4 26 20
DHC Symbiote Elite v3 4 or 8 25 19 or 16
Norne Audio Vorpal Type 4 4 or 8 25 19 or 16
PlusSound Exo Series 4 26 20
PlusSound X8 Series 8 26 17
PWAudio 1960s 2 and 2 26 and 24 19
PWAudio No.5 4 26 20

When talking about headphone cables, as in for the big cans, 8-braid makes more sense for matching up an appropriate sized wire. There are arguments out there that more wires means more noise cancellation. I’m not too sure that I buy that.

I went around looking for clear videos, and to be honest, there are lots of videos, most aren’t very clear. I watched a goodly number of videos and found myself coming out scratching my head more often than not. ‘Is it over 2 under 1 or over 1 under 1 over 2, where was I?’ I tried looking at videos all within one channel with a number of paracord specialists. Many of them have terrible narrative pace or bad camera work that loses you. I’m a clumsy handed idiot and I think I can follow these instructions and they are to the point enough to not lose me along the path.

The clear starting point in all the videos is having something to secure your wires to.

Onward for the videos!

Quad braid, flat:

Quad braid, round:

8-braid, round:

When making balanced cables, your right and left channels will have an even split between hot and cold wires (+ and -), you’ll want to mark your wires so that you know which is which. Use tape, paint, heat-shrink whatever you like, but marking early and well will prevent you from making some wiring mistakes and allow you to work faster when it comes time to solder. If you are making a single-ended cable, just mark hot right and left, the other two or four strands will be going to the common ground. For a quad braid you’ll have two twists of two wires come out of  the y-split make sure to twist them tight and evenly so they don’t look sloppy. For an 8-braid, you have two quad braids come out of they y-split.

I’m just starting out on this, but there are some folks who have been doing this a while, like Hector of the Facebook group DIY Cable Makers. I’ll be making some cables in the not too distant future—time is relative, so that means whatever I want it to mean ;). I’ll make new posts to show results, when that occurs. I’ve got some kit I need to buy and some soldering I need to learn too. In the meantime, happy braiding. These techniques work for bread and bracelets too. Get crafty.

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