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The "Full Frequency Range Cable"

A better Mousetrap, a better Mouse, a better Speaker-Cable - why?

[Italian version]

The most relevant cable in any system that is not using a monoblock amp positioned behind or near the speakers is the speaker cable. It tends to be the longest and has to carry the largest amount of current. A Speaker-Cable is also most sensitive to geometry and due to the fact that it has to carry a lot of current all this becomes a lot more complex to handle than for interconnects.

As a result, as far as my humble opinion goes, most cables marketed as speaker-cables are entirely and totally unsuited for this task, at least where high quality reproduction is a requirement.
Specifically, the usual Figure 8 Cable with fairly large, multi-stranded Conductors is sonic poison. If you use this stuff, even switching over to simple 1.5 mm solid core mains cable will bring substantial improvements....
So, just like most commercial Mousetrap's do not really catch many Mice, most low - to mid - priced commercial speaker-cables are simply not very good as speaker-cable.

Hence we need a better Speaker-Cable.
It should be not only be good, but also inexpensive and easy to make.
While I remain convinced that few commercially made speaker-cables (even really expensive ones) perform much better than the "UBYTE-2" speaker-cable, this cable is fairly expensive and very time-consuming to make.
Often I found an E-Mail in my In-Tray saying "I'd love to make one of dem "UBYTE-2" Cables, but to be honest, is there not maybe something cheaper and easier to make?"....

Well here it is.
After lengthy consideration I choose not to apply the UBYTE Moniker to this Cable. Remembering Decca's revolutionary "Full Frequency Range Recordings" (FFRR) I decided to give homage here, by naming the best Speaker-Cable for the economically challenged "FFRC", the "Full Frequency Range Cable"....

How to make a better Speaker-Cable!

In order to make a better Mouse-trap, we need to study Mice and other Mousetraps. To make a better speaker-cable, we need to study speakers and speaker-cables. I have already done this and written an Article about it: "The Naked Truth about Speaker-Cables". Just look it up....

In the end, the most basic conclusion was that each single of the wires making up a speaker-cable should be solid copper (or silver), no larger than 24-Gauge (0.5 mm Diameter) and individually insulated.
Further it can be said that a geometry should be employed that reduces Inductance and resistance to a sensible level, combined with having only modest Capacitance so that "twitchy" Amplifiers are not being upset.
A Cable lending itself splendidly to these requirements is Category 5 Network-Cabling for fixed installation (also called Unshielded Twisted Pairs, UTP, 100-Base-T).
Each of these cables has four pairs of solid plain copper conductors, each being 24 Gauge in diameter (or in some cases 22 Gauge).
Some similar cables have stranded, tinned or even copper-plated aluminum or steel conductor-based wires - avoid these at all cost. Usually the Insulation is polyolefin, an insulator that is modified polyethylene, which is a rather good insulator.
Similar cables are available as a 'plenum' version, using teflon insulation and often also teflon jackets. This cable is preferable, but expensive.

Personally, I use a cable from Maplin (a well-known UK electronics mail-order house). It is made by Alcatel, uses polyolefin insulation (PO is modified polyethylene) and a low smoke zero halogen sheath in a fetching purple colour.
The Order-Code is VB20W. Maplin will sell and ship into any corner of the world, but I am sure with a little effort you can find the cable locally.
Now, how much does a meter of this highly specified, capable of operation at 100MHz, audiophile super quality wire cost?
Well, it depends upon type, maker and where and how much you buy.
The stuff I use (either in purple or neon blue) comes in at about 50 Pence (that is 80 Cent in US Money) per meter if I buy it cut to length....
Buy a large reel and it goes down to about half that....

Details, details, details - get on with it....

Looking at the resistance of the conductors, it becomes quickly clear, that a single set of these cables will still have a lot of resistance. Those of you using 16 Ohm Lowthers or 15 Ohm BBC Mini-Monitors may be able to get away with one run.

However for most of the more usual Speakers we like less resistance and more often that not bi-wiring. So a single run of this Cat 5 cable will not do.
The "FFRC" is be a Cable for use with "normal" Speakers. It is designed and optimised for bi-wiring. It has a good compatibility to a wide range of equipment.
It looks like a high quality and high price commercial cable, with a sound quality like some of the better High-End cables.
It will also cost no more than 45 UK Pounds, that is about 75 US Dollar, for a terminated 5m Stereo bi-wire pair....
Simply buy about six times the length of Cat 5 Cable that we want our final cables to be.
Say for a five meter pair of cables you will need to buy about 36 m of the Cat 5 cable. This includes a bit for loss due to termination, twisting and cut-off's.
Take three lengths (say 3 x 6 m for the example above) of this cable and twist them together with about one twist per foot. It is best to fix one end of the set in a small vice and then start combining the three cables.
If you feel like it, you could use a braided structure like the one shown for the TNT-TTS Mains-Cable.

I then cover the resulting "braid" with expandable braided nylon sleeving, 13 mm nominal diameter.

If you don't feel like doing this, you can save money by leaving this off. Simply use a set of cable-ties on each end of the cable to prevent it from unraveling....
The braided sleeving does however make for a very professional look. I use it on all my Cables. The braided sleeving is available in gray or black, so you can make the finished cable less conspicuous on your floor or carpet.
The sleeving does cost about US$2 per meter. Maplin stocks the gray stuff only. The order number, for those interested, is BA00.
In order to keep the ends of the braid neat and tidy I use a short (about 10 cm) length of large Diameter heatshrink sleeving. This is applied once both Cable-Ends are terminated.
It finishes off the Cable with a look as if it has just left the skilled Hands of highly qualified worker, at a high quality and high-end Cable manufacturer....
And guess what - it is exactly what it looks like. You have just joined the the Elite Guild of High-End Cable Manufacturers....

Connections, connections....

Now we have a cable having overall 12 pairs of individual solid copper conductors. Each conductor is about 24-gauge. If all conductors are used together, we arrive at a cable of about 13-Gauge cross-sectional Area of Copper. There are different ways to terminate and connect this cable.

My preferred termination's are Radioshack/Tandy Spades #316A. These are gold plated copper and cheap (about US$5 for a pack of eight).
If you do not like spades, the best sounding Banana-Plugs I know are available from Maplin. They have hollow, goldplated, beryllium copper pin's, are marked in red and black and cost 1.29 UK Pounds each (that's about 2.15 US Dollars).
The Plugs are stackable and the ordercode is MF68Y (red) or MF69A (black).
My preferred method of connection is to use two of the three cables in our braid for the woofer connection and the third for the tweeter.
As the cable's inductance is fairly irrelevant for the woofer, I suggest to just connect all conductors in each of the two individual cables together.
So one cable will carry the (+) and the other the (-) connection for the woofer.
Twist all the eight conductors for each of the two woofer cables together. Then cover the set of conductors with a suitable colour (red or black) heatshrink sleeving to mark the polarity of the leadout wires. Now apply the termination (Spade or Banana-plug).
The remaining cable in our assembly is used for the tweeter connection.
All white plus coloured ring wires are connected together for the (+) connection to the tweeter and all coloured wires as (-) connection. This connection provides a very low inductance and hence the widest bandwidth for the Tweeter.

At the amplifier end combine all the relevant wires (all positive and all negative wires) together so that you can use two spades (or Banana-Plugs) per cable.
Twist all related wires together, then crimp the spade connectors (or banana plugs) on and solder with a little silver solder to make the joint air-tight.
Obviously, at the speaker-end of the cable four spades (or banana plugs) are used. If you do not want to use the bi-wire option, you can combine the wires into two connections also at the speaker-end.

However, making the cable bi-wireable gives you the flexibility for a later time, where you might own bi-wireable speakers. For non-bi-wireable speakers, simply connect both (+) connectors to the (+) binding-post on the speaker and the other two to the (-) binding post.
>From my experience with most Speakers it is however advisable to apply bi-wiring and if they do not have the provision to modify them to allow bi-wiring.

The result of your toils is:
a 5m pair of bi-wire cable that looks (and sounds) like a serious high-end cable for a total outlay of about 45 UK Pounds or US$75.
As usual have fun trying this.
IF you are ordering anything for this Cable from Maplin, do yourself a favor and also order the materials needed for the UBYTE-i or X-1.5 Interconnect. With either the X-1.5 Cable or the UBYTE-i cable as interconnects and the FFRC as speaker-cable you have an excellent level of cable-quality for your system.

Sure, any of these cables can (and has been) bettered, but it takes a lot of work and money to make something notably better and it takes obscene amounts of money to buy anything better....

© Copyright 1999 Thorsten Loesch and TNT-Audio

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