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The TNT - TTS DIY mains cable
a.k.a. The Twisted Snake
There are certain moments in everyone's life, when we try to deepen our understanding about something that we generally are not familiar with. Sometimes we try to learn, come to understand and then act. However, other times, though we try to understand, we just can not learn it due to the complexity of what we are investigating: then we surrender. But, these can be useful too.
While investigating the problems of mains cords, while I couldn't solve all my doubts, I never gave up. What I did do was experiment.
Well, the result of my experiments went much further than my widest dreams!
Let's me clearly state I am not exactly completely ignorant. For example, I am well aware of the reasons why cables need a shield, a reasonable cross section, and other little things... As for other issues, I try to develop hypothesis based upon arguments. Empirical arguments even though I don't have all the technical knowledge needed to appraise them scientifically.
Anyhow, what we mainly seek, in this case, is to reach our declared goal to improve our system's sound! The path we follow may becomes somewhat marginal (don't misunderstand me, I am not instigating you to a criminal life!).
The point is that we are talking about an object, the TTS mains cord, that I theoretically made after a couple of days of "thinking", during which I elaborated arguments more or less convincing, then I proceeded to a half-day of creativity. Considering the sharp quality improvement obtained using our Merlino cable instead of the cheap one that usually comes with audio equipment, I thought how to surpass its technical and musical characteristics, in order to obtain even better results...
Therefore each conductor (pole) of the new mains cord should have been individually shielded and each pole of the cable should be made of two separated conductors.
The wires, then, should have to be twisted each other. The cable should have been long enough.
Indeed, when making speaker and interconnect cables audiophiles generally try to achieve a result that minimises their effect on the signal.
We know where the signal starts and where it ends, substantially following a point-to-point logic. However mains cables are different in that we don't know where signal originates, nor how many points it passes through.
So, we are virtually forced to fictitiously consider the mains wall plug as the source point. However, we know that at the wall plug the current is already polluted.
Furthermore other forms of pollution come from outside of and within the cord itself.
Hence, perhaps it's reasonable to focus not so much on minimising the effects of the cord of the signal, but on its active role (joined to an AC filter), to obtain a signal that is more pure.
Does a shield act to produce a better reduction in noise? Does the shield intercept more garbage (it's a longer antenna...), thus sending more garbage to the earth circuit?
I must admit I cannot answer these questions. Should there be a technician reading, please feel free to step in!
Also, to improve the shielding properties of the cable, we should have used the ferrites, placed at cable's edges, exactly like in the Merlino mains cable.
Terminations: IEC plug for one end and a tri-polar plug on the other.
Well, those were the basic needs. Now, what should we do?
Here's the shopping list:
Right, how_to_make it:
- 10 (ten) meters of AC shielded cable, with two 1.5 mm2 stranded copper conductors (I myself used the Pirelli cable, featuring the double shield - aluminium foil + copper braid - )
- 2 ferrite cylinders
- 1 IEC plug (female) for the connection to the component
- 1 plug with two poles plus earth pole, for the connection to the AC wall plug
Done it! Your Twisted Snake is ready to work. Below you'll find a picture of a TNT TTS made by one of our faithful readers, Lorenzo Roncoroni.
- Cut the AC cable into three pieces of the same length
- Mark each piece of cable with some tape (or with a marker pen) of different colour, so that you can later tell them apart
- Place them side by side, respecting their direction (take a look at the sleeve inscriptions)
- Tape one end together with a couple of turns of electrician's tape about 20 cm in
- Place the taped end under a sofa, or something else that is heavy (or have someone hold it)
- Start to braid the three cables, with the same lovely attitude you use, should it be yours beloved one's hair. What? You don't know how to proceed? Ask your grandma, she can surely give you the best advice!
- Once you have platted the cable hold it together with another couple of turns of electrician's tape placed some 20 cm from the end. Your Twisted Snake is almost ready to bite!
- Cautiously cut off the sleeve from all of the cable ends. During this step be sure to leave uncut some cm's of braided shield for each cable, also be sure not to eliminate the marks for recognizing each piece of cable previously marked. Also, be sure to cut a couple of cm's more from the sleeve of the cables you will be using for earthing
- At only one end of the earthing cable, peel both its wires near the sleeve, without damaging the shield. Then twist other two cables' shields with the earthing cable's one
Put the previously joined together ends of all three cables' shields around the previously peeled wires of earthing cable. Then, tighten all with electrician's tape.
- Now, insert the three pairs of unsleeved wires (did you mark the pairs?) through the ferrite cylinder. Also shield the wires with self-adhesive aluminium foil before putting on the ferrite. Alternatively, you could use a kitchen roll of aluminium (better with some glue, otherwise the pushing on of tight cylinders can easily damage the foil).
- Then, trim the wires length so that they are just long enough to insert them into the AC male plug. After having peeled and paired them (caution! you must join together the pairs of wires that are part of the same piece of cable), put them into the plug tightening the little screws, or even better solder them to the poles of the plug.
Due to the thickness of the whole thing (six wires, though without their sleeves), you may need to modify the plug. I, for instance, had to cut off a part of the plastic body near the cable. After having connected all the wires to the plug, I also poured some silicon into it, so that stress on the connections is limited.
- Now, repeat steps 9 through 11 for the opposite end of your TNT-TTS (IEC plug side), except the for the joining of the wires' shield with the earthing wire's (I remind you that this operation is to be done only at the AC male plug side). The shield must be left "free".
Previously, on substituting the standard AC cord with the Merlino (I used the Baldassari cable, with narrow copper braid shielding and 2.5 sq.mm wires) already provided positive on my system. Well, the TTS provided an ABSOLUTELY HUGE effect!!!
I say it loud and clear (in my room, with my AC network, and with the equipment that I use Marantz CD 17, modified Spendor SP2/2, Suono Riferimento, Esoteric Audio interconnects, mid-large room), the use of the TTS provided unbelievable improvements.
There is an impressive sense of enlargement of the soundstage. There's much more air around the instruments. The sound clarity has greatly benefited. Width increases notably, as focus does; yet, this effect is bigger on both dimensions.
It looks like the players are in a much bigger hall, with clearly more space among them. The most peculiar sensation is that it's like you've come closer to the speakers, even though you are far from them! There is a heightened level of my perception of detail, nuance and microdynamics. The whole presentation is wider, greater, more musical...
It is like someone raised a curtain that was somehow separating the listener from the players. Naturally, all of the other acoustic parameters benefited Overall there is a cleanness that on first hearing leads you to think that the gain has been reduced, although the volume knob has not moved.
The use of The Twisted Snake plugged into my Marantz CD17, also produced improvements, but to a lesser degree. There is an appreciation of improvement, yet not as devastating (after all, it is the kind of result I would expect when replacing the default cable with the traditional Merlino).
But I presently have only one TTS cable.
In order to make a correct evaluation of TTS cord plugged into the CD I should build another TTS cable, so that the amplifier not equipped with a TTS cable does not becomes a *bottle neck* that, roughly speaking, does not let the preceeding improvements flow. I'll say something more after I produce specimen number 2!
Even though every single AC domestic network is unique, the quality of the used cable (dielectric, inner configuration, copper, shielding effectiveness -be it single or double-) can produce appreciable differences between mains cables.
Used as AC cord of the amplifier, in my system and in my room, the TNT - TTS produced unbelievable improvements, for some aspects directly comparable with the ones I noticed when I changed my old Yamaha CDX 1030 CD player with my Marantz CD17 now at work (!).
But then the bill was much more expensive than the actual 5 pounds, soldering stain included! (If you don't believe me, I'll scan my receipts for you!!! 10 meters of Pirelli AC shielded cable and two plugs for the connections. Yes, I already had the ferrites: you should add an extra 3 to 5 pounds...).
I warmly suggest that everyone that has a decent system (not necessarily expensive ;-), well optimized and well placed (that is, sensitive to *tweeking*) build a TTS. If its use sees a benefit of just half of the effect I experienced, it will be largely worth the effort!
Sure, the snake is not easily hidden due to its dimensions and the building structure (but I am aware of a *top-secret* project, *no compromise* kind, personally handled by our Editor that may do something about this...).
Those of you who, even disregarding acoustic quality, prefer more reserved and more easy to produce stuff, and stay away from extreme actions will find their ideal solution in the traditional Merlino. But, if you keep your system components stacked one above the other and the speakers stuck on the rear wall, forget both cables, and, with the money saved go out for a Neapolitan (or the kind you like :-)) pizza.
I hope that everyone who starts this diy project gets the same results I did! Enjoy the products of your work, when you're listening and, as usual, let me know how it's going!
Read here the TTS, second part
© Copyright 1998 Stefano
Translation: Carlo Iaccarino Translation supervisor: Geoff Binder (Australia)
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