A POINT OF VIEW: Homemade cables

Gentlemen, can home made cables really offer quality as distinct from value?

Here's what Paul McGowan (PS Audio) says on the subject. Fatter wire sounds fuller, skinnier wire sounds thin, shielded wire sounds cleaner but veiled, stranded wire sounds one way and solid core thicker wire sounds yet another.  These findings were very suspicious to me because they matched too closely to what I might expect – fat wire sounds fatter – really?  That sounds like a crock of you know what, but the evidence was just overwhelming.  To make it even more confusing we were talking about power cables, not audio cables.  I knew the importance of power, of course, but the cabling?

I ran multiple double blind tests as best I could but kept coming up with the same results.  So, instead of fighting it, I figured I’d whip up my own formula cable to see what I could make happen.

I knew I wanted to use solid core wire and I also knew I wanted to use multiple strands of it so it would be possible to bend the power cord.  I had also figured out that two heavy a gauge of single core wire seemed to sound too thick and 16 gauge solid core was best.  The easiest way for me to build this prototype was to buy spools of insulated 16 gauge copper wire at my local Home Depot and that’s what I did.

My first thought was to braid the wires together as my friend Ray Kimber was fond of doing in his cables.  This would reduce the inductance of the cable, which may or may not have been a good idea.  I had previously tried one manufacturer’s attempt at a high-end power cable that had a slug of ferrite on one end and it sounded dreadful – constipated would be a good description of the sound – so I was leery of too much inductance.  But in the end I went for parallel bundles for two reasons: the inductance just made sense (it rolls off high frequencies) and I couldn’t figure out how to braid the wire.  I seem to remember braiding something in school but every attempt at it turned into a mess.

I also considered magnet wire as the conductors because I was suspicious that the dielectric (insulation) might have something to do with the sound, but in the end shied away from it because I was terrified the enamel on the wire would get punctured and my cable would light on fire.  For those that don’t know, magnet wire is solid core copper with a coating of varnish or enamel over it to form a very thin insulation.  It’s about as thin as insulation can get and it is what’s used in transformers, speaker coils etc.  My fears were unfounded as this is used in high voltage applications a lot, but it just seemed safer to go with the rubber insulation from the Home Depot wire.

My first attempt at the power cable used three cores of insulated 16 gauge, twisted together for each conductor.  I used an electric drill to twist the three conductors together, a trick I learned years ago in our production facilities.  I then bundled all three conductors together and tied them up with nylon cord to keep everything together.  I attached a couple of off-the-shelf connectors on each end and had my first cable.

The next step was to compare it to the stock power cable which is exactly what I did.