The Significance of Cable Architectures

I started looking at cable architectures a while back. It was initiated by an experience with a home lighting repair.

I was installing a new two way switch on a hallway light, the type with a switch at each end of the hallway (see diagram below). I decided to play it safe and use my multimeter to verify the open/closed position of the switches.

With the switch in the OFF position everything checked out, but with the switch in the ON position I found that there was a reading of 42 volts on what was supposed to be the "dead conductor" i.e. the red conductor in the diagram below.


I found an article on the web which verified that in this particular situation it is common for one of the conductors in standard household power cable to register an
"induced voltage".

Turns out my digital multi-meter had such a high resistance that it drew no current so the reading was unusually high. However, my analogue meter, which draws a little more current still registered a reading of 13 volts.

That’s a lot of "noise".

So how does that relate to audio cables?

Most all cables used in audio have conductors that are in extremely close proximity and run parallel to each other, but one common perception of that cable is, one conductor is the positive and carries the signal and the other is the neutral and acts as the return path.

Added to that simplistic view, we also tend to think of the cable as a single entity as in the diagram below.


But if we view the cable from the perspective of the circuitry of the connected components we get an entirely different picture


Fact is, there is no “real relationship” between the two conductors:

  • One conductor (red) carries the signal
  • Whereas the other (black) simply maintains a link between the neutral side of the two connected components

The neutral therefore, is NOT the return path for the Signal as many folk believe, but in stark contrast to the signal conductor, should always carry the same potential value as the neutral (or ground side) of the two connected circuits...which is - ZERO VOLTS.

So, in a cable having a conventional architecture, i.e. two parallel conductors in very close proximity, it is not beyond the realm of possibilities that the signal conductor would induce some noise into the neutral conductor, which in turn pollutes the neutral sides of the circuits of both components.

This affects the operation of both components, resulting in a degraded audio signal !

Another reality is, the two conductors do not even have to be of the same length OR even made from the same material

  • the signal conductor is best made from extremely high quality copper or silver
  • but the neutral conductor can be of a lower grade of copper with little, if any, impact

This is a consideration few audio cable fabricators are yet to grasp. Many cite their cables are made from high purity silver or copper, even the shield and we all go Ga-Ga! Unfortunately it’s the consumer that is wasting their money - NOT the manufacturer!

Some of the more recent cables to come onto the market aim to eliminate the induced noise by utilizing a less conventional "cable architecture".

- One very simple and effective architecture is to employ a simple braid, similar to that used in Kimber Kables

- Another very effective architecture would be to wind the neutral around the signal conductor, such as the architecture utilized in interconnect cables from Anticables.

- And then there are the more
“exotic architectures”, such as that utilized in Interconnect and Speaker Cables from KLE Innovations.
  • The “fine details” of their gZero Architecture is a closely guarded secret.
    • What is known - their architecture incorporates multiple conductors of various materials, each having an “optimal gauge” for the required duty, which are fabricated by hand in a complex “noise cancelling geometry”.
  • They also utilize very hi-tech proprietary materials for their connectors which also contributes to maximum signal transfer and noise reduction.
  • This approach elevates not only their cables, but also your existing components, to a whole new level of performance!

Bottom Line...

Noise is present in every cable that utilizes the more conventional cable architecture having parallel conductors and applies to Interconnects, Speaker and Power Cables.

Don’t be fooled by cable companies citing simple geometries such as...

“twisted pair construction minimizes radio frequency and electromagnetic interference for clear, noise-free sound”.

This may be the case, but it’s only the tip of this particular iceberg!

For more theory pertaining to this see Electromagnetic Interference - Considerations in Structured Cabling Systems from Siemens
Elimination of ALL noise not only improves the performance of the cable but also improves the performance of each connected component, allowing them to perform to their optimum abilities which results in...

  • improved clarity,
  • better imaging,
  • faster dynamics,
  • smoother high's,
  • deeper lows with improved control,
  • greater presence in the mid range and
  • a natural, more realistic, even “holographic” performance.

One “anomaly” that I have observed...

When using the KLE Innovations Interconnect and speaker cables and also my own DIY and power cables, i.e. when compared to other cables of a more conventional architecture...

The attached components run significantly cooler!

So if you are looking for audio cables of any type - take a close look at the architecture before you buy.

You’ll be a much happier camper Happy

For information on my own DIY cable designs see the following posts on this blog...

DIY Power Cables - The "POWER HELIX"
DIY Interconnect Cables - The "Helix Mark V"
DIY Speaker Cables - The HELIX Speaker

The Right Stuff

The challenge we have as consumers of hi-fi is selecting the right components to achieve the best sound possible - and for most of us, within a budget

In the last few years I’ve been pretty fortunate with my component selection and a couple of times a component has grabbed my attention to the point where it seems to cry out “BUY ME” and those choices have worked out quite nicely, but they were based solely on how they sounded, Fact is I got lucky.

Early on I was not quite so fortunate and my selections were largely based on the recommendation of sales people. Unfortunately their agenda is not the same as their customers.

The audio industry has come a long way - adopting technical standards so that the electrical inputs and outputs are a closer match. But there is still so many other technical aspects of a hi-fi system, that as consumers we should consider.

One issue many people are not aware of is the impact cables (i.e. power, interconnect and speaker) can have on the sound and performance of their hi-fi components.

There is no simple solution to this issue since each individual component in your system may respond differently to various cable brands and types.

Some examples of the types of problems that may arise are
  • the capacitance of a speaker cable interferes with the operation of the amplifier causing it to sound less than optimum.
  • Interconnects can affect the sound if their capacitance is too high, the resulting sound becomes too bright
  • It is well documented that high capacitance phono leads can have a detrimental impact on the performance of phono cartridges.

Yet most manufacturers seldom provide a technical specification of what type of cabling should be used with their components.

Fortunately, some audio stores will provide cables for in-nome auditions, so you can listen to your components response at your leisure.

You also have to factor in whether a new component will work in harmony with the components it is attached to. Reviewers often observe that some components display a certain “SYNERGY” in their system, whereas other products provide a more mediocre performance.

What do they mean by SYNERGY? the dictionary says:
  • The interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements

Another term that is also used more often these days is RESOLUTION, which is used to refer to the level of detail a component is capable of conveying.
e.g. the very fine reverberations of the recording venue, or the breathing of the woodwind instrumentalist or the background humming of a jazz bass player.

A more well defined use of this word is in the world of digital photography and pertains to the number of pixels on the sensor - more pixels = higher resolution

Unfortunately, at present there is no method to quantify audio resolution in such a concise manner, so identifying whether two components are well matched from a resolution perspective based on their technical specification is impossible
e.g. it would be nice to have a rating on a box saying this component is capable of resolving to 110 RES - we could then elect to surround it with like components of 110 RES or close to 110 RES.

The point at which we tend to discover a “synergy” between components is often when we introduce a new component and the resulting improvement exceeds our expectations - we tend to announce that it has great synergy with the rest of the components.

The unfortunate truth is the component being replaced was either-
  • not capable of resolving the audio signal to the same level of detail as the other components in the system, in which case replacement is required, or
  • not working to its optimum abilities (e.g. due to poor cables), in which case you might not need to replace it, or
  • not working in harmony with the rest of the components in the audio pathway, replacement is definitely required due to it’s negative impact on the rest of the system.

Each component can in fact impact the performance of components either side of it - e.g. a technically adept pre-amp can negatively impact both the upstream source components operation and the downstream power amplifier it is connected to. However, when connected to different components it sounds quite amazing.

Another factor to take into account when attempting to assemble a hi-fi system are the power cables used. A good quality power cable will allow a component to perform to it’s absolute optimum ability - in most cases much better than with the power cord provided by the component manufacturer.

And finally - the same applies to the interconnect and speaker cables - they too can affect the overall sound and the way in which the connected components perform. High capacitance interconnect cables can impact the performance of components they are attached to, over and above the effect the capacitance has on the actual audio signal i.e. it acts as a filter and often results in a brighter or thinner sound. Speaker cables can actually make some amplifiers sound quite harsh if the capacitance is too high.

So, matching components can be quite a complicated process, but if you know your existing components and have good quality power cords and interconnects you can reduce the risk of making a selection that is less than optimum.

The only real solution to this problem is to audition new components in your system and make sure you have quality “cables” on hand to allow it to really - “strut it’s stuff”.

My own personal strategy has been to use the best power cables I can afford, together with low capacitance interconnect and speaker cables. That way I know that any performance limitations of a new component is due to it’s design and construction and not to the existing “infrastructure”.

An example of this strategy presented itself recently when I installed a new tonearm on my turntable. The performance improvement was not as good as expected, since the quality of the tonearm and tonearm wiring should have provided a much higher quality performance. I subsequently upgraded the phono stage and to my delight the benefits I had expected from the tone-arm were finally realized.

The real issue here was that my old phono stage did not have a sufficient resolution capability to transfer the micro details now being retrieved by the tone-arm and cartridge, to the amplifier - the new phono stage has much more resolution capability and in tandem with the tone-arm the resulting performance exceeded my expectations.

So, should you choose components that provide the same resolution? - good luck with that!

  • Any brand new component you purchase today will probably have a higher resolution capability than components in the same “snack bracket” purchased 5, 10, 15 years ago, because the quality just keeps getting better with time.
  • If you purchase a component and it does not perform significantly better, then it may be one of the other audio components in the audio pathway
  • there may come a time when the rest of your system is performing to it’s optimum, but not as good as the new component - in that case, several components may require upgrading

Does my new phono stage have the same resolving capability as the tone-arm? - Probably not, but right now It does reveal a certain “SYNERGY” Happy
Can my other components (i.e. amp and speakers) continue to reveal micro-details that new source components expose - I hope so (my wife says it does)

Resolution used to be directly proportional to price - higher price = better resolution - and to some extent that is still the case - but sometimes components come along that perform way above their modest pricing.

These components are not so rare, but may require an additional investment in the better power supply or power cables. I did own two Cambridge Audio components whose performance was elevated to the level of components costing many times their price by simply replacing their power supply

So, research your purchases before you buy and peruse the many forums for “users feedback” and remember, any assessment you read are the findings relative to the person making the assessment and the components they have - what you achieve may be very different.

Which Component is the Most Important?

Another age old question that is still debated to this day without any real answers - I hope this will assist!

Before we delve further I just want to mention
Component Resolution - which refers to the amount of detail a component is able to provide or allow.
  • active components - like a pre-amp are able to "augment resolution" i.e. amplify it, whereas
  • passive components - like an interconnect simply allows whatever resolution is present to pass through them - or not.
  • A subtle distinction, but worth addressing since resolution is more easily affected the closer to the source you get

Extremely well built components will allow you hear minute details, such as the sounds of an instrumentalist breathing while they play, or the concert hall reverberations that makes it sound as though you are right there at the time of the recording.

Every component has a limit to the details it is able to resolve due to its construction. One consideration when building an audio system is to match those limits across all components - otherwise the component with the highest resolution ability is being under-utilized.

Good quality cables become more important as the output voltage of a component reduces e.g.
  • a moving coil phono cartridge is best served by the highest quality conductors, preferably a single uninterrupted run from the cartridge to the phono stage
  • Due to it's incredibly small output voltage it requires a cable of the lowest possible impedance in order to transfer the entire signal.

This same argument could be made for every component in the audio chain, but once the signal becomes amplified, the higher voltages in play are able to overcome the internal resistance of a lessor quality cable, allowing the next component in the audio pipeline to still receive those fine details for subsequent processing.

However, as the voltages get higher there is a tendency for poorly designed cables to permit noise to be induced into adjacent conductors within the cable itself, which degrades cable and component performance

Extending this to an outrageous conclusion might imply that you could use a rusty nail to connect the amp to speaker? Happy

Alas not so, since there are many other factors at play in the audio pipeline, which I am not going to get into. However, I have recently experienced a situation which has required me to re-assess some of the aspects of component selection and matching, so here goes...

Over the past few months a friend has been required to use his "consumer grade" receiver in place of his pair of tube amps that are out of service for a component retro-fit.

He has an extremely good turntable with a custom built phono stage, a very good CD Player and very detailed speakers, but the one thing that surprised me is just how good the consumer receiver actually performs - specifically, very good spacial definition in width and depth and a pretty dynamic response, which surprised me and him a lot.

So from this, is the answer to the question - always spend the most money on source components?

It would certainly seem that way to some extent from my friends experience.

I think in todays world, the levels at which some affordable hi-fi products can perform is much better than most people realize

e.g. My NAIM integrated amplifier is priced far from the exotic brands, but turns in a very respectable performance when connected to higher quality source components.

So, I seem to be leaning towards spending more money on Source components

What else could be considered "Important Components"?

How about speakers? - the final frontier - before your ears Happy

These are the work horses of the system and providing they are chosen wisely - they should provide an excellent listening experience for a long time - so choose wisely and for the long term.
  • There is no magic formulae - you have to get out there and listen to as many as possible
  • It is extremely important that these be matched to the amplifier, otherwise neither will perform to their fullest potential
  • Some brands are inefficient and require very large amplifiers to drive them
  • Some brands are very efficient and require only a small amplifier to drive them

So, speaker choice may dictate amplifier choice (and amplifier price)? - YES!

Choose wisely and apply those budget savings to better quality source components

There are systems out there using very small wattage amplifiers and efficient speakers that sound as good as some of the systems with huge amplifiers, just maybe not as loud Happy

What About Interconnects? - the "arteries" of a system

OK - here's a statement!...
Every component deserves an interconnect of a quality that reflects the abilities of the component!
  • NOTE: that statement also applies to speaker cables - which is also an interconnect in the true sense of the word

So, if you have a high quality component, you should have an interconnect that is capable of transferring the entire signal made available by that component. This applies to analogue and digital forms of signal transfer also.

Some people declare that they have tried better quality interconnects and heard no difference!
  • that may not be the fault of that particular interconnect
  • the problem may be elsewhere either side of the interconnect (i.e. cables or components)
Take a look at Aren't all cables the same? for a more detailed discussion and Cables In My Stable (1) to see what I have used

And Power Cables? - YES - they really make a difference

Power cables make a significant improvement in the performance of a hi-fi component - please refer to
Why Good Power Cords Make A Difference for an in depth look at their importance in a system.

Hey - what about turntables? - the most complicated of sources.

With respect to Turntables as a source - it is extremely important that the technical aspects of the cartridge, turntable and phono stage be matched, however if budget is a limiting factor (when isn't it), then
  • A very good turntable will allow even an entry level cartridge to perform to the best of it's abilities, but a less adept turntable will diminish the performance abilities of any cartridge
  • A very good phono stage can extract an exceptional performance from an entry level cartridge, but a higher priced cartridge will not improve the performance of a less adept phono stage
  • Electing to use a good turntable with a less adept phono stage or a good phono stage with a less adept turntable would be down to the individual, their desired performance level requirements and their budget

In my case I "evolved" the abilities of both my turntable and my phono stage over a period of time with several upgrades, which may not have been the most expedient or cost effective method,
but it was certainly the most educational

If I could go back in time and knowing what I know now - I would opt for the better quality turntable and save myself all the upgrade hassle.

CONCLUSION: - Hey! - read the detail above - don't just cut to the chaseHappy

So, if I were to go out there and purchase a new system from scratch, here's the order in which I would proceed
  • Find a pair of speakers that I like the sound of - using a good amp and source in the store
  • Find an amplifier or Pre/Amplifier combo that is capable of driving them (but more modestly priced)
  • Find a pair of speaker cables that allows the amp to control the speakers completely
  • Find the best Source components I could afford!
  • Find the Interconnects and power cables that match the components purchased
  • Most Important - find a store that will put a package together and demo them together

So as you can see in this discussion - I lean towards the purchase of better source components - even though I posses more modestly priced sources. But MY sources have undergone significant DIY upgrades over time to augment their performance level. Other people may not feel "equipped" to perform such enhancements, but whichever route,
good source components are definitely worth the investment .

Today, there are some great pre/amps at reasonable prices that are capable of performing close to the levels of higher priced source components when connected via good interconnects and good power cables. Opting for a more affordable pre/amp may be a better budgetary choice without sacrificing too much on the performance front.

Good source components tend to make a more appreciable impact when coupled with the right power cords, interconnect cables and power supply components.

Matching the source components with their interconnects, the amp with the speakers and all components with power supply components can be time consuming and expensive, but the internet is a wealth of information that is at your disposal, so make use of it.

Bottom Line: it's up to you to determine what components you require. Do your homework, otherwise you will find yourself owning some very questionable purchases.

Digital Interfaces - Which is Best?

My very latest delving has been into Fibre optic cables - i.e. Toslinks

It started by me placing an order for a DH Lab's "
Deluxe Toslink Optical Cable"

Wondering whether I'd done the right thing - I went searching...
  • Toslink has the advantage of not suffering from RF interference - so it is the better solution from that perspective
  • I started with my favourite cable maker Van Den Hul (aka VDH)
  • their OPTOCOUPLER II is a killer cable that "Guarantees" 250Mbps
  • I looked back at the DH Labs cable which states 150Mbps - Hmmm - not bad at all since it is less than half the price!
  • I then went looking at other manufacturers - e.g. my existing Chord toslink is 50Mbps
  • most of them didn't even publish their numbers

What about S/PDIF?
  • A different kettle of fish altogether...
  • The problem of RF pollution comes back into the equation, so I looked for cables with adequate shielding
  • Once again I went to VDH and found their Digicoupler - a triple screened cable with a performance of 3 Ghz
  • Once again - right there was DH Labs with their Silver Sonic D-75 and D110 with a performance of "beyond 2 Ghz"
  • and then there was the rest - not telling me the information I needed to know
  • The best performance in a brand name SPDIF cable I’ve found to date is from KLE Innovations - their gZero2D and gZero3D, which are extremely adept a transferring a digital signal
  • But the very best SPDIF I have used to date is my DIY Interconnect Cables - The "Helix Mark V" which seems to eclipse the the gZero3D by a smidgeon in clarity and imaging

What About USB?
  • Well, this can be an exceptional interface, but comes with caveats
  • The computers USB power is often used to power a DAC’s internal USB circuits - this can be quite unstable and impacts performance.
  • The USB cable itself contains both signal and power conductors which can cause noise and hence jitter - use a dual cable like this one
  • Also use a separate power adapter like this one
  • With the above additions, the USB interface will operate to the level of S/PDIF

If you are looking at digital interfaces - be sure that the cable(s) you select has a performance level somewhere near those above!

Good Huntin'

Why Good Power Cords Make A Difference

WARNING: unless you are an experienced electrical professional do not attempt to build/fix anything that uses mains voltage electricity — consult a technician

This debate has been ongoing for many years and until now I have never seen an adequate reasoning!

I've just completed updating all of my power cables — and YES! — it does work — for both Audio and Video

Maybe this example will explain why...

Screen shot 2012-01-26 at 3.29.31 PM

So what happens inside the amp if the dynamic current peaks cannot be accommodated?

If power supply within the amp cannot supply the current required at the speed required to amplify the signal to it's required levels...
  • the voltage within the circuit will fluctuate ever so slightly.
  • the fluctuations can result in distortions being introduced into the amplified signal.
  • also, remember there are two amplifiers operating in a stereo system, so the fluctuations will not be exactly the same.
  • this can result is subtle changes to the phase of the two signals of the LR channels.
  • changes in phase tend to alter the stereo image such that the image becomes "smeared" or "unfocused”.
  • In exotic amp designs the power transformers tend to be very large, are made from great quality copper and have lots of "headroom" — that's why the sound better:
    • "headroom" is the excess capacity available to address the peaks in power demand
    • the transformers are also designed to be very efficient,
    • Therefore peaks in current demand are accommodated by their ability to supply the required current from the power supply directly and when that is exhausted, from the main supply.
  • If there is a tiny little power cord attached to the amp then the “effective supply, i.e. as seen by the power supply of the amp, is unable provide the required current in time.
  • The amp will not perform up to it's “fullest potential" and
  • The stereo image and dynamic response will not be as good as what is actually achievable.

Most hi-end stereo equipment is designed with sufficient "headroom" in the power supply, but the power cord may be insufficient to deal with the peak transient demands that the internal circuitry and components are capable of.

More modestly priced components tend to skimp a little on the components in their power supply because they are designed to a “price point”.
  • However, their internal circuitry and components are often very capable of a significantly higher level of performance if only the power supply were more “capable”

In either case — having quality power cabling, connectors , etc., will allow all audio components to perform to a significantly higher level.

What can you do to ensure the equipment is working to it's fullest abilities?
  • Ensure that the outlet into which the equipment is plugged into is at least a hospital grade outlet — but you don't need to go nuts...
    • I have a 20 amp hospital grade MRI outlet from Take Five Audio - it has much stronger clamping abilities.
    • Even a 15 amp hospital grade outlet will be better than a standard outlet.
  • Ensure that all mains leads are of sufficient gauge and made from high quality copper.
    • 10 gauge minimum for amps.
    • Even larger for those very big mono-block amps or very high powered amps (say, 1000 watts and up).
    • 12-15 gauge minimum for source components .
  • Ensure that all plugs are of a reasonable quality — again you don't have to go nuts.
    • SONAR QUEST CRYO Ag Audio Grade Silver plated connectors are very good and reasonably priced.
  • For added safety/security I crimp spade connectors to the conductors.
    • This ensures maximum electrical contact and the wire should remain securely attached.

The same applies to TV's also — the better the cord the better the image!

So why doesn't the manufacturer provide good power cords?
  • All amps are designed to a "price point”.
  • the manufacturer knows that if they include a good cord it will up their price compared to the competition.
  • they also know that the informed consumer will buy a better cord anyway.
  • NAIM did have a slightly better cord included, but it falls very short from the cables that really makes it "shine”.

There’s a question out there on the web which asks-

“How can a 5ft quality built power cable make any difference?”

After all...

  • There’s all sorts of noise on transmission lines.
  • Add to that the noise in old transformers on hydro poles and all those poor connections.
  • The crappy quality wire in the walls of your house/apartment doesn’t help.
  • and don’t forget all those noisy household appliances.

To answer that question you first have to understand electricity a little...

A mistake often made is equating the flow of electrical current to the flow of water through a hose, which is not the case.

AC stands for Alternating Current but, in reality it’s alternating voltage — the voltage is a sine wave that cycles to +120v and -120v either side of a zero voltage point at 50/60 cycles a second.

When a circuit is completed by turning on a switch, some electrical energy is transferred — however
  • The reality is — the loosely coupled Valence Electrons in the cable, shift in one direction — but only for one half of the cycle
  • As the voltage enters the other half of the cycle the Valence Electrons - shifts in the other direction
  • So there is no “flow of electrons” as such — they just shuffle back and forth — however, there is a transfer of energy
  • This means all that noise in the transmission lines and house wiring never ACTUALLY arrive at your components
  • The noise that does get to your components is in the last 5ft of the supply line
  • YES! - YOUR power cables!

So, if you can clean up this section, the power coming to the components will be clean and allow them to perform to the best of their abilities.

What causes all this noise?

Primarily -
poor power cable design!

Let me explain - If you have two wires in parallel and side by side, i.e. just as in a power cable having a conventional architecture...
  • when you pass electricity through one wire i.e. the live wire...
  • noise is induced into the other wire(s) i.e. the neutral and the ground
  • The ground wire is not too much of an issue, since it goes directly to ground and is only really connected to the components chassis as a safety consideration
  • BUT - if the noise gets into the Neutral wire — it can impact the actual operation of the components circuit
  • if you can interrupt the induction process you can clean up the power in that last 5ft of power cable

How can you clean up the last 5ft?
  • Well, as stated above — the wires have to be adjacent and parallel for induction to take effect.
  • You could just separate them by about one inch, but that’s not really a convenient solution.
  • But one very simple method is to braid the conductors — the tighter the braid the better they perform.
  • In a braid, the wires cross each other at an angle between 30-50 degrees .
  • This is enough to reduce the effect of the induction process.
  • resulting in a significant reduction in noise.

Another more advanced and effective method...

Is to wrap the Neutral and Ground conductors around the Live Conductor in a helix
  • This is the most effective approach because the neutral and ground conductors are almost at 90 degrees to the live conductor
  • There is virtually no noise induced into the neutral or ground conductors.
  • The neutral and ground conductors also interrupt RFI/EMI pollution of the Live conductor.
  • The resulting power is virtually clean.
  • But, this “winding process” is much more complex to implement.
  • And more than doubles the amount of wire required.
    • Probably the main reason why it is seldom used.
  • Typically, for a Ft 5 power cord I would use 12-14 Ft of wire for each of the neutral and ground conductors.
  • There is one upside — the wire used for the Neutral and Ground wires does not have to be of the same high quality as the wire for the Live Conductor.

I found that for both Ground and Neutral conductors,
  • using a stiffer wire allows it to “hold” the helix shape once it has been formed and it does not have to be of the same high quality copper as the Live Conductor.
  • You can then insert a high quality, more flexible “live” conductor, like those available from Furutech or DH Labs, into the helix to complete the three conductors required for mains cables.
  • The higher purity copper used in the live conductor will provide a much faster response to transient demands, i.e., better dynamic response.

To form the helix...
  • an easy approach is to wind the conductors around a wooden dowel.
  • the resulting helix is like a spring and quite flexible.
  • This also reduces the likelihood of the less flexible wires from cracking or breaking
  • See DIY Power Cables - The “POWER HELIX"

Of all of the power cable architectures I have tried to date, I have found the helix architecture to provide the most detailed and dynamic performance.

For more theory pertaining to this see Electromagnetic Interference - Considerations in Structured Cabling Systems from Siemens

WARNING: if you attempt this there are a couple of issues you have to address...
  • Ensure the cable is rated for mains use - I use cable capable of handling >=600v at 200 celsius .
  • the gauge you select must be able to carry the power required by the component.
  • DO NOT use Romex House Wire for prolonged use — it will crack and fail with use.
  • Ensure you get the polarity correct when connecting the MAINS/IEC plugs.
    • Reversing the polarity could result in degraded performance.
    • It can also result in electrical shock.

For added security I always crimp small plated copper spades on the ends of each wire and then fasten those into the mains connectors. They are about the safest method, other than soldering, of ensuring the wires will not pull out. The other benefit is that they appear to assist in the transmission process — the net result being improved dynamic performance.

What is the optimum length of a power cable?...

  • Most of my cables are between 4 and Ft 6 long.
  • I have one helix cable that is only 3ft long and it works extremely well.
    • But I would not personally make them any shorter than 3ft Happy
    • Longer than Ft 6 becomes a bit unmanageable to build


Failure to connect plugs using the correct polarity can result in electric shock resulting in death or may cause equipment to malfunction, resulting in fire!

If you have not had adequate training in the maintenance of electrical appliances, mains electricity or power electrical theories - DO NOT attempt to maintain or build power related products!