Making High Quality A/V Cables


Making High Quality A/V Cables

Say goodbye to the bank-breaking audio/video cables at your local electronics superstore. Save your money and build out your home theater DIY style. With a total running time of 45 minutes, Kevin and Dan talk to a broadcast engineer to demonstrate how to make your own high end A/V cables for a fraction of the cost and a "monster" savings.

Say goodbye to the bank-breaking audio/video cables at your local electronics superstore. Save your money and build out your home theater DIY style. With a total running time of 45 minutes, Kevin and Dan talk to a broadcast engineer to demonstrate how to make your own high end A/V cables for a fraction of the cost and a "monster" savings.

In this episode we teach you how to make the same cables that most broadcast engineers use for their own projects and talk about why they don't buy those expensive cables at the stores. We show you the tools and how to use them so that you can become the cable making professional you were meant to be. Finally, we show you how to organize the rat's nest behind the TV for that professional look and a broadcast quality signal.

Let's get started with the standard video cable. We can use the same cable for composite and component video cables. Composite video has a poor quality image compared to the other signal types because it modulates the color information into the luminance signal and it can cause some signal bleeding especially in the reds of an image. The preferred signal for consumer analog video is component which takes the luminance information down one cable and the chrominance information down two separate cables.

The coax cable we have chosen for our application is Belden 1694A coax cable because it is fairly close to the same type Monster Cable uses and can be bent fairly easily. The connectors we use are the Canare CANRCAP-C53 75ohm RCA connectors. The tools you will need to build the cable are a crimper, stripper and diagonal cutters. We used the Canare crimper with the TCD-35CA die set in the episode but you can use any crimper that has an RG-59 die set with them to save a few dollars. The stripper we use is a cheap one available at Radio Shack and works just fine, however, if you plan to make a lot of cables or just want to be exactly to specification then I recommend looking for a stripper with spacing for that connector. The Canare connector we used has a spacing of 19mm total with 9mm from insulation to braiding, 6.5mm from braiding to dielectric and 3.5mm from dielectric to tip. has a full set of tools with the stripper, cutter, crimper and die sets for under $90.00. We found this after taping this episode so you can make your cables for less than we did! If you want to match Canare specification then I would suggest the Paladin 4320 Kit.

Stripping The Cable
Start by placing the cable in your left hand and the stripper in your right hand. It is important to note that every stripper is different and you should point the outside of the stripper away from the cable leaving about ¼ of an inch of extra cable hanging off the end. We will remove the extra wire later. Then remove the insulation to expose the center pin and braided shielding. Next slide the collar over the cable, don't forget this step or you might have to start all over.
Trim the center wire to length, this will vary from stripper to stripper but the correct length is 19mm from the outside insulation to the tip of the center conductor. We had to cheat a little in the episode and leave some of the center conductor exposed to make it fit. This is where the right stripper would have come in handy but you can still make an excellent cable, even with the less-than-ideal stripper.

Crimping The Cable
Now place the center pin and crimp it down tight. I recommend you tug on it a bit to make sure it is secure. Making sure the center pin is straight, go ahead and slide on the body of the connector. You will feel a snap when you lock in the center pin. Finally fold the braiding back over the connector and slide up the collar tightly over it and crimp it down. When you get the hang of making the video cables you will be able to do it without flaring the braiding all the way back and be able open it just a little bit to slide the connector in. This will make an even better connection down the road.

Now all you have to do is label the cable with shrink tubing or colored electrical tape and you are ready to make your audio cables.

The Audio Cable
You can use Belden 82761 audio cable and Canare CANF-09 RCA connectors to make the standard audio cable. Start by removing the outer insulation with a good quality stripper or using a standard box cutter. If you use a box cutter please take extreme caution as to not cut yourself with it. The next step is to cut the black wire flush with the outer insulation as we have no use for this wire and it is best to get it completely out of the way. After cutting the red wire to length and leaving a little slack, strip off about 1/8" off the tip of the red wire and twist it tight. If you are new to soldering I recommend that you cover the exposed copper with solder to make it easier to slip into the center pin, however if you feel confident with your skills then go ahead and skip this step. Now fill the tip with solder and slip the red wire into the center pin and hold it there until it cools down. Twist the grounding wire tight and push it through the hole in the stem of the connector and wrap it around to hold it in place. Flip over the connector with the outside of the stem facing up and solder the grounding wire to it.

Finally, trim off the excess ground wire and crimp down the collar on the outer insulation with a pair of pliers. Screw on the connector's body and there is your first audio cable.

Cable Organization
Although, it might seem that there is not much that can be said about cable organization, you would be missing the real reasons for making your own cables. Length is one of the best reasons. Most pre-made cables don't come in lengths shorter than 3-4 feet and the average connection for most people range from 1 to 3 feet in length. If you add up all of the extra wire behind your entertainment center you might be looking at 30+ feet of wire total. What happens when you coil copper wire together into a large bundle? You make an antenna which might be nice if you want to listen to the smooth sounds of the 1920's but not practical in our application. This interference is what causes most of the problems with your audio and video signals. So it seems clear now that your goal in organization is to minimize the times that any cable crosses any other cable. Running all of your cables at 90-degree angles and making them to length to prevent coils can accomplish this. In the photo you will notice that we have run straight off the back of the television and down before turning again to join the other devices. Notice how the power cords all move straight down to the floor and away to a power strip. Finally, look at how we have dropped the cables out of the main bundle and straight down to meet up with each device. All of this is to ensure there is as little interference in the signal path as possible and helps create a cleaner product in the end.

Episode Links:
Belden Cable
Canare Corporation
Paladin Tools

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