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Old April 12th, 2005, 08:13 AM   #1
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making XLR cables tips

Ok I know making XLR's is simple but since I just ordered $200 worth of bulk cable and connectors so I figure it would not hurt to cover my bases.

OK, you cut the cable and get it ready for soldering, I like to do what they call "tinning" the raw wires before I do the final soldering. You take solder and put just enough on for the raw wire to absorb some solder.

You don't want to do a sloppy job and use more solder than needed, you have to find the sweet spot.

I don't know what has changed in the last 15 years since I used to make XLR's by the dozen, but I used to get hosed by the cardboard ring, I always for got to put that on.

As far as making XLRs with 2 leads for each pin, this is new to me. I figure I will tin the two leads together first so I can slip it in the pin easily.

Anyone want to interject their own tips for making XLRs?

USe a solder sucker, good 63/37 solder core. What else am I forgetting?
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Old April 12th, 2005, 09:03 AM   #2
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I'm also very interested in this, and would appreciate even more basic tips, since I haven't held a soldering iron in more than 20 years. Can anyone point me to detailed instructions for every step of the process, as well as a description of what tools and supplies are needed? It seems like I'm forever buying XLR cables, and I still never seem to have the exact length I need. Also, what's a good source for Belden and Canare bulk cable, as well as quality connectors?
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Old April 12th, 2005, 10:42 AM   #3
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I only buy Switchcraft or Neutrik connectors anymore. There are cheaper off-brands out there, but I've had some of those, and they failed regularly (bad manufacturing tolerances).

Jerry, I don't think much has changed for basic soldering techniques. The Neutrik ends I've got now have twist-lock strain reliefs (and no cardboard ring to lose!) and have performed flawlessly so far.

I'm curious about the two-lead thing. Are you essentially using four-conductor plus ground cable?

Solder sucker: I wouldn't think you'd need this unless you really mess up a joint the first time.
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Old April 12th, 2005, 11:40 AM   #4
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"I only buy Switchcraft or Neutrik connectors anymore. There are cheaper off-brands out there, but I've had some of those, and they failed regularly (bad manufacturing tolerances)."


I'll second that!
Since the first time I used Switchcraft, I've never used another brand. Well worth it, in my opinion.

I haven't used Neutrik connectors, but many of my friends swear by them also, so they can't be bad.

Using quality connectors is definitley the best thing you can do to make a quality cable.


"Solder sucker: I wouldn't think you'd need this unless you really mess up a joint the first time."

I find it to be a really handy tool.
There have been times I've had to go back and resolder
something due to rewiring, and it's helpful.

Also, if you haven't soldered in years....it may come in very handy at first.

Depending on your application, Canare could easily be the best and most durable cable out there...but because of that it is also the biggest pain to work with. Stripping Canare cable can be a challenge sometimes due to the great job they do with their insulation. I find Belden cable to be just as good for my uses, and much easier to work with.

I'm not sure about a good source for the cable and connectors off hand, it's been a while since I needed any.
I want to say that I picked up most of my stuff from Harris Broadcasting, but that was because the station I worked with at the time had an account with them (Geisler in Houston is another good one, but not sure if they sell online, I only dealt with them over the phone).
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Old April 12th, 2005, 01:57 PM   #5
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<<<-- Originally posted by Jeremy Davidson
I'm curious about the two-lead thing. Are you essentially using four-conductor plus ground cable?-->>>

I bought Canare Starquad in 6 different colors X 25"
"Highest signal isolation, unbelievable flexibility and durability. Special no-glare cable jacket. Used by America's leading soundmen and audio engineers. The first choice for hand-held microphones. Flexible, smooth to the touch, extra-strong standard diameter (21 AWG) STAR QUAD cable that fits perfectly in all XLR-type connectors. With 40 separate strands in each conductor, breakage due to flexing is all but eliminated. Available Colors: Black, Blue, Brown, Grey, Green, Purple, Orange, Red, Yellow, White. Sold Per Foot. Quantity Discounts Apply"
http://www.markertek.com/Product.asp?baseItem=L%2D4E6S+BK&cat=CABLESCONN&subcat=BULKCABLE&prodClass=AUDIOBULK&mfg=&search=0&o ff=

and
75' of Mogami Super flexible Lightweight MIC Cable

I ended up going with the Neutrik Male/Female XLR Silver
http://www.markertek.com/Product.asp?baseItem=NC3FX&cat=CABLESCONN&subcat=ACONNECT&prodClass=XLRCON&mfg=&search=0&off=
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Old April 12th, 2005, 02:05 PM   #6
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<<<-- Originally posted by Marco Leavitt : I'm also very interested in this, and would appreciate even more basic tips, since I haven't held a soldering iron in more than 20 years. Can anyone point me to detailed instructions for every step of the process, as well as a description of what tools and supplies are needed? It seems like I'm forever buying XLR cables, and I still never seem to have the exact length I need. Also, what's a good source for Belden and Canare bulk cable, as well as quality connectors? -->>>

http://www.shure.com/booklets/connecting_to_mixers.asp

I used markatek but it is a horse race, markatek gave a discount on bulk order plus they had an inclusive mix of all the brands.

One reminder is that after you pay all that money for cable and connectors make sure you are using a good solder, it should be 63/37. Some solder is for other purposes and has acid in it that eats connectors.

Tools:
your choice, you could go with just a soldering iron and a simple wire cutter

or add

a solder sucker

wire stripper

cable holder, could be a weighted pair of lock tweezers
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Old April 12th, 2005, 02:31 PM   #7
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StarQuad: interesting. I've seen a similar technique for some Audio Technica choir mics, but I guess I never thought about using dual conductors for everyday mic cables. 'Haven't had to repair any of my manufactured cables yet.

Jerry, you mentioned 63/37 solder (that's the lead/tin ratio, right?). I believe mine is rosin core 60/40 -- is this a significant difference? It's just off-the-shelf stuff from RadioShack that I'm using with a 30watt pencil-type soldering iron.

I bought my XLR's from Full Compass. I think connectors and other smaller items are only in their printed catalog though.
http://www.fullcompass.com

This could be handy as well.
http://www.kingdomsound.com/xtrahand.html
I've used one -- it's great for holding XLRs or TRS connectors while soldering.
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Old April 12th, 2005, 04:17 PM   #8
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Is the price difference so severe that buying pre made cables is now horribly cost-preventative?

I suppose you could build your own 10 guage stingers also...

Just curious with regard to the economics involved...
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Old April 12th, 2005, 04:19 PM   #9
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The price difference is actually pretty high when it comes to quality cables. In my case I made some cables for use in my studio, as well as in the field, for very specific purposes (and at very specific lengths).

So, to customize your stuff...yeah, I think it's cheaper to make your own.
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Old April 12th, 2005, 05:37 PM   #10
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<<<-- Originally posted by Jimmy McKenzie : Is the price difference so severe that buying pre made cables is now horribly cost-preventative?

I suppose you could build your own 10 guage stingers also...

Just curious with regard to the economics involved... -->>>

Average half price savings not including my time, I have lots of time
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Old April 12th, 2005, 05:45 PM   #11
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<<<-- Originally posted by Jeremy Davidson :
Jerry, you mentioned 63/37 solder (that's the lead/tin ratio, right?). I believe mine is rosin core 60/40 -- is this a significant difference? It's just off-the-shelf stuff from RadioShack that I'm using with a 30watt pencil-type soldering iron.
-->>>

I don't think 3% matters much, I was advised to get Kester 63/37 Solder from an engineer. Sounded good to me. I know solder matters when it comes to the plating on connectors, silver solder has low corrosive properties but it is not advised for audio.
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Old April 13th, 2005, 11:48 PM   #12
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Soldering - wow, another lost art.

Keep this tip in mind. You need to heat the wire to a temperature hot enough to get the solder to melt and then wick up the strands of the wire.

I have seen many otherwise fine potential Engineering types try to dab solder on connections or god forbid, drip solder onto a connection.

Solder has a melting point that is low. Wire does not. On the other hand, if you heat the wire too long or to a temp that's too high, you end up melting the insulation near the solder point.

Good soldering stations and irons use Stainless Steel tips so they don't burn up, like the soft cheap tips on Rat Shack and other irons. Weller and similar manufacturers make great irons with variable temp settings.

Here's how I do it. Cut the wire to length. Strip just enough insulation to expose enough wire to make contact. The insulation will shrink back just a bit when you apply heat to the wire anyway probably. Hold the CLEAN tip of the hot iron directly on the wire itself close to the tip of the wire. After a second or so to get the wire hot, rest the end of the solder on the wire/soldering iron joint (where they are touching). You will need to practice this move or grow a third hand.

If the wire isn't too thick and you have the right solder (more on that in a moment) you should "feel" the solder melt and give. You want to see the solder creep up the wire to get a nice silvery coating on all the strands of the wire. Remove the heat and let cool.

You should now have a well tinned wire.

To make a good connection, tin both the wire and the surface you are soldering it to, like the blades of a 1/4" TRS or XLR, etc. Hold the wire onto the contact point where you want the wire soldered. Apply heat for a second. Now rest the solder on that joint and watch it flow. If you tin everything first, you will always have a solid, good electrical connection.

You can help this heat transfer if you have a bit of solder already melted on the soldering iron tip so it can flow around the wire heating it faster and more evenly.

On the solder. NEVER use hardware store solder for electronics. It has acid in it meant to clean bare copper pipes for soldering in plumbing work. You need a lead/tin mix with a Rosin core. The rosin cleans the electrical connections when heated for a good connection without eating your contacts.

Hope all that helps.

A great source of audio connector diagrams is in the back of any Mackie manual. You can download them - hint hint.

Good luck all.

Sean
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Old April 14th, 2005, 05:55 AM   #13
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As my father, a Heathkit veteran, says "heat the work not the solder". If you are just pouring hot solder onto cold wire you will not get a good connection. Better to melt the solder onto hot wire, or connector. The trick, as Sean notes, is not melting the insulation. It is possible to get parts of the connector so hot you melt the plastic that holds the pins.

If it really has been 15 years the most annoying thing could be seeing the work well enough to do a good job. My near vision that been going for a couple of years and when I did one of these recently I felt like I needed a set of glasses like surgeons wear for microsurgery. Also nice to have a vice to hold things.
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Old April 14th, 2005, 06:03 AM   #14
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This is what I need

http://www.misterart.com/store/view/...-OptiVisor.htm
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Old April 14th, 2005, 04:43 PM   #15
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Can someone recommend a good soldering iron for this?
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