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  1. #1

    Quality of Audio Cable

    I am a newby. What are the different qualities of audio cables for channel inputs into a sound board?

    Currently our sound tech is using so unshielded 22AWG x 4 wire that says that is Electrical/Fire Alarm cable. He is notorious cheap and I was wondering if some of our sound problems are from this cheap cable.

  2. #2
    On inputs? Yes, unshielded cable is going to create hum. On line-level inputs, if every channel is a perfectly balanced circuit, unshielded cable will work, but it's asking for trouble. Inexpensive boards are seldom that well balanced. Anything on an RCA plug is unbalanced. And if he's using unshielded cable for mikes, whack him upside the head.

    This may have nothing to do with the specific problems you're having, but no matter: use shielded cables everywhere, except for speaker lines.

  3. #3
    Senior Member SC358's Avatar
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    Quote: hammer
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    What are the different qualities of audio cables for channel inputs into a sound board?
    Hi hammer,
    Copper is the best conductor. Using other types of conductors such as aluminum or mixed alloys of metal, may be cheap and have close quality but you really, really, really have to know characteristics (i.e. capacitance and inductance). A shield's effectiveness is determined by the type needed for it's environment.

    There are rules and guidelines for every applications but you have to know WHEN and WHERE you can break them, otherwise - DON'T.

    I agree with what Karl says but I'd like to expand a bit on that. I realize that you're a newbie to this but let me plant this seed with you (or anybody else reading this). But if you go the route with the right equipment, engineering and troubleshooting, Unshielded Twisted Pairs or UTP Cat 5 (and higher) cable can be used for audio purposes... It's not popular but it has been done ~ Believe it or not!

    I have a very simple rule that works effectively and safely. Do it right the first time and you won't have to do it again.
    SC358
    Relationships are based on compromises - behavior accepted is behavior repeated.

  4. #4
    Hmm. I would have said you can't get anything but copper, but then I learned (to my surprise) that some cheap HDMI cables use copper-clad aluminum and that it's giving problems. Never underestimate the sleaziness of fly-by-night manufacturers, I guess.

  5. #5
    Senior Member SC358's Avatar
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    Hmm. I would have said you can't get anything but copper, but then I learned (to my surprise) that some cheap HDMI cables use copper-clad aluminum and that it's giving problems. Never underestimate the sleaziness of fly-by-night manufacturers, I guess.
    Bad manufacturers/salesman won't tell you a thing or just lie. The good guys always took the time to tell me the differences of quality and the different applications used for their products. Best of all, you could talk to other clients who use their product and let you in on their own experiences.
    SC358
    Relationships are based on compromises - behavior accepted is behavior repeated.

  6. #6
    A friend does AV installed for gabillionaire rich folks and he told me they use Cat5 cable for active speakers.

  7. #7
    A lot of that depends on the specific technology. There are some active speakers that accept signal in digital format, using CAT5. That stuff is a whole 'nother can of worms, because universally accepted standards haven't emerged yet.

  8. #8
    FYI....Fire alarm cable comes both Shielded and Unshielded. It is very well suited for audio applications. It is used in buildings for alarms, Emergency PA systems, heat sensors and in high rise structures for emergency communication circuitry.

    So to figure out your problem you will need to do the following....

    1) Check and see if the cable is actually shielded or not. (Cut it open)
    2) Check to ensure the ends are properly terminated. (Good isolated soldered joints, no stray balls of solder)
    3) Check for internal shorts via a resistance or ohm meter.

    If all 3 of these check out OK then its not your cable.

    Lex

  9. #9
    Really, you should just stick to cable that was made for the specific application. If you need to buy bulk wire to feel you are getting a better deal, at least buy cable that is made for audio, then there are no questions. If fire alarm cable was so popular with audio pro's, it would be labeled as audio cable....

    I'm just saying that in all my years working show sites and doing shop work, I've never heard of using fire alarm cable. We bought cable that was made for a specific purpose, and so should you.

  10. #10
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    Quote: Bassred
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    Really, you should just stick to cable that was made for the specific application. If you need to buy bulk wire to feel you are getting a better deal, at least buy cable that is made for audio, then there are no questions. If fire alarm cable was so popular with audio pro's, it would be labeled as audio cable....

    I'm just saying that in all my years working show sites and doing shop work, I've never heard of using fire alarm cable. We bought cable that was made for a specific purpose, and so should you.
    Thats great and all in the professional world, but when you are a garage band, a Church, a starving artist or a student on a tight budget, or no budget at all, you get what you can get.

    If you read my post above and did a quick google search you would know that fire alarm cable does come in a shielded form and is specifically used for audio communications....and is way more expensive than the off the shelf stuff you normally get. This guy probably snagged some scraps from a construction site.

    Lex

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