Interconnects are a nice introduction to the world of DIY. The difficulty factor can vary according to your preference, and very little electronics knowledge is required. All you need are the raw materials, a soldering iron, and good soldering technique.
You can easily make good interconnects that can perform well beyond your investment in material costs.
Your choice of plugs should have decent construction quality, precious metal plating to prevent corrosion (e.g. gold, silver or rhodium), and easy to use solder tabs.
My favourite low cost RCA plugs are the Neutrik / Rean NYS-373. If you are willing to spend a little more, consider the Canare F-10 or the Neutrik Pro-fi. For cost no object experiments, I have been very impressed by KLEI Innovations' Harmony plug.
I have found the Neutrik / Rean NYS-373 to be a little tight fitting on some RCA sockets, necessitating a bit of adjustment of the ground blades with needle nose pliers (protect the plated surface with a cloth first). Other than that, they are no nonsense plugs at very low cost.
The Canare F-10 has Teflon dielectric insulation between the signal and ground contacts. Apart from excellent dielectric absorption qualities, Teflon is very heat resistant which gives you a little bit more time when working with your soldering iron. Of course, good soldering technique should allow you to work on almost any plug without issues.
What type of cable geometry should you use ? I've not been particularly fond of coaxial cable for analog use. However, using 75 ohm coaxial cable does allow you to use the cable as either an analog or digital interconnect.
Here is a list of some of the cables I've used over the years for single ended analog interconnect projects,
Mogami Neglex 2803
Mogami Neglex 2497
Mogami Neglex 2534
The two most outstanding cables in the above list would have been the Mogami 2803 and 2497 although they are quite difficult to find. However, be forewarned that the Mogami 2803 will test your patience and dexterity in stripping and assembly.
Low Cost Project - Amtrans hook up wire
This is suitable project for a first timer.
1. Neutrik NYS-373 RCA Plug x 4
2. Amtrans 0.4mm thick gold plated solid core copper hook up wire x 2 meters
3. Solder of your choice
The Amtrans cable is sold as a twisted pair run, so you only need 2 meters to make up a 1 meter pair of interconnects.
The two conductors have different colour jackets and therefore easy to identify. Just make sure that you are consistent - one leg goes to the center pin (hot or positive), while the other leg goes to the ground.
The Amtrans has a nice solid punch to it. Midrange has a bit of a honeyed glow to it, while high frequencies are clean, although not particularly extended. Overall resolution, imaging and staging are above average. Tonally, I would put these cables at slightly off neutral, and towards the warm side of things. For budget to midrange systems, this is all you should need. However, if your system is a little bit dark sounding, this cable may just make things worse.
Cost-no-object Project - Neotech Teflon insulated Silver / Gold wire
OK. I didn't make this out of unobtainium cable or plugs made out of solid gold. However, the parts cost for this project is about USD 250 for a 1 meter pair of interconnects. This is a generous budget intended for the hobbyist seeking top notch performance.
1. KLEI Innovations Harmony Silver RCA Plug x 4
2. Cryo treated Neotech Teflon insulated pure Silver / Gold 26 AWG Multistranded cable x 5 meters
3. Solder of your choice
The most difficult part of this project is stripping the 26 AWG cables. The Teflon insulation was a bit difficult to cut through without losing some strands. A gentle touch is definitely needed here.
The 5 meters of cable is divided up into 4 equal runs. After a simple anti-clockwise twist, you will end up with cables just slightly over 1 meter in length.
I don't recommend this as a first time project. Your soldering should be steady and clean. Choice of solder is really up to you. Whether you use bog standard solder, or something more exotic, just make sure that you make a good and clean solder joint. I personally use WBT Silver solder or Kester 44.
|An unloved component provides useful support for soldering purposes.|
The resultant cable is the epitome of low mass. A completed pair weights just 33 grams !
The KLEI Harmony plugs are the finest RCA plugs I've used. Solder lugs are easy to use, and the plastics used are far more rigid than the first generation Eichmann Bullet Plugs, which were designed by the principal of KLEI. The strain relief applies even pressure from opposite ends, which should allow the cable to sit squarely in the center of the barrel. The twisted pair of cables I used are very fine, so the strain relief doesn't do much here.
These cables perform to a much higher level than the Amtrans. There must be something special about the Silver / Gold wire used here. The Neotech is fast and open, and at the same time absolutely free from grain. It has a detailed midband, with outstanding high frequency extension.
The only thing I could have wished for is deeper bass extension. Although bass lines are well articulated and tight, it does not go as deep as some of my other cables.
If I were to put a price tag on these as a commercial product, I would put these on par performance wise with cables in the USD 1,000 to 1,500 range.
Happy DIY-ing !