Making cables?


I'm not sure if this is suppose to go in the Sound area, but I asked my TD about why people would need a multitool (like a leatherman) for the sound engineering department. He said that it's used to make, strip, and create cables. I'm not sure if this includes converters, too, but it sounds really appealing to me. He said he could teach me if he finds some time, but could you guys maybe give me some more info on this?

thanks :)
A multi tool is definately not my first choice when making any cables. If i will be making more than one, chances are I will be in a shop or have some area to work in. I would choose regular tools (real wire strippers & cutters, screwdrivers, and pliers) over a multi tool. I cannot see a big direct link between the two either.

the knife on the multi tool could be used to remove the outer jacket, the wire cutter could be used to ...cut the wires....and a screw driver if the mic/converter is using screw terminals (i highly doubt many do besides specon which was a hex head) or a set screw to hold a portion of it in place

i would like some of the more experienced members input on this...
Yeah, I understand what you mean koncept. The multitool is just for me to carry around, mainly. I will have access to all the (full sized) tools from the school.

I'm asking more for the actual cable-making comments, not as much as the tools.
What do you mean, AVGuyAndy? What kind of iron are you talking about, and how?

Sorry. I really don't know anything about cable making at all :p If you guys can find any thorough tutorials, feel free to link to them, too :)
IMO - A multi tool is something that should be used only when you don't have access to dedicated tools (side cutters, screw drivers, pliers etc).

Depending upon what type of cables you are making, you will either need to solder the wires to the contacts or screw them to the contacts.

using a knife to strip back the cable sheaths is not the best way to do it, as it is very easy to cut in too far and cut the insulation on the underlying wires. Whilst this may not seem obvious when you make up the cable, should the cable be pulled or stretched during use, the slit in the individual wires will open up and may then lead to shorting occurring. Using a pair of side cutters is a much better method although it does take a bit of practice to master. You need to roll the jaws around the cable as you cut into the outer sheath. Don’t cut in too hard as you don’t want to cut all the way through. Instead, you need to pull the side cutters towards the end of the cable to tear the sheath.

The best thing to do is practice on some off cuts
I've got a chart that a guy that I worked with this summer sent me. It shows pretty well how to connect different types of audio cables. It won't let me attach it to this (/I don't know how...) but if it sounds useful, I'll email it.
To attach it, you would be best of uploading it to your upload site (see the menu on the left) and then place a link to it here. How big is it? If you have any difficulties, email it to me and I’ll upload it and link it for you.
The chart you're thinking of is available on the Souncraft website.
Don't know what type of wire you're using, but usually the black (or probably blue in your case) is the - signal (or "cold" signal), and the red wire is the + (or "hot" signal). The shield is ground, and shouldn't be connected to the shell of the XLR connector due to ground loop issues. Here's the pinout:

Pin 1: Shield
Pin 2: + (red)
Pin 3: - (black)

I just got finished soldering 14 XLR plugs onto the new wires coming into our booth, so it's burned into my brain by now ;)
But there are tons more uses for a multitool for sound ops than jsut making cables. For example, with our Mackie 1604 VLZ Pro, sometimes you have to open it up and push ribbon cables back together (you want to hear lots of people complainging about minor design flaws in one product? Mackie compact mixer forums). A Multitool will save your butt! In general though, say the XLR jack on the stage (built in thing) is broken and the little push thing to release the cable is very tiny--most tools on a multitool can push it down better than your fingernail. A vacuum tube is loose/stuck/something or other in some guitarists amp. You can save the day! (you can also get glass everywhere...don't actually grab the glass with pliers!) Heck, at one show (Cornerstone Fl, a Christian music festival in, well, Florida) I helped out at, the stage was falling apart! Two sections were sliding apart as bands were getting roudy (it was a small stage...and lots of metal bands...), so the sound op left me running the board, got another person from another stage and a sledgehammer, and fixed it while the band was playing. Granted, that wasn't using a multitool, but it was using a tool.

It's kind of like, why do light guys need a flashlight, heck they've got tons of lights already!
Diarmuid said:
When making 3 pin XLR cables, if you have red, blue and earth wires, which pin does each colour/wire go to at the connector?


I am just going to expand on what fosstech has already stated and say that in reality, it doesn't matter what colour wire you use for the hot or cold signal, as long as you connect the shield/earth to pin one.

Depending upon what brand of cable you buy, the coloured wires will often be different between manufacturers. Most of the cable I use has red and white wires.

What is important in that you ensure that what you soldered to pin 2 on one end you solder to pin 2 on the other end, and likewise for pin 3.

Most cables that you will make will be wired straight through. In other words, pin 1 to pin 1, pin 2 to pin 2 and so on. When it changes is if you make adaptors, headers or cross-over cables. However, these should be marked so that people know that they are not straight through cables.

Best thing to do is check your cables with a multimeter once you have made them or make yourself a little tester that you simply plug your cable into and then press a button to check each pin. If you wire up the LEDs correctly you can use it to show up crossed over connections. Any newly built or repaired cable should be tested using low voltage (including power cables) for safety reasons.

Below is a cut down version of the schematic for the cable tester that I built. I have simplified it back to just a tester for 5 pin and 3 pin XLR. Note that the second male 3 pin XLR is for testing speaker cables. The full version I have tests several other plugs as well and because each bank is wired in series, it will test between plug types as well. If you wish to add more sockets, simply add them to each bank.

I have also added the diagram for the switches that I used. These are PCB mounted momentary action switches that have the LED built in. However, if you don’t use these, the main schematic will show you how to wired your switches and LEDs.


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in looking at the diagram i see no reasons a 9v will not work. it just may not be as bright (lights) as a 12v
if you get a leatherman they all come with the right size flathhead to adjust the gain on most wireless packs...
Diarmuid said:
With the cable tester above, would the power supply need to be a 12V one, or would it work, with just a 9V one?
Thanks for your help

Yes - but as koncept pointed out, the LEDs would not be as bright. I had one of those 8 x 1.5V battery modules kicking around, which is why I used 12V (also, a 9V tends to run out quicker). To use a 9V battery, simply replace the 560 ohm resistors with 420 ohm ones (or as close to that value as possible) and the LEDs will be as bright as with a 12V source.

Also, the external 12V input can be left out of the design if you don't want to plug it into a powerpack/wallwart. If this is the case, eliminate the DPST socket, as this is used to disconnect the battery when the powerpack/wallwart is plugged in.

The power test switch is also optional but it is good to check the power before checking cables.

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