DIY loudspeaker cables

Budget minded and yet high performance

Abstract

My new series of amplifiers that I build features Speakon connectors as loudspeaker outputs exclusively. In my opinion, this is the most professional way to connect loudspeakers.

While the Speakon system is well established in the PA audio segment, it is rarely used in HiFi applications. I guess the main reason for Speakon connectors being unpopular in HiFi is the difficulty to fit fancy cables to such connectors. Loudspeaker cables in PA systems are round in section, whereas in HiFi, they are flat. The other reason is probably appeal. Huge gold plated terminals are visually much more appealing than boring, functional plastic connectors.

It is easy to spend a furtune on fancy HiFi speaker cables. However, loudspeaker cables with Speakon connectors fitted aren't cheap either. When I wanted to buy some, I could not believe my eyes: Over 20€ for a 4x2,5mm2 patch cable 1m long and 30€ for a 3m cable with same square section? And those are budget ones! Seriously?

While I embrace quality, I'm also budget minded. Value for the money did not seem right. I did some research and figured out that I could DIY cables for much less.

Advantages of Speakon connectors

For me there are several advantages of Speakon connectors and four wire cables:

  • Reliable and repeatable contact
  • Idiot proof and super fast installation
  • Easy bi-wiring with only one cable running to the loudspeaker
  • Super low inductance in case both pairs are used in parallel
  • Twisted wires reject common mode high frequency ingress and also reduce electromagnetic emissions
  • No dangerous voltages to touch (most relevant in high power systems)
  • Cannot short circuit plus and minus, which can destroy the amplifier

While most advantages, like quickly establishing connections, mostly appeal in PA systems, I also see some benefit in domestic HiFi applications.

Connectors

Genuine connectors from Neutrik are pretty expensive so I bought a bunch of third party connectors on Aliexpress for 2€ each, including shipping and VAT. The design is slightly different, but they appear to have similar quality like the ones from Neutrik. The China connectors do not come with a second strain-relief for thicker cables like the Neutrik ones do.

Of course I want the four pin connectors since the two pin ones offer only a fraction of the great features that the Speakon system brings.

Cable

Thomann sssnake 4x25
PA grade speaker cable featuring 4x4mm2 square section can easily cost 6€ per meter. I chose the Thomann own-brand cable, the "sssnake", which sells for 2.60€ per meter in 4x2,5mm2. First I considered using 4x4mm2 cable, but found this excessive considering that the amplifier is right next to the loudspeakers. While I would not use this cable in real PA applications where countless people trample on the cable each day, this seems a reasonable choice for a budget minded home installation. What I really like about the cable is that the wires inside are tightly twisted. This results in excellent coupling, reducing the ingress of HF junk into the signal as well as electromagnetic emissions. This is one of the benfits of professional cable over the typical HiFi cable with two conductors running in parallel. The HiFi cables makes a nice antenna, too.

Connections

From the connector layout it seems obvious to use two adjacent wires in the cable. Hoever, it is much better to use opposing wires for one circuit because this lowers inductance in case all four wires are used for the same circuit.

I could not find out whether there is any color code convention for the cables. So I made up my own convention:

  • 1+ red
  • 1- brown
  • 2+ white
  • 2- blue

Assembly

Finished Cable

Conclusion

My DIY cable costs 6.60€ for a 1m patch cable and 2.60€ added per extra meter. A 3m cable would cost 11.80€. This is less than half of a budget segment ready-made cable. I found shopping and building my own cables fun and entertaining. And the fun is even free of charge.