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The DIY Cable Info and Help Thread  

post #1 of 105
Thread Starter 

The DIY forum sees a lot of the same questions repeated frequently, so I'm starting this thread to consolidate some of the information people can use. Apologies if this OP starts sketchy and is slow to fill in: I'm researching old threads as I go.

 

If you have info to add (or can help other people here), great!

 

You can PM me with recommendations, corrections, suggestions, or questions. Just keep in mind that I'm a cable-builder newbie, myself, so I probably won't be able to provide technical support or make detailed equipment recommendations.

 

Outline:


Edited by ardgedee - 2/20/12 at 4:28am
post #2 of 105
Thread Starter 

Connectors

Things I could use help with for this section:

  • Wiring information about headphone-side connectors.
  • List of phones using Sennheiser connectors. I know I'm missing a couple.
  • Ultrasone connectors? Beyerdynamic connectors? Some models have socketed cables. I think. I'm drawing a blank.
  • LOD/line adaptor configurations for non-Apple products.
  • Fact-checking connector configurations.think I got everything right, but I'd hate for somebody to read this and then cross-wire a high-voltage electrostatic...
  • A master list of which connectors are used on which custom IEMs. This is probably a tall order - currently new models are sprouting like mushrooms after a cloudburst. Most seem to use the Westone/JH type connector, but not all of 'em.

 

(See also: Intro, Connectors, Wires, Tools, Resources)

 

This section is broken into three parts:

Amp connectors

Headphone connectors

Other connectors

 

Almost every plug and socket listed below is also used in different wiring configurations for purposes unrelated to headphone audio. Do not depend on this chart if, for example, you're building microphone cables.

 

Headphone connectors, amplifier side

 

Type Where used Configuration Notes
2.5mm (3/32") stereo phone (TRS) Common on some mobile phones.

Tip: Left signal

Ring: Right signal

Sleeve: Ground

 
3.5mm (1/8") stereo phone (TRS) Standard stereo connector for headphones to small and portable devices

Tip: Left signal

Ring: Right signal

Sleeve: Ground

Most popular stereo connector for headphones currently, ubiquitous in portable devices
3.5mm (1/8") stereo phone (TRRS) Standard stereo connector for headsets to mobile phones: iPhones and many other Apple iOS devices, recent Samsung, Blackberry, Nokia, and HTC Android phones.

Tip: Left signal

Ring 1: Right signal

Ring 2: Ground

Sleeve: Microphone

Increasingly popular for mobile phones. Some headphone amps are compatible with this pin arrangement, others are not.

 

Ring 1 is closer to the Tip, Ring 2 is closer to the Sleeve.

 

Compared to the standard TRS connector, the ground is moved from Sleeve to Ring 2, and the Sleeve is used for mic and control signals.

6.5mm (1/4") stereo phone (TRS) Standard stereo connector for full-sized headphones for use with desktop or console amplifiers

Tip: Left signal

Ring: Right signal

Sleeve: Ground

Formerly the most popular stereo connector for headphones, still common for home systems
3-pin XLR Used in pairs for balanced console/desktop amps

One connector for each channel:

 

Pin 1: Chassis ground (cable shield)

Pin 2: Channel positive (+)

Pin 3: Channel negative (-)

Shell: ?

The pins are numbered on the bodies of the plug and socket.

4-pin XLR Used singly for balanced console/desktop amps

Pin 1: Left positive (+)

Pin 2: Left negative (-)

Pin 3: Right positive (+)

Pin 4: Right negative (-)

Shell: ?

The pins are numbered on the bodies of the plug and socket.

 

There is no official pinout standard, but this is the normal arrangement for the cables shipped with AKG K1000 and HiFiMAN orthodynamic headphones.

4-pin mini-XLR Used occasionally for line extensions

Pin 1: Left positive (+)

Pin 2: Left negative (-)

Pin 3: Right positive (+)

Pin 4: Right negative (-)

Shell: ?

The pins are numbered on the bodies of the plug and socket.

 

There is no official pinout standard; convention is to replicate the full-size 4-pin XLR.

Auto-IRIS Balanced connector on RSA balanced amplifiers

Pin 1: Left positive (+)

Pin 2: Right positive (+)

Pin 3: Left negative (-)

Pin 4: Right negative (-)

Used for the Ray Samuels Audio balanced portable amps: The Protector and SR-71B.

 

Outside of audio, this is commonly used to connect controller circuits for video camera lenses.

HIROSE HR10A-7R-6

Balanced connector on iBasso balanced amplifiers

HIROSE HR10A-7R-6P is the male connector

HIROSE HR10A-7R-6S is the female connector

Pin 1: Right ground

Pin 2: Right positive (+)

Pin 3: Right negative (-)

Pin 4: Left ground

Pin 5: Left Positive (+)

Pin 6: Left negative (-)

Pins 1 & 4 are not used for headphones.

Pins 1 & 4 are used only for device interconnects (eg, DAC -> amp)

 

Outside of audio, this is commonly used as a video connector.

Stax low-bias 6-pin for non-Pro products.

Pin 1: Bias

Pin 2: Right positive (+) (Front stator)

Pin 3: Left Positive (+) (Front stator)

Pin 4: Left negative (-) (Back stator)

Pin 5: Right negative (-) (Back stator)

Pin 6: Bias

High-bias Stax headphones are similar, except for the bias configuration.

Source and diagram: Wikiphonia

Stax high-bias 5-pin  

Pin 1: Bias

Pin 2: Right positive (+) (Front stator)

Pin 3: Left Positive (+) (Front stator)

Pin 4: Left negative (-) (Back stator)

Pin 5: Right negative (-) (Back stator)

Similar to low-bias Stax connector. High-bias headphones can connect to low-bias drivers, but not vice versa.

Source and diagram: Wikiphonia

The following connectors are obscure, little-used, or obsolete.
3.5mm (1/8") stereo phone (TRRS) Rare: Used by HiFiMAN as a headphone connector for its HM-801 Balanced Amp Module. Pinout pattern for this connector is needed. This uses a conventional connector in a nonconventional way, so be wary about randomly plugging things in.
Koss electrostatic connector Used only by the Koss ESP/950 headphone and companion E/90 amplifier.

Pin 1: Right negative (-) (Back stator)

Pin 2: Left negative (-) (Back stator)

Pin 3: Right positive (+) (Front stator)

Pin 4: Bias

Pin 5: Left Positive (+) (Front stator)

Some users build adaptors to connect the ESP/950 to high bias Stax-compatible drivers, due to the similar voltages (Koss: 600 V; Stax: 580 V).

Source, diagram and commentary: Wikiphonia

3-pin XLR Rare: Used singly for unbalanced console/desktop amps, eg the Yamamoto HA-02

One connector for both channels.

 

No connection standard: Check documentation for the device you're hooking up.

The pins are numbered on the bodies of the plug and socket.

 

The primary advantage over a TRS phone plug is the minimized potential to short circuit when the plug is not fully inserted.

5-pin "Domino" (DIN 45620) Obsolete: used for a while in the 1960s-1970s on equipment manufactured in Europe. Building an adaptor is discussed in Philips Electret N6325 and "Domino" DIN output Unless preserving the original equipment intact is a requirement, most recommendations are to snip the DIN plug off and attach a common phone or XLR connector.

 

Headphone connectors, headphone side

 

Type Where used Configuration Notes
Sennheiser 2-pin style HD 600, HD 650, HD 25-1 II...   Proprietary to Sennheiser
Sennheiser HD 800 style HD 800   Proprietary to Sennheiser
SMC HiFiMAN orthodynamic headphones; HE-5, HE-6, HE-500...  

Miniature video connector, common in some parts of the world (but not the US)


Some vendors confuse female and male designations.

3-pin Mini-XLR

AKG K702

AKG Q701

AKG K240

AKG K181DJ

AKG K141

AKG K271

   
4-pin Mini-XLR Audeze LCD-2

Pin 1: Channel +

Pin 2: Channel -

Pin 3: Channel -

Pin 4: Channel +

 
2.5mm (3/32”) stereo phono with keyed housing Shure SRH 840    
?? Ultrasone    
Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10 connector

UE TF 10

UE Super.Fi 5

UE Super.Fi 3

  Connector appears similar to common cIEM connectors but is not fully compatible with them.
Custom IEM connector Jerry Harvey (JH) customs, Westone, Unique Melody, Heir Audio...    
MMCX connector

Shure SE535

Shure SE425

Shure SE315

  Illustrated in this exploded diagram of the Shure SE215

 

Other Connectors

 

Type Where used Configuration Notes
Apple iOS device dock

The iOS dock connector is multi-purpose, and can be used for analog in/out and data in/out, as well as power and other signals.

 

This table will only address the line-out dock (LOD), which is used to send a 2-3 V audio signal to an external amplifier.

For older iPods:

 

Pins 1 or 2: Ground

Pin 3: Right signal

Pin 4: Left signal

 

Universal iOS device LOD:

 

Pins 1 or 2: Ground

Pin 3: Right signal

Pin 4: Left signal

Bridge Pin 11 & Pin 15

Connect 68kOhm resistor from Pin 21 to Pin 11/15 bridge

There are at least two possible LOD configurations: A simpler construction for older iPods, and a more complex construction compatible with all iOS hardware

 

Photos and description of a universal iOS LOD

 

A comprehensive pinout list on pinouts.ru

USB type B connector Carries either or both digital signal and a low power line.    

 


Edited by ardgedee - 2/23/12 at 5:09pm
post #3 of 105
Thread Starter 

reserved: Wires

(See also: Intro, Connectors, Wires, Tools, Resources)


Edited by ardgedee - 2/20/12 at 4:27am
post #4 of 105
Thread Starter 

Tools

 

(See also: Intro, Connectors, Wires, Tools, Resources)

 

The list of good tools you could use are manifold. Instead of making specific equipment recommendations, let's stick to a rundown of what's available and sort by priority. Each item can have links to threads elsewhere in which people discuss their preferred products, and why.

 

Equipment guides for electronics beginners Things you must have Things you should have Things that are nice to have

 

Equipment guides for beginners

 

It probably isn't surprising that people have strong opinions about what you should start with. Below is some good general-purpose reading about how to set up your electronics workbench/table/desk...

 

Must have

 

The following tools are mandatory for building cables.

 

Item Details Notes
Soldering iron

There are a broad variety of irons available for all kinds of purposes. If you have the budget, get a good-quality workstation unit with adjustable temperature. If you don’t, get a pencil iron in the 20-30 Watt range.

 

Also get a holder for the iron, so you can rest it while it heats up.

http://www.head-fi.org/t/270708/help-me-find-my-first-soldering-iron

 

See the Getting Started in Audio DIY site linked above for a good analysis of what to look for and why.

Pliers Have a couple pliers in a couple different sizes: At least one needle-nose and one blunt-nose. There are times you might be using both to bend something or pull it apart.  
Wirecutters For occasional work, the wirecutter built into many pliers is sufficient. I also have an end nipper (where the cutting surface is parallel to the pliers’ pivot axis) which has been good for snipping wires as close as possible to the surface of soldering tabs.  
Wire stripper For cutting and removing the insulation from the end of a wire. In a pinch, you can use a knife to cut the insulation and pull off with pliers (or your fingernail), but if you’re preparing a lot of wires, or the insulation is stubborn, this will get tiresome quickly.
Screwdrivers A variety of small sizes, both Philips and flat blades. Should go without saying, but you never know.
Helping hands This is a tee-shaped stand made of steel rod, with articulated arms and alligator clips at either end. It’s essential for holding steady the things you’re soldering. The magnifying glass that many helping hands include can be useful too. Spending well can buy you an incredibly sturdy, highly reliable one, but the cheapest units are often reasonably stable. The magnifying glass on the cheapest units is sometimes uselessly bad, however.
Continuity tester For testing that your assembly works as intended, before attaching it to equipment that might be damaged by cross-wiring or short circuits. This can be done with something as simple as a battery, small bulb, and some wire. For convenience, you'll probably eventually want to get a multimeter, discussed below.
Knife For slicing things, improvising as a wirestripper, cutting shrinkwrap and housings to size, or opening stubborn plastic packaging.  
Solder sucker This is usually an aluminum cylinder with a plastic tip and spring-loaded pump inside. Melt a bad solder joint with your iron, get the tip close, and trigger the pump to draw out the solder. This cools the solder instantly and it can be ejected as a metal slug.

If your work will always be perfect, you'll never need one. So you should get one.

 

This is best used in combination with desoldering braid (see consumables list, below).

Tip cleaner Commercially available tip cleaners are usually either small square sponges or balls of copper wool. A damp cotton or wool (but not synthetic!) rag will probably do, too. The purpose is to wipe excess solder off the iron to prevent drips and messes.

A friend advises me to, instead, flick the iron away from you while you work. Probably not recommended if you're working over carpeting, in an open space, where food is stored, around other people...

 

Come to think of it, just get a tip cleaner.

 

The following consumables are mandatory for any soldering work.

 

Item Details Notes
Solder

Make sure the solder is designated as being for electronics work. The cheapest available is usually 60/40, meaning 60% tin, 40% lead. Lead solder is banned in many parts of the world. Lead-free solder (with a little silver in it) and silver solder (with more silver) is increasingly common, even in areas where lead solder is still legal and available.

 

Solder size matters: If the solder wire is too fat, it becomes difficult to avoid melting too much into the joint. If the solder wire is too thin, it can be hard to get enough solder in to make a reliable joint. 0.032” (0.8mm) seems to be an acceptable general-purpose size for cable building.

 

Flux is also necessary but most solders include some. See the entry on Flux in the should-have table, below, for more info.

See the entry on solder in the should-have table for the difference between eutectic and non-eutectic solders.
Desoldering braid This is a metallic braid for wicking away solder from a joint: Put the braid over the joint, press the soldering iron against the joint, and it will draw up the solder. For larger (or messier) solder joints, it is best to use the solder sucker first to eliminate most of the excess, and then apply the braid to clean up the rest.

 

Should have

 

These are some tools and consumables that will make cable-building easier, or help you make better cables.

 

Item Details Notes
Eutectic solder

Leaded eutectic solder (most commonly 63% tin, 37% lead) works and is only slightly more expensive than the cheapest (60/40 tin/lead); a worthwhile upgrade if lead use in electronics is not banned where you are, and you're willing to use it.

 

Silver eutectic solder is available through Cardas, but is a proprietary formula and comparatively costly. Other manufacturers seem to only produce for the industrial market.

Eutectic solders are liquid when molten, solid when not, effectively nothing in between. A non-eutectic solder goes through an intermediate soft state while it cools; since there's a period of time where the joint is easily moved but the solder is unable to reflow into the space, there's a higher risk of making flawed joints.

 

Since eutectic solders go straight from liquid to solid without a mushy middle, it is easier to make reliable joints.

Flux Flux cleans the surfaces to be soldered and helps the solder flow over them. Most solder wire has flux in it, but prepping surfaces with flux before soldering avoids the chicken-and-egg problem of getting solder into a joint at the same time as the flux. See Steve Eddy's comment on flux in this thread.
Multimeter A meter with probes or alligator clips can be more convenient to use for continuity testing than a simple lightbulb circuit tester. Cheap ones can go for as little as $5 and be good enough as glorified continuity testers. If you expand your hobby into building full-fledged electronics (or if you will be building cables to specified impedance or resistance values), a multimeter will be necessary.  
Worklight A nice extremely bright desktop work lamp. You'd be amazed how much it helps.  
Fume extractor For drawing the soldering smoke out of the air, improving workplace safety. The smoke and odor are primarily from the rosin, but trace amounts of metals can also evaporate as gas. Also sold as a smoke absorber or exhaust hood. Benchtop units are as small as 25cm (10.25") on the long side.

 

Nice to have

 

These are things that make cable-building more pleasant and safer. If you're building cables frequently, these will move upward into the should-have list.

 

Item Details Notes
Better soldering iron

When you budget for a higher-quality model you get something that is more comfortable to use, heats up faster, has a broader variety of operating temperatures (and stays where you set it), and has interchangeable tips.

 

Quality used irons are usually available on the usual auction sites, if you’re willing to risk the possibility of losing money on a dud.

No, really, whatever you have, there's a better one. It's true for your headphones, right? It's going to be true for your soldering iron too.
Magnifying glass These are available as accessories to a helping hands stand, or as standalone gadgets that stand on top of or clamp to your workbench. Some have built-in lights, as an added bonus. There are tabletop magnifying glasses sold as reader's aids for the elderly, sometimes sold in housewares stores. In case you happen to be in such a store and are thinking about getting one.

 


Edited by ardgedee - 2/20/12 at 5:25pm
post #5 of 105
Thread Starter 

reserved: Resources

(See also: Intro, Connectors, Wires, Tools, Resources)


Edited by ardgedee - 2/20/12 at 4:25am
post #6 of 105
Thread Starter 

reserved

post #7 of 105

You may want to add sparkfun to tools. They have some seriously good cheap stuff.

 

Loving the organization, LOD info right at the top!

post #8 of 105

Great thread.

 

For tools: wirestripper, wirecutter, heatgun, dmm, solder, solder station with variable heat and interchangeable tip, wire holder, magnifying glass, different size heatshrinks, gloves.

 

For resources: http://www.laventure.net/tourist/cables.htm

post #9 of 105

Don't forget a solder vacuum!

 

That should be one of the first tools you get if your serious.

post #10 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pingupenguins View Post

Don't forget a solder vacuum!

 

That should be one of the first tools you get if your serious.



Oh yea, I missed that one, and a desoldering braid.

post #11 of 105
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the leads, guys, and keep 'em coming.

 

When you recommend a vendor, say what you're recommending them for (some are best for tools, not for components, or only for particular types of tools), what country they're based in and what part(s) of the world they serve. This can help other Head-Fiers narrow down their options.

 

(edit: ...and feel free to PM me.)


Edited by ardgedee - 2/19/12 at 11:44am
post #12 of 105

popcorn.gifWhat ever happened to the thread that Steve Eddy started on this topic?

post #13 of 105

In "The DIY Big List & Rules Section" above, there is also a long list of resources.

 

An ESD strap is a must if one is going to do some soldering/desoldering on a pcb.

post #14 of 105
Thread Starter 

 

I want to keep this thread focused on cable making; there are already other discussions and help threads about circuit building.

 

I'm going through the DIY big list but some of the vendors are out of business or changed focus, and it doesn't list the various new businesses and cable specialists who've arrived in the past couple years. 

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by sluker View Post

What ever happened to the thread that Steve Eddy started on this topic?


It was deleted. We're making a fresh start.

post #15 of 105

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pingupenguins View Post

Don't forget a solder vacuum!

 

That should be one of the first tools you get if your serious.


a.k.a. solder sucker, [de]solder[ing] pump

 

 

ardgedee, add USB plugs when building your own: on the male type A connector, when looking at the pins and they are facing upward, the pinout is GND, DATA+, DATA-, +5VDC.  On the male type B connector which is what usually goes into a desktop DAC, when looking at the plug with the longer, flatter side towards the bottom, the first two pins from left to right at the top are +5VDC and DATA-, the the other two on the bottom from left to right are GND and DATA+.

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