When one designs speaker cables to have low inductance, the results come at the expense of higher capacitance. The opposite effect also occurs when you reverse those roles.
That’s why some audio engineers are looking toward a compromise in the middle. By developing cross-connected coaxial speaker cables, the effect that occurs is an inductance reduction to almost nothing.
By changing the design so that the center wire and shield are parallel, two separated polarity composite conductors deliver a better inductance rate.
When you get the mix right, it affects the amplifier positively so that your audio improves through your speakers.
Cross Connected Coaxial Speaker Cables
Cross-connected coaxial speaker cables utilize parallel wire runs to minimize inductance, resistance, and the skin effect for music. Since coax uses two sets of copper wiring in its design, it becomes a low-cost option for audiophiles to enhance their setup without much work.
How do you create an excellent speaker cable?
The goal of modern cables should be to deliver high bandwidth power while creating a low-impedance environment.
When you review your audio setup, the speaker load typically varies from 30 ohms to under three. If you look at the power amplifier output, the impedance is usually measured as only a few tenths of an ohm.
Since power transfers are the primary purpose of speaker cables, it is more crucial to focus on inductance or resistance instead of capacitance.
The lower output impedance of today’s power amps is usually capable of the high capacitance already. Still, the massive voltage drops that happen across connectors and cables can cause signal instability.
That’s why the cross-connected coaxial speaker cables are such a great idea to use for many system setups.
By allowing the amps to focus on capacitance while the cabling works with the inductance and resistance, you create a purer sound that hits more of the audible frequencies with authenticity.
How to Create Your Own Cross-Connected Speaker Cables
If you’ve got some spare coaxial cable lying around, with nothing to do, you can take advantage of its unique design to create your own cross-connected design. When you get things right, you’ll experience the lower inductance immediately, leading to a richer, fuller sound that fills the room.
Before you can get to work on this project, you will need a few supplies available to create your cross-connected coax speaker cables.
- 32 feet of high-quality coaxial cable
- A 10m roll of 10mm Techflex cable sheath
- A kit of 10mm heat shrink tubing
- Pipefitter tape
- Four inches of 6mm red heat shrink
- Four inches of 6mm black heat shrink
- Eight banana terminals
- Eight 10mm cable pants
You’ll want the 13.5 wire gauge for the project if you’re going to maximize the benefits of cross-connected coaxial speakers. If that option isn’t available, you can use whatever coax is at home, or you can purchase easily.
Once you’ve gathered all of the supplies, you’ll be ready to implement the following steps so that you can have the cable you need for your audio setup.
■ Step #1: Cut Your Cables
You’ll want to cut your cables to the length you need for your sound system. If that means you don’t use all 32 feet of coax, that is okay.
This project will create up to 16 feet of usable cable, so if you need more, you might consider changing where you keep your equipment.
Once you’ve cut the cables, you’ll want to twist them together. There should be about two to three twists in each foot.
■ Step #2: Encase the Cables
You’ll want to encase the two twisted cables in the 10mm heat shrink. It helps to leave about 5.5 inches free on each end so that the rest of the connections can get managed easily.
If you don’t leave some freedom, it’ll be challenging to use the banana plugs to connect your equipment once you’ve finished.
■ Step #3: Remove the Insulation
You’ll need to remove the insulation from the cables at both ends. The coal is to expose the copper braiding with the coax entirely.
It works better to leave about 1.5 inches still protected from each end, which means you should strip back about four inches on each exposed line.
Once you’ve completed this step, you need to pull back the shield braiding. You can leave it in a “bunched-up pile” at the point where you stopped removing the insulation. At this point, you should have the insulation for the center conductors exposed.
■ Step #4: Remove the Center Conductor Insulation
You now need to remove all but a half-inch of the center conductor insulation from the coaxial cable on all four ends.
When you are done with this step, it should look like you have a small piece of white (or whatever color the insulator is) insulation sticking out from the mass of braided copper shielding.
At this step, you must now extend the copper braid so that it comes out next to the central wire.
The easiest way to do this is to use a pic to open the braiding. Once you have it positioned, you can pull the center conductor through it.
■ Step #5: Heat Shrink the Ends
Once you have the central braid pulled through and sitting next to the primary wire, you’ll want to heat shrink the ends so that the conductors aren’t touching. You should use the red for the left strand and the black for the right when looking at the product.
Run the heat shrink about halfway up the central wire’s insulator to give the entire unit some stability.
■ Step #6: Solder the opposite Shield Connectors
This step is the trickiest one of the lot when you’re trying to create cross-connected coaxial speaker cables.
You’ll need to solder the center conductors from the red and black lines to the opposite shield conductors.
That means the central wire requires a coat of solder so that it can run along with the braiding of the opposite side.
If you aren’t sure of your skill in this step, try getting some cheap solder to practice before finishing the cable.
If you mess up this step, there’s a good chance you’ll need to start over. Take your time, create a secure connection, and allow the solder to solidify. It might need a second layer to complete the link.
■ Step #7: Finish the Job
Once you have the connections in place, you’re ready to add the banana plugs. You’ll need to connect them at the ends of the copper braid with the central wire connected.
Since you are creating two cable sets with this project, it helps to do all eight simultaneously so that you get into a rhythm with the work.
The ends will be a bit heavy once you’ve connected the banana plugs.
You’ll want to gently move them on your working surface so that you can cover the entire connection area with the heat shrink.
This step ensures that you have a safe and secure connection for your cross-connected coax.
Once the product cools, you’ll be ready to test out your new cable with your audio system. Although it is a little extra work compared to other wiring setups, you should notice the improved clarity in your sound immediately.
What Are the Benefits of Using High-End Cables?
When you’re using high-end speaker cables, you’ll usually have large-gauge conductors or significant internal wiring to reduce the inductance and resistance. If you followed the steps to create cross-connected coax, you’re simulating the same outcome by turning the copper shielding into a separate connection point.
It is not unusual for high-end speaker cables to retail for $2,000 or more. If you follow this process, the expense is a fraction of that amount – even if you need to buy all of the tools and supplies.
When you use high-end cables, such as cross-connected coaxial, it becomes easier to deliver a surround sound result because the audio cues are easier to recognize.
Your cabling creates a more natural listening experience when you have front-to-back or left-to-right pans, eliminating the jerking while ending with a precise image.
Instead of having the center channel disappear, you’ll be left with well-rounded sounds that produce incredible results.
A Final Thing to Remember about Cross-Connected Coax
For me, I think it’s important to mention here that any component can limit your system’s overall performance. Although you can make an inexpensive audio setup sound fantastic with high-end cables, you won’t get that result if your connections aren’t responsible for the muddied sound.
If you want to achieve “live” sound from your speakers, you must look at each element of your routing.
That starts from the power cord and ends with the speakers that drive the sound to your ears.
When you have cross-connected coaxial cable available, you can improve the sound of your system if you’re using stock equipment.
You’ll hear the improved dynamics immediately, and an amplifier capable of delivering enough current will get you the “slam effect” you want for your music.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to design a system that meets all of your listening needs. It takes a little trial-and-error to get the job done.
If you can control your biases and look at cross-connected coaxial speaker cables with an open mind, you’ll find that the performance is superior and that any differences between it and high-end options are relatively small.