If you took a set of normal speaker cables and ran them over with a steamroller, you'd get something like what we're going to make today.
I'm so excited for this week's project, the first in a DIY series presenting rewarding projects for curious and enterprising lasses and lads.
I'm excited because the flat-ribbon speaker cables we're building — one of the hidden secrets of DIY audio — have been lighting up my audiophile life since I made them a few weeks ago.
I'll keep the technical portion of this brief, because it can numb your mind like a sedative if you're not interested in the "how" of it all.
There are three main measurements for speaker cables — resistance, inductance and capacitance. The gauge of cable we'll be making is relatively low at 14, so we can ignore resistance.
These cables have low capacitance, at the expense of higher inductance. After you build them, you can fold them in half lengthwise to reverse that characteristic — one flat ribbon on top of another will give you low inductance and high capacitance.
A word of caution: Neither of these are fantastic qualities for tube amps. Maybe skip this project if that's what you're rockin'.
OK that's enough of that. Let's build this thing.
There are two ingredients. The first is the metal — we need one 0.33mH 14-gauge copper foil inductor from Mundorf, and we need a roll of 4-inch-wide clear packing tape.
You can get the packing tape from a hardware store, just make sure it's wide enough. The inductor can be found online at partsconnexion.com.
The directions are really simple. First, start to unravel the foil inductor by cutting away the clear insulation and shrink wrap with a sharp knife. Be careful!
Next, carefully cut into the clear plastic on the sides of the inductor, like you're peeling an apple. All of the layers of clear film are bonded together on the outside, so you're trying to free the foil in the middle by severing that connection. A sharp box knife can cut through many layers in a few minutes. Again, just be careful.
Now that the hard part is over, all you do is lay down a long length (however long you want the cables to be) of packing tape, sticky side up. Then you unroll the inductor foil along the length, letting the ends go past the tape for connecting to speakers and the amp.
Lay down two strips of foil, and keep them at least a half-inch from each other — the farther the better. Then, place a layer of packing tape, sticky side down, along the whole length.
Fold a half-inch length of the bare copper end over itself, then over itself again. Repeat on all four ends, and then use a hole punch to make a deep "U" in the very tips of the ends, which you can then attach to speakers and amplifiers.
Then, make a second set. Finally, plug those suckers in.
Try it. Listen to them. If you are willing to take the plunge and build these, you will be rewarded with great sound and some very cool-looking cables.