Instructables

How to make a Transparent Audio Reference XL Speaker Cable

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For my first project here on Instructables, I thought I'd start with what I think is about the coolest DIY project for high-end audio buffs.  This instructable will show you how to make a pair of $12,500 Transparent Audio Reference XL speaker cables for less than 200 bucks.  My project is based on a schematic I found on the internet, along with photos and x-rays of the insides of the Transparent Audio network box (see step 10 for everything I found).  Here are the parts you'll need:

½” black corrugated split tube, 20 ft. - $23.88
12/4 wound high strand count copper speaker wire, 20 ft – $11.20
½” black braided nylon tube, 20 ft. - $19.00
Plastic project boxes, 2 ea – $7.94
14 gauge copper wire, 10 ft - $7.59
Gold plated brass spades, 8 ea - $6.00 (I found them on eBay)
1” black heat-shrink tube, 2 ft. – $6.96
½” black heat-shrink tube, 4 ft – $11.12
½” red heat-shrink tube, 4 ft – $11.12
1000 picofarad capacitors, 2 ea - $2.12
31.7 ohm resistors, 2 ea - $1.15
½” oak dowel, 4” - $35.00 (for 36” dowel)
Black hot glue sticks, 3 ea – $3.94
Flux-core solder, 1 roll - $29.97

Total: $176.63

Here are the tools you'll need:

Pliers
Phillips screwdriver
Hot glue gun
Soldering iron
Heat gun (or hair dryer)
Wire cutters
Wire Strippers
Scissors
Masking Tape (I used a lot of it to help me stabilize things while I was working on them)
Razor knife or Xacto

 
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Bob Sm1 month ago

FYI, Transparent doesn't use your buddy's measurement equipment. They first use vastly more precise equipment that measures down to a 1/100th of a ohm, etc. and they use an entirely different cable than you can buy off the street. They also match the components to the cable and cable length, so just buying off the shelf cable and making an inductor that measures between 2.35 and 2.55 isn't going to be the same thing. I think your winding isn't tight enough, which might lead to the different measurements. Inductors usually have to be tightly wound and to not cause any ringing either.

I would first find out what test equipment these companies use, examine their actual cable since they have specific cable geometry, dielectrics, winding, and cable mfg which yield a specific end result and then they design the network around the cable and which frequency range they are trying to "neutralize", if you will. Good try though. Plus, how new is the cable in question that this was modeled after? Do they make the exact same design? They have introduced new product designs over the years.

Bob Sm1 month ago

Here's the flaws in your steps outlined.

1. You have to use Transparent's actual cable that they use in that specific Reference XL cable. Just buying raw cable does not mean it's the same as Transparent's raw cable. Same thing goes with MIT. You would have to use the exact same cable MIT uses in a specific product they make. 2. Transparent and MIT both have VERY expensive test equipment and they are performing VERY specific tests on the final outcome, and when they use capacitors, resistors, etc. they aren't using off the shelf components, they are using VERY tight tolerance components (MIT actually hand winds their own inductors), and they use VERY expensive measurement equipment, some of which costs about $100K to measure those values to ensure they are tightly matched. So, just buying off the shelf cable and components isn't going to produce the exact same result. Nice try, though.

Yes, MIT boxes are vastly different than Transparent. Yes, they both use capacitors, resistors, inductors in various "filter" designs, but they aren't the same as one another, and neither is the raw wire they use.

MIT also has a lot of patents, so no one can market anything that violates their patents.

Bottom line, don't say that this is a DIY Transparent or MIT cable project. It's just one's idea of how to do something similar, but yet it's NOT the same thing.

The only way to guarantee the same results is by taking your DIY cable and conducting the series of measurements that either Transparent or MIT conduct on their cables and then proving that they perform the same as yours. I doubt they will. So, just because you feel you can do the same thing for $200, you can't. Impossible. Nice try though.

cstevens129 months ago
I agree and yet disagree with the instructable and some posts. Let me explain:

First of all, I agree that it's ridiculous to spend 10K plus on speaker cables, even though I'm and audiophile (and yes, have actually been to the transparent factory)

The MIT boxes are vastly different than the Transparent boxes. Do not try to compare the two. The MIT boxes are a lot more complicated:

http://www.mitcables.com/pdf/TAS_190_Oracle_MA-X.pdf

Finally, the instructable fails to take a few things into account: First, even though the transparent cables are outrageously expensive, the "raw" cable used is of very high quality, and is a twisted pair design. If you use high quality twisted pair for your DIY cables, you will notice a significant improvement as compared to the instructable.

NOTE: most hi-fi stores that carry transparent will also the raw cable, I just picked up some 14-4 for $2.50 a foot.

Secondly, the inductor (and MIT boxes) change with different cable lengths, I'm unable (ignorance on my part) to provide technical detail as to how though. This may be room for experimentation.

Steven1111 year ago
Thanks for sharing. Always wondered what was in those network boxes.
I wonder, what the necessity is of having that inductor in the middle of the cable? A network box at the end of the cable seems to work fine for MIT cables. Surely that last 5 ft of cable has an insignificant effect. Might be interesting to try placing the whole network at the end of the cable in a separate box, with very short leads to the speaker terminals of course. It would make experimenting and swapping out different coils and caps easier.
kelyp1 year ago
Great you researched into this. Thanks so much. My experience in building LAN5, Goertz, cross coax and 6N twin leads, all varies slightly. I also have gold ribbon speakers, very wide bandwidth, no inductance, enabling 5.2 ohm load on the test lines. If you can get a signal generator and scope, view the reflected waves. I see this value coil will attenuate very effectively but will spread the signal down to below 1 MHz. It will round the reflected signal risetime slightly, but will sharpen the image remarkably, from my experience. Certainly, it will make the cable and load very stable. The capacitor will reduce the spike over 2 MHz, but not enough. Try a 0.1 uH for laughs and giggles. I like it. The resistor depends on your speaker, so I have no advice there, it is probably fine just as it is. The entire idea is fundamentally sound (pun intended!). And it is such a fun hobby. Thanks for sharing. Pete
HiFiMan2 years ago
It's basically just a copy cat version of the MIT cables.Before spending the money for parts on this do yourself a favor and go buy some Goertz speaker cables they sound far superior to this type of design.I know I own both types and I also build custom cables;loudspeakers;and electronics.Single conductors far outperform multi conductors in every respect.
For almost $200 for the parts I could build myself some self bi amped speakers with only 3 inch long speaker cables.
Now that's how you get transparent sound.
I agree with your statement about bi amped speakers...

About 20 years ago I was helplessly rtying to make a four way speaker to work properly... even using very tolerant 6 dB/Oct simple crossovers, and with a full electronics lab at hand, I found that the passive corssover was the worst offender in the whole chain of sound reproduction!

Later on, I tried the much straightforward process of multi-amplifying with Active crossovers. I still find amazing that most audiophiles spend huge amounts of money and effort pursuing perfection, buying or making a big, expensive and exquisite amplifier, and then throwing into the trash its signal when trying to connect thru a passive crossover with all its unavoidable flaws!

Even more amazing is the never ending quest for the "magical" cable, esoteric cones, ethereal sanbags and other "improvments" paid by wealthy people beieving in the black-magic approach to audio!

Kudos for saying that bi amplifiying (or multi-amplifying) is the best way to transparet sound! Amclaussen, Mexico City.
MikB3 years ago
A warning to "noobs in this field" (and others) -- the original item seems to be an Audiophile ( spelt A-u-d-i-o-p-h-o-o-l ) product. Nobody in their right mind spends $12,500 on some 10ft speaker cables, whatever "filter" or "network" is in the middle of it. And if you did, just think how much you'd have to spend on the amplifier, the speakers, the pristine sound sources ... to truly appreciate them.

And now that it's "for less than 200 bucks" -- it's still too expensive for what it is.

All you need is some reasonably thick good quality copper wire to connect your speaker and amplifier. Most "improvements" beyond that are just marketing and hype.

"Burning in" cables is another really strange pseudo-science part of the marketing. It means nothing ... other than a small extra charge on top of the already overpriced cables :)

Consider that if you were buying the parts to build these in bulk, it would cost even less than it cost you. So look at the mark-up on the originals! Ouch!

Under the "be nice" policy, it's impossible to say how bogus the original item really is. Nice work reverse engineering it and building it, that helps to expose what you're getting for your $12.5k, but I wouldn't go out of my way to build one of these!

I'd love to see some proper blind A/B tests of these cables against a 10 foot length of welding cable or ordinary 15 Amp mains cable.
translucentcable (author)  MikB3 years ago
Thanks for the compliment MikB. It was a fun project to reverse engineer.
What If I needed a longer speaker cable, say 10 meters long? What would vary? Any Idea how transparent makes their XLR interconnects?
bhunter7363 years ago
I like the idea of making my own high end audio equipment. So let me first say thank you for this insightful project. :)

Next, since you have equipment to measure micro henries, I will have to assume you know a fair amount about electronic circuits and electrical flow.

Inserting a capacitor and resistor near the speaker will change the impedance for the amplifier, and ultimately change the relationship between the amplifier and the speaker just enough to have some slight coloration added to the audio, possibly so little most people would not hear it. I think this particular element may have more to do with the improved sound quality than anything else, assuming the wire is thick enough for the wattage it needs to carry. So the question is this; Do you think the effect of this cable could be further simplified to just the resistor and capacitor being attached at the speaker connect point making a <$5 audio upgrade?

Thanks.
The inductor is used to help attenuate RF signals and the capacitor and resistor(zobel network) help flatten out the the impedance rise at higher frequencies which the amp see's.The problem with zobel networks is there is no generic approach,each loudspeaker needs different values of components to operate correctly.
The best sound is achieved by having nothing but the voice coil on the output of the amp and using cables with a single strand of wire less than one foot in length.I generally reject any round wire more than 20awg for high frequencies due to skin effect problems that occur with larger conductors at high frequencies.
The longer the wire the bigger diameter it has to be.
The amp and speaker should be looked at as one unit.Anything and I mean anything added to the output of the amp colors the sound quality,especially resistors and inductors.
I have an instructable in the works to show everyone how to achieve ultra high resolution sound with minimal money.
Garu3 years ago
Hello.
First of all, great instructable, clean and well done.

And now, the questions! :)
I'm not American, so I have some problems in understanding what is a 12/4 wound high strand count copper speaker wire. What are the measures and characteristics of the cable (I live in Italy, so we have different measures)
Another thing: I looked on eBay for a 2.5 micro Henries inductor (I don't have the right equipment to test it and I'm also a bit lazy (: ), but I only found inductors with a much higher inductance. Is it better or I must use a 2.5 micro Henries inductance? I'm really a noob in this field so I kindly ask for an explanation.

Thanks and keep up with the good work!
translucentcable (author)  Garu3 years ago
Hello Garu,

If I were you, I'd just wind an inductor as I described in the project. 14 gauge solid copper wire wrapped tightly around a 1/2 inch dowel 18 times will be very close to 2.5 micro Henries. And as I said in the instructable, it really doesn't add that much inductance anyway.

12/4 wire is wire that comes with four conductors that are each 12 gauge. I'm not sure how that translates to your measurement system in Italy. High strand count refers to how many strands of copper there are in each of the four conductors. The wire I bought had 259 strands per conductor.
It's better to have LESS inductance in low impedance loads such as loudspeakers not add to the inductance that's already in the wire configuration already.Yes even a straight wire has inductance.
Better to move the amp close to the speaker use short connection,flat wire is best, and low capacitance cables(preferably balanced ones) going to the amps.
12 Guage in AWG (American spec) is the same as 4mm/sq in European spec, so just used 4mm/sq wire with a high strand count.
translucentcable (author)  fred_framus3 years ago
Excellent. Thanks Fred!
mike5003 years ago
I am shocked by the price difference of the original product and the remake. Did you also compare the cables listening to them? Is there also an instruction for the transparent interlink? Thanks for this instruction. It opened my eyes.
1scienceguy3 years ago
Very, very cool project. Thanks for taking the time to do it right!

Please continue to share your audio DIY projects. There are others of us out here that dabble in the same area.
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