DIY Power Cables - The "POWER HELIX"

The “POWER HELIX” power cable represents several years of “tinkering” and researching different cable architectures and materials.

I started looking at cable architectures a while back, initiated by an experience with a home lighting repair.

I was installing a new two way switch on a hallway light, the type with a switch at each end of the hallway (see diagram below). I decided to play it safe and use my multimeter to verify the open/closed position of the switches.

With the switch in the OFF position everything checked out, but with the switch in the ON position I found that there was a reading of 42 volts on what was supposed to be the "dead conductor" i.e. the red conductor in the diagram below.

page1image6056


I found an article on the web which verified that in this particular situation it is common for one of the conductors in standard household power cable to register an
"induced voltage".

Turns out my digital multi-meter had such a high resistance that it drew no current so the reading was unusually high. However, my analogue meter, which draws a little more current still registered a reading of 13 volts.

That’s still - a lot of "noise".


In the case of “conventional” power cable architectures, the live conductor and the neutral conductor tend to be side by side in extremely close proximity for the length of the cable, therefore I consider it reasonable to assume that noise, at the amplitude measured above, will be induced from the signal conductor into the neutral conductor.
This “pollution” of the neutral conductor may also take place on the ground conductor also and depending on the design of a components circuit, have an adverse effect on sound quality.

The premise of the helical design concept eliminates the parallel conductors and minimizes induced noise to imperceivable levels!


For more theory pertaining to this see Electromagnetic Interference - Considerations in Structured Cabling Systems from Siemens


But First My Disclaimer:

DO NOT attempt any of the assemblies detailed below unless you are an experienced Electrical Professional OR Electronics Hobbyist - otherwise consult a technician!

YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE: for following local electrical codes. Failure to do so may result in personal injury, damage to equipment, or power cable failure which can result in fire.

YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE: for ensuring the cable selected is suitably rated for the power requirements of the component(s) it will be attached too !

YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE: for ensuring the IEC/Mains connectors are installed observing the correct polarity !
- failure to do so can result in poor operation, component failure or electric shock.


YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE: for ensuring the dielectric strength of the insulation on ALL conductors used, meets or exceeds local codes!

e.g. In North America - 600v at 200 Celsius for 120v 50/60 Hz supply


These Power cables are only to be used for
Home Audio Purposes and must not subjected to harsh environments and frequent handling, which generally require additional protective coverings.

The materials mentioned below comply with most codes for NORTH AMERICA ONLY!

Electrical codes in other countries may require the selection of different materials, therefore
YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE for following those local electrical codes.

YOU are responsible for ensuring “power related” assemblies are safe to use!

Materials...

The materials listed below will build a 6ft power cable that is suitable for use with Power Aimplifiers rated up to 600 watts.

  • 6 ft of Furutech FP-3T762 bulk cable, OR
  • 6 ft of DH Labs Power Plus bulk cable, OR
  • 6 ft of stranded Mil Spec 12 AWG Silver Plated Copper Wire, Cryo Treated - available from Take Five Audio (TFA)
  • 28 feet of stranded Mil Spec 12 AWG Silver Plated Copper Wire, Cryo Treated, Red - available from Take Five Audio (TFA)
  • 14 feet of green 12 gauge mains copper wire from Home Depot
  • 2 feet of 1” black Heat Shrink sleeve
  • 7 ft of 3/8” (10 mm) expandable nylon sleeve (outer sleeve)
  • 7ft of black 1/4” expandable nylon sleeve (for Live conductor - see below)
  • 1 Pair of SONAR QUEST CRYO Ag Audio Grade Silver plated IEC plug + US main plug
  • lead free solder suited for electronics use - or WBT 4% silver solder can also be used
  • 10-12 gauge copper spade/fork connectors
  • For Spade/Fork terminals take look at the Grainger Web site and in their options check box select TERMINAL TYPE: Standard, WIRE RANGE: 12-10 gauge, INSULATION TYPE: Bare and SEAM: Butted
  • Fork Terminals - Spade Terminals - Grainger Industrial Supply
  • 1 6ft x 1/4” fibreglass rod - available from Home Depot

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 4.31.10 PM

The Sonar Quest connectors have heavy Silver plating on pure copper contacts that provide excellent clamping and transmission of electrical current - available from ebay

I use an approximate ratio of 2.5:1 of Ground/Neutral:Live conductor

e.g. for a 6ft power cable I use 14ft of Ground and 14ft of Neutral Conductor



So How Do I Make Them?

Before proceeding - please read this: The Helix Geometry Continues...


The Live Conductor...

I have tried many different “wires” for this role, and without question the best have been the conductors found in either of the two bulk cables listed above or the Mil-spec wire listed.

If using the Bulk cable wires....

First, strip of the outer sleeve of the bulk cable and the shield and remove the internal conductors.

Using just one of the internal conductors - Attach a 10 gauge spade connector, crimp in place and apply solder

Place the 1/4” black nylon sleeve over the length of the Live Conductor

Attach a small piece of 5/16” heat shrink sleeve at each end to hold the expandable sleeve in place

DO NOT apply the second spade connector just yet!

Live Wire


The Neutral Conductor...

The Neutral Conductor is made from two lengths of the
Mil Spec 12 AWG Silver Plated Copper Wire listed above.

Why two pieces? - this effectively make the neutral wire a 9 awg conductor, which I have found performs much better, resulting in faster dynamics, better bass performance and control and more natural imaging.

Cut the 28 ft length of wire into two equal length pieces.

On the 1/4” rod, wind the neutral conductor in a helix configuration, space the windings about 1/4” apart and remove from the rod.
Repeat the winding process with the second piece of wire.

Neutral  Wires


With the second coil of wire still on the rod...
- Attach the first coil to the second coil with a 10 gauge spade connector
- Wind the first “coil” of wire between its windings as shown below

Remove the two “intertwined” coils from the rod

Dual Neutral


The Ground Conductor...

On the 1/4” rod, wind the green GOUND conductor in a helix configuration, space the windings about 1/4” apart and remove from the rod.

Ground Wire


Thread the Live conductor through the centre of the red coil(s)

Attach a second 10 awg spade connector on free end of the Live conductor, crimp and solder in place.

Attach a second 10 awg spade connector on the two free ends of the neutral conductor, crimp and solder in place.

Wind the green wire between the “double winding” of the neutral conductor as shown below.

Place 12 awg spade connectors on both ends of the ground conductor, crimp and solder in place


Cable Assembly



Place the expandable nylon sleeve over the cable assembly and cut to length

Cut two adequate lengths of 1” heat shrink tubing and place over the nylon sleeve

Attach the Sonar Quest connectors to the cable assembly
ensuring you adopt the correct polarity!!!


Mains Polarity


Position the heat shrink over the ends of the outer sleeve and apply heat

Secure the connector covers in place to complete the cable assembly

Final Product


Assembly Notes...

If you feel the use of Furutech or DH Labs bulk cable is a little too
“extravagant”, you can opt to use a 6ft length of the stranded Mil Spec 12 AWG Silver Plated Copper Wire.

Why do I use spade connectors? -

  • First, trying to attach the mains/IEC connectors to a 10 gauge cable is very difficult,
  • More importantly - the spade connectors prevent detachment from the connectors in the event of unforeseen stress being placed on the connectors.
  • I have also found that the spade connectors actually improve sound quality.

For a more secure crimped joint, I always crimp from the back - as shown in the image below, which prevents the collar from opening.

Crimp-022


I use pliers as shown in this image that applies an extended crimp along the whole length of the spade connectors collar

imgres


Cables that are more suited to source components can use lighter gauge conductors, but be sure to determine their power requirements and select a gauge that can handle it with headroom to spare.

Can you use other brands of IEC/Mains connectors?


Of course. Some people might prefer to use Furutech, or Oyaide high quality connectors.

Others may prefer to use something more reasonably price, like the Vanguard range of connectors.

I believe the Sonar Quest connector line provides exceptional sound quality for a reasonable price.

The Journey...

I’m a frugal person with a distinct dislike of overpaying for something as simple as a piece of wire!


I started making my own cables many years ago from Bulk cable with reasonably priced connectors.

I first tried Furutech bulk cable and then stumbled upon DH Labs, which I believe offers similar performance for about 1/3 the price - how could you not like that.

I then investigated a braided architecture which proved very effective, even using plain old Romex house wire.

Finally, I tried the Helix Architecture, which has proved to be the best performing power cable architecture to date.

I have now implemented this architecture on all my cables that have anything to do with audio.

What do they sound like?

The “POWER HELIX” is a high performance power cable that allows connected components to perform to the best of their abilities.

They assist components in delivering ultra fast dynamic performance, exceptional clarity, expansive imaging and a very deep and exceptionally well controlled bass performance.

How Long is the Burn-In Period?

It is imperative that these cables are allowed adequate time to settle and burn-in...

  • they will sound extremely good on initial installation
  • after about 60 hours they allow more of the micro details in the form of venue specific reverberation captured in live recordings, or applied by very talented sound engineers, to clearly be heard.

The end of the Road?

I have decided to end this particular power cable “obsession” with the
“POWER HELIX” simply because...
  • the cost of better materials is making them significantly more expensive
  • I believe any improvements using better materials will probably be marginal from this point onwards

My hope is that this design will be embraced and enhanced by the DIY Community and encourage them to experiment with different conductor materials and configurations to tailor the sound to their own liking.

My Review System:

  • Custom built turntable with a Soundsmith Denon DL103 phono cartridge mounted on an Audiomods Arm with one piece silver litz harness + KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA’s

  • Simaudio MOON LP5.3 RS phono stage

  • Bluesound Node 2 music server

  • NAIM 5i integrated amp (with passive pre-section).

  • Gershman Acoustics Sonogram speakers.

  • KLE Innovations gZero6 Speaker Cables

  • DIY Power Cables - The "POWER HELIX"

  • DIY Interconnect Cables - The "Helix Mark V"



page6_blog_entry61-page6_blog_entry60-page6_blog_entry52-page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up-2 Give them a try - and - Enjoy The Music! Happy


DIY Interconnect Cables - The "Helix Mark VI"

UPDATE! - now includes a Balanced design...


The
“Helix Mark VI” represents the very latest “tinkering” and researching different wire and materials.

The premise behind its helical geometry (or architecture) is eliminating parallel conductors, since...

  • if two parallel conductors are in close proximity for an extended distance, and current is passed down one of those conductors, then noise will be induced into the other conductor.

e.g. in a 120 volt mains cable I measured noise in an adjacent conductor of 42 volts!

In the case of “conventional” interconnect cable architectures, the signal conductor and the neutral conductor are side by side in extremely close proximity for the length of the cable, therefore in my mind, I consider it reasonable to assume that some noise, however small, will be induced from the signal conductor into the neutral conductor.

Why would this matter? Isn’t the neutral is effectively connected to the “ground” ?

Well, the neutral conductor is actually connected to the neutral side of the attached components’ circuitry.

On it’s way to “ground” it permeates through the neutral side of the components circuit, which has a negative impact on the amplified signal resulting in a distorted output.
In addition, parallel conductors are prone to Proximity Effect which alters the resistance of the conductor. affecting the transfer the signal
The helical design concept eliminates the parallel conductors and minimizes the induced noise and proximity effect to imperceivable levels, improving clarity and dynamic performance of the interconnect.
One other nice feature of the helical design is the neutral conductor, being wound around the signal conductor, becomes a very effective shield against external RFI sources - because it is connected to “ground” Happy

But Shouldn’t The Two Conductors Be The Same Length?


If you look at the “roles” the two conductors play from the perspective of an attached components’ circuit diagram it becomes clear that cable length is immaterial and they can be made from different materials and gauges.

page2image664

  • The Signal Conductor transfers the signal
  • The Neutral Conductor merely links the neutral sides of the two attached components


For more theory pertaining to this see Electromagnetic Interference - Considerations in Structured Cabling Systems from Siemens



So How Do I Make Them?

Before proceeding - please read this: The Helix Geometry Continues...


The Single Ended IC Design...

The parts list is reasonably priced between $180 - $250 CDN for a 3ft ( or 1 meter) pair, depending on the RCA’s selected and all other parts can be purchased from many parts providers on the web.

Considering their exceptional sound quality I believe this price range to be excellent value.

You can upgrade or downgrade these parts if you wish, but the parts listed will provide exceptional sound quality.

I use an approximate ratio of 3:1 of Neutral:Signal conductor

e.g. for a 3ft Interconnect cable I use 9ft of Neutral Conductor



The quantities listed is for a single Interconnect cable i.e. one channel -
so double them for a stereo pair

  • RCA Plug: KLE Innovations Absolute Harmony RCA Plugs (SOURCE: KLE Innovations or local parts sources)
  • Neutral Conductor: 9 ft of Mil Spec 16 AWG Silver Plated Copper Wire Green Cryo Treated (SOURCE: TAKE FIVE AUDIO - TFA)
  • Signal Conductor: 3 ft of Neotech UPOCC Silver 24 AWG, Teflon Insulation, Deep Cryo Treated (SOURCE: TFA)
    • Preferred: Mil Spec 24 AWG Silver Plated Copper Wire Cryo Treated (SOURCE: TAKE FIVE AUDIO - TFA)
  • Outer Teflon Tube: 3 ft of PTFE 10 Tubing .106"ID .130"OD Approx. (SOURCE: TFA)
  • Inner Teflon Tube: 3 ft of PTFE 14 Tubing .066"ID .090"OD Approx. (SOURCE: TFA)
  • WBT 4% silver solder


Why two teflon tubes?
  • Two tubes provide a bigger “gap” between the neutral and signal conductors = less noise!
  • In very tight radius turns, two tubes prevent “kinking” in the walls of the tubes.
  • NOTE: selecting a larger diameter than this will result in problems attaching the RCA plugs

Step 1.
I first wind the conductor around a 5mm metal rod. To assist with this I insert the rod into a variable speed hand drill and feed the conductor along its length.
Drill

Once wound, the helix can be removed from the dowel.

Coil

Step 2

Insert the teflon tube(s) into the helix.

Space the windings over the length of the tube

Tighten the helix by twisting it, about an inch at time, along the length of the cable

Secure with a small piece of heat shrink or electrical tape


Cable Assembly


Step 3

Soldering the KLE Innovations needs a little care to prevent excess heat from damaging the plastic housing

I use a chassis mount RCA jack and insert the RCA base into it in order to wick away excess heat

RCAPhono-vice

I also use a little “rig” to hold the parts while I solder


Vice


I’ve found that it is easier if I first solder the signal wire to the RCA plug first, followed by the neutral wire

Solder PLug



Install the housing of the RCA and tighten the screws

Almost Finished


To finish off, you can add some expandable nylon sleeve - it does not impact the performance of the Interconnect.

Finished


Assembly Notes...

Although a solid silver signal conductor was initially selected I have since found that 24 gauge silver plated Mil-Spec wire offers a fuller sound without sacrificing any details


Can you use other brands of RCA?

NOT RECOMMENDED!

I recommend KLE Innovations Harmony RCA’s because of their stellar performance. Personally, I use the Absolute Harmony RCA because it is their best performer.

The properties of the KLEI Harmony RCA’s are very different from conventional RCA’s, such that they can be used on single ended SPDIF cables without experiencing the issues associated with conventional RCA’s not rated at the same impedance as the cable because their impedance exceeds 110 ohms.

e.g. “convention” states that a SPDIF cable should use an RCA plug of identical impedance

Primarily to reduce/eliminate internal “reflections” of the digital signal back down the cable

However, the KLEI Harmony RCA’S can be used on most digital cables regardless of the cables rated impedance value.

I also believe their higher impedance is responsible for their stellar analogue performance.

Can this cable be used for SPDIF purposes?

Absolutely! - it is an extremely adept SPDIF cable!

And I have found that the following
cost saving adjustments do not impact SPDIF performance at all...

  • KLEI Silver Harmony RCA plugs can be used in place of the more expensive Absolute Harmony RCA plug
  • The silver signal conductor can be replaced with an UPOCC copper conductor

To date, it is the best SPDIF cable I have used.

What do Helix Mark VI sound like?

The “Helix Mark VI” is a very high performance interconnect cable with extremely high resolution capabilities.

They deliver a completely “uncoloured presentation” with ultra fast dynamic performance, exceptional clarity, expansive imaging and a very deep and exceptionally well controlled bass performance.

They excel in the delivery of one of the most realistic presentations of live recordings I have observed.
  • The delicate nuances pertaining to the acoustic reverberations of instruments and voice within a live venue are faithfully reproduced in the most minute detail, with a precision placement of musicians and their instruments within their own “virtual space”.

My system components are quite modest by today’s standards. However my cables are all excellent performers and they work in harmony with the components to achieve an excellent overall “system performance”.

Will the
“Helix Mark VI” perform well on all systems?

Based on feedback from people who have made them for some quite varied systems, I have no reason to believe their performance will be anything less than stellar.

The Balanced (XLR) IC Design


The quantities listed is for a single Interconnect cable i.e. one channel - so double them for a stereo pair

  • 2 pairs of Neutrik NC3FXX-HA Male/Female XLR Cryo Treated - with Silver Plated Pins ( SOURCE: TAKE FIVE AUDIO - TFA)
  • eutral Conductor: 9 ft of Mil Spec 16 AWG Silver Plated Copper Wire Green Cryo Treated (SOURCE: TAKE FIVE AUDIO - TFA)
  • Signal Conductor: 6 ft of Neotech UPOCC Silver 24 AWG, Teflon Insulation, Deep Cryo Treated (SOURCE: TFA)
  • Outer Teflon Tube: 6 ft of PTFE 10 Tubing .106"ID .130"OD Approx. (SOURCE: TFA)
  • WBT 4% silver solder

The Balanced XLR IC design is “basically” the same as single ended design with simple modification.

A balanced cable requires two signal conductors
  • one for the positive signal
  • one for the negative signal
  • but with a “new twist” ...


DSC_6953

Instead of using a straight wire, each conductor is wound around a dowel...

  • one in a clockwise direction
  • the other in an anti-clockwise direction
  • each spiral is then stretched prior to inserting into the Teflon tube
  • The easiest method of getting the “wavy wire” into the tube is to use a straight piece of wire to pull it through.
  • The theory - the “waves” in the conductors reduce the “Proximity Effect”

Once the conductors are in place in the tube, tape one end of the two tubes and twist one tube around the other - approximately one complete twist every 8-12 inches.


DSC_6955

As with the single ended design, wind the neutral conductor in a tight spiral around a dowel

Drill

Stretch the spiral a little and then wind the neutral around both the signal conductors

DSC_6957

Add the plugs and VOILA!

NOTE: - the twisted pair CAT6 “floating shield” conductor is not required because the noise cancelation of the balanced circuitry eliminates external RFI/EMI

Nylon Expansion sleeve can be applied to get the “professional look”


DSC_6958

Below is a photo of a completed pair - built by a fellow DIY Audiophile John Tupper - thanks John Happy

XLR 4.16.18

A quote from John,,,

  • “My system is now running four of your power cables, XLR interconnects and speaker cables. More burn-in likely required, but, with 72 hours of running they sound fantastic.”



The Journey...

I’m a frugal person with a distinct dislike of overpaying for something as simple as a piece of wire!


I started making my own cables many years ago, but many of those utilized bulk cable from companies like Van den Hul and DH Labs.

I then investigated some of the more recent cable geometries such as tight twisted pairs, braiding and helix geometries.

My biggest issue with helix designs as a DIYer - how to maintain a uniform distance between the signal and neutral conductors - the teflon tubes alleviated this problem

My primary goal along the way was to keep the cost of materials to a minimum.

When I first tried the early CAT6 version of the Helix design it was quite clear that it was going to be a very adept performer.

This observation supported my belief that the Helix architecture (or geometry) was an extremely effective approach to achieving excellent cable performance.

The early versions utilizing CAT6 as the neutral conductor were very good - just not
brilliant!

With the
“Helix Mark VI” version, I decided to incorporate higher quality silver plated materials in the neutral conductor in the hope that I could come even closer to the performance levels of some of todays popular high performance cables for a fraction of the cost.

The improvements were so good I concluded that a larger gauge neutral conductor provides significant improvements - and...

Voila, the “Helix Mark VI” was born!


The result:

a cable that actually competes with some of the very best cables in the audio world!


C’mon, Really?

  • OK, I’ll let you be the final judge, but after listening to many cables I believe this to be the case Winking

How Long is the Burn-In Period?

It is imperative that these cables are allowed adequate time to settle and burn-in, which is typically >300 hours.
  • they will however sound extremely good on initial installation
  • they may exhibit some loss in volume and image focus after 3-4 days continuous use, but will return to normal by day 6-7
  • they will sound exceptional after around 200 hours, but they will get even better after 300 hours
  • I have also found ongoing improvements occur up to approximately 600+ hours in the earlier versions
  • The use of cable cookers will expedite this process - start with 100 hours cooking + 100 hours playing

The end of the Road?

I have decided to end this particular interconnect cable “obsession” with the
“Helix Mark VI” simply because...
  • the cost of better materials is making them significantly more expensive
  • the improvements using better materials will probably be marginal from this point onwards

My hope is that this design will be embraced and enhanced by the DIY Community and encourage them to experiment with different conductor materials to tailor the sound to their own liking.

My Review System:

  • Custom built turntable with a Soundsmith Denon DL103 phono cartridge mounted on an Audiomods Arm with one piece silver litz harness + KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA’s

  • Simaudio MOON LP5.3 RS phono stage

  • Bluesound Node 2 music server

  • NAIM 5i integrated amp (with passive pre-section).

  • Gershman Acoustics Sonogram speakers.

  • KLE Innovations gZero6 Speaker Cables

  • Assorted power cables


page6_blog_entry61-page6_blog_entry60-page6_blog_entry52-page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up-2 Give them a try - and - Enjoy The Music! Happy

ADDENDUM:

Audiogon Member Toddverrone has also tried these IC’s ...


Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 9.44.28 AM


The Parts List :

  • signal wire: OCC solid silver 24awg in cotton. 3' per cable
  • neutral: OCC solid copper 20awg magnet wire.  2 x 9' per cable
  • connectors: KLE pure harmony solid silver
  • the white tube is a foamed teflon flexible tube that i ran the signal through. it's pretty amazing.  it doesn't kink at all.  it's called hyperflex tubing from vh audio

Todd’s Feedback...

I’m still listening to them, but initial findings on the helix ICs are incredibly positive.

More of the helix magic: less noise, greater clarity, better separation of sound sources.

Good stuff!