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November 30, 2011

A Custom Audeze Balanced Headphone Cable

Anyone who has their hands close to the pulse in high-end headphones has heard of the Audeze. Formed in 2009, they have quickly developed a superb reputation for their planar magnetic headphones, the LCD-2, and very recently the LCD-3. Both headphones make use of a very convenient removable cable mechanism employing a pair of mini 4 pin XLR connectors. Switchcraft makes these for about $8 a piece, and you can find generics for less than half of that. As previous experience dictates; Switchcraft's connectors generally prove to be reliable over time, so I'll be sticking with those for this build. The male and female mini XLRs come in a variety of opening sizes to accommodate different cables. For the females that will be needed for the Audeze cable, the small opening version is the TA4F, and the larger opening is the TA4FLX. Below are photos of the TA4FLX.

The Switchcraft TA4FLX 4 pin mini XLR female

Since each driver only needs a signal and ground, and each mini XLR has four pins, the pins are shorted so that the signal uses pins 1 and 4 and the ground uses 2 and 3, as seen in the below diagram.


These tiny little solder tabs require care to solder to and see the numbers associated with each pin. A lamp can be very helpful to get a good look at the connector while working with it. Neotech UP-OCC copper was used to short the pins below. 

Shorted Switchcraft mini XLR pins

Now comes the time to braid the wire for the cable. The process is started by trimming four identical lengths of wire, then braiding it in a litz up until around 18 or so inches from the end. The last bit of wire is split into two twisted pairs, on for each cup. This particular cable will be made using Cardas litz copper wire in Teflon. Cardas litz wire is a number of different gauges of wire, each covered in enamel that needs to be melted away with hot solder (a solder pot is especially helpful). This needs to be done for each end that is stripped.

Braided Cardas litz wire in Teflon

The wire is now sleeved with black nylon multifilament, 1/8" for the twisted pairs and 3/8" for the four wire litz. A ViaBlue splitter was placed over the "Y" split of the cable to give it a sleek look. If you'd like more details about the ViaBlue SC-2 splitter, please read my post regarding a ViaBlue Mini to RCA cable build

Prepped and sleeved cable

Since the wires are all the same color, it can be beneficial to color code them to later reference. Hardware stores carry electrical tape in a variety of colors. Typically ground connectors are labelled green, right signal is red, and left is black or white. This isn't always the case, but one can choose a convention for themselves and stick with it. It prevents one from having to pull out the multimeter too often. 

Labelled wires

This headphone cable is going to be balanced, for a balanced amplifier. There isn't an "official" balanced headphone connector, but there are two methods that are the most common; a dual-three pin XLR where only two of the three pins on each connector are used, and a four pin XLR where all four pins are used. This is discussed in greater detail in an earlier DIY Balanced Adapter Cable post.  I'm personally of the opinion that a 4 pin XLR should be used; it's a cleaner, easier cable to produce and a lot less heavy if using a balanced to single-ended adapter. The wire is now soldered in place. The typical wiring configuration for a 4 pin XLR is as follows:

Pin 1 - L+
Pin 2 - L-
Pin 3 - R+
Pin 4 - R-

A piece of heatshrink holds the nylon sleeving in place, and the strain relief grip is placed under the 4 pin connector.

4 Pin Neutrik male XLR connector

The metal sleeve is slipped on top of the 4 pin connector and the plastic strain relief grip is covered by the bottom piece which screws in place, creating a strong grip on the heatshrink and nylon sleeving. 

4 Pin XLR attached



The Switchcraft 4 pin mini XLRs are then soldered in place. As mentioned above, the signal uses pins 1 and 4 and the ground uses 2 and 3. The cable is now complete.

Completed Audeze LCD-2 cable

A balanced adapter was constructed so the headphone could be used with single-ended amplifiers. If you'd like to read how this was constructed and learn a little more about balanced headphone operation, visit the Balanced to Single Ended Adapter Cable post.

Completed cable with balanced adapter

Also built for the Audeze LCD-2 was an identical cable using Kimber TCSS copper in Teflon wire. The Audeze has what I would consider a warmer and more laid-back presentation. The Kimber wire helps bring it forward a little bit without being harsh.


Balanced cable for Audeze headphones w/Kimber wire

If you are looking for your own custom made Audeze LCD-2, LCD-3, or LCD-X cable, Contact Zynsonix Audio for a superb sounding Trebuchet Audeze headphone cable, made with 99.99997% pure, custom ohno cast copper.


Zynsonix is an authorized dealer for Audeze headphones which include not only a full factory warranty, but a free Trebuchet headphone cable. Contact Zynsonix for details.



The Fine Print:
The above steps detailing the building of a cable are for entertainment purposes only, and not to be performed under any circumstances. The owner of this blog and all associated parties can not / will not be held responsible if you attempt the process posted and cause physical harm to yourself, your surroundings or your property. Please keep this in mind.




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