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Home Depot brand 14/3 gage power cord as a speaker cable.

Q: How did this come to be?

A: Nobody's really certain who tried this first but it became popularly known when Paul Seydor and Neil Gader took a two-part speaker cable survey in The Absolute Sound  magazine, issues 146 and 147. Among the cables surveyed were the following:

  1. Kimber Kable 8TC @ $346 (8 ft pair)
  2. MIT Avt 1@ $550 (8ft pair)
  3. Tara Labs RSC Reference 2+ @ $495 (8ft pair)
  4. Harmonic Technologh Pro-11 Plus @ $575 (8ft pair)
  5. Siltech New York MXT @ $491 (2.5 meter pair)
  6. Synergistic Research Alpha Quad Active @ $360 (2.5 meter pair)
  7. Acoustic Zen Epoch @ $258 (8ft pair)
  8. Audioquest CV6 @ $400 (8ft pair)
  9. Cardas Quadlink @ $402 (8ft pair)
  10. DH Labs Q-10 @ $275 (8ft pair)
  11. Nordost Solar Wind @ $360 (2.5 meter pair)
  12. PS Audio XStream Statement @ $900 (8ft pair)
  13. Supra Ply 3.4/S @ $180 (8ft pair)
  14. Wireworld Atlantis 5 @ $450 (2.5 meter pair)
  15. XLO Ultra 12 @ $450 (8ft pair)
  16. Home Depot outdoor extension cord @ $17.95 (25 ft long you cut and terminate)

In the article Seydor gave the Home Depot extension cord a moniker: HD14G (as in H=home, D=depot, 14G(age). He terminated his with Pomona bananas, then went on to compare them to the above list of much more expensive speaker cables. His comments on the wires include metaphors like: ".....big bold manner", on imaging he says: "some of the best depth of any cable", "tuneful bass, notably good height, and quite lifelike projection." etc.

With comments like that, and combined with its very low cost, that is a mere fraction of what some audiophiles have become accustomed to paying, it is no surprise that this has caught on with just about anyone who likes to "do-it-yourself".  And some who wouldn't otherwise, but for economic reasons can't afford not to.  There is plenty of chatter and buzz about these cables over at the Audio Asylum/Cables forum on the WWW and that is where I heard of them.

As an early venture into the wild world of diy speaker cables I'm giving this a trial run to see if it works in my system.  It is a really simple thing to do.  Just cut to length, then terminate the ends. Piece of cake. But before that, and to start, I wanted to identify the type of extension cord  that everyone is using.  Below are some photos of the cord suggested. 14 gage, 3 lead, stranded copper wires.   Made in china. It comes in various lengths and with various terminations. Outer insulation jacket is bright orange with a black longitudinal stripe.  Other brands of extension cord may work as well or not, I wouldn't know, but this is what has been suggested from over at the asylum.

 

hd14label.jpg (127939 bytes) hd14code_2.jpg (64767 bytes)

hd14code_1.jpg (61668 bytes)

hd14jacket_2.jpg (63378 bytes) Looking into a cross-section of the outer insulation. The wires do a slow spiral inside the insulation jacket  similar to rifling in a gun barrel.

 

I left the outer jacket on and cut 4 equal 6 foot lengths to suit my equipment orientation. My thinking was to keep my lengths as short as is reasonably possible. I installed red and white heat shrink tubing at either end to identify the polarity of the leads so that I never --ever-- even come close to shorting out my amplifier.  Two leads white (both ends).  Two leads red. (both ends)

Btw, I know you guys and gals already know this, but I'll say it anyway; If you short circuit your speaker wires you can quite literally $ ruin $ your amplifier.  Just say'in.

 

One whole cable length becomes a single + or - lead by twisting the three internal leadscu_strnds.jpg (57116 bytes) into a single large one. The photos on this page should largely explain the methods used.

I terminated one end with silver plated spade clips, soldering them with Kester 60/40.

hd14amp_lugs.jpg (80227 bytes) hd14spkr_lugs.jpg (68996 bytes)

The spade clips better fit the lugs of my integrated amplifier than would the bare copper strands.  At the speaker lugs bare wire was twisted into a single point and fit through the holes in the lug posts, then clamped firmly with the heavy knurled hex headed lug nuts.  Because these speakers allow it I used a wrench (lightly) to set the final torque of the lugs.

 

HD14TEFWRAP_1.jpg (78164 bytes) HD14TEFWRAP_2.jpg (80300 bytes) HD14TEFWRAP_3.jpg (89460 bytes) hd14biwiretef.jpg (111580 bytes)

Next stage: wrap with teflon tape to improve dielectric properties of insulation. 

 

 

 

Notes on the sound:

After a couple of weeks worth of listening I have the following thoughts on the difference in sound of my system using the above hd14 speaker cables compared to the previously used Monster 2R-CL.  I've made comparisons using well known (to me) recordings and listening for previously known artifacts of the sound.

After getting the cables up off the carpet, and wrapping the insulation with teflon tape, and then wrapping again the two twisted leads with even more teflon tape, all static previously encountered at the record player has disappeared.  I'm sure that it helped to use the spray product, "Static Guard" on both the cables and surrounding carpet, but several days later, there is no static.
Sound is cleaner, purer in tone.  And it wasn't too shabby before.
There is  a slightly warmer overall tonality to the sound this system makes.
More visceral bass impact.
Perhaps a very slight roll-off at the very top of the upper frequencies, but nothing I'm complaining about.
In general, a more visceral rhythmic force behind rock and roll.  Not that it was at all lacking in this way previously.  It just got better in this regard.  Classical music listening is also enhanced in the same way.
Psychologically; the sight of the arcing bi-wire leads may influence my "minds ear" to the positive.  Not entirely sure but I definitely like the looks of this shot-gunned, bi-wired configuration.