Bulk Cable for Unbalanced Line Level

I need to build some quality cables

Hi Folks,

I am about to order some bulk cable and connectors to build some cables. I know what I want to get for mic cables and such but do not know what to get for my unbalanced cables.

The layout here is such that some of my unbalanced line level runs could be as long as 25 feet. They may be terminated with 1/4" plugs in some instances and RCAs in other instances. I want good quality stuff as I need a clean signal and hate cheap flakey cables.

Does anyone have any suggestions or maybe even a part number?


I haven’t made any guitar cables for ages but 5 or so years back when was up with all that stuff Belden cable was the cable of choice.

Along with Switchcraft jacks

might be different these days though…


Thanks Rich, you are correct. Those are good stuff. I just didn’t know if there was a particular cable type that was suited to line level audio signals. I suppose that at the low frequencies involved with audio, cable impedences don’t mean much of anything and that most quality cable with good braided shielding will do the job.

Anyone else have any input?

Thanks Again

I personally use the same cable type for unbalanced lines as I do for balanced, Canare Star Quad. It is available for about $0.40/ft. I also recommend Neutrik connectors.

Personally, I wouldn’t bother rolling your own. Once you do the math, it almostalways comes out the same as buying quality premade cables any more. Unless you have a weird need in the type of connector or whatever, I’d look to prefab. Also, a 25 foot run with unbalanced is getting pretty long if we are talking about recording. (For guitar leads, well, guitars are noisey anyway, so who cares? :;): ) Maybe you might want to think about judicious use of DIs?

As for cable, Beldon and Canare are fine. Switchcraft and Neutrix are pretty comparable.

Thanks again for the feedback RichLum, weekendtracker and Bubbagump.

Bubbagump, where is a good source for premade cables?

Maybe I will buy what I know I need premade along with a bit of bulk cable for those unanticipated situations. I keep a small tackle box with various connectors and adaptors so I can whip up or repair a cable when I need it. I hate it when things come to a screeching halt because I dont have the right cable.

I just paced off the distance and I can probably get by with 20’ cables. Still long, but a little better. Again, all my mics are balanced and will be on quality mic cables, so I envision no problems there. I also have a few cheapo mic cables for non-critical live stuff.

The only unbalanced stuff is all line level, and yes, I worry about noise and interference. Over time, I am sure I will do away with more and more of the unbalanced gear and get a better soundcard too, but that is not happening now. I will make the best out of my ultra budget setup and 2 ins/outs because it still beats the #### out of anything I could have afforded 25 years ago.

If I ever find regular employment again instead of sporadic, low-paying temp jobs…oops! wrong board.


I used to think the same thing.
Here is an unretouched picture of the termination of a Blue Blueberry XLR connectror. Notice how long the bare wire on the termiation is. Where is the shrink wrap insulation. This is a $40.00 cable that I’m going to have to repair because it shorts out intermittantly in use. When you make your own, you know what the wire terminations are like.

Do what you want but don’t assume that they will take the same care you will.
You have to have sufficient skills to make good terminations, but it isn’t rocket science, just a matter of care. This stuff can ruin a once in a lifetime tke BTW.

Just my $.02 which gernerally isn’t appreciated here.


Hi deadfingers,

Thanks for reminding me why I like to make them myself. I have the skills. Lots of prototypes that I built in the '70s and '80s flew in airplanes or were used in medical research labs. I’m a little rusty but…

plugs in soldering iron, heat gun and hot melt gun

Quote (TrackGrrrl @ Mar. 04 2005,13:21)
Bubbagump, where is a good source for premade cables?

The only unbalanced stuff is all line level, and yes, I worry about noise and interference.

As for premade, just about anything is decent except HOSA. (*shudder* that stuff is junk) ProCo, RapCo, Beldon, a lot of the house brand stuff from GC and Sam Ash.

As for number 2 above, again, why don't you use DIs? You'll be unbalanced for 4-6 feet and balanced the rest of the way. Keeps things nice and clean.... :)


I think I will make the jump to DIs if I find I need them. Maybe a good idea is to wire everything with 2 conductor balanced style cables so I can switch over to DIs or 100% balanced stuff and just have to switch a few cable connectors.

Sadly, I do own a bunch of Hosa insert cables. I bought them really cheap on sale a few years back before I knew how bad they are 8( At least I didn’t pay much for them.


I used to use Belkin cable & thought it was of high quality. Switchcraft plugs are good too.

Mr Soul

Actually one thing more in relation to the quality of workmanship.
I buy all my cables premade now but I make sure that I buy ones that you can unscrew the connecter to resolder them if the solder does break.

Some cables have heatshrink all the way around which means you can’t take them apart. Some you can take apart.

Sometimes the sodler connection breaks and all you need to do is resolder.

Also sometimes the cale just gets dodgy near the jack as it sits at an angle hanging out of you guitar amp and you need to cut off a small section at the end and re-attach teh jack

I really like CBI cables. They build to order, the price is right and the quality is excellent. I buy online through http:\www.audioeast.com and get good service. I’m sure that there are other outlets for those further West. I called CBI and requested a source recommendation to find Audio East. Check them out.

Bill Phillips

Yeah, the ones with shrinkwrap all the way are hard, but at least most of the time you can cut the shrink wrap off with an exacto knife or scalpel. I’ve bought cables (Monster) where the wire terminations were entirely enclosed in expoxy that filled the entire connector space. When the cable went “dodgy” like you described I defintely had to throw the connector away.

They are “guarranteed”, but if you need to use it and the store is closed you are SOOL.

Be sure to get low capacitance cables. Sorry but I don’t remember what to shoot for … maybe 10pF per foot IIRC. Especially for long runs.

Hi learjeff,

Good quality cables for instruments and unbalanced connections usually run about 40-60pF/ft.

A good example of a single ended instrument cable that many folks also use for line level signals is Canare GS-6. Canare GS-4 is also used by many for short runs or fixed installations.


The more I investigate this stuff, the more I come to the conclusion that Canare products hit the sweet spot for me in terms of price/performance tradeoff.