DIY "SandCables" Speaker Cable User Review
Last updated 8/26/2002

I got an e-mail from one of the "gunslingers" at the Outlaw Saloon (MrSandman, to be specific) back in June. He'd started experimenting with some do-it-yourself projects. His first project was making his own speaker cables, to be followed by analog interconnects and some DIY kit speakers. The cables that he was making were based on Canare 4S8 star quad cable along with some good AudioQuest spades and some heat-shrink covers to give the final cables a clean, professional look. He felt pretty pleased with the final results, but didn't have any way to compare them to other cables. Since he was about to make some more and would have an excess of wire, he contacted me and asked about me putting a set through their paces for a while to see how they stacked up to the different cables I've used. A few weeks later, after working out the best cable arrangement for my system (biwire cables with (4) 5/16" spades on the speaker end for my Paradigms' oversized binding posts and (2) 1/4" spades on the amp end to make hook-up easier), I got a package with a pair of ~2.5-meter internally biwired black speaker cables.

Detail of 1/4" spade connectors at amp end of cables.

Detail of 5/16" spade connectors at speaker end of cables.

This is something of a mini-review compared to my recent equipment reviews (the Outlaw Model 950, Panasonic DVD-RA60, and SVS 25-31PCi). I've included an equipment list at the end of this review as a reference. As with my cable experiments last year, I would classify this as a non-scientific test. My choices in cables have been based on what I tried and what I liked the most. I recommend caution when spending money on cables. There are a lot of opinions around on the role of cable quality, and many of those opinions contradict each other very vehemently. As with anything else in this hobby, the most important thing is that you are satisfied with the way your system sounds or looks.

I removed two sets of TMC Gold Label Reference speaker cables (a set biwiring each Studio/60) to hook up MrSandman's DIY cables (hereon referred to as SandCables because it's easier). The TMC's have been my preferred cables for some time now, as they seem to offer the best clarity, detail, balance, and openness for my system. They're very, very stiff, though, so hooking them up can be a real pain. The SandCables are relatively flexible, and were quite a bit easier to connect.

My first impressions were that they sounded a little harsh. My wife's comment was that they were too brassy. They hadn't been burned in, though, and I try not to pass judgment until a component or cable has "settled in" to my system. I left the radio playing a lot for the first few days, and when I watched a movie that weekend I didn't detect a significant difference in the system's sound. It was a movie that I hadn't seen before, though, so I figured I'd wait a bit more and try it with some familiar music.

I listened to an assortment of material over the next month without really sitting down to scrutinize the sound closely. While I had a sense that there might not be as much detail in what I was hearing, they seemed like pretty good performers overall. I expected to be shuffling some components in August, so I waited for that to try a head-to-head comparison of the SandCables and the TMC's that I had been using previously. When that day came, I started out leaving the SandCables in place so that I wouldn't invalidate the testing that I was doing on some other equipment. One particular track on a recently remastered Peter Gabriel collection struck me as odd-sounding at one point during that test. In particular, the low end seemed a bit muddled. After some back and forth between two different pre/pros, I stopped and hooked up the TMC's. The TMC's are clearer and "cleaner" sounding than the SandCables, without a doubt. The TMC's remain my favorite cables. Of course, those same TMC's similarly outperformed the Monster M.75's and BetterCables Premiums, and were on par with the Transparent Music Wave Supers (better suited to my tastes, actually, and at about 20% or less of the retail price). I'd rank the SandCables as equal to BetterCables Premiums and the more exotic Monster stuff. They also have a look that is very comparable to the BetterCables stuff, actually, when it comes to build quality. Pretty impressive stuff, and a definite step up from the Monster XP and Home Depot 12ga that I used a little over a year ago.

There are a lot of home theater and two-channel fans who have discovered that it is possible to create some very good cables by doing it yourself. For a somewhat extreme example, some people have used Category 5 network cable to create speaker cable, braiding the individual insulated conductors into a giant mass of a cable and terminating it. MrSandman's SandCables are a fairly straightforward approach to DIY cabling, with some off-the-shelf cable that's available in bulk, the DIY'er's termination style of choice, and some heat-shrink to pretty it up a bit. They didn't replace the TMC's as my personal cable of choice, but they still did an impressive job and represent a very good value. I would certainly recommend trying some sort of DIY speaker cable approach like this for a budget-sensitive home theater or stereo system, a second system, or for long speaker runs such as surrounds or dedicated home theater rooms with remote equipment racks.


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[an error occurred while processing this directive] hits since August 23, 2002 | Home Theater and DVD | Equipment Reviews