Braiding Litz Wire Interconnects and Speaker Cables
Starting the braiding process:
Measure and cut the wire into the number of strands you
need for your interconnects or cables. Add 1.25" to
the length of the strand for every foot of cable length.
A 3 foot braid requires strands 39.75" long. If
you are working in centimeters, add 1 centimeter in
length for eve 10 centimeters. A one meter or 100 centimeter
braid requires 110 centimeter length strands.
Speaker cables can use up to 9 positive and negative
strands. Most speaker connectors require two separate
connectors. Your final braid length is determined by
when you have all the positive strands and negative strands
properly realigned to finish your connections. Because
of this it is advisable to add 6 inches to speaker cable
runs. When we cover the braiding techniques this point
will be easier to understand.
After you have your strands measured and cut, mount a
connector in your fixture. Strip the insulation from
one end of the strands. Strip about 1/8" for RCA
jacks and about 1/4" for speaker connectors. Using
your soldering iron "tin" the exposed wire
and the solder points on your connector/s.
RCA Jacks - Butt the two tinned positive strands together
and solder them to the center pin of your RCA connector.
Take one negative strand and solder it to the right side
face of the slot in the Jack's shell or body. Solder
the remaining negative strand to the left side face of
the jack's slot. Make sure each strand has the same length
from its solder point to the rear edge of the Jack shell.
This is important because you are trying to make sure
each strand in the braid is the same length. Take your
brush and clean off all the flux residue on all the solder
joints. Your next step is braiding the cable.
Speaker Cables - Butt the positive strands together and
solder them to the positive speaker cable connector.
Butt the negative strands together and solder them to
the negative speaker cable connector.
Braiding the Cable:
RCA-Jacks - Have your fixture
positioned at the front edge of your working surface.
Braiding is slow methodical repetitive work. You will
find being able to sit down while you braid will help
you achieve excellent results. Adjust the height of
your work surface accordingly.
The flat braiding technique is simple. It consists
of taking the outside right strand and passing over
strands into the center of the bundle. Then you take
the outside left strand and pass it over strands including
the one you just brought into the center. Then you
repeat the sequence.
Braiding a four strand interconnect
works like this. LN is the left side negative
lead. LP is the left side positive lead. RP is the
right side positive lead.
RN is the right side negative lead. The braiding sequence
is as follows:
LN is the left side negative
LP is the left side positive lead.
RP is the
right side positive lead.
RN is the right side negative
Pass RN over RP
Pass LN over LP and RN
Pass RP over LN
Pass LP over RP and RN
Pass LN over LP
Pass RN over LN and RP
At the end
of this braiding sequence, the strands are oriented
exactly like they were at the start of your
braiding sequence. The left negative, left positive,
right positive and right negative are in the same position
for connecting the braid to the exit RCA connector.
So you can see a braid “sequence” length
depends on having the strands back in the same orientation
as when the start of your braid. The more strands you
braid the longer the braid distance will be between proper
orientation. The other factor on braid distance between
proper orientation points is how tightly you braid the
wire. A loose braid increases the distance. A tight braid
decreases the distance. A loose braid provides the best
Treat wire as if it is a delicate living thing. Wire
conductors have a molecular crystalline structure. We
know certain processes like extruding, hammering, bending
and folding metal disrupts or randomizes its molecular
structure. Braiding wire in tight bends can damage the
wire's crystalline structure. You may find this difficult
to believe, but the difference in sound performance is
The secret to braiding the wire loose is to control the
loop size of your braid crossover. Pass the strand over
the over strand or strands so that the loop is between
3/4" to 1" long. Finish a braid sequence so
that the wires are back to the proper orientation point.
Gently take your hand and wrap it around your braid.
Squeeze the braid and pull your hand towards you to compress
Compressing the braid reduces the mechanical resonance
of the wire. Look at the wire samples sent with your
order. Notice that the wire bends are not tight and the
braid still has some air space between the strands.
On the samples you will notice that the loudspeaker cable
has a 2" long section where the positive strands
and the negative strands are braided separately. This
is to facilitate making good connections to you components.
After 2" the positive and negative strands are combined
into a standard braid sequence. This should be done on
both ends of the cables.
Braiding audio cables using this these techniques offer
the home constructor the opportunity to create very high
performance cables at great savings. You can also apply
these techniques for internal hook up wire. It takes
patience, dedication and practice, to develop the skills
to braid Litz wire. But the results are certainly worth
the effort. Executed properly these Litz cables offer
low capacitance, inductance and resistance. They accurately
transmit the sound of live music and that's what audio
is all about.
Magnet wire, especially OFC magnet wire works very well.
Vintage Western Electric cloth covered wire does to.
The OCCC wire I sell is the best I can find. With magnet
and the OCCC wire you have to burn the sprayed on insulation
off, but it’s worth it. Stay away from solid core
wire with thick plastic insulation. It absorbs the leading
edge of the musical signal and low level detail resolution
History of Litz Braiding
This discussion is to help audio constructors
develop the skills to braid their own Litzendraht wire.
This form of "Litz" wire was developed in the
1930s in Germany. Since this type of wire construction
offered very wide bandwidth with excellent phase performance,
its popularity spread to other countries very quickly.
Western Electric was using Litz construction in military
applications in the early 1940s.
True Litz wire construction consists of braiding or weaving
a number of insulated conductors. The braid construction
is based on taking an insulated strand and folding it
back to the center of the strand bundle. Some wire manufacturers
will twist a number of insulated strands into a spiral
bundle. Originally termed "pseudo" Litz construction,
many audio wire manufacturers now call it an "alternative" Litz
construction. It is certainly easier to manufacture but
it will not achieve the wide bandwidth audio signal transmission
performance of true Litz wire.
The easiest Litz braiding technique is called a flat
braid. It has been popular for centuries. It is used
by women when they braid their hair and leather workers
to braid sandal thongs or belts. Flat braiding requires
a minimum of three strands and can be used to braid a
higher number of even or odd strands. The highest number
of strands that can be hand braided is determined by
the dexterity and skills of the person doing the braiding.
Please understand that all my listening evaluations are
based on using tube audio products and loudspeakers with
simple crossovers and reasonable efficiency levels. I
believe AC signal or power transmission is the most appropriate
audio application for Litz wire construction. For that
reason we will discuss braiding techniques for interconnects,
speaker cables. Litz Braid can be used for power cords.
On the other hand, the performance of DC power supply
and ground lines will benefit from wide bandwidth, low
capacitance and DC resistance. Litz construction meets
those needs quite well. Since amateur audio constructors
do not have to consider labor costs in planning their
efforts, they could use Litz braid construction everywhere.
This is the form of construction I use in the audio equipment
I build. I have been using hand braided Litz construction
with some success for years. My experiences have led
me to form certain opinions on basic guidelines that
should be considered:
There is an optimum type of wire for braiding audio Litz
wire. Solid core wire is the only type that should be
used. Stranded wire defeats or offsets the benefits of
Litz construction. Stranded wire is nothing more than
a number of bare conductors that are spiral twisted to
form the conductor. This type of wire construction has
phase anomalies and mechanical resonance that severely
degrades audio signal transmission. Litz braiding a poor
conductor is an exercise in futility.
There is an optimum wire size or cross section for audio
Litz wire. I have had my best luck with 24 AWG to 28
AWG wire for interconnects, speaker cable and hook-up
wire. Using larger wire sizes for power cord construction
may work well. In interconnect, speaker cable and hook-up
wire, the larger wire sizes degrade high frequency performance
and do not provide the focus, soundstage and low level
detail resolution of the smaller gauges.
The current transfer capabilities and DC resistance of
your Litz construction are based on the wire size and
the number of strands you select to braid. In my experience
whenever you braid more than 18 strands, the audio performance
suffers. I think this is due to the increased mechanical
resonance of the Litz braid. Take the time to review
the tables found on the anlwire.xls spreadsheet. The
first table shows the cross section in nominal circular
mills of various wire diameters based on the number of
strands used. The second table converts the cross section
to the closest AWG wire size you think you need.
If you are using the vintage Western Electric wire, interconnects
braided with 2 strands positive and 2 strands negative
sound the best. This is also true if you use the Chimera
Lab's OCCC 25.5 AWG wire. In very low level applications,
you may prefer three strands with one strand as a floating
The best loudspeaker cable braid depends on your speaker's
efficiency. Loudspeakers with 95dB sensitivity or less
seem to work well with a braid approximating 16 AWG.
This is 5 strands positive and 5 strands negative for
the W.E. 24 AWG wire or 9 strands positive and 9 strands
negative for the OCCC 25.5 AWG. Loudspeakers with higher
efficiency seem to work well with a braid approximating
as small as 18 or 20 AWG. Please remember, this is just
a recommendation. You hear the greatest difference in
sound performance in bass reproduction. You literally
select the strand combination that makes the bass sound
best to you.
The proper length for a braided cable is the shortest
length possible that maintains enough distance between
components to prevent sound performance degradation.
For example, the best loudspeaker cable length seems
to be about 3.5 to 4 feet. A shorter cable puts the amplifier
too close to the drivers and crossover components. Longer
and you just increase DC resistance and add capacitance
to mess up your phase performance. The optimum length
for interconnects seems to be 1 to 2 meters.
I realize many of you have audio systems layouts that
use interconnects or loudspeaker cables as long as 20
feet. I just don't get acceptable sound performance out
of cables that long. It might be due to the fact that
I run all my interconnects, speaker cables and power
cords so that they never run or lay on the floor. If
you have any of your cables running that way, you are
missing a great opportunity to improve your system by
suspending or shortening your cables to get them off
Tools and Supplies
A good soldering iron
A sharp wire stripper of the proper size(for the vintage Western Electric cloth
A solder pot for tinning the wire prior to making a solder connection is optional
Your favorite brand of solder
A small brass or stainless steel wire brush to clean your solder joints
ScotchBrite abrasive pads or a fine toothed file to clean or prep the jack
The audio connectors of your choice
A fixture to help you solder the wire to the jacks and/or speaker connectors
Some suggestions on connectors:
The best RCA plugs are the
ones constructed like the Vampire 800 series which we
These plugs have an outer body with a milled slot to
provide access to the center positive pin. Since the
interconnect Litz braid has 4 strands, the two positive
are soldered to the center pin and the two negative strands
are soldered to the right and left side face of the slot.
You solder the negative strands right at the front edge
of the slot, positioning all strands(positive and negative)
to ensure they will have the same wire length to the
outlet of the connector.
The best speaker cable connectors are those that are
made of OFC copper. The choice of using spade lugs or
banana plugs or bare wire is up to you, but I believe
a spade lug or banana plug will offer you the best connection.
A simple fixture that you can use for soldering and braiding:
Source a pair of cheap RCA jacks and 2 pairs of cheap
5 way speaker binding posts. Find ones that have as little
metal mass as possible. This reduces heat transfer when
you solder your connections. The binding posts should
have metal faces that come in contact with your speaker
Find some fiberglass or Bakelite terminal boards. Drill
holes in two of the terminal boards to mount the binding
posts spaced the standard 0.75" distance apart.
Drill holes in two of the terminal boards to mount each
one of the RCA jacks.
You want to be able to position these in a clamping device
or on a piece of plywood so that the RCA jacks are 90
degrees to the front edge of your table or bench top.
The binding posts should have their connector mounting
surface parallel to your table or bench top.
Don't use metal angles or chassis to mount the jacks
and binding posts. It will act as a heat sink and makes
soldering connections a miserable experience.
Some suggestions on soldering:
Make sure your soldering iron
will run hot enough to make good solder joints on the
connectors. Modern RCA jacks and banana plugs have thick
walls. A 35 Watt or 50 Watt iron will work the best.
Use an 1/8" wide screwdriver tip for the RCA jacks
and a 3/16" screwdriver tip for the speaker cable
Ideally, you want the iron hot enough so that you can
count to 5 seconds or less before the solder flows to
make the connection.