When you work with live sound, you're going to deal with a lot of different audio cables.
And sometimes those cables break.
The most common cable problem can actually happen inside of the connectors at either end of the cable where individual wires can become physically detached from the connection points.
This can happen for several reasons, but here are the 3 most common causes:
Preventing these kinds of damage to your cables can be as easy as practicing good organization on and off the platform:
If you’ve never soldered a cable before or had a proper training, don’t worry. It’s actually pretty simple once you have the basic tools and follow the right techniques.
Download the free Sound Tech’s Guide to Soldering that includes this handy step-by-step chart.
Here’s what you’re going to need for repairing your audio cable:
(Note: the Amazon links included above are for professional quality tools. You can certainly get by with using lower cost tools for occasional use.)
Prepare your work surface. It is best to work on a bench or tabletop that is clean and uncluttered. If working on a delicate or finished surface, use a piece of metal, wood, or cardboard as your working surface so that any solder drips or splatters will not mar it. Good lighting is also helpful so that you can properly see the wire colors and adequately inspect all connection points.
Plug in your soldering iron and make sure that it is at a hot operating temperature. A 35-50 Watt soldering iron works great for most projects. The hotter irons (higher Wattage) are great for soldering heavy gauge speaker wires.
Have a damp cloth or sponge handy so that you can easily clean the tip of the soldering iron. A clean tip will allow for greater heat transfer and reduce any contaminants in the final solder joint.
Gently clamp the end of the unscrewed audio connector in a vise or other clamp. Vise Grips, pliers, and other tools can work when a vise is not available.
Strip back the ends of the conductors as needed. Do not strip off too much wire insulation though. 1/8" to 1/4" should be sufficient depending on the wire and connector type.
Twist each wire tightly so that there are no loose strands.
Tin the wire. Apply the hot iron to the individual cable conductor you wish to solder. Apply solder to the wire and make sure that a small amount of solder is equally coating all sides of the bare wire. Successfully completing this step will eliminate most cold solder joint failures.
Next, apply the iron to the metal part of the connector you wish to attach the wire. Let the iron heat up the metal for a moment, then apply solder to the connector until a small pool of solder is in the desired location.
Heat up the connector solder point and place the wire into the desired location. Make sure the melted solder pools around the wire and connection point.
Hold the wire in place while removing the iron from the connector and allow the solder joint to cool. You may need small pliers to hold the wire so that you don’t burn your fingers on this step.
Inspect the connection, solder any other conductors, and then replace the strain relief and connector casing. Test the cable with a cable tester to ensure all connections are intact and properly functioning.
Download the complete guide to cable repair and soldering for church sound techs.
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