Going Solderless – Crimping your dead cables back to life!
Cables break, a lot. Mic cables, instrument cables, speaker cables… they are all susceptible to damage. It doesn’t matter how well you take care of them. Good care will just delay the inevitable. If you’re a working musician, cable replacement will always be an expense. I can’t tell you how many cables I’ve destroyed throughout the years, some with very obvious damage, and some with very inexplicable damage. Either way, it’s damage, and a lot of money (that I don’t have) down the drain. Quality cables are expensive, which adds to the heartbreak of that moment when one of your cables meets its untimely demise. Good thing for me, I didn’t throw my cables away. I just let them collect in a box until the day when I finally decided to learn a task that I had always dreaded… soldering. If you have ever tried this, you know how much of a pain in the neck this process can be. I was not good at soldering for a long time. More goes into the process than I had originally thought.
A List of Crap About Soldering
1. Surface must be clean of any residue.
2. You must be really steady with your hands so you can successfully position the wire and hold the soldering iron at the same time. Or… purchase a unit called helping hands, which consists of clamps and a large magnifying glass.
3. You must have the right amount of solder for the job (not enough will create a weak joint, too much may not be a problem, but it will look like crap).
4. There are different alloys of solder for different types of soldering. For example, the alloy that I use (63% tin, 37% lead) would not be appropriate for other applications, such as plumbing. There was a time when I thought any solder would work. I was wrong.
5. Do not let the solder get too hot. That can screw things up.
5. Shiny joint – good, dull grayish joint – bad!
6. And… try not to burn yourself with the soldering iron. It hurts.
So yeah, those are just a few things about soldering. If you still want to do it, check out some tutorials. There are plenty available out there in interweb land.
I have gotten more consistent over the years with my soldering joints, allowing me to save a large amount of cables. However, I still hate the process. That’s why I’m glad I discovered solderless connectors. I had no idea these existed until I once took a cable apart and found that there was no solder used. On these connectors, the wires are placed in their respective slots on the connector harness. When the connector assembly is screwed together, a crimp connection is made that compresses the wires to the appropriate terminals. Very cool… and easy. I have seen solderless connectors available for XLR and TS.
So there you have it. Solderless connectors are cool. But don’t forget about soldering. It’s still a great skill to have… I suppose.