One of the most disappointing sounds to hear after a turntable rebuild is a hum. And that’s exactly what I heard. The rebuild was complete. Headshell cables. Tonearm cables. Replaced the main RCA cables coming off the table with internal cables that terminated at quality Switchcraft jacks. Connected the turntable to my preamp, connected my preamp to my amplifier, and there it was — the hum.
I was confident in my circuitry and soldering. I had used my multimeter to check for continuity and there weren’t any shorts. The tonearm was properly grounded, yet the hum persisted. It got to the point where I disassembled and reassembled the tonearm. I resoldered all of my joints on the internal distribution post and the RCA jacks. Everything was done properly, yet the hum persisted.
The hum wasn’t from the headshell. It wasn’t from the tonearm. It wasn’t from the RCA jacks. It was from a shitty RCA cable that I grabbed out of the box o’ cables from my basement. This generic cable had caused hours and days of frustration — this was when I realized the importance of quality cable, quality connectors, and quality solder.
I decided that I’ll make my own RCA cables. My local Guitar Center stocks a few different types of bulk shielded cable. They had Livewire shielded 2-conductor mic cable for $0.39 per foot and Mogami W2524 shielded single conductor instrument cable for $1.09 per foot. The 2-conductor mic cable is primarily used for balanced XLR cables and it’s relatively easy to splice the two conductors together and solder them to the RCA pin – but ultimately, I decided to use the Mogami X2524 for its low noise properties.
For the RCA plug connectors, I decided to go with the Switchcraft 3502ABAU black long handle plugs from Markertek. The long handle-style makes connecting and disconnecting a-hell-of-a lot easier than the short handle-style. Partnered with Switchcraft BPJR02AUX rear mounting RCA jacks, the connection is snug and firm.
Many RCA plugs come in two parts. There’s the pin end and the handle. The signal conductor and shield solder to the pin end and clamp the cable securely in place. The handle barrel then screws onto the pin to complete the RCA plug.
When selecting RCA plugs or cable to use for your RCA cables, pay attention to the bore diameter on your handle barrel. The bore diameter must be equal to or greater than the overall cable diameter. Trust me, it’s easy to overlook.
It’s also important to know your desired RCA plug length. The Switchcraft long handle-style plug is 1-5/64″, while the standard Switchcraft RCA plug is 11/16″. The long handle-style are considerably easier to connect and disconnect to your preamp and amplifier.
Switchcraft makes straight plugs and right angle plugs. If your turntable or amplifiers sit close to you wall, consider using the right angle plugs. When using cable with a thicker diameter, the radius of the cable curvature will be larger — so if you’re planning having you’re equipment only a few inches from the wall, you’ll need the right angle plugs for that downward drop.
1. Mogami W2524 Instrument Cables
Cost: $1.09 per foot at Guitar Center
2. Switchcraft 3502ABAU Longbody RCA Plugs
Cost: $2.68 per unit at Markertek
3. Cardas Solder Quad Eutectic
Cost: $5.95 for 5′ at KAB Audio
4. 1/4″ PET Cable Sleeve
Cost: $9.99 for 100′ on Amazon