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Old 11th January 2007, 09:17 PM   #1
pjpoes is offline pjpoes  United States
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Default problems with speaker cable as power cable

I bought some Furtech 4 wire speaker cable, and I was wondering if there was anything wrong with using it as a power cable. I know people use power cable as speaker wire all the time, but can I go the other way. I know technically it will work, but I wasn't sure if there was some chance that the insulation wouldn't be rated to handle the higher voltage coming out. I figured there would be no issue since some amplifiers can create 120 volt sinewaves, just like a wall outlet, and the speaker wire would handle it just fine. I also figured that some amplifiers can peak at a power level that exceeds the output capacity of an outlet, short of a surge.

My assumption is that the only real issue is that the wire isn't rated by UL for use as an electric code, and so would be technically illegal, but for all practical purposes, will work fine. I want to use it because I think the 4 conductors of OFC copper will make a good hot and neutral line, and then I plan to wrap a ground wire around the outside of that, cover it with a shield, and then cover it with some techflex, see if I can't come up with a nice little power cord.
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Old 11th January 2007, 09:55 PM   #2
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I tend to wonder if your insurance carrier would see it in the same light that you do. Personally, I would buy a cable that is UL rated. Heaven forbid if something like a fire was to break out for some odd reason I think you would want a UL approved device.
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Old 11th January 2007, 10:05 PM   #3
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Ditto -Atleast use wire that's UL listed for mains voltage.

AFAIK,If *all* of the parts of the cable are UL listed,you can consider the entire assembly UL listed.
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Old 11th January 2007, 11:02 PM   #4
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I agree with the other two for the reasons stated but I find it interesting that we use zip cord, AKA lamp cord for speakers and refer to it as 16 or 18 ga. speaker wire.

Is it that speaker wire tends to have more but thinner strands maybe?
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Old 11th January 2007, 11:13 PM   #5
AndrewT is offline AndrewT  Scotland
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Hi,
in the UK, mains cable is double insulated.
What rules apply where you are?
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Old 12th January 2007, 12:21 AM   #6
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depends on gauge size and therefore amperage carried.
Single insulated is good up to #16 - if my memory serves me right (lamp cord, zip cord).
Anything below that - single wires are insulated and all wires together are insulated commonly. See sjw, sow etc...
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Old 12th January 2007, 09:07 PM   #7
pjpoes is offline pjpoes  United States
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Thanks for the reply, this isn't UL listed as far as I know, but is double insulated.

The reason I saw it this way is that their are numerous websites that show DIY cables using plain copper cable braided, and I have never seen a warning saying only do this if the cable is UL listed to begin with. I also know from my own work that just because all the components are UL listed would not fly with our insurance, the product has to be UL listed or certified by an electrician before we can use it in the facility. We make extension cords all the time, and we technically can't use them unless an electrician has gone through the cord and made sure its safe, then signs off on it. Which is why having an electrician on staff is nice for us. I asked him the same question I asked all of you, and his opinion is that no DIY power cable would be acceptable to an insurance company, and more than likely would be the first thing they would blame in an electrical fire started in that room, unless it was very clear it wasn't the source.

Also VHaudio sells a lot of products which use non UL listed components, so I have wondered how ok their products are. I'm not justifying what I want to do as much as showing that companies are doing it, and I haven't seen the same sort of response you all gave me. Their power cables use non-UL listed cable and they use capacitors that are not UL listed for X rating, and thus not acceptable on line voltage. They warn of this on the website.
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Old 13th January 2007, 01:36 AM   #8
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Quote:
Their power cables use non-UL listed cable and they use capacitors that are not UL listed for X rating, and thus not acceptable on line voltage. They warn of this on the website.
I'm sorry,But if I'm gonna spend $1500 on a go**amn power cord,it had BETTER be UL listed..

I'd avoid that company like the plague.
Using "regular" caps in an X-rated position,is just plain DUMB. Warning or not.
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Old 14th January 2007, 04:22 PM   #9
pjpoes is offline pjpoes  United States
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Well I understand your view, but from an understanding point of view, its really not. There is no difference but some testing between an X rated capacitor and a typical bipolar film cap. Yes there can some times be some slight modifications to the design of the case, but we are talking maybe an extra layer of insulation on the outside, something not far off from putting a piece of heat shrink around a regular cap.

Take the Hovoland caps they use, they are rated at a voltage far higher than they will be used in, they will easily handle wall voltage and current without problem. They arguably work better than most x rated caps, and so VH Audio and some other actual manufacturers have used them in power conditioners. I disagree that its dumb, its potentially risky only because of a rating issue. However, when you understand the real issue of the risk, you also understand that there is no reason for why it won't work right, and understand that the risk is minimal.

I would also imagine that many of you like me have "let the smoke out" of enough capacitors to know that, though yes its a very real danger to have exposed, and requires respect and safety, fire is not a very real possibility. I interned at two engineering firms where I designed around very high voltage power supplies, and blew up plenty of capacitors, at voltages and currents we never deal with in this hobby, and never once even had close to a fire. In college we used to intentionally blow up capacitors just so we know what it looked like and would know what caused it. Though it was primarily electrolytics, this did include film, and I never even saw a spark once with those. They simply leaked, died, melted a little sometimes, and that was about it. I never even saw smoke once with a shorted cap, and with film, we are talking bipolar, so the only way to destroy those was to overload them not put reverse current through them. I put near 2000 volts through a 600 volt cap and it simply stopped working, not sparks, no smoke, no danger really.

I'm not saying I recomend joe shmo try these things, I'm saying the reality is that these dangers are minimal, and that the rating is based on tests, that many of us can replicate at home. I even checked to make sure this was true, and it is, all of us making DIY power anything do not have UL rated products. Simply using all UL rated devices together does not ensure that it is UL rated. Insurance requires that to pass, though still not techincally UL rated, it has to be built and installed by a licensed electrician, which most of us, even engineers, are not. I was also told that the risk of insurance not covering it is minimal since they would investigate and attempt to prove that a failed electrical device caused the fire. If it did, regardless of wether it was UL rated or not, if it looked DIY, it would be potential for not being covered, but this person felt that was a very unlikely situation. This came from a family friend who is the manager of the Claims investigation of a larger insurance company, Prudential. He is responsible for all of the claims in the Southern and parts of the Nothern Tier of New York. I honostly trust what he told me.

The implication of this is that all of our DIY projects that plug into the wall have the potential to cause the exact scenerio you accused me of causing with want to use non rated products. The solution is to either stop using these projects, or realize that we were never that safe, but of course, the risk, as long as we know what we are doing, was never that great either.

I also looked further into the UL rating of many of the other electrical products we like to use. What I found was that any of those inexpensive chinese imported plugs, even the ones designed for US use, are not UL rated. Many of you may not have bought those, but I'm sure I'm not the first person to ever buy some, so if you still want to fall under the false belief the UL ratings give you some level of added security in the even of a fire, realize that those chinese plugs are not. I also have plugs made in Denmark that are not UL listed, and some very expensive and high end IEC plugs that I bought through a foreign importer, which because they weren't licensed for sale in the US are not UL listed.
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Old 14th January 2007, 05:14 PM   #10
KBK is offline KBK  Canada
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To make home audio power cables that replicate the desired effects of the so-called 'better' high end power cables, try railroad cable. It is complex braided weave of miltistrand copper.

It is used for the Ac and DC wiring for all the hardware and electronics, etc, on Diesel electric locomotives. THis is also used in power generating rooms,and giagantic UPS systems, etc.

ONe key point that many of these power cables tend to encompass, is the idea of inductive mass,with the complimentary capacity (!? ?!) to reject interference fields that may attempt to , er, impart their signature on the incoming AC. This stuff is DEFINITELY UL rated and will put the vast majority, if not all , audiophile power cables to shame.

This is a considered remark, taking into the 'sound' of all these audiophile AC cables. I suspect you are adressing the financial aspects of their cables, with a bit of thought of what their real considerations might be, to bring the whole thing into more reasonable perspective. Why the cable companies can't see this is obvious...for the same reasons some corporations/governments/etc want you to stay on their given products/channel/thinking pattern, etc.

About $1k for a roll and extra stuff, or less , will allow you to wire your entire audio and video systems from the panel itself, right to isloated sockets, hubells, etc. Works wonders. I've speced entire systems , bars, etc, that way, and it certainly keeps things dead quite well, keeping the dynamics darned impressive. SLAM and silence at the same time = dynamics.

You should be able to find a entire roll for a reasonable sum, in the 12guage are of sizing. Do a power cable test and then, if not satisfactory, wire the audio system from the panel, with it! That's what it was made for! Parallel inductance is what she be, which = noise rejection AND energy storage and release. Largely identical to the 'power supply idea' thread I started in the Pass audio area.

So , yes, 'locomotive cable', is what it is called. Also available in a romex style covering. Specialized yes, but still available.

This whole locomotive cable stuff came from a friend who used to design humungous UPS and the like, and used this stuff all the time. We're talking 20MW UPS's and the like, and bigger. Smaller ones too.. He designed all of it.

Once gain, to conclude, it's likely to be as effective as any audio power cable and and entire roll of 'just the right stuff' will be likely cheaper than one single high end power cord. In this way, you can do a test, and if you don't like it, it can be used to sonically improve your entire system by rewiring the wall sockets to the panel.

You'll have to shop around to find the really good stuff..the strands are actually woven. I'm not sure who makes that version. good luck.
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