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Where to find REAL 4-pin XLR power cables?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Buchla, EMS & Serge  
Author Where to find REAL 4-pin XLR power cables?
luchog
Have a Random*Source PS-M power supply, which uses 4-pin XLR cables to the boat.

Unfortunately, I cannot find any real, actually, honest-to-goodness 4-pin XLR power cables ANYWHERE! Everywhere I look, there are plenty of cables with 4-pin XLR connectors, but they only use 2 bloody pins. How fucking stupid is that?

Does anyone who uses R*S power supplies know where to get actual, real, fully-functional 4-pin XLR power cables? Ideally with 14g wire?
jimfowler
Just build your own
flipper16
Google found this...

https://cvp.com/product/cable_xlr-4m-xlr-4f_2m
tarandfeathers
luchog wrote:
Everywhere I look, there are plenty of cables with 4-pin XLR connectors, but they only use 2 bloody pins. How fucking stupid is that?


Not that stupid, 4-pin XLR is widely used for DC connections in broadcast applications, which require only 0V and a positive voltage, but there is a need to distinguish the connectors from standard 3-pin connections used for balanced analogue audio and AES. As far as I'm aware this is probably the most common use of 4-pin XLR so the RS implementation is non standard and will of therefore require custom cabling.
luchog
jimfowler wrote:
Just build your own


If that was something I could do right now, I would have done so already, instead of asking for snide unhelpful responses here.

flipper16 wrote:
Google found this...

https://cvp.com/product/cable_xlr-4m-xlr-4f_2m


Nope, just a standard 2-connector cable, not 4. That definitely will not work.

tarandfeathers wrote:
Not that stupid, 4-pin XLR is widely used for DC connections in broadcast applications, which require only 0V and a positive voltage, but there is a need to distinguish the connectors from standard 3-pin connections used for balanced analogue audio and AES. As far as I'm aware this is probably the most common use of 4-pin XLR so the RS implementation is non standard and will of therefore require custom cabling.


It's still stupid, since there are plenty of locking 2-pin connector styles that would not only have been just as durable, but less expensive as well, and far less likely to be mistaken for something else. This is just one of those irritating little kludges someone hacked together at some point in the past, which ended up becoming a standard because no one else wanted to bother actually designing something more appropriate to the use. Hell, there are 2-pin XLR connectors FFS. The small pins that the 4-pin connector uses are far inferior for power transmission than the 2-pin version if all you need is +12 and 0v.

Cue (fully justified) Graham Hinton lecture about how stupidly most modular power transmission is engineered.
tarandfeathers
luchog wrote:

tarandfeathers wrote:
Not that stupid, 4-pin XLR is widely used for DC connections in broadcast applications, which require only 0V and a positive voltage, but there is a need to distinguish the connectors from standard 3-pin connections used for balanced analogue audio and AES. As far as I'm aware this is probably the most common use of 4-pin XLR so the RS implementation is non standard and will of therefore require custom cabling.


It's still stupid, since there are plenty of locking 2-pin connector styles that would not only have been just as durable, but less expensive as well, and far less likely to be mistaken for something else. This is just one of those irritating little kludges someone hacked together at some point in the past, which ended up becoming a standard because no one else wanted to bother actually designing something more appropriate to the use. Hell, there are 2-pin XLR connectors FFS. The small pins that the 4-pin connector uses are far inferior for power transmission than the 2-pin version if all you need is +12 and 0v.

Cue (fully justified) Graham Hinton lecture about how stupidly most modular power transmission is engineered.


I'm not saying it's not an odd choice, but it's not stupid that widely available pre-made cables are primarily for common applications. The way RS uses 4-pin XLRs is not common, so it's not surprising that cables are not widely available off the shelf. If you are not able to make your own cables, I would buy them from Random Source. I seem to recall that they are not a webshop item so you probably need to get in contact to specify the required length etc.
Graham Hinton
luchog wrote:

Unfortunately, I cannot find any real, actually, honest-to-goodness 4-pin XLR power cables ANYWHERE! Everywhere I look, there are plenty of cables with 4-pin XLR connectors, but they only use 2 bloody pins. How fucking stupid is that?


Cue (fully justified) Graham Hinton lecture about not looking on my website first: Power Cables. How fucking stupid is that?
the bad producer
applause

I use 4-PIN XLRs for Serge power if asked, so I can fit with the PSUs people have already (usually *RS*) and build little PSU's with XLRs for the same reason (people already have panels which require XLRs), but I would NEVER buy an off-the-shelf 4-pin XLR and use it for power, unless one of Graham's I guess (I make my own) but yeah basically 4-pin XLR has become the defacto 'standard' for boats, despite most cables being unsuitable.

(a bit OT, but Graham, those Trident Ringlok things, would you recommend/consider them for bussing signals between cases at all? I've seen people use Euro ribbon cable, and DB25 etc for this, but these look pretty hardwearing and 'giggable')
jimfowler
Not being snide. Simply suggesting that making them up is easy. If you're in the USA I'd be happy to make the cable for you.
luchog
Graham Hinton wrote:
luchog wrote:

Unfortunately, I cannot find any real, actually, honest-to-goodness 4-pin XLR power cables ANYWHERE! Everywhere I look, there are plenty of cables with 4-pin XLR connectors, but they only use 2 bloody pins. How fucking stupid is that?


Cue (fully justified) Graham Hinton lecture about not looking on my website first: Power Cables. How fucking stupid is that?


Pretty fucking stupid, yeah. d'oh! Although having seen your criticism of XLR power cables in the other Serge thread, I'd have to say slightly justified.

I do notice that the site says "Not suitable for over 500mA or over 2m length". The 2m length isn't a problem; but would the 500mA be sufficient for an STS shop panel (Animate) plus two R*S 4x4s? Published power specs seem to be sadly lacking for Serge gear (or I'm just too much of an idiot to find it). Also, it looks like 18AWG is the largest connector gauge available, but I see 16AWG from other sources, is there a significant difference in power handling for this application?
Graham Hinton
the bad producer wrote:
:(a bit OT, but Graham, those Trident Ringlok things, would you recommend/consider them for bussing signals between cases at all?


I do recommend and use them for supplying power to external peripherals to a case and my PSUs have a cutout ready for one. The 19 pin Ringlock is about the same size on a panel as an XLR, but you can get up to 19 up to 12awg wires in. That's quite a bundle. XLRs are limited by the boot cable entry size, even with the larger Neutrik boot only five 17awg wires fit.

Here's how I recently powered a small skiff with three Euro modules in it:



Note the use of a gland at the skiff end to save the cost and resistance of a second Ringlock.

The contacts are available in crimp and solder bucket versions so you don't need the expensive crimp tool, but you should get the extractor tool (about £17).

I don't recommend then for powering between cases apart from using an external PSU with remote sensing, then there are enough pins to have several for the main rails plus the sensing connections and the voltage drop is pre regulation point.

I don't recommend powering between cases at all. If you work out the cost of doing it properly it is usually close to another PSU. The bottom line is always how long, what resistance and what is the voltage drop? It may be acceptable in some situtations, but any wire carrying current to more than one module is a source of common impedance coupling and, again, how much of that is acceptable?

Quote:

I've seen people use Euro ribbon cable, and DB25 etc for this,


I've seen people use paper clips to replace fuses, but you don't have to copy them.

Quote:
but these look pretty hardwearing and 'giggable')


The Ringlock series is, but the contacts fit other ranges too. There are cheaper rectangular plastic shells for non-gigging applications.

Also for gigging I recommend a ZeroVolt cable to establish a common reference between cases. Banana leads are far too high resistance.
the bad producer
Thank you for the information Graham!
flipper16
Graham Hinton wrote:


Quote:

I've seen people use Euro ribbon cable, and DB25 etc for this,


I've seen people use paper clips to replace fuses, but you don't have to copy them.



Paper clips as fuses are so dangerous. Rolled up silver foil is a much safer option... lol
Graham Hinton
luchog wrote:

I do notice that the site says "Not suitable for over 500mA or over 2m length". The 2m length isn't a problem; but would the 500mA be sufficient for an STS shop panel (Animate) plus two R*S 4x4s?


Serge half panels tend to be around 250mA, so 500mA per full 19" panel. On average, it isn't an exact science and I don't have any data on Serge. If you had one of my PSUs with the Power Monitor option you would be able to measure it exactly and know when the PSU was overloaded.

The voltage drop along the wires is going to be proportion to the lengths and the currents. Don't have cables any longer than they need to be.

Anyway, I can make what you want even though it is not what you need.

Quote:
Also, it looks like 18AWG is the largest connector gauge available, but I see 16AWG from other sources, is there a significant difference in power handling for this application?


It's not so much power handling as voltage drops. Cable sizes get rounded up and down when converting between different types. 32/0.2 is the largest that will fit in a 4-pin XLR solder bucket and that's equivalent to 17awg. You will only get five of those through an XLR boot.

Most connectors are rated at a certain current that produces a certain temperature rise due to I^2.R power losses. That does not mean that you should use it at that current, it just means that the insulation won't melt. For our purposes we are more interested in the I.R voltage drop and that often means that you end up using a connector rated for 200A to carry 2A. Same with cable.

Having each boat going back to the PSU with a non-optimum cable means that each one is two cables apart on the common 0V and there will be different signal activity dependent voltage drops along each. Plus you get coupling in the +12V and -12V wires common to a group of modules. A tree structure distribution is just plain wrong. So is mounting XLRs on a pcb in the PSU. So is not using the remote sensing on a Power One.
luchog
Graham Hinton wrote:
luchog wrote:

I do notice that the site says "Not suitable for over 500mA or over 2m length". The 2m length isn't a problem; but would the 500mA be sufficient for an STS shop panel (Animate) plus two R*S 4x4s?


Serge half panels tend to be around 250mA, so 500mA per full 19" panel. On average, it isn't an exact science and I don't have any data on Serge. If you had one of my PSUs with the Power Monitor option you would be able to measure it exactly and know when the PSU was overloaded.

The voltage drop along the wires is going to be proportion to the lengths and the currents. Don't have cables any longer than they need to be.

Anyway, I can make what you want even though it is not what you need.


Sent a request through the website.

Quote:
Having each boat going back to the PSU with a non-optimum cable means that each one is two cables apart on the common 0V and there will be different signal activity dependent voltage drops along each. Plus you get coupling in the +12V and -12V wires common to a group of modules. A tree structure distribution is just plain wrong. So is mounting XLRs on a pcb in the PSU. So is not using the remote sensing on a Power One.


This is really only intended for a portable single boat, so the branching is not a concern right now. When I actually get to the point I have multiple boats, I'll be building a bigger and more traditional rack with a better power distro system.
BugBrand
Graham Hinton wrote:
I do recommend and use them for supplying power to external peripherals to a case and my PSUs have a cutout ready for one. The 19 pin Ringlock is about the same size on a panel as an XLR, but you can get up to 19 up to 12awg wires in. That's quite a bundle. XLRs are limited by the boot cable entry size, even with the larger Neutrik boot only five 17awg wires fit.

Here's how I recently powered a small skiff with three Euro modules in it:



Hi Graham,
This is beautiful & interesting but I can't help but feel it is over-engineering - maybe you can shed some more light?
Three modules! Presumably not three 2HP modules.. maybe 3 x Cwejman Voices?
Is the skiff approach for portability or for neatly fitting in a studio? The portability approach would probably fall down given the size/weight of the external cabling/PSU - so I'm guessing it is for fixed installation.

Portability has always been a key concern of mine - maybe a bit different from your more pro-studio basis. The ability for people to be able to tour in relatively low-key ways (eg. solo, without roadies etc) is vital in the underground scenes, but of course this then brings up some fundamental design limitations.
Graham Hinton
BugBrand wrote:

This is beautiful & interesting but I can't help but feel it is over-engineering - maybe you can shed some more light?


No, Tom, it's not over-engineering, it's proper engineering as opposed to the non-engineering that is common in modular synthesizers built by people who would rather gnaw their own legs off than do a basic Ohm's Law calculation.

Quote:

Three modules! Presumably not three 2HP modules.. maybe 3 x Cwejman Voices?
Is the skiff approach for portability or for neatly fitting in a studio?


Somewhere inbetween, controllers that needed to be in a different position from the main case. This was one of two skiff cables that connected to 12U of Eurorack in a pop-up mixer case for live performances.

Quote:

The portability approach would probably fall down given the size/weight of the external cabling/PSU - so I'm guessing it is for fixed installation.


You don't know what this weighs and you are guessing wrong and looking at it the wrong way. What you are missing is what has been eliminated and what that weighs: intermediate connectors and pcbs and any shared current paths. More importantly, you are not looking at resistances and voltage drops.

Quote:

Portability has always been a key concern of mine - maybe a bit different from your more pro-studio basis. The ability for people to be able to tour in relatively low-key ways (eg. solo, without roadies etc) is vital in the underground scenes, but of course this then brings up some fundamental design limitations.


I've been working with "underground" bands playing synthesizers live since the '70s and even then they had the sense to get a van to carry their gear in, albeit a beat up old bus. What you are talking about is amateur wannabees that want to carry a synthesizer in a backpack and are taking a minimal system to gig and not getting paid. People who spend a few thousand on a synth, but won't spend £50 that makes a difference. There is nothing that makes people look as stupid as standing on stage with non-working gear because they failed to get the engineering right and I've seen Don Buchla and Alan Strange do that in Paris with an audience chanting "Merde! Merde! Merde!". They flew flightcases of gear across the Atlantic and didn't know that the mains was a different voltage and frequency! If you want to perform in public you have to have your act together.
BugBrand
Thanks for your reply Graham.
I continue to learn both from your engineering experience and your often disagreeable tone.
syncretism
Graham Hinton wrote:
What you are talking about is amateur wannabees that want to carry a synthesizer in a backpack and are taking a minimal system to gig and not getting paid.


As an amateur* wannabe who wants to carry a synthesizer in a backpack to perform at a gig no one in their right mind would pay me for, it'd be grand to have portable powering options. I'm not merely an unpaid dilettante, I'm also a bit old to lug around a dedicated SKB 12u case for power, yet I'm struck by what I manage to accomplish, even within the frame of my (everyone's) lowered expectations, relying on but two line lumps for the BugBrand† frames or three rather cumbersome Random*Source power supplies (and an occasional Konstant Lab, too!), though I often wonder why the Eurorack and BugBrand users get to use laptop-like supplies and Serge users must lug these small boat anchors around. Still, I make my noises somehow, and I mostly convince myself that I'm fortunate enough to have what I have, despite recent threads in this subforum.

I am curious how attuned your ears are to recordings - or even performances (your Strange-Buchla anecdote notwithstanding) - executed with suboptimal power solutions, and what user-identified problems your (impressive) products successfully address. Mind, Mr. Hinton, that I've been a fan since I first read your articles about MIDI over USB... possibly literal decades (plural) ago. Your products were fairly well beyond my reach (or perhaps scope) as a mere enthusiast then, too. Thank you for taking the time these last several weeks to make us feel shit about our gear. That won't stop me from enquiring about your 1u/19" (and there's a standard; I've read those posts, too) solutions for interfacing disparate systems when I feel a little less chagrined about what I'm doing with my equipment.

At some point, I don't quite know when, but likely long before I first read those old articles about FreeMIDI and OMS, your communications became 1:1 informative:acerbic. But, weirdly, the affect and context seem to linger longer than the nuts and bolts. Someone averse to nuance will inevitably call me a hater or an idiot for saying all this about a Forum Institution who's freely given information to the community, but I can only say that I'm not a hater, that you advertise your services and products here, and that, I don't know - no one ever says this stuff about Bob Katz.


* "Amateur in the French sense," as they say - for the love.
† My BugBrand modules sound fantastic, by the way, more precise than any of my 4u gear and "better" in certain circumstances, and I reckon I'll hold to this assessment until I find some threads online in which you liken Sound Devices, Metric Halo and Adam Audio to cynical or quixotic attempts to prevent inferior physical materials and designs from realizing their rightful destinies as landfill.
syncretism
Also, for the original poster: I have Belden four-wire cables in my 4u system.

https://catalog.belden.com/index.cfm?event=pd&p=PF_29500

I do not endorse that specific product as linked; it may not be the appropriate product for your needs. But it should be a pretty good starting point.

Edit, in light of a follow-up post - I believe that if you can buy a finished cable, then you can pay someone to build one for you. I can recommend people in the US, and I'm sure others will, as well.
syncretism
luchog wrote:

It's still stupid, since there are plenty of locking 2-pin connector styles that would not only have been just as durable, but less expensive as well, and far less likely to be mistaken for something else.


You'll love my old gear with 5-pin DIN ingress for power. One of these days, someone's going to try to be helpful whilst I'm busy doing something else. wink
flipper16
syncretism wrote:


I often wonder why the Eurorack and BugBrand users get to use laptop-like supplies and Serge users must lug these small boat anchors around.


Why not try one of these...
syncretism
flipper16 wrote:
syncretism wrote:


I often wonder why the Eurorack and BugBrand users get to use laptop-like supplies and Serge users must lug these small boat anchors around.


Why not try one of these...


Mm, I forgot about these; I never took it very seriously as an option when I'd need to replace or redo my existing boats. That would become prohibitively expensive very quickly.
Jonny
Those of you making your own XLR 4pin cables for Serge boats, are you using 20 AWG (what RS recommends), 4 conductor cable or braiding individual cables? These individual cables are solid not stranded?
xonetacular
Jonny wrote:
Those of you making your own XLR 4pin cables for Serge boats, are you using 20 AWG (what RS recommends), 4 conductor cable or braiding individual cables? These individual cables are solid not stranded?


I recommend bigger than 20awg, you can fit 18awg in those connectors without issue. Use the biggest you can for reasons already mentioned here. Whatever you can find that will fit, I found some 18awg 4 conductor cables I forget where, but I also remember seeing some listed at mcmaster carr. Or just wrap your own individual and sleeve it if you want it will be easier to fit in the connector since the thickness of insulation varies on those multi cables. If 17awg will fit the solder terminals like graham said then that is prob the best bet but you would def need to use individual wires there.
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