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DIY Belden 83803 Mains Power Cable Cord

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DIY Audiophile Mains Power Cables - Why?

If you are reading this page, chances are that you have been into a audiophile Hi-Fi store and the "audiophile grade mains power cables" you saw selling for several hundreds perhaps even thousands of dollars have piqued your interest. In addition to wondering how or why a simple power cord can cost that much, you might also be wondering why would someone want to build a mains power cable since they probably have a closet filled with IEC power cords from computers?

If you see the value of having high-quality power cords as part of you Hi-Fi system, there are a number of reasons why one would consider building their own mains power cables.

  • Saving money (common reason why we turn to DIY Audio);
  • They are very simple to build even for a complete novice;
  • Ability to research and then choose the exact plugs, conductor and finish that you want;
  • You can select the design that will work best in your system;
  • The satisfaction of DIY and knowing what you are getting;
  • And most importantly, because DIY Audio is FUN!

This diy power cord recipe will show you how simple it is to construct a high quality shielded power cable. This large power cable will be able to deliver a lot of current with low losses. The grounded shielding will help reduce the potential of picking up stray EMI/RFI and more importantly will not inject unwanted electrical noise into nearby interconnect cables. You can build this simple mains power cable for a fraction of what you could expect pay for a comparable retail power cable.

Belden 83803 Mains Power Cable

The raw power cable is going to be the most important component in a mains power cables so spend some time to choose the right one. For this diy mains power cord project I choose Belden 83803 cable which is a high quality shielded cable designed for control and instrument applications. The three conductor Belden 83803 cable uses seven 20AWG (12 AWG equivalent) tinned copper conductors in Teflon insulation. For more information about conductor sizes, see the American Wire Gauge (AWG) conductor size table. The insulated conductors are wrapped in a 100% foil shielding with 85% tinned copper braid shield. A Teflon jacket wraps up the power cable. See the Belden 83803 cable datasheet for the full cable specifications. Though the cable is stiff, this cable is built extremely well. The sheilding and design are among the best I have seen. A sectional view of the Belden 83803 power cable is shown in Photograph 1. Note that any good quality industrial shielded cable with three twisted conductors can be used and should provide good results.

Belden 83803 Shielded Conductor Cable

Photograph 1: Belden 83803 Shielded Cable

Parts List: DIY Belden 83803 Mains Power Cable

The following materials are used for the DIY Belden 83803 Mains Power Cable and are available from Parts Express

Table 1: Required Parts for DIY Power Cable

 Parts-Express Part #  Item Description
Belden 83803 12 AWG 3 Conductor Power Cable
Marinco 15A/125V Straight Blade Wall Plug
Marinco IEC Connector Plug
Techflex 1/2" Expandable Sleeving
12 mm Heat Shrink 3:1
Ferrite Core 3/8" Cord Noise Suppressor

The general rule of thumb is that you need about 20% more length of Techflex than cable to account for linear shrinkage as the Techflex expands. The Techflex expandable sleeving and heat shrink is only required if you plan to cover the red cable jacket.

Using the above parts a 1.5 m (5') power cord will cost about $110US and a 3 m (10') power cord will run you about $160US. (December 2010 pricing)

Construction: DIY Belden 83803 Mains Power Cable

Very few tools are required to build this power cable. You need wire cutters and strippers to cut and strip the wire. If you don't have wire strippers you can get by with a sharp knife and a steady hand (wear leather gloves). A Philips screwdriver is required to fasten the conductors to the Marinco plugs. If you plan to cover the red cable jacket with Techflex Expandable Sleeving you will need a Heat Gun to use on the heat shrink.

Required Tools for DIY Power Cord Construction

Photograph 2: Required Tools for DIY Power Cord Construction

WARNING - Mains voltage is extremely dangerous and can be fatal. Before attempting to use this cable you must confirm that it conforms with your local electrical code.

The braided shield is connected to the ground wire only at the end of the cable that goes into the wall socket. The coaxial braided shield at the IEC end of the power cable is not connected. The idea here is to use the shield to capture interference traveling through the cable (in or out) and to ground them to earth so they do not cause any unwanted noise. The schematic for the cable is shown in Figure 1. Note, due to the unusual color coding of the Belden 83803 cable, I arbitrarily chose to use red for ground and black and white for hot and neutral.

DIY Belden 83803 Mains Power Cable Schematic

Figure 1: DIY Belden 83803 Mains Power Cable Schematic

 TIP  - When cutting the conductors, cut the ground wire so that it is slightly longer than the hot and neutral wires. This way if the cable is ever tugged on with great force, there is a better chance that the hot and neutral wire will come disconnected before the ground wire does.

You will want to use good quality power plugs to terminate the mains power cord. For this build I used Marinco brand power and IEC plugs. Of course feel free to use any good quality plugs or your favorite plugs. You do need to make sure that the plugs you select will accept a 12 AWG conductor. See the American Wire Gauge (AWG) size table to determine the cable diameter.

Marinco Mains Power (Wall) Plug

Photograph 3: Marinco Mains Power (Wall) Plug

Attach the straight blade power plug and firmly fasten the conductors in place. Prior to attaching the IEC plug, slide the TechFlex expandable sleeving over the power cord jack from the free end. Next use heat shrink tubing on the power plug end to hold the Techflex. Don't forget to slide some heat shrink over Techflex for use on the IEC plug end. Attach the straight IEC plug and firmly fasten the conductors in place. Use the heat shrink tubing already over the cable to hold the Techflex on the IEC end. What the heat setting on the heat gun and distance from the Techflex as it will melt quite easily. You should now have a nice covered cable. The final touch is the addition of a ferrite clamp or two. Check your old USB camera cables as they may have removable ferrite clamps that you can re-use.

Finished DIY Audio Belden 83803 Mains Power Cable

Photograph 4: Finished DIY Belden 83803 Mains Power Cable Cord

Conclusion: DIY Belden 83803 Mains Power Cable

There you have it, a simple high quality shielded power cable that will meet audiophile standards and won't set you back $500 or $1000. Don't get hung up on these particular brand names. You should be able to get good results following this recipe with any good quality shielded cables and plugs.

This project shows the construction of a shielded mains power cable made using quality components and is suitable for use with large HiFi amplifiers while meeting audiophile standards. This Belden 83803 Mains Power Cord will be able to deliver high current with minimal losses. The grounded shielding will significantly reduce the potential of picking-up stray RFI/EMI and also limit the potential of injecting unwanted noise into nearby audio interconnect cables.

 TIP  - Try keep line-level interconnect cables as far away from mains power cables as possible. If you must cross mains power cord with an interconnect cable make sure that they cross perpendicular (90 degrees) to one another. Doing this will help minimize any interference. Never run a interconnect and mains power cables parallel to each other.

My thoughts on audiophile power cords

I am well aware that there is likely some 30 to 150 m (100 to 500 feet) or more of variable power cables between a home power outlet and the last distribution transformer, never mind the many kilometers of transmission line to the power source. I find it hard to imagine that ANY 1.5 m (5 ft) length of mains power cord inserted between the outlet and your Hi-Fi equipment will make any audible difference that is not related to unwanted noise. I am however a firm believer in using shielded mains power cords to minimize unwanted noise and use them throughout my audio system.