Take the 2-minute tour ×
Sound Design Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for sound engineers, producers, editors, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

It seems like no matter how carefully I wind up my mic cables, the next time I get them out I'm fighting tangles and knots. And untangling mic cables is not one of my favorite things to do in front of a client.

How should I wind (or perhaps unwind) mic cables to prevent this?

share|improve this question

migrated from avp.stackexchange.com Jan 27 at 15:26

This question came from our site for engineers, producers, editors, and enthusiasts spanning the fields of video, and media creation.

    
In my dream world, Rickenbackers come with bluetooth. –  Daniel Earwicker Dec 15 '10 at 23:53
1  
@DanielEarwicker: A dream world form of Bluetooth that doesn't suck? –  endolith Sep 11 '12 at 13:39

6 Answers 6

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Are you flip-coiling your cables? If so, you need to pull the cable out from the same end you wound it. If, when you pick up an end, you're pulling through the center of the coil, put it back and grab the other end.

If you're not flip-coiling, here's an explanation: http://www.techno-fandom.org/~hobbit/flipcoil/howto.html

share|improve this answer
1  
Exactly. Flip-coiling is what the pro's do. The producers I met at NRG Studios in Hollywood when we recorded there (nrgrecording.com) showed us how to do this about 10+ years ago. I use this method for audio, digital, Ethernet, heck ... all cables to prevent tangling. Takes some practice but its flawless once you get it down. –  Donn Felker Dec 15 '10 at 16:06
2  
For web indexers: This important technique is also known as over/under cable wrapping. Not only does it improve the chances of pulling cables without tangle, it also prevents the cable from developing a permanent corkscrew twist that would keep it from ever lying on the floor flat again. (The alternating twists cancel when you pull the cable straight, so the net twist of the entire cable is zero.) –  Liudvikas Bukys Dec 15 '10 at 16:11
    
You shouldn't be twisting the cable no matter which method you use. –  endolith Dec 15 '10 at 16:55
    
@endolith - naive coiling does twist the cables, which is why they often end up tangled up. "flip-coiling" or flaking adds a twist to the coiling process which allows the cable to lie flat without any twist. –  ObscureRobot Sep 11 '12 at 1:14
    
@ObscureRobot: There's no twist if you don't twist it. It lays flat, too. It's not any different from the way cabling is coiled on spools at the factory. –  endolith Sep 11 '12 at 13:34

I find the best way to keep from getting all my cables tangled is to wind them like I normally would, but then stick one of those little velcro fasteners (or a cable tie) around a couple of them when I'm done.

That way you keep them in little packs of 2 or 3, and it stops them from getting unwound during transit/storage/getting it out and tagling up with another cable.

share|improve this answer

Spend some time winding your cables neatly when breaking down at the end of a gig; you'll get that time back when setting up at the next show. I use a few techniques to keep cables neat:

  • Wind your cables carefully, and use a velcro tie on each one. You can stick a velcro tie on the cable itself, even when it's unwound and in use.
  • Storing cables in a bag is going to crush them together and make it harder to pick them out later. If you can, get a cheap plastic bin or a box that will hold all your cables, and stack them neatly inside the box. They'll be much easier to pick out later on. (I have two such bins, one for XLR cables and one for everything else.)
  • If you can, get yourself a snake. This will let you cut down the number of cables you bring to a gig. (I don't have one of these... yet.)
  • XLR cables only: You can use shorter XLR cables and chain them together without any signal degradation (although not everybody agrees with this, I think chaining mic cables doesn't matter in live applications); It's easier to wind up shorter cables.
  • 1/4" Guitar cables and PA speaker cables are another story. You'll want to keep those as short as possible to decrease signal loss anyway, and that makes it easier to wind them up.
  • I write my name on a piece of tape and put it on each cable. When breaking down, it's much easier to pick out Sound Guy cables from Band cables.

In summary, use shorter cables when you can, and invest the time to store them neatly.

share|improve this answer
    
+1 for the name tag idea - I use this both for my "sound guy" jobs and for my (musician) wife's gear. –  Rich Bruchal Dec 17 '10 at 13:05
    
Lately, I've taken to getting colored masking tape and drawing stripes on it with permanent marker, then wrapping it around the cable near the connector. You can do it on both ends, and it's fairly unobtrusive but easy to spot when you're looking for it. –  neilfein Feb 1 '12 at 4:59

Here's a little trick I picked up from an experienced live venue engineer that doesn't require any physical devices: Twist the cable a little (maybe a quarter revolution?) in the same direction between each wind. The twist will add some tension in the cable that will basically lock each wind against each other and thus provide better resistance against tangling. It takes a little practice, but it works pretty well for me.

Edit: Your question got me thinking this must be a universal problem to most kinds of cables, cords and even rope. A little Google research got me this: http://www.wikihow.com/Coil-Any-Kind-of-Cord

share|improve this answer

Cable ties and/or twist ties are a good, inexpensive solution to this problem.

share|improve this answer

Put each cable in its own plastic bag. Shopping bags work well or extra large ziplocks

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.