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Author Topic: What are active cables and why do so many people use them?  (Read 4285 times)

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Offline ycoop

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What are active cables and why do so many people use them?
« on: March 12, 2018, 03:41:01 PM »
Second half of the question might be redundant.

I often see people using active cables as part of their rig. I searched the forums and couldn’t find anything explaining what active cables are. My google searching came up mostly blank, at least when it comes to active cables used for mics.

I come before you as a humble padawan, teach me the ways of the active cables.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2018, 03:46:12 PM by ycoop »
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Offline Gutbucket

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Re: What are active cables and why do so many people use them?
« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2018, 03:52:31 PM »
Makes for a more-compact, smaller and lighter rig at the microphone end of things.  "Active cables" are special high-impedance cables and connectors which allow one to separate the microphone capsule from the microphone amplifier body to which it is normally attached.  The microphone amplifier bodies can then be be placed remotely along with the recorder, or sometimes eliminated entirely if a special preamplifier is used in their place.
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Offline rigpimp

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Re: What are active cables and why do so many people use them?
« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2018, 05:09:25 PM »
What Gutbucket said. 

An active cable is a small thin cable that allows one to separate a modular microphone capsule to be mounted away from the microphone body.  The result is a tiny, lightweight and compact rig on the stand and everything else tucked into your padded gear bag.

For MANY years only very high end mics had "active" options.  Schoeps, DPA, Neumann, etc.  Everyone else had to run full body mics and full size XLR cabling.  Fast forward to just a couple of years ago where a few very clever folks here reverse engineered the required active cable circuitry and capsule mounting for a lot of the more common microphone manufacturers like AKG, MBHO, etc.  You will often see these referred to as Nbob cables but they serve the same purpose, however for mics that might not normally have an active cabling option it makes them highly desirable.

Great question!  Keep 'em coming ycoop.
Mics: Schoeps MK5 G MP, Schoeps CCM 4 Lg MP, Schoeps MK8 MP, nBob cables > PFA, KCY 250/5 > PFA
Pre/A>D/P48: Sonosax SX/M2, Sonosax SX/M2-LS, E.A.A. PSP-2, Naiant Tinybox, Neumann BS48i-2 (for sale)
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Offline ycoop

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Re: What are active cables and why do so many people use them?
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2018, 05:55:56 PM »
Thanks for the responses!

If I’m understanding correctly with active cables you’d have something like mic capsules on rig > active cables > preamp > recorder as opposed to mic capsule connected to (pre?)amp body > regular ol’ cable > recorder?

Plenty more questions where that came from :)
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Offline adrianf74

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Re: What are active cables and why do so many people use them?
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2018, 06:08:00 PM »
Thanks for the responses!

If I’m understanding correctly with active cables you’d have something like mic capsules on rig > active cables > preamp > recorder as opposed to mic capsule connected to (pre?)amp body > regular ol’ cable > recorder?

Plenty more questions where that came from :)

Pretty much spot on. The "preamp" could be anything from a true preamp to PFA's (which allow the active cable to be powered by Phantom Power) to an nBox or baby nBox.  The latter two run on 9V power and have either RCA or 1/8" output allowing you to run direct to small deck like an M10, R05, etc. 

Offline thespacefish

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Re: What are active cables and why do so many people use them?
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2018, 06:12:05 PM »
Was curious of this myself - thank you everyone who posted such thorough answers!
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Offline rigpimp

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Re: What are active cables and why do so many people use them?
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2018, 06:40:50 PM »
A good read if you have a spare hour or two:

http://taperssection.com/index.php?topic=160212.0
http://taperssection.com/index.php?topic=168809.0

It doesn't necessarily start at the beginning as that was the AKG actives thread.  I'm sure that can be found with some digging.  It was the genesis of the reverse engineering that created an active cable solution for the AKG CK capsule series...and a legend was born
Mics: Schoeps MK5 G MP, Schoeps CCM 4 Lg MP, Schoeps MK8 MP, nBob cables > PFA, KCY 250/5 > PFA
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Recorders: Sound Devices Mixpre-6, Sony PCM-M10
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Offline heathen

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Re: What are active cables and why do so many people use them?
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2018, 11:07:53 PM »
The "preamp" could be anything from a true preamp to PFA's (which allow the active cable to be powered by Phantom Power) to an nBox or baby nBox.  The latter two run on 9V power and have either RCA or 1/8" output allowing you to run direct to small deck like an M10, R05, etc.

Is there an option that allows for either powering via phantom (like PFAs in your description) or powering via battery like the nBox?  Kind of a swiss army knife option?
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Offline adrianf74

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Re: What are active cables and why do so many people use them?
« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2018, 11:22:54 PM »
The "preamp" could be anything from a true preamp to PFA's (which allow the active cable to be powered by Phantom Power) to an nBox or baby nBox.  The latter two run on 9V power and have either RCA or 1/8" output allowing you to run direct to small deck like an M10, R05, etc.

Is there an option that allows for either powering via phantom (like PFAs in your description) or powering via battery like the nBox?  Kind of a swiss army knife option?

Easy, get the active cables terminated in some form of small connection (there's a connection that is used for the nbob cables that escapes me right now) and then get PFA and preamp to accept that.  That's what I did previously.

Offline heathen

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Re: What are active cables and why do so many people use them?
« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2018, 11:33:00 PM »
I meant one box that could connect to the cables and either allow for phantom power or provide battery power.
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Offline adrianf74

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Re: What are active cables and why do so many people use them?
« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2018, 11:46:13 AM »
I meant one box that could connect to the cables and either allow for phantom power or provide battery power.

I'm sure it could be done by why have one box that could be the point of breakdown?  Better to have different options available depending on what recorder/conditions you're recording in.

Offline H₂O

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Re: What are active cables and why do so many people use them?
« Reply #11 on: March 16, 2018, 08:34:14 AM »
Active cables - any cable that has active components (components that need power to be provided to operate) as part of the cable, connectors, etc.
Passive cables - any cable that does not have active components as part of the cable, connector, etc


Active components could include Transistors (i.e. FETs), opamps, vacuum tubes, etc


Examples of active cables for microphones: - Schoeps KC5, KCY, nBob's, DPA d:dictate series, New Neumann KM A/D series LC4 cable

Examples of non-active extension cables for microphones: Neuman KM100 series cables, MBHO 603 cables, Schoeps vintage CMMT cables,  Sennhieser MKH 8000 series extension cables
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Online larrysellers

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Re: What are active cables and why do so many people use them?
« Reply #12 on: March 16, 2018, 08:42:25 AM »
I guess the new nbob MBHO cables built as kcy or nbox style would qualify as active then.

Offline Hypnocracy

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Re: What are active cables and why do so many people use them?
« Reply #13 on: March 16, 2018, 06:09:25 PM »
The Epic AKG Active...started in 2006
http://taperssection.com/index.php/topic,59577.0.html

Naiant made three runs of 12 pairs starting in 2013...but, no more...Chuck with the first set...

I made a comparison recording of a moe. show: C-481 vs CK-61 > Naiant Active cable

http://taperssection.com/index.php?topic=159568.0


As noted above now SchoepsNBox is the only supplier of those and other makes.
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Offline rigpimp

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Re: What are active cables and why do so many people use them?
« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2018, 06:19:15 PM »
The Epic AKG Active...started in 2006
http://taperssection.com/index.php/topic,59577.0.html

Naiant made three runs of 12 pairs starting in 2013...but, no more...Chuck with the first set...

I made a comparison recording of a moe. show: C-481 vs CK-61 > Naiant Active cable

http://taperssection.com/index.php?topic=159568.0


As noted above now SchoepsNBox is the only supplier of those and other makes.

I'm showing my ts.com age here but JK Labs made them before Nick did.  Not many but they worked.  There may even still be a set in the hands of someone here.
Mics: Schoeps MK5 G MP, Schoeps CCM 4 Lg MP, Schoeps MK8 MP, nBob cables > PFA, KCY 250/5 > PFA
Pre/A>D/P48: Sonosax SX/M2, Sonosax SX/M2-LS, E.A.A. PSP-2, Naiant Tinybox, Neumann BS48i-2 (for sale)
Recorders: Sound Devices Mixpre-6, Sony PCM-M10
Playback: McIntosh MC2105 > McIntosh C39 > Von Schweikert VR-4 JR
http://archive.org/bookmarks/kskreider

 

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