Very early in my career, I worked in the field as a sound recordist for WNED, a television station in Buffalo, New York.
My first day on the job, we finished doing a video shoot, and being the low person on the depth chart, it fell to me to pack up and put things away.
Never to be forgotten were the gasps of true horror as I proudly grabbed an XLR cable by its end with one hand and began rapidly winding it around the other hand and its related elbow.
If you’ve never seen this done, it’s quite impressive – the cable gets wrapped in seconds flat, and with all of the flair and showmanship of a third-rate magician!
However, I was about to be “schooled,” because as at least some of you know, this bit of “slight of hand” is NOT the way to properly wrap a cable, be it audio or any other variety.
I bet the majority of us started out in this business with the firm conviction that the “hand-elbow” cable wrap method is not just the best way, but the only way. Oh, the foibles of youth.
Wrapping in this manner (and this goes for AC extension cords, too) forces the entire length of the cable to twist in one direction perpendicular to its length, putting undo stress on the conductors and shield. It also imprints a “memory” that returns when the cable is laid out again – it will maintain the pigtail, corkscrew twist that’s been forced upon it.
Cable dressing and neatness are extremely important at all professional audio gigs, and especially so in corporate/industrials, the market my company serves. There’s no better way to impress a client than crawling around on your hands and knees to fight with a bunch of unruly cables that refuse to lay flat. Not!
When my co-workers in Buffalo finally recovered from the aneurysms that my “magic tricks” had unwittingly caused, these kind souls patiently demonstrated to me the right way to coil a cable: the over/under wrap. (This method also goes by a few other names but we’ll stick with over/under here.)