Some cables just aren’t up to the task. That’s what I found with my cable from the dollar store. I didn’t have to wait long before it completely failed. A dollar isn’t enough to spend for a good quality cable. What about spending nothing?
In 2000, I got a cable from a cable TV installer. He made it for me for nothing. I used it to connect my VCR to my TV and then put it in a box. I didn’t think any more about it until a few years later when I got satellite. The installer saw it and told me that cables with “hex crimps” were on the outs. Now, everyone was using compression connectors.
Compression connectors, I’m told, do a better job of keeping the signal from getting degraded when the connector is attached to the cable. I’ve also been told that hex crimps are harder to get right and it’s easier to use the compression tool to make good connectors. That satellite installer made it seem like my hex crimped cable would endanger all life on earth, and he made me a new cable with compression connectors, so I put the old cable in a box.
When I was thinking about writing this article, I thought about that old cable and sure enough I still had it. I’m not sure I still have the VCR, but that’s ok.
I put this cable to the test by connecting it to my HR24 DVR. As always, I use a 7/16″ wrench to tighten the connections to a point where they are just snug.
Comparing this cable to the “el-cheapo” from my last article was like night and day. This cable was stiff and didn’t show any signs of wear after all these years. It was a little yellowed but otherwise looked brand new. There wasn’t any corrosion on the connectors at all.
This cable’s well built. You can see it in the cross section.
This cable has a roughly 7mm diameter and just looking at the cross section it’s easy to see that there’s a lot more here than in the “el cheapo” cable. It was harder to cut up, too. I had to use tinsnips, where for the el-cheapo one I used pliers.
Take a look at all that braided metal. It’s a shame it’s not in focus.
Stripping off the outer jacket carefully, you can see the huge amount of braided metal on this cable. It was hard to get it in focus but still I think it’s obvious that this cable will hold up to some punishment. There’s a lot of stuff here, and I carefully cut it away with a utility knife.
With the braided shield removed you can see the foil wrapping around the dielectric. It doesn’t scratch off easily. In fact it’s about the thickness of aluminum foil and it’s actually glued to the dielectric. I thought after all these years maybe it melted to the dielectric but there’s clearly something blue on the underside that is bonding the foil to the dielectric. It took me several minutes to gently scratch it off and I can’t get all of it without making a few notches in the dielectric.
The dielectric is really firm white plastic. It’s oval-shaped, roughly 5.5mm at the widest point and 4mm at the narrowest. It keeps these dimensions throughout the cable so I don’t think it got squashed or anything. I think that’s how it was built.
At the center, the core is a nice thick chunk of metal about 1mm thick. One of our readers pointed out that the cable doesn’t need to be solid copper, so I take my utility knife to check this one out. After all, it was made when copper was cheaper so it might be solid.
The pictures don’t show it but it is definintely copper clad. It took 3 good, firm scrapes with the utility knife to get past the cladding but it is definitely not solid copper. Still, I’m sure this cable could take some punishment before giving up its copper skin.
Pretty much your garden variety hex connector, cut apart so you can see.
The connector is solidly built and has three pieces to it: The outer ring which moves freely, the inner stalk to keep the ring from falling out, and the outer crimped sheath I cut the connector off with a rotary tool. That’s why there are notches in the parts.
The photos don’t show it but this connector is solid brass, probably nickel or zinc plated for durability. I’ve seen some badly made hex crimps but this one is solid. It wasn’t loose or malformed at all.
After two hours, I didn’t see any difference between this cable and the regular cable I used with my HR24. I tested channels from all three major satellites because I know they use different frequencies. I tested satellite signal strength… no change. I tried On Demand and Multi-Room. No problems at all. I could have happily left that cable in service except I did need to cut it apart to take pictures.
I know not all hex crimped cables are as sturdy as my 12-year-old, but I think I’ve proven that you can use a well-made hex crimped cable in a pinch and you shouldn’t be afraid of it. Any cable can fail and this solidly-made example still looked and performed well at its age.
This cable performed for me. Not all old cables are going to do this well, but don’t be afraid of something just because it’s a little older. It may surprise you.