The Ultimate Guide To Artisan USB Cables

If you’ve gone through the trouble of building your own customized mechanical keyboard, the last thing you want to do is plug it into your computer with some plebeian USB cable from the local electronics shop. Your productivity, nay livelihood, depends on all those 1s and 0s being reproduced with the crisp fidelity that’s only possible with a high-end USB cable. Anything less would be irresponsible.

Or at least, that’s what the advertising on the back of the package would say if we tried to sell the custom USB cables built by [Josef Adamčík]. But alas, he’s decided to give away all the details for free so that anyone can build their own delightfully overengineered USB cables. Do you need a paracord USB cable with GX12 aviation connectors in the middle? Of course not. But you still want one, don’t you?

As [Josef] admits in his blog post, there’s nothing particularly special about what he’s doing here. If you can splice wires together, you can build your own bespoke USB cables. But what attracted us to his write-up was the phenomenal detail he goes into. Every step is clearly explained and includes a nice, well-lit, photo to illustrate what he’s doing. Honestly, when the documentation for soldering some USB connectors onto a wire looks this good, there’s no excuse why more substantial projects get little more than a few blurry shots.

Of course, even for those of us who are no stranger to the ways of the soldering iron, there’s likely a few ideas you can pull from this project. We particularly liked his tip for taping the USB connector to the workbench while soldering it rather than trying to get it to stay in a vise, and his method for adding a coil the cable with a wooden jig and a heat gun is definitely something to file away for future use.

Then again in an era where even the lowly-USB cable can potentially be a security threat, or simply not live up to published specifications, rolling your own might not be such a bad idea.

43 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide To Artisan USB Cables

    1. For this use case I think they were going for the look of the original XT era non-detachable keyboard cables, which typically had the coil. It really is a beautiful match up.
      But yea, I never thought to look or make a USB cable that way either, despite how completely useful that would have been so many times in hindsight

    1. “True data-philes need these cables. They’re very typable.

      Also, you get clearer capitals, and more vibrant punctuation. Truly worth the price tag.

      Now you need to accessorize. Porcelain USB cable standoffs make sure you don’t get cross-mouse interference, and aligning a pair of crystalline magnets with the connector will improve the flow of packets.”

      I bet he could sell these for $7000 each to that crowd.

      1. Monster Cable (of course) was selling HDMI cables for $5,000 each at one point. The P. T. Barnum factor is strong…

        Also the coiled USB cable and other shenanigans sounds like a good idea but the real weak link in many USB setups is the micro end connector, so anything that adds stress to that isn’t the best idea.

        1. People can list things for whatever price they want, but just because they’re for sale, I don’t think that necessarily means there were people buying them. There are several HDMI cables still listed on Amazon for $10k each, I think it’s a case of people jacking up their prices when they’re out of stock so they don’t have to take down the listing and add it again later.

        2. One explanation I’ve heard is that this is intended more for companies that install high end stereos.
          When you’ve got amps etc. worth tens of thousands on a customer’s invoice, you don’t want to add a 5.99 HDMI cable because it looks cheap.
          No idea if that’s true.

    1. And truly race-spec, speaking from long experience in the automotive industry, the level of engineering that goes into Lemo connectors is impressive. And tbh, far better than cheap jaycar mic plugs…
      Lemo & Raychem ftw

    1. I suspect it does work, just like the really cheap cables do, which proves to show that the USB spec was designed very well and very forgiving.
      So in the end it’s a nicer looking cable (depends on who you ask) but with the spec identical or most likely worse (due to the additional connector) than the USB cables from the 1$ shop, ebay or aliexpress. But considering it’s usage (a keyboard), nobody will ever notice.

      1. When all connections (GND, VCC, D+, D-) are connected at the same time, unpredictable things can happen, including magic blue smoke release.
        Yes, even with low-speed USB1.1 devices. There´s a reason why VCC and GND tracks are a bit longer that the Data lines…

        Here we build USB also with SUB-D9 and other more exotic connectors that don´t have this feature, and it happens too often that the USB host and/or the USB device gave up.

    2. this is what I was thinking, went though a lot of trouble to replicate a 2$ ebay cable, added a unnecessary connector and was lucky the stupid thing even works at bare minimum speed… all while having a ohh la la flare about it

      very maker

    3. If all you want is decoration (for whatever purpose), just take out the guts of the connector halves and run the cable through them. Nobody would know it’s not a working connector, and it would work better and not be subject to failure there.

  1. The closest easy to find cable is Ethernet patch cables 100 ohms vs 90 ohms nominal of USB. When I need high current, I use additional pairs in parallel for VUSB and Gnd. (Only use one pair for the data) Cat6 is good for 250MHz so it should be okay for 480Mbps. Note: bit rate is 1/2 frequency as it take 2 cycles for a full ‘0’-‘1’-‘0’.

    I find the el cheap dollar store cables just barely okay for the USB2 speeds.

      1. Yes, though low speed is 1.5 Mbps and full speed is 12, which are the typical options for a keyboard.
        I’m guessing the 480 (high speed usb 2) was the “typo”, as they also comment on that being barely ok with cheap cables

        1. The barely I use hints at that it would pass at just that length. Use an extension cable or built to full length USB2 allows (5 meters) and it would fail.

          You can get away with a much shorter cable at lower specs because they give you more budget/length (1 meter vs 5 meters) on the high frequency attenuation and eye opening due to reflections/jitter etc.

      2. Nope. The data line for 480Mbps at most toggle at 240MHz.
        So first 480MHz clock cycle: ‘0’ to ‘1’
        2nd 480MHz cycle: ‘1’ back to ‘0’
        This is like you are running a J/K flip flop at 480MHz yielding a 240MHz clock output

        So a CAT6 rated for 250MHz is good enough for a 480Mbps signal.

        1. That doesn’t add up though. Yes if you have two clock cycles on a 480 MHz frequency sure, but cat6 can’t do that, it’s rated only 250 MHz, so it takes two Hz to cycle 0 to 1 or 1 to 0, thus 125 Mbps.

          It’s the same with Ethernet using 250 Mhz cable to get gigabit. Signaling is 4 state instead of 2 (+1v, +0.5, -0.5, and -1. It’s differential so 0v isn’t used)
          This lets you put 2 bits in every two cycle changes. 250/2 = 125*2 bits = 250 Mbit.
          Then there are 4 twisted pairs used, 250 *4 = 1000 Mbps, aka 1 Gbps.

  2. …. but why?
    If one of those GX12 connectors were mounted directly in the case of the “thing” (keyboard in this case) it would make sense, but adding an additional connector pair inside a “normal” USB cable with standard USB plugs at both business ends makes absolutely no sense to me.

    Besides that the used technics and tricks are quite nice.

    1. If you were to take a deep dive into the world of mechanical keyboard, you’d soon notice it really has little to do with functional keyboards, and everything to do with the ‘aesthetic’. the mech board subreddits are basically photography forums at this point. People taking their keyboards out to astroturf with green tea and matching mint green yeezys.

      Not hating, just pointing out the ‘why’.

    2. I’m with you – that connector shouldn’t be there. When I first saw the picture, I had hoped that thing was a slip ring connector or something else that would let the cable rotate – I could use such a thing on my phone headset. Putting a GX12 connector in the middle of the cable for no reason is just a bunch of gratuitous failure points. Not to mention something to bang around on your desk whenever you move what the cord is attached to.

      I like the trick with DIY curling the cord, though. And adding the paracord sleeving.

    3. Also, at least M12 D-coded connectors make some attempt at impedance matching.

      (technically there’s the issue of 100 ohms vs. 90, but probably close enough for USB2 in most cases…)

  3. Looks cooler than a penguins areshole I gotta admit but for something really unique he should have built his keyboard with the aviation connector and then built an AC to USB coiled cable.

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