Preventing tangled mic cables


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?


Posted 2010-12-15T05:53:48.080

Reputation: 3 595

In my dream world, Rickenbackers come with bluetooth. – None – 2010-12-15T23:53:40.167

2@DanielEarwicker: A dream world form of Bluetooth that doesn't suck? – endolith – 2012-09-11T13:39:58.003

unfortunately I do not have an answer... I do have a question regarding tangled cables. Our cables are constantly used. We have tried velcro to keep them wound up but when they are pulled out it is a mess to clean up and I am only one person with limited time. Is there a pulley system to help wind them back up and store under a cabinet? – stressed out – 2019-04-14T22:44:49.900



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:


Posted 2010-12-15T05:53:48.080



Exactly. Flip-coiling is what the pro's do. The producers I met at NRG Studios in Hollywood when we recorded there ( 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.

– None – 2010-12-15T16:06:55.687

2For 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.) – None – 2010-12-15T16:11:50.177

You shouldn't be twisting the cable no matter which method you use. – endolith – 2010-12-15T16:55:46.560

@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 – 2012-09-11T01:14:22.627

@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 – 2012-09-11T13:34:59.103

Coiling by hand is very different from coiling spools in a factory. In a factory, the cable extends out from the spool, and the spool is rotated to add more cable. When coiling by hand, most people hold the coil in one hand, and add cable by moving their other hand in a cranking motion. This adds a half-twist for each full loop. The way to defeat that is to add a half-twist in the opposite direction for each loop. Go ask any mountain climber or sailor - people whose lives and limbs depend on coiling their ropes and lines correctly. – ObscureRobot – 2012-09-11T16:35:31.170


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.

Ed J

Posted 2010-12-15T05:53:48.080



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.

Goodbye Stack Exchange

Posted 2010-12-15T05:53:48.080

Reputation: 1 631

+1 for the name tag idea - I use this both for my "sound guy" jobs and for my (musician) wife's gear. – None – 2010-12-17T13:05:58.503

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. – Goodbye Stack Exchange – 2012-02-01T04:59:48.997


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:

Kim Burgaard

Posted 2010-12-15T05:53:48.080



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


Posted 2010-12-15T05:53:48.080



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


Posted 2010-12-15T05:53:48.080

Reputation: 886