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Cabling Dilemmas

Deciding what cables to install is a difficult decision. Firstly we should dispel some myths. No one cable is good for everything. There are good multi-purpose cables available for some situations. However, these types of cables typically compromise quality.

We often get asked about CAT5 and whether it should be installed everywhere. It is important to understand that CAT5 is designed for networking and telephony and as such is far from the best for any other purpose. The various successors (CAT5e, CAT6, CAT7 etc.) have been primarily designed with faster network speeds in mind. Some audio-visual equipment manufacturers have also targetted the cable specifically. However be warned, there are those who simply use the cable for its copper and others who have specifically designed the electronics of their converters around the CAT5/6 specification.

Having CAT5/6 cable and connectors also doesn't give you a CAT5/6 installation - the terminations are just as important as the specifications look at signal loss, cross-talk and other factors making it more than simply a copper wire link.

The best cable is always the one which was designed for purpose. By planning your installation early you can ensure you have the right cables for both initial and long term requirements. It is good practice to select cables with their purpose in mind.

Fibre optics are now playing an increasing role in domestic as well as commercial properties. Whilst harder to work with it provides the most effective futureproofing however the various types of fibre must also be carefully considered.

Most importantly, invest in good quality cable. It can make a big difference to the quality and longevity of your solution. As a guide, cables should represent about 10% of your solution cost particularly for audio-visual installations.

The choice of audio-visual cables can make a significant difference to an installation. Of course the system is only as good as the original source being played so a well designed system should be balanced. The more high-end you go with audio in particular the more the subtle the improvements become. From simply hearing more detail and sharper bass tones, you start to notice subtleties like 'the performance was more coherant' or 'it sounded like they had rehersed'. Some of the reasoning is lost in subjective view points. A more technical suggestion is that the absence or significant reduction of noise being processed means that everything is happening to even more precise timing without the tiny delays due to noise correction.

Those cables buried in walls and ceilings play a vital role in whatever solution you have - their importance cannot be overstated.