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Using Network CAT 5 Cable for Audio
Last updated: 8/31/08

Q.  Is CAT 5 (and CAT 5e, 6) network cable a good choice for audio applications; e.g., connecting speakers to an amplifier?

A.  I have not used network cable for audio other than telephones, but I understand that it is an excellent choice for audio (analog and digital) and even video applications.  Here are some references.

CAT-5 wiring for analog and digital signals in broadcast ...

"In a recent article, Steve Lampen, Multimedia Technology Manager for Belden Wire & Cable writes, "Digital audio cables make the absolute best analog cables. You can go farther with flatter frequency response than with any cable designed for analog. Due to its characteristic low capacitance, data cable is designed to transmit data at high velocity and wide bandwidths. At audio frequencies, these characteristics will yield exceptionally flat frequency response, even over very long cable lengths. However, Cat 5 and similar cables only work effectively when run as balanced lines. (Therefore they are not effective for unbalanced home/consumer applications without using baluns.) Also, if your application requires a ground wire, such as phantom powered microphones or certain intercom applications, then this UTP (unshielded twisted pair) cables also won't work."

There are few quotes/ratings by people who have used CAT 5 cable for audio connections at 5+UTP+Data+Grade/PRD_116550_1584crx.aspx.


Additional info for those contemplating the installation of network cable:

I would use solid core cable for audio work.

See Attaching CAT 5 Network Cable to Studs and Joists.

See http://duxcw.com/digest/Howto/network/cable/cable9.htm for other cabling rules. Be sure the cable meets your local building codes. Some may require plenum cable. I would not mix audio/telephone wires with network wires on the same cable or split cables. I would not install them on the same stud with electric power cables.

As a matter of possible interest, there are all in one cables that have two CAT 5e cables and two RG-6 cables in them. The last price I saw was $.67/foot. There also cables that have these cables plus a fiber optic cable for somewhere in the neighborhood of three times that price. There are probably other cables with “CAT 6” cables. I use “” around CAT 6 because as far as I know there is no CAT 6 standard yet (but I have not checked in a couple of months or so). CAT 5e will work for the Gigabit Ethernet (1000BASE-TX) , but CAT 6 is supposed to provide more headroom (call it room for error).  Larry

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