Oops - I bought stranded Cat6 for my walls - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 18 Old 04-09-2013, 05:44 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm working on a basement remodel with theater room.

I'll be running about 800 feet of Cat6 total.

I accidentally purchased 1000 ft bulk stranded cat6 from monoprice. Really just a stupid brain fart.

However, now I'm looking at an RMA, and UPS ground to get it back to them is $29. Then $18 shipping again to get the solid. So I'm out like $45 on my dumb mistake.

So the question is a simple one:

Is working with stranded in my walls and punch down jacks going to be such a pain that I just swallow my $45 and get that solid cable here? Or should I just use the stranded?

I won't tell you which way I'm leaning - don't want to taint your answers wink.gif

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post #2 of 18 Old 04-09-2013, 05:57 PM
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Swallow the $45 and get the solid stuff. It can carry a much stronger signal than stranded wire. Plus the overwhelming majority of connectors and punch down blocks are designed for solid. Stranded wire is also extremely flimsy and difficult to work with. And especially since you are running it in the walls....go with solid. Enough reason?

Chalk the $45 up to buying experience!
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post #3 of 18 Old 04-09-2013, 06:26 PM
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+1 - don't end up cursing at yourself for months to come working with it...

I wouldn't bother with the RMA - you can probably sell it locally on Craigslist for a better net. Actually, try an ad first, if you don't get a taker in a week, you can still return it.

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post #4 of 18 Old 04-09-2013, 07:13 PM
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+3, buy the solid. Not a big deal to return. Live and learn, glad you figured it out now, rather than later. Small price, in the long run.

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. -Buddha

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post #5 of 18 Old 04-10-2013, 01:06 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone. Sounds unanimous. This is the way I was leaning but just wanted to be sure.

I'm spending thousands to do my basement and theater, and I've already made costlier mistakes than this, so like you say, live and learn.

I'll see if anyone local (SLC, UT) wants a very nice box of 1000 ft green stranded Cat6 with 100 RJ45 connectors for $90... I suppose it's ideal for those that might want to make their own patch cables.

If nobody bites in a week or so, then back it goes!

I was just a little bugged that monoprice, even though I discovered my error within an hour on a weekend couldn't modify or cancel the order which I knew hadn't been picked and boxed yet. Amazon says no cancellations too (once the cancel button is greyed out), but if you call them and beg they can usually pull it off if it's early enough in the process. I suppose it's things like that though that help monoprice keep costs down - and in the end it was my fault. frown.gif

Again thanks for your comments! Makes it easier to stomach and carry out the right decision. wink.gif

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post #6 of 18 Old 04-10-2013, 02:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TMcG View Post

...... It can carry a much stronger signal than stranded wire....

How do you figure that? The capacitance is a tad higher but nothing significant over the length limit.

As for installation I do agree it's a lot harder to terminate connectors.

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post #7 of 18 Old 04-10-2013, 03:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glimmie View Post

How do you figure that? The capacitance is a tad higher but nothing significant over the length limit.

As for installation I do agree it's a lot harder to terminate connectors.

In a home environment from a signal strength perspective it's probably not going to make much difference, certainly not anything that is noticeable to the home user. However, transmission distance for a cable goes up with the capability of the cable to carry electricity - thicker cabling carries electricity with fewer losses over a given distance. The solid conductor can handle more electricity better than many small conductors found in stranded wires. The solid will transmit data further with fewer losses. I am sure there is some sort of Microsoft CNE article out there that affirms this statement, but it is factually accurate.
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post #8 of 18 Old 04-11-2013, 12:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TMcG View Post

In a home environment from a signal strength perspective it's probably not going to make much difference, certainly not anything that is noticeable to the home user. However, transmission distance for a cable goes up with the capability of the cable to carry electricity - thicker cabling carries electricity with fewer losses over a given distance. The solid conductor can handle more electricity better than many small conductors found in stranded wires. The solid will transmit data further with fewer losses. I am sure there is some sort of Microsoft CNE article out there that affirms this statement, but it is factually accurate.

That's incorrect. A stranded wire has the same cross sectional area as a solid wire.

P.S. I'm a graduate EE. Transmission line problems come into play with communications wiring long before we have loses due to simple cable resistance.

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post #9 of 18 Old 04-11-2013, 05:09 AM
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I'd like to see a single article or reference resource that proves otherwise . . . that UTP stranded is equivalent to solid for long transmission when it comes to signal strength. 100% of the articles I found affirm the solid.
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post #10 of 18 Old 04-11-2013, 08:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TMcG View Post

I'd like to see a single article or reference resource that proves otherwise . . . that UTP stranded is equivalent to solid for long transmission when it comes to signal strength. 100% of the articles I found affirm the solid.

As I said above, the capacitance is higher at longer lengths in most stranded cables. That is what causes attenuation. And that attenuation is fairly small. There is more than enough copper in either type to carry the low frequency portion of the signal.

You probably won't find an article that specifically says what you want here. But if you look at the engineering data for the cables you can see the attenuation per foot. IT references are not highly technical and serve more as a rule of thumb. And there is also a lot of bogus electrical engineering theory in IT circles.

Also the reason CAT6 is 23awg and CAT5E is 24AWG has nothing to do with power transport capacity. The larger wire gauge of the CAT6 was chosen for RF characteristics at the frequencies employed in Gigabyte Ethernet.

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post #11 of 18 Old 04-11-2013, 03:12 PM - Thread Starter
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Hey - what you guys doing highjacking the thread? wink.gif Well - my question was answered at least, I was only worried about the ease of installation and working with the cable for my application, I wasn't at all concerned about signal strength. But I may as well dive in!

It's funny, I was just talking to guys at work about the solid vs. stranded for carrying a stronger signal that was mentioned on here, and got a few comments from them. Mostly in one respect - the cable will perform as well as it's rated. It wouldn't be rated Cat6, stranded or solid, if it couldn't do its job. So there shouldn't be a fear that bits will be lost because of choosing one of the other. Just choose the one that's easiest to work with for your application. Cat6 is rated for certain rates up to certain max distances. The solid will do it, the stranded will do it. Go beyond those distances and you are operating out of spec, and you can't trust the solid or the stranded. Within spec you can trust either (assuming it comes from a trusted manufacturer that certifies their cables). In addition, very complex effects with electrons start to take place at high frequencies, that most of us don't understand well, having to do with electric and magnetic field interactions.

As for theory. As far as I understand, for low frequencies the cross sectional area is of most importance. At 60 Hz and DC, power supply frequencies, cross sectional area is king. As frequencies climb however there is something called the "skin effect" which makes itself manifest and current tends to run on the outside of the conductor. There is also something called "proximity effect" but I don't understand the details, has something to do with current eddies and weird stuff like that. Skin "depth" is several millimeters (like 8 or something like that) at 60 Hz, so only has an effect on very large power cables.

Skin effect is more pronounced at high frequencies. At 100 MHz, the skin depth (where the current density drops to 1/e) is about 6.5 micrometers. For Cat6, which is rated up to 500MHz, skin effect could be very significant. In these cases, the surface area of the outside of an uninsulated cable bundle is likely what's important. In fact, for RF applications, hollow tubes are often just as effective. Stranded vs. solid should have a negligible effect as long as the outer diameter is the same. Since they are shorted together the bundle acts mostly as a single conductor. I would guess 24 ga stranded will be about the same diameter as 23 ga solid. The capacitance values for each type of cable are very similar as well, my guess is because the electrical properties of shorted strands vs. a solid conductor are similar.

So as a EE myself, I just don't buy it that solid conductor of comparable diameter as stranded could carry a signal significantly better over longer distances based on the theory I have learned. I also don't buy it because if it meets the spec it meets the spec. Maybe the solid can go a few feet further or not. I would think manufacturing variances would make just as big of a difference. So my guess is that solid is better for long, permanent runs because it can handle oxidation better over time, is more durable so pulling is less likely to damage it, and pulling stress goes up with pulling cable over longer distances, and not because of a difference in electrical properties. The idea that solid is electrically superior, in my opinion, would be conjecture and has become "truth" just because of speculation over the fact that solid is recommended by manufacturers as more reliable for pulling and in wall use. A quick search on the internet, and I found many manufacturers recommending solid for long distance use and in wall use - but none of them ever said why. I would be very interested in a study or paper discussing the reasons why solid is recommended for long distances.

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post #12 of 18 Old 04-11-2013, 03:53 PM
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And if you use a Sharpie to write "Monster" on the jacket, the packets will arrive happier and look better. biggrin.gif

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post #13 of 18 Old 04-11-2013, 11:07 PM - Thread Starter
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I read a little more about it. The standards actually state that the cable performs at 100 meters according to the TIA/EIA-568-B topology (and some other more complex ones). The B topology is defined as structured wiring (they call this the horizontal wiring or backbone) + patch cables. Patch cables can comprise no more than 10 meters, with the no patch cord on either side of the structured portion should be greater than 5 meters. Horizontal wiring should be solid:

6.1.2. Backbone cable section, ANSI/TIA-568-B.2-1 Category 6 standard. Four-pair 100. UTP and ScTP cables are recognized for use in Category 6 backbone cabling systems. The cable shall consist of 22 AWG to 24 AWG thermoplastic insulated solid conductors that are formed into four individually twisted-pairs and enclosed by a thermoplastic jacket.

Another interesting note I found:

A 20 % increase in insertion loss is allowed over category 6 horizontal cable insertion loss for work area and patch cords.

So work area and patch cords can have higher attenuation (aka insertion loss) - but can only be 10m of the 100m total. But what this also means is that stranded cable does NOT have to be manufactured to the same standards, since for physical handling reasons it is best for patch/work area cords.

In a way this is the chicken and the egg. Is stranded worse over long distances instrincally because stranding causes attenuation? Not necessarily. It may be worse because it is allowed to be. So stranded cable will be tested only to the more lenient attenuation requirement, thus you must expect stranded wire on the market, by definition, to have 20% higher attenuation. It may be less, but without knowing any better, you must expect it to be.

In the end it doesn't change the recommended course of action. Better to stick with solid for in-wall. Better to stick with stranded for patch cables. Both because of physical considerations, and the difference in manufacturing standards resulting in an expectation that stranded will have higher attenuation. Up to 20% more.

I'm probably still wrong about some stuff. It seems like the more I researched it the more aha moments I would have. The specs cost money - plus I wouldn't take the time to read them.

Oh, and don't forget about using the word "Monster" -- bits get excited when they see or hear that!

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post #14 of 18 Old 04-11-2013, 11:13 PM - Thread Starter
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I love the sound of my own typing. But I couldn't resist adding one last thought.

This was regarding coax. Most manufacturers now make copper clad steel conductors for the center of RG6 coax. I think the reason for this is the skin effect. Since the majority of the current runs over the skin of the conductor, why spend the money to make the whole thing copper? Plus steel is stronger so it makes a better strength member. Steel for the strength, and copper for the current. Best of both worlds.

I was also earlier debating the solid copper vs. copper clad steel cables for my RG6 runs.

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post #15 of 18 Old 04-11-2013, 11:49 PM
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The real reason copper clad RG6 was developed was for CATV drop cables. As steel is much stronger than copper, the run from a pole to a house did not need a messenger cable for support. The skin effect allowed this to work favorably.

Now where you get into trouble with steel core RG6 is satellite dishes. As the preamp and block converter are powered by DC over the coax as well as audio signal tones for tuning control, the copper cladding is not sufficient for the power or low frequency control signals. It's just fine for the L band RF at approx 1ghz.

Copper clad coax is also no good for analog baseband video and digital audio due to the lower skin effect of these frequencies, baseband video ideally goes down to DC.

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post #16 of 18 Old 04-12-2013, 04:31 AM
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The stranding causes attenuation. Stranded cable is used for patch cords because of flexibility, no other reason.

DirecTV tells installers to use solid copper for coax, because of less DC voltage drop compared with CCS, as stated by glimmie.

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. -Buddha

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post #17 of 18 Old 04-13-2013, 02:02 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone, love the people here. This turned out to be a fun and fascinating thread, way more than I expected when I first posted my "easy" little question.

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post #18 of 18 Old 04-13-2013, 02:24 PM
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The reason solid conductors are superior to stranded conductors for Cat 5/5e/6 cable is quite simple. It is possible to achieve better return loss figures with solid conductors. Cable impedance is a factor of the geometry and the dielectric. It is possible to control the geometry better with solid conductors.
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