How many feet of speaker wire do I need? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 29 Old 08-29-2014, 08:44 PM - Thread Starter
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How many feet of speaker wire do I need?

I'm in the planning stages of my new construction home that will have an HT. I just gave my architect the retainer fee and we're getting under way with the design next week. But, my wheels are constantly turning and I'm always researching. I like getting ahead in the game on certain things (that aren't based on technology, which changes quickly). One of those things is speaker wire. I'm planning on getting Monoprice 12AWG CL2 wire for the electricians to run. I'd prefer to provide the material so I know what I'm getting.

I haven't been able to locate the best way to calculate the number of feet I need, though. I know I have to know my room dimensions and all that. That's fine...I'm just looking for the method to do it. Do they just run it via the most direct path in the wall? Should they run it so it doesn't go parallel with the electrical? Ultimately, I'm going to have three front channels, one sub for now (potential for 2 later), two sides, two rears, and four atmos speakers in the ceilings. So I need to calculate my feet for all of this.

On another note...should I just have them run conduit for EVERYTHING instead? Seems overkill and potentially more costly, but I'm unsure.

Thanks!

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post #2 of 29 Old 08-30-2014, 03:58 AM
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I run two conduits. One to the projector and one to behind the false front screen wall. I don't even run the cables to those locations until the theater is past the paint stage. For the surrounds I skip the conduit. Just my feeling, not shared by all. If you are building soffits built after the theater shell, you can run your speaker with in those much later. The sequence of many steps is not like normal residential construction if you are attempting to include sound isolation methods. Avoiding electrical box cut outs is one example. Put outlets in columns built after the room is drywalled.

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post #3 of 29 Old 08-30-2014, 07:45 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by BIGmouthinDC View Post
I run two conduits. One to the projector and one to behind the false front screen wall. I don't even run the cables to those locations until the theater is past the paint stage. For the surrounds I skip the conduit. Just my feeling, not shared by all. If you are building soffits built after the theater shell, you can run your speaker with in those much later. The sequence of many steps is not like normal residential construction if you are attempting to include sound isolation methods. Avoiding electrical box cut outs is one example. Put outlets in columns built after the room is drywalled.
Thanks for the info, but how do I calculate how many feet of speaker wire I need? Sound isolation is actually not a huge concern for me. This house is being built out away from any heavy traffic and the land is big enough that neighbors won't be disturbed. The rooms are going to be on the opposite side of the house (both master on ground level and upstairs bedrooms). Now, I know sound transmits through walls and adjoining lumber, etc. However, my entire family sleeps like the dead. Noise doesn't really bother them and faint noise from a movie across the house surely isn't going to be a sleep loser. I thought I would also do fully insulated walls and possibly a staggered stud plate on the wall that adjoins any other room (the kitchen in my case).

I'm failing to see how running conduit to the front of the room for my front speakers would benefit me. Speaker wire is something that doesn't change with technology, right? It just is. Also, I'm not doing a false wall. It's just not for me. I don't care about having something that detailed, honestly. The benefits that it provides are things that aren't all that important to me.

For me, it seems that running conduit that would branch off for each speaker cable drop to the front would be unnecessarily expensive. And an individual conduit for each wire would be even more unnecessarily so. Am I wrong? After all, it's just cheap plastic pipe. That being said, if I run the wire AFTER paint (like when I move in, for example), then conduit would be much better for me. My builder uses a blown in cellulose that pushing wires through would be nearly impossible, I would think. And I don't feel like running wire up the wall, through a soffit, and then back down.

So...to me...it's either conduit for each wire or have the electrician run the cables in the walls for me with speaker wire (Monoprice 12AWG CL2) that I provide. Either way, I do still need to know how to calculate the feet that I need. I suspect it is as simple as "add up the feet of this wall and that other wall, plus any slack" and then you're done.

That was a very long and drawn out post. Sorry. Basically, I'm entirely too busy with work to go that deep in building a room out (building a soffit, wiring electrical, building a false wall, etc). It would take me an eternity and I'd never get to actually enjoy the room. I'd rather have as much done for me during my home construction as I can. I want them to build the room, A/V closet, run conduit for the projector, run conduit up to the attic from a/v, build the riser, build the soffit (if I have one), lighting, and most pre-wiring. I'll concede that I need to do the acoustic treatment, hang the pj, and paint the screen wall (I'm not getting an actual screen at first).

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post #4 of 29 Old 08-30-2014, 08:19 AM
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Add up the distances "as the crow flies", add the room height (twice - up and down the wall) plus the attic height (twice), then add 10-20' per run. Total all that up, then add some slack and round up to the next spool.

I calculated all of my runs for my house build (I forgot the attic height - a good contractor will bundle wires and secure them high and out of the way, which means more wire), and in reality they were all 10-15' longer than my estimate. But I had enough wire because I bought "plenty".

Wire is cheap, and easy to resell. Running out of wire during construction is bad and expensive. Buy more than you need. If you have partial or even whole spools of speaker wire / coax / cat5e left over, you can dump them on craigslist for probably 80%+ what you spent on them...

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post #5 of 29 Old 08-30-2014, 03:08 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by jautor View Post
Add up the distances "as the crow flies", add the room height (twice - up and down the wall) plus the attic height (twice), then add 10-20' per run. Total all that up, then add some slack and round up to the next spool.

I calculated all of my runs for my house build (I forgot the attic height - a good contractor will bundle wires and secure them high and out of the way, which means more wire), and in reality they were all 10-15' longer than my estimate. But I had enough wire because I bought "plenty".

Wire is cheap, and easy to resell. Running out of wire during construction is bad and expensive. Buy more than you need. If you have partial or even whole spools of speaker wire / coax / cat5e left over, you can dump them on craigslist for probably 80%+ what you spent on them...

Jeff
So, why should I run the wire up into the attic and not just right through the wall? What's the advantage? Wouldn't it be just as easy to run some conduit thorough the wall in a straight path from a/v to the front of the room and all other speaker locations?

Or, even easier, just straight through the wall. What's the downside to this?

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post #6 of 29 Old 08-30-2014, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Myriad_Rocker View Post
So, why should I run the wire up into the attic and not just right through the wall? What's the advantage? Wouldn't it be just as easy to run some conduit thorough the wall in a straight path from a/v to the front of the room and all other speaker locations?
Because you'll never be able to pull new wires using the same path later. And it's a lot more work.

Same path for conduit - up and over and down, not around the room.

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Or, even easier, just straight through the wall. What's the downside to this?
Are you just wiring one room? This is all general advice for "a new home construction home"...

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post #7 of 29 Old 08-30-2014, 04:16 PM
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Originally Posted by BIGmouthinDC View Post
If you are building soffits built after the theater shell, you can run your speaker with in those much later. The sequence of many steps is not like normal residential construction if you are attempting to include sound isolation methods.
So I am buggered then, since I plan to finish my basement at the same time as my theater? The inspections are in stages: Framing, electrical, insulation, post drywall, etc. The exact order still escapes me, lol
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post #8 of 29 Old 08-30-2014, 05:14 PM
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So I am buggered then, since I plan to finish my basement at the same time as my theater? The inspections are in stages: Framing, electrical, insulation, post drywall, etc. The exact order still escapes me, lol
Not really you can do a theater using sound isolation methods. The inspections are all the same pre-drywall You just need to be prepared to explain why you have some loose wires hanging in the theater space. That they will be routed to items internal to the theater space later. I've had that talk a few times myself and rehearsed my clients when they pulled the permits and are DIYing with help. You need to come off knowing what you are doing and the rest of the basement should look perfect to demonstrate that you know what you are doing on the electrical.

Then you get the green light to drywall. and you go to town, You drywall the theater with double layers of 5/8 on clips and channel, using Green Glue dampening, You bring wires into the room through holes in the drywall. Once drywalled you build the stage, riser, soffits columns etc and finish off the wiring while the rest of the basement is being finished. Once everything is done you get your final inspection. Most GCs wouldn't have the patience to build the room correctly as once they send there carpenters home (often subs) they don't want to bring them back after drywall to build a stage and riser for example because it drives the cost and time up.
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post #9 of 29 Old 08-30-2014, 06:31 PM - Thread Starter
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Because you'll never be able to pull new wires using the same path later. And it's a lot more work.

Same path for conduit - up and over and down, not around the room.



Are you just wiring one room? This is all general advice for "a new home construction home"...
I just had a thought. Is it because of the studs and how conduit would have to go THROUGH them and not ride on the outside of them. Totally makes sense, if so. I don't know why I didn't think of this before. Now I know why you have to go up, over, and down! That's a lot more cable than I expected for sure.

When you go up into the attic space, do you keep it running through conduit or do you tack it into place along the ceiling support structure, etc?

When you run the conduit, is it ok to drill through the firebreak to route the conduit up? Can't I just have my electrician do all the conduit for me? I know I'd get charged for the labor but I don't think I'll have the time to take that task on. I think I could run the wire after I move in, though.

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post #10 of 29 Old 08-30-2014, 09:44 PM
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I just had a thought. Is it because of the studs and how conduit would have to go THROUGH them and not ride on the outside of them. Totally makes sense, if so. I don't know why I didn't think of this before. Now I know why you have to go up, over, and down! That's a lot more cable than I expected for sure.
Wire is cheap. Lot less work...

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When you go up into the attic space, do you keep it running through conduit or do you tack it into place along the ceiling support structure, etc?
Depends on your access. If you can get to both ends of the room easily, you can just run up the wall and stop, then pick up again to go down the other wall. But that will mean that you will be spending time in the attic later if you ever need to run something. So make sure you have access...

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Can't I just have my electrician do all the conduit for me? I know I'd get charged for the labor but I don't think I'll have the time to take that task on.
Sure - he'll have the tools, too...

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post #11 of 29 Old 08-30-2014, 10:07 PM
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Never have electrician run speaker/cable wires and conduit! That is my advice and $0.02 but I'd bet a $100-1 you can have many other workers on the job site do it for 75% LESS the cost and follow "home theater" install methods provided by you better than the electrician. A good set of proper directions to a non electrician will most likely go farther than the same set of instructions with an electrician. 99% of electricians have never done home theater work and will most likely deviate from your instructions because of their "trade habit". Just saying lol. One of my electrician crews wanted $250 to run wires from 2 grafik eye base stations to two wall stations, in other words 4 straight runs up the wall to attic and down wall to the stations. Took me 30-45 min since home run holes were already drilled in top plates of both grafik eye panels. I paid the drywall guy $25/hr to help which ended up being $25.
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post #12 of 29 Old 08-30-2014, 10:13 PM - Thread Starter
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Never have electrician run speaker/cable wires and conduit! That is my advice and $0.02 but I'd bet a $100-1 you can have many other workers on the job site do it for 75% LESS the cost and follow "home theater" install methods provided by you better than the electrician. A good set of proper directions to a non electrician will most likely go farther than the same set of instructions with an electrician. 99% of electricians have never done home theater work and will most likely deviate from your instructions because of their "trade habit". Just saying lol. One of my electrician crews wanted $250 to run wires from 2 grafik eye base stations to two wall stations, in other words 4 straight runs up the wall to attic and down wall to the stations. Took me 30-45 min since home run holes were already drilled in top plates of both grafik eye panels. I paid the drywall guy $25/hr to help which ended up being $25.
How hard can it be to run speaker wire and do it right? I mean...I'm providing the wire. Just run the conduit and shove the wire up through there and then down another conduit on the other wall. Not rocket science. I'm not sure how that can be messed up. If you're talking purely $$ that he'd charge, that's something I can work out with my GC.

And if he only did the conduit and I ran the actual wire, then he'd be doing an even simpler job. One that he probably does quite often, I might add. The same electrician wired my current house and ran conduit for me in it as well. No issues there other than he just used whatever wire he wanted. Works fine, no issues. But this time I'm providing the wire.

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post #13 of 29 Old 08-30-2014, 10:29 PM
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I run two conduits. One to the projector and one to behind the false front screen wall. I don't even run the cables to those locations until the theater is past the paint stage. For the surrounds I skip the conduit. Just my feeling, not shared by all. If you are building soffits built after the theater shell, you can run your speaker with in those much later. The sequence of many steps is not like normal residential construction if you are attempting to include sound isolation methods. Avoiding electrical box cut outs is one example. Put outlets in columns built after the room is drywalled.
What do you typically use for your conduit runs?

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How hard can it be to run speaker wire and do it right? I mean...I'm providing the wire. Just run the conduit and shove the wire up through there and then down another conduit on the other wall.
You really don't need to run speaker wires in conduit - save that conduit run for future use or for running HDMI cables.

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post #15 of 29 Old 08-30-2014, 11:19 PM
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You really don't need to run speaker wires in conduit - save that conduit run for future use or for running HDMI cables.
Agreed, I used to set up systems for Dentists, and we made sure they installed 2" PVC in the floor to run cables through. We originally ran VGA, then DVI, and I heard from an old friend that they are going through and replacing with HDMI. I don't expect speaker tech to advance to a point where new wires are required (at least not anytime soon), but video will continue to evolve, so you'll want to be sure you can adapt.

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post #16 of 29 Old 08-31-2014, 12:40 AM
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I burnt through 450m of speaker cable for mine......but that's for fully active 13.1(3 way LCR's, 2 way everything else + 5 subs). By my rack is up stairs above the room, as opposed to next to it.

I didn't run conduit, except for the projector.......I hindsight I'd just to as the master (Big) says

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post #17 of 29 Old 08-31-2014, 07:10 AM - Thread Starter
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You really don't need to run speaker wires in conduit - save that conduit run for future use or for running HDMI cables.
If I'm having conduit put in, why wouldn't I use them for the speaker wire? Particularly if I'm going to just run the speaker wire myself? That's if I decide to do that part myself.

I'm still curious why it's a bad idea to have the electrician do the work. Is it just a money deal?

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post #18 of 29 Old 08-31-2014, 07:58 AM
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If I'm having conduit put in, why wouldn't I use them for the speaker wire? Particularly if I'm going to just run the speaker wire myself? That's if I decide to do that part myself.
Because if the conduit is full of wires, it makes it difficult or impossible to add wires in the future (especially without pulling out the existing wires). As Dizzy said, speaker wire is never going to change, you'll either use it or abandon it - you'll never change it out.

Understand that our use of flex conduit for AV wiring is not to protect the wires - it's to allow for new wire to be added to a location in the future.

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I'm still curious why it's a bad idea to have the electrician do the work. Is it just a money deal?
Yes, cost. This is not work that *requires* a licensed electrician, so you don't need to pay a labor premium... And for actually running low-volt wires, as others have pointed out - electricians don't know the AV business, so they will tend to do things that will be right, electrically, but wrong, for AV purposes. Speaker placement being the most obvious example.

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post #19 of 29 Old 08-31-2014, 08:08 AM - Thread Starter
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Because if the conduit is full of wires, it makes it difficult or impossible to add wires in the future (especially without pulling out the existing wires). As Dizzy said, speaker wire is never going to change, you'll either use it or abandon it - you'll never change it out.

Understand that our use of flex conduit for AV wiring is not to protect the wires - it's to allow for new wire to be added to a location in the future.
I see. Makes sense. I'm not sure why I'd run conduit up to the front of the room at all, but I can certainly tell them to. Conduit to the projector makes much more sense.

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Yes, cost. This is not work that *requires* a licensed electrician, so you don't need to pay a labor premium... And for actually running low-volt wires, as others have pointed out - electricians don't know the AV business, so they will tend to do things that will be right, electrically, but wrong, for AV purposes. Speaker placement being the most obvious example.
Understood. I'll ask my builder if it's something I can do myself before drywall and insulation go up. If not (for insurance purposes or something), I may have to have him do it with the stipulation that I approve the wiring job. Anything I should know to look for?

As far as placement goes, that's something that I'm not sure of myself...when my final room dimensions are known after the architect drawings, that'll be another question I ask if I can't find the answer via search.

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post #20 of 29 Old 08-31-2014, 09:02 AM
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I see. Makes sense. I'm not sure why I'd run conduit up to the front of the room at all, but I can certainly tell them to. Conduit to the projector makes much more sense.
The projector location and the screen wall (front) are the two most likely places you would need more/different cables in the future. If in 5 years you want to replace that old 4K projector with a 32K spray-on OLED screen, you'll want an HDMI-XL5 cable to plug it in...

But seriously, you might want additional speakers, subwoofers, sensor bars, etc. - the point is "we don't know", and that's why you run conduit.

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post #21 of 29 Old 08-31-2014, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by BIGmouthinDC View Post
Not really you can do a theater using sound isolation methods. The inspections are all the same pre-drywall You just need to be prepared to explain why you have some loose wires hanging in the theater space. That they will be routed to items internal to the theater space later. I've had that talk a few times myself and rehearsed my clients when they pulled the permits and are DIYing with help. You need to come off knowing what you are doing and the rest of the basement should look perfect to demonstrate that you know what you are doing on the electrical.

Then you get the green light to drywall. and you go to town, You drywall the theater with double layers of 5/8 on clips and channel, using Green Glue dampening, You bring wires into the room through holes in the drywall. Once drywalled you build the stage, riser, soffits columns etc and finish off the wiring while the rest of the basement is being finished. Once everything is done you get your final inspection. Most GCs wouldn't have the patience to build the room correctly as once they send there carpenters home (often subs) they don't want to bring them back after drywall to build a stage and riser for example because it drives the cost and time up.
Great thanks, hopefully I can come off confident when I get to that stage
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post #22 of 29 Old 08-31-2014, 02:13 PM - Thread Starter
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The projector location and the screen wall (front) are the two most likely places you would need more/different cables in the future. If in 5 years you want to replace that old 4K projector with a 32K spray-on OLED screen, you'll want an HDMI-XL5 cable to plug it in...

But seriously, you might want additional speakers, subwoofers, sensor bars, etc. - the point is "we don't know", and that's why you run conduit.
On a different topic, is there a thread or site that will tell me "ideal" surround speaker locations based on my room dimensions? My room, for example, is expected to be 15x20. That's what I told the architect, anyway. We'll see where I end up, but I said 16x22 max. We're about to start the design project.

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post #23 of 29 Old 08-31-2014, 09:07 PM
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On a different topic, is there a thread or site that will tell me "ideal" surround speaker locations based on my room dimensions?
Nope. Depends on your seating location(s) as well as any obstructions in the room. But a lot of those placements are flexible, too...

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post #24 of 29 Old 08-31-2014, 10:02 PM - Thread Starter
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If in 5 years you want to replace that old 4K projector with a 32K spray-on OLED screen, you'll want an HDMI-XL5 cable to plug it in....
That had better be wireless. So no conduit needed!

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post #25 of 29 Old 08-31-2014, 10:53 PM
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My room is 30 /14/9ft high and i ran though almost 700 feet of the same wire from monoprice. I ran wire for 8 butt kickers, 6 subs and 7 surrounds. I also ran 2 inch PVC from my rack to the screen wall and from the projector to the rack. I would play it safe for future upgrading if a wire goes bad the pipe is there. Don't forget cat5 wire to going from the projector to the rack and what else you may what down the road. Hope this helps
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post #26 of 29 Old 09-01-2014, 07:20 AM - Thread Starter
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My room is 30 /14/9ft high and i ran though almost 700 feet of the same wire from monoprice. I ran wire for 8 butt kickers, 6 subs and 7 surrounds. I also ran 2 inch PVC from my rack to the screen wall and from the projector to the rack. I would play it safe for future upgrading if a wire goes bad the pipe is there. Don't forget cat5 wire to going from the projector to the rack and what else you may what down the road. Hope this helps
I've been meaning to ask that...why are people running cat6 to the projector?

I'll be running wire for 4 buttkickers, by the way. That's the plan anyway.

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post #27 of 29 Old 09-01-2014, 08:53 AM
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I've been meaning to ask that...why are people running cat6 to the projector?

I'll be running wire for 4 buttkickers, by the way. That's the plan anyway.
Two reasons.
1) HDMI BASE T baluns. Transmit HDMI over long distance. Baluns replaceable over time as technology changes. Easier to change than an HDMI cable.
2) Serial control. And other wire based control and signal transmissions. Apart from Rf you can pretty much send anything down Cat. Even 48v dc Electrical.
It's cheap and there for if you need it.
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post #28 of 29 Old 09-01-2014, 10:47 AM
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That had better be wireless. So no conduit needed!
Whatever the state-of-the-art wireless solution is in the future, the wired equivalent will be cheaper, better, more reliable or all of the above...

And as for cat6 / cat5e to the projector location - as cheap as the wire is and for the number of potential uses one could have for it at the projector, I would run 2 or 3 category wires there.
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post #29 of 29 Old 09-02-2014, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by jautor View Post
The projector location and the screen wall (front) are the two most likely places you would need more/different cables in the future. If in 5 years you want to replace that old 4K projector with a 32K spray-on OLED screen, you'll want an HDMI-XL5 cable to plug it in...

But seriously, you might want additional speakers, subwoofers, sensor bars, etc. - the point is "we don't know", and that's why you run conduit.
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That had better be wireless. So no conduit needed!
Eh, I'll wait another 5yrs and have it beamed straight into my brain.. Wait, that mean's my theater is obsolete in 10 years.

Now I'm depressed, where's my blankie!

Sean Hull

Denon 3808ci | PS3 80Gb | Harmony One | Toshiba XA2 | Samsung 61" PN60E6500EF | HTPC with HDMI

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