If you are planning on building your very own home theater, you are in the market for wires. Plural. Naturally there are other important components that make you’re A/V system including the HDTV or projector, speakers, video source, etc. but this article will discuss the different types of wires for home theater.
In order to put together a home theater, the following wires are needed:
Power cables to power the various devices
HDMI cables for all the DH TV and High Definition surround sound needs
Ethernet for data transfer
In wall speaker wire is available in various gauges, and can be shielded or un-shielded. For high performance home theater installations and longer runs it is recommended to use heavier gauge 12-10 AWG two conductors per speaker. An alternative to this is to use 14AWG/4 conductor cables, which create an aggregate 11AWG/ 2 conductor cable. The advantages to using a 14/4 cable include superior flexibility, the hopefully unneeded security of having a backup pair of conductors in the unlikely event that one pair should fail and the flexibility in adding another set of speakers. A 14/4 cable will suffice for an up to 50ft installation.
Two types of interconnects are available – balanced and unbalanced. Unbalanced connections are by far more common in a residential installation, though balanced connectors offer a locking connection and suffer less from grounding issues. The best style of unbalanced cable is RG6 quad shield coax. The RG6 quad shield coax wire can be used for subwoofer interconnects, component video cables, digital interconnects, analog interconnects, and satellite/cable distribution. Balanced cables are used for AES/EBU digital connections and analog audio connections (including compatible subwoofers). If the source devices and A/V receiver or Pre/Pro are located on the same rack, you’ll primarily need to plan for pre-wiring subwoofer connections. For pre-wiring subwoofers, run multiple connections, (at least one run to each side wall and rear wall).
High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) is presently the cable of choice for transmitting high definition audio and video in high end home theater installations. HDMI connections are present on Blu-ray players, HDTV’s, cable boxes, gaming consoles, and projectors. Depending on the length of the run, some care needs to be taken with the cable you purchase. While few (if any) cables should have difficulties with the usual 3-4′ run between a Blu-ray player and your A/V receiver, longer runs to a projector can be challenging. For runs up to 50 feet, standard category 2 certified cables will suffice. For runs to a projector, run a conduit with a second HDMI cable for redundancy, as well as an Ethernet cable for triggering your electric screen (if applicable). Make sure that any and all in wall or in ceiling cables must meet NEC standards.
Category 5 cable (Cat5e) is often used in structured wiring, phone, computer multi-room control systems, and home automation systems. Cat5e is used in home theater applications for remote control and as a trigger cable for operation of electric screens and other accessories.
When selecting wires for home theater installation, it is important to comply with codes and standards not only to pass inspection, but to assure the system will perform its best for a long time.