Cheaper Alternatives for Audio Cabling?

The following is a Facebook exchange that I had with a former student outfitting his new studio.  He raises some great questions about what makes a cable compatible with audio.

JB:
if i were to put an audio snake through 1 1/4 conduit and i were to use cat5 as a temporary cheap(free) way to do this would it work for 16 channels?

I know it will fit in the conduit.. at least thats what the electrician told me.
I am more interested in how well cat5 will work as a temporary audio cable

Hendrik:
CAT5 unfortunately will not work as audio cable unless you convert all the audio to digital first and then shoot it down the line. This would be REALLY expensive. CAT5 isn’t shielded, though the “twisted pair” nature of it does help a little. CAT5 has 4 pairs of very thin solid core wire, so that you would only get you 4 channels, even if there was a shield.

Your best cheap option for 16 channels is to buy 16 channel snake cable and solder the ends without the breakout box. Redco does sometimes have used snakes for sale.
Do you need all 16 channels? What else is in the conduit? If there’s any power there don’t run any audio into it!

I like Clark Wire’s cable because of the color coding and a very convenient drain wire
http://www.clarkwire.com/cat700AudioSnakeAnalog.htm

Do you mind if I post your question anonymously on my blog?

JB:
Go right ahead and put it on your blog. I figured the lack of shield would destroy me. I am just in a situation where i can get way more than a hundred feet of it for free and was wishing it would work. i only need to go about 50-60ft so i would have done 4+ runs of it.

The conduit is going to be along the baseboard and the power is going to be ran through the ceiling and come down where needed about 12-18inches up the wall.

My parents have a mid sized barn(closer to small i guess) that they currently rent out. The renters have told my parents they will no longer need it after January. I was hoping to get a little project space for when i am not busy over the summer. i might “steal” some of the “broken” dmx/XLR from work and see what i can do with that before buying stuff i can’t afford ha ha.

on a side note…
Will 5 wire DMX work if i just don’t use a wire?

Hendrik:
DMX Cable has higher impedance than audio cable because it’s for data. DMX is around 110 Ohms while audio cable is around 70 Ohms. I also think DMX cable has thicker shielding. You could probably use DMX cable for digital connections like AES-EBU which also uses an XLR connector.

It’s possible that you could send audio on a DMX cable but you might get signal loss because of the higher impedance. I wouldn’t risk it personally. I would see if you could find a used snake somewhere and fix what needs to be fixed.  Sometimes companies have short lengths of cable that they will sell for a discount.

Good luck!

Please let me know if anyone finds out some new cheaper ways of doing our work!

One Response to “Cheaper Alternatives for Audio Cabling?”

  1. LB Says:

    I haven’t used one, but I found the InstaSnake PA200, which uses cat5/cat5e/cat6 to as an analog 4 channel snake. Guessing it does impedance conversion in the con-box. They claim lengths of up to 1,000 feet are viable. Passive box, carries 4 balanced lines with or w/o phantom power. You’d need four of them for 16 channels.

    Their site: http://www.etslan.com/

    No idea how well it works, but it appears possible to carry analog audio long distances over data cable with some massaging.

Leave a Reply