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Author Topic: The mystic qualities of ethernet cable and protecting yourself in the real world  (Read 1409 times)

Bob Leonard

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In my primary industry I am constantly working with very large networks for very large world wide corporations and governments. In most cases price for support and quality are secondary to the actual support and quality of the product. Like everything else you get what you pay for, no exceptions.

On this site the move to digital boards and digital stage boxes is often discussed, and the primary discussion always concerns connecting the stage box, and almost always what type cable to use for that purpose.

Regardless of category, it may surprise many of you to learn there are only two (2) types of cable. Certified and NOT certified.

When choosing a cable for your connectivity I would suggest that you place more importance on the cable certification than on the category. Take the time to do a little research, and the first step in that research will always be to read the printing on the cable jacket.

In my example I wanted to find out if the CAT6 cables I had on hand would work without issue between my performer and 32R stage box. My reference cable for the testing would be the specially made cable sent to me by my good friend Steve Hurt. The cable length was about 20'.

My test cables varied in length, type, and quality. Many had no marking other than CAT5, CAT6, etc.. I knew what to expect, and was not disappointed when NONE of the unmarked cables I had on hand, out of maybe 50 cables, provided reliable service. However, ALL of the marked certified cables work flawlessly from 25' up to and including cables 328' long. None of the cables were of shielded construction except one (1), and none were built with anything other than standard RJ-45 connectors.

So back to the initial reason for the testing. Certified cables work, uncertified cables don't.

How do you spot a certified cable? Look at the jacket and you should see similar printing to that below;

SUNF PU EI32276-A1 CM 75C 4PR 24 AWG CSA LL6451-A CMG FT4 ETL&3P VERIFIED TO TIA/EIA 568B.2-1 ISO/IEC 11801&EN 50173 CAT6

Pretty long line to say the least, but those are numbers that identify the manufacturer (SUNF PU), the construction type and verification process certificate. Entek is the leader in cable certification.

YMMV with the above, but a good reliable starting point is the writing on the jacket. Good luck to you all.

https://www.sunfpu.com/cat-6-solid-plenum.html

http://www.pccableworld.com/pdf/Shielded%20Cat6%20Stranded.pdf

https://www.cablestogo.com/category/cat-x/cat6

http://www.flukenetworks.com/findit/3469988

6. Buyer Beware
An unsettling trend in the cable industry relates to “no-name” Cat 5, 6, and 6A product. This cable is often made outside
the United States and is less expensive than comparable product from major manufactures. Unfortunately, much of this
inexpensive cable is made from inferior materials using questionable manufacturing processes.
In 2008 the Communications Cable & Connectivity Association tested nine brands of no-name cables, all of which were
rated for use in risers or plenum spaces. Not one met the physical requirements defined in TIA 568-B.2. Only five meet the
electrical test requirements defined in TIA 568-B.2 and one met the safety requirements defined by UL 1666 and NFPA 262.
How is such poor cable reaching the market? It can because safety agencies perform random tests at the point of manufacture,
not in the field. The chasm in the quality process leaves end users exposed to safety and performance risks that are
entirely avoidable.
To ensure that there are no costs or risks hidden in inexpensive Cat 5, 6, and 6A cable, enterprises and cable installers
should certify cable in accordance with industry standards."
"
« Last Edit: September 06, 2017, 03:23:25 pm by Bob Leonard »
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Brian Jojade

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But the non-certified stuff is cheaper...
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Keith Broughton

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Good info!
Thanks Bob
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I don't care enough to be apathetic

Barry Singleton

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But the non-certified stuff is cheaper...

Of course it is.  It's less expensive too.

Barry.
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If we knew what the hell we were doing, we wouldn't call it research would we.

Steve M Smith

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Of course it is.  It's less expensive too.
And it doesn't cost as much.


Steve.
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Tom Bourke

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And it doesn't cost as much.


Steve.
But does it go to eleven?
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Steve Oldridge

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Thanks Bob..

Should we assume this "issue" is not limited to CAT cables, but also to other cheap cables we would use in SR .??
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Scott Holtzman

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Thanks Bob..

Should we assume this "issue" is not limited to CAT cables, but also to other cheap cables we would use in SR .??

I have mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating.  UTP cable is not carrying DC signals.  Gigabit Ethernet is essentially microwave RF, 100M is VHF frequencies.  UTP is carrying RF, leakage, crosstalk as well as attenuation are all factors in the operation of the cable.  When UTP cable is tested (or certified) the test is to determine that the error rate on the cable at the intended transmission speed is acceptable for the application.

Audio is a real time protocol, there is no time for resends or other TCP style integrity constructs.  Cable plant directly impacts quality and reliability. 

Lastly certification is not just the cable, it is the system.  The attachment of connectors, patching and the physical media all must pass the test. 

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Tim McCulloch

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Thanks Bob..

Should we assume this "issue" is not limited to CAT cables, but also to other cheap cables we would use in SR .??

For analog audio? No.  For data or data-like signals? Yes.

Certified performance for RG-series cables used for MADI or Avid's DigiSnake?  Yes.  For video? Who cares, that's the vidiots problem.... ;)
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Mac Kerr

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Thanks Bob..

Should we assume this "issue" is not limited to CAT cables, but also to other cheap cables we would use in SR .??

No. Analog audio has very low requirements of cable, high speed data does not. While there is always the possibility of more problems with cheap cable, if it is wired correctly it should perform as well as more expensive cable. It just may not be a rugged. The requirements for high speed data are pretty high, and carefully specified.

Mac
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Steve Oldridge

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No. Analog audio has very low requirements of cable, high speed data does not. While there is always the possibility of more problems with cheap cable, if it is wired correctly it should perform as well as more expensive cable. It just may not be a rugged. The requirements for high speed data are pretty high, and carefully specified.

Mac
Thanks Mac..  I figured as much, but  thought I would pose the question..  for others in the "lounge".
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Jonathan Woytek

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Lastly certification is not just the cable, it is the system.  The attachment of connectors, patching and the physical media all must pass the test.

To double-down on this and similar comments posted by Mac about the needs of data cabling, it is probably especially important to emphasize to folks new to data cabling in the audio world the statement that the cable is part of a system. When it gets damaged, it can't be reliably spliced like audio or speaker cables. A quick splice and fix with electrical tape is not going to cut it (unless you're really, really lucky). Likewise, quality and correct termination practices are necessary to maintain the signal path. For the average audio cable, a poor quality solder joint will likely still work at least a little bit. In a data cable, a poor quality crimp on a termination can render the connection completely unusable.

If you're depending on an ethernet "snake" for your audio, it is wise to have something to use as backup. If you're using a ruggedized ethernet snake with a single line, it's cheap insurance to buy a 100' pre-terminated "patch" cable to keep in a box with your gear. It isn't fancy, but for ~$14 (monoprice.com) and the price of maybe moving your mix position forward a bit, it's an inexpensive way to make sure that the show can go on after someone drives a backhoe over your ruggedized cable and compromises it (DAMHIKT).

Speaking of the above, I'm jonesing to find someone to make cable ramps at a reasonable price. Another topic for another thread, but the theme is similar: That ethernet line is a lot smaller and lighter than a 24x8 copper multicore, but it still needs to be protected and respected!

jonathan
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Jonathan Woytek
Dryrose Productions

Bob Leonard

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Thanks all for adding to the conversation.

Just one question for Jonathan. Good quality made in the USA certified cable sells for about a dollar per foot terminated. Would you trust a 100' $14 cable to get the job done without issues?
« Last Edit: September 07, 2017, 05:03:44 pm by Bob Leonard »
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Yoel Farkas

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No. Analog audio has very low requirements of cable, high speed data does not. While there is always the possibility of more problems with cheap cable, if it is wired correctly it should perform as well as more expensive cable. It just may not be a rugged. The requirements for high speed data are pretty high, and carefully specified.

Mac
Analog cables will transmitted audio even it's cheaply build. But noise induction is another story.

A quostion I use to ask: when you in a store to choose a cable, how do you know which cable is better. Most people answer, Price. They think the more expensive the cable the better it is.

On a project I worked on cable manufacturing. We bought a lot of popular cables 2 of each model. We cut one and test the other one with intentionly inducing noise. We found that price has noting to do with the quality of the cable. Of course good cables cost more. But some of the expensive cables was barely shielded inducing a lot of noise. And some of the cheap cables ware decent.

Also oher points to look at analog cables is the connectors. Good cables will have top brand connectors (neutrik, switchcraft)
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Yoel Farkas
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Jonathan Woytek

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Thanks all for adding to the conversation.

Just one question for Jonathan. Good quality made in the USA certified cable sells for about a dollar per foot terminated. Would you trust a 100' $14 cable to get the job done without issues?

Have done and will probably do in the future, especially as a (tested) backup. For primary, I tend to make and terminate my own cables using certified cable with proper technique and tools. If you're in a position that requires purchasing made in US items, that's one thing. Otherwise, $1/ft for umarmored cat6 patch cables is overpaying, regardless of certification. I spend my day job life around high-speed data networks. Well-made properly-executed cabling is widely available at good prices, but one must pay attention when buying.
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Jonathan Woytek
Dryrose Productions

Dave Bednarski

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You can always have one built for you (vs. shelf buy).  The resulting cable + connector combo won't be unique in the cable world but talking with a human and can help make the right purchase for your needs/use case.

I had a backup cable built this spring by Stonewall Cable in NH.  An engineer there spent time w/ me on the phone reviewing the specs for my stage box/console/ferrite core - made an attempt to understand my "system" and how else the cable may be deployed.

Now I have a "tactical" cable that arrived with a birth certificate listing bunch of shit I don't understand but I could probably use it as a spare safety chain for the truck/trailer.  It makes ProCo CAT it replaced as my emergency backup feel like dental floss.
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Rob Spence

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There are lots of strange financial decisions I find amusing/frustrating in our world.

The really talented lead singer who won't spring for a $250 mic when the other band mates have each spent thousands.

Spend thousands on a mixer and stage box but not buy the interconnect cable the manufacturer recommended for the "system".


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Rick Powell

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Speaking of the above, I'm jonesing to find someone to make cable ramps at a reasonable price. Another topic for another thread, but the theme is similar: That ethernet line is a lot smaller and lighter than a 24x8 copper multicore, but it still needs to be protected and respected!

jonathan

We got a bunch of these, and they work pretty well. We are running AC to the board and a ProCo Cat 6 cable in the troughs. When they were on sale, we got it for $25 a section.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/2-Channel-Rubber-Electrical-Wire-Cable-Cover-Ramp-Guard-Warehouse-Cord-Protector/391630034101?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649

Our previous Cat 5e got mangled by a semi truck driving over a makeshift "cable protector" that the village had provided for a car show event, consisting of warped boards nailed together. I suspect the cable got pinched by one of the boards as the truck went over...probably worse than a direct roll-over. We got lots of snap, crackle, pop in the cable immediately afterward as well as a few seconds of dead air every time something would jiggle the cable.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2017, 12:37:09 pm by Rick Powell »
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