We are having a 5 bedroom home built (basement + 2 floors, rectangular
28' X 48') and I have certain audio/computer plans and had some questions. You guys seem to be very knowledgeable about so many things. My wife has some very definite requirements and constraints (that may seem odd) - I aim to please her :) Hey it's Valentine's Day!
As far as computer networking - I think I have it understood okay except for a few points. I got a great deal (someone I have dealt with needed to reduce his inventory quickly...long sory) on some shielded cat6 cable (1000 ft spool). I believe it to be pretty high quality cable. I plan on wiring about 12 wall jacks in various places throughout the house. For Video I plan on streaming video over cat6 to/from media pcs. We only have (and ever plan to have!) 2 tvs so this seems pretty manageable. One server in our media/computer rack and a pc next to each of the tvs we will stream to. The server will have 2 (maybe 3) capture cards. I haven't decided to go media center 2005 or mythTV yet (leaning towards wmc2005). Are there any special cat6 (vice cat5) concerns? I have run a fair amount of cat5 before but never cat6. I haven't unwound the cable yet but I expect it to be a lot more stiff than the cable I am used to since this is solid shielded 23awg cat6 cable. Should I run this cable before or after insulation is put in the walls? Any suggestions on securing the cable? Anyone use some safe staple-like brackets that you like? Things to avoid? I plan on trying to stay at least 6 inches away from the power line wherever I can. Is this enough? If I need them to go through the same whole in a floor joist somewhere how bad is that? Anyone know of good cat6 modular jacks? Should I definitely look for gold plated - I hear that the jacks need to be pretty high quality or you lose much of the advantage for cat6.
okay for the requirement whole house audio. My wife only wants 1 zone. I have asked her a lot on this and she doesn't want more zones. I am planning on having 8 sets of 2 speakers for the house and will be putting them in mostly sometime down the road. I don't have a decent amplifier at all right now so this will be for the future. (Any amplifier suggestions for driving 8 sets of speakers would be appreciated). I mostly just want the infrastructure in place. My wife's point about 1 zone is that if anyone for example in their own room wants something different then they can play it on their personal sound system. I am thinking of a spool of 250' of 14/4 speaker wire to run to the various impdedance volume controls for each of the pairs of speakers and 14/2 speaker wire to the actual speakers (from the volume controls). How does this sound? I believe almost all of the speakers will be either wall or ceiling speakers - I still need to price and look at these. Any suggestions? What wattage rating speakers should I be considering for such a system? I know it depends on cost a lot. I hope to spend
As WAF approaches unity, yin and yan become balanced and the universe sings. Well anyway, at least your coffee will be made the way you like it. :^)
Since the house is open, I'd install PC outlets in every bedroom, the office, media center, kitchen work station (once you've discovered
you'll never want a kitchen without space for a laptop), the exercise room and work room.
The most common approach is to install at each PC location (2) CAT5 or better plus (2) RG6/Quad Shield cables. Reality is you can get by with just one CAT5 or better. The RG6 comes in handy for cable modems, TV and CCTV signal distribution. Though you can get by without it, IMO it's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
You can do that but for over the air, satellite or CATV, you'll find it easier if you include the coax. Give yourself the flexibility to change your approach in the future by wiring for conventional distribution as well as WMS.
The only issue is that to accomplish CAT5 level performance requires little skill, basic knowledge and simple tools. CAT6 performance requires better tools, better skills using them and greater knowledge. However, if you use the CAT6 shielded and you don't do a perfect job you won't be any worse off than if you did the same using CAT5 UTP. IOW, since you have the cable at a bargain price, go for it.
It's a bit stiffer but not particularly difficult to run. Mind your bend radius and be careful not to crimp it. Also, don't exert too much pulling strength on it. Doing so tends to undo the twists a bit, causing reduced throughput.
You should run *all* types of cable before the insulation is installed. While you're at it, consider taking advantage of the opportunity to wire for intercom, security, CCTV, etc. Wire is cheap and your own labor is free.
I've used a rather unconventional technique that's inexpensive, easy to use and easy to service later. I hammer in a couple of
5/8" or larger drive rings (nails with metal open loops attached) a couple of feet from the outside wall at each end of the basement ceiling and attic rafters. Snap a chalk line between them and bang in additional drive rings on every third joist / rafter.
Then you can slip your cables into the loops to hold them in place. When you're finished, attach a long wire tie to the bundle at one end, gently pull the cables straight from the other end and attach another wire tie. If you wrap the wire tie around the bundle five or six times it will hold the cables straight without being pulled tightly. If you ever have to add or move a cable, snip the wire ties, slip the new cable into the loops and resecure it. We did this with security system wiring for years.
I've tried several of them. They generally took too long and the wiring began to look like rails in a freight yard. I prefer a few arrow-straight bundles.
With STP that's probably far enough, though I like to keep all low voltage cables 12" from parallel 110VAC and 24" from 220VAC lines.
Very bad. It's a code violation and it's extremely dangerous. When pulling a new cable through the same hole as another cable it is very easy for the friction to wear right through the outer jacket and inner insulation, exposing your low voltage circuitry to direct contact with 110 or 220 Volts. That can not only fry your hardware. It can kill you.
Copper works fine.
Give her one zone. Wire for separate zones in every room.
Any decent receiver will have A and B speaker outputs. Connect the B set to a speaker selector. I like Russound (which I sell online) but Niles (which I don't carry) is also very good. In each room install an impendence matching volume control.
She has a valid point, though I like the ability to use one set of source components and one media collection anywhere and everywhere I want. That's the difference with a multi-zone system. Since she only wants one zone, just home run the wire for speakers and volume controls in each room. Also pull a CAT5 cable from each volume control location back to the media room. That way if she changes her mind later all you'll need to do is swap out the volume controls for system keypads, install the main unit in the media room and you're done.
Buy 500 feet of 14/4 at a minimum. Eight runs will use up 250' in no time. Depending on the room sizes, you might get away with
500 feet of 14/2 for the v/c to speaker runs.
There are a plethora of architectural speakers on the market. I've tried numerous brands. In my home I use Proficient Audio (they're actually Speaker Craft). They make excellent in-ceiling and in-wall speakers and their prices are pretty decent.
Russound also make some good ones but stay away from their "contractor grade" series -- sound like elevator speakers.
Outside speakers need more power than inside ones. I use 8-inch Proficient C800 speakers on my lanai (Florida-speak for covered patio). The screened in area is roughly 85' by 60' and I get good sound everywhere with about 40-Watts. During major parties I sometimes turn up the outside sound to about 100-Watts per channel. It stays clean and clear.
Inside I use a combination of C800, C870 and C660 models. Our living / dining room is one space about 40' by 25' with a 12' ceiling. I've never needed more than about 25-30 Watts per channel there. All other rooms except the family room are fine with no more than about 20-30 Watts.
As for amplifiers, or rather receivers, until recently I was using a Yamaha RXV-3000. That was more than enough to power all rooms.
Our new (to us) home is currently serviced by a single zone but I plan to install either a Russound CAA66L or depending on how good sales are this quarter) a Xantech MRC88. Only the lanai and the family room will have separate amps. All other rooms will be serviced with 25-35 Watts per channel from the distribution system.
I've installed a fair number of multi-room systems over the years. Most homeowners grossly overestimate the amplifier power they'll need. I've found that 15 Watts per room is plenty of power because you almost never drive all rooms at once.
Yep. Russound ALTX2 impendence matching volume controls work very well and they'll last as long the house unless you hit them with lightning or a baseball bat. :^)
As long as everything is connected to the same phase (same side of the split phase for purists out there) and everything is properly grounded to a single ground or a bonded ground system, you'll be fine. Don't waste a dime on "power conditioners" -- they're about as useful as "high end" audio cable.
Before. As noted above, you should also consider running CAT5 along with the 14/4 to each volume control location. That will leave your options open if you ever decide to upgrade.
Stay 1 foot from 110VAC and 2 feet from 220VAC.
Some folks believe you should run conduit or flex tubing to every conceivable location. I'd place conduit where it will be very difficult to drop a new cable later. Also, run at least three separate 2" conduits from the basement to the attic and 1 tube from each to the media room rack. Don't forget to leave a pull string inside the conduit.
When running conduit, make as few bends as possible. At every
180º of bends install a pulling elbow or a junction box.
I think it's a mistake. See above.
What about all those other PC's controlling local media?
It's very cheap and really easy to run the coax now. If you decide on satellite service later (as CATV becomes worse and worse) you'll be glad you did. Furthermore, if you ever want to run CCTV, conventional cams are cheaper than TCP/IP cams.
Wire it up as if there were more zones. Add a zone controller later. We've got a Russound CAV6.6 and find we make use of 4 zones on a daily basis. There's a Tivo on a zone and it's handy to use that to listen to the TV one room away from a screen. There's an FM tuner than sees regular use in the bathroom for morning shower time and the kitchen during dinner prep. Two MP3 streams see use, mine down in the office and work area and hers up in the living/dining rooms during dinner. We don't actually use the DVD or CD changer zones all that often. The DVD, never actually as the theatre room has it's own speaker setup and the bedroom TV has it's own player built-in. Movies get watched off the Tivo otherwise.
It really does work well to be able to toggle through multiple sources. I can listen to what I want, at levels that work for me, without interferring with any other listening. Oh, and we can kick it into whole house mode for parties. Works great.
Just pull a CAT5 line to the wall control panel location. Also pull a 14ga
4-conductor line to that same box. Inside the box you then split it out to two 2-conductor wires for the left/right speakers. This way you're "future proof" for ANY sort of system.
As for wattage, you need a lot less than you think. Some systems have amps built into the keypad. They're only 20-35 watts. You'd think that wouldn't be enough but in an average sized room it works really well. Since you can crank the WHOLE HOUSE there's not a lot of need to have any single room be all THAT LOUD. And for the bigger rooms most systems have ways to use supplemental amps. I've got one doing that for the outside deck rock and flower pot speakers.
Run a circuit just for it. Use real rack mouting and don't use power strips. You want stuff to stay plugged in and not be a rats nest.
Yes, that's a mistake. Coax will remain a very viable way to move signals around for quite a while to come. I'd put at least one into any place you're expecting a TV to ever be situated. Two if you ever want to use satellite TV services.
Streaming video often looks like crap and needlessly complicates the setup. Use a video-out card from a PC and just pump it out as regular video. That way any plain old TV can handle the signal without anything fancy being attached to it. The media extenders still seem a ways off in terms of price/performance/value.
Eh, I don't like the maintenance aspects of using a PC as a stream client. There's just too many things to maintain (fans, drives, etc). I've found central output and RF remotes controlling it works quite well instead.
The walls are open and the wire's cheap. Yes, it's a mistake to not install it.
some great advice guys. I have been convinced of the error of my ways with regard to coax. I also now plan on running cat5e to the various volume control boxes (not that I am going to initially do anything with them). Seems prudent for the future.
I am a little worried after looking at my electrician's run of power. I see lots of places near receptactles where I was hoping to have a cat6 jack. I don't see any easy way to stay far away from the power lines -- I will try my best. Would using pieces of metal conduit to hold segments of a cat6 run help if I need to run near power (as in, will this protect against interference)?
What do I need to worry about as far as separation from other cables with my 14/2 or 14/4 speaker wire. What distance separation should the speaker wire have with both the cat6 and power?
Ethernet and speaker level signals are generally not affected by A/C interference. Ethernet runs at too high of a frequency and is balanced (common mode rejection if you want to look it up on Google). The A/C induction for speaker level signals will be impossible to hear, there just isn't enough signal leakage to drive the speaker. (But, this is not true for line level or mic level audio signals where you might get interference. Or you might get interference in your audio components or from ground loops. You should try to run lighting on a separate power phase.).
Also, if you run other signals on your Cat6 (particularly unbalanced signals) you may have some interference in which case you should try to keep the cable 12 inches away from A/C and if the cables have to cross they should do so perpendicular to each other. If you use conduit, you should put the A/C in the conduit.
There's no need to worry, friend. Keep the wires separate as much as possible. It won't hurt anything if they are close for a few feet of parallel run up / down to outlet height. It's the long, parallel runs across the basement ceiling or up from basement to second floor that are of concern.
Where possible, bring your cable into the wall in a separate stud bay from the electrical stuff. Then make a hole through a stud top bring your cable over to the desired location.
Agreed. Just use normal care in running your cables. Keep them apart as much as possible, but don't worry about a inches / feet of close runs.
Always something else that comes to mind getting into the details....
(1) It looks like I will need a speaker selector box -- the ones I have found are already impedance matching. If I go with one of these then do I need impedance matching volume controls too? Or do I not need a impdedance matching speaker selector? Is there a sound quality difference on whether to use an impedance matching volume control?
(2) For the downstairs dinining room/living room my wife has decided she just wants 1 volume control. Should I daisy chain the speakers (L to L,R to R) or run all 4 speakers to one volume control? Do most of the volume controls handles 4 speakers? If they say they handle up to
12 gauge in the volume control unit can I fit 2 14 gauge wires??
(3) Do most in wall or ceiling speakers need special hardware brackets to install. For the c800 for one example? Also some speakers like the c800 you mention also have an optional box for sound absorption -- when is this worthwhile/when is it not? It seems like if I don't want the audio to bleed into different zones it would be more useful. Is this the main reason?
I've done this sort of thing hundreds of times. I've used impedance matching selector boxes with conventional volume controls and non-matching boxes with impedance matching V/C's. I prefer the latter as it gives me greater flexibility in assigning different amounts of power to different size rooms. Either way will work though.
Run the two left speakers in parallel and the two right in parallel to the left and right sides of a single V/C unit. Be sure to choose a volume control that is rated for a higher load since it will be drawing twice the current.
Some require brackets and some don't. The C800 series don't though you can install them if you choose. I personally prefer not to use them -- one less piece of sheet metal to possibly develop a rattle some day.
Back boxes do attenuate some noise but not all. If they're for ancillary rooms, most of the time these speakers will be playing at low volume levels. If you have the option, stuff some speaker insulation or, failing that, ordinary insulation material into the cavity before the boxes go in.
I used to jam paper backed insulation into the ceiling space before hanging the speakers. It helps dampen reverberations within the cavity -- cleaner sound.
That's one reason. The other is the purported improvement in sound. However, the speakers were designed for in-wall, non-boxed installations. I've listened to them both ways and there was no improvement with the boxes. They sounded great either way.
I've been busy running wire. I have enjoyed the work actually. It is good to know a little about what is behind your walls.
I have a few 2 places that I have consolidated "zones" (one in the family room/living room corridor and 2 zones in the basement). So I am in a similar situation like above where I talked about wanting 1 volume control controlling 4 speakers. I understand the idea of runnning the speakers in parallel from the volume control to the 4 speakers. My question now is that I actually have run 2 14/4 speaker wire from my media control center right along a single volume control (I planned on continuing to the next volume control with 1 of the cables.) Does it make any sense (or would it be bad?) to have multiple "inputs" to the volume control? (in addition to the multiple "outputs" I will already be doing to run the speakers in parallel). Am I making any sense? (I am kinda sleepy). I could remove 1 of the cables but it would be a pain right now. If it doesn't give me anything positive then I guess I will have extra cable not connected to anything.