Analogue audio over CAT5 cable

Cat5 cable can be cheap, it’s pretty light and thin but surprisingly well shielded with 4 twisted pairs in there which will all resist interference.  It also has 100 ohms impedance, which isn’t far off the AES/EBU standard of 110 ohms, so should be able to carry digital audio a fair distance.

So I’ve done a bit of a make and an experiment to make a lightweight 4 way multicore:

I got a couple of Neutrik NE8-FDY-C6-B connectors- these are fairly easy to assemble, there’s instructions on the site, and don’t even need a soldering iron- just some snips, really.  You could probably prep one with your teeth if in a desperate situation.
On the other end I attached 4 XLRs

As they’re not meant to be cable mounted (and there isn’t an appropriate connector) I had to improvise with sugru and heatshrink

Anyhow, they work and with shielded CAT5 cable (you have to look quite carefully at the specs, most isn’t) they’ll work with phantom power too.

There are also a few commercially available solutions for audio over cat5, the “balun” boxes don’t usually do any more than this.

I’ll hopefully have another make done next week (you wait ages for one…)

2 Replies to “Analogue audio over CAT5 cable”

  1. I am exactly thinking about this Cat5 solution now to make a four channel 100 meter snake. ETS-Lan make this simple….and I think the same solution, which they call InstaSnake.
    http://www.etslan.com/products.cgi?cat=1
    I have make my own snake, using Cat6 for two channels, but without shielded cable. It works perfectly up to 30 meters in the nature. But it happened few times the signal was disturbed by EMF so I should have use shielded cable.
    It must be shielded this time if I like to make four channel snake with Cat5 or 6 🙂

  2. Hello Magnus,

    I’ve been using shielded cat5 cable and it’s worked on 50m runs fine. If the shield’s connected it’s also possible to pass +48V phantom power. I’m having a bit of a re-think with these at the moment as I’m not sure they’re mechanically solid enough and the neutrik cat6 connectors don’t work with the more standard XLR sized connectors- the instasnake boxes seem like a good solutions, but there’s other options too, such as pre-made boxes from neutrik and canford

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