Home Theater Network

Cable Introduction

The typical saying from most websites and cable manufactures…

“Cables are often overlooked when shopping for a Home Theater. Plan on spending 10 to 20 percent of your budget on cables.”

Is the above quote true? The answer depends on a few variables. One thing that is known is that cables won’t improve the quality of your signal. They can however make it worse. A perfect cable would simply transmit a signal unchanged from one point to the other. Many aspects determine how much signal loss there will be including signal type, build quality, length, and more. This cable section will give you all the information you need to get the most value out of your Home Theater Network Cables.

Anatomy of a Cable

Cable Anatomy

A cable consists of the following components:

  1. Conductor – a conductor is the actual wire used to transmit the signal. Copper is the most common conductor due to its high conductivity and low cost. Another form of a conductor is fiber optics, which use light instead of current to transmit signals.
  2. Dielectric – a dielectric is a material that is a poor conductor of electricity. The purpose of the dielectric is to provide a nonconductive barrier between any conductors.
  3. Foil Shield – is a very thin shield used to protect the conductor from RFI noise. RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) is a form of high-frequency EMI.
  4. Braded Shield – the shield around a cable serves as a signal return path, and also protects the conductor from EMI.
  5. Jacket – is used to help provide strength to the cable, and to protect all the inner components.
  6. Interconnect – determines what type of video, audio, or data device you can connect to.
  7. Contacts – an interconnect's metal contact is the main point of transmission for any voltage signal.

See the Build Quality section in “What to Look For in Cables” for more information on each component.

What to Look For In Cables

  1. Type of Signal / Interconnect
  2. Signal and Interconnect Compatibility
  3. Analog vs. Digital
  4. Build Quality
  5. Length of Cable
  6. Impedance
  7. Surrounding Environment
  8. Twisted or Untwisted Conductors
  9. Price

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