Low Voltage Wire

What is Low Voltage Wiring?

AV System InstallLow voltage wiring is like the nervous system of a home. Low voltage wire carries information and data in and out of the home and distributes it throughout.

The proper pre-wire approach is to utilize a centrally-located distribution cabinet or AV Rack with home run cables running from it to information outlets located in every room throughout the home.

An AV Rack is a large, self-contained and freestanding cabinet where all active and passive equipment for voice, video, data, audio, security and home automation are centrally located and interconnected.

As custom electronics designers and installers, we know how to design a home theater or a home office and provide a turnkey service.

We can do the wiring, install the speakers, set up the audio/video equipment, program home automation cycles and integrate various standalone systems to work together. We can also provide long-term system maintenance and upgrades.

Some of the home systems that require prewiring are security; home theater and entertainment; phones, door-phones and intercoms; PC and internet networks; surveillance cameras; driveway vehicle detection; communicating thermostats; motorized window treatments; entry systems; and irrigation systems.

Low voltage wire carries signals that include:
  • Internet
  • Phone Services
  • Home Network
  • Automated Shade Control
  • Cable/Satellite TV
  • Audio
  • Video
  • Cameras
  • Door-Entry/Intercoms
  • Thermostat Communication

Audio/video cables

Most audio and video patch cables are not suitable for in-wall installation. Some HDMI cables that are rated for in-wall use don’t support 4K or HDR video.

Fortunately there are some clever solutions, such as baluns, that use in-wall-rated network cable, coax cable (RG-6), or even fiber optic cable to pass audio and video signals over long distances.

Telephone wire and outlets are low voltage. Surround sound wiring and speakers, Television cable, and security pre-wires are as well.

Low voltage wire also provides power and control to devices like automated shades, Wireless Access Points, and network switches.

Without wires, reliable wireless technology would not be possible in the home. Installing low voltage wire, in many ways, is more difficult to install than electrical and high voltage wires. They are very sensitive to kinking, susceptible to EMI (electro magnetic interference), won’t work if poorly terminated, often times are not shielded, and can suffer from grounding issues. That is why we always recommend that qualified technicians, like ourselves, install the various kinds of low voltage wire that every home requires.

We pre-wire for home audio, surround sound, home theater, outdoor music, intercom systems, cable tv, satellite, telephone, and computer networking. In addition to the wiring, we terminate and install jacks for phone, computer, satellite, audio/video, and cable.

The prewiring of an average size home entails the running of miles of cables and usually requires several days for two installers to complete. The cost of low voltage prewiring varies, depending in some measure upon the number and length of cable pulls, as well as the number of terminations.

Request a system design

Before you begin, you’ll need a plan. Do yourself a favor and submit a system design request to Bright Home Theater’s A/V Design team.  

Speaker wire gauge and conductors

In-wall speaker wire is identified in shorthand that indicates its gauge (thickness) and its number of strands (or conductors, as they’re known in the trade):
  • 16/2 is 16-gauge wire with 2 conductors
  • 14/4 is 14-gauge wire with 4 conductors
The lower the gauge number, the thicker the wire. For runs of less than 50 feet, 16-gauge wire will suffice. For longer runs, use thicker 14 gauge wire.

Audio/video cables

Most audio and video patch cables are not suitable for in-wall installation. Some HDMI cables that are rated for in-wall use don’t support 4K or HDR video. Fortunately there are some clever solutions, such as baluns, that use in-wall-rated network cable, coax cable (RG-6), or even fiber optic cable to pass audio and video signals over long distances.

75-ohm coaxial cable

75-ohm coaxial cable is used for high-speed data and audio/video signal transmission. The most widely used type is called RG-6. Common uses for coax cable include TV antennas, cable boxes, modems, and satellite receivers. Bulk coax cable can be terminated with RCA, F-type, or BNC connections using a compression tool.

Coaxial digital cable

A coaxial digital cable transmits a digital audio signal between two devices. It’s commonly used with home theater receivers, music streaming devices, and disc players. Coaxial digital cables look virtually identical to single analog RCA cables. But they are specially designed to handle the wide frequency bandwidth of digital signals. A single cable is used to transmit the entire digital signal. Coaxial digital connection ports are typically orange.

Component video cable

A component video cable transmits high-quality analog video information. It’s used with DVD players, TVs, and older gaming consoles. This 3-cable connection allows the color (chrominance) and brightness (luminance) portions of a video signal to be processed separately. Component video cables have red, green, and blue cable jackets with an RCA connection on each end. They have been replaced by HDMI as the preferred connection method for high-definition video.

Composite video cable

A composite video cable transmits a standard-definition analog video signal. It combines the color and brightness portions of a video signal together in a single cable. Composite video ports are commonly found on A/V components like DVD players, VCRs, and TVs. They have a yellow RCA plug on each end. They’re usually grouped with red and white stereo audio ports for a complete A/V signal.

Ethernet cable

Ethernet cables are used to connect devices to a network for high-speed access. Ethernet connection ports are found on computers, Smart TVs, gaming consoles, and Internet music players. Ethernet cable can be bought in bulk for custom length runs. RJ-45 connectors and a compression tool are used for termination. Pre-terminated fixed-length cables are also available. Ethernet cables are identified by their category (CAT for short). There are numerous versions available. CAT-5e (e for enhanced) and CAT-6 cable are the most common types used today. CAT-5, once revolutionary, is nearly obsolete in today’s high-speed world. CAT-5 is capable of network speeds up to 100 Megabits per second. CAT-5e is ten times faster, with speeds up to 1000 Mbps (Gigabit). CAT-6 wire is by far the most capable, with speeds up to 10 Gigabits per second.

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface)

An HDMI cable is today’s go-to connection for high-definition audio and video transmission. It’s used with TVs, gaming systems, home theater receivers, computers, and HD monitors. The standard HDMI cable has an identical plug on each end. Inside there are 19 individual wires. They carry audio and video data along with control signals, low-voltage power, Ethernet, and copy protection. Standard-size HDMI cables are called Type A. Compact devices like smartphones, cameras, and camcorders use mini HDMI (Type C), or micro HDMI (type D) because of their small form factor. Learn more about HDMI here.

Multi-channel RCA inputs

Multi-channel RCA inputs connect an analog source to a receiver or amplifier. They are primarily used with premium Blu-ray, DVD, and Super Audio CD players. These elite players offer high-quality surround decoding and digital-to-analog conversion. Their capable circuitry often yields better results than connecting to a receiver through HDMI. A 5.1 setup has individual connections for the left and right front, left and right surround, and center channels. A 7.1 system adds connections for rear left and right surrounds. The “.1” is the connection for the subwoofer, sometimes labeled LFE for Low-Frequency Effects. As an example, say the Oppo UDP-205 is used as a preamp in a home theater. It would connect to a multi-channel amplifier like the Marantz MM8077. Each channel uses an individual RCA cable for connection.

Optical digital cable (Toslink)

An optical digital cable uses light energy to transmit a digital audio signal from one component to another. Inside the cable are very thin optical fibers that carry the signal. Optical digital connections are found on most A/V gear.

Phono (turntable) input

A phono input is a pair of dedicated RCA connections for a turntable. It’s found on integrated amps, stereo receivers, and home theater receivers. The incoming signal is sent through a phono preamp circuit where special audio processing and voltage boosting are applied. Phono inputs look identical to the other analog RCA inputs on the back of a stereo, but are only used for connecting a turntable. Receivers with a phono input also feature a ground screw for connecting your turntable’s ground wire. If your receiver or preamplifier doesn’t have a phono input, you can use an in-line phono preamp. This allows you to connect your turntable any regular line-level input. Learn more about connecting a turntable to a receiver here.

Speaker wire

Speaker wire connects a non-powered speaker to an amplifier or receiver. Speaker wire has two leads: one for the positive signal, and one for the negative. Usually speaker wire is marked (+) and (-) to help distinguish between the two. Add speaker wire connectors to bare wire for additional connection options. Learn more about speaker wire here.

Speaker wire connectors

All speaker wire connectors are designed to make solid electrical contact between your speaker wire and your gear. They also make plugging and unplugging your equipment significantly easier that bare wire alone. There are four main kinds of speaker wire connectors:
  • Spade connectors:

    Spade connectors feature a forked piece of metal that hugs the collar of a 5-way binding post terminal. The spade is then secured by tightening the binding post’s cap. Spade connectors give you very secure contact.
  • Banana plugs:

    If you have binding post terminals on your speakers and/or receiver, banana plugs are a great choice. The flexible metal collar of a banana plug is slightly wider than the center hole of a binding post. It compresses to fit when you plug it in, resulting in a very solid connection.
  • Dual-banana plugs:

    Dual banana plugs have positive and negative banana connectors fixed in a molded housing that spaces them 3/4″ apart. These are easier to connect than single banana plugs when used with 5-way binding posts.
  • Pin connectors:

    Pin connectors may either be straight or angled. They work with spring clip speaker terminals, as well as with binding posts.

    Stereo RCA cables

    Stereo RCA cables connect two analog audio components together. They are found on most types of A/V gear. Stereo RCA cables come in pairs, with one connection for the left audio channel and the other for the right channel.