Which Ethernet Cables_Cat 5e or Cat 6?

  • 26 March 2018
  • 6 replies
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Userlevel 7
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I've seen the question asked as to what type of Ethernet Cable to use Cat 5e or Cat 6. The first criteria to understand is that Sonos Ethernet ports are 10/100 Mbps (100 Megabits per second). That is the speed at which information (signal) flows.

Cat 5e Ethernet is capable of moving information up to 1000 Mbps (1 gigabit) and Cat 6 Ethernet at 10 Gbps (10 Gigabits per second). In the real world the theoretical speeds of Cat 5e and Cat 6 are affected by any number of factors which will limit those speeds to less than published. For the average consumer Cat 5e should be sufficient as the cable of choice. Cat 6 is most likely overkill; unless you are running an Enterprise Network which is more common in the business world. Another factor for choosing Cat 5e is that to date ISP's (at the consumer household level) offer nothing faster than 1 gigabit per second speed (1000 Mbps).

In conclusion; for Sonos, all things being equal (brand and strand quality) Cat 6 Ethernet Cable exceeds the basic requirement for a stable Sonos connection_where as Cat 5e Ethernet Cable will suffice. You will also save money in the process. For example_Bestbuy branded Dynex 6-foot Ethernet Cable: Cat 6 lists for $9.99 vs. Cat 5e for $4.99 an approximate 50% savings for the same performance with Sonos products.

There are always exceptions such as a "fire sale" for Cat 6 Ethernet cable at the same or reduced price vs. Cat 5e Ethernet cable. You be the judge and enjoy your Sonos!

Cheers!

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6 replies

Userlevel 7
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For which Ethernet cable to pick for new installs I'd go with 5e too but even the old Cat 5 meets the requirements for Sonos so no need to replace that (if it is what you have installed) with new cable in most cases.

https://infogalactic.com/info/Category_5_cable

Category 5 vs. 5e
The category 5e specification improves upon the category 5 specification by tightening some crosstalk specifications and introducing new crosstalk specifications that were not present in the original category 5 specification. The bandwidth of category 5 and 5e is the same (100 MHz) and the physical cable construction is the same, and the reality is that most Cat5 cables meet Cat5e specifications, though it is not tested or certified as such.
Userlevel 7
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Good topic. Expanding a little bit, if you have the opportunity to cable inside the walls, would it be worthwhile to future proof and go with Cat 6? I have seen some ads for home internet providers offering 2 Gbps. I don't think today's device will be able to use it, but possibly for a home with a high volume of devices with multiple people using it at the same time? It's also possible a new tech comes out that could use the higher speed. The price difference may also be less when you're buying in bulk. Something to think about.
Userlevel 7
Badge +22
Good topic. Expanding a little bit, if you have the opportunity to cable inside the walls, would it be worthwhile to future proof and go with Cat 6? I have seen some ads for home internet providers offering 2 Gbps. I don't think today's device will be able to use it, but possibly for a home with a high volume of devices with multiple people using it at the same time? It's also possible a new tech comes out that could use the higher speed. The price difference may also be less when you're buying in bulk. Something to think about.

Agreed that if you are going inside the walls on new construction or a complete remodel then Cat 6 or maybe even Cat 6a would be something to consider as a future proof. The reader should also know that the cabling bought would not be off-the-shelf at Bestbuy. Rather it would be sold in spools, cut to length, adding terminators and/or applicable junction box by a professional installer. Not to say that DiY is out of the question as long as one knows what they are doing. Cheers!
Userlevel 7
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Considering the hardware cost aside from the cables connectors and boxes needed to go above gigabit speeds it is going to be a long while before most homes have enough need to move that much data on their internal LAN to justify the cost. Even the cabling stuff is going to be painful to pay for.

Having something over a gigabit coming from your ISP is slightly different as that link carries all of your external traffic and having several devices each pulling down traffic at the same time is likely to happen often. Once it is through your router and to your switch each cable gets a dedicated gigabit link that doesn't impact other links until you saturate your uplink or switch.

I would be more likely to run several Cat 5e cables to a room rather than a single Cat 6. Having more dedicated but slower lanes on the LAN that will connect to my existing hardware versus one fast lane that requires another switch to drop speeds to what my hardware supports and split the lane for multiple pieces of equipment makes sense to me.
A big part of the ability to run higher bandwidth through an installed cable is the quality of how the ends of the cable are terminated. Especially if you're running Cat 6+ cable in your walls, make sure the installer tests and validates the cables end-to-end after attaching all the jacks and plugs. Just using the right kind of wire is not enough. A bad job of crimping on a RJ-45 shell can make any rated cable fail to perform as expected. Even "simple" cat 5 crimp-ons can look good, test for continuity correctly, and still fail to work error free at 100 Mbps much less 1 GbE.

Other issues include minimum bend radius, kinks in the cable, as well as can running the cable too close to noise generating objects, like fluorescent light ballasts -- which is more of an office environment thing than an home environment thing. Who knows what kind of noisey electronics your cables are sitting next to underneath the drywall? Again, using the right kind of wire does not guarantee a 1GbE or 10GbE network. If you're paying someone to run the wire, get them to test and validate it before you pay them.

It should also be noted that Sonos ships (or used to ship) flat unshielded "satin" cable with units which is not even cat 5. The way that the various strands are twisted together is very carefully intentional, and while unshielded, the twisting provides a certain amount of protection from interference and cross-talk.

Also note that the signalling rate (100 MHz) for cable specification is not the same as the Ethernet bandwidth (10/100/1000 Mbps). Cat 6 is 250 MHz, and can support 10 GbE.

I would be more likely to run several Cat 5e cables to a room rather than a single Cat 6. Having more dedicated but slower lanes on the LAN that will connect to my existing hardware versus one fast lane that requires another switch to drop speeds to what my hardware supports and split the lane for multiple pieces of equipment makes sense to me.


I would run multiple Cat6 - thereby avoiding the switch and giving you multiple cables whilst being more future proof.

Whether it's data or audio, my feeling has been to always run the highest spec cable you can afford as it will probably serve you longer.