I’m always annoyed when I read people saying that “gold plated cable blessed by Trappist Monks” is the only way to get excellent picture quality. To my mind, bog standard CAT5 patch cable is capable off up to 100Mb/s – it should easily cope with component signals. To this end – I decided to whip up a cheap cable to see how it would perform.
Photos were taken on Nokia N70 at 2MP (although the focus isn’t great) and then scaled down to something more manageable in IrfanView.
Take 4m of CAT5 UTP – Cut it in half
Strip off the outer shielding
Using wire strippers (or fingernails!) I stripped the blue pair exposing the copper wire.
This is a blue phono plug from Maplin. Cost 72p
The bottom unscrews – the plug has two metal lugs with holes in to afix the wires.
Slide the cap over the wire. Attach the striped blue wire to the outer part of the plug and the solid blue wire to the inner plug.
Repeat for both ends. Maplin had run out of blue plugs so I substituted a white one! The black can carry digital coax sound
To connect the two ends I used a £3.99 straight coupler.
The final make up of the cable was…
phono -> ethernet (2m) -> coupler -> ethernet (4m) -> coupler -> ethernet (2m) -> phono
To test that all the connections were good I plugged each cable into my decoder and ran a dts sound track through it. Again, despite what some would say, digital signals are all or nothing. Nothing in the cable will make your trebles sound more glassy!
So, plug one end into an old dvd recorder and set it to progressive scan.
And with the other, plug into a Projector
Hurrah! It works! But what’s the picture quality like?
This is a close up from the THX demo on Revenge of the Sith. The “Sharpness” indicator is generated by the PJ. This is to show
a) what’s generated in the PJ vs what’s transmitted to it
b) that I haven’t changed any of the settings.
Using my oxygen free gold plated cable…
Using my homemade cable…
HOLY MOLY! you don’t need a double blind test to tell you that sucks!
Let’s take a closer look…
MY EYES! THE GOGGLES THEY DO NOTHING!
Ok…. the first test was not very successful… But this is an old and crappy DVD recorder. Let’s try something else…
Using my modded Xbox running www.xboxmediacenter.com and an official MS hi-def adaptor, I set the output to 720p and tried both cables.
Again I’ve used some PJ generated text so you can see the difference between what’s transmitted and what’s outputted.
One of these images is from the normal cable ane the other from the homebrew. See if yau can spot the difference without looking at the filenames.
I was stunned! No detectable difference close up and certainly none at veiwing distance.
For further evidence – here are pictures of 720p and 1080i (the highest XBMC will go)
So to sum up….
0.73 * 8 = £5.84
3.99 * 2 = £7.98
4m of CAT5 UTP
I’ve got masses of it laying around. It’s usually less than £1 per metre. More if you want STP or an exotic colour.
So, there you have it. You don,t need fancy cables – just a good output, some odds and ends and about 1 hour.
I’ll put up more photos if people are interested.
NOTE! You can’t plug these cables into a network router!