Running speaker wire parallel with Cat5 data cables?

Will running speaker wire parallel with Cat5 data cables pose any risks to the integrity of the data (or any other risks for that matter)?

The speaker wire will be for an outdoor cafe that will get very loud durring the summer if that helpful.  

This is somewhat urgent as construction is going on right now.

The datacables are not sheilded, but I don't believe the speaker wire has been purchased yet.  Would  sheilded speaker wire be suggested?
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Power cables run at 60 Hz if i am not mistaken, and speaker cable can run from 20 Hz - 20 kHz and can carry lots of power depending on your amp.  So, yes there could be emi.  The cat 5 is twisted which reduces "cross talk", but any shielding you could do is recommended.  Theoretically, the two cables could interfere with one another - the data bandwidth would be reduced, thus reducing the data rate, and the speaker cable would get noise, affecting sound quality and speaker life.  Cat 6 and some good monster speaker cable (they make high-end shielded stuff that is insanely expensive) would help.
As long as it's shielded cabling, you should be cool. Shielded cabling is highly recommended to avoid any sort of interference between the two. Obviously, you'll want some level of separation, but shielding is the key.
And to an extent, you get what you pay for.... so don't go too cheap with the wiring for either one.
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Rob WilliamsCommented:
m1crochip, is totally correct as to the risk of interference from the speaker cables.
I would avoid shielded CAT5/6 as there are issues with proper grounding that can actually make things worse. Shielded speaker wire, if you can afford it, would be the better route to go. The other options are conduit for one, or simple separation. I think 4" is all that you require for that amount of current. Ask your network installer for specs on required spacing, not the electrician.

I must disagree with the other opinions posted so far...

CAT5 cable is UTP, that means unshielded twisted pair.  By twisting the cable you greatly reduce noise/interference pickup because each wire is subjected to the same influence, just in reverse.  So the noise end up being self-cancelling.  

Additionally, the signals on the pair are DIFFERENTIAL and not SINGLE-ENDED.  This further reduces susceptibilty to noise.  You'll find that UTP cable as used with networking is almost impervious to noise from any source.

Speaker wire and the signals you use to drive speakers are going to be of no importance here at all.  First the level of the signal is not all that high to begin with.  You get perhaps 20V p-p from an amp to a speaker.  Second, the frequencies involved, 20Hz-20kHz are not high enough that they tend to radiate.  The issue here is the length of the speaker wire.  You really don't get into much radiation of signal until the length of the conductor is greater than 1/4 wavelength.  Even at 20kHz a 1/4 wavelength is 3750 meters or so.  I doubt you plan on running such long wires!!

All theory aside, it's not at all uncommon to run CAT5 wiring right along side power cables, phone cables, and other unshielded sources.  I've never experienced any case where CAT5 cable was picking up interference that impacted the performance of the network.  The bottom line is that CAT5 and the 10Base-T specification were specifically designed with interferenced rejection in mind.

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Hi swiftny,

If you are from NYC, a lot of this may already be decided for you because of wiring regulations and the fact that some of the buildings are highly unionized.  You may be concerned with getting plenum CAT 5 or CAT 6 cabling for fire codes and fire-resistant housing for other wiring projects.  It may be as easy as checking with your building management.  Otherwise, from a professional point of view you try to isolate your data cables away from any EMF/EMI source.  Even though jhance may be right about the actual non-inference, I'd at least want to ensure that my data cables are noise free/clean.
If you urgently want to run the speaker cables, by all means get the shielded speaker cables.  Then if the cable company has the equipment to check frequency response on the data cable; have them baseline the data cable for CAT 5/5e/6 specs, then have them do it again for at least 1 data cable with the "music blasting" to see if they cause any noteable interference.


I have run high current (~600 watts per channel) speaker and power lines duct taped to cat5e many times in lengths exceeding 50 feet and never ran into a problem. We do use all shielded cable though, so keep that in mind. However, if you are concerned there are a few things you can do:

1. Get a repeater at both ends of the cable. If you're cheap and don't want to spend money, just get a hub (not a switch, most switches are not repeaters) for both ends.

2. Convert the cat5e to fiber. Because fiber uses light instead of electricity, there should be no interference. We use this for a remote link to a transmitter box a mile and a half (~7000 feet) away. Something like this should do the trick:
Rob WilliamsCommented:
Thanks  swiftny,
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