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Q&A: Straight Wire President Steven Hill

Discusses wire-based installs, high-speed HDMI, and the dangers of running plenum cable.


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Straight Wire‘s product line ranges from entry-level to reference-level speaker cables, interconnect, digital A/V cables, power and custom installation products.

Steven Hill, president, says the Hollywood, Fla.-based company is a staunch supporter of custom and specialty electronics dealers.

Amid the hype surrounding retrofit technologies like wireless HDMI and powerline, what do you want CE pros to know about traditional wire-based installs?

The key issue is consistency and reliability. If wireless and powerline-based technologies did not have occasional glitches, more integrators would employ them.

For business and critical applications - why do commercial installers still insist on wire-based installations? It’s because they do not want to be called out or get complaints from unhappy users.

In certain situations where the cost and feasibility of running wires is not reasonable - wireless and powerline based solutions are a valid alternative.

You can always employ these technologies after the walls are up, but it’s important for installers to convey to their clients the cost and efforts to run cables once the structure is detailed and finished.

What are the dangers for installers that run plenum cable when it’s not necessary?

The issue isn’t danger but needless added cost. Unless the cables are running in multi-story structures through air ducts or through a common concrete wall of certain commercial structures, plenum-rated cable is usually not required.

Cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles have more stringent codes than others. Some contractors don’t bother to research the codes and assume plenum [is suitable]. Beware of over-zealous inspectors who may demand plenum cable, even if it is not required by the codes. Learn your local wiring codes.

Is the cabling category playing too fast and loose with the term high-speed HDMI?

Recently the HDMI organization simplified the cable labeling requirements to the following four categories: Standard, Standard with Ethernet, High-speed and High-speed with Ethernet. There are no more 2.2b, 1.3a, 1.3c, 1.4 … designations on the cables. Standard HDMI should achieve 75Mhz bandwidth and 2.25 Gbps for 720p/1080i presentations, while High-speed should achieve 340Mhz and 10.2 Gbps.

With voice and data gaining more popularity in the residential sector, has the CE pro community overlooked the value of testing cabling infrastructure installations?

Most definitely! How many custom installers employ Cat 5e and Cat 6 probes on each line and sweep test each cable?

Getting continuity does not assure you that you are getting full bandwidth. Perhaps you are not currently transferring A/V data at high data levels, but what happens when you upgrade to more powerful and faster systems and components? The smart A/V integrator would rather test all cables and find issues before the detail and finishing work is completed. Smart integrators will strongly suggest the running of conduits with extra pull lines or smurf tubing to make future upgrades easier.

How hard is it for premium cabling manufacturers to fight perceptions that cabling has no bearing on performance?

Many years ago, few people believed upgrade cables made a difference. However, through personal auditions and experiences, many people became cable believers in the benefits they heard and saw.

While Straight Wire has always based pricing on a cost plus basis and utilized premium materials, designs and manufacturing, some companies offer premium priced cables without this substance and foundation. It’s not OK! I would not introduce and market cables that would not pass the relative test.

Straight Wire recently re-introduced its Push Prong line of custom installable, self-terminated products. What is the value of this line to installers?

The Push Prong line offers installers and DIY consumers a reliable, re-usable plug format (RCA and BNC) that works with any 23-gauge [AWG] solid center coax [the broadcast standard]. It doesn’t require any special or expensive tools - just any single blade stripper - the Straight Wire plugs can be terminated in a matter of seconds with full shielding in tact and they can withstand up to 10 pounds of stress.




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