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Black Box Explains... Digital Optic Cable

Many new, high-quality Mini Disc, pro-audio, DAT (Digital Audio Tape), CD, DVD, and laser disc players, as well as digital amplifiers, DSS satellite receivers, and computer sound cards, are manufactured... more/see it nowwith digital optical output connectors.

These connectors attach to optical cables, which are constructed with a PVC jacket and a plastic core. The cables transfer information accurately over short distances via digital light signals with low loss and no distortion.

Digital optical cable with plastic-core construction is less expensive than fiber optic cable with a glass core, but it still provides the benefits of optical transmission over short distances.

Digital audio makes it possible to use high-quality digital-to-analog converters, which help to maintain the integrity of sound signals from high-end electronic devices.

The two types of connectors associated with digital optical transmission are TOSLINK®, a Toshiba® trademark, and the 3.5-mm Mini Plug connector. collapse

Black Box Explains...Breakout-style cables.

With breakout- or fanout-style cables, the fibers are packaged individually. A breakout cable is basically several simplex cables bundled together in one jacket. Breakout cables are suitable for riser and... more/see it nowplenum applications, and conduit runs.

This differs from distribution-style cables where several tight-buffered fibers are bundled under the same jacket.

This design of the breakout cable adds strength to the cable, although that makes it larger and more expensive than distribution-style cables.

Because each fiber is individually reinforced, you can divide the cable into individual fiber lines. This enables quick connector termination, and eliminates the need for patch panels.

Breakout cable can also be more economical because it requires much less labor to terminate.

You may want to choose a cable that has more fibers than you actually need in case of breakage during termination or for future expansion. collapse

Black Box Explains... Speaker wire gauge.

Wire gauge (often shown as AWG, for American Wire Gauge) is a measure of the thickness of the wire. The more a wire is drawn or sized, the smaller its... more/see it nowdiameter will be. The lower the wire gauge, the thicker the wire.

For example, a 24 AWG wire is thinner than a 14 AWG wire. A lower AWG means longer transmission distance and better integrity. As a rule of thumb, power loss decreases as the wire size increases.

When it comes to choosing speaker cable, consider a few factors: distance, the type of system and amplifier you have, the frequencies of the signals being handled, and any specifications that the speaker manufacturer recommends.

For most home applications where you simply need to run cable from your stereo to speakers in the same room—or even behind the walls to other rooms—16 AWG cable is usually fine.

If you’re considering runs of more than 40 feet (12.1 m), consider using 14 AWG or even 12 AWG cable. They both offer better transmission and less resistance over longer distances. You should probably choose 12 AWG cable for high-end audio systems with higher power output or for low-frequency subwoofers. As a rule of thumb, power loss decreases as the wire size increases.

To terminate your cable, choose gold connectors. Because gold resists oxidation over time, gold connectors wear better and offer better peformance than other connectors do. collapse

Black Box Explains…OM3 and OM4.

There are different categories of graded-index multimode fiber optic cable. The ISO/IEC 11801 Ed 2.1:2009 standard specifies categories OM1, OM2, and OM3. The TIA/EIA recognizes OM1, OM2, OM3, and OM4.... more/see it nowThe TIA/EIA ratified OM4 in August 2009 (TIA/EIA 492-AAAD). The IEEE ratified OM4 (802.ba) in June 2010.

OM1 specifies 62.5-micron cable and OM2 specifies 50-micron cable. These are commonly used in premises applications supporting Ethernet rates of 10 Mbps to 1 Gbps. They are also typically used with LED transmitters. OM1 and OM2 cable are not suitable though for today's higher-speed networks.

OM3 and OM4 are both laser-optimized multimode fiber (LOMMF) and were developed to accommodate faster networks such as 10, 40, and 100 Gbps. Both are designed for use with 850-nm VCSELS (vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers) and have aqua sheaths.

OM3 specifies an 850-nm laser-optimized 50-micron cable with a effective modal bandwidth (EMB) of 2000 MHz/km. It can support 10-Gbps link distances up to 300 meters. OM4 specifies a high-bandwidth 850-nm laser-optimized 50-micron cable an effective modal bandwidth of 4700 MHz/km. It can support 10-Gbps link distances of 550 meters. 100-Gbps distances are 100 meters and 150 meters, respectively. Both rival single-mode fiber in performance while being significantly less expensive to implement.

OM1 and 2 are made with a different process than OM3 and 4. Non-laser-optimized fiber cable is made with a small defect in the core, called an index depression. LED light sources are commonly used with these cables.

OM3 and 4 are manufactured without the center defect. As networks migrated to higher speeds, VCSELS became more commonly used rather than LEDs, which have a maximum modulation rate of 622 Mbps. Because of that, LEDs can’t be turned on and off fast enough to support higher-speed applications. VCSELS provided the speed, but unfortunately when used with older OM1 and 2 cables, required mode-conditioning launch cables. Thus manufacturers changed the production process to eliminate the center defect and enable OM3 and OM4 cables to be used directly with the VCSELS. OM3/OM4 Comparison
850 nm High Performance EMB (MHz/km)

OM3: 2000

OM4: 4700

850-nm Ethernet Distance
OM3: 1000 m

OM4: 1000 m

OM3: 300 m

OM4: 550 m

OM3: 100 m

OM4: 150 m

OM3: 100 m

OM4: 150 m


Black Box Explains...The MPO connector.

MPO stands for multifiber push-on connector. It is a connector for multifiber ribbon cable that generally contains 6, 8, 12, or 24 fibers. It is defined by IEC-61754-7 and TIA-604-5-D,... more/see it nowalso known as FOCIS 5. The MPO connector, combined with lightweight ribbon cable, represents a huge technological advance over traditional multifiber cables. It’s lighter, more compact, easier to install, and less expensive.

A single MPO connector replaces up to 12, 24, or 36 standard connectors. This very high density means lower space requirements and reduced costs for your installation. Traditional, tight-buffered multifiber cable needs to have each fiber individually terminated by a skilled technician. But MPO fiber optic cable, which carries multiple fibers, comes preterminated. Just plug it in and you’re ready to go.

MPO connectors feature an intuitive push-pull latching sleeve mechanism with an audible click upon connection and are easy to use. The MPO connector is similar to the MT-RJ connector. The MPO’s ferrule surface of 2.45 x 6.40 mm is slightly bigger than the MT-RJ’s, and the latching mechanism works with a sliding sleeve latch rather than a push-in latch.

The MPO connector can be either male or female. You can tell the male connector by the two alignment pins protruding from the end of the ferrule. The MPO ferrule is generally flat for multimode applications and angled for single-mode applications.

MPO connectors are also commonly called MTP® connectors, which is a registered trademark of US Conec. The MTP connector is an MPO connector engineered with particular enhancements to improve optical and mechanical performance. The two connectors are compatible. collapse

Black Box Explains…HDMI

The High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI®) is the first digital interface to combine uncompressed high-definition video, up to eight channels of uncompressed digital audio, and intelligent format and command data in... more/see it nowa single cable. It is now the de facto standard for consumer electronics and high-definition video and is gaining ground in the PC world.

HDMI supports standard, enhanced, and high-definition video. It can carry video signals at resolutions beyond 1080p at 60 Hz (Full HD) up to 4K x 2K (4096 x 2160) as well as 3D TV.

HDMI also provides superior audio clarity. It supports multiple audio formats from standard stereo to multichannel surround sound.

HDMI offers an easy, standardized way to set up home theaters and AV equipment over one cable. Use it to connect audio/video equipment, such as DVD players, set-top boxes, and A/V receivers with an audio and/or video equipment, such as a digital TVs, PCs, cameras, and camcorders. It also supports multiple audio formats from standard stereo to multichannel surround sound. Plus it provides two-way communications between the video source and the digital TV, enabling simple remote, point-and-click configurations.

NOTE: HDMI also supports HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection), which prevents the copying of digital audio and video content transmitted over HDMI able. If you have a device between the source and the display that supports HDMI but not HDCP, your transmission won't work, even over an HDMI cable.

HDMI offers significant benefits over older analog A/V connections. It's backward compatible with DVI equipment, such as PCs. TVs, and other electronic devices using the DVI standard. A DVI-to-HDMI adapter can be used without a loss of video quality. Because DVI only supports video signals, no audio, the DVI device simply ignores the extra audio data.

HDMI standards
The HDMI standard was introduced in December 2002. Since then, there have been a number of versions with increasing bandwidth and/or transmission capabilities.

With the introduction of HDMI (June 2006), more than doubled the bandwidth from 4.95 Gbps to 10.2 Gbps (340 MHz). It offers support for 16-bit color, increased refresh rates, and added support for 1440p WQXGA. It also added support for xvYCC color space and Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio standards. Plus it added features to automatically correct audio video synchronization. Finally, it added a mini connector.

HDMI 1.3a (November 2006), HDMI 1.3b (March 2007, HDMI 1.3b1 (November 2007), and 1.3c (August 2008) added termination recommendations, control commands, and other specification for testing, etc.

HDMI 1.4 (May 2009) increased the maximum resolution to 4Kx 2K (3840 x 2160 p/24/25/30 Hz). It added an HDMI Ethernet channel for a 100-Mbps connection between two HDMI devices. Other advancements include: an Audio Return Channel, stereoscopic 3D over HDMI (HDMI 1.3 devices will only support this for 1080i), an automotive connection system, and the micro HDMI connector.

HDMI 1.4a (March 2010) adds two additional 3D formats for broadcast content.

HDMI 2.0 (August 2013), which is backwards compatible with earlier versions of the HDMI specification, significantly increases bandwidth up to 18 Gbps and adds key enhancements to support market requirements for enhancing the consumer video and audio experience.

HDMI 2.0 also includes the following advanced features:

  • Resolutions up to 4K@50/60 (2160p), which is four times the clarity of 1080p/60 video resolution, for the ultimate video experience.
  • Up to 32 audio channels for a multi-dimensional immersive audio experience.
  • Up to 1536Hz audio sample frequency for the highest audio fidelity.
  • Simultaneous delivery of dual video streams to multiple users on the same screen.
  • Simultaneous delivery of multi-stream audio to multiple users (up to four).
  • Support for the wide angle theatrical 21:9 video aspect ratio.
  • Dynamic synchronization of video and audio streams.
  • CEC extensions provide more expanded command and control of consumer electronics devices through a single control point.

  • HDMI Cables
  • Standard HDMI Cable: 1080i and 720p
  • Standard HDMI Cable with Ethernet
  • Automotive HDMI Cable
  • High Speed HDMI Cable: 1080p, 4K, 3D and Deep Color
  • High Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet

  • HDMI connectors
    There are four HDMI connector types.
    Type A: 19 pins. It supports all SDTV, EDTV, and HDTV modes. It is electrically compatible with single-link DVI-D. HDMI 1.0 specification.

    Type B: 29 pins. Offers double the video bandwidth of Type A. Use for very high-resolution displays such as WQUXGA. It's electronically compatible with dual-link DVI-D. HDMI 1.0 specification.

    Type C Mini: 19 pins. This mini connector is intended for portable devices. It is smaller than Type A but has the same pin configuration and can be connected to Type A cable via an adapter or adapter cable. Type C is defined in HDMI 1.3.

    Type D Micro: 19 pins. This also has the 19-pin configuration of Type A but is about the size of a micro-USB connector. Type D is defined in HDMI 1.4.

    HDMI cable
    Recently, HDMI Licensing, LLC announced that all able would be tested as either Standard or High-Speed cables. Referring to cables based on HDMI standard (e.g. 1.2, 1.3 etc.) is no longer allowed.

    Standard HDMI cable is designed for use with digital broadcast TV, cable TV, satellites TV, Blu-ray, and upscale DVD payers to reliably transmit up to 1080i or 720p video (or the equivalent of 75 MHz or up to 2.25 Gbps).

    High-Speed HDMI reliably transmits video resolutions of 1080p and beyond, including advanced display technologies such as 4K, 3D, and Deep Color. High-Speed HDMI is the recommended cable for 1080p video. It will perform at speeds of 600 MHz or up to 18 Gbps, the highest bandwidth urgently available over an HDMI cable.

    HDCP copy protection
    HDMI also supports High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP), which prevents the copying of content transmitted over HDMI cable. If you have a device between the source and the display that supports HDMI but not HDCP, your transmission won’t work, even over an HDMI cable. Additional resources and licensing information is available at HDMI.org.


    Black Box Explains...Component video.

    Traditional Composite video standards—NTSC, PAL, or SECAM—combine luminance (brightness), chrominance (color), blanking pulses, sync pulses, and color burst information into a single signal.

    Another video standard—S-Video—separates luminance from chrominance to provide... more/see it nowsome improvement in video quality.

    But there’s a new kind of video called Component video appearing in many high-end video devices such as TVs and DVD players. Component video is an advanced digital format that separates chrominance, luminance, and synchronization into separate signals. It provides images with higher resolution and better color quality than either traditional Composite video or S-Video. There are two kinds of Component video: Y-Cb-Cr and Y-Pb-Pr. Y-Cb-Cr is often used by high-end DVD players. HDTV decoders typically use the Y-Pb-Pr Component video signal.

    Many of today’s high-end video devices such as plasma televisions and DVD players actually have three sets of video connectors: Composite, S-Video, and Component. The easiest way to improve picture quality on your high-end TV is to simply connect it using the Component video connectors rather than the Composite or S-Video connectors. Using the Component video connection enables your TV to make use of the full range of video signals provided by your DVD player or cable box, giving you a sharper image and truer colors.

    To use the Component video built into your video devices, all you need is the right cable. A Component video cable has three color-coded BNC connections at each end. For best image quality, choose a high-quality cable with adequate shielding and gold-plated connectors. collapse

    Black Box Explains... Guidelines for choosing fiber optic cable.

    Fiber optic cable is becoming one of the fastest-growing transmission mediums for both new cabling installations and upgrades, including backbone, horizontal, and even desktop applications. It’s favored for applications that... more/see it nowneed high bandwidth, long distances, and complete immunity to electrical interference.

    It’s ideal for high-data-rate systems such as Gigabit Ethernet, FDDI, multimedia, ATM, SONET, Fibre Channel, or any other network that requires the transfer of large, bandwidth-consuming data files, particularly over long distances.

    Fiber offers the following advantages:

    Greater bandwidth—Because fiber provides far greater bandwidth than copper and has proven performance at rates up to 10 Gbps, it gives network designers future-proofing capabilities as network speeds and requirements increase.

    Also, fiber optic cable can carry more information with greater fidelity than copper wire. That’s why the telephone networks use fiber and many CATV companies are converting to fiber.

    Low attenuation and greater distance—Because the fiber optic signal is made of light, very little signal loss occurs during transmission, and data can move at higher speeds and greater distances. Fiber does not have the 100-meter (328-ft.) distance limitation of unshielded twisted-pair copper (without a booster). Fiber distances can range from 300 meters (984.2 ft.) to 40 kilometers (24.8 mi.), depending on the style of cable, wavelength, and network. (Fiber distances are typically measured in metric units.) Because fiber signals need less boosting than copper ones do, the cable performs better.

    Security—Your data is safe with fiber cable. It doesn’t radiate signals and is extremely difficult to tap. If the cable is tapped, it’s very easy to monitor because the cable leaks light, causing the entire system to fail. If an attempt is made to break the physical security of your fiber system, you’ll know it.

    Fiber networks also enable you to put all your electronics and hardware in one central location, instead of having wiring closets with equipment throughout the building.

    Immunity and reliability—Fiber provides extremely reliable data transmission. It’s completely immune to many environmental factors that affect copper cable. The core is made of glass, which is an insulator, so no electric current can flow through. It’s immune to electromagnetic interference and radio-frequency interference (EMI/RFI), crosstalk, impedance problems, and more. You can run fiber cable next to industrial equipment without worry. Fiber is also less susceptible to temperature fluctuations than copper and can be submerged in water.

    Design—Fiber is lightweight, thin, and more durable than copper cable. Plus, fiber optic cable has pulling specifications that are up to 10 times greater than copper cable’s. Its small size makes it easier to handle, and it takes up much less space in cabling ducts. Although fiber is still more difficult to terminate than copper, advancements in connectors are making termination easier. In addition, fiber is actually easier to test than copper cable.

    Migration—The proliferation and lower costs of media converters are making copper to fiber migration much easier. The converters provide seamless links and enable the use of existing hardware. Fiber can be incorporated into networks in planned upgrades.

    Standards—TIA/EIA standards are bringing fiber closer to the desktop. TIA/EIA-785, ratified in 2001, provides a cost-effective migration path from 10-Mbps Ethernet to 100-Mbps Fast Ethernet over fiber (100BASE-SX). An addendum to the standard eliminates limitations in transceiver designs. In addition, in June 2002, the IEEE approved a 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10-GbE) standard.

    Costs—The cost for fiber cable, components, and hardware is steadily decreasing. Installation costs for fiber are higher than copper because of the skill needed for terminations. Overall, fiber is more expensive than copper in the short run, but it may actually be less expensive in the long run. Fiber typically costs less to maintain, has much less downtime, and requires less networking hardware. And fiber eliminates the need to recable for higher network performance.

    Types of fiber cable and standards.

    Multimode, 50- and 62.5-micron cable—Multimode cable has a large-diameter core and multiple pathways of light. It comes in two core sizes: 50-micron and 62.5-micron.

    Multimode fiber optic cable can be used for most general data and voice fiber applications, such as bringing fiber to the desktop, adding segments to an existing network, and in smaller applications such as alarm systems. Both 50- and 62.5-micron cable feature the same cladding diameter of 125 microns, but 50-micron fiber cable features a smaller core (the light-carrying portion of the fiber).

    Although both can be used in the same way, 50-micron cable is recommended for premise applications (backbone, horizontal, and intrabuilding connections) and should be considered for any new construction and installations. Both also use either LED or laser light sources. The big difference between the two is that 50-micron cable provides longer link lengths and/or higher speeds, particularly in the 850-nm wavelength.

    Single-mode, 8–10-micron cable—Single-mode cable has a small 8–10-micron glass core and only one pathway of light. With only a single wavelength of light passing through its core, single-mode cable realigns the light toward the center of the core instead of simply bouncing it off the edge of the core as multimode does.

    Single-mode cable provides 50 times more distance than multimode cable. Consequently, single-mode cable is typically used in long-haul network connections spread out over extended areas, including cable television and campus backbone applications. Telcos use it for connections between switching offices. Single-mode cable also provides higher bandwidth, so you can use a pair of single-mode fiber strands full-duplex for up to twice the throughput of multimode fiber. collapse

    Black Box Explains... Smart Serial Interface

    Smart Serial is the Cisco router interface. It uses a space-saving 26-pin connector that automatically detects RS-232, RS-449, RS-530, X.21, and V.35 interfaces for both DTE and DCE devices based... more/see it nowon the type of cable used.

    Smart Serial connectors can be found on Smart Serial cables and on the dual-serial-port WAN interface cards used in Cisco 2600 and 1720 series routers. The cables feature a Smart Serial connector on one end and a standard cable connector (such as DB25 or V.35) on the other end. The Smart Serial connector attaches to the dual-serial-port WAN interface card.

    Each port on the WAN interface card features a Smart Serial connector. Ports can be configured independently to support two different physical interfaces. For example, you can run RS-232 cable to one port and RS-449 cable to the other port using a single WAN interface card.

    What if you need to replace that RS-232 cable with V.35 cable? Just plug a Smart Serial–V.35 cable into the port. Because any Smart Serial connector on the WAN interface card attaches to any Smart Serial cable connector, no additional interface or adapter is necessary. Changing the configuration of your network is literally a snap! collapse

    Black Box Explains...10-GbE, CAT6A, and ANEXT.

    The IEEE released the 802.3an 10GBASE-T standard in June 2006. This standard specifies 10-Gbps data transmission over four-pair copper cabling. 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10-GbE) transmission includes up to 37 meters of... more/see it nowCAT6 cable (with installation mitigation techniques), 100 meters of Augmented Category 6 (CAT6A) UTP or F/UTP cable or 100 meters of S/FTP CAT7/Class F cable.

    CAT6A is the ANSI/TIA 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10-GbE) over copper standard. Its requirements are covered in ANSI/TIA-568-C.2 (Balanced Twisted-Pair Communications Cabling and Components Standard) published in August 2009. It defines 10-Gigabit data transmission over a 4-connector twisted-pair CAT6A copper cable for a distance of 100 meters.

    Category 6A cabling is designed to support next-generation applications, including the transfer of large amounts of data at high speeds, up to 10 Gbps. CAT6A extends electrical specifications to 500 MHz from 250 MHz for CAT6 cabling. CAT6A cables are fully backward compatible with previous categories, including CAT6 and 5e. Category 6A is also designed to support bundled cable installations up to 100 meters and PoE+ low-power implementations. The standard includes the performance parameter, Alien Crosstalk (ANEXT). Because of its higher performance transmission speeds and higher MHz rating, CAT6A cable needs to be tested for external noise outside the cable, which wasn’t a concern with previous cabling categories. CAT6A UTP also has a much larger diameter than previous cables.

    Alien crosstalk (ANEXT) is a critical and unique measurement in 10-GbE systems. Crosstalk, measured in 10/100/1000BASE-T systems, is the mixing of signals between wire pairs within a cable. Alien Crosstalk, in 10-GbE systems, is the measurement of the unwanted signal coupling between wire pairs in different and adjacent cables or from one balanced twisted-pair component, channel, or permanent link to another.

    The amount of ANEXT depends on a number of factors, including the type of cable, cable jacket, cable length, cable twist density, proximity of adjacent cables, and connectors, and EMI. Patch panels and connecting hardware are also affected by ANEXT.

    With Alien Crosstalk, the affected cable is called the victim cable. The surrounding cables are the disturber cables.

    There are a number of ways to mitigate the effects of ANEXT in CAT6A runs. According to the standards, ANEXT can be improved by laying CAT6A UTP cable loosely in pathways and raceways with space between the cables. This contrasts to the tightly bundled runs of CAT6/5e cable that we are used to. The tight bundles present a worst-case scenario of six cables around one, thus the center cable would be adversely affected by ANEXT. CAT6A UTP cable needs to be tested for ANEXT. This is a complex and time-consuming process in which all possible wire-pair combinations need to be tested for ANEXT and far-end ANEXT. It can take 50 minutes to test one link in a bundle of 24 CAT 6A UTP cables.

    To virtually eliminate the problem of ANEXT, you can use CAT6A F/UTP cable. The F indicates an outer foil shield encasing four unshielded twisted pairs. This cable is also a good choice when security is an issue because it doesn’t emit signals. In addition, CAT6A F/UTP cable works well in noisy environments with a lot of EMI/RFI.

    Installation of CAT6A F/UTP is simpler, too, because the cable features a smaller outside diameter than CAT6A UTP. Its construction makes it easier to pull and more resilient. The cable also has a smaller diameter so you can run more cables in a conduit or pathway, and have greater patch panel port density.

    For more information, see the CAT6A F/UTP vs. UTP: What You Need to Know white paper in the Resources section at blackbox.com. collapse

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