Wednesday, September 02, 2009

All about Audio/Video Wall Plates

All you need to know about Audio/Video Wall Plates

Everyone likes the idea of making their cables as invisible as possible. Granted, it's not so easy unless you get someone to do it for you. Still, it is not necessarily as hard as you may think. If you are somewhat handy, and more than a little bit brave, you can learn to cut into your drywall, install a box, run your cables in the wall and finish it all off with a nice A/V wall plate with the necessary connectors. Lets start it off with an explanation of the types of wall plates and the terms that are used for them.

Some of the common words thrown around but rarely explained are "Decora®", "Keystone", "pass-thru" (or pass-through) "balun", "passive", "active" and "insert".
OK, lets start with Keystone.
Keystone Wall plates are a standardized, modular, "snap-in" system for low voltage cable and wire connections.
"Standard" Keystone Wall Plates:

"Decora®" Keystone Wall Plates:

Decora® is a style of wall plate invented by Leviton with a center part as seen above (although not necessarily keystone) , and then a surround portion that is installed over it. Decora® plates are also available in non-keystone style with connectors permanently installed.
Decora® non-keystone:

The above has a VGA (or "HD15", or most accurately "HD DB15") as well as a 3.5mm mini phone plug connector.

Decora® "Surround" or "Cover" Plate:

The important part of the Keystone scheme, is , of course, the modular connector inserts.

Keystone "Inserts" or "Modules":

Below are some RCA jack, pass-thru keystone inserts.
They are "pass-thru" (often called "pass-through" or "passthru") because they are female connectors in the front as well as the back. This allows you to avoid having to do any cable termination yourself. You just plug in your pre-made cables.
Note: You should only use "in-wall" rated cables within walls. What fire-code rating you need in your particular area and installation type varies. It's a long subject for another time.

More Keystone insert module types? The common ones are:
RCA, F, BNC, Binding Post, Banana, Toslink, S-Video, and of course, Telephone and network "RJ" types RJ45 (Cat5 Ethernet) can be either pass-thru or punch down. RCA can be RCA female to female or RCA to "F" for using common RG6 cable connections within walls.
RCA Jacks:

RCA Jacks are used for Stereo or multichannel audio, Composite Video, Component Video and Digital Audio coax.

F Connectors:

"F" connectors are used for CATV (cable TV), Satellite, and Antenna connections.

HDMI Keystone:

HDMI keystone jacks are used for HDMI connections for Digital Audio and Video.

OK, what about "Baluns" and "Active" wall plates?
Baluns take an unbalanced signal and convert it to a balanced signal. What this means in practical terms is it allows you to use CAT5 cable to send the signal over long lengths with very low pickup of noise and signal loss. The Balun is commonly built into the keystone insert module, Decora® connector, or installed on a standard wall plate. They are a great way to save money on expensive cables while enabling long cable runs. "Active" solutions can be thought of as either amplified balun type devices or proprietary technologies which actively convert the signal to some sort of balanced signal enabling very long cable runs over CAT5 (normally actually Cat5e or Cat6 solid cable) .

Questions? Please comment or contact us.
Please see our Audio/Video Wall Plates page for our current lineup which is constantly expanding.

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