Completing a DIY Cat5 speaker cable project is not difficult, but it does require the correct materials and attention to detail. Cat5 cable is a standard networking cable used for connecting devices such as computers and home theatre equipment. Cat5 cable comes in Cat5 and Cat5e variations, with the difference being speed of data transmission. A Cat5 cable can carry data in speeds of up to 100 megabits per second, while a Cat5e cable is good for up to 1,000 megabits per second, making Cat5e cable the more popular choice for most device connections, including speaker cables.
Determine finished length requirements based on where you intend to place the speakers, and then use a scissors to cut four lengths of cable per speaker. For example, if you have two speakers and determine the finished length should be 12 feet, cut eight pieces of cable, each 12 feet in length. Cut one cable shell per speaker to the finished length, minus 2 inches, and cut four pieces of cable sleeving per speaker, each 3 inches in length. Finally, cut one 5-inch piece of heatshrink per speaker.
Braid each set of cable lengths, leaving 8 inches free at each end. Before getting started, place a piece of electrical tape on both ends of two wires to assist in correctly attaching banana plug connectors after braiding is complete. Align the cable ends and use a piece of electrical tape to secure one end to any surface to make braiding easier. Begin braiding by placing the outermost left wire to the right, over the top of the wire set, then place the outermost right wire to the left, over the top of the wire set. Continue in this fashion until the braid is complete.
Slide the braided cable into a cable shell, making sure to leave 1 inch of braided cable exposed at each end. To ensure that the cable shell does not slide, place a small piece of electrical tape at end cable end. Separate the unbraided portion of the free cable ends into two groups of two cables each for a total of four per cable and slide each cable end group into a cable sleeve, leaving 1 inch exposed to allow for connecting the banana plugs.
Secure the cable ends by sliding the heatshrink over the cable sleeve and shell. Plug in the heat gun, set it to LOW and move it slowly over the length of the heatshrink until you see the heatshrink soften and bond to the cable.
Attach a red and black banana plug at each end, using the electrical tape indicator to place red with red, and black with black. Use a wire stripper to strip insulation from the four exposed cable ends, then slide the jacket of a plug over each wire end group, making sure the plug fully encases exposed wires. Tighten and secure the banana plug using the wire crimper.
To make braiding the cables easier and to ensure that cable lengths are the same, stretch the cables out after cutting them to size, then divide them into four cables per speaker and trim them to an equal length. Choose two cables per set and place a piece of electrical tape at each end to distinguish them as the positive and negative connections. When attaching banana plugs, it is a good idea is to attach one colour at a time to make sure red stays with red and black stays with black.
A heat gun set on LOW can still produce burn injuries. Use caution when working with a heat gun and consider using hand protection, such as gloves, to prevent burns.