To Patch or Not to Patch.. this is the question


New Member
So I understand the pros and cons to both methods and I'm still on the fence... looking for some alternate opinions to help me decide :)
I have pre-wired my house and have a dedicated equipment room in the basement which will house 2 Middle Atlantic 43u racks.  I'm planning a distributed a/v system, with some basic automation type stuff.  Here's what I have in terms of wire:
4-5 cat drops to every zone in the house -- this means about 40-50 cables.  2-3 per zone are extras, with no immediate use.
20 speakers (10 zones) for whole home audio etc + a 11 (7.4) speakers for my dedicated home theater.
Balanced XLR
11 (7.4) to the theater for possible active speakers in the future (won't be used initially).
1 cable to every TV location for a total of 6.  These were installed for good measure and I won't be using them right away (if ever).
So my thinking is that it would be nice to terminate everything so that the racks can be kept as neat as possible.  This way I don't have a ton of extra cable coiled up next to the racks.
It also allows me a bit of flexibility in terms of gear moving position in the racks.  The system is likely to change and I feel like having the patch panels would allow me to make these tweaks easily as necessary in the future.
The concerns I have -- extra connections:
1. For the upstairs audio zones, would I notice a difference in quality with direct wiring vs the patch panel?  Fidelity is not the first priority up there obviously.  How about for the theater - If I go with the panel for the rest of the house, should I just terminate the theater speakers here too or should I run them directly?  Fidelity is more important here.
2. I plan on using HDBaseT extenders for 3 of the zones upstairs.  I will not be "cheaping out" on the extenders -- but since I've only wired with Cat6 UTP, how likely is it that I may run into issues (even if a lot of care is taken to punch down at the panel)?  From what I gather, some people have success while others run into issues.
Any thing else that I'm missing? I'd love to hear some thoughts...


Active Member
Some things to think about...
1. Use quad shielded RG-6Q and high quality compression coax connectors. Digital TV and DirecTV services that use SWiM LNBs require it. Also run RG-6Q cables to point of entry for OTA antenna or satellite dish.
2. Cat5e/6 cable can double as phone or security sensors.
3. I tried component video over Cat5 in prior years, which eventually stopped working. I felt the hardware was too cost prohibitive to replace with the same thing, so I opted to run high quality 30 ft HDMI 1.4 cables between my AV equipment and HD projector, and added a $12 inline HDMI equalizer, all from monoprice.
4. All my RG-6Q, Cat5, and hardwired security sensors are all wired to a central junction box. I connected up one RG-6Q runs to an OTA antenna to a DTA RF modulator, then recombine the OTA signals and DTA RF output after passing thru chan 2-5 notch filter to prevent retransmission of the DTA RF output which would be an FCC violation.


Senior Member
Coax connections are generally terminated with compression connectors - beyond that doing anything with them is pretty pointless; you don't want to patch unused cables ever really - and patch panels are generally wasted.  I would generally prefer these into a structured media enclosure because then at least whether you're running 3 or 12 into the actual cable service or DirecTV, you can generally try to get an amplifier or multiswitch that has all the ports facing the same direction - pull out the ones you need and connect them, then leave the rest grouped off to the side.
For CatX cable I hate terminating to anything other than a jack - patch panel on one end, and keystone on the other.  Depending on your layout, either in a rack or wall-mount standoff or SMC with the Leviton patch panels - any of those options work.  I have never really liked putting patch panels in a 4-post complete rack because there's so much wasted space but it can be made to look clean.  When I do it, I put networking on the back with all the wiring and I keep anything nice looking on the front; on the front opposite the patch panels there's often room for power strips with switches or control panels or lights or even just blanks.  Loss isn't really a concern here if everything is done to spec especially since your runs won't be anywhere near the typical length limitations.
Audio I could go either way; if the equipment is in the closet where the wires drop down it's probably not worth the extra connections; however if going to a multizone amp in a common living space I'd terminate at the wall then have jumpers to the equipment.  I see a lot of hack jobs out there that are done by "pros" - it comes down to what you can deal with.  I'm sure everyone has seen the articles about coat hangers being used as speaker wires and the audiophiles couldn't tell the difference between those and the high-end cables - so much of this is likely the placebo effect anyway.


Senior Member
Not my original idea (but rarely is):
Put all the unused cables and service loops in a concealed location, near the rack.  


This idea is from Mac Burks, aka 39 Cent Stamp.  I've used it in my house.  This is one of Mac's installs.
The space can be above the rack, in the ceiling, accessible from a drywall access panel behind/next to the ceiling cable penetration.  Lower the ceiling above the rack, or drywall in a space next to or behind the rack.
In my house, the unfinished mechanical room has a bathroom next to it.  The bathroom ceiling is about 18" lower than the mechanical room ceiling, so I've utilized that space.
I wouldn't patch HDMI extender category cables, if I could avoid it - not sure about HDBaseT.  Speaker cables are usually not patched, but run straight to the amp.  If you must patch them, I suggest SpeakOn connectors, mounted in a rack panel, at/near the rear of the rack.

Mac Burks has another brilliant idea that I've stolen from him - add a 3rd set of vertical rack rails at/near the back of the rack, for oddball stuff and rear patch panels.  The Middle Atlantic rack rail recess brackets allow you to mount a single component near the rear, but recessed.  The SpeakOn connectors also come in right-angle versions if space is tight at the rear.

Rail-mounted terminal blocks also offer a somewhat permanent means to patch audio cables:

I will replace those terminal blocks with SpeakOns, when I replace my server rack with a smaller AV rack (server rack too large for mechanical room).
Another option for taking care of the extra cables would be to put something like a 50" Channel Vision enclosure in the wall behind or next to the rack, just for concealing them.  The additional enclosure may also function as an additional location for patching cables - the RG6 cables could be terminated there, for future use:

Some cables need service loops, for future revisions.  Try to figure out which ones may need some slack in the future.  For peace of mind, I've chosen to use them quite liberally, and with my extra space for service loop storage, it's been easy.


Senior Member
Channel Vision (and perhaps Leviton, too) offer a 2" deep extension ring, to add 2" of depth to the enclosure, in front of the drywall.