Cleaning up some coax runs

dar124

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I've replied to a few other threads with questions about setting up my HTPC, running some coax/network lines and cleaning up some existing coax runs. But since I'm getting closer to actually starting this work, I figured that I'd start my own thread with some coax / cabling questions.


Quick summary - A guy at work gave me 40ft - 50ft of coax and I purchased some coax ends and tools to be able to make my own cables. I'm going to replace a couple off-brand splitters, clean up some runs in the basement (in preparation for installing a keystone plate behind my living room TV and setting up my HTPC) and replace a few shorter cables that are strung together with new a single piece of coax. I also picked up a PCT Amp with Active Return to install. All of this will hopefully correct some pixilation issues on my TV and occasional dropped connections on my modem.


With the weather warming up I've been outside recently and noticed that the coax is a little messy as the line comes down the house and into the basement. The line coming into the house is a solid line from the pole. I dont want to pay (and dont think that it's necessary) to have a new line run to the house, but I was wondering if it would effect the signal if I cut the existing line at the back of the house, used a coupler, and ran a new line from that point into the house?? I have been trying to remove excess cable and un-needed couplers/connections, etc so I really didnt want to add one along the way. Also would it be an issue to have a coupler outside?? One thought that I had, was to run the coax into the existing box for the phone line on the back of the house. We dont have a home phone, but I figured that running the line into the box and having the coupler there would keep it out of the elements a bit?? I also suppose that I could just coil the excess cable up into that phone box, if running the coax in there wont affect anything.

Thanks for any input.


2013-04-25_18-57-45_636.jpg
 

RocketTech

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Everything else being egual, a coupler will drop the signal level- every termination/connection/split lowers the signal level.
For the best signal, nothing (NOTHING) beats a shorter run on good quality cable (RG6 or RG6QS). If a shorter run is not practical (including asking the CATV company to drop cable to a different point on your house), then you want to look into an amplifier.
If you have a coil of loose cable, you have too much cable. In my experience there is no detecable difference between no-name (or Radio Shack) splitters and name-brand splitters of the same stated specs (CATV vs Sat. splitters). If it makes you feel better, it doesn't hurt to replace them, but minimizing the number of splits and splitters will get you better signal quality.

I would not put the CATV in the TIN box- Just make a drip loop and run it directly inside. Disconnect any unused CATV branches and remove any unnecessary splitters. One 6-way splitter would be preferred over two 3-way (or more appropriately one 3-way and one 4-way) splitters.

I would put the modem on the first split along with a TV and evaluate with everything else disconnected. If you still notice issues, call the CATV company and have them fix it (usually a new drop).
 

yuzuki

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I am going to advise against using cheap radio shack and dollar store splitters, if you actually opened them up ( I have before ) you would see a real difference and also when you put them on a signal meter you see a difference. Also keep in mind that if you do something wrong and somehow mess up your cabling then the cable company may charge you to fix it. Also you want as little splits as possible. You will hurt your signal if you daisy chain splitters so its best to get a splitter for the number of runs you need and if needed a proper drop amp. I would honestly go with a antronix splitter, they are not that expensive and they work pretty well. Also remember to use a decent quality compression fitting not any of the screw on junk or other ones, at least thats my recommendation.
 

bds1904

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why did you show us a picture of your telco nid when you are talking about coax?

Do you have uverse? If so then your amp is useless and it'll be cheaper to have AT&T come out and fix everything right for their $99 flat repair fee, especially if your modem is fed with coax.

If you do have uverse and your RG is fed with coax and you use that amp you are running the risk of damaging your RG and the AT&T DSLAM. You would be responsible for the $99 repair fee, a $149 RG fee, and even more if you kill some STB's.
 

dar124

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I would not put the CATV in the TIN box- Just make a drip loop and run it directly inside. Disconnect any unused CATV branches and remove any unnecessary splitters.

I've got excess cable outside under the phone connections. So, if I remove the calking where the coax goes into the house, I should be able to just pull the excess coax inside to get the exact length that I need and then just cut off the excess??


I am going to advise against using cheap radio shack and dollar store splitters ... Also remember to use a decent quality compression fitting not any of the screw on junk or other ones, at least thats my recommendation.

Yep, I bought some coax tools (stripper, cutter & tool to attach the compression fitting ends) and a couple new splitters. So as I'm redoing some of these runs I'm going to change out the splitters and most of the coax fittings. If I'm taking the time to do it I might as well spend a few extra bucks to make sure that the majority of the connections get replaced.


why did you show us a picture of your telco nid when you are talking about coax?

Do you have uverse? If so then your amp is useless and it'll be cheaper to have AT&T come out and fix everything right for their $99 flat repair fee, especially if your modem is fed with coax.

If you do have uverse and your RG is fed with coax and you use that amp you are running the risk of damaging your RG and the AT&T DSLAM. You would be responsible for the $99 repair fee, a $149 RG fee, and even more if you kill some STB's.

Nah, I dont have Uverse, just regular old cable. I posted that pic to show the cables (phone line & coax) on the back of the house that I wanted to clean up. I'm wanting to clean up the excess coax that's under the box that the phone line goes into.
 

RocketTech

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I've got excess cable outside under the phone connections. So, if I remove the calking where the coax goes into the house, I should be able to just pull the excess coax inside to get the exact length that I need and then just cut off the excess??

Yes, that would work fine. Alternatively you should have a ground block (basically a coupler with a terminal for a ground wire)- cut the extra off on the outside, (leave enough for a drip loop) terminate, and re-connect to the ground block.

Lowering the number of splitters/splices/outlets is the best way to regain signal strength. Every split,splice, and/or termination reduces signal strength.
 

dar124

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Yes, that would work fine. Alternatively you should have a ground block (basically a coupler with a terminal for a ground wire)- cut the extra off on the outside, (leave enough for a drip loop) terminate, and re-connect to the ground block.

Lowering the number of splitters/splices/outlets is the best way to regain signal strength. Every split,splice, and/or termination reduces signal strength.


Thanks for the reply RocketTech. And for that link, it was pretty informative. There isnt a ground block outside. I literally have one continuous piece of coax from the pole, down into my basement and into my 1st splitter. I wish there was a grounding block, it would make shortening up the existing coax a bit easier.

The 1st splitter in the basement is grounded (I'd have to check to make sure, but I think there's a wire from the splitter to a waterline).
 

dar124

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So I've finally got time set aside today to work on some of these coax lines. I just wanted to post a couple quick before screenshots from my modem.


Scientific%2520Atlanta%25202100%2520modem%2520info1%2520%25206-3-13.jpg



Scientific%2520Atlanta%25202100%2520modem%2520info2%2520%25206-3-13.jpg



From what I've read in other threads the transmit on my modem is too high, it should be below 48. Hopefully this PCT amp will allow me to adjust the transmit to the correct level. Does anyone see any other obvious issues from the modem info??

I'll try to take a few pics during the coax work and then will post some updated modem screenshots after the PCT Active Return Amp is installed.
 

JHB

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Yes, your TX is a bit high. On our system in Southern California we like to keep our customers between 48-52 TX. Who's your provider? Is your modem on the first splitter from the drop? Like mentioned above, don't use radio shack junk. Most providers will give free splitters by just going into the office and asking.

Edit: Just noticed you picked up an active amp which is a no no until you make sure your lines are clean. You will affect the system by returning junk back out to the tap. You need quality splitters, coax, and all fittings flush and compressed. If you need an amp because of signal issues have your cable company make sure your signal at the tap is good, and your drop is good first. You don't want to amp bad signal! How many televisions do you have? I've only needed 15db amps in some 8-10 bedroom homes I've done in wealthy neighborhoods. There is a such thing as hitting your equipment with "to much" signal.
 
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dar124

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Yes, your TX is a bit high. On our system in Southern California we like to keep our customers between 48-52 TX. Who's your provider? Is your modem on the first splitter from the drop? Like mentioned above, don't use radio shack junk. Most providers will give free splitters by just going into the office and asking.

Edit: Just noticed you picked up an active amp which is a no no until you make sure your lines are clean. You will affect the system by returning junk back out to the tap. You need quality splitters, coax, and all fittings flush and compressed. If you need an amp because of signal issues have your cable company make sure your signal at the tap is good, and your drop is good first. You don't want to amp bad signal! How many televisions do you have? I've only needed 15db amps in some 8-10 bedroom homes I've done in wealthy neighborhoods. There is a such thing as hitting your equipment with "to much" signal.


Hey JHB, thanks for responding. I have Time Warner Cable and have been having some pixilation issues on my TV and occasional dropped connections on my modem. I've called TWC multiple times and they always say that their signal is fine and usually just have me "re-boot" my cable box. So after looking at my modem info & posting it in another thread, it was recommended that I get that PCT signal amp with active return.

I really cant get away with removing any splitters. My cable comes into my basement, into a 2 way splitter. One line goes to the main TV on the 1st floor, the other runs thru the 1st & 2nd floor walls into the attic. From there it goes into another 2 way splitter with one drop into the master bedroom for our TV (no cable box) and the other drop into the 2nd bedroom/office where the modem/router/desktop PC is located. So without some crazy re-cabling I'm stuck with having these 2 splitters. I'm hoping that this amp will let me adjust the signal levels and transmit levels and eliminate my pixilation and dropped connections.

I also figured that while adding this amp, I would clean up/shorten some of the existing coax runs, replace some cheap coax (smaller gauge coax with crimped on ends) and there are a couple places where 2 lengths of coax are coupled together, so I'll replace those with new solid pieces with good compression ends. And I knew that the splitters that were installed were cheap no-name splitters. I ended up getting 2 of these splitters.


I cleaned up the outside coax and the majority of the lines in the basement. I still have to replace the splitter in the attic and one more length of coupled coax with a solid piece. I'll post a pic of the outside wiring in a bit and then will post updated screenshots from my modem when I'm 100% finished with the wiring.
 

wizdum

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Hey JHB, thanks for responding. I have Time Warner Cable and have been having some pixilation issues on my TV and occasional dropped connections on my modem. I've called TWC multiple times and they always say that their signal is fine and usually just have me "re-boot" my cable box. So after looking at my modem info & posting it in another thread, it was recommended that I get that PCT signal amp with active return.

I really cant get away with removing any splitters. My cable comes into my basement, into a 2 way splitter. One line goes to the main TV on the 1st floor, the other runs thru the 1st & 2nd floor walls into the attic. From there it goes into another 2 way splitter with one drop into the master bedroom for our TV (no cable box) and the other drop into the 2nd bedroom/office where the modem/router/desktop PC is located. So without some crazy re-cabling I'm stuck with having these 2 splitters. I'm hoping that this amp will let me adjust the signal levels and transmit levels and eliminate my pixilation and dropped connections.

I also figured that while adding this amp, I would clean up/shorten some of the existing coax runs, replace some cheap coax (smaller gauge coax with crimped on ends) and there are a couple places where 2 lengths of coax are coupled together, so I'll replace those with new solid pieces with good compression ends. And I knew that the splitters that were installed were cheap no-name splitters. I ended up getting 2 of these splitters.


I cleaned up the outside coax and the majority of the lines in the basement. I still have to replace the splitter in the attic and one more length of coupled coax with a solid piece. I'll post a pic of the outside wiring in a bit and then will post updated screenshots from my modem when I'm 100% finished with the wiring.

You don't need to remove any splitters, you just need to put your modem on the first branch. The cable should go into your house and into a 2 way splitter immediately. One leg goes straight to the cable modem, the other goes to the rest of your TVs. Its better to run cat6 from the modem to your office, than to have a modem downstream of several splitters.
 

dar124

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So here's the "after" pic of the cleaned up phone line and coax on the back of the house. It's pretty much done, I still have to caulk around where the lines go thru into the house. It looks a lot cleaner back there by the patio now.


2013-06-04_10-52-23_982%2520after.jpg
 

m1abram

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Recommendation, they make little plastic gromments that go around the cable where it passes through the siding. It helps prevent chaffing, while they are meant to be installed before you put the cable in, you could cut the gromment and wrap it around the cable. Also put some chaulk in there to keep moisture out of the wall.
 

FrEaKy

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After mentions since im late to this conversation;

External house box, I always suggest these, alot of people will tell you to just drip loop it, which you still do, but in a box, also, you REALLY need a grounding block on the side of the house where you are at power. If lightning strikes (here in GA that was a normal call we got daily when I worked at Comcast) it will take all your tv's out like nothing.

Get a good house box, a good grounding block and some nice copper wire to go from the grounding block to the grounding pole that should be in that area behind your house (its where power is) if there isn't one, you need to get one installed, its a 12ft pole that gets pushed into the ground. Rubber grommets to go on the end of the cable where the grounding block is is also ideal. Mud plug the cable going into the house, this can be done with a wire grommet and silicon adhesive to go behind the grommet, this prevents water from leaking inside or small insects.

If your cable is being hung via telephone poles, if its Quad Shield cable, great, if its not, than the second a squirrel chews one spot its dead. Quad shield has a sticky layer that auto fills holes when they are made and is absolutely necissary for a home run.

Splitters DO matter, the company you chose, ALSO matters. Do not get Radio Shack spliitters, many a phone call were because some idiot thought it was a great idea to run a new line for another TV and would use crimp connectors and RS splitters. DO NOT use them.

Fittings, use compression fittings, they are your friend. Make sure you check which type too, RG6 fittings can be tricky because unless the package says it, one size DOES NOT fit all. Quad Shield cable will require a special fitting, unless the compression fittings say they can handle both.

Your first run will always be to a 2 way splitter to which one will go to your modem, giving you a -3.5db loss on the modem only, the second split will go to either a single tv or another splitter to feef other tv's.

Remember on spliiters, 2 way is always 3.5db loss on both legs
3 way is 3.5db on leg 1 and 7db loss on leg 2 and 3
4 way is 7db loss on all legs
6-8 way is 11db loss on all legs

Also important, remember you get signal loss due to length of wire.

After 100 ft, you lose 3db of signal on a RG-6 cable
After 200 ft, you lose 7db of signal
300 ft, its rediculous and not worth it at all.

If you have RG-59 cable in the house, replace it, dont change ends or anything else, replace the cable completely. RG-59 is a waist of copper wire.

If you have a big run (200+ ft) and intend on using that line alot, RG-11 is your friend, its alot more expensive, and is nowhere near as flexible, but dag-nabbit, 3db loss at 200ft is just fine.

Finally, remove all your crappy phone cables, most of the time AT&T or most major telecom companies use Cat3, replace them with cat5e or cat6, why you may ask, this is just a future proof thing as far as im concerned. If you have a washroom, run a fresh cable from washroom to the outter d-mark location (telecom box) and run all phone cables TO that new location, give yourself indoor phone wiring. This allows little to no messups with telecom companies if they have to repair anything in their box. Also, if you run telco from your ISP rather than the telecom company, this allows easier job for the ISP to do their work if you run VOIP.

Modem levels; TWC and Comcast are very much the same in their UP/DWN/TX/SnR numbers, but will vary based on locations and which headend they are fed from.

-5.2 - Downstream
35.6 - SnR
54.0 - Upstream

Your numbers here are totally doable, but are not ideal.
-5.2 is kinda in a grey area when it comes to numbers. I know our Downstream was always between +10 / -10, but I liked seeing this number as close to 0 as possible.
35.6 SnR is very good, above 25, below 45. Perfect spot
54.0 upstream, this number is TO high, anything above 52 is considered high. This can be remedied via how your split is going to your modem, if you modem is not on the first leg of the split, its going to have seriously high numbers. The other thing is, you may be getting fed not enough signal from the tap on the street side or you may even have a bad connector at the tap from the provider. Fixing this will not only fix your upstream, but can heavily improve your downstream numbers as well.
 
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dar124

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Thanks for the reply FrEaKy. Definitely some good info. I did caulk around where the cables come into the house for now, but will look into a house box down the road. Hopefully these good splitters, new compression fittings and replacing some of the cheaper coax that I had mixed into things will help out.

This morning I was able to change out the splitter in the attic and also remove two shorter lines that were spliced together up there. I'll post the updated screen shots from my modem in a bit. Then hopefully I can get some input on the new signal levels, and some suggestions on how to adjust the amp & active return on the PCT amp to get the levels right where they need to be.
 

FrEaKy

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Thanks for the reply FrEaKy. Definitely some good info. I did caulk around where the cables come into the house for now, but will look into a house box down the road. Hopefully these good splitters, new compression fittings and replacing some of the cheaper coax that I had mixed into things will help out.

This morning I was able to change out the splitter in the attic and also remove two shorter lines that were spliced together up there. I'll post the updated screen shots from my modem in a bit. Then hopefully I can get some input on the new signal levels, and some suggestions on how to adjust the amp & active return on the PCT amp to get the levels right where they need to be.

Sure, post your levels and let me know how things work, I will be glad to help.
 

dar124

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So here's the updated screen shots from my modem after switching out the cheap splitters, changing a few compression fittings, replacing some cheaper coax and removing some of the excess cabling that was in various places.

I did notice that a couple of the levels changed (hopefully for the better). I'm hoping to get some feedback on increasing/decreasing the amp levels and increasing/decreasing the active return levels so that the numbers are "just right". Thanks in advance.


Scientific%2520Atlanta%25202100%2520modem%2520info1%2520%25206-6-13.jpg



Scientific%2520Atlanta%25202100%2520modem%2520info2%2520%25206-6-13.jpg
 

FrEaKy

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Your #'s need ABSOLUTELY no changing. You have perfect levels, at least in my area.

Those are MAJOR # changes, from 54 to 39.7 Up is incredible, -5 to 9.1 down, fantastic, and your SnR reduced as well, fantastic, your levels changed 14 points on the down and up, thats like going through 2 7db splitters! :) You did a good job with clean up.

Congrats! :)
 

dar124

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Thanks FrEaKy, yea things were a bit of a mess prior to me starting this work. I'm glad that the levels improved as much as they did with such a simple fix. I may end up trying to adjust the receive power to get it a bit closer to 0, but I'm glad that there isnt much else that's needed. Hopefully this will eliminate my dropped internet connections and pixilation issues.

I will end up replacing the line to my main TV in the near future when I put in a keystone plate with coax, a network line and HDMI in my living room. But other than that I should be pretty much set.
 

FrEaKy

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No, dont want your receive power lower, it will affect your upstream, your upstream is just at the right level.

Your downstream should always be higher than 30 but definitely lower than 50, so your in a good area, or else your SnR starts to freak out, intermittent signal is not your friend. 40 is where you want to be, so good work!
 

KILL____

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DO NOT MIX CABLES BETWEEN CAT 3 AND CAT 5E/6. category 3 cables have a different twist rate then cat 5e/6. Coax also operates on different resistance ratings, with rg59 and rg6 running at 75 ohms of resistance. Others have different resistances and capacitance. Leave the phone lines alone and just stick with the rg6 quad shield which doesn't have fluid in it, but four layers of insulation to keep out interference.
 

FrEaKy

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DO NOT MIX CABLES BETWEEN CAT 3 AND CAT 5E/6. category 3 cables have a different twist rate then cat 5e/6. Coax also operates on different resistance ratings, with rg59 and rg6 running at 75 ohms of resistance. Others have different resistances and capacitance. Leave the phone lines alone and just stick with the rg6 quad shield which doesn't have fluid in it, but four layers of insulation to keep out interference.

Never told him to use rg6 quad with fliud, other than the drop from the pole to the house. Soly to be used for evil squirrels and whatnot.

Also, yes, Cat3 and Cat5E/6 DO have different resistance ratings, however, most teleco company's are already aware of this, and most contracting companies that do new houses/businesses pre-wire now with Cat5E/6. However he runs it, should be fine, the twist in Cat5E should not affect the resistance ratings in new teleco standards, so depending on where he lives, if he still lives in an area that uses old mom&pop teleco, than no, he would keep his Cat3, however, if he lives in an area recently redone by big buisness teleco, he is fine with Cat5e/6
 

dar124

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I'm able to adjust the RX & TX with that new PCT amp, so a couple of days ago I decided to make some minor adjustments to try to get the levels "just right". Below are the screen shots from my modem after the adjustments. I'm thinking that these numbers are now about as good as I'm gonna get them.


Scientific%2520Atlanta%25202100%2520modem%2520info1%2520%25206-9-13.jpg



Scientific%2520Atlanta%25202100%2520modem%2520info2%2520%25206-9-13.jpg



I'll have to monitor my internet connection for dropped connections and also the HDTV picture to make sure that the pixilation issues have stopped. I will eventually replace the coax line to my main TV when I put in the keystone plate in the living room. But other than that all my coax from the main drop is new and all the coax ends are new compression fittings. So hopefully my signal will be ok from now on!!! :D
 

dar124

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Damn, I didnt realize it had been almost a year since my last post here!!!

But I've finally ordered all my cables & keystone parts to run network, coax, USB and HDMI lines up to the living room for my HTPC.


IMG_20140527_194847.jpg
 

dar124

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Here's some pics from the keystone plate install behind my living room TV.

I've still got some work on the HTPC down in the basement and I've got to connect all the cables. But I'm glad to get the new plate setup behind my TV. I'm getting closer to FINALLY having my HTPC!!! :D


Keystone2.jpg



Keystone3.jpg



Keystone4.jpg



Keystone7.jpg



Keystone9.jpg
 

whrswoldo

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Thank you for this thread, it's been very informative.

I have been having a very similar issue recently with my modem disconnecting and very high upstream power levels. Comcast is of course clueless. I ordered the same amp, should be here Saturday :D
 

whrswoldo

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I installed the amp today and so far things are looking much better! I haven't touched any of the settings. Here are my signal levels before:
r3nzjnx.png


Here are the signal levels after installing the amp:
j365QzC.png


I still need to clean up the wiring, but it's HOT outside so that can wait for another day :)
 

Ehren8879

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You got that transmit power in check, that's good to see. 55dBmV is roughly max, so you were walking the edge before.
 

dar124

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Thank you for this thread, it's been very informative.

I have been having a very similar issue recently with my modem disconnecting and very high upstream power levels. Comcast is of course clueless. I ordered the same amp, should be here Saturday :D


No problem whrswoldo, I'm glad this thread has been helpful. I enjoyed working on this project here. I actually just got my HTPC all connected up today!!! It's been a bit of a process, but definitely worth it.

Glad to see some of your levels are better now with that amp. I wanted to get my cable issues straightened out before I threw a HTPC into the mix. I've been happy with things over the past year or so.
 
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