How to Use a Balun for Audio or Video

Have you ever needed to run an audio or video cable hundreds of feet but couldn’t find a cable long enough to do it? An audio or video balun is a very easy way to complete a job that requires extremely long runs of video or audio cable from room to room using a CAT 5 cable.

Whether you need to run analog audio, digital coax, RF, S-video, composite or component cables over long lengths a balun can complete the job using CAT-5.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with baluns, let me give you a quick definition of the functionality of a balun. A balun is a type of transformer: it’s used to convert an unbalanced signal to a balanced one or vice versa. Baluns isolate a transmission line and provide a balanced output. Baluns also allow a device to be placed an extended distance from the system it is connected with. Baluns can be installed by following the directions in the package or professionally depending on preference. Here is how a balun is connected.

This is an example of an S-Video balun but the setup is similar for every type of Balun. Each owners manual includes a connection diagram like this one.

What Is Needed To Complete an A/V System with a balun?

  • Two of the same kind of baluns (example: two S-Video Baluns, you can mix in-wall and component (on-wall) baluns) one for the initial connection and one for the secondary
  • The correct length of CAT-5 cable to connect the two baluns

Baluns come as either in-wall or component units depending on the job you need to do. If you are a do-it-yourself type of person, here are the steps to installing an audio or video balun.

  1. Turn off all power to equipment prior to installation
  2. Run CAT-5 Wire from balun to balun (VGA balun requires grounded CAT-5)
  3. Do NOT share any other signals on the CAT-5 cables other than the signals being extended by the CAT-5 baluns
  4. Crimp RJ45 ends on both ends of the CAT-5 Wire, Terminate all cables as straight through T-568A termination
  5. Install baluns using retrofit box on or in wall (depending on the type of balun) where CAT-5 ends come out
  6. Plug CAT-5 Wire into baluns
  7. Connect proper cable (component video, S-Video, digital coaxial, etc…)
  8. Power Up Equipment

A balun can be the perfect solution for a hard to reach install or one that is going to require a longer than usual cable. A baluns max range can vary depending on the type of connection it is (the longer you go the harder to maintain signal). If you need to get an audio or video signal from one room to another and can’t find a cable long enough to do it, a balun will do the job.

Max Length For Types of Baluns

Type Max Distance
(CAT-5 UTP)
Analog Audio 2500′
Digital Audio 600′
Composite Video (RCA) – Color 2200′
Composite Video (RCA) – B&W 2500′
Component Video – 480i/480p 1000′
Component Video – 720p/1080i 500′
S-Video 500′
RF-Cable 330′
VGA (640×480 & 800×600) 330′
VGA (1024×768) 250′
VGA (1280×1024) 160′

7 comments on “How to Use a Balun for Audio or Video

  1. david georges on said:

    Connecting my plasma monitor to the AV equipment (cable box and sound processor) via CAT 5. Total run = 60′. The monitor is Monitor is sensitive to electrical interference (toaster, hair dryer, garbage disposal). Will installing 2 baluns correct the problem? Should I change the CAT 5 to CAT 6?

    Thanks,
    David Georges

  2. mike on said:

    I have one cat5 wire running to all my soon-to-be cameras; Can I use that one cat5 cable for running video (via baluns) and also the 12volt power on another twisted pair? Thanks.

  3. Roland Alden on said:

    My cat5 runs meet at a panel and have to be spliced to create a single run from point A to point B. Will one splice in the middle somewhere screw things up?

  4. Electronics Guru on said:

    Roland:

    The general feeling among people who work with CAT5 is to never splice it! One issue is the twisted pairs, which will be wrecked when the wires are cut and attempted to be re-twisted and re-connected; another is the broken seal (insulation and cover) that has to be redone with tape or wire connectors. All of this leads to (a) weaker physical strength, (b) higher chances of crosstalk, interference and signal loss, (c) reduced data rates, and (d) more problems you’ll have to fix later.

    Do yourself a favor and buy a longer CAT5 cable, or at the very least a coupler so you can retain the cables’ integrity. Notice in the diagram above there are no splices, and it’s stressed in the text to retain cable integrity by making direct connections with cable terminations.

  5. Patrick Phillips on said:

    Can these Niles baluns go bad? The color on my TV was bad. I trouble shot the problem by hooking my DVD player directly to the Television without using the Balun and the pictures was fine. When connected to the Balun the picture is bad. I’ve had this Balun for about 3 years without a problem. I have not moved or installed any new equipment, so I’m assuming one of the Baluns went bad. Is there a way to find out which one is the bad one? Any suggestions?
    Thanks, P

  6. Electronics Guru on said:

    Patrick:

    Like any other electrical component these too can encounter problems. Without having more specific information it’s hard to say why you’re having problems. I would suggest calling 1-866-224-6171 to talk to one of my techs about what’s going on. They should be able to get you squared away faster than on here and can help you get replacement parts or warranty service if applicable.

  7. computer on said:

    An awesome post surely.

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