UHD 4K over CAT5 – Solved!

In a previous post about my 4k home theater upgrade, I noted that I was trying to solve an issue caused by my AV cabinets being on one side of my family room, while my TV enclosure is located on the other. This only became an issue when I decided to upgrade the TV and the AV receiver to UHD 4k. UHD 4K requires HDMI cables that support HDCP 2.2. None of those wonderful cables exist in my walls between the AV cabinets and the TV enclosure. However, there currently are some solutions on the market that can run HDMI/HDCP 2.2 over Ethernet cables – specifically CAT5e or above.

Unfortunately, the house was wired back in 2005 before CAT5e was available. There were no extra cables pulled between the AV cabinets and the TV enclosure and no spare open conduit. That would have been sweet! In assessing my situation, I noticed that a single CAT5 wire had been pulled between the AV cabinets and the TV enclosure. It had been used for IR signalling to turn components on and off. Unfortunately, CAT5 is not CAT5e.

Taking a Risk on HDBT on CAT5

What is HTBT / HDBaseT? According to Wikipedia, it is

a consumer electronic (CE) and commercial connectivity standard for transmission of uncompressed high-definition video (HD), audio, power, home networking, Ethernet, USB, and some control signals, over a common category cable (Cat5e or above) using the same 8P8C modular connectors used by Ethernet.


Please note that the specification reference states CAT5e or above. Well unfortunately, I did not have CAT5e – I only had CAT5 in the wall. I had seen some references to a model of HDMI extender that ran 330 feet over CAT5e. My curiosity was, would it run correctly over 30 feet on just CAT5? The answer turned out to be yes! The unit I purchased was from “No Hassle AV” – but don’t bother with their website – as clearly that was too much of a hassle for them to build. But they did answer the phone when I called and shipped the product on Amazon very fast. They do supply some support manuals online – but no link to them from the main page. Maybe even a simple link to the support page was too much of a hassle! But they WORK!!!

Logitech Harmony Elite Remote / Hub

Controlling all of the components (receiver, cable box, AppleTV, Roku, etc) in the AV cabinets and the TV requires some magic since they are all located behind some type of enclosure. Furthermore, the two enclosures are again, on opposite sides of the room.

The Harmony Elite Remote and Hub are a great consumer level solution for this. The remote communicates with the hub over Wi-Fi. The hub can also be controlled by an app on your smart phone. The hub, in turn, controls all of the components enclosed in the cabinets. One of the nicest features of the Elite remote is that it is fully programmable by your smart phone. The earlier, non-Wi-Fi versions of their programmable remotes required using their website and a USB cable to program updates. Adding and removing devices and configurations is now amazingly simple.

I have owned all of these Logitech Remotes – in fact, these are their boxes… Elite on the far left.

Sending the IR from the Hub to the TV

The final issue with this setup was controlling the TV on the other side of the room. The hub was in the cabinet and its “IR extenders” were also behind that closed cabinet door. Another great feature about the HDBaseT specification and the extenders I purchased is they allow IR signals to ride over the CAT5 as well. The extenders come with two additional IR receivers and transmitters so signals can be sent in both directions. Now the remote’s hub can send the IR signal across the room via the extenders to control the TV as well.

Final Snag….

I was able to make the HDMI extender work with the Logitech “IR Blaster” but only when it was in a lighted room. I spent hours trying to debug this. It turns out the “Blaster” was “saturating” the IR receiver when in the enclosed cabinet. By ordering the Logitech Harmony Precision IR cable, I was able to solve this issue as well. Note my “hack” setup until I figured out why it only worked outside of the cabinet.

IR Hack

UHD 4K Home Theater Happiness

While I may have exited UHD 4k Home Theater Hell, I would not quite say this is heaven, but it is pretty close. I purchased the more expensive HDMI extenders to improve the odds of working over CAT5 instead of CAT5e. It is not clear if the cheaper model would have worked just as well.

I am very satisfied with this setup. But I also realize that had the previous installers not added a CAT5 cable for IR signaling, I would not have been able to use this solution. I was considering using radio based HDMI extenders – but those specified “line-of-site” which did not make me confident of working behind closed cabinet doors. I did hear of some possibilities of fishing new wires through the ceiling of the basement via my can lighting. While that would have been an option, I was luckily saved all that research and pain by a simple CAT5 cable.

Ted Cahall

UHD 4K Home Theater Upgrade Hell

Many folks embark upon a home theater upgrade only to find it a tad more difficult than they expected. My goal was to get everything in my Family Room to UHD 4K. While it looks terrible, I was able to achieve that by putting an external rack next to my built-in TV / speaker cabinet. But wait, my house came with built in component racks for this stuff! This is where my hell begins. (Current “hacked” set up next to my TV below).

Hacked External Media Rack

Great House, Great Cabinets, Aging Tech

Almost six years ago, I bought a wonderful house, originally built by the Minnesota Vikings great, Joe Sensor, and later upgraded amazingly by the daughter of the founder of Best Buy. It was clearly Geek Squad city in here for weeks. I have home theater set-ups in both the Family Room and the Media Room in the walk-out basement. Both using embedded racks in cabinets built into the walls with AMX control panels to control everything from window shades, lights, on down to the TV and the components. The main issue I have is that the embedded rack cabinets are on the opposite side of the room from the giant built-in TV / speakers cabinet. The cabinets and the embedded racks are really well designed. They can be pulled out on attachable rails (see below) and have articulating wire guides. There are two racks – one for the main components of receiver, amplifier, etc. and a second one for old accessories that are now unnecessary such as DVD players, CD players, Blue-Ray, VHS, etc. Pretty cool racks huh?

This does not sound terrible at first consideration until you realize it was built around 2005 before HDMI cables, HD or UHD. It was even before common use of Cat-5E or Cat-6 Ethernet cables. The TV and components in the house when I bought it were pre-HD. For goodness sake, we cannot have that! I would lose my Platinum Couch Potato card.

So What is the Problem?

So the main issue is getting the UHD 4k Receiver connected vi HDMI 2.0 to the UHD 4K TV across the room (thus my hacked set up with external stack next to the TV cabinet). Unfortunately, the Geek Squad (or home re-modelers) left no auxiliary conduit between the racks and the TV cabinet. The conduit used between the rack and TV is absolutely stuffed with speaker wires and various coax wires. It is impossible to re-fish anything through that mess.

Potential Solutions to Home AV Hell

Fortunately, there is one Cat-5 (not Cat-5E) wire that seems to run directly between the racks and the TV cabinet. I have not buzzed it out to test if it is a “direct” point-to-point wire or if it goes through one of the basement Ethernet “home run” switches. It turns out, there are a few HDMI UHD 4K extenders that run over Cat-5E or Cat-6. While the cable I have is Cat-5 – it might work if the distance is short enough. So an HDMI Extender over Ethernet is my best option.

Of course, there is also the option to rip up the walls, ceiling, floor and run a 50 foot HDMI cable rated for UHD 4K. Of course while I was in there, I would add a bunch of Cat-6 cables for any type of future expansion since that seems to be the type of network cable used for wire converters. This seems crazy expensive considering the path through my walls that would be necessary (the room is 2 stories high) and I don’t have the home wiring diagrams as to the routes they took.

One other option I have is a wireless HDMI solution. Right now, I only see systems that support HD quality HDMI over wireless. This might have to be the setup I use when I sell the house so that everything is in an enclosed cabinet and the place looks high tech (even though it will be low tech HD). UPDATE: I just found some wireless UHD 4K @ 60 Hz by J-Tech. $500 for the pair. If the $300 Ethernet based pair do not work due to my cable only being Cat-5 and not Cat-5E, I now have an option. It says line of site. I wonder if I could cook a hot dog on one of those antennas.

Conclusion – more to come

I have ordered the “No Hassle AV” UHD 4K Extenders (see Ethernet extender link above) that run over Ethernet. I will test them and see if it will solve my dilemma. I will post updates back here as I make progress (or lack of progress). Comments and feedback welcome on Facebook where I posted this article.

Ted Cahall