"After in-depth research of numerous cable manufacturers, we selected Sommer as the manufacturer of our SuperCAT Lite and SuperCAT Sound cables. Sommer's diverse product line, quality manufacturing and responsive team made them the perfect partner." -- Dave Rat
Dave Rat is the founder of Rat Sound Systems Inc. and SoundTools LLC. He is a world-renowned sound system designer, sound consultant and live sound engineer. Rat has worked for many well-known artists, such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers (with whom he worked from February 1991 to January 2017), Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine, The Offspring, and Blink 182.
I understand that you did some research before you developed your own cable by visiting the Sommer headquarters in the Black Forest of Southwest Germany. Can you tell me about that?
Yes, our quest was to design a high quality CAT5e cable, but one of the issues we were having was finding a high grade CAT cable that winds and coils like a microphone cable. We wanted a cable that has the physical properties that we're used to with Pro Audio cables, and it was surprisingly difficult. Pro Audio cables have been developed for the past 30, 40, 50 years, and it's all a refined art, but this fairly new CAT series cable hasn't embraced the Pro Audio assets.
In our search through numerous samples from quite a few manufacturers, we found that Sommer had some very appealing products. We actually first started ordering from them for our own usage, and then we started getting some cable made by them, and when we were going for a big order, I decided to visit their factory headquarters in Germany. Before we went big with the new cable design, I went out there and visited and met the key people, and it was absolutely fascinating.
Your new cable configuration combines both aspects of audio cable in the CAT cable for data transfer, right?
Why didn't somebody come up with this solution before?
There seems to be a disconnect. There's the Pro Audio people who have been making cable for a long time, and then there's the people who make the data cable. There are cable companies that make both, but they're not out touring and working in the field. They have engineers and techs, trying to guess or estimate what the market will demand or desire. Having a sound rental company, and manufacturing our own products, and having it worked for many years, my team is well in touch with what we need, which cables work and which ones don't. What we were finding was that nobody had combined the most important aspects of Pro Audio cable and CAT cable into a single entity.
What kind of data is being transmitted in this cable that combines audio plus CAT cable?
We initially came at this from the angle of using CAT series cable to transmit analog audio. Basically, there are four twisted pairs inside of CAT data cables. Because it has an overall shield on it, we've got four twisted pairs that are shielded, and we started testing and running those as four mic cables down a single snake. So it gave us the ability to run four audio lines down a single cable the size of one mic line with a quick disconnect, and the cost of CAT cable is lower than a four channel audio snake.
That was our initial angle to it, but we also didn't want to diminish the capabilities of the cable serving its purpose as CAT cable. We wanted it to be dual usage, so it would have the specifications to carry high speed data, as well as four channels of analog audio, four channels of AES3, or four channels of DMX, or any mixture thereof.
For the first one we made, the standard SuperCAT, this worked really well. For the next step as a Pro Audio cable, we wanted each pair to be individually shielded.
The new cable has individual drain wires for each of the four pairs, just like an audio four-channel snake. If you wanted to, you could actually cut and terminate it into regular XLR tails, with four separate drain wires. A typical CAT5 cable has nine wires, four twisted pairs and a ground wire. Our new cable has 12 wires. It's got four twisted, shielded pairs, all separate, like an audio snake. It's truly designed like an audio snake that's capable of carrying high-speed data that exceeds CAT5e specs by leaps and bounds.
The cable does multiple things. People run Dante down it or use it to connect various mixing consoles. Our cable actually meets many of the specifications of CAT6a and CAT7a cables. Although it's only rated as CAT5e, it's got an exceptional specification set. Not only that, we wanted it to be extremely durable. You have these big bundles of cables that are running hundreds of feet with audiences trampling on them or getting buried in troughs with barricades going over them.
These cables are in a high impact and usage environment. Typically, the process with data cables is to utilize cheaper cable and carry spares. Having redundancy is obviously important but, why not make a really high quality entertainment grade CAT data cable that will not only carry high speed data and have high speed specs, but also be optimized to carry analog and other formats.
Well you designed it and Sommer made it. Now this new cable is available for people who are in the same field that you are -- doing major concerts -- and they can get a dependable cable that makes their life a little easier.
Absolutely. The SoundTools manufacturing project was a small department here at Rat Sound. It started off as a hobby of just making really cool useful tools. We started with testers and little mic adapters and today we make a whole series of products. Everything we make is really high quality. Any time anybody's ever bought anything from SoundTools, if it ever breaks, we advance replace and send pre-paid packaging to return the old one. This new cable is in this line as well.
We just make useful, really high quality products, and our new SuperCAT Sound cable fits right in. We look forward to future designs in collaboration with Sommer Cable.