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Author Topic: Protecting modular jacks from breakage  (Read 1226 times)
KJ5XX
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Posts: 26




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« on: May 22, 2008, 06:27:05 AM »

If you have one of the newer rigs from Icom, Kenwood and others, you are probably familiar with the trend toward using modular (RJ45 type) jacks in place of the older, and sturdier 4, 6, and 8 pin connectors. Why are the rig manufacturers going away from something that not only worked but has been the standard for decades? Simple - cost.

Of course modular connectors are nothing new, they too have been around for decades. The difference is that the old style pin connector could be disconnected and re-connected many times, with no deterioration in performance. RJ45 type modular connectors were designed to be connected ONCE and left where they were connected. As a result they are commonly used in telecommunications cabling and Ethernet cables.

The problem with applying this type of connector to ham applications is that many times a mic may be connected, disconnected and re-connected as a rig is used for portable or other operation. Over time the clip weakens and eventually breaks.

If you've never tried putting on a modular jack, it can be very tricky!! One false move with a bad crimp and you can cost you big $$ in expensive rig repairs. The other issue is that even though the modular jacks in use by Icom and others "look" like RJ45 jacks - they're NOT. As a result, don't even try to use the kind of crimping tool they sell at Radio Shack - it just doesn't work. These jacks require specialized (and expensive) crimping tools and associated dies.

There is a solution that I've found that at least can help protect your modular jack and hopefully extend the life of it. These little modular jack protectors slip over the modular jack and protect it both while in use and when not. I'm sure if you shop around you probably can find better pricing, but here's one source:

http://cableorganizer.com/dust-cover/

Ron - KJ5XX
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K2YO
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Posts: 436




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« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2008, 08:21:18 PM »

How do these things work while the jack is in use?
I looks like it fills up and seals off the jack.

At $10 each I'm not sure how they manage to sell them. New jacks from Leviton are about $3 each. Plus I've never seen a cat5 jack fault due to dust. So it's a $10 solution to a $3 problem that rarely if ever happens.

What is the difference between the radio plugs and a standard RJ45? I just went to the shop and checked out my Yeasu plugs next to a RJ45 and I couldn't tell the difference.

Bernie
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WW5AA
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Posts: 2088




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« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2008, 07:19:27 AM »

I just cut off one of the RJ45's from an ethernet cable and soldered it to a 8-pin mic plug. I like to play with different mic's on the FT-900 and FT-857D.

73 de Lindy
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WW5AA
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Posts: 2088




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« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2008, 07:24:40 AM »

I should have said that I cut of the RJ45 leaving about 2" of the ethernet cable which I solder to the mic connector.

73 de Lindy
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WB6BYU
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Posts: 13026




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« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2008, 12:07:41 PM »

The mic cable on my IC-207 uses the same plug on each
end (rig and microphone).  I simply replaced it with a
longer curled Cat5 cable and it works great.  Just make
sure you have get the right wiring type:  I THINK it was
straight-through rather than reversing wires, but you'll
have to check your old cable to make sure.
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KJ5XX
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Posts: 26




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« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2008, 12:11:37 PM »

"At $10 each I don't know how they manage to sell them"

Maybe you need to get those glasses checked - they're not $10 each they are $9.50 for 10!

They work just fine while the jack is in use and don't get in the way of operation at all.

Ron - KJ5XX
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AI4NS
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Posts: 320


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« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2008, 10:45:17 AM »

How can this be installed while the jack has a connector plugged in? I protect my jacks by not unplugging the mic.

Mike
AI4NS
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KJ5XX
Member

Posts: 26




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« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2008, 02:27:40 PM »

Excellent question, and perhaps I wasn't very clear in my first post.

There are really two types of these boots - "pre-assembly" which are commonly referred to as modular jack protectors or RJ45 "boots". The ones designed for putting onto an RJ45 connector AFTER it is connected to the mic cable are called "post-assembly RJ45 boots" (although they may go by other names as well.

I gave one specific website in my first post, but probably the easiest way to search for these to make sure you get the "post assembly" variety is to search on "post-assembly RJ45 boot" or "RJ45 snap-on boot"

But to answer your question - they snap onto the cable, around the RJ45 jack and some are designed to slip over the jack.

Here are a few more places that sell these (you can easily see the split construction in some of these):

http://www.lindy.com/us/productfolder/06/60386/index.php

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00006HO4L?smid=A3LJ5WMKNRFKQS&tag=cnet-ce-20&linkCode=asn

http://www.showmecables.com/RJ45-Strain-Relief-Boot

Why the rig manuafacturers don't put these on their mic cables is beyond me.

73,

Ron - KJ5XX
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K2YO
Member

Posts: 436




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« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2008, 08:44:40 PM »

Ron,

My mistake, I just read the price next to the Add to Cart button and missed the details below.

I second your suggestion on the boots for RJ45 plugs. I started using them on field made network cables about 6 months ago, and they seem to hold up better in situations with cable strain.

Can you address how the radio plugs are different than standard RJ45s?

Bernie
K2YO
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K1CJS
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Posts: 5875




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« Reply #9 on: May 28, 2008, 07:28:31 AM »

There is on difference in RJ45 plugs--there are the type used for ethernet (and the becoming standard mic plugs) that are made to accept round cables in the jack body, and telecomms plugs that are used for flat cable only.

The ethernet type for round cables are the ones used for mic connections.  Don't try to use the flat type for this purpose--although they will work, shortly after putting them into service you'll find them failing to hold the cable securely, and the cable pulling out of the plug.  Like someone said, why take the chance on expensive rig repairs?
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K1CJS
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Posts: 5875




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« Reply #10 on: May 28, 2008, 07:29:41 AM »

I said jack body--meant plug body.  Oops!!
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WB6BYU
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Posts: 13026




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« Reply #11 on: May 28, 2008, 04:51:37 PM »

The reason I replaced my mic cable is because it was being
stretched too much.  The new cable (stock Ethernet cable
from Mouser or DigiKey) is flat, coiled, and longer so
there is little stress on the connectors now.  It has been
working great for several years.
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KJ5XX
Member

Posts: 26




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« Reply #12 on: May 29, 2008, 10:21:19 AM »

Bernie, K2YO asked a good question - what's  the difference between a standard Rj45 and the modular jacks being used by Icom and other amateur radio manufacturers.

The best answer I can provide is this one, written by Alan Applegate, K0BG.  In it, he provides an excellent description of the various types of modular plugs, but more importantly, describes the problems with trying to crimp your own:

http://www.k0bg.com/cable.html

Hope this helps.

I have not tried starting with an RJ45 cable, cutting it off and using the cutoff portion to wire to the mic, but I suspect this would work fine (although you wouldn't have the benefit of the traditional coiled mic cable).

73,

Ron - KJ5XX
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K2YO
Member

Posts: 436




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« Reply #13 on: May 29, 2008, 02:42:48 PM »

OK, now I understand what is meant by different types of plugs. The flat wire plugs are for what is called silver satin cord in the data comm industry. It is no longer used because it does not have the twisted pairs needed for higher speeds. Most everything is now the rounded cat5 wire. The only place I've seen the flat silver satin recently is for telephone line cords and that is only 4 or 6 conductor, mainly 4.

I read Alan's page and I think he's being a bit overly causous. The claim of over 45 different crimp tools costing $200 each of way over blown. If you are just talking about 8 conductor cords like used in mics, then there are only a couple of crimpers available and most of the professional one crimp both silver satin and cat5.

Now to talk about Digikey, I downloaded the most recent catalog and looked at their modular cords and found they carry modular terminated coil cords! For about $6 they sell a coil cord that is 5, 7, 10, or 14 ft long with a modular plug on one end. That would let the other end be wired any way it was needed. They also sell versions with modular jacks on both ends in straight through and swopped configurations. The advantage of these are no crimper needed. The warning, CHECK THE PINOUTS YOU NEED BEFORE CONNECTING! As hams we should have an decent ohm meter and be able to ohm out a cable.

I may order one of the single ended version in my next Digitkey order, just to check it out. This is one page 292 for anyone else who wants to check it out.

Bernie
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