This information is aimed at those who believe that sometimes it is better when they install everything themselves and especially for those who think they can save money by buying all the equipment and installing it without professional help.
DIY projects are always fun and make us feel proud of our accomplishments. But, is installing a home theater system by yourself a good idea?
Some people ask:
“What are the best practices for integrating an av receiver, projector, projection screen, speakers, speaker cables together to create an awesome home theater system?”
The idea of whether or not to install your surround sound audio system yourself has come to your mind and maybe against all professional advice it has landed on deaf ears, or perhaps you have stubbornly decided to address this DIY home installation project by yourself.
Maybe, you still didn’t decide whether it would be the surround sound system, or if you will eventually go ahead and get the entire home theater setup since, at that point, installing the projector and the projection screen would be just a few more steps away.
This post is about how a surround sound system is integrated with the additional equipment to create a home theater system that delivers the same performance as if a professional installation company installed it. So, you can evaluate all your options and define what is best for you.
– We do not advise it but proceed at your discretion.
Before we get into this, let me say. Good for you! You go superhero!
Now superhero, look for a cape and explore your sizzling home attic and finds out that your attic looks more like an alien planet.
That is an alien planet that has not been visited by any civilization. But instead, it has been colonized by an army of rats, raccoons, and other pests, plus you may be wondering what’s going on with all the structured cabling that you do not even know what those cables do. Still, you think you will figure everything out.
The horrible picture of the lower part of your body hanging from the ceiling crosses your mind, and you may realize that it is going to take a lot more than what you initially thought to install the home audio system properly.
You re-evaluate the idea of hiring a professional installer but still push ahead and tell yourself this is not rocket science. Anyone can do it…!
It is just cables, an audio and video receiver, a projector, a projection screen, some speakers, and a subwoofer, and better yet, you have time.
Plus, you used to be the one in charge of the AM and FM radio back in the old days when you lived with your parents 30 years ago, and you always knew what to do.
After all, it is your house, and you have nothing else to do and can not pass on saving some money and look like a technician in front of all the family and friends.
Even though deep inside you already know your wife is already calling her girlfriends sharing with all them her frustrations and accusing you that you never listen to her and you always leave the house projects unfinished.
This surround sound installation project is going to be one of those that will be added to the “incomplete section of the to-do list.”
Where to start this home theater project clouds your mind.
Then once again, a second thought about the idea of maybe the smart decision is to reconsider all the hard work needed.
Not having all the tools necessary to get it done right, not knowing all the technical aspects to evaluate when installing the speakers and the receiver
Maybe then you search online for reliable and professional home theater installation service by a reputable company that installs your speakers, projector, projection screen, speaker cabling, and your audio and video receiver.
Then at that moment, you realize that the sales guy at the home theater store possibly made you purchase a home theater audio system that may be too advanced, technologically speaking, than what you initially thought. It may be an impossible task to install it.
We advise everyone to hire a professional home theater installation company since there is no comparison between an installation done professionally vs. one done poorly by someone without any technical background or hard labor experience remodeling, modifying, or repairing things without the direct assistance of expert professionals.
Then you finally make up your mind and decide you can do it. You start by actually pre-ing the work area to protect your furniture from any accidents and moving all the heavy furniture out of the way before beginning the actual installation process.
Then you open the user’s manual for more specific clues that likely came along with the home theater audio system you purchased.
Two hundred pages and one hour later, after trying to read the instructions in Spanish, French, Japanese, Portuguese, and Korean, you finally land on the pages that are in English.
We highly advise when installing an audio system that nothing at all is going to work if the folks sitting in the room do not get that immersive feeling a sound system delivers by locating the speakers correctly, which varies depending on the room layout.
It is essential to understand the components of a speaker since it helps to demonstrate how speaker specifications compare to each other.
A complete understanding of how a speaker is built internally provides enhanced knowledge that can be visualized to depict what counts on different types of speakers for the layout.
After several hours stuck in the attic breathing in all that fiberglass insulation and asking yourself
“Am I scratching more than my pooch since the fiberglass is all over my neck, arms, and even places darker than a bad conscience?.”
You manage to install the speaker cables inside the wall without breaking a water pipe, burning the house, or cutting the Romex cables (power cables) and or the alarm cables for the alarm system, killing your pooch and now are ready to connect the audio and video receiver.
But wait, there’s more! How in the world do I align and install my in-ceiling or in-wall speakers? You ask yourself.
Invisible speakers are becoming the next trend in surround sound audio installations all over the United States.
These beauties are defying the high-quality sound of the regular high-end speakers.
Aesthetically these devices have no comparison. A vital thing to mention is that invisible speakers are not less reliable or have a lower quality than regular speakers.
They are wireless and invisible for the eyesight when installed.
Along with the invisible speakers, you will need a subwoofer and amplifier, which is designed to optimize the output of every speaker and upgrade your audio experience.
These are because the digital sound processing has been remastered for several ways to cause a large formation of materials like drywall, concrete walls, glass, metal, wooden and carpeted flooring to get the highest performance.
You proceed to make several more trips to the attic, then you realize the speakers need to be perfectly aligned, and symmetry is essential for optimal audio performance.
You start by measuring the room and then continue by measuring the ceiling from some reference points that you think may work.
Then, after a little prayer.
You end up with a ceiling that now has a few extra speaker holes like swiss cheese as you tell yourself, “Everything is okay because the speakers are installed.”
Then, as you soon realized, you are now going to have to call a painter who is going to fix the holes, re-texture, and repaint the entire ceiling).
Now you finally move to connect the audio and video receiver while you clean all that drywall dust and insulation from your eyes.
Calibrating the speakers is a mundane step but a crucial step that is relatively common to forget.
Most receivers nowadays allow you to go to the calibration settings by merely going to the main menu.
While in the main menu, you should find and auto-setup audio system option that should allow you to follow a few short steps to fully calibrate your sound system based on the layout of the room and the distance between all the speakers and the listener.
The automated system will request you to connect to the audio receiver the microphone with its long cord.
Once that microphone is connected to the receiver, the receiver will prompt you to enter the speaker size so the proper wattage output can be assigned to the calibration mode.
Once that is entered, the receiver will start measuring how far away is every single speaker based on where the person in the room is.
Also, the calibration system will assign a crossover value that mostly depends on the ability of your speakers to produce bass.
When the distance, size, and crossover settings are set up, then the receiver will balance the volume level relative to your seating position to ensure that each speaker has the proper level regardless of how close or far away the speakers are located.
Still, confused and have not calibrated your AVR? We posted a DIY speaker calibration video on Youtube to assist those that needed help calibrating the audio receiver with some step by step visual directions.
You may start by placing the audio and video receiver in the entertainment center or the AV rack.
Then you realize that somehow now you need to run the oxygen-free speaker cables inside the wall.
You start by quickly visually inspecting the back of the audio-video receiver. You tell yourself, “what happened to the IN input and OUT output.”
You proceed by wondering,
“What’s with RS232, ARC, HDMI, Assignable, Monitor, and all these colorful RCA ports?”
then you say,
“Where are my connections for my white, red, and yellow cables?”
“Was I supposed to run an internet line to this receiver?
should I call my internet service provider since this needs to be connected to the internet?”
Then you try to connect your speaker cables to the speaker ports, but you are not sure which wire goes where and why you have more speaker posts than the number of speaker lines.
Once you have the amplifier connected, you begin comparing the speakers.
If you went with the standard 5.1 home theater stereo system, the receiver should have six-speaker ports consisting of 2 front speakers, two rear speakers, one center speaker, and one subwoofer.
A 5.1 receiver is a decent entry-level audio receiver.
You begin searching for all the guidelines for the positioning of the six speakers for a 5.1 sound system, as well as possibly those instructions to expand the secondary zone later.
It is crucial to keep in mind that with a 5.1 AV receiver, you want to have enough separation between the rear speakers as well as front speakers to let the audio waves expand.
And remember that the front speakers go where the screen is and the rear speakers or surround speakers go in the back of the room.
If the receiver you bought allows you to install an additional speaker and you are at that point. Think about upgrading from a 5.1 to a 7.1 surround sound system or maybe use the audio and video receiver as a 5.1.2 Atmos system.
If you decide to go for a 7.1 audio system, then you will need to additionally install the two middle speakers in the middle of the room to obtain that extra layer of audio delivered by those to additional channels of audio.
Guess what! Maybe the salesperson at the home theater store sold you a receiver that had an additional zone.
And since you mentioned, you might add an extra audio zone when you where you are done mastering installing your home audio system.
And he could not pass the extra commission and receiving a pat on the back from the store manager by up-selling you the most expensive receiver in the store.
Mainly since you are a rookie, you thought you were saving money by installing it yourself and especially since this is your very first audio system.
You went ahead and purchased a super-advanced AV receiver that comes with Atmos and Bluetooth capabilities, WiFi, online apps to connect to Spotify, Pandora, and XM Internet radio plus all the whistles.
Then you realize that the AVR has a lot of ports! Yes, a lot! And now wonder if you are using the correct slots.
Fortunately, a lot of devices have the ‘slots’ properly tagged depending on the different functions they provide.
The positioning of the speakers is crucial and depends on the room layout. Then, combining the audio system with a video system to create a media room system requires its tips that we encourage you also to learn if that’s your case.
Placement of the projection screen and the projector is prominent when installing an audio system and applicable if the sound system will be integrated with a video system.
Do not know what a video system is? An entry-level installation of a video system can be a projection screen with a projector or television.
These are not complex installations. You will be blown away by the number of people who do not know if they want to have their sound system integrated with a TV installation using a low profile TV mount or a projector screen with a projector.
If the audio system is installed and a flat-screen television will be used as a video display, we highly recommend you to hire your local av company to get the TV installation professionally done.
A professional TV installation company can ensure the TV is safely mounted on the wall regardless of the type of surface or if the TV mount necessary for your custom installation is a tilting, articulating a motorized mount, or even a MantleMount.
If you decide to install your audio system and also add a projector and a projection screen, then we also highly recommend that you hire a local av company to get the home theater installation professionally and successfully done.
A professional company specialized in home theater installations can ensure the audio system and the projector and projection screen are professionally integrated to create a home theater system that is fully compatible and performs as it was designed to deliver.
If you are making the investment in an audio system and then think a DIY surround sound audio system is for you and a DIY project for the weekend is suitable for you.
Then, at least follow the basic principles that common sense dictates: