This information is aimed at those who believe that sometimes it is better when they install everything themselves and especially for those who believe 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 in order 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 maybe you have stubbornly decided to address this DIY home installation project by yourself.
Maybe you still have not even decided whether it would be just the surround sound system or maybe 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 all the additional equipment to create a home theater system that delivers the same performance as if it was installed by a professional installation company so you can evaluate all your options and define what is best for you.
– We do not advise it but proceed at your own discretion.
Before we get into this let me say. Good for you! you go superhero!
Now superhero looks for a cape and go explore your sizzling home attic and find out that your attic looks more like an alien planet.
That is an alien planet that has not been visited by any type of civilization and instead 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 but 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 originally thought to properly install the home audio system.
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 your wife is already calling her girlfriends to dump on them all her frustrations since her husband never listens to her, always leaves the house projects unfinished and like always this surround sound audio installation project is going to be one of those that will be added to the “incomplete section of the to-do list”
Where to really 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 can install 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 and it may be an impossible task to install it.
We strongly advise everyone to preferably 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 type of 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 package you purchased.
200 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 to keep in mind that with a surround system installation nothing at all is going to work if the folks sitting in the room do not get that immersive feeling an audio system delivers by locating the speakers correctly which varies depending on the room layout.
It is very important to understand the parts 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 at this point is all over your neck and arms and even places darker than your conscience”
You manage to safely install all 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 very important thing to mention is that invisible speakers are not less reliable or have a lower quality than regular speakers.
They are simply 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.
This is because the digital sound processing has been remastered for several ways to cause a vast 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 important 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 that make it looks more like swiss cheese as you tell yourself “Everything is okay because you finally installed the speakers” (as you now you realized you now are gonna have to call a painter who is going to have 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 fairly common to forget.
Most receivers nowadays allow you to go to the calibration settings by simply going to the main menu.
While in the main menu you should be able to find and auto-setup audio system option that should allow you to simply follow a few short steps to fully calibrate your audio 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 done then the receiver will balance the volume level of each individual speaker relative to your seating position to ensure that each speaker has the proper level regardless of how close or far away the speakers are relative to each other.
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 in 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 cable goes where and why you have more speaker posts than the number of speaker lines.
Once you have the amplifier connected you begin connecting the speakers.
If you went with the standard 5.1 home theater stereo system the receiver should have 6 speaker ports consisting of 2 front speakers, 2 rear speakers, 1 center speaker, and 1 subwoofer.
A 5.1 receiver is a decent entry-level audio receiver.
You begin searching for all the guidelines for the positioning of the 6 speakers for a 5.1 sound system as well as possibly those instructions to expand the secondary zone later.
It is important 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 2 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 may add an extra audio zone when you where you are done mastering installing your home audio system.
And he simply 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.
Particularly 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 own tips that we encourage you to also learn if that’s your personal case.
Placement of the projection screen and the projector is important when installing an audio system and applicable if the audio system will be integrated with a video system.
Do not know what a video system is? basic installation of a video system can be a projection screen with a projector or television.
While these really are not excessively 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 perform.
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: