It’s 11:00 on a Sunday night. Your honey just went up to bed and you can’t wait to crank up your latest Blu-ray acquisition: Jimi Plays Berkeley, a long-forgotten 1970 documentary that has been restored and remixed in 5.1 surround. Seconds after Hendrix rips into the first number, the dreaded foot stomping from above begins. The party’s over before it even starts. Last time it was a cataclysmic crescendo from Inception that did you in. Frustrated, you vow to remedy the situation and, once and for all, soundproof the family room that doubles as your home theater.
You have to wonder what the folks at Labor Saving Devices were thinking when they dreamed up the Wet Noodle Magnetic In-Wall Retrieval System—but thankfully they did. Until you’re struggling to fish a wire out of a closed-wall cavity, especially one with insulation, it’s hard to fully appreciate the simplicity and elegance of this popular tool.
If you’re reasonably handy and not afraid to cut into drywall in your home, installing in-wall speakers can be a fairly simple affair. You’ll need to assemble the basic tools, including a drywall saw, a stud finder, an electrical snake or fiberglass push rods to run the wires, a tape measure, a drill with a long bit wide enough to pass your speaker wire, and a screwdriver, most typically a No. 2 Phillips.
Home theater is in your blood. You crave the latest and greatest gear and are constantly thinking about your next upgrade. You can’t resist tinkering. Impossible. You’re regularly chastised by family members for monopolizing the remote, ready to tweak the sound or picture at any moment—and get reprimanded often for doing so just as the opening credits start to roll. Glaringly bright images, lopsided sound, flabby bass—these are things that make you cringe. There’s no getting around it: You’re hard core, and no one is going to stop you from dreaming about quitting your day job to design and build insane home theaters.
Treat your room right, and it’ll treat you the same.
If you’re serious about your home theater, you’ve probably spent a lot of time agonizing over what gear to buy. But what about the room itself? Even with extremely high-end gear, you can’t achieve optimum audio performance without paying attention to the acoustics. Without room treatment, expensive speakers can sound awful, but even moderately priced speakers in a properly treated room can sound terrific. Some experts even say the speaker system and electronics contribute only 50 percent to your system’s overall sonics—with the room responsible for the other 50 percent. If you’re not factoring in acoustics, your system might sound only half as good as it could—and should.
For DIYers, it's never been easier to find the right mount for any model flat-panel TV. Just download the free Install Tool Kit iPad app from Sanus in the Apple App Store. Within seconds you'll find the perfect mount and determine the exact drilling hole placement for installation. It's also possible to keep your own notes and single out the mounts you like the most with the MyNotes feature.
I’ve always lived in a used house. “Existing home” is the euphemism real estate people like to use. Life is good—until you realize that there are no phone jacks close to the spots where your bed or desk should go. And why are there no Ethernet jacks in the house? And no wiring for TVs anywhere but the living room? Needless to say, you can’t find in-wall speakers, volume controls, or multiroom A/V distribution of any kind. Maybe you should have guessed from the horse and buggy parked in the garage when your real estate agent showed the house that the previous owners weren’t interested in keeping up with the more technologically advanced Joneses across the street.
One of the myths about lighting control systems is that you can only install them if you’re building a new house, where the walls aren’t built yet, or if you’re performing a major remodel, where all of the walls are torn down. This myth perpetuates on the assumption that you need to run lots of wire while the framing is exposed. It’s true that once the drywall is up, pulling wire becomes prohibitively expensive because of the labor required. But I’m here to bust the myth that you can’t have fun with your lighting in a finished home. In the case of lighting dimming control, you can enjoy many of the features you’d find in a whole-house wired system, without the wire and the accompanying labor expense.
Once when we were watching a DVD in the media room, my wife missed a scene because she was nodding off. But usually it’s me who does the nodding. I search for the remote control, and I can never find it when I need it. Forget about the whole remote, I’ll just settle for the right button. I fish around. There, that must be it. My fingers traverse the button terrain to find the Pause or Rewind button in the dark purely by feel. Because I’m holding the darned thing upside down, I accidentally hit the Open/Close button, which stops the movie cold and slides open the disc tray. Ah, the joys of not missing a minute of a movie!
It’s no surprise that consumer electronics have become increasingly dependent upon professional installation. Consider the following categories: satellite antennae, A/V distribution systems, projectors and screens, wholehouse control, lighting and dimming systems, content-sharing DVR networks, and of course wall-mounting and wire-pulling for flat-panel TVs. Want to talk about remote access to media servers and CCTV cameras via Ethernet? A system’s operation is programming intensive and depends on physical installation, which requires construction expertise. There’s so much going on behind your walls and in your attic. I wouldn’t want to take responsibility for all of it at my house, and I know my wife wouldn’t want me to, either. I bang up my walls enough, schlepping a retractable ladder from the garage up three flights of stairs to the master bedroom just to change a 9-volt smoke alarm battery. Drill holes in my walls? Me? Are you kidding? In this article, I’ll help you find your closest local professional installers and provide an easy method to help you make the right selection.
Creating a home theater, be it a dedicated room or part of an existing living space, requires more than a general knowledge of AV technology. In actuality, that is only a small part of the equation. To maximize the performance of your AV gear, the overall design of the room is crucial.
While this theater was my dream, the 7-year project required the support and occasional manual labor from my wife, daughters, son-in-law and a couple of friends. I did consult with Roy Johnson of Green Mountain Audio a few times and want to thank him for his insights.
Tips for selecting and installing a front-projection screen.
What’s keeping you from taking the front-projection plunge? Is it a belief that projection systems are still only for the rich and famous, consisting of $15,000 projectors, movie-theater-sized screens, and elaborate masking systems, controlled by advanced touchpanels? The entry-level projector roundup on page 38 of this issue is proof that there’s a 1080p projector to suit almost any budget, and the same is true for theater screens.