Home Audio/Video Q&A thread

netarcMarch 13, 2006

In the spirit of the many helpful people on the kitchen, appliances and other forums here at ThatHomeSite that have helped me with their opinions & expertise over the past couple of years, I thought I would give something back by offering (a small portion of ;) my expertise in the home audio, video and integration field to help folks out with the A/V-related questions.

One of the main reasons I got into the A/V custom install/integrator business was because I was so disgusted by the misinformation (and in some cases, outright lies) spread by the GG, CC, and BB's of the world; in our line of work we try to undo that damage, and I figure why not do so here as well?

So, that being said - please feel free to post your question, issues, concerns and comments re: residential audio/video (home theater, whole house audio, etc) here ... I'll do my best to help you out as I can =)

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jasper_60103

netarc,
I just purchased a home theatre package. Its a fairly economical system, less than $500. See link below.

My question has to do with choosing a speaker wire. Seems to be a lot of contriversy on this topic. Do brand names make a difference, i.e. is 16 gauge wire the same no matter who makes it?

100' of Monster 16 gauge spkr wire cost about $60 at CircuitCity.

100' of RCA 16 gauge spkr cable wire $20 at HomeDepot.

HD wire is 1/3 the cost of a popular brand.
If the cheaper wire inferior, is there an audioable difference?

thanks,

jasper

Here is a link that might be useful: Onkyo HT-S780 Home Theatre System

    Bookmark   March 13, 2006 at 10:18AM
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netarc

Speaker cable does make a difference - more so the *gauge* of the wire, as opposed to the name on the jacket. That being said, in a $5000+ system we would never use home depot "zip cord," not even of the 12g variety ... our rule of thumb is to apply 10-15% of the client's budget to cable (interconnects, speaker, etc) and power protection.

With your system, honestly, you'll never notice the difference between the two brands you list; i would advise using neither, and going with 14g speaker cable from HD. Alternatively, you can find a purpose-built speaker cable on partsexpress.com, under the "Sound King" label.

For further reading, check the excellen Speaker Cable Face Off article @ Audioholics.com

Here is a link that might be useful: I believe this is the sound king @ P/E

    Bookmark   March 13, 2006 at 12:43PM
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dynamos

My wife and I are accomplishing some of the tasks of our whole house remodel project on our own and this includes whole home stereo audio with 8 zones.

First question: What sounds better, built in the wall/ceiling speakers or the small satellite speakers?

Second question: After listening to various makes and models of wall/ceiling speakers we notice that the lower
priced speakers can sometimes yield a better quality of sound that than the higher priced speakers. Others have suggested that even the low priced Phoenix Gold speakers sound quite good.

What makes and models have the best sound quality for the money in the 6.5 inch wall/ceiling speakers?

Thank you for your opinion and this thread.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2006 at 2:38PM
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netarc

First question: What sounds better, built in the wall/ceiling speakers or the small satellite speakers?

Good quality in-wall and in-ceiling speakers will *always* beat out small satellite speakers; particularly if you go to the trouble of a) damping resonance behind the speaker with some acoustic insulation, and b) building a speaker "backbox."

Second question: After listening to various makes and models of wall/ceiling speakers we notice that the lower
priced speakers can sometimes yield a better quality of sound that than the higher priced speakers. Others have suggested that even the low priced Phoenix Gold speakers sound quite good.

Where did you demo these? Was it the same location, or different stores? Remember that audio reproduction is approx 70% speakers, 30% room environment. The best of speakers can sound like cr*p in a poor environment.

What makes and models have the best sound quality for the money in the 6.5 inch wall/ceiling speakers?

Good options to consider (at various price points and in no particular order) include: Triad, Parasound, Atlantic Tech, Jamo ... a handful of others, this is just a partial list.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2006 at 7:29PM
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jasper_60103

Thanks netarc.
I'll get the 14 gauge wire from partsexpress.com.
-jasper

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 10:16AM
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dynamos

I think the Triad speakers are already sealed. Is a sealed wall speaker the same as building your own "backbox"?

In a 2X4 wall, does the sheet rock become part of the "backbox" enclosure?

Any suggested size for the "backbox"?

Fill the wall cavity/backbox with unfaced fiberglass
insulation?

Thank you for this information.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 10:19AM
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netarc

Yes, if the speaker is sealed than that reduces (but doesn't completely eliminate, if I understand correctly - Triad tech support can comment on this) the need for a backbox.

Yes, in a typical in-wall install stud cavity becomes the backbox; for this reason we often have the contractor install some addt'l 2x4 horizontal blocking above and below the speaker location so that we're dealing with a known volume of air (also need to effectively caulk in this case to make the backbox fairly airtight). Then you would backfill the cavity with fiberglass, which will improve the sound immeasurably.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2006 at 2:06PM
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jasper_60103

I was thinking of using in-wall speakers for the left side/rear speakers and keep my existing conventional bookshelf speakers for the right side/rear speakers. (the 4 surround speakers)

FYI...I can achive better speaker placement by using in-wall speakers on the left side of my room.

Is it possible to match speakers from different vendors (sound wise) in this configuration? What type of specs should I look for.

jasper

    Bookmark   March 27, 2006 at 2:46PM
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netarc

I was thinking of using in-wall speakers for the left side/rear speakers and keep my existing conventional bookshelf speakers for the right side/rear speakers. (the 4 surround speakers)

Strongly advise against this ... the audio you hear from your left could (and almost certainly will) sound substantially different from your right. Every speaker _pair_ should be exactly the same make/model; if possible, in fact, it's ideal to have all speakers (even in a 7 spkr setup) identical, or as close to the same make/model/family as possible.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2006 at 2:55PM
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jasper_60103

netarc,
Thanks for your advice.
I'll have to explore other alternatives. I guess I'll never have the ideal setup.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2006 at 3:40PM
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catfell

Netarc,

We're planning a renovation and are looking at getting a sharp lcd hdtv.

I'm a photographer by trade and understand a fair amount of the science that goes into displays (like the ones I use for my work). I understand the need to calibrate any monitor system, but I wanted to know if you think I can calibrate our new tv myself, or should seek professional eg. isf, help? I calibrate my computer monitors myself with a software based system that uses an external USB calibrator. I realize that there are going to be differences between setting up my computer monitors and my lcd tv.

What tools would be appropriate to own, and after an lcd is calibrated, should I expect much drift over time?

Thanks in advance,

catfell

    Bookmark   April 9, 2006 at 2:45AM
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netarc

My first suggestion would be to get yourself a consumer-level tool like "AVIA" or "Video Essentials" (both DVD-based calibration tools) to tune your new HDTV ... although this is only a first step, I suspect it'll get you 70-80% of the way there.

For many people this is sufficient ... those wanting to get even more performance out of their HD display, though, should opt for an ISF calibration (which typically takes 2-3 hrs and runs between $200-400, iirc).

Here is a link that might be useful: ISF-trained Dealer Search

    Bookmark   April 9, 2006 at 11:39PM
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paco6945

We're building a new home and I would like to put all my A/V equipment (except, of course, the TVs -- probably LCD -- and speakers) in a study that is adjacent to the living room. Ideally, the equipment can be rack mounted.

Any words of wisdom?

    Bookmark   May 13, 2006 at 5:59PM
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netarc

We're building a new home and I would like to put all my A/V equipment (except, of course, the TVs -- probably LCD -- and speakers) in a study that is adjacent to the living room. Ideally, the equipment can be rack mounted.

Any words of wisdom?

Hmmm....are you planning on doing this yourself? If this is new to you, the first thing I'd lead off with is ... "hire a pro." While the walls are open is the time you want to ensure you run everything appropriate to suit both your current *and* any anticipated future needs ... not an area, imho, where you'd want to skimp (trust me, running wire in a retrofit situation is a *bear*, and $$$$).

If you're interested, lmk what are you're in and I may be able to make a recommendation for a local A/V integrator.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2006 at 2:28AM
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KTKelly

"hire a pro"

You owe Ed for that piece of advice.....lol

    Bookmark   June 21, 2006 at 10:42PM
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netarc

Hahaha, it's true - good to see another CI pro on here, small world ;)

    Bookmark   June 21, 2006 at 10:55PM
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woodswell

Netarc,
I'm in the same boat - building a new house and want to install a complete setup for audio and video. But so I don't have total sticker shock when I talk to a pro (I do know one - introduced him to his wife ;-D ), how much should I expect to spend for various stages:
1. wiring the entire house (2300 sq. ft., 3 bedroom, family room, * living/dining room) for audio, surround sound in family room only - for in ceiling speakers, and satellite connections for all rooms.
2. setting up system for remote operation from various rooms
3. consult on purchase of one HDTV and surround system for family room (I have two AV receivers that I may re-use in outlying rooms, but would like to upgrade the main system in the family room).

In the past I have done all my own AV connections and wiring and have my current house wired for speakers in six rooms, TVs with satellite in four and surround in one room. But I am tired of looking at various sized speakers all over the place and want a good medium quality speaker system that will last me for the 20-30 years I will be in the house. I figure that should be possible since several of the speakers we are still using have been in continuous use for the last 25-30 years in this house!

Thanks!
Anne

    Bookmark   July 2, 2006 at 2:47AM
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shaiken

Netarc -

You rock! What a nice thing to do to set up this thread. I'm responding because I'm looking for the same info Anne is, in addition to pulling computer access and integration into all of this and have no idea how much something like this (I have a similar sized house)costs. And, do you know of any good (honest) consultants in the tri-state area?

Thanks!

-Sue

    Bookmark   October 3, 2006 at 9:59PM
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netarc

I'm responding because I'm looking for the same info Anne is, in addition to pulling computer access and integration into all of this and have no idea how much something like this (I have a similar sized house)costs. And, do you know of any good (honest) consultants in the tri-state area?

Ach, it's really hard to say ... I can give you a rough idea, based upon a job I recently saw done (though, keep in mind these are SF Bay Area prices); house was approx 2500 sq ft, and consisted of multiple data/telco/cable drops, as well as *four* seperate component video drops - the pre-wire price came out around $7k, iirc.

However, I urge you to realize that this was one specific job, and the above description is a mere summary; too, there was no drywall up, this was new construction ... prices can vary significantly, natch, depending upon location, scope, etc.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2006 at 2:38PM
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woodswell

netarc,
Thanks! While that seems expensive (to my formerly do it all myself persona) that gives me a starting point. And it will keep me from being insulting to the installers when I start getting quotes. ;-)

My GC indicated that their electricians might do the wire pulling as part of wiring the house, which might save a lot of money. But I've got a friend who is in the audio/video installation business so I will talk to them, too.

Anne

    Bookmark   October 29, 2006 at 5:49PM
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kaytee1968

Hi,
A friend of mine wants to do my wiring for about $5K- new construction, 5000 square feet.
He is doing security for 5 doors, 3 motion detectors, 4 smoke detectors, and 2 keypads.
Intercom: Nutone 4406 Master with Cd player
6 Nutone 445 Room Stations
2 Nutone 70 Door Stations
8 Nutone 433 rough in plates
Nutone 105 rough in for master
Nutone 99 wire
Surround sound wiring for 4 speakers in 3 rooms
Room speaker wiring for 2 speakers and 1 volume control in master bath and patio
6 Sympony Select 6.5" in-ceiling speakers with rubber surround
Weather resistant cube speakers for outside

Am I getting a good deal??
Thanks

    Bookmark   October 30, 2006 at 5:56PM
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robnj_2006

We're also at the wiring stage for our new construction. I was thinking of doing in ceiling stereo speakers and volume control panels all home runs to once central location from 6 separate locations - maybe have IR in each room so I can control everything from a single remote. I initially though to put wire it to my den closet, but I'm concerned about ventilation. Would this be an issue for an amp/preamp and music server setup?

Also, what hardware (besides speakers) would you look at?

I'll have my Class A system set up somewhere for serious listening. So I just want something that will porovide solid background music for entertaining. I'd also like to be able to utilize my iTunes playlists. Finally, my budget in this is limited since my wife could care less if we had music anywhere but inside my headphones! Any ideas as to what I would expect to pay for the wiring portion?

    Bookmark   November 2, 2006 at 12:33PM
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jaime2

My wife and I are building a new house and laid CAT 6 cable with the help of our son who is a soph in college with a major in computer science. We now want to put in speakers and need to lay cable. Can you give me some pointers on type of cable and good but not a budget buster speaker for the rooms and how many should be put in each room at a minimum. Also have you any thoughts on ONSIA speakers, where I can see any reviews on them and how many for a home theater system. Will probably use them in our unfinished media room. ONSIA are sold at Lowes stores and a couple of other places.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2008 at 1:58PM
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netarc

You should be fine running any quality CL2-rated 14/2 conductor cable to each speaker; for areas (e.g., bathrooms) that will have a single speaker (i.e., dual-voice coil spkr), run a pair of the 14/2 to said location.

re: speakers - I'd stay away from the big box stuff; consider RBH Sound, Sonance, SpeakerCraft.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2008 at 12:48AM
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brewcrew0_ri

Hi netarc,

I am in the process of designing/planning our new build which will be approx 2900 sf. What I am trying to do is find a system which I can start off with whole house audio(6 rooms, at least 3 sources) and later expand to include lighting, HVAC and security. I have met with one contractor so far and he suggested a Colorado Vnet or Control4 system, Are you familiar with either of these? and if so, which might be the better choice knowing what I want to accomplish?

Thanks much!!!

    Bookmark   January 9, 2008 at 10:29PM
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rpochi

Hello,
I have an NHT setup--5 superzero speakers, 2 NHTSW2P subwoofers and two HDP-II dipole speakers. I like the current setup as is, but am thinking of flush-mounting the rear surrounds--any problem with that? what about hiding the subwoofers, either in the wall or under the subfloor? I do not want to go down an all flush mount pathway mainly due to the expense.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2008 at 5:11PM
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fedude

I'm just building a new house and I have a large great room with a 18' peak ceiling. The large flat TV will go on a side wall with the ceiling sloping up and away from the TV wall. I want to put in-ceiling speakers in the room for the TV, but I'm concerned that the sound will be sent in the wrong direction.

How many speakers would I mount in the ceiling (rear? side? etc. )

Would the sound be directed improperly?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2008 at 6:48AM
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nd_run

Need some whole house audio design help. I'm in the middle of a remodel and trying to figure out how to get this system in place. I have four zones planned.
Zone 1) 5.1 speaker system in family room.
Zone 2) Two outdoor speakers
Zone 3) Two dining room speakers
Zone 4) Two living room speakers

Planned sources:
1) New AVR receiver
2) MultiCD player
3) IPod
4) DVD/VCR

Do I buy a nice AVR with three zone capability and use a IR repeater system with key pads or do I go with a Russound CAA66? If I go the Russound, how do I share my sources with my AVR to play in zone 1?

thanks

    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 12:34AM
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fedude

Building a new house and I plan on installing a LCD in my great room but all the components driving this will be in the basement. (DVR, Audio, DVD). Using an IR remote.

With the walls open, what wires should I run to the TV location from the component rack in the basement?

    Bookmark   May 27, 2008 at 9:22AM
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garymunson-2008

I just switched from using a Buffalo HD media streamer to PS3's to store and play my video/music/photos. The Buffalo ( wireless streaming device) required my home computer to be on to distribute the content while the PS3 solution requires the media to be stored on the PS3 (Sony PlayStation 3) itself. The PS3 has HDMI and optical audio out...provides excellent audio and visual quality plus you get a BlueRay player. The built-in WiFi and USB keyboard connection allows computerless internet access also (if you have a WiFi router set up in your house). A PS3 connected to each of your HDTV's greatly expands your media experience. I have my favorite pix, music and video stored in a folder on an external harddrive and use that to load the PS3s. We just completed a new home...'unwired'...For sometime now, the 'wired house' has seemed so '90s to me....Gary.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2008 at 4:50AM
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