Starting to build--advice on audio/video set up--)what to expect

heather_in_mnOctober 11, 2009

Hi All,

We are hoping to break ground this week in St. Paul, MN(waiting on city permits....) on our new, contemporary home. We would like to have an audio/video set-up in the mid range, but are not sure what to expect. The GC has an AV guy he works with so I'm sure we'll be chatting with him, but I want to make sure I am prepared.

House is one level,open floor plan, with walk-out patio.

Here's what I'm hoping to do:

Audio speakers in kitchen/living/dining room/deck (zone 1), speakers in home gym in basement and outdoor patio area (zone 2). I would like to have volume controls for outdoor area, gym and living area if possible, but only one main control for living area and one for lower level.

Video distribution for living room, master bedroom, gym tv, and lower level family room. My dream is to be able to go to any of these areas, turn on the tv and chose to watch a dvd, cable or TIVO, so all this would come from one main media source in the lower level.

At some point we will have a surround sound setup in the family room, but will not purchase that yet.

We have a media closet designated in our house plans and to start with we will probably run the audio wires and possibly the speakers, and for the video runs and the surround system, running smurf tubes for future runs.

Does this sound like a good plan or something that is crazy? We don't need super high end, but since this will hopefully be our first and last build, we don't want to go cheap. We're willing to wait to complete the set up but want to have tubes put in for future installation.

Any help/ideas is greatly appreciated :)

Heather in MN

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Sounds good to me. When we built our house, we weren't looking for an elaborate set-up either. We have an A/V closet under our stairs, which houses all the components. We put surround sound in the living room, we have 2 stereo speakers on the back porch and one stereo speaker in the master bath. We have a volume control for the porch and bath, and the LR volume is controlled through the surround speakers. We have a really cool remote control with LCD display that controls everything in the media closet (there is a remote receiver mounted under the TV -- very discreetly -- and it sends the signals to all the components). You can definitely do what you want, it just depends on how much money you want to spend.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2009 at 12:34PM
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A few basic thoughts

1. Stay away from BOSE , the most over priced hyped product on the market. For what they cost and the lack of quality you can buy hand built speakers .I'm a big fan of the products from . Beautiful sound , great build quality , super friendly company and very reasonable pricing .

2. Take a look at the Sonos products for multi room sound. it works off the your music you have stored on your computer.You will wonder how you lived without it.

3. Research, research and more reasearch . It's way to easy for the builder and his AV friend to convince you that you need something you don't . Ask lots of questions and don't agree until you get the answer you want.

best of luck to you .

    Bookmark   October 25, 2009 at 10:11AM
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Hi Heather,

IÂm not sure what a medium price range might be, but this is what we have.

YouÂre looking at a" whole house" system. We have the media closet that you speak of downstairs.

I have a Matrix system: 20 watts per channel; 8 zones; 4 sources.
I have over 20 ceiling speakers (not recommended for the surround sound room, imo) on 2 floors.

In Canada, the speakers are about $200 each (recently I have replaced 3 of these), so next time I would use a better quality speaker, but the previous owner might have abused them.
We have keypads in the walls of all zones (weÂre using 7 of the 8 zones) that select the source material from 1 of the 4 sources that we have access to.
We use 2 satellite receivers (= 2 sources); big screen TV (= 1 source) and we used to have the last source hooked up to a cd juke box (since removed). So we could listen to the TV in any zone, or listen to 1 of the 2 satellite receivers; this works well for us. The forth source is still open for use.

You could use outside speakers in the soffit of your home if you will be sitting close to the house; the deck we have extends out from the house about 15 feet, and the soffit placement is good. The deck is 60 feet along the back of the house and we use 4 speakers.
Note: There are outside speakers that you can place in your garden (some apparently look like rocks), but I have no experience with these.
We can operate the keypads from outside through the windows, but if you can put the keypads outside, sheltered if you can. We have the zone keypad for outside in the kitchen, but when operating the kitchen zone it sometimes turned on the outside zone, and weÂre not aware that we have turned this one on.

I would also recommend that you insulate your home (interior walls and floors) to keep other source material from bleeding into other floors/rooms.

I would wire the entire house with coax and cat5 and telephone wire (maybe 3 runs of the cat5). One cat5 for music and 1 run for computer, and an extra just in case (I think that some systems use 2 runs of cat5, but not sure at this time).

Good Idea: Treat the surround sound room separately.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 2:12PM
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We are just finishing up our new home build and the structured wiring is something I spent a lot of time deliberating over and working on.

Go at it with the attitude of "What can I do easily now, that will be difficult later?".

Everything you want depends on proper placement of speaker cable, cat 5e cable, and RG6 cable(coax or cable). Make sure you run enough cable to do everything you want, and then run a little more. For example, every room that has its own audio zone, will need a control panel for it. You should run at least a few speaker wires and a cat5e cable to a low voltage box next to the light switch. From this box run speaker wire either to wall boxes where you will place speakers or better yet to ceiling mounted speakers that you put in before drywall goes in. Also run a few cat5e and RG6 cables to wall boxes wherever you might want a TV or computer in each room.

One of the most important things to do is to "home run" all cat5e and RG6 wires. This means the wires should run from the wall outlet to wherever your central wiring panel is without any splices, splitters, or daisy chaining.

All of this is low voltage wiring so codes aren't very difficult. If you're capable of doing any of it yourself and if your GC will let you, then you can save a lot of money. Whether you or the subcontractor does it make sure they pay attention to how they run the wires in relationship to power wires. data wires should be at least 12" away from power wires on parallel runs, and should cross at a 90 degree angle. Keep the data wires away from dimmer switches and anything else that may cause interference.

Perhaps most importantly, don't let anyone drill holes through your exterior wall and siding to run cables like so many of the cable companies idiot techs do. This may be necessary for one or two wires for your central wiring panel to connect to the outside world, but for the most part, should not be tolerated.

There are plenty of great online tutorials about what to do and how to do it. the key words you need to look for is "structured wiring". Google that and you will find plenty.

Good Luck!

    Bookmark   November 25, 2009 at 9:38PM
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For anything that needs to be hardwired, RUN CONDUIT.

Stnadards are always changing as technology evolves, and what works now may be obsolete in 10, 15, or 20 years.

Realize that wireless is better to day than a few years ago, and will likely improve in future years too. But it's best to still hardwire some things.

I still prefer hardwired speakers.

In my own house, when I built I ran conduit for everything and have all my speakers hardwired. Like a previous poster, I have two 400-CD jukeboxes in my main area that can pipe music any room, outdoors to the pool, etc.

A while ago I went over to Sonos for music. It allows my teenagers to listen to what music they want in their rooms, it allows me to listen to what music I want where I am, or my wife where she can pipe different music to different rooms. Easy.

It also allows you to play the same source in each room, with it synched up perfectly. The "synch" aspect may not sound important, but we have a couple of friends who have Apple wireless for "whole house" and when they simulcast music to each room, the synching can be off just a tad. Even a tenth or a quarter of a second and it sounds weird.

Sonos has control apps so you can run the system with complete control from either a Sonos controller, or from a iPhone or iTouch. It's pretty slick.

I prefer the Sonos over my old Niles, and that's a bold statement on my part.

Sonos also allows you access to pay sources like Rhapsody and Pandora, plus internet radio.

Initially I wasn't interested in that, but we signed up for Rhapsody this summer. It's pretty slick, and at $12 a month it's less than what my kids were paying for iTunes downloads. Several time this summer we'd have friends over and we'd be out at the pool, the conversation would turn to music and if I didn't have that particular song/artist on CD, I'd use my itouch or Sonos controller to call up Rhapsody and play the obscure song or artist that we were talking about.

I live in CT, my in-laws were visiting from Wisconsin and my mother-in-law mentioned polka. I called up internet radio and in about 20 seconds I had the radio station from Appleton WI that they listen to back home playing polka out by the pool here in CT.

It's pretty cool. Fluff to a certain extent, but the capability is there to listen to what you want when you want, with ease. And without having to do it from your computer.

With Sonos, you need a "box" for each area that you want to play independent music in. Figure about $400 per box. Their S5 box is an all-in-one, it looks like a small boom box. They have other stations (ZP100) that plug into an existing stereo or theater setup and you play through those speakers. They have a third type (ZP120) that has a powered amp and you can plug your own speakers into that box.

There are other options available too that may suit your needs better than Sonos. I just thought I'd toss Sonos out as an...

    Bookmark   December 7, 2009 at 11:53AM
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Just some thoughts...(we just hired someone to help us with our 3 zone system) I'm still sort of spinning with it all...

We're doing Omni full home automation. This is a second home in snow country and I want to be able to survey and control the security system, temperature and lighting from our other home.

Do you want to be able to watch different tv programs in any of your areas or will it all be the same tv in all areas? For us, the girls are in the kitchen watching chic flicks while we're cooking (a 5.1 system there) and the guys are watching the game in the living room (a 7.1 system there) two separate zones needed...but then on the other hand, we can have the game on in both rooms if need be...and our bedroom is another zone entirely (5.1). We got rid of our gym/sauna in this I read your post, I wonder if we made a mistake. :)

Do you need WAP (Wireless Access Points)?
It was suggested to do a House amp in all outlets as well...

Do you need hard wired phone lines in all bedrooms? (we toyed back and forth with the need for this, but decided to wire for it anyway...if you use analog,different phone numbers needed?)

Do you need hard wire cable/satellite?

Do you need to hard wire for computer..don't forget a phone line Tele/Data for your FAX where your computer will be, or you'll be dragging a line across your room to your FAX.

That's all I can think of, off the top of my head.

Mongo, I keep hearing about Sonos... I'm going to ask my guy about that...

    Bookmark   November 26, 2011 at 9:30PM
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