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August 22, 2012

Building a Home Theater? 10 Things You Need To Know Before You Start

Our customers have lots of experience building a home theater!

Are you considering building a home theater in your house? You know, the kind of room where friends and family kick back with big bowls of popcorn and the latest box office hit, immersing themselves in better-than-movie-theater sound?   If so, get the inside track on what  to do when building a home theater room by taking advantage of this hard-won advice from our message board members:

1.  Buy more cable than you had anticipated.  Accounting for twists, turns, reroutes, and doubling-back means that what once looked like more than you could ever need is now labyrinth-like maze that  that needs to be fed ever-increasing lengths.

2.  Remember that there are other rooms in the house where you may not want to be able to hear the movie or music.  Adding extra bends in your HVAC pipes will help diffuse the sound.  Conversely, adjacent rooms with no doors in between will suck up lots of sound – plan your speakers  and subwoofers accordingly.

3. Future-proof your system by starting with a receiver with enough channels of amplification for you to grow into. Sure, you may be starting your home audio system with a pair of stereo speakers and a sub, but eventually you’ll want to expand to 5.1-channel surround sound, and then 7.1. Make sure your receiver has pre-outs so you can expand your output power to really show off the capabilities of your floor standing speakers or home theater system.   

4.  Ditto for your television.  You may not think you want internet connectivity / hdmi capabilities / a USB port, but with the speed our devices adapt and integrate, future-proofing here makes sense too.

5.  If you are lucky enough to be doing a from-the-studs build-out, wire for a couple of options.  You may think you know the best location for your subwoofer now, but once all the furniture is in place you may find the room nodes dictate a different position.  Decorator-conscious spouses may want to turn the room’s seating around, and subsequently all your equipment (don’t ask Ian how I know about this one!)  Being pre-wired for this possibility will make everyone’s life easier.

6.  Again, if you’re lucky enough to be wiring before drywalling or sheetrocking, take photos of the wires before you cover them up so they’re easy to get to if you need to make a last-minute change.  Bonus points: run pull-ropes so fishing wires after the wall is covered up isn’t as difficult.

7.  Try to keep audio and video cables separate from A/C cables.  The added interference could introduce humming and buzzing that will drive you crazy.

8.  Plan for your kids’ friends to suddenly find your house their new hangout.  Put thick padding under your carpet and invest in big throw pillows for the crowd that will materialize on your floor during sporting events, awards nights, and new release parties.

9.  Think about different lighting scenarios.  Although you are building a home theater, the room could be used for gaming, for music listening, for dancing, for craft night . . . a variety of lighting options will extend the use of the room for the whole family.  (Actually, you may or may not want to accommodate that!)

10.  Take temperature into account.  Electronics – especially receivers and amplifiers – throw off heat.  Have a way for that heat to escape the equipment rack, and also to escape from the room.  Overheating equipment can shut your whole system down.

There you have it!  10 things to think about before you begin.  For more room-specific tips, check out Building a Home Theater in Your Basement which includes room shape, budgeting and more.

Special thanks to message board members nickbuol, chesseroo, exlabdriver, J.B., Hansang, Lampshade, Murph, bridgman, AdrianD, Ken.C, niveka , JohnK, INANE, tomtuttle, medic8r (ahem), fredK, MarkSJohnson and dakkon for their contributions to the thread!

Did I miss any tips that you wish you knew when building your home theater?  Share them below!

President’s wife 🙂 Defacto, that makes her an audio guinea pig, whose only request to the lab is to always run sample products in colors that blend in with the rest of her home!

She considers herself the Audiobyte’s Number 1 fan.

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  • MadBeggar
    August 22, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Also :

    11 – Make sure you choose the right cable for the job at hand.

    This applies in particular to HDMI cables as they exists in multiple versions/flavors.

    HDMI cables have been around since around 2002 and have evolved since then to support new video resolutions, sound technologies, 3D and more.

    HDMI versions currently exist from v1.0 to v1.4. These version numbers are usually clearly labelled on the cable’s box or packaging material.

    I would strongly suggest avoiding anything in the 1.0 to 1.2 range and buy 1.3 or above cables.

    v1.4 cables added support for 3D video, Ethernet, Audio Return Channel and 2K/4K support. If you do not use any of these features, 1.3 cables will do fine.

    For those of you technically who are curious about HDMI history and versions, simply lookup HDMI on Wikipedia. The article there is quite complete and contains some comparison tables for the different cable versions available out there.

    Happy wiring !


  • August 30, 2012 at 4:18 am

    I find Axiom is so informative and practical in approach where sound matters..
    I learn something every time I read Axiom News Newsletters….Thanks Axiom Team!

  • Matt
    September 4, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Great tips. Home Theaters are a great idea for your home if you are looking for ways to increase property value. Thanks for sharing.
    Matt@ Custom Home Theaters

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