A home theater is a great investment if your family enjoys movie night on a weekly basis or even more often. While it’s primarily the type of home improvement chosen for personal reasons, it also offers an average return on investment of around 65%. This means you’ll notice a nice increase in your place’s resale value eventually, but only when the home theater equipment is installed correctly. Make sure the audio setup goes smoothly with these seven tips.
Check the Polarity
One of the most common mistakes in home theater audio installation involves reversed polarity in the wiring. Whether you use pre-made speaker wire or cut your own lengths, you need to install the right end of each wire to achieve the best sound quality. The connection terminals on the speakers should be labeled positive and negative. Depending on the wire you use, look for a striped wire to find the negative and attach the solid colored wire to the positive. In clear cables, silver is positive and copper colors are negative.
Pre-Wire with 4-Conductor Wire
Installing speaker wire throughout the structure while it’s still being built is a great way to save time and energy later, not to mention the cost of cutting open the walls after they’re finished. When you’re already pre-wiring, go ahead and use 4-conductor wire rather than 2-conductor wire for the entire project. 4-conductor wire supports two speakers at every connection, allowing you to install more speakers with less work.
Focus on Left and Right
When it comes time to actually arrange the speakers in your home theater, arrange everything around the left and the right of the main seating area. Placing speakers or sub-woofers behind your seating is usually not a good idea, although some 7.1 and 9.1 systems do involve rear speakers. For most home speaker installations, side placement offers a better surround sound experience. The distance between each side speaker and the seating area is based on speaker size, so consult the manufacturer’s installation diagrams to find out what spacing they suggest. Even if you decide to follow a different placement pattern, the general distances are calculated for sound quality and should be followed regardless of speaker arrangement.
Invest in a Fishing Tape
Sometimes the urge to build a home theater comes after you’ve purchased an older home or long after a new home is finished. When it’s necessary to run speaker wires through the walls and ceiling of a finished room, a tool called a fishing tape makes it much easier. This tool is based around a thin and flexible metal tape that is unrolled from a central spool either with hand cranking or automatically. The tape is just rigid enough to slide through gaps in the walls and ceiling without damaging either, allowing you to run wires behind the walls without cutting as many holes.
Learn to Calibrate
Many homeowners finally feel comfortable installing a home theater because of automatic calibration settings on stereo receivers and TV sets. However, these automatic calibration programs are very limited and can’t accurately adjust the bass in order to give you a satisfying sound experience. Learning the basics of calibrating your audio equipment by hand is worth the time you invest. A simple hand operated decibel meter and the manual calibration menu are all you need to get the sound you want from your system.
Home theaters are a prime place for displaying movie memorabilia and props, and you may be tempted to squeeze in a little more seating after seeing how much space you have left. However, all of these additions can act as obstacles to the sound if you place them in between you and the speaker. Avoid sitting anything on the speakers as well if any of them are located on the floor or low on the wall.
Add 15 Percent Buffer to the Budget
Wondering how to estimate how much wiring to purchase for your project so you can make a budget for the purchases before making a final decision? Add up each individual run of wire to reach each part of the room, then add about 15 percent extra to the total. This gives you plenty of extra for unexpected redirection in the middle of the project when you discover an obstacle in the wall or ceiling you can’t remove. It also ensures that there is extra wire for crimping and clamping it onto the terminals at each speaker. If you make a mistake and need to trim off an end, you’ll still have extra for trying again without making a splice.
There are dozens of little mistakes to trip you up during the installation of a home theater system. Professional installation makes the process go a little smoother, or you can try it yourself and have a professional make changes later if you’re not happy with the results.
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