[Home]Home Theater Installation

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The seeds of my home theater desire were planted when shopping for a stereo component. In the fall of 2004 I had to replace my beloved Nakamichi CD changer, which I'd had for about seven years. In the process of shopping for a replacement (I ended up with a Jolida JD-100 [1]), I was exposed to just how much home theater technology has improved since the days (around 1989) when I was single and had a "surround sound processor" and some cheesy rear speakers to go with my 27" TV and "hi-fi" VCR. In the intervening years, I owned a big-screen RPTV and was vaguely aware of HT, but just didn't care much about it, even though I've always loved movies. Over these same years, I did build up a nice 2-channel audio system in my basement, but never even bothered hooking up the DVD player to the stereo.
The seeds of my home theater desire were planted when shopping for a stereo component. In the fall of 2004 I had to replace my beloved Nakamichi CD changer, which I'd had for about seven years. In the process of shopping for a replacement (I ended up with a Jolida JD-100 [1]), I was exposed to just how much home theater technology had improved since the days (around 1989) when I was single and had a "surround sound processor" and some cheesy rear speakers to go with my 27" TV and "hi-fi" VCR. In the intervening years, I owned a big-screen RPTV and was vaguely aware of HT, but just didn't care much about it, even though I've always loved movies. Over these same years, I did build up a nice 2-channel audio system in my basement, but never even bothered hooking up the DVD player to the stereo.

My Home Theater (as installed)

Installation Steps

Introduction

These pages document, in excruciating detail, the steps I went through to install my basement home theater. This was a DIY project, and while it is not a full-on, dedicated home theater room, it sure did take a lot of time to put together, anyway. I hope that others find some useful information in these pages.

How I Got Myself Into This

The seeds of my home theater desire were planted when shopping for a stereo component. In the fall of 2004 I had to replace my beloved Nakamichi CD changer, which I'd had for about seven years. In the process of shopping for a replacement (I ended up with a Jolida JD-100 [1]), I was exposed to just how much home theater technology had improved since the days (around 1989) when I was single and had a "surround sound processor" and some cheesy rear speakers to go with my 27" TV and "hi-fi" VCR. In the intervening years, I owned a big-screen RPTV and was vaguely aware of HT, but just didn't care much about it, even though I've always loved movies. Over these same years, I did build up a nice 2-channel audio system in my basement, but never even bothered hooking up the DVD player to the stereo.

Listening room, before HT conversion. I was too stupid to take a long shot of the whole room.

Home theater room, after conversion.

What changed my outlook on HT was experiencing front projection first-hand. Once I'd seen it, I decided front projection is the only way to do true HT. I know it's been around for a while but I had totally ignored it. Now that it's affordable (a good projector doesn't cost any more than a big-screen HDTV), if you have the appropriate room, there's little reason not to go with projection.

I decided that the time was now to have a nice movie viewing environment. It was not a priority at all for me to have a true, full-on home theater with columns and stepped theater seating, etc. As a matter of fact, my setup is more like a very nice listening room/den that happens to have a big screen that you can pull down to watch movies, than a theater. The equipment is right out in the open, rather than hidden as in many installations. It's pretty much a geek's setup, and that's fine by me (since I'm a geek). However, I did set myself goals to hide all the surround wiring to maintain a neat appearance in the room, and to paint the room for better movie viewing (plus, it needed painting anyway).

Hiding the wires turned out to be the hardest and longest-running part of the project. I don't regret the solution I chose (WireTracks), but I sure wish I'd had some of the techniques and tools figured out before starting work. Maybe you'll learn something from my experiences.

The Room

I'm lucky to have a dedicated area that is not too subject to WAF, but there were still challenges to installation.

Unfortunately, there was really only one way to organize the room, due to there being three doors on the right side of the room, with the attending traffic-flow requirements. Therefore, the front wall was pretty much set. A major problem is that the front wall is relatively narrow (just over 10ft), which affected my ability to place speakers optimally, and limited the maximum size of my screen, as well.

The front wall also features a typical high-placed basement window, when a blank wall is a much better "canvas" on which to work. My original, planned, solution to this problem was to install a fixed screen positioned just high enough to completely occlude the window. Upon further reflection, I decided to go with a pulldown screen. The pulldown screen allowed me to achieve a number of goals (some were more important than others):

There are three doors on the right side of the room. The CATV cable comes in from between the back two doors, and needs to be routed to where the equipment is installed (my previous hack was to just route it around the two front doors with cable staples).

On the plus side, the room is very long, so reflections from the rear aren't too bad a problem. Also, the room is in a basement with only two small windows, so light control is not a problem.

Dimensioned drawing of room and planned locations of equipment.
(not exactly to scale)

The diagram shows, in a very schematic fashion, the shape of the room and where equipment was placed.

The Equipment

I considered lots of different equipment. For audio, I started by considering the low side of the high-end stuff like Sunfire and Rotel separates, but ended up selecting from the high side of consumer-grade, mass-market equipment (Denon) in the end. I decided it would give me the best value and good enough performance (and I was right :-)). For the details, see my home theater equipment.

Equipment snobs (I'm in recovery) go here: http://www.theaudiocritic.com/cwo/Our_Philosophy/

Installation

First, I got busy preparing what was the basement listening room to accept all the electronics and to make for a better theater experience. I didn't really go whole-hog on the room itself, I only painted and put in hidden wiring, but it was still a lot of work. I documented the process of installing my HT components as I progressed.

Room Preparation

I painted the room a warm gray, for maximum neutrality. I didn't actually use any of the resources listed in Home Theater Hacks to get an "approved" neutral shade - I figured grey is about as neutral as it gets. My wife and I chose Benjamin Moore 1465, for the record.

The painting was done to control light, as well. The room was originally painted a stark white, which would have let too much light bounce around. The new gray color, while not really that dark, does result in a much darker room with the lights off. I chose a flat finish rather than a matte finish, to further control ambient light.

I left the ceiling white, and this has not caused a noticeable problem.

Installation Steps

I've broken down the installation process into manageable chunks. The WireTracks work (including re-installing the baseboards) easily took the longest. Each of the pages linked below contain links at the bottom to help you navigate throught the process. Hopefully you can learn a bit by reading what I went though.

Finale

Now that the above are done, I'm fully enjoying my home theater. The "opening movie" was The Bourne Supremacy, shown about two months after I first started. There were a lot of missteps along the way, but looking at the results today is very gratifying. For more on the home theater, as installed, see My Home Theater.

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Last edited July 21, 2013 9:29 pm by Mike (diff)

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