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Home Theater Installation Basics

All home theater enthusiasts wish we had a dedicated home theater room to work with that was perfectly planned out in advance, properly pre-wired, and soundproofed before the walls and ceiling were in place, but most of us are not in this fortunate situation. Instead, most are retro-fitting the best possible DIY home theater solution within the confines of a less-than-ideal multi-purpose room (that we may not even own), and doing so while budget-constrained to maximize bang-for-the-buck.

Home Theater Information Below is not in exact order, does not apply to every type of home theater system, nor is it complete, mainly because everyone visiting this page is in a different situation depending on what components they already own, what specific new equipment they have chosen to buy and integrate, and the room in which they are setting it up. If at any time you are unsure of what needs to be done or how to do it, please don't hesitate to hire a professional to help you complete your home theater installation with as little frustration as possible. HelloTech might offer an affordable solution IF you don't need any in-wall/ceiling installations or in-wall wiring done.

Unbox Carefully cut the packing tape to open the box(es) and remove the foam-enclosed component(s) from the box(es). Get help with unboxing a HUGE or HUMONGOUS TV. Unpack each component, owner's manual, warranty information, and included accessories such as the remote control. Insert included batteries inside the remote control, and temporarily set it, the manual, and other accessories on top of or next to the component. Inspect all packing material to make sure you've removed all the included accessories. Put packing material back in the empty box and close it like it was originally packed, and remove all boxes from the room. If possible, save boxes and foam packing material from each component for future ease in transporting or shipping if/when you either need warranty/repair service, you move, or you want to sell or give away one or more components.

Viewing-Distance Television or projection screen location and seating location together dictate the ideal layout within the room of all home theater speakers except perhaps your subwoofer(s). But first, if you have flexibility with the exact location of either the screen or seating, make sure that the viewing-distance from the "best seat in the house" to the screen is within the optimal range. Divide the diagonal screen size, in inches, by both 7 and 10 to calculate the ideal viewing-distance range, in feet, from your eyes while seated, to the screen. For example, if you've got a 65-inch TV screen, you will probably be happiest with an "eyeballs-to-screen" viewing-distance somewhere within the 6.5 feet to 9.3 feet range.

Mount TV or Projector/Screen (If Required) A mounting bracket is usually sold separately. Wall-mounting a HUGE or HUMONGOUS television, or a large projection screen should be a two-person effort. Be sure you've got an HDMI cable (in-wall rated if needed) of sufficient length to run between your TV or projector and the HDMI output on your home theater receiver.

Assemble Furniture Until your television stand, component stand, and/or speaker stands are assembled, they cannot support a TV, A/V components, and/or speakers, and allow them to be properly connected to each other. After assembly is complete and stands are moved to vicinity of where they will be located, be sure to leave adequate space for access to the back of all components for ease of connection. Ask a partner to help you lift and gently sit your HUGE or HUMONGOUS television on top of the TV stand.

Shelve Components Decide where the home theater receiver and each of the components will be placed in/on the TV stand or component stand. Leave space for ventilation around receiver. Components with the most "hands-on-use" such as a Blu-ray Disc player or video game console should be located towards the top to make it easier to push the open/close tray button and insert and remove discs. TV stand shelving space that's centered directly underneath where the television will rest should be reserved for your center channel speaker, unless you are setting up a 2.1 speaker audio system.

Speaker Placement For a 5.1 speaker home theater system, your two front speakers should be located to each side of your screen, your center channel speaker should be centered underneath (or above) your screen, your rear surround effects speakers should be located to each side of your seating area, and your subwoofer can sit on the floor virtually anywhere in the same room, although I recommend that you experiment a bit with sub placement before choosing a "permanent" location. 7.1 speaker surround sound adds a pair of back speakers behind your seating area. Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 instead adds a pair of special "elevation speakers", usually either mounted in or on the ceiling overhead, just slightly in front of your seating area, or resting atop the two front speakers aimed at the ceiling to reflect the Atmos signal off of it. Check out the Dolby Speaker Setup Guides for lots of beautiful diagrams. Also, you may need to purchase floor stands or wall/ceiling brackets to support smaller bookshelf or satellite speakers, although some include at least basic keyhole-type wall-mounting capability.

Wire/Mount/Connect Speakers If you will be running/fishing any speaker wires through/inside walls, ceiling, or floor, be sure to buy and use in-wall rated speaker wire to satisfy any electrical code requirements. Unless you are setting up a "wireless" system, you will need enough speaker wire to run from the back of your home theater receiver to the location of each of your speakers, except for the subwoofer(s), which requires its own subwoofer cable unless it's "wireless". Be sure to observe polarity (positive and negative leads) when connecting speaker wires to either receiver or speakers. If you cannot, or simply prefer not to, fish speaker wires through walls/ceiling/floor to rear surround speakers, you can buy flat adhesive speaker wire that looks and works like running masking tape along a baseboard, under carpet, or up/down a wall. There are also add-on "wireless" (transmitter/receiver/amplifier) connection kits for rear surround speakers, although you will still need an AC outlet located near the rear speakers to provide power to the wireless receiver/amplifier unit. A 3.1 speaker audio system or a sound bar and subwoofer are both options if you prefer to eliminate rear speakers entirely.

Connect Components Each source component should be connected to one of the HDMI or other A/V inputs on the receiver, and then you should run a single HDMI cable to an HDMI input on your television or projector. If you will be using Smart TV functions on your television and/or connecting a DTV antenna to it for receiving free over-the-air television channels, utilize ARC-enabled (Audio Return Channel) HDMI inputs if both receiver and television have this feature. Do not run regular HDMI cables (or AC power cords) through/inside walls, ceiling, or floor. Power cords for each component should be plugged either into an AC outlet on back of the receiver or into a power strip surge protector. Run Ethernet cable(s) from your router to the input on back of any or all of your network-ready A/V components, or you will have to activate Wi-Fi connectivity after you power it all up.

Power On After all system components are properly connected, you can turn on the power to your power strip surge protector. First turn on your receiver, then power up each of the other components that didn't automatically switch on together with your receiver.

Calibrate Speakers If your receiver includes a speaker calibration mic, follow the manufacturer's recommended procedure to optimize the audio performance of your surround sound speaker system.

Test System Fire up your very best quality source and give the system a test run.

Program Remote Control(s) After you are sure that each part of your system is working properly, it's a good time to program any of your programmable remotes to operate other components of your home theater. This will minimize the number of individual remotes you would otherwise be handling all the time, and reduce remote clutter.

Calibrate Video Learn about and tweak all the video settings in the onscreen menu of your television or projector until your heart's content and/or schedule a TV calibration housecall with an ISF-certified Geek Squad Agent.

Review Manuals I know that hardly anyone actually reads their owner's manuals cover to cover, but if you skim through them, you will likely learn about at least a few features or capabilities that you otherwise wouldn't have discovered.

"Break-In" Speakers Allow new speakers plenty of hours of play time to begin sounding their best.



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