10 Common Home Theater Mistakes

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From buying  TVs to hiding speakers in an entertainment cabinet and everything in between, make sure to avoid these 10 common home theater mistakes.

The idea of putting together a home theater is extremely exciting. For the less than technically inclined however, the process of purchasing and setting up the components can be equally intimidating. We’ve put together a list of the 10 most commonly made mistakes when assembling a home entertainment system so that you can avoid these pitfalls and enjoy the experience of putting your system together as much as you will enjoy using it.

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1. Mounting a TV 8 feet or more above the floor

Ever walk out of a big, commercial movie theater with a stiff neck? We have. If you get stuck in the front 5 rows, you’ll be spending most of your time tilting your head back so that you can see the movie. One of the best things about building your own home theater space is that you don’t have to put up with that sort of thing. For that reason, plan on mounting your TV or projector screen at a level that doesn’t require you to pull your neck back. Not only will you be more comfortable, but with a direct view of the display, you’ll enjoy better picture quality.

2. Purchasing the wrong size display for your room

It’s natural to want to get the biggest TV that you can afford. A gargantuan TV makes a big statement in the room and, hey, you’ve got to get a bigger TV than the Jones’ just got, right? The problem is, if you choose a TV that is too large for your viewing distance then you aren’t able to take in the entire image. Also, low resolution images will look worse from a tight distance on an overly large display. Conversely (and less surprisingly) a display that is too small can be rather underwhelming.

Rather than buy the biggest TV or projection screen you can find, determine what the ideal size is for your viewing distance. You can find simple calculators online that will tell you what range of sizes will work best for the distance at which you view your TV.As a general rule of thumb your viewing distance should be between 1.5 times the diagonal width of the screen and 3 times the diagonal width of the screen. To figure out your optimal screen size measure the distance between your TV placement and your seating area. Then take that number and multiply it by 1.5 for the smallest display size and 3 for the largest display size that will fit your room.

3. Choosing small satellite speakers for a large, open room

Small, satellite speakers have their place, it’s true. They will sound great in a small room or office environment. Unfortunately, as the room gets larger and your distance from the speakers increases, these unobtrusive satellite speakers become less and less impressive. If you have a large, open great room with cathedral ceilings and you want impressive sound, then you need to step up to a bookshelf or floor-standing speaker. In-wall speakers can also work well too – just make sure that they are large enough to fill up your big space. You’ll be glad you did.

4. Placing speakers and/or subwoofers inside an entertainment cabinet or another piece of furniture

Speakers already have their own cabinets. There’s a reason for this: The cones (drivers) that the speaker uses need to have a certain amount of space and air resistance to sound their best. The cabinets that speakers are built into have been carefully designed to help the speakers sound fantastic. When you place a speaker inside another cabinet, you essentially undo all the work that the speaker designer put into making the speaker sound great. If you need the speakers to be hidden, consider an in-wall or in-ceiling option. These speakers are designed to sound good without taking up space in your room and will yield better sound than a cabinet speaker placed inside another cabinet.

This rule goes double for subwoofers. Placing a subwoofer inside an enclosed space goes against the point of having a subwoofer. Low frequency sounds have really long wavelengths which means the sound needs to travel around the room quite a bit for you to feel their full effect. When a subwoofer is placed inside a cabinet, you prevent the low frequency sounds from being able to interact with your room. The result is a muddy, booming sound that takes away from, rather then adding to, your home theater experience.

5. Purchasing electronics from a store that also sells groceries

We can appreciate the convenience and super low prices that these mega-stores offer but their electronics departments are best suited for purchasing video games and batteries rather than speakers or A/V receivers. The items that they carry are usually stripped down, budget versions of what you see in a dedicated electronics store. They may come cheap, but they’ll sound that way, too. It’s worth the extra time and gas to travel to a vendor that specializes in the kind of equipment you are looking for.

6. Purchasing an A/V receiver made by a company best known for their TVs

It may seem logical that a company known for making outstanding televisions would also be capable of making great A/V receiver. It’s all electronics, right? Well, no. Making a great sounding receiver requires a great deal of dedication and know-how. For this reason, it is important that you research the top brands in audio before you head out to start making your purchases. While it may seem intuitive to purchase a TV, Blu-Ray player and audio receiver from the same manufacturer, doing so robs you of the opportunity to put together a truly stellar system. Components from different brands WILL play nicely together if care is taken when matching them up.

7. Allocating your entire budget for the big ticket items

With all the time spent researching and budgeting for the more expensive TV, receiver and speakers it is easy to overlook the need for accessories. You’ll need speaker wire, HDMI cables, perhaps a wall mount for your TV or a universal remote control. Many are understandably caught off guard when it comes time to make a purchase and the salesperson brings this up. As a result cheaper items get purchased and the performance potential for the system is compromised. Speaker wire, for instance, is extremely important. Anything under 16 AWG is not worth using. You needn’t spend $1000.00 on wire, but these accessories need as much consideration as the rest of your system. A good trick is to purchase the bulk of your accessories first. In fact, those that are doing custom installations on a new build are actually required to do so. With quality accessories in place, you are sure to get the best possible performance.

8. Spending less than $30.00 on a surge protector

You don’t have to live in tornado alley to need a quality surge protector. Electrical problems can and will happen anywhere. Over the years, we’ve heard far too many heart breaking stories of elaborate systems being laid to waste by a brown-out, lightning strike or sudden surge of electricity. Most budget surge protectors aren’t capable of taking a real hit and none of them offer insurance for your connected components. A quality surge protector may cost a bit more, but they will do an effective job of protecting your investment against unforeseen electrical issues. Quality surge protectors generally claim to offer protection up to X number of joules and stand behind it with a warranty so that, if they do fail, they will compensate you for your loss.

9. Not auditioning speakers in your own home

The problem with electronics boutiques and even the big box electronics stores is that their demonstration rooms are designed so that almost any product they set up and play for you will sound good. Buyers are given a demonstration and it sounds great. They take it home, set it up in their room and, to their dismay, the system doesn’t sound nearly as good as it did at the store. This is why it is essential that you purchase speakers and A/V gear from a vendor with a gracious return or exchange policy which allows you to experience the products in your space with all its unique attributes. Speaker placement, furniture, wall location and ceiling height are just a few of the factors that influence your system’s sound. Without an in-home audition you have no way of knowing if you’re purchasing will satisfy you in the long term.

10. Not taking the time to do some research and ask for help

Folks, in the age of the internet, there is no excuse for not taking the time to do some research. With just a half-hour of some searching and reading, you can increase your knowledge exponentially. Need a little help? There are actually folks sitting by their computer RIGHT NOW, waiting for your questions so that they can impart their vast knowledge to you. If you don’t feel like diving into discussion forums, visit some manufacturer websites. Many of them will offer some solid advice on what to look for when shopping for speakers, TVs or A/V receivers. Remember, knowledge is power. Being armed with the right information keeps you from being talked into making a hasty and uninformed decision and saves you the trauma of suffering from buyer’s remorse and spares you the hassle of making a return.


8 Simple Ways to Boost Your Wi-Fi

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1. DON’T HIDE YOUR WIFI.

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Most people hide their routers because they’re unsightly or in the way, but placing a router in a closet or in a cabinet is a one-way ticket to slow Wi-Fi: Walls and doors can degrade and absorb signal strength. For houses with structured wire panels, putting the router in there is the absolute worst thing you can do. Not only is the signal stifled by walls, now it’s snuffed by a metal enclosure. Find a central location in your home and put your router on a table or bookshelf. Because some routers are designed to project a Wi-Fi signal slightly downward, keeping it high will evenly distribute a Wi-Fi signal throughout your home.

2. CENTRALLY LOCATE YOUR ROUTER.

Best practice is to put your Wifi router in the middle of your home. For larger homes, 2,000sqf and above, it’s ideal to centrally locate the Wifi router. Homes 2000sqf+ or with a livable back yard will need more coverage. We can tackle that a couple of different ways using Wireless Access Points (WAPs) or wireless extenders. Each has its own pluses and minuses.

3. STAY AWAY FROM APPLIANCES AND METAL OBJECTS.

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You should also avoid placing your router near metal objects, which can absorb signal strength. Microwaves, refrigerators, cordless telephones, fluorescent lights, and your neighbors home or apartment router will interfere with your Wi-Fi signal. To reduce interference, place your router away from household appliances and set it to a different wireless channel and frequency. Using online tools like crylic Wi-Fi for Windows or INSIDDER and AirGrab Wi-Fi Radar for Mac or iNet for example—can help you find the right wireless channel with the least amount of interference. If you want an easier fix, most routers have an automatic option to find the best channel for your location. If using automatic, make sure to scan your network regualarly to make sure you’re on the best channel.

4. RESET ON A SCHEDULE

It sounds simple enough, but a majority of tech support problems can be cleared up by simply resetting or rebooting your router and/or modem on a regular basis. It’s also probably the first thing your Internet provider will ask you to do when you call to complain, so try it first. Also use your smart phone to check for reported outages in your area. We have links on our support page. And if you buy an outlet timer or step up your game with a Panamax surge protector/ power conditioner with Blubolt, you can schedule a weekly refresh or your network, and any other connected device.

5. UPDATE YOUR FIRMWARE.

Plan this one accordingly. Running firmware updates are necessary to keep your router not only secure, but operating with the latest and greatest firmware. BEFORE you update your firmware, do a quick Google search to see what’s new what the respective update. It doesnt happen often but we’ve seen some firmware updates crash the hardware. And remember: It’s best to buy a new router every three or four years.

5. ADJUST YOUR ROUTER’S ANTENNAS.

This has proven to be an old wives tale with newer routers. Some antennas are internal anymore and the exposed antennas are just a feel good option the manufactures do and have minor impact on coverage. If you’re using a WAP, all the antennas are internal anyway. Some routers have adjustable antennas on top. Wi-Fi works best when signals are parallel to a device’s internal antenna, which are horizontal in laptops and vertical in desktop computers. Internal antennas vary in mobile devices, depending on how you’re holding them (in portrait or landscape mode). Keeping a router’s antennas perpendicular to each other will ensure a solid connection between your home network and your smartphones and laptops.

6. PASSWORD-PROTECT YOUR NETWORK …

Because home Wi-Fi speeds are dependent on how many people or devices are using it at one time, a strong password is key: It will ensure that only authorized people are using your network. Take advantage of the security already built into your router and select a password (or better yet, a passphrase) that is a hard-to-figure-out combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.

7. STAGGER HEAVY BANDWIDTH USEAGE.

If too many people on your home network are using heavy bandwidth at the same time, like playing online video games, watching Netflix, and downloading movies and music from iTunes, then your entire network will slow down for everyone. Try to stagger heavy Internet use to make sure your home network is running fast and smooth for all users.

8. DON’T BUY A REPEATER or better, a Wireless Access Point (WAP).

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Most routers have a range of about 150 feet. If you live in a big house, devices and computers in rooms farthest away from your router might have a hard time connecting to your home Wi-Fi network. The easiest fix to boost the signal in those rooms is to buy a Wifi repeater or better, a Wireless Access Point (WAP). There are Wifi repeaters that you can plug in to an available outlet but there big disadvantages with this option like separate networks and decrease speed however, it will increases a signal’s range but not strength.

Source: http://mentalfloss.com/node/69926&cid=sf01002 with our added notes and updates.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

9 Key Mistakes in Home Network Design

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Today’s IoT proliferation demands a home network that supports security, quality of service, reliability and scale. Here’s where many home-tech integrators slip up.

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Gone are the days when consumers needed just a simple router and switch to connect a few computers and smart TVs to the Internet. With 4K video, high resolution audio, and scores of IoT devices in today’s smart home – plus hackers galore outside the home — integrators need a solid home-network design that considers security, quality of service, reliability and scale.

Yet so many home-tech pros fail to comprehend the gravity of a rich home network. Either that, or they simply don’t implement best practices because 1) they don’t know how to do it, or 2) they don’t know how to sell it.

“There are too many people coming into this industry that don’t understand networking,” says Jamie Lee Corpuz of Pakedge, a leading provider of enterprise-grade networking solutions for A/V integrators. “And if they don’t understand networking they are leaving their control and security systems at risk – risk of failure and security breaches.”

Pakedge training manager Shereena Banda points to the example of virtual LANs (vLAN), a vital software tool for allocating bandwidth and managing traffic on the network.

“I think a lot of integrators don’t understand why vLANs are so important,” Banda says. “Some avoid it because they don’t think it’s important, or else they’re too afraid to do it.”

She urges, “Don’t avoid it. By avoiding it, you’re not taking advantage of what you can offer as an integrator.”


 

 


Banda outlines several other mistakes and challenges facing integrators who work – or don’t work — on home networks:

  1. No master design, no roadmap
    • Undersizing the network and components
    • Frankensteining systems – this and that from different manufacturers
    • No futureproofing
    • Not capturing all the requirements of customer
  2. Weak or no security
  3. Poor wireless planning
    • Over-reliance on wireless
    • Interference
    • Poor coverage
    • Poor device placement
  4. Improper topology – can’t handle load, weak link, can take down network, redundancy, scalability
  5. Improper equipment specifications for the job
  6. No reliability in the design
    • No protection/redundancy in case of failures
    • Not enough power in the electrical service
    • Overlooking single-point failure scenarios on critical components
  7. No design for ongoing serviceability and maintenance (remote access, backups, recovery, update plans, etc.)
  8. Not enough PoE to drive devices, so nearby AC outlets must be used
  9. Unstable/unreliable – Not enough overhead to support at peak loads, or high bandwidth applications/services
http://www.cepro.com/article/9_key_mistakes_in_home_network_design/news

How to Choose a Home Theater for Movies or Music

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Selecting audio components is one of the more daunting tasks that any serious home theater enthusiast faces. On the surface, it seems evident that if you just go out and buy the best components you can afford, they’ll sound great with both movies and music. And that’s generally true: A better system will more accurately reproduce the waveforms you feed it, irrespective of whether they come from a movie or music. But it’s often not that simple. While assembling a home theater system that’s equally spectacular with movies and music may be a laudable goal, unless you have unlimited funds, you’ll probably have compromises to make. At that point, you might want to steer the system’s performance strengths one way or the other with the right mix of speakers and electronics. But how do you go about matching these up?The first step is to figure out where you fall on the music/home theater scale. And, of course, the best time to think about all of this is before you buy a system. Ask yourself a few questions: Do you and your family listen to a lot more music than watch movies, or is it the other way around? When you do listen to music, is it on for background as you go about your business, or do you love to sit down in front of the speakers and immerse yourself? Then there are aesthetic considerations—the gear’s appearance and how it fits in with your décor. How will those factors influence your buying decisions? Be honest with yourself. If you’re an audiophile who no longer has time to listen but your family will be using the system daily for TV and movie viewing, you’ll want to plan your budget accordingly.

Vive la Différence!
Some are quick to say that good sound is good sound, period. So is it really true that music and movies sound all that different from each other? Yes and no. The very best music recordings and soundtracks enjoy similar traits, such as wide dynamics, timbral accuracy, and spatial characteristics that use the available speakers to re-create a sense of three-dimensional realism. Nonetheless, movie and music tracks do differ in how they’re made and how they’re equalized and processed in the studio.

To start, today’s films boast nearly unlimited soft-to-loud dynamic range; dialogue is mixed to the center channel; surround effects may be ambient or point-sourced; and deep-bass demands can be extreme. Just about every feature film released in the last 20 years has had a multichannel soundtrack.

On the other hand, most mainstream music recordings are dynamically compressed, and deep-bass effects can be nonexistent. For home theater, the subwoofer’s prime responsibility is supplying room-shaking low-frequency effects. For music, the sub needs to deliver pitch-accurate, tightly controlled bass that’s perfectly integrated with your speakers. And while an exceedingly small number of new music recordings are available in multichannel sound, stereo still rules in the music world. Getting thoroughly convincing imaging, focus, and soundstage depth out of just two speakers calls for exemplary speaker design.

The wide dynamic range of movie soundtracks is also linked with high volume capability. All of the speaker and electronics manufacturers’ representatives I spoke with while I wrote this article told me their customers tend to play movies louder than music. That ups the powerrequirements for home theater over music-oriented systems. For home theater, sound plays a supporting role—video quality and onscreen action grab the lion’s share of your attention, so you might miss or be more able to overlook subtle sonic deficiencies. But a music-oriented system’s ability to entertain and engage us succeeds on sound quality alone, so tonal accuracy and sonic integrity—or the lack thereof—are more critical and become more obvious.

I think I’ve made the case just how different the sonic demands of music and movies are, but most Home Theater readers have dual-purpose, home theater/music systems. That’s the reality, so consciously steering the sound balance toward your preferences is the smart move.

Size Matters, a Lot
Before you can select either speakers or electronics to drive your system, take a good look at your room. If it’s big—say on the order of 2,500 cubic feet or larger—and you crave a visceral, feel-the-sound-in-your-bones experience with movies and music, you might seriously consider buying fullsize, full-range speakers, and audio separates with a powerful dedicated amplifier instead of an A/V receiver. Big floorstanders backed by serious power reserves will typically play louder and with lower distortion than small monitors, even those backed by a sub. In my experience, they sound bigger and more dynamically alive than small sub/sat systems, and in a carefully designed full-range speaker, the bass, midbass, and midrange integration is inherently excellent—something that’s rarely duplicated in sub/sat systems. And even if you only want to crank your system just once or twice a year to impress your home theater pals, it’s nice to have the capability. I suppose it’s analogous to buying a Porsche for your daily commute: Although you rarely touch 80 miles per hour, it’s good to know it’ll go 180 when the urge strikes. That capability doesn’t come cheap, though—in cars or in audio.

When I brought up the question of room size with Mark Casavant, vice president of product development for the Klipsch Group (Klipsch, Energy, Mirage, and Jamo speakers), he was adamant about the need for large power reserves and/or very efficient speakers to match a big space. “Once you’re up in the 3,000-cubic-foot range and want to achieve 105-decibel peaks [soundtrack reference level] in the listening position, you need a very capable system,” he said, noting that the demands placed on subs in large rooms can also be extreme. Here, going with two or more subwoofers would make a lot of sense. Casavant thinks surround effects can be pretty subtle, but the impact of multiple subs is something you can literally feel.

If you’re serious about your movies, room size might also affect how many speakers you need to buy for your surround system. A bigger space may need extra surround speakers in the rear to better fill the room, although no one seems to be advocating extra speakers for the latest enhanced surround modes like Dolby Pro Logic IIz or Audyssey DSX. That’s interesting, if only because you’d think speaker manufacturers would be in favor of more speakers. When I asked Casavant if his home theater customers are buying 7.1- or 9.1-channel systems, his response—and that of every other speaker manufacturer I contacted—was the same: 5.1-channel systems represent the bulk of the sales. Not one spokesperson recommended going to seven or more channels for all but the largest rooms.

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Source: http://www.hometheater.com/