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Home Theater AV Cable Prewire Basics 101

by September 01, 2014
wire mess

wire mess

Originally Published: June 5th, 2007 by Ray Adkins

Introduction

Pre-wiring homes for today’s complex home theater systems can often times be a very frustrating task even for the highly skilled A/V professional. There are many factors that need to be considered before a home is wired for video and sound. This basic tech tip article may help guide you through the rigorous process thus turning this project from daunting to fun and educational.  We will give you guidance on how and where to route your cables, as well as tips on the proper cables to use for your installation.  Get your home ready for tomorrow's state of the art home theater systems today.  Read our article and watch our Youtube video.


How To Prewire A Home Theater

Planning

A key factor before you start pre-wiring your home is planning.

  • A/V equipment rack location
  • Selecting and installing the correct wire for the pre-wire
  • Pre-wire for future upgrades and flexibility
  • Use the correct tools when pre-wiring
  • Route the wire correctly in the wall and in the ceiling
  • Terminate the wire correctly to the A/V components

A/V Equipment Rack Location

AV RackThe first step is to know where your home theater equipment will be installed in the room. This is the central location where all the wire from speakers, subwoofers, TVs, front projection systems and accessories will merge and be terminated to the equipment. In my dedicated home theater I prefer having my A/V component rack on the side wall at about the half way point of the room. I prefer this location because of its close proximity to my chairs. This location also provides uniform and shorter wire runs to my front projector and multiple speaker systems. You can install the A/V rack in just about any location in or out of the room. Generally, I don’t recommend placing A/V components in close proximity to the video viewing surface. The reason for this is simple. In a darkened room, power indicator lights and LED indicators on the A/V components can be distracting and glare off the viewing surface. If the A/V component rack is placed in a position that is not in a direct line of sight, the A/V equipment lights become less of a distraction and your viewing will be more enjoyable.

Front AVIf you choose a location behind the seated position or out of the room you will need to consider using a RF based remote control. IR based remote controls need line of sight for proper operation. Many homes have custom A/V cabinetry that will house a large screen TV and A/V components on a front wall and often doors will cover the A/V equipment for concealment. If this is the case with your future installation, you should consider the use of a non glare surface for the doors and must remember that A/V equipment needs proper ventilation. If you look closely, below the A/V rack pictured above you can see wire coiled up and hidden underneath. This wire will be used for system expansion or future system upgrades. I have spot lighted the area and pulled the wire out to the front of the rack for the photo, normally it would not be seen.

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About the author:

RLA Home Theater and Hi-Fi began as a hobby and has expanded into a business. Ray took his love of music and movies and turned it into his personal business to bring movie theater sound and quality into the homes of his customers. Ray brought great knowledge and expertise to us from a custom installer/integrator's perspective.

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Recent Forum Posts:

BMXTRIX posts on September 11, 2014 09:14
CONDUIT IS YOUR FRIEND!

Yes, any article, even one 7 years old, should be discussing conduit. The component to DVI to HDMI changeover has definitely shown that conduit is about the most important thing that can be run in a theater. You don't need to run 2-3 HDMI cables, you run 1 HDMI cable, perhaps a couple of pieces of cat-5e/6 cable, and power to a display, and CONDUIT and you are set for the next 20 years.

I would not use PVC pipe, but instead use Carlon Resi-gard (or similar). The flexible duct is available from .5“ to 2” diameters. I generally use 1.25“ conduit to video locations. This gives me enough room to run a new HDMI cable (or two) if needed, or any other cable that I may find necessary. Basement to attic runs for ‘whole house’ distribution I typically do at the 2” size. This gives a pathway for speaker wires, coax, networking, etc.

But, this stuff is the bomb! It's easy(ish) to work with, and can be run through ceilings and walls without much difficulty. Rigid PVC pipe has some real limitations on how it can be run and often must use hard elbows which can be tough to get wiring through.

BMXTRIX posts on September 11, 2014 09:08
Reorx, post: 1050778
Signal degradation or power loss concerns?
There is always signal/power loss when A/V is run through a junction point. It is measurable, and it tend to be ‘consistent’ so that you have expected and repeatable results.

Now, is the amount of loss noticeable? Of course that depends on the original signal, the number of junctions and the quality which the final device is capable of reproducing.

More and more in our digital world, the junction points are not as significant as they used to be, but also can be far more significant. A long run HDMI cable, for example, really needs a point to point connection for best results. A HDMI coupler at the wall with a lower quality cable outside the wall can often destroy a connection. So, it is important for people to be well aware of this fact. I personally tend to run wiring directly through the wall to my speakers if I can make it work aesthetically. In my family room, for example, I cut a slit in my carpet and ran the speaker wire directly into the speaker connection on the bottom of the speaker. No visible wires.

But, this isn't always feasible, or convenient for many, and there is a good chance that if the signal makes it to the final destination point, that it will look and sound just great.

In a GOOD dedicated space, I would almost always run wiring straight to components just to ensure that there is zero added loss into the audio or video pathways.
Reorx posts on September 10, 2014 18:16
After your room’s construction is completed, it’s time to terminate your system’s components. Many installers like to use wall plates with binding posts for a clean look. I don’t like this approach because it adds four more termination points for the speaker wire.

What's wrong with having the additional termination points?
Signal degradation or power loss concerns?
Have you tested it with your tester, and have you heard a difference? or is it just a personal preference?

I have seen it done with all types of cables numerous times, and everything works and sounds just fine.

Thanks.
Sheep posts on September 03, 2014 02:34
smurphy522, post: 1049183
I too could only think “why not run a conduit” (like a 3" PVC) instead of worrying about dedicated flavor of the year wiring at the time of building. I see others have mentioned this as a suggestion. I would revise the article accordingly or suggest writing a part 2. A conduit virtually eliminates you being left to a wire out of date.

I have a dedicated media room. Unfortunately the house was already built an dI had no say in how the room was pre-wired or electrically run. They did provide a dedicated 20amp circuit but the idiots ran it in the ceiling position for the projector. They totally did not understand the concept of a higher powered circuit and where it would be needed. I mean how many projectors would require a 20 amp service? Oh well, 1st world problems I suppose.

If you consider how much you spend on equipment, pulling the drywall and re wiring and insulating (with the best sound isolating stuff you can get your hands on) would be a worthy expense and offer a noticeable upgrade to any theater. We are running in ceiling rear speakers in the setup I'm currently building (I was given 2 RBHs A650s, and we bought 2 more Yamaha angled speakers with the same size drivers and driver material to run as back surround). My parents were just going to run wires to the spot and then cut the hole, but I built a box into the joist and sealed it with acoustic sealant around the edges and insulated it on all the walls with 3 inch Roxull insulation for each speaker. Small things you can do that cost little but will make a huge difference in the end product. After going through all this it's funny how little people pay attention to the room. I'm not talking about the acoustic treatments, but the whole setup, wiring, and construction. If you're going to deem a room to be your HT room, you might as well gut it first and do it properly. I will admit we did drop the ball with the speaker wire, as my parents didn't want to fork out for 12 ga CL2 rated in wall wire.

SheepStar
gene posts on September 02, 2014 14:52
smurphy522, post: 1049183
I too could only think “why not run a conduit” (like a 3" PVC) instead of worrying about dedicated flavor of the year wiring at the time of building. I see others have mentioned this as a suggestion. I would revise the article accordingly or suggest writing a part 2. A conduit virtually eliminates you being left to a wire out of date.

I have a dedicated media room. Unfortunately the house was already built an dI had no say in how the room was pre-wired or electrically run. They did provide a dedicated 20amp circuit but the idiots ran it in the ceiling position for the projector. They totally did not understand the concept of a higher powered circuit and where it would be needed. I mean how many projectors would require a 20 amp service? Oh well, 1st world problems I suppose.

The article is 7 years old. I simply reposted to frame around our video. I will see if we can make the change however as I agree.
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