HT Contractors - What To Look For? - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 21 Old 06-16-2017, 12:49 PM - Thread Starter
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HT Contractors - What To Look For?

OK, so my hope is to set up a home theater in my basement this summer. I have a space that is approx 21ft x 14ft that would be perfect to use. It is already finished (we bought the house last year) but being used right now just for storage (so for this we would need to basically tear out all the drywall, carpet, etc.... and start over). There is also a large closet that would work perfect for storing all the AV equipment in a rack. I would love to make this a DIY project but realistically there are a few hurdles:

- Time, gone about 14hrs a day during the week and on the weekend usually end up running around doing activities with the kids
- I am not handy lol. Well, actually, if I take the time to research, learn, observe I can usually pick up, but once again, time is the enemy here. I am more a tech geek with a bit of meathead and math mixed in!

I have a friend who is in construction and has done work on home theaters, so he did walk through the space and gave me some ideas. However, he is looking at this as more of a DIY type project as well.

So, where that leaves me is to look for a company that specializes in home theaters. There are one or two I have found, but my hesitance is as follows:

- Money. I do recognize that going this route will cost more than a DIY approach which if time is an issue so be it, I can accept to an extent. The one other time I used an HT company a while back for a small project (wiring for a TV mounted over a fireplace connected to the AV equipment in a built in wall unit) they ended up charging me quite a bit because they decided to use $150 Monster HDMI cables, etc... Unfortunately at the time I just wasn't paying close attention to everything. For a bigger project like this, who knows what other unnecessary costs may get thrown in there.

So I guess my question, accepting the fact that I need to use an HT company to accomplish what I want, what types of things should I be looking for in a company? Is simply looking for customer reviews, reviewing their portfolio or possible visits to projects they completed, should that be enough?

My idea would be to have two rows of seating, projector, 11.2 setup (?), etc...

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post #2 of 21 Old 06-16-2017, 01:13 PM
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I've seen a pile of " home theater installer" websites. 80% of their finished galleries always show a large TV above an A/V stand/ tower speakers on the carpet with a center channel positioned under the TV. To me, this is NOT a dedicated theater. I think if you arent in a big rush to have yours complete by summer, you should try the DIY route...but first spend time on this forum reviewing builds from about 2012 and newer. These will have more honed in / current information. For myself? I've been on here for a few years...a couple hours a night...making notes...making drawings...modeling Sketchup layouts...printing off color copies of other peoples ideas/ builds. Time consuming yes but the information is all here ( and free) There are plenty of people here to help the DIY'ers.
Planning is key before you commit to building anything OR have someone build for you.
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post #3 of 21 Old 06-16-2017, 01:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 69glamboy View Post
I've seen a pile of " home theater installer" websites. 80% of their finished galleries always show a large TV above an A/V stand/ tower speakers on the carpet with a center channel positioned under the TV. To me, this is NOT a dedicated theater..
Lol, spot on. Several of the HT Installer websites I have seen show exactly that and call it a home theater. I already have that type of setup, done that myself, so why the heck would I need them...

It would be nice to have it done sooner than later, but I am definitely not in a rush, there is no "has to be done by a certain date" deadline. Really, the big thing for me right now is planning (and more importantly budgeting).

As you mentioned though, I will keep researching and going through the various Home Theater Build threads here. I appreciate the feedback.

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post #4 of 21 Old 06-16-2017, 02:18 PM
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There is probably a lot higher profit ratio in the "$150 Monster cables" than the expensive equipment. They know how to play the game and make the most money.

If you are concerned about the extra money being spent on cables, hiring an HT company to do the whole theater will undoubtedly cost you a LOT more than you could ever spend on cables! It will likely come down to spending a lot more and getting it done right, or hiring the wrong company and getting mediocre results, while still spending a lot! The only path to getting it done right and saving a lot of money is doing a ton of research and doing it yourself.
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post #5 of 21 Old 06-16-2017, 02:23 PM
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Another thought that I have repeated many times is to do everything that you can to get the room right the first time around, especially sound isolation (soundproofing). You can update equipment at any time with relative ease, but updating the room itself after the fact is impractical and way more expensive than doing it right the first time.

I am a firm believer that moderate equipment in a well designed and built room will outperform high end equipment in a poorly designed and built room.
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post #6 of 21 Old 06-16-2017, 04:44 PM
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I had plans specifically designed for my room by Shawn Byrne (sierramikebravo on these forums). Once I had plans in hand I had a local handyman build the room. Plans were very detailed....check out the link in my signature for the build thread.
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post #7 of 21 Old 06-17-2017, 08:16 PM
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Do you have rough idea on price range you're looking to spend? This will depend a lot on the route I'd recommend. If you have $10k budget getting $5k plans probably wouldn't make sense. I'm sure other could help direct you too if you give more info.
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post #8 of 21 Old 06-18-2017, 09:18 AM
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Regardless of budget I would do a lot of research before I have any of my money to your typical "home theater contractor". I think the average homeowner could easily accomplish what they offer.
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post #9 of 21 Old 06-18-2017, 01:08 PM
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As a realtor, I deal with contractors all the time. 90% of them are hacks. Of the ones that are left, 90% of those know NOTHING about AV outside of isolating the occasional ground issue.

IMO "home theater contractor" typically is a hack who has found a new market to exploit.

If you're going to hire out your theater build, you either need to find an audio nerd contractor (difficult), or provide very detailed instructions to whoever else.
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post #10 of 21 Old 06-18-2017, 01:24 PM
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One simple test question is to ask your contractor how will they isolate the sound of the theater? If they say put insulation in the walls and that is the extent of their plan, immediate FAIL! You can still use them but you will need to provide specific guidance and monitor each step of the project to make sure they do it right.
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post #11 of 21 Old 06-18-2017, 01:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BIGmouthinDC View Post
One simple test question is to ask your contractor how will they isolate the sound of the theater? If they say put insulation in the walls and that is the extent of their plan, immediate FAIL! You can still use them but you will need to provide specific guidance and monitor each step of the project to make sure they do it right.
This I think is the perfect question, its pretty much what I asked contractors when I was looking. I also asked if they knew what Green Glue was and how they apply it. I know its one product in a market with others similar, but pretty much anyone who know's about Home Theater building knows what it is.
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post #12 of 21 Old 06-18-2017, 11:44 PM
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Plans were very detailed....check out the link in my signature for the build thread.
Would love to. Is the link missing?

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post #13 of 21 Old 06-19-2017, 05:59 AM
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Would love to. Is the link missing?
If he posted with a mobile device the signature doesn't always get added. You can always find threads started by member on their profile page. I think this is his completed theater:



My home theater (attempt #3)
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post #14 of 21 Old 06-19-2017, 06:36 AM - Thread Starter
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Do you have rough idea on price range you're looking to spend? This will depend a lot on the route I'd recommend. If you have $10k budget getting $5k plans probably wouldn't make sense. I'm sure other could help direct you too if you give more info.
Thanks for all the responses guys. In regards to budget, I am figuring in the range of $20-$30k (could go higher if needed but still have other work to do in the house so can't go crazy).

For searching around, as I mentioned before, most of the "home theater specialists" seem to consider mounting a tv in the family room with a speaker bar or 2.1 setup to be a "home theater". There is one company I have come across so far that at least shows pictures of a few home theater projects they have done (picture at bottom of this post).

@BIGmouthinDC - thanks, that was actually one of my concerns was sound isolation, so it is something I will definitely keep in mind.

I will keep researching for now, getting ideas, reading building here on AVS, etc... I am not too concerned on the equipment side (and agreed @DaveClement , the equipment I know I can always change vs the actual room build which I want to get right the first time ), but the construction aspect of it is more the issue for me as this is really something I have no experience with (and this project might not be a good project to start learning these things lol). I will definitely post back here once I get some direction where I am heading.

Below is a pic from one of the companies local to me on a project they did:


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post #15 of 21 Old 06-19-2017, 07:43 AM
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post #16 of 21 Old 06-19-2017, 08:09 AM - Thread Starter
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Picture attached?
Picture is embedded in my post. I am also attaching to this post in case there is difficulty viewing (I included a second picture of another project they did)

Click image for larger version

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Click image for larger version

Name:	header_space_home_theater.jpg
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ID:	2194785

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post #17 of 21 Old 06-19-2017, 08:34 AM
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Looks nice to me. I've found the devil is in the details. If you're considering them, I'd ask these questions:
- What kind of sound isolation do these rooms have?
- Why did you not choose an acoustically transparent screen?
- Where is the equipment stored?
- How are the rooms cooled/heated?

I think these would get the ball rolling to see if your dealing with a true expert of someone who has a few good carpenters. I about 80% done with a large addition and I've found the good carpenters can create some amazing work to the eye, but functionally it might not work.

Some examples:
- Framers wanted to place braces between my staggered stud wall to strengthen it (couple it together reducing sound isolation).
- HVAC said ditch the ultra quiet ducted minisplit for a high velocity system (didn't understand the needs of ultra quiet in the room).
- Flooring guys didn't understand why I didn't want carpet to wood transition under the door for automatic door seals.

All of these trades are great at what they do, but the home theater seems to bring many different functional goals that they are not used to seeing or dealing with.

If the quote from a home theater contractor is out of your league. You might consider getting super detailed drawings of your theater and having a regular contractor build it if you feel capable of overseeing the project. If you go this route, do some reading so you know what to watch for such as decoupling and air sealing.
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post #18 of 21 Old 06-19-2017, 11:08 AM
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Good looking rooms. I do notice that it appears that the center channel speaker is below the screen in both pictures. I assume the first picture center channel speaker is behind the black fabric below the screen. For a two row theater that means that the second row will not have a clear line of sight of the center channel and the sound will be compromised. It also appears that in the second picture the rear row is not elevated. It is also impossible to tell how the room was constructed from a sound isolation perspective. One other unknown is what is behind the fabric walls. Absorption, Diffusion, combination and how much. It is easy to over treat a room and the second picture could be over treated if all the areas behind the fabric received absorption. I notice a single subwoofer in the second picture which will result in nulls in both the length and width directions. You can not tell from the picture if the seats are in null positions which will result in significant seat to seat variance in bass response.

The choice speakers is more geared toward two channel listening.

Second picture I notice that there is a white outlet on the black front screen wall, that is an indication of lack of attention to detail, they make black outlets, $2-3 fix, so why didn't they?
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post #19 of 21 Old 06-19-2017, 11:15 AM
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Picture is embedded in my post.
It did not appear in your first post. Not sure why. The link itself works when pasted into a browser. Some sort of copyright protection??

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SSP-800 PLIIx 7.4; Anthem AVM 60 7.4.4, MiniDSP OpenDRC-AN
Aerial Acoustics 7B/CC3B fronts, KEF Ci200QS surrounds, Tannoy Di6 DC heights, Hsu ULS-15 subs
JVC RS520; Stewart Cima Neve 115"W x 49"H 2.35 screen
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post #20 of 21 Old 06-19-2017, 03:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bombertodd View Post
Looks nice to me. I've found the devil is in the details. If you're considering them, I'd ask these questions:
- What kind of sound isolation do these rooms have?
- Why did you not choose an acoustically transparent screen?
- Where is the equipment stored?
- How are the rooms cooled/heated?

I think these would get the ball rolling to see if your dealing with a true expert of someone who has a few good carpenters. I about 80% done with a large addition and I've found the good carpenters can create some amazing work to the eye, but functionally it might not work.

Some examples:
- Framers wanted to place braces between my staggered stud wall to strengthen it (couple it together reducing sound isolation).
- HVAC said ditch the ultra quiet ducted minisplit for a high velocity system (didn't understand the needs of ultra quiet in the room).
- Flooring guys didn't understand why I didn't want carpet to wood transition under the door for automatic door seals.

All of these trades are great at what they do, but the home theater seems to bring many different functional goals that they are not used to seeing or dealing with.

If the quote from a home theater contractor is out of your league. You might consider getting super detailed drawings of your theater and having a regular contractor build it if you feel capable of overseeing the project. If you go this route, do some reading so you know what to watch for such as decoupling and air sealing.
Quote:
Originally Posted by BIGmouthinDC View Post
Good looking rooms. I do notice that it appears that the center channel speaker is below the screen in both pictures. I assume the first picture center channel speaker is behind the black fabric below the screen. For a two row theater that means that the second row will not have a clear line of sight of the center channel and the sound will be compromised. It also appears that in the second picture the rear row is not elevated. It is also impossible to tell how the room was constructed from a sound isolation perspective. One other unknown is what is behind the fabric walls. Absorption, Diffusion, combination and how much. It is easy to over treat a room and the second picture could be over treated if all the areas behind the fabric received absorption. I notice a single subwoofer in the second picture which will result in nulls in both the length and width directions. You can not tell from the picture if the seats are in null positions which will result in significant seat to seat variance in bass response.

The choice speakers is more geared toward two channel listening.

Second picture I notice that there is a white outlet on the black front screen wall, that is an indication of lack of attention to detail, they make black outlets, $2-3 fix, so why didn't they?
Many thanks for this feedback. This is the type of things I would have no clue about asking or looking at in closer detail. This is the only company I have found local that has anything even close to a true home theater build. Can't hurt at some point to set a schedule with them and get their thoughts (for the time being though I want to keep doing my research first though).

Quick question, in terms using an acoustically transparent screen, does that usually mean you end up using in wall speakers so they fit behind the screen, or do people still use freestanding speakers but I guess build out a frame for the screen so the speakers fit behind?



Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Dressler View Post
It did not appear in your first post. Not sure why. The link itself works when pasted into a browser. Some sort of copyright protection??
Yeah not sure, it is no longer showing up in my first post. Strange

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post #21 of 21 Old 06-19-2017, 03:44 PM
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"Quick question, in terms using an acoustically transparent screen, does that usually mean you end up using in wall speakers so they fit behind the screen, or do people still use freestanding speakers but I guess build out a frame for the screen so the speakers fit behind?"

it all depends on the size of the room and how much room length you have to play with.

Keeping speakers inside the shell of the room helps sound isolation, If you stick them in wall you need to build some bump out backer boxes. Also some speakers just don't do will mounted flush with the front wall. That is why a qualified theater planner can help you sort out the design and equipment choices at the same time.
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