I'm starting the process of trying to create a budget home A/V distribution system, and wanted to post my current set-up, and what I would like to start migrating towards, with the hopes that I can get some advice, and try to better understand what direction I should be going in with regards to equipment and setup. I've spent hours reading a lot of the posts, but I'm still not real confident of the direction I should go. There seem to be pros and cons with everything, and no clear cut way to do what I'm trying to do.
I'll preface this post by saying that I'm on a very limited budget, and I'm in no hurry and I'm willing to build this slowly and in phases as I get extra spending money. I understand the individual A/V equipment in general, but I'm a newbie to whole home A/V distribution, and I'm trying to learn as much as I can. But there's a lot to learn. I live in an older house (one story), and the only wiring that existed up until a year ago was the standard hodgepodge of daisy chain coax with numerous splitters running throughout the attic. I started my process last year by getting rid of all of that and home running all new cables (1 RG6 and 2 Cat5e) to each room in my house that I would want TV's and/or network. They are now all running to a central distribution point. That obviously was my first small step towards moving to a home A/V distribution system, and was a significant upgrade to what I had, but now I'm ready to start taking it to the next level.
One of the driving forces for me is to obviously create a central distribution for all my A/V, music and video (as well as home network). But I'm also trying to eliminate 2 of my 4 cable boxes while expanding the capabilities of the 2 remaining boxes (and my other equipment). I actually have 6 TV's throughout the house, but 2 of them currently just have the coax feed, so I'm limited to more basic content on those 2 right now, unless I want to add more HD cable boxes. 4 TV's get watched a lot, and the other 2 very rarely, so I can't justify more cable boxes, but it would be nice to get the same channels as well as the HD that the cable box affords on those 2 TV's. There will never be more than 2 TV's watched at the same time, so 2 boxes should be plenty. Obviously, I'd also like to take advantage of the Apple TV, DVD, Blue Ray and the Mac as a media server on the other TV's as well.
I currently have my main A/V equipment in my living room, with a 7.1 speaker setup. I also have some additional speakers that I would like to use outside on the patio for music. I might like to add a small surround system in the master bedroom down the road as well.
All in living room:
Denon AVR 4311CI
Sony Blue Ray Player
(1) HD-DVR Cable Box
Denon AVR 4800 (not currently being used)
(3) HD-Cable Boxes (in other rooms)
I also have an iMac with all my music and a couple hundred movies, as well as an iPad and iPhone that I would like to take more advantage of in the system. The Denon AVR-4800 was replaced by the newer Denon last year, and it's sitting un-used right now. I could keep it if it will be used in the system, or I could sell it and use the money to buy something else that I might need. I feel like I have a decent start with equipment, but it seems to all be working independently of each other for the most part, and I'd really like to tie it all together and take better advantage of it.
My main questions for now are what distribution method to use to the different locations. My main distribution location will be very close to the Living Room and Master Bedroom (10-20 feet). The other 4 locations are anywhere from 30 to 80 feet away. Not extreme distances, but I'm aware of some of the distance limitations. My initial thoughts were to use an HDMI matrix switch using the Cat 6 and/or Cat5e. Is this the way to go? Or should I run HDMI cables to the shorter runs? Or something entirely different? Is there anything new coming that I should wait on? Is trying to go this route on a limited budget asking for problems? Can I take better advantage of the AVR 4311CI ?
I also have to consider how I'll be remotely controlling the equipment from the different rooms, and what type of equipment I'll need. I've read up on a couple of Apps for the iPad (iRule and Roomie Remote). Is this a good direction to go? Any preferences or other App suggestions? Or should I consider something else entirely?
As you can see, I have a lot of questions, and I'm sure I'll have more, but I needed to start somewhere. I'm open to any and all suggestions. I can't do it all at once, but I can add equipment as I can afford to. My first priority is to at least start with running any additional cables that I'll need before the weather starts getting too hot (i've got to go up into a cramped attic space, and I'm in Texas). After that, I can build it at my leisure.
I appreciate any advice I can get. Thanks in advance.