Originally Posted by ShoutingMan
I'm in a similar situation, targeting a $60k-ish dedicated theater, hiring out.
I'm really torn right now on going with the local dedicated HT design firm, or doing it piecemeal (contract the design from a design firm, hire a contractor to build to the plan, and buy all the equipment myself.)
You're doing it "piecemeal". Three months in, how do you feel about that?
First off, what David wrote directly above this reply is spot on.
When I first started this journey of building a theater, I did not have a current or extensive background in building a theater. I started my journey by knowing I wanted a theater and visited the closest theater store near me. I met the owner of that store and he was a nice guy. He was very opinionated and gave me recommendations of what I should do right away. Some of his suggestions were good, others did not seem quite right, but who was I to judge an "expert". To be fair, I did give him a much lower budget to start. However, even when I doubled my budget, his suggestions did not really match what I was looking to do. Not all of them seemed right, but again I did not really know for certain. When I asked questions about his choices, it almost felt like an argument. Like I was questioning his knowledge, integrity or something. I knew I could not really have a candid conversation with him, so I started researching some of what he told me. That's when I came across AVS Forums.
In my searches, AVS Forums kept popping up. I read a lot of information, but didn't find anything really quite pertinent to my situation and questions. So, I looked for what I thought was the correct discussion to post in and made that initial post you see here at the beginning of my thread. The first person to respond was Brian B. The first thing he said was I was going to get a lot of different opinions and oh man was he right! At first, that was good and bad. It was good because I was getting many opinions, but it was bad because I didn't really understand everyone and some were far apart. Based on those discussions, I was directed to more specific information, which I could read and learn. I quickly realized what I needed to do was to educate myself. I am not a rich man and $60,000 is a LOT of money to me! At the very least, I wanted to be able to understand the choices that were being given to me so I would feel good about the advice I was getting. Moreover, I really wanted to understand which choices were best for me and my theater. I did not want to make a $60,000 mistake. I asked many questions, sometimes dumb questions, but hopefully mostly half-way intelligent questions. I wanted to truly understand these things people were posting about. I wanted to understand why the dealer I spoke to was directing me toward certain equipment.
At first, I thought I would use a turnkey solution and just hire the theater store to build me a theater. The more I became educated on home theater, the more I realized the choices the theater store made for me were not the best choices for me. The more I learned, the more I realized the room that was being planned for me, wasn't the best room for my situation. It started to seem like I was being pigeon-holed into certain gear choices, which I did not agree with. The big turning point for me was when I was actually able to demo more than the system that was being recommended to me. I immediately realized WOW, I would have made a big mistake buying the gear that was first recommended to me. So, I tried to demo as much as possible. Unfortunately for me, I couldn't demo as much as many here can or that I would have liked to. However, I did start hearing big differences. I knew what I didn't like, what was OK, and what I liked. I realized I really liked compression drivers for theater (Procella and JBL). So now, more dealers and opinions are involved.
Each and every dealer has their own opinions, which is of course natural. They push stuff to a varying degree, but I did notice certain brands being pushed by certain dealers. I later learned that there are larger profit margins in certain brands. It made more sense. As I became more and more educated, I realized each dealer had strong and weak aspects of their solutions. The reason is, not everyone can sell everything. Each has their preference, whether that is best for my situation or not. I knew then, I had to be far more involved in picking the right gear. It was at this point I took the reins and started heavily researching different options, different opinions. Sometimes my research didn't quite align or was missing something, compared to user opinions. Other times, I was in left field. I found at times, opinions (and my research) did align. That's when I knew I was going the right direction. While AVS Forums has been a large part of this process, it hasn't been the only part. AVS members however, were involved in some way for every decision I have made. AVS members were responsible for putting me in touch with Nyal Mellor and David Gage. Both have been super good choices for me.
Before I hired Nyal to design my theater, I researched him and other designers. I spoke to all the dealers and each said they did not do that type of thing in-house for systems like what I wanted. They outsourced. The room is one of the biggest parts of having a good theater, so I wanted to get it right. I could tell a basic, what I would call uniformed design wasn't what I wanted. I wanted to be sure one of the most important pieces of my design was done by the right person, so the design would be right. Just about anyone, including me can design a theater. I did design it, but it was wrong. The problem is, not everyone can do it correctly. Even the dealers admitted that. Each and every one of them.
Once I started working with Nyal, I could see the difference. It was dramatic. Nyal has his stuff together and it is very apparent. He is very cool, flexible and intelligent. My room is completely different that what I thought and what the other dealers suggested. Since I am more educated, I can see that now. I wouldn't have been able to before.
The choices I have made in gear now are vastly different from the choices I was originally given for a $60,000 theater. I look back and think two major thoughts: 1) Boy, I'm glad I posted on AVS and listened to all these nice people that wanted to help me learn. 2) If I had gone with the original plan, my theater would suck in comparison to what it will be now. I am 100% positive, through education and user opinions I am making WAY better choices, like WAAAAY better choices than I would have by just hiring a dealer. That is however for me and my situation.
Keep in mind, many of the users posting on my thread are dealers. Just talking to them, I can tell some would be awesome to work with and provide a product (like David Gage) and/or a great turn-key theater right off the bat. It would be the easiest thing in the world, far easier than the route I have taken. Others, however are not. Just like anything in life, sometimes you get lucky with a good contractor/company, sometimes you don't. With my initial experience and $60,000 of my hard earned money on the line, I was not willing to take that chance. There are some awesome companies/dealers out there to work with. You will know when you talk with them, but I would still advise people to research and understand the choices presented.
My preference would definitely have been to find that dealer, get good recommendations and snap my fingers, POOF there is my awesome theater. I think anyone would. That was not my experience, so I evolved dramatically through this process. Some would describe how I did this as the hard way and they would be correct. It was not easy and took a lot more time. I know a lot more now and am still learning largely because of all the super cool people on AVS, specifically those large contributors on my thread. The biggest thing for me though, is for the same money, my theater is now SO much incredibly better than it would have been!
We are all different, so you have to ask yourself, what is right for you. For me, I definitely made the right choice and am super happy this is the route I took.