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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
First a bit of background lest you suspect I am asking these questions without having done my homework. ;-)


I have been lurking in this forum for the past several months or so reading as much as I can (i.e. posts, FAQ’s, articles on linked sites, etc.). At this point, I *think* I have a good *basic* understanding of this world of high-end HT; not an easy feat, I have learned, even to those of use who would consider themselves experts in all things PC. :)


Thus, please accept what some may view as lame questions, as although I am doing the best I can, it is still confusing at times.


That being said…. Here’s my deal:


As mentioned, I’m a pretty hard-core PC guy. I’ve built *many* computers over the years from the ground up. Thus the thought of me going to a “retail†outlet to have someone *else* design my HT, sell me the product retail, and then install it for me is *definitely* going against my grain (I live on Pricewatch.com when building a new computer).


Yet, after lurking here for so long, and realizing that to do this “rightâ€, I’m looking at spending in the tens of thousands on equipment (my dream system is DLP driven front projection), and, having too small children who take up lots of my time, I’ve come to the conclusion that I should go the route of a high-end HT store and utilize their services (oh! That was *painful* to say…).


However, I do not feel that this in any way alleviates my responsibility to know what the heck I’m talking about when I deal with these guys (I’ve known too many people that get horrible advice from so-called “experts†when buying a computer system). But, I think I need to be realistic in the fact that I do not have the time, nor talent, to design and install this amount of equipment personally.


Therefore, I’ve decided to focus my time and energy on the “fun†stuff (i.e. learning about the equipment itself, yet leaving the real time-sinks to the professionals).


So, my primary anxiety at this point in the process is choosing the right firm to employ to help me with my project:


Basically I am torn between two rooms in which to utilize a ceiling mounted DLP projector. One room is the family room that is about 21.5 feet deep and currently is the home of most of the major A/V connects wired into the home. Ambient light *is* a major issue during the daytime, but my thoughts are to have a “regular†either rear-screen or direct view display built into the media niche (maybe a 32†or 40â€) for daytime viewing (i.e. kids, evening news, etc.), and then having a drop-down screen in front of the niche with a ceiling mounted DLP for nighttime DVD viewing (when we watch our movie anyways due to the kids).


Major issues here as I see them are minimum viewing distances as we plan on maintaining the “look and fell†of the room (i.e. couches and chairs relatively close to the screen) and not utilizing perfectly centered and distanced theatre chairs.


The other potential is a large vaulted ceiling living room that is about 23.5 feet deep but the ceiling is about two stories tall. Thus, I opine that the only practical way to use a front projector is to mount the projector in the back wall of the room.


My concern, of course, is this fixed distance of over 20 feet surmountable re: screen size/resolution versus the “flexible†solution of the family room of being able to ceiling-mount the projector closer to the screen. As well as the challenges faced with projector placement, some creative thought will be needed as the wall opposite from the projector is a very large arched window.


It is with this background that I decided to employ a dealer to scope out my project, make some recommendations, and quote me on my costs.


I called one of my local Orange County Calif. dealers to see if they would come to my home to see my special issues and discuss what my options are. This dealer would not come out to my home without me coming to the showroom first. I agreed, and went yesterday. The dealer was very friendly, yet said some things to me which raised a few red flags.


And this is where my questions begin (you thought I’d never get there, huh??). First, the dealer only sells Runco DLP’s. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m still reading up on this stuff, but I know the VX-1000c would be a great choice. But…. I’m still comparing; i.e. still researching the Seleco, Sharp and Dwin, all HD1 versions. In addition, maybe it is my former life as a prosecutor coming through, but I have to consider issues of bias when someone is selling me only one option.


For example, when I mentioned the Seleco HD1 solution with the built in Faroujda deinterlacer, his response was that “intergrated†options are always inferior to separate components and thus is no match for the Runco vx1000c with the matched outboard deinterlacer.


His opinion also was that my DVD player needs to be in the high end range (i.e. $6k range) as I will notice the difference from a $1k-$2kish player on the Runco. (While I'm thinking a good quality non-progressive player is fine considering the quality of the projector-mated deinterlacers).


Further, this dealer requires a $1000 retainer before they will even visit my home to survey the situation. Thus, if I get a bid from the dealer, but decide ultimately I want to go the non-Runco route, I’m screw out of a grand.


So I ask, are these reasonable opinions and reasonable business practices as they compare to the rest of the dealer network?


I appreciate any light you can shed on these issues…..


Regards,

Wazoo
 

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1. don't EVER listen to a dealer

2. If you found AVS you are on the right track to learning

3. look at LCD and DILA/LCOS for your application. Not just DLP

4. get 1000 lumens or more

5. for your room size, 10' wide screen sounds great.

6. Get an HDTV satelite receiver!!!!!

7. Don't wast you money on Runco

8. view before you buy

9. keep reading and learning

10. Welcome!!!
 

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1. Don't ever listen to Tryg.

2. AVS is a dealer.

3. If you do listen to Tryg, follow points 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10 and usually 8.
 

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Paying an upfront consultation fee sounds reasonable. They do have to make a living, after all. Considering the cost of the video equipment they're trying to sell, $1K doesn't sound too unreasonable.


You didn't mention what brand of player or audio equipment they recommend. Meridian, perhaps? I'd guess that they're oriented toward a somewhat (*ahem*) more upscale market than most of us are experienced with.


I think you may need to make a firm decision about your budget and what it includes ahead of time. The dealer will need to have some idea of your upper limit. Given the models and prices you've mentioned, I'd guess that the whole system (audio, video and installation) is going to cost in the neighborhood of $50-100K, and most likely toward the upper part of that range or even more. If that doesn't phase you, then you should also seriously consider some room modifications, like automated "blackout" curtains for the windows.


Of course, you should shop around, if possible. Have you tried looking for other A/V installation firms in your area?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by Tryg
1. don't EVER listen to a dealer

2. If you found AVS you are on the right track to learning

3. look at LCD and DILA/LCOS for your application. Not just DLP

4. get 1000 lumens or more

5. for your room size, 10' wide screen sounds great.

6. Get an HDTV satelite receiver!!!!!

7. Don't wast you money on Runco

8. view before you buy

9. keep reading and learning

10. Welcome!!!
Thanks for the feedback. I'm curious why you feel that one sould not view before they buy. I do have some concerns that I might, eventually, have to do that as finding a dealer with all these HD1 machines is difficult. But I'm curious what your thoughts are on that subject.


Wazoo
 

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Quote:
So, my primary anxiety at this point in the process is choosing the right firm to employ to help me with my project.
That's good. It should be your primary anxiety because choosing the right firm is the single most important decision you are going to make.


1. Ask for numerous references for jobs similar in scope to the one you are considering.

2. Ask if the have any example installations they can show you.

3. Do they engage with you and seem to be concerned about your needs - or do they just start trying to sell you products without qualifying your needs. At the same time don't just dismiss them if they recommend something that goes against your "wishes". A professional should "challenge" you and should not just "give you what you want". A good example might be whether the dealer tries to convince you to paint your home theater room dark colors (which you should IF you can) even though you tell him you want white walls.

4. How long has the person you are working with been there. How long have the other people been there. This can tell you something about the firm and you can find it out by engaging in small talk.

5. Are you comfortable working with them. This should be a fun experience, not a distrustful one.

6. Test there knowledge. But remember that a technical understanding of their field is more important than some of the trivia we keep up with on this forum (I wouldn't worry if they know the specifics of the HD-2 chip).

7. Does everyone at the establishment seem like they are on the same page and work together as a team. Or does the salesperson complain about the installers or visa versa or the owner or whatever. Little things like this tell you a LOT about the establishment.

8. There is no way to comment on the consulting fee. What does it include? Is it for a 2 hour visit? Is the dealer going to draw up a set of specifications or perhaps some basic drawings after you meet. Does it include a certain amount of time working with you. And again, is the dealer willing to explain these things clearly to you (NO good dealer would be offended if you ask those questions) and/or does he put them in writing.

Quote:
In addition, maybe it is my former life as a prosecutor coming through, but I have to consider issues of bias when someone is selling me only one option.
Check out this link http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...readid=139699. I wrote it for you.


It is all about trust. You need to find someone YOU are comfortable with. If you can't find someone like that in your area, you would be better off studying this forum and taking more time and doing it yourself.


At the same time don't listen to the folks that will tell you never to trust a dealer. You mentioned in your post that you are/were an attorney. These folks are just as bad as the ones who think EVERY attorney is a crook.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by Selden Ball
Paying an upfront consultation fee sounds reasonable. They do have to make a living, after all. Considering the cost of the video equipment they're trying to sell, $1K doesn't sound too unreasonable.
Although I'm never opposed to someone making a living, this is the first time I've run into a contractor (which, essentially these dealers are), that charge to give a bid. I just built a home in Orange County and did some significant landscaping. Needless to say, no contractor balked at spending a little up front time to put together a bid to try to win my business. I'm dealing with another dealer who came out to my home to view my space and is putting together a bid. Again, no knock on the dealer who wants the grand, but I just want to get a guage on whether this is out of the ordinary or not.

Quote:
You didn't mention what brand of player or audio equipment they recommend. Meridian, perhaps? I'd guess that they're oriented toward a somewhat (*ahem*) more upscale market than most of us are experienced with.
Well.... if by "upscale" you mean I can afford a nice system, I guess that is correct. If by "upscale" you mean money is no object and I just want top-of-the-line throughout, not so. For example, audio for me is somewhat secondary. Personally, I'd like to utilize my Onkyo DS-787 receiver which I picked up last year as well as a nice Polk Audio speaker set (was around $1500) which I purchased about the same time. Now, I know many will say "how can you use $3,000 worth of audio when you are spending $15k on a PJ.... but frankly, the sound this system puts out is good enough for me and my family. Similar to the DVD player. Do I need a $6k unit when a $2k interlaced will do the job quite nicely?? I'm a believer that at the margins, people like myself will not notice the improvements one would get from a $6k player vs. a $2k player. But, then again, I could very well be wrong and thus am *grateful* for the input of yourself and others.


Wazoo
 

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wazoo:


I've put together 3 front projection home theaters (one in a game room in my last house using an LCD projector (Sony W400-Q); and one dedicated HT and one in the Master Bedroom in my current house using D-ila G11 projectors). In my last house, I acquired all the equipment and did all of the work, except for a couple of hundred dollars for sheetrock work (it was in a downstairs location, built on a slab, so I had to cut a bunch of holes to run wires and to ceiling mount the projector and screen) and an electrician to run a line for the drop down screen I installed. My current house was undergoing a full remodel, so I had the general contractor do the room modiciations I wanted, run the wires, install the fabric covered accoustical panels I ordered, install an accoustical ceiling, install equipment racks, run the electric, mount the screens, etc. I did not use a home theater contractor for any part of these jobs, and purchased all theater related equipment myself (some from AVS, some from a local AV supplier and lots from other internet based suppliers of equipment, racks, etc.). And, like you, I'm a lawyer by trade (corporate law)! My next project is a star field effect using fiber optics in the dedicated HT ceiling.


The point is that if you are inclined towards these type of projects you can do them through LOTS of research and using subcontractors in the areas you need. To me, that's more than half of the fun in having home theaters. For people who are surfing AVS, a lot seem to want to undertake this effort. Some do not, and it sound like maybe you fall into this latter group.


And to respond to another humorous thread (somewhat related) by QQQ, I purchased both the Sony and D-ila projectors (as well as my M&K speakers, Denon 5600 receiver, Lexicon MC-12, and many other things) sight unseen, based primarily on reviews on this forum and elsewhere. I of course worried about making mistakes, but everything turned out fine and I can't think of anything I would change.


Good luck!


Marcel
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by QQQ


That's good. It should be your primary anxiety because choosing the right firm is the single most important decision you are going to make.


1. Ask for numerous references for jobs similar in scope to the one you are considering.

2. Ask if the have any example installations they can show you.

3. Do they engage with you and seem to be concerned about your needs - or do they just start trying to sell you products without qualifying your needs. At the same time don't just dismiss them if they recommend something that goes against your "wishes". A professional should "challenge" you and should not just "give you what you want". A good example might be whether the dealer tries to convince you to paint your home theater room dark colors (which you should IF you can) even though you tell him you want white walls.

4. How long has the person you are working with been there. How long have the other people been there. This can tell you something about the firm and you can find it out by engaging in small talk.

5. Are you comfortable working with them. This should be a fun experience, not a distrustful one.

6. Test there knowledge. But remember that a technical understanding of their field is more important than some of the trivia we keep up with on this forum (I wouldn't worry if they know the specifics of the HD-2 chip).

7. Does everyone at the establishment seem like they are on the same page and work together as a team. Or does the salesperson complain about the installers or visa versa or the owner or whatever. Little things like this tell you a LOT about the establishment.

8. There is no way to comment on the consulting fee. What does it include? Is it for a 2 hour visit? Is the dealer going to draw up a set of specifications or perhaps some basic drawings after you meet. Does it include a certain amount of time working with you. And again, is the dealer willing to explain these things clearly to you (NO good dealer would be offended if you ask those questions) and/or does he put them in writing.
Excellent advice. Greatly appreciated.


Quote:
Check out this link http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...readid=139699. I wrote it for you.


It is all about trust. You need to find someone YOU are comfortable with. If you can't find someone like that in your area, you would be better off studying this forum and taking more time and doing it yourself.


At the same time don't listen to the folks that will tell you never to trust a dealer. You mentioned in your post that you are/were an attorney. These folks are just as bad as the ones who think EVERY attorney is a crook.
I enjoyed your statements in the other thread referenced. You are correct regarding dealers and attorneys; good ones and bad ones just like every other profession on earth. Of course, it is that uneasy feeling of not knowing *how* to find that one you can trust..... but the advice I'm getting here is very helpful.



Wazoo
 

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Quote:
Again, no knock on the dealer who wants the grand, but I just want to get a guage on whether this is out of the ordinary or not.
It is not the norm but it is fairly common among firms that specialize in higher end custom installations. Many of these firms bill for a design fee much like an architect or interior designer would. In my company, it depends on the project type and scope. On larger jobs, we require a design fee. These jobs frequently require many hours in client meetings and design time before a proposal can even be put together.


For jobs that will just require a meeting and a proposal that will take two hours I rarely charge a design fee (but many others still do).

Quote:
Although I'm never opposed to someone making a living, this is the first time I've run into a contractor (which, essentially these dealers are), that charge to give a bid.
I am obviously partial here but I would say it depends on the firm. Many professional A/V firms are much more like an architect or interior designer (or a design/build firm) than a contractor. Others probably are closer to the contractor description.
 

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Wazoo,


Don't pay the consultation fee. While a dealer deserves to make money, it should only be when he delivers competitive value. Many professional A/V installers will give you the consultation and bid for free, so even if you decided that the dealer's consultation was going to be so valuable that it was worth the $1k, why not get a free consultation first and then decide whether you need to lay out another $1k for additional consulting. Heck I would bet that any of your neighboring well informed AVS forum members would give you a quality "consultation" for free that would rival whatever this dealer is going to tell you.


Nothing against the dealers making money, but the beauty of a capitalist society is that dealers who deliver good value get to stay in business and those who don't are eventually put out of business.


Check your PM for more thoughts from a fellow home theater enthusiast - not a dealer or installer.


Mark
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Mark Hinton
Check your PM for more thoughts from a fellow home theater enthusiast - not a dealer or installer.Mark
Mark:


Do you have any idea how insulting this quote is? Is there a reason you just couldn't just say "Check your PM for more thoughts from a fellow home theater enthusiast". Was it really necessary to throw in the "not a dealer or installer comment".


Would you care to point to one piece of bad or prejudiced advice that I gave to Wazoo that was anything but in his best interest? I have an outrageous idea. How about justifying your advice with facts rather than inuendo?
 

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Personally, ive never had any experience with an installer but a thousand up front just to gauge ur interest and a consultation sounds like a rip off and an easy way for them to make money.. I can see them not wanting to look at your house.. But maybe photos and/or a floor plan might help.. I would personally not pay 1000 bux for someone im not sure im gonna use.. They probably charge that thousand so people will use their services since they are paying 1k.. Search around and see what you can find..


Chris
 

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My 2 cents worth...


The dealer has probably run into the issue of "looky-loo's". Possibly spent day-after-day driving to homes, hours on consultations, only to hear, "we'll think about it and get back to you."


Also, it can be hard for small "boutique" dealers to do enough volume to carry more than one mfr. in the pj world.


Having said all that, I sure as heck wouldn't pay a thousand bucks upfront for a consultation. And I definitely agree...if one just HAS to buy pj "A" because of it's UNBEATABLE matched outboard scaler, the DVD player shouldn't make much difference.


I'd definitely get a second opinion.
 

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QQQ,


Sometimes it is not clear who is a dealer or installer on this board, so my intent was not to insult, but rather to inform Wazoo where my perspective on his situation was coming from. No insult was intended and certainly not at you. I recognize that you frequently contribute good stuff to these boards and give you kudos for doing so. All that said, as a simple HT enthusiast, there is no way in creation that I would spend $1k on a consultation, nor even begin to try to justify this approach to another HT enthusiast. It sounds like we may differ on this point which is fine, but that still does not make it an insult, just a difference of opinion.


Frankly I think it would be great if we knew every poster's reference point to HT as it would allow people to evaluate information with all the cards on the table. There is nothing wrong at all with the different perspectives, in fact it is quite helpful to have them, but on certain issues, if dealers all line up one way and simple home enthusiasts all line up another way, it would be nice to know who is who.


Have Fun, It's Just HT :)


Mark
 

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Very well said Mark.


QQQ,

I have to agree with Mark that you have contributed greatly to this board and everything you have posted indicates you are someone I would trust doing business with.



I'm not contributing much to this thread, but finally I wanted to share that over the months I've posted here, I have noticed that the dealers on this board do tend to line up together on many issues (esp the threads regarding dealer service, internet buying, etc.) and it would be very nice to know who is who.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by ryan330i
QQQ, I have to agree with Mark that you have contributed greatly to this board and everything you have posted indicates you are someone I would trust doing business with.


I'm not contributing much to this thread, but finally I wanted to share that over the months I've posted here, I have noticed that the dealers on this board do tend to line up together on many issues (esp the threads regarding dealer service, internet buying, etc.) and it would be very nice to know who is who.
Thank you for the kind words. I do not suspect that there are many dealers here that attempt to hide the fact (that they are dealers), I suspect that just about all of us make it known in one way or another. If you are suggesting that it should be in our signatures or something like that, I disagree and will elaborate more in a thread that I will post to Mark.


As far as all of us lining up together, while I am sure that may be the case in some instances, I suspect it is no more or less true than suggesting that everyone else lines up together. I think you will find a fairly wide divergance of opinions among dealers on this forum. In fact many of the things I suggest for consumers to do on this forum probably drive many other dealers crazy.
 

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Mark:


You really got me going here, can you tell :). I hope you take the time to read. Thanks.

Quote:
Originally posted by Mark Hinton
Sometimes it is not clear who is a dealer or installer on this board, so my intent was not to insult, but rather to inform Wazoo where my perspective on his situation was coming from.
If the comment was not directed at me than I misinterpreted it. But since I was the only dealer in the thread I assumed it was directed at me. I get upset about it because the attitude it reflects is that all dealers are biased and not to be trusted and can't possibly give good advice. And I get sick of hearing it, see Tryg's comment in this thread as a perfect example. That is how your comment reads to me and I suspect other dealers here, even if you do not mean it to. On top of that the funny thing is that most dealers who participate here do so because they love and enjoy the hobby - we make no sales here. It may seem like I am overreacting but just imagine how you would feel if after posting a message to try and help someone I jumped in and posted "Check your PM for more thoughts from a professional A/V consultant with 15 years of experience - not an amateur".
Quote:
All that said, as a simple HT enthusiast, there is no way in creation that I would spend $1k on a consultation, nor even begin to try to justify this approach to another HT enthusiast. It sounds like we may differ on this point which is fine, but that still does not make it an insult, just a difference of opinion.
I was not in any way insulted by your position only the comment that I referenced above. Nor did I attempt to justify or not justify a consultation fee. I believe you are misinterpreting my statements. Please read my comments in item # 8 in the post to Wazoo. I purposely did not make an absolute statement because I do not have all of the information I would need to offer an opinion. The way that I look at it is that it is not right or wrong to charge a consultation fee (ASSUMING that the A/V firm is really providing something for the fee) - it is a matter of whether the fee is justifiable to the client and whether the client NEEDS the services provided. Contrary to what people might think, on very large homes it is often common for some of the subcontractors on the job to charge design fees. I certainly would NOT even consider paying a firm $1000 to come to my house and visit for an hour and then give me a proposal. On the other hand, if the $1000 included many hours of meetings with me reviewing my needs and educating me and the proposal included design specifications and drawings for my theater, than I might find it entirely reasonable or even a bargain, if that is what I NEEDED. If I didn't need that I would find a dealer that just gave "normal proposals", it is that simple.


I think that many people underestimate the level of effort to provide a comprehensive bid on a project. It's easy to spend tens or hundreds of hours to effectively design and cost a project based on customer desires that are not always very clear to anyone...even the customer. It should not just be putting together a proposal. It is designing and engineering a system, which can include everything from equipment recommendations to room and cabinetry drawings and construction specifications. It is not uncommon to spend anywhere from 20 hours to 100s of hours in design and engineering time on large jobs. Because of my experience with this, my inclination was to ask Wazoo what was being provided for the design fee, rather than to immediately say it was or wasn't reasonable.
Quote:
Frankly I think it would be great if we knew every poster's reference point to HT as it would allow people to evaluate information with all the cards on the table. There is nothing wrong at all with the different perspectives, in fact it is quite helpful to have them, but on certain issues, if dealers all line up one way and simple home enthusiasts all line up another way, it would be nice to know who is who.
Personally, I think life is a little more fun when you get to know people without any preconceptions. If I get to know more about what they do as I get to know them great. I think most dealers make it pretty clear that they are dealers although they don't anounce it in every post. But I don't want to have people marked with a scarlet letter that says consumer or dealer any more than I want to have everyone post their educational credentials. Nor do I need people to list whether they like CRT or digital projectors in order to judge how biased they are when they give advice about one projector or the other!
 

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QQQ,


Your points are read and well taken. I probably would take issues with a few nits and nats from your commentary, but I think we are probably already beyond wazoo's intent for this thread, so I will just let it pass. Again the comment was not meant as an insult nor directed at you. With an apparent surge of AV dealers and installers on the boards, it helps to know everyone's perspective from my way of thinking, particularly if you are new to these boards.


Happy to be an AV amatuer :)


Peace,


Mark
 
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