I would greatly appreciate any advice in planning my video and audio layout for the family room of a new home we are building. They are about to break ground at the end of this month so I've got plenty of time and the ability to change things still so I figured I'd start thinking about this now. My questions are as follows:
1) Based on the layout of the room I'd like to go with a flat screen TV over the fireplace which is a 36" gas fired unit (mantle not yet selected and ceiling height is 9'). I've read a lot of complaints by others who have done this and those that say this isn't a good idea however our mind is made up that this is the way to go. That being said what should we do to minimize the complaints people generally have about this placement? Is there a preferred mount that allows for the best viewing angle? Is there a preferred type of TV for this (LCD or Plasma)? How do I know what size flat screen "fits" the room and the fireplace? Any recommendations on brands or models would be awesome.
2) I want decent "surround sound" but we're more sensitive to the look of the room than we are to re-creating the complete movie theater experience. In fact we'll probably use the speaker system as much if not more for daily music listening as we will for television and "movie/surround sound". I like floor standing speakers - she likes satellites - but with an infant who's just starting to walk the thought of buying a good pair of floor standing speakers would be enough to keep me up at night. I just sold the Bose Acoustimass 2.1 system I had installed in my old house and was gad to see it go. While I'd give it a 9 for appearance I'd give it a 5 for performance. I could never get enough bass response for my tastes and besides the flat bass the sound was never as full as I was used to with floor standing speakers I owned (our taste in music is mostly rock with some pop and classical/oldies thrown in). I've gone in several homes with the rectangular in-wall speakers next to the fireplace and rears in the ceilings and I'm not crazy about the look. Even those that painted the grilles stand right out to me. Ideally I'd like to find a 3.1 system (in white if possible but black is a good second) that is small enough for either all 3 speakers to fit on the mantle or for at least the center channel speaker to fit on the mantle and the left and right speakers to be installed on the wall next to the TV. My question though is will eliminating the rear speakers leave a decent surround sound experience? The wall behind the couch is a 1/2 wall. Should I consider having rear jacks installed along that 1/2 wall and place the rears on top or consider in-ceiling speakers above the couch? If I can get a decent experience without them I'd go that route. Any recommendations on these speakers, including a subwoofer would be great I plan to place the sub next to the couch or the audio rack.
3) Speaking of the audio rack - if I put this where I drew it in below which puts it out of sight, will I have problems adjusting the TV channels (satellite or cable - not sure yet) or are those remotes typically RF these days?
4) Lastly (for now anyway) what would be a good way to allow for future modifications of the wiring to the TV and the audio rack? I'd like to be able to pull in new/different cables as needed and I'm envisioning something along the lines of PVC piping but is there a product out there made for this?
I truly appreciate any assistance you can provide and thank everyone in advance for any help.