TVs & Home Theaters forum

General discussion

Can I set up my home theater system myself

I am in the process of purchasing a plasma tv, a/v receiver, subwoofer, center channel and speakers, and maybe a Harmony remote to tie it all in. How difficult is it to set up a plasma and coordinate it to work with the above components and dvd player etc. To have someone come out and connect it all runs around $500 is what I am told. Can I do this myself?

Discussion is locked
You are posting a reply to: Can I set up my home theater system myself
The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to our CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Track this discussion and email me when there are updates

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

You are reporting the following post: Can I set up my home theater system myself
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
Collapse -
Owners manuals

In reply to: Can I set up my home theater system myself

If you can read, and understand at least the basics of what you are trying to do, and have the time and patience. Then sure, there are plenty of DIY types that have managed to put together the pieces you mention and actually end up with a working system. Even the harmony remote, go on line and follow the instructions and for a basic system it should work. I would caution against buying non mainstream brands and stick to the tried and true. If you look through some of the posts you may find some of the horror stories, plus, although the Harmony isn't a bad remote, but trying to set it up to operate wierd off branded equipment will prove to be frustrating.

Collapse -

In reply to: Can I set up my home theater system myself

If you can read a manual, you should have no problem hooking up the components and getting them to work. If you want the best picture and sound, a professional can adjust your audio and video for optimum performance.

If you want to go it yourself, pick up one of the "home theater tune-up" DVDs sich as Avia, Digital Video Essentials or the Sound and Vision disk. Also pick up a sound pressure meter (Radio Shack) to set your speakers and you can do a good job on your own. Some receivers such as some Denon models set the speakers automatically.

I would spend the 500 dollars to upgrade the equipment.

Collapse -
I Agree With the Above Posts

In reply to: Hookup

It is not difficult, but requires time and lots of patience. You must be willing to read the manuals. I agree with HTHMAN (first time that has ever happened, execpt for the fudge cookies), put that $500 into speakers or other equipment.

Cheap zip cord (lamp wire) 14 gauge (25ft or less) or 12 gauge (25ft or longer) at Home Depot is just fine for the speakers (forget the expensive speaker difference). Buy your audio cables at discount prices and stay away from Montser cables, more money for no sound difference. Only for the video cables do you need to make sure you have very good quality cables.

Come back here and ask for help if you encounter any problems setting up your system. The auto speaker setup systems are nice but many of them are not that accurate. With the Radio Shack (analog model only...don't get the digital model) sound meter and some time you can do a better job doing a manual setup.

Stay with top quality brands only for the plasma. Speakers make the most difference in the sound, don't skimp on them.


Collapse -
components I am considering buying

In reply to: I Agree With the Above Posts

Thanks for the previous posts. I am considering buying either the Pioneer 42" plasma PDP4270 or the Panasonic plasma 42". As far as audio, the Yamaha HT5880 A/V receiver, Klipsch Sub 10 subwoofer, Klipsh Quintet III speakers and the Harmony remote to control them all.

Collapse -
sounds like things they sell at best buy..

In reply to: components I am considering buying

for a while, they BBY was giving away a $500 quintet system with any speaker/receiver purhase of $699 or more. ask them and see if that promotion is still going on.

hooking it up isnt bad as long as you follow the instructions. essentially..its matching up the colors and if the plug doesnt fit..its in the wrong spot. if this stuff is being purchase at best buy...dont go to a magnolia bby cause their installs are more money for the same work. $200 to hook everything up and teach you how to use it. $150 to program the harmoney 880 or whatever remote you like. thats $350 without mounting everything. ask them about the "hd advantage" promotion....which will save you up to $300 on an install if you have directtv or sign up for directtv.

as far as the tv goes...that pioneer is a great tv. if you're talking about the th42px60u from panasonic......then i would recommend the pioneer. if you're talking about the th42px600u from panasonic....then i would do a side by side comparison before going for it.

lastly, this is like buying a car. feel free to haggle a little and get the best deal you can find. no smart retailer would let a $5500 sale walk out the door if making the sale just required a little discount. remember...if you're nice to them...they will be nice to you. if you go in there screaming and demanding discounts....then most employees will treat you in the same way.

Collapse -
buying components online

In reply to: sounds like things they sell at best buy..

Yes these are components from BB, however researching them online I find some of them $100 to $200 cheaper from either ebay or direct sellers. What are the dangers of buying this type of equipment online rather than a store in my neighborhood.

Collapse -
careful where you buy...

In reply to: buying components online

Buying on line can be a great way to save a few dollars, it can also create the biggest headaches when things go wrong.
You will want to be very sure about who you are buying from, and their policies. There are plenty of on line retaillers that are not authorized to sell the brands they are advertising, or they sell what are commonly refered to as "b" stock items (thus the lower pricing).
E-bay can work, once again make sure you check out the feedback of the seller, I would also send an e-mail, even with just a simple question, to test how quickly they respond, make sure you know shipping charges up front.
I'm not sure I would buy a Plasma on line, too many things can go wrong, too many people handling it before it reaches you. If something does go wrong, everybody will blame each other and you end up waiting, or worse, it ends up being your problem to solve and no one helps.
A store in your neighbourhood really is often worth the extra couple of hundred, even if you are DIY, you have someone just down the road that will be willing to help or service.

Collapse -

In reply to: careful where you buy...

"I'm not sure I would buy a Plasma on line, too many things can go wrong,"
About a year ago one member posted that when he opened the box it was full of sand.
There are many good online sellers and a LOT of bad ones.
I have been using B&H Photo, and for over 20 years. is good also. John

Collapse -
More caveats to buying online & a few tips.

In reply to: careful where you buy...

You may be in the clear with hugely well-known brands like Panasonic, but one thing to look into is whether the electronics vendors will require you to buy from an authorized seller in order to honor the warranty. This sees to be more common with premium brands, but it would be unwise not to look into before buying, IMO.

Also, bear in mind the true cost of returns should something not work out. Even if an online seller is willing to take something back, you may be responsible for return shipping costs. That could be murder on a big plasma screen or heavy speakers. Also, shipping insurance doesn't cover what you pay for shipping. Your $100-200 savings could evaporate if anything goes wrong.

Some local stores have trade-in or upgrade programs: use your gear for a year and if you want to upgrade to the latest new thing they'll take back your purchase for credit.

Finally, bartering is not completely dead. Print out ads you find for some of that equipment from reputable dealers online and bring them with you when you go shopping. Tell the sales person you can get this stuff cheaper online, but you'd like to buy from a local store if they'll work with you. Maybe if they match the price on the TV you'll get the speakers and receiver, too. As long as you're nice about it and are dealig with a reasonable sales person you might be able to put together a package deal, especially for what you're spending.


Collapse -

In reply to: More caveats to buying online & a few tips.

Careful how you barter. Some people will take offense if you bring in pricing from some on line discounter.
Many will tell you, if you want to shop that way, why are you here in our store?
To me retail is made up of three types of shops.
Big box stores - they move boxes, have minimal to no real service, basically self serve, staff has minimal to no knowledge other than what they can read on a card placed in front of gear (with a few exceptions out there)and actually pricing not that big a deal, they just make like you are getting the best deal. ON flyer items there are good deals to be had, often very limited quantities but they get you into the store. They offer pricing guarantees knowing full well that 90% of the buyers once home will never bother to check so they rarely have to give any money back. Big Big profits on warranty's and cables.

The mid fi shop - they too move boxes but actually have a staff that has some knowledge. Often have a mix of what you can buy at big box with slightly higher end gear. You can barter here, and often end up with a better overall deal than at BB stores, or at least a system that you will enjoy for many years. Showroom is usually set up for you to actually look and listen to "systems". During the barter keep in mind, the lower you want to go, the less the service you should expect. I used to let customers know they can get my best price, but all the gear they are buying will be brought out and stacked at our front door, thats as far as I go. Pay more and we deliver, more and we set up etc. Want good pricing, offer to take floor models (you know they work) the store has to move those items to make room for newer models.

And last would be the higher end shops and CI firms (OK CI firms are not retail but worth looking for if your in this catagory)
Better gear, up to really high end stuff. A staff that really knows what they are talking about. They probably also deal with automation/lighting control products and a number of other items that you would never see in any other retail enviroment. Pricing is completely different, they sell systems and solutions not boxes. In the shop above, someone would help you select the boxes to put together your home theatre. In this type of place you would pay to have your theatre designed first.

Now that I have rambled on, back to the point. If you want to DIY, on line, BB stores or even the mid fi shops will offer what you need. If you don't care about possible issues and it comes down to spending as little as possible to get what you want, then on line buying and cross your fingers. If you want to be sure about what your buying and may need a little assisstance along the way, go to a mid fi shop knowing you can get a deal, some help, and if something does go wrong they are close by.

Collapse -
Some bartering experiences

In reply to: Bartering

Hi, RR.

Thanks for the clarification on different tiers of retailers.

Bartering at a big box store is probably a waste of time. I recall at one time (years ago, so things may well have changed), one store I went to wouldn't match their own online prices in-store! That seemed a bit ridiculous and they lost my business that day, but these places are really all about moving lots of product and generally won't make exceptions for the little guy.

At a mid-fi place you're likely to get more personal attention and sales folks who work on commission. This is a good place to barter, so long as you're not a jerk about it--don't go in asking them to match the lowest prices you've found anywhere on everything you want to buy, but if you're planning to get a full setup, it's not unreasonable to see if they can help you out on one or two items. Be aware that different suppliers/products may have different rules about sales prices. For example, I got "we can't discount the receiver because that's a special order item, but I can knock a little off the TV to make up the difference." If you're nice about it, everyone wins.

When you start getting into the high-end, things get interesting. Most gear at this level is sold at fixed prices and there's often very little wiggle room. The speakers I bought all fit into this category, and when I went to buy the matching subwoofer, I found an eBay seller who had discounted the price about $600 (he was buying direct from Europe and not selling through the official distributor, so I could have avoided some of the markup at the expense of voiding the warranty). I had already bought 3 very pricy speakers, a TV, receiver and some other gear from this place and told them about the deal. They were nice enough to knock about $300 off their price by fudging some numbers (buying back some other gear I had bought and re-selling it to me at a discount, all on paper), and that made it very easy for me to give them more business. I got a nice discount and got to avoid the hassles of being responsible for shipping, voiding my warranty and facing the unknowns of a BIG eBay transaction, and they made a little less money in exchange for a good deal of loyalty and several purchases since.


Collapse -
can you compare low end of high end component vs. high end o

In reply to: Some bartering experiences

Thanks to everyone who has replied to my original posts. I am learning from everyone and am still somewhat confused. I have decided not to purchase my equipment over the internet due to various responses.

I have shopped at several places such as BB and one high end dealer. My confusion lies here: for the same amount of money at the high end dealer I can get a nice system(Marantz or NAD A/V receiver, B&W front speakers DM601S3, B&W center channel, B&W subwoofer and B&W rears)this is at the low end of their high end lines. While at BB for about the same amount of money I can get (Yamaha HTR 5990 A/V receiver, Klipsch Synergy F2 or F3 or SLX's front speakers, Klipsch Synergy center channel C2, Klipsch sub12 subwoofer, and Klipsch rears S2)which is at the mid to high end of the Klipsch line or (Klipsch QuintetIII for somewhat lower price). This is my dilemma at the moment.

Collapse -
different strokes..

All receivers you mention are concidered good, I use both Marantz and NAD in the more modest systems I design and they work very well for my applications. When I worked in Retail, I sold Yamaha, NAD and Marantz. I found Yamaha to be OK, but not my choice. Too many bells and whistles that may be great sales tools, but once the client gets it set up, they hardly ever use any of them.
The 2 brands of speakers are 100 miles apart in performance. Both are good, but you better have a really good listen to them. I haven't heard any of the new Klipsch line and they may have changed but I am sure you will hear differences between them and B&W.
In the past I would only recommend klipsch to someone looking for that "in your face" sound. They project very well and work well in theatre systems, not hard to drive and can play very very loud. Great if your into rock. If you want something that will give you a smoother more refined sound, and will also serve your theatre well the B&W's will make you happy.
Take a couple of cd's and DVD's with you, stuff you really like and know how you like it to sound. Listen to both systems, the one you think sounds better, is the one to get. All the brands you mention are good and it really becomes personal preferences at this point.

Collapse -
The "in your face" sound & rock...

In reply to: different strokes..

There are a few bits of audio lore I still don't get, and one of them is the "speakers for rock music," to which I'll also add the line about audiophile equipment being for jazz & classical fans.

Maybe it's my own twisted perspective, or perhaps it's inexperience on my part, but to me it's always seemed that good speakers are good speakers, period. I have found some older tunes don't sound very good anymore, but I attribute that to my very good speakers revealing not-very-good recordings. There are plenty of rock tunes that sound great, and most of those that don't are independent, underground or otherwise "low-budget" recordings that probably never saw high-quality studio equipment or top-notch mastering. Am I being naieve? Is there some rock-music-based speaker design that perhaps uses different crossovers to emphasize rock music instruments or something?


Collapse -
Tips on auditioning speakers

In reply to: can you compare low end of high end component vs. high end o

IMO, auditioning speakers really should be your first step. As sirroundsound said, performance may be miles apart between the Klipsch and B&W speakers. The speakers are really the most important element in defining the sound you hear. Everything else is about getting the cleanest signal possible to the speakers so they can do their job.

When you audition, do so with stereo music. Surround is too complex with too many variables involved. If you find 2 speakers you like, you can expect a matching sound from matching speakers.

The most important criteria in listening material is "music you like." As an engineer, this was something very hard for me to accept (well, what KIND of music? I like lots of different stuff!), but the more listening I've done the more I've found that advice to hold true. The best way to go about a speaker purchase, IMO, is to make an emotional decision: you don't want gear with the best specs and most sophisticated electronics/shielding/etc.--you want speakers that elicit the greatest emotional response from you (while balancing the negative emotional response that spending too much will ultimately bring). So bring a few "trapped on a desert island" tracks with you. Happy

After doing a lot of listening, I did find that some material is better for auditioning than other stuff. First, any singers you find to have interesting voices are good. The human voice is a highly complex instrument, and you'll find it easier to discern differences in speaker clarity & resolution by listening to familiar singers. Second, anything recorded live is good. Most studio music is heavily processed and/or compressed, which can make it sound decent on a huge variety of speakers, but you lose some of the detail in the process. Live music tends to retain more of that lost detail and might help you discern speaker coloration you don't like. Finally, any "natural" instruments (i.e., non-synthesized stuff like pianos, strings, horns, etc.) will have a richer sound than digital electronic music. Again, it has to do with detail that has been removed.

Anyway, don't get too caught up in names or where to shop. In the end it's pretty true that you get what you pay for, so at the same price point you should expect comparable quality. The one caveat I should add, though, is that if you find you like the B&W sound better you may be tempted to upsell yourself to something that's not "entry level." That's what I ended up doing, and while it meant re-evaluating my life's priorities and spending a LOT more than I originally intended, I LOVE my speakers.

Happy listening!

Collapse -
Me too

In reply to: Tips on auditioning speakers

Way way back when I bought my first system, I ended up way over budget on the speakers. After listening for a couple of hours in a hot seat, and switching between 2 pairs in my price range and 1 pair that were up and over, I went home with a wonderful pair of Kef's. 23 years later and I still have them, receivers have come and gone but the speakers still sound sweet.

Collapse -
Megga ditto!!

In reply to: I Agree With the Above Posts

"Speakers make the most difference in the sound, don't skimp on them."
RR6 is correct on this, many people will spend $400~600 on a HT reciver and $300 on speakers.
Lets say your budget is $1000 for sound, Spend at least $600 of it on speakers and $400 on the reciver and the speaker wire. Spend some time listing just listing to music when choosing your speakers. John

Collapse -
SPL Meter

In reply to: I Agree With the Above Posts

RoadRunner, Why not the digital SPL? I've read that before, but didn't see why not? Thanks

Collapse -
Radio Shack Analog Sound Level Meter

In reply to: SPL Meter

I should say that this is my personal preference which agrees with the suggestion from several pro sources.

It seems that the analog meter movement is easier to interpret as an average level than the changing digits on the digital version. Also, the digital meter is limited to 1 dB increments whereas the analog can easily be seen down to 1/2 dB differences and even down to 1/4 dB if you have eagle eyes.

This extra fine measurement is to me valuable especially when using steady frequency test tones from my test CD in checking frequency responses. I use this to set the parametric equalizer on my Sony receiver and for setting the ART 351 equalizer which I have connected between the receiver and my subwoofer. The ART 351 is a 31 band mono EQ. I use the lower 9 sliders, 20-125Hz. Using the RS meter and the test CD have allowed me to remove dips and peaks in my speakers and sub in the 25-200Hz area. I ended up with a response of 28-200Hz +/- 1.5dB, thereby eliminating the significant variations due to room acoustic problems. I used correction figures which I had seen on the internet. These correct the inaccuracies on the RS meter in the lower bass frequencies. I can't locate it now but will post it when I can find it.

There are many who prefer the digital meter. I think those who have used both tend to like the analog better.


Collapse -
SPL meter

In reply to: Radio Shack Analog Sound Level Meter

Thanks RR, I purchased a digital thinking it was better, but now may try the needle. Do you find the EQ to greatly help with the audio adjustments and would it be much different then using the EQ in the receiver to manually adjust the settings of each channel? Thanks again.

Collapse -
I think we might be mixing up our terminology here

In reply to: SPL meter

There are two separate purposes I use a RS meter.

First is for setting the relative sound loudness levels of all speakers in the initial receiver/speaker set up procedures. That is when you use the white noise from the receiver that pans thru all the different channels and you set the levels so that the test tone is at the same volume in all the speakers. Some people attempt to do this with their ears but it is much more accurate if you use the RS meter for this procedure (many people will have the volumes 1-2dB's or more off by ear, but as close as 1/2 dB with the meter...this makes a big difference in the smoothness of the front soundstage and volume blending of all the channels).

Also some newer receivers now have an automatic system that does this for you. Beware as some of these systems are not very accurate (Denon) and some of them are quite good (Yamaha).

My other use is for attaining as flat a frequency response as possible in conjunction with equalization. In my previous home my small satellite/sub system was very flat thru that tough 30-200Hz range with my Denon receiver. It was flat because I luckily had good room accoustic and it had nothing to do with the receiver.

When I moved into my current home I discovered a significant dip in the response at around 125Hz which is quite common for this type of system. The satellite speakers start dropping off in this range and there is a ''hole'' where they cross over to the sub. I purposely bought my Sony STR-DA4ES receiver because it had a fairly sophisticated parametric equalization system built into the receiver (although it had some negatives like a very crappy remote). With it I could eliminate this dip in all the channels as needed plus adjustments to other frequency response problems. Very few receivers have an EQ like this. The regular bass and treble controls are no help with this problem. There are separate 5 or more channel surround EQ's out there but they are quite expensive (like from Audio Control). If money was no object I would definitely have one of these multi-channel EQ's in my home theater system.

The other problem was a peak and several dips in my sub. This is where I used the ART 31 band graphic EQ to flatten out the sub. SVS subs used to sell this same unit to their customers. There are many brands that sell mono 31 band EQ's like this. There are also two channel models if you have two subs. Just check online for a pro sound or guitar or DJ supply dealer. Some people use a Berhinger BFD digital EQ but it is too computer oriented for this old fart. The ART EQ worked very well and was easy to set up. Most subs are not very flat no matter how much you move them around. This EQ was a steal for $100 online.

Hope this helps. Any more questions; shoot.


Popular Forums

Computer Newbies 10,686 discussions
Computer Help 54,365 discussions
Laptops 21,181 discussions
Networking & Wireless 16,313 discussions
Phones 17,137 discussions
Security 31,287 discussions
TVs & Home Theaters 22,101 discussions
Windows 7 8,164 discussions
Windows 10 2,657 discussions


Best Black Friday Deals

CNET editors are busy culling the list and highlighting what we think are the best deals out there this holiday season.