Wiring for surround sound?

Discussion in 'XDTalk Chatter Box' started by UofHdevildog, May 25, 2012.

  1. UofHdevildog

    UofHdevildog XDTalk 5K Member

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    My house starts construction in a little over a week and I figured during framing would be the best time to wire for surround sound. My situation though is I have zero experience doing it. I'm very mechanically inclined but have never messed with wiring. Is this something that's easy to do, or should I leave it to the pros?
     
  2. PsychOfMSE

    PsychOfMSE XDTalk 100 Member

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    It's as easy as planning your speaker placement and running standard speaker cabling. As long as you know your placement it is a piece of cake. I went ahead and went the extra mile by wiring my house with Ethernet and hdmi to every cable outlet so every tv and computer has a gigabit Ethernet connection and every tv can get a feed from my media center.
     
  3. UofHdevildog

    UofHdevildog XDTalk 5K Member

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    So just buy the wire and fasten it to the frame with the ends of for the speakers in the right spot? After that do I just go back and tell the builder where to leave holes in the drywall?
     
  4. Rt1Rebel

    Rt1Rebel XDTalk 500 Member

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    I did this a few years ago, it's pretty easy if your builder is cooperative. I was also able to run all of my AV cabling to and from the monitor, but it took some planning.

    My advice is to terminate all of the wires at one end from a wall junction box (behind) where your components will be placed. Terminate all monitor wires in a junction box (behind) where your monitor will be hung/place. Terminate all speaker wires through a small hole in the drywall where your speakers will hang, or up through the floor where they will sit. My builder ran the wires and cables though holes drilled through the wall studs.

    My final bit of advice is to make a list of all of the cables and wire with the length you will need and buy them from an online site instead of spending WAY too much at Best Buy, high quality cables and wire are MUCH less expensive if you shop. Buy the speaker wire by the spool and buy alot more than you think you will need, and also buy the cables longer than you think they need to be, it really sucks to run out of wire in the middle of the project.
     
  5. smcnair

    smcnair XDTalk 100 Member

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    This is what I do when wiring buildings and homes. Take it for what it's worth but I do quite well at it.

    Anything inside the walls needs to be done right. You can fix paint and floors and countertops but if it is inside the wall it is permanent.

    You will need an access panel or wiring closet. Run your cables inside of a conduit from your origin to your access panel. The blue :smurf tube" you can get at Home Depot is great to use since it comes in 100 foot rolls. This is in case you decide to switch between satellite and cable and either need additional cables for a change or an extra cable for internet access or something like that. Run another piece of conduit (or four) from your access area to your area where you plan to have your components. Depending on your surround sound setup you will need an access panel to run the wires and split them out to the various speaker locations. Standard speaker wire in the grey sheathing with Red / Black wire is all you need (14 ga lamp wire). Either terminate them with a box and speaker plugs like I have or have the drywall guys pull them through the wall for you. Take pictures and measurements of everywhere you have a wire.

    In my houses I have the following home run to every room in at least two locations per room - one white rg6, one black rg6, one blue cat5e and one grey cat5e. There is nothing I cannot configure with that run. and it is easy to track what is what with that setup. You can even buy that setup bundled together in one cable.

    You will always need the ability to pull wires based on technology changes. HDMI might be great now but who knows what will be the standard five years from now. That is why your component area to your wiring closet should have conduit.

    Spend the money now on doing it right and you will be golden.
     
  6. bigmoguls

    bigmoguls XDTalk 3K Member

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    Go to www.monoprice.com

    Make sure you buy wire rated for running inside walls.

    Also, most speaker vendors sell rough in kits for their in wall/ceiling speakers. If you know what speakers you want these will really make installation easier after the sheetrock is installed.

    Sent from my Galaxy Nexus using Tapatalk 2
     
  7. texan_eagle_scout

    texan_eagle_scout XDTalk 5K Member

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    Darn you and your common sense! What are you doing on the interwebs?!
     
  8. cz75luver

    cz75luver XDTalk 3K Member

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    Also, make sure you buy/install quality wiring. Cheap wiring will corrode thereby affecting sound quality.
     
  9. partdeux

    partdeux XDTalk 1K Member

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    14g lamp cord bought in large rolls is sufficient.

    IF the ends corrode, just strip a little off and and reconnect. It's not going corrode inside the insulation ;)

    I like the dual rg6 cat5e plan. What I did for a friend, I ran all the cable in the bare walls, photographed it, drew it up and let them seal the walls with the cable behind the sealed walls. That way if she decided to upgrade in the future, speaker wires are already in place.

    Running a chase is also a good idea. Especially from a basement to an attic, but be careful of any codes. I have run 2" pvc on several different occasions and never had it rejected or questioned. Also, I've never bothored with fire resitant low voltage cable. Some municipalities may require it, my local inspector said "why".

    Surround (and rear) speaker placement is so very critical for proper surround sound. I fought for a long time to get mine sounding right, but finally gave up on WAF and put the damn things where they belonged. HUGE difference.
     
  10. timbow

    timbow XDTalk 100 Member

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    Let your electrician, plumber and mechanical guys have at it first. If they have to work around you and your wires, you can jack up your prices possibly or they might just go right through your work and your going to have to do it twice, or three times. You can have your turn when they are done, before the drywallers come in. Keep in mind that there will be inspections throughout the process and you can be the cause of some of those little red stickers (violations). Keep your low voltage wires out of the holes the AC wires use. Use fire-stop caulk where needed. Don't compromise the structure (framing) by drilling any-size holes just anywhere you think is convenient. Not trying to scare you off at all - just work with/around the pros.
     
  11. gorb

    gorb XDTalk Member

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    Install conduit for everything - it will make everything easier in case you need to replace a cable.

    Run speaker cable (get it from monoprice in bulk) to everywhere you think you might have speakers. Run cat6 to every room and I'd go ahead and do HDMI as well.

    Don't forget possible subwoofer placement and run cables for them too :)
     
  12. Charles B

    Charles B XDTalk 500 Member

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    Start putting your ideas on paper with measuments and refine with your changes. You will have changes after looking at lay outs and costs. Reasearch suppliers that specialize is the wiring, terminations, and fixture faceplates if needed. The Crutchfield site might be of some use in getting ideas. I wouldn't use conduit unless required by the building code it will run the price up significantly.
     
  13. Dal1as

    Dal1as XDTalk 1K Member

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    Actually not true. First most codes stipulate you have to use wire that is specced for in-wall

    You don't have to buy expensive cable but it has to meet code.

    Also, I have seen cable corrode inside the insulation. Cheap stuff from Lowes, just like you are describing.

    Monocable and bluejeanscable are both good cheap online dealers for quality cable.
     
  14. js12278

    js12278 XDTalk 4K Member

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    When you have a house built there are blueprints drwn up for different parts.
    Structural, electrical and mechanical and elevations.

    When I had my house built in FL, I had to make entries on the electrical plans so the electrician could run and place the wiring where it needed to be before the sheetrock was done. At the same time I supplied the wire I wanted used and the speakers I wanted installed at each location.

    If you use quality products the elctrician will appreciate your input as his job will be easier. I used Belden cable for my speaker wiring. It is easier to pull the least amount of wire, I bought jacketed cable. this made the pulls easier for the electrician.

    Or you can let them supply the product and request quality stuff.
     
  15. smcnair

    smcnair XDTalk 100 Member

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    +1. Always wait on the electricians, plumbers and HVAC guys to clear out. If you run something where they need to be they will fix it with snips.
     
  16. partdeux

    partdeux XDTalk 1K Member

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    Are you confusing commercial building code with residential? Some communities may require teflon coated material, but I don't think std code requires it. My city inspector said it was not required.

    I've had plain old zip cord running to outdoor speakers completely exposed to the weather for over 5 years, and other than every year or so needing to strip back an inch or so to get to clean copper, never had an issue. In my new house, I'm going on 2.5 years, and haven't done a dang thing yet. Only because I made some Cat5 braided main speaker wire, did I through away 20 year old zip cord... it still looked great.

    BTW, the braided cable was a fun project, and while people sell that crap for $20 per foot, it made ZERO difference :)

    Bluejeanscable is a good company... bit pricey. I tend to buy most of that kind of stuff from parts express. My current indoor speakers are all run using some really expensive cable they had on clearance. No way I would ever pay the retail price for this stuff, but it's essentially 10g, thin strand, high purity copper. I did not notice a difference, but the price was good.
     
  17. bdavison

    bdavison XDTalk 500 Member

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    I used to install home theaters for a living. I am a THX certified installer, and work with sound/media on a weekly basis in large arenas. So here are a few tips.

    You will need to run cable for the following:
    1. Center Channel
    2. L and R front channels
    3. Subwoofer
    4. L and R (if running 7.1 surround, I'd run them anyway since someday you might want to upgrade)
    5. L and R rear channels
    6. 3 HDMI cables minimum to your flat panel display.(if hanging on wall)
    7. Power to the flat panel.(if hanging on wall)
    8. Composite cables to the flat panel (most things are HDMI now, but if you don't run these you will probably find some obscure item you want to connect that only has composite outputs..there are others too like s-video, etc.)
    9. Coaxial cable to cable or satellite.
    10. HDMI cables to bedrooms/bathrooms/garage/etc. (anywhere you want to send the video/audio feed other than the theater)
    11. Speaker wire to the patio, pool area, garage.

    I HIGHLY recommend using a in-wall junction box that has terminals for each thing you want to wire up inside the wall. Don't just run them out the drywall or out of the bottom of the wall. You can get terminal boxes that contain all the female HDMI, female speaker, coax and power outlets.

    Ignore any idiot that says you need monster wire. Its not worth the money, and is a scam. Just use rated in-wall speaker wire. You may want to consider adding HDMI repeater/amplifiers in the HDMI lines. The amps won't be needed in most homes, unless you are running long multi-room HDMI cables. Anything over a 50ft run....add a HDMI amp/repeater. If its over 100ft...dont even run it, it won't be worth squat.

    If you are hanging a large flat-panel, use the right mount, and make sure when you install it, you put ALL the bolts into a stud. I would recommend having the framer double stud or box in the area you plan to put the TV. 60" LED/LCD/Plasma screens weigh well over 100lbs in some cases. It needs a solid mount. Don't skimp on the mount. Children have been killed by falling flat panels. Actually, anything that is heavy and hanging....mount it solid. Overkill here is ok.

    If you are running a projection....same thing...mount the screen on the studs. Make sure the framer/electrician puts in a power outlet box with double studs in the ceiling for the projector mount, and power options. It needs to be SOLID. You should be able to hang from the power box. If its not solid...the subwoofer will shake the mount/projector and make your picture look like crap. You can install a junction box for your connections.

    I recommend installing soundproofing before the drywall goes up. There are a bunch of options here. Not only will this keep your theater sound in the theater, but it also helps to eliminate unwanted buzz or vibrations from inside the wall that ruin the sound.

    If you are installing audio/video equipment in a closet, or enclosed area it needs ventilation, and lots of it. It needs a good high volume fan unit, that will pull the heat out of the equipment. Make sure it has somewhere to get air too...and filtered air works best since it will keep dust out of your equipment.

    I HIGHLY recommend getting a filtered power supply for your gear. Not just a surge protector, but an actual FILTERED power supply. LED/LCD/Plasma panels are susceptible to power spikes...the displays are usually ok, but spikes can fry the power supply in the unit. The filtered power supply will take care of this, in addition...it gets rid of power issues that can cause interference problems.

    Choose your lighting carefully. Not only which lights you plan to use, but their locations as well. Cheaply made lights will vibrate and drive you nuts, not to mention you will be changing bulbs constantly as the subwoofer blows them out. Choose solid well made wall sconces, and in-ceiling lights. LED's are fantastic as well. Stay far away from any lighting that hangs off the ceiling. Ceiling fans are a big NO too. Be aware of their positioning too. Lights that are in the wrong place, will reflect off the screen, or put annoying shadows/reflections in the room. Dimmer switches (especially remote operated) are really nice.

    Let me know if you need anymore help.
     
  18. Dal1as

    Dal1as XDTalk 1K Member

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    No, residential code.

    I know all about the cable wars and such and agree with you. Just wanted to mention that their may be code issues with running a non rated wire through walls.

    What's funny is even the wire I found that had corroded from within probably didn't sound any different than any high priced speaker cable. :)
     
  19. Rustynuts

    Rustynuts XDTalk 5K Member Founding Member

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    I still wouldn't want it corroded. Corroded copper is not nearly as conductive. Most of the signal is actually propagated at the surface of the wire. Silver is the "gold" standard :)p) but that gets expensive. Silver will corrode (tarnish), but silver oxide is actually an excellent conductor). Supposedly "tinned" copper is a good alternative, conducts well, and won't corrode easily. I'd check out some Belden products.

    Belden CDT Inc Belden 1316SB 12 AWG Stranded Tinned Copper Speaker Cable- 1000ft Speaker Wire & Cable Bulk at Markertek.com
     
  20. js12278

    js12278 XDTalk 4K Member

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    Don't just run 2-wire cable. You can pull less footage if you run quad jacketed to the longer run locations make a drop for the one channel and continue on to the next. Four wires in a single pull is way easier then running two sets of pairs...IMO.
     

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