Home Theater Handbook by Frank Fazio - HTML preview

PLEASE NOTE: This is an HTML preview only and some elements such as links or page numbers may be incorrect.
Download the book in PDF, ePub, Kindle for a complete version.

Volume 1

éCopyright 2010

All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the

prior written permission of Frank Fazio. This ebook may not be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise disposed of by way of trade in any form of binding, or cover other than that in which it is published, without prior consent of Frank Fazio.

The information contained in this ebook is for educational purposes only. The diagrams and procedures in this ebook are intended to educate the reader on how to integrate a Home Theater into an existing family / living room. By reading the pages of this ebook, you acknowledge that the author takes no responsibility for personal injuries, damage, or legal trouble caused by following procedures / advice presented in this ebook.

Table of Contents
WELCOME TO MY WORLD ......................................................... 5
YOU’RE GONNA LOVE THIS BOOK .......................................... 8
Non-Dedicated Theater vs Dedicated Theater ........................... 10
THE SECRET… shhhhh................................................................. 11
Floor Models or DLPs................................................................... 15
Plasmas and LCDs ........................................................................ 17
CHAPTER 2: SPEAKER PLACEMENT...................................... 21
Placement of the Main and Center Speakers ............................. 23
Placement of the Surround Speakers.......................................... 25
Size of your Speakers.................................................................... 28
Gauge of Speaker Wire................................................................. 29
The Wireless Speaker ................................................................... 29
Placement of the Subwoofer......................................................... 32 CHAPTER 3: THE CHARACTERISTICS OF YOUR ROOM . 34
Structure of the room ................................................................... 37
Hiding the Speaker Wires ............................................................ 37
The Live Room… Uh oh............................................................... 40
Windows......................................................................................... 42
FINAL THOUGHTS........................................................................ 64
Introducing Volume 2 of my Home Theater Handbook............... 65 WELCOME TO MY WORLD


Please fasten your seatbelt until we have reached cruising altitude…

My brother-in-law decided he needed to be the first to outdo everyone else in the family and went out and got himself a 50 inch DLP for is family room. He then subscribed to a Canadian satellite system for the finishing touch and was pulling in beautiful HD in no time. Of course I had to go over and help him put his stand together (he’s a chiropractor… not very good with building things) and at the same time tell him how great his new TV was. We discussed where the new TV should go based on the structure of his room… he disagreed with my point of view and placed it where his wife (my sister) wanted it to go. Funny thing… 2 years later the TV now sits in the exact spot I had recommended.

My father-in-law called me one morning as I washed my car and asked me to accompany him to go buy a new TV. After I discussed the pros and cons of each technology with him, he ended up getting himself a 42 inch LCD for his family room. He subscribed to a Canadian satellite system for the finishing touch and then began pulling in beautiful HD. It should be noted that I not only had to build the stand, but hook up the satellite and preprogram all the local channels.

One night I got a call from one of my wife’s relatives who had heard that I helped my father-in-law buy a TV. I was asked to accompany him so he could purchase the same TV my father-in-law bought. After all was said and done (and visits to 2 different stores), he ended up using my advice and getting a 50 inch plasma. He decided against the satellite subscription and went strictly local channels. The TV and stand were delivered and set up in his house by the delivery guys.

My mother figured it was about time that we upgraded my father’s 10 year old rear projection television. So once again I headed to the TV store to decide what type of television would suit my father’s needs. We decided on a 50 inch DLP with integrated HDTV tuner so he could get the local channels. We knew that we were not going to hang the TV, so the thinness of the set didn’t matter, and the DLPs are the thickest, compared to the plasma and LCD. The TV was placed in the worst part of the room, but there’s no arguing with my mom.

A cousin of mine complained that he couldn’t get his 5.1 Dolby Digital system working with his rear projection television. He told me the speaker layout he preferred, and I was able to correctly integrate his system into the living room under one condition stipulated by his parents… no holes in the walls and no wires running across the floor. Piece of cake. (He has since moved out on his own, and his parent’s have requested that I removed the surround system from the room).

All these people have one thing in common. No, it’s not the fact that they’re all relatives, it’s the fact that when they needed help understanding audio/video equipment, they came to me. That’s right… they came to me, because I’m that guy… I live for this stuff.

“There is no magic bullet when it comes to setting up a home theater system in an existing living space. What works for your room might not work for your neighbor’s room. To measure the success of

your efforts, you should ask yourself the following question when you’re done the setup: Does it look and sound good to you? If you answer yes, then you’ve accomplished your goal.”


You know that TV / speaker system that you want to incorporate in your family room? I can show you how to correctly arrange them to create great video and sound…arrange them so your significant other doesn’t want to kill you.

How can I be so confident? I built an eleven person home theater in my basement after spending many years of my adult life researching and planning, and I’ve learned a few tricks you can use in any room. I should also point out that I’ve made a few mistakes too… mistakes that you don’t have to make now.

When I put my mind to something, I work until I’m satisfied with the results… and I wanted the best home theater that I could afford. It wasn’t going to be easy, but I did it, and I decided to write this first volume which contains the theories and practical knowledge that you can use to incorporate a home theater into an existing living place.

Why would I want to do this? Why put this on paper? I’m finding myself answering a lot of questions these days from people who have seen my theater and want to set up something on a smaller scale.

The price of good equipment has dropped over the years, and it is becoming more affordable for anyone to piece together a nice room. I figured if I wrote down all these answers I was giving out, I would have a handy dandy guide for the next person who came along.

Eventually, I noticed that what I was actually doing was taking all the material I had gathered over the past 10 years, along with my experiences during the construction phase, and was creating a “real-life design, construction and calibration guide.”

Look, I was able to replace my wife’s favorite wall mirror with a 50 inch plasma television in our family room over the fireplace. If I can do that, imagine what I can help you do…

You don’t need to be a genius to set up things correctly, but I want you to understand a few things before we start… so listen up.

• If you feel that you want to try something listed here in this volume but are uncomfortable because you are not the “handyman” type, then I suggest that you either get someone to help you, or hire a professional. I want to give you the knowledge, but I don’t want you to hurt yourself, or destroy your home. So get help if you need it… I’m stubborn, and yet I asked for help when I needed it; don’t be a hero.

• If you are convinced you want to complete the setup in one day, make sure you do the majority of it during business hours. What I’m getting at is this… How would you feel if, during your setup, you ran out of speaker wire and it was 7pm? … Too bad for you, the store is closed. I had this happened to me, and it sucks.

What you will not find in these pages is all the stuff you see in the manuals that you get with your equipment. I will not insult your intelligence by photocopying “hookup” diagrams from your manual pages… I don’t want to waste your time, or your money. I’ve finally learned how to use my architect software, which I used to create the family room diagrams, so use the techniques in the book with the owner’s manuals of your equipment.

Non-Dedicated Theater vs Dedicated Theater


You may, from time to time see me reference the words “dedicated” and “non-dedicated” when referring to home theaters.

Simply put, the major difference between the “non-dedicated” and “dedicated” home theater is the room itself. The dedicated home theater is a custom room designed to reproduce audio/video just as the movie director intended, and the non-dedicated home theater is a setup integrated into a living space that is used for purposes other than watching movies.

THE SECRET… shhhhh

When it comes to setting up your TV and surround system in a room that is also a living/family room, your options are limited when it comes to the placement of the TV and surround speakers. Sure, you have a pretty good idea where the TV is going to go, but if you really want to enjoy great sound when you watch a movie, will that TV placement let you maximize the sound of your speakers?

Setting up an audio system in an existing family room is difficult because you don’t have a lot of choices with speaker placement. You basically have to work around furniture that is already there. Your significant other is not going to let you move around the plants they strategically placed around the room to achieve the correct “fung shui” (and don’t go emailing me to ask what that is… google it… :)

The secret to incorporating a home theater into an existing family room is to create a “sweet spot”… you know, a place where you’re going to sit to experience the best picture and sound.

You do this by concentrating on one spot in the room where the “chosen one” will sit (that’s you), and to do this successfully, you must focus on 3 different aspects of your setup; your TV, your speakers (front speakers, surround speakers, subwoofer) and the room itself.
By creating this sweet spot, at least three different scenarios are created:

1. When you want to enjoy a movie, and you’re alone, your sweet spot will give you the best possible audio and video available.

2. When you want to impress someone that comes over, make sure they sit in the sweet spot so you will get the oooohs and aaaahs out of your friend. You can sit wherever you want in the room… you’re not trying to get the best out of the audio or video at that time, you want your friend to experience it.

3. The seats directly beside your sweet spot will be the next best choices for your spouses / friends.


Now, let’s set up that sweet spot!



“There will always be someone out there with a bigger TV and a better sound system than you, so deal with it. Eventually, you’ll come across someone that had a bigger budget and got a better deal, so don’t get discouraged when you see their 100 inch flat screen. They may have the money, but not a clue on how to use it. You have no idea how many times I’ve been in a dedicated home theater, and the owner has no clue how to turn on his picture in picture function.”


Whether you’ve got a floor standing model (DLP, rear projection) or a flat panel (LCD, plasma) keep in mind that your TV will look the best when viewed from “straight ahead” and the center of the screen is at eye level. This isn’t usually a problem with the floor standing models, but if you want to hang that flat panel on the wall with a “TV wall mount”, you’ll have to come as close as you can to eye level. Also, don’t forget the most wall mounts will allow you to tilt the screen down towards your sweet spot.

Where do you think the most popular place to hang this flat panel? That’s right, even though it isn’t at eye level, most people mount their flat panel above the fireplace.

Also remember that glare is possible depending on where your windows are in relation to your TV. Floor standing lights and ceiling lights can also cause havoc with reflections off the TV screen, so be careful.

Floor Models or DLPs

The floor models can be placed anywhere within the room, but your goal is not only to have your TV in front of your sweet spot but also to have the center of the screen at eye level. Here are some things to consider when dealing with floor models:
• There is a “viewing distance” chart that will help you get an idea of

how far the TV should be from your sweet spot to get the optimum picture quality. It won’t be much use here, as you really don’t have too much leeway in moving around the living room furniture to accommodate your TV.

• About 12 years ago, an interior decorator came to our house and walked toward the family room where he was greeted by my 48 inch rear projection TV. His suggestion to my wife? The TV should not be the first thing you see when looking into a room, so he suggested that I move it out of the corner it was in and place it in the opposite corner where it wouldn’t be seen until you entered the room. Now I guess you’re wondering what I did… it was early in my marriage… I moved it.

• Even though you may be able to buy a floor model that is relatively thick (rear projection models), do not place any of your components on top of your TV. Over time, this will warp your TV screen and that is not something you want to do… purchase a cabinet or use the TV’s built in stand to house your components.
• When you eventually find the ideal place for your TV (whatever looks best for you), find a seat that is directly infront of the TV (or closest to the direct front), and focus all your speakers to that spot.

• When dealing with DLPs, make sure you leave enough room behind the set for ventilation. These TVs tend to pump out a lot of heat from the rear, so be careful. Some people I know have also noticed the hum of the fan within the set itself. This can be annoying… make sure you see/hear the TV in action at the store before you buy.

• If you have small, curious children/pets, try to place the TV out of the way of high traffic areas. You don’t need your screen scratched by a toy or inanimate object when someone walks by. I have seen people temporarily place “hard to crawl over” objects such as a plants or decorative sculptures infront of the TV to prevent their children from getting to the screen. Just make sure these objects are short enough to see over… you don’t want to block the TV screen from view.

Plasmas and LCDs


Here are a few things to consider with flat panel (LCD, Plasma, etc) models that are going to be mounted on a wall:

• TV wall mounts can be fairly expensive depending on the size of the TV. I picked up a newspaper flyer today, and TV mounts started at $600. You want to buy a good one, because the last thing you want is for that TV to fall off the wall. So spend the money here.

• Make sure you know what the wall is made of before you start mounting, as not all building materials are suitable for hanging. Masonry and brick might not be able to withstand the weight of the TV if you don’t have the right screws.

• Try to mount the TV at a reasonable height in relation to your sweet spot. You’re not going to enjoy the picture if you’re constantly looking up.

• If you’re going to mount the TV over the fireplace, make sure you fire up that fireplace and measure the temperature of the wall where the TV is going to go. If the temperature is over 85 degrees Fahrenheit, you might want to pick another place, as the heat will damage your TV. In my case, the gas fireplace is not used and is more for decoration. Just be careful here, I don’t want you to ruin your TV because you needed to place it above the fireplace.

• If you feel that you need a professional to hang that $3000 flat panel TV you just bought, it might be a good idea to go back to the TV store and talk to a customer service agent. These stores either have installers on their payroll, or will call an installer from one of their contracted companies.

• Although hanging a flat panel on the wall looks sharp and saves space, you also must remember that you’re going to need a place for all of your components that will be located away from your TV. You will surely have a cable/satellite box, or even a VCR/DVD player. With a floor model, you can place your components in the attached built-in stand, but with flat panels on a wall, you don’t have that luxury.

• When hanging a flat panel, remember to have hidden access to an electrical outlet behind the TV to plug it into. Sure, you could run a long extension cord from the back of the flat panel all the way to an electrical outlet along the wall, but that isn’t going to look very good, is it? You might want to consider having an electrician install a new power outlet here your TV is going to hang so you can tuck the cord behind the TV and make things look neat.

No matter how much you plan and design, there will always be the unknown waiting around the corner to make things interesting. When planning, try to assess your situation by taking a long hard look at your environment, but come up with more than one plan just incase you run into obstacles. This will also save you time and money if you need to quickly switch to an alternate plan.
You can get more “Tips and Tricks” regarding buying an HDTV in my other ebook called Start Here, Start Now: Build your own Home Theater. It’s here: http://www.myhometheatersecrets.com/starthere.php… It’s FREE.


“The home theater system you buy today will be half the cost in a few months. This will upset you to no end… don’t look at prices for a while after you’ve made a major purchase: It will drive you nuts.”


If you go to the local movie theater, nearly every seat will have excellent audio… therefore you can choose a seat based on how close you want to be to the screen. Whether you choose the front row, or the last, your ears should hear exactly what everyone else hears.

Well, I’m sorry to break it to you, but it is virtually impossible to position your speakers so that every seat in your living room reproduces the sounds that the director wanted you to hear (the rear speakers will not be behind everyone sitting in the room, therefore those viewers will not get the correct rear surround effect).

This is why we are trying to create a “sweet spot”. Since we can’t possible have every seat in your living room get the best audio, let’s focus on one seat in the room and sit there when we want to experience the best sound.

Placement of the Main and Center Speakers

Setting up your front speakers is pretty straightforward. The left goes on the left side of the TV, and the right goes on the right side of the TV. You can experiment with the sound by listening to them as you point them directly towards your sweet spot, then angled slightly away. See what sounds best for your room.
Your left and right fronts are supposed to be at the same height as your ear, but you may not have that opportunity based on the layout of your room.

You also want to have smooth consistent sound from one side of the room to the other. You do this a couple of ways…

Make sure that your speakers are all from the same manufacturer. This is called timber matching. You want the same “sounds” to flow from each speaker. So when something on the TV travels from left to right, you want the same sound to travel from left speaker to center to the right… if the speakers are from different manufacturers, you can lose that sense of consistency over the 3 speakers.

Since the center speaker is used primarily for dialogue, it should be placed above or below your TV, and centered if possible. There may be an opportunity to use your TV speakers as the center speaker... I have seen it done, but requires a little more work than can be described here.

You also might wan to experiment with the distance of the speakers with respect to the sides of your TV. You can put the left and right up against the sides of the TV, or you can move them farther away… see what sounds best for your situation. The speakers don’t have to be inline with the front of the TV either… you and bring them slightly forward, or back.

Placement of the Surround Speakers


This is where we’re going to have some fun…

Most people think that the surround (rear) speakers need to be hung behind and above the head of the listener. This is not necessarily the best place. For one thing, there is no way you can guarantee that you even have back walls behind your sweet spot to hang those rear speakers.

I’ve experimented with surround speaker placement, and there are a number of different places you can put them:


00002.jpgFigure 1 Surround speakers on rear wall

• Directly behind the sweet spot and three feet above the listener’s head. This is used if you have a wall directly behind the listener and can mount those speakers on it. This is the most common setup. (Figure 1)

00003.jpgFigure 2 Surround speakers mounted on side walls

• Directly on each side of the sweet spot and three feet above the listener’s head. This can be used if you don’t have a wall behind the sweet spot. (Figure 2)

00004.jpgFigure 3 Surround speakers mounted on ceiling

• Mounting the speakers on the ceiling a few feet behind the sweet spot and pointing them at an angle to the listener. This can also be used if you don’t have a wall behind the sweet spot. (Figure 3)

00005.jpgFigure 4 Surround speakers placed on floor pointed towards ceiling

• Behind the sweet spot on the floor pointing up toward the ceiling. You can use this one if you have a wall behind the listener but don’t want to drill holes in the wall to hang the speakers. This will run the sound up along the back wall and then bounce down off the ceiling toward the listener. (Figure 4)

Size of your Speakers

Some of the speakers these days are small in size, but deliver a ton of sound. If you’re deciding on what size speakers to get for a family room and don’t have a lot of space to mount regular size speakers, I’d suggest going for the small bookshelf speakers.

The reason I say this is because the last thing you want to do is upset your significant other by bringing home huge tower speakers and placing them smack dab in the middle of the family room. I did this, and to get revenge, my wife constantly put things like plants and knickknacks on top of my towers. Not good.

With small speakers, you can incorporate them better into an established room. They can be placed on shelves, on fireplace mantles, on window sills or even hidden in that fake plant you got as a house warming from your-inlaws.
You’re probably asking yourself how small can these speakers get… well, in 2007, Sony released a speaker so small, it fit in the palm of your hand. Don’t be fooled about the size, because each of these little speakers can crank out 50 watts. So boys, in this case, size doesn’t matter.

Gauge of Speaker Wire

For the family room, I wouldn’t worry too much about the gauge of wire (thickness). You have to worry about the gauge of wire when it comes to running long lengths because there is significant power loss over long runs. For lengths of 80ft or less, I’d stick with 16 gauge.

For more detailed information on speaker wire, please see my website: http://www.myhometheatersecrets.com


The Wireless Speaker

If you’re not handy, or you just can’t be bothered with running wires throughout your family room, there is another option… the wireless speaker. There are a number of companies out there including Pioneer, Sony, Kenwood, Jensen, Advent and Acoustic Research that understand the frustration and extra effort you might encounter when it comes to hiding speaker wires.
Let’s try to break this down into the pros and cons so you can decide whether this is the right option for you.



• No speaker wires to hide.

• Speakers are easily moved if the room gets re-decorated. Let’s say your significant other decides that the current family room is just not doing it for them anymore, and they want to not only change the furniture, but the layout too. He/she now wants to put a mirror smack dab right where one of your surround speakers is. No problem… no wires… just move the speaker.

• You can put more of these wireless speakers in different rooms of the house, so you can enjoy the audio elsewhere.

• You may be able to pick up headphones that lock onto your transmitting frequency… this will allow you to enjoy the audio privately from anywhere in the house, even while doing chores outside. You may say “so what”, but how many times have you wanted to watch a sporting event, when you knew you had to pull the weeds? Now you can listen to the game while you pull the weeds!

• Interference. See what the transmit/receive frequency of the speaker is and then take a look around your house. Wireless hardware to take into account that may cause interference: computer networks (not only yours, but the neighbours too), x10 cameras, telephones, mic