DIY Reader Home Theater: DIY Made Easy

We wired the room, installed the equipment, and calibrated the system ourselves—and we couldn't be prouder.

My home theater desire started in 1994 when I went to a friend's home theater to watch Jurassic Park on laserdisc. All I could say that day was, "Wow. . .that was amazing." For the next 10 years, my living room was my theater, but my wife suggested that we do a room addition to the house and make it my dedicated home theater. I was all in favor.

It took about two-and-a-half years of research, planning, and learning to complete my room. I spent a lot of time reading Home Theater magazine and Audio Video Interiors, doing research, and getting ideas from others.

I worked with an architect to implement the things that I wanted in the 15-by-25-foot room, such as two-by-six staggered stud walls for sound isolation and a 9-foot soffited ceiling. Next came hiring a contractor to build the room. I also worked with an electrician to lay out the 10 separate 20-amp circuits that feed everything in the room.

So, here's the DIY part of the story. I had a week between the framing and drywall stages to wire the room. I ran about 150 feet of 14/4 in-wall speaker wire, seven runs of RG6 to the projector, 200 feet of RG6 for the cable and satellite feeds, 100 feet of Cat-5 for networking, and one 30-foot HDMI cable.

The room was then drywalled and, after my wife and I installed the baseboards and the crown molding at the bottom of the soffited ceiling for rope lighting, we painted. I enlisted the help of a friend to build the TV riser, seating riser, and window cover/poster frame. For the carpet, I wanted something a little different, so I got a black carpet with a 2-foot gray border. Black is a great color for home theater because it absorbs rather than reflects light. The theater was really coming together.

Without gear, the room was just a shell with no soul. We tackled the audio first. The center of my system is a Lexicon MC-12 V5 pre/pro that handles all the audio and does digital room correction. Power comes from two Adcom amps. Two NHT VT-2.4 towers and five NHT VS-2.4 speakers for center and surround duties handle all the sound from 80 hertz up, and two Outlaw Audio LFM-1 subs and a Definitive Technology sub handle the bass.

For the video, we have a 56-inch Samsung DLP HDTV fed by a DISH Network HD satellite box and an Oppo DV-981 upsampling DVD player for everyday TV watching. For movie time, the Toshiba HD-A1 HD DVD player feeds a Sony VPL-HS20 projector through the HDMI input and shines on a 106-inch Da-Lite screen that lowers in front of the DLP TV. All of the electronics in the rack are plugged into a Panamax MAX 5300 line conditioner. For control, we chose the Philips ProntoPro TSU7000, which I programmed myself.

The only thing left to do was watch a movie, so my wife and I invited all the people who helped make our theater a reality over for a Saturday barbecue and a movie. I was very proud. One of the benefits of doing it yourself is that, if you ever have a problem, you are familiar enough with your system to know what to do. As far as budget, I spent $55,000 for the room and equipment. Now, that may sound like a lot, but I know people who have $50,000 RVs and don't use them as much as I use my room.

Equipment List:
Surround Processor
Lexicon MC-12 HD w/ RoomEQ
Amplifiers
Adcom GFA-5400 (125X2) (Front L&R)
Adcom GFA-7000 (125X5) (C, LS, LR, RR, RS)
Audio Source AMP-ONE (80X2) (Zone 2 Power)
Speakers
NHT VT-2.4 (Front L&R)
NHT VS-2.4 (C, LS, LR, RR, RS)
Outlaw Audio LFM-1 (RF, LF Subwoofers)
Definitive Technology PF15-TL (Rear Subwoofer)
VIDEO
Source Equipment
Toshiba HD-XA2 (HD-DVD Player)
Sony BDP-S300 (Blu-ray Disc Player)
Oppo DV-981HD (Up-Conversion DVD/SACD/DVD-A Player)
Dish Network VIP622 (HDTV Satellite Receiver/DVR)
Pioneer CLD-D704 (Laser Disc Player)
Microsoft XBOX (Modded Media Box)
Display
Samsung HL-R5656W DLP TV (Everyday Watching)
JVC RS-1 D-ILA Projector (Movie Night)
Da-Lite Contour Electrol (110” High Contrast Matte White)
Other Electronics
APC J Type AV Power Conditioner with Battery Backup
Xantech IR Repeater
X-10 IR543 IR command Center
X-10 Appliance modules (Used to power Amps)
Philips Pronto TSU-7000 (Color Programmable Remote)
Kenwood DEM-9991D (RF Demodulator for LD Player)

Original Budget (2004)
Room: $35,000
Equipment: $20,000

Equipment Budget (2006)
Room changes including new A/V rack: $2,600

Rough Value of Existing Equipment $57,000

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