Home Theater Cable Management Tips

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What can I do to manage the wires of my home theater system?

Surround Sound Requires Wire Management

The home theater experience is all about getting as close to a cinema experience as you can -- all without leaving your living room. And that means setting up surround sound. Surround sound means you are setting up speakers that go beyond the ones simply built into your TV. A typical surround sound system has a speaker above your TV, a speaker on either side of it, two more stationed behind where you sit and a subwoofer. More advanced systems have even more speakers in the mix. All this means a lot of home theater speaker wires to contend with. You can buy cable organizational tubing for less than $10 made especially for home theater systems. The tubing will clean up home theater speaker wires and cable clutter behind your home theater system by consolidating it all into one tube. Some products come with numbered stickers to help you ensure proper connection between your technology. There are also speaker wire adapter kits on the market made to accommodate specific systems. You can buy such kits at your local technology store.

What should I keep in mind when buying home theater cables?

Buying Home Theater Cables

According to Home Theater Magazine, you will spend about 5 to 10 percent of your home theater budget on cables. So how do you know which ones to buy? Did you know many cable dealers allow an at-home trial period for the brands they carry? Then you can see if the expensive brands are really worth the money. But a good rule of thumb is trust your eyes and ears. If you don't hear or see a difference, try to keep your costs down by buying less expensive cables.

Three things to consider when buying and trying home theater video cables:

  • Upconverted or high-definition signals should be run over short lengths and with regular, rather than mini sized cables.
  • Digital audio signals can use the same wire as composite video cables.
  • Line-level audio cables should be kept as short as possible (unless you're using balanced cables, which can be longer).

What makes up a cable?

The Parts of a Cable

We see cables running from technology all the time. But do we really understand what is going on inside? Here is a breakdown of the three components of a cable, courtesy of crutchfield.com:

  • Conductor: the part of the cable through which the signal actually passes. Since the conductor is basically a wire which can act as an antenna to receive radio frequency interference (RFI) and electromagnetic interference (EMI), a good cable also includes some kind of shielding.
  • Shielding: filters out potential sources of noise.
  • Connector: the part of the cable that actually comes into contact with your gear. Types of connectors include composite and S-video.

What should I think about when attaching home cable wires?

Home Theater Wiring

Confused about how to attach your home cable wires? Here are some tips courtesy of Audioholic, an online A/V magazine and crutchfield.com, a company that sells home entertainment products:

  • Remember that home theater wiring is not as complicated as it seems
  • Understand that you are connecting components together to produce a logical flow of signals. This means left always connects to left; right always connects to right; positive always to positive; negative always to negative; and inputs are always connected to outputs.
  • Avoid long cable runs if possible -- the shorter the cable, the better. But make sure your cables are long enough. There should be enough slack to let you pull the component forward and reach the rear panel.
  • Keep power cords away from signal cords because they can introduce interference into the signal.
  • Do not bend or kink the cable. If you are trying to make a short cable reach, you can put stress on the connector and possibly cause damage.
  • Don't keep excess cable lying in loops. Arrange it in an "s" shape or figure-eight instead. This will help minimize electromagnetic interference.
  • If an interconnect has arrows printed on its jacket, hook it up so the arrow is pointed away from the signal source and toward the destination.

What should I know about wiring a home theater system?

Home Theater Basics

So you are finally getting around to setting up the home theater system you've always wanted. You've bought the DVD player and the plasma TV and are wondering how to wire it all together. Here is some guidance on setting up and wiring a home theater system, courtesy of Audioholics, an online A/V magazine:

  • Always use the manuals that come with your technology: fight the urge to figure it out for yourself, even if you dream of bragging to your friends that you did so. Not following manuals can cause more heartache than it's worth. Take the recommendations in the manuals seriously and utilize home theater wiring diagrams designed to walk you through the process complete with pictures.
  • Power: when connecting audio and video cables, get in the habit of powering down components before making the connections. Sudden loads on live amplifiers connected to speakers can be very damaging.
  • Cables: don't waste your money on high-priced luxury cables that advertise better performance -- but don't buy the cheapest cables, either. You should look for the following when you buy cables: ends you can grip securely and plugs that have enough room for you to grab onto them with your fingertips so you do not have to tug on the actual wire.
  • Space: evaluate what kind of space you have before you hook everything up. Figure out how long your cables need to be so you're not stuck taking everything apart if one cable doesn't reach where you need it to.
  • Stacking: don't stack your equipment in a closed cabinet because it could overheat and become damaged due to the weight. Remember that damage to your technology due to overheating is considered abuse and can void your warranty. There are small fans you can buy for your shelves that will help cool down your unit.
  • Lighting: have a portable flashlight on hand for when you need to reach behind your system to make connections. Otherwise, reaching back blindly can cause incorrect configurations and possible damage.
  • Speaker wire: remember that longer runs of wire require higher gauge wire. Here is a basic minimum outline: 16 gauge for less than 100 feet; 14 gauge from 100 to 200 feet; and 12 gauge for greater than 100 feet.
  • Cabling theory: remember that if it seems too complicated, you are probably doing it wrong.

What is a universal remote control?

Universal Remote Controls

While you are thinking of eliminating cable clutter, you might want to consider eliminating remote control clutter, too. There's nothing more daunting than a coffee table full of remote controls.

A universal remote control controls all of your electronics. It replaces all the factory-issued remotes that come with your technology and gives you the convenience of controlling them all with one device. However, not all wireless systems may be compatible with a universal remote control. Manufacturers know this and often provide a list of brand names and models which can be programmed.

However, there are some drawbacks to the universal remote. A universal remote may only offer you basic functions for each technology, as opposed to the more complex functions individual remotes can offer. Also, if you lose battery power and you have, say, four different technologies programmed into your remote, you may have to reprogram them all.

What are the four types of cables on the market?

All About Cables

Think about your dream home theater system and visions of DVD players and high definition plasma TVs likely dance in your head. However, we rarely think about the cables that make all the flashy technology work in harmony with each other. Cables have many different sizes, shapes, lengths and connection types. First, you need to decide whether you need an analog or digital cable. Then you must decide between the four types of cables on the market -- coaxial, composite, component and S-Video. Chances are, your home theater system needs at least two of those four types of cables. Here is a breakdown of the four:

  • Coaxial cables: the most basic and common cables. They are cost-effective and send a signal over a long distance.
  • Composite cables: use a single standard RCA-style jack to pass video signals. It is capable of delivering a high-quality picture, but the color and brightness is not as accurate as S-video and component.
  • S-video: the "s" stands for separate, which means that color and brightness are processed on separate paths which makes for a sharp picture. S-video provides a sharper picture than composite video.
  • Component: works similarly to the S-video, but provides even sharper color. This is the best cable to use.
And, lastly, while buying your cable, keep in mind that you want to "round up." Experts say it's a good rule of thumb to always buy more cable than you need. So, for example, if you've measured and determined you only need 4.5 feet of cable, buy 6 feet.

What types of cable management products will help me manage my home theater system?

Cable Management for Home Theater Systems

There are cable management solutions for making your home theater system look as sharp as your new high definition plasma TV. Here are some cable management products for your home theater, courtesy of cableorganizer.com.

  • Home theater slide out racks and rotating shelving systems to store your technology in an eye-pleasing and easy-to-access way
  • Surge suppressors protect your equipment from power surges
  • High performance speaker cables
  • Wire strippers to access your wiring
  • Crimp and compression tools to connect cabling
  • Telescoping poles to aid you in handling wire in hard-to-reach areas along ceilings and inside walls and crawl spaces
  • Digital multimeters can measure voltage and currents
  • Braided sleeving to organize and protect your wires
  • Raceways hold, guide and protect wires and blend into your walls for a clean, finished appearance
  • Wire looms hide cables

What is a good way to organize my cables?

Home Theater Cable Organization

One way to help keep track of the cables behind your home entertainment equipment is to color code your wires with wire loom, a perfect organizational tool for home environments. Pick a color for your DVD cables, your television and your video game console so when you are ready to swap out a component you won't have to worry about disconnecting the wrong piece of home theater equipment!

What is a good way to route cables inexpensively?

Creative Ways to Run Cable in Your Home

If you live in an apartment, your landlord might not like it if you want to drill holes in the wall and install new cables. Condo dwellers might face similar problems with their neighbors. One solution to running cables around the house are Corner Duct Raceways. These cable raceways are wire molding designed to blend in, but not only will they work along the baseboard, they will also work vertically in corners or along the ceiling mimicking crown molding. The snap-on cover makes it easy to change and adapt your wiring setup, and no untidy cables.

How can I manage my power distribution needs?

Home Theater Power Distribution

Do you need to know how many Amps you are drawing? Be wary of power supply when you are putting your home theater together. Power distribution panels may be an option for your business to consider. BRC/SPC power distribution panels feature Current Monitoring with a real-time digital readout. These systems are available for both AC and DC configurations to meet your home theater cable and power needs.

How can I protect my AV equipment on the road?

Protecting Your AV Equipment

Are you an AV professional on the move?

A sales rep traveling all over the country and lugging around fragile projectors and laptops for highly technical demonstrations?

If you are, you have probably arrived at a client site only to discover that your projector, laptop or other high tech device was damaged in transit. After all, we all know that your luggage is not handled gently in the airport!

If you are looking for a simple and highly effective travel solution for your expensive equipment you should consider a pelican case. These cases, made of a polymer material, are incredibly strong and water tight to boot. The next time you get on a plane, think about a pelican case to protect your valuable equipment - or better yet - convince your boss to buy one for you!

What is a good way to route cables inexpensively?

Mounting Speaker Wires for Your Home Theater

We all know how important the home theater sound system is to creating the perfect environment. Running speaker wire or some other form of cable around your house is easier with wire organizers like cable clips, cable saddles and cable clamps. For example, clips can hold one or two wires and guide them along a desired route unobtrusively, and keep your wires neat and tidy. They have an adhesive backing which means you can mount the cable clips on walls, baseboards, ceilings, desks or any other surface. By organizing your speaker wire and protecting it from foot traffic, you keep your wires in top condition and you don't risk yanking wires out of your speakers every time you cross the room.

What is a good way to route cables inexpensively?

Wiring Baseboards for Your Home

The problem with most houses is that once the wiring is installed, that's it. You can't make serious changes without tearing up the place. The good news is that there are several solutions out there, from inexpensive simple cord covers to more advanced products that can mimic your baseboard. A great example of this is the WireTracks cable raceway This unique cable solution looks just like normal baseboard, except it carries wires. Best of all, you can change wires by opening up the WireTracks and adding or removing wires as needed. This is perfect for the home theater enthusiast who wants the best sound system and wiring options out there to ensure that their high tech playroom works as well as possible!

How can I protect my cables?

Home Theater Cable Covers

Sometimes you have to run stereo, TV, DVD, and other cables across halls, floors, or other areas with foot traffic when you are putting together your home theater wire management system. You risk damage to your cables, your floor, and you risk creating a very real tripping hazard. You need to consider your cable management options. You can look at light capacity cable covers or consider a faux baseboard in which you can run your wires.

Why should I use a rack mount LCD screen?

Rack Mount LCD Panels

A rack mount LCD panel is new technology at its finest. Not only is a mounted LCD screen a great space-saving tool, the picture quality is excellent. Plus, the power used by a rack mount LCD screen is less than a regular monitor or television. LCD panels are available for mounting flush against a wall or on a movable hinge. Wire management is a breeze with rack mounted LCD panels, as the cords are easier to conceal and there aren't any wires routed across desks or tables.

How can I get cool lighting effects in my home theater without spending a ton of money?

Cool Home Theater Lighting Ideas

Were you jealous of the homeowners on TLC's Trading Spaces when Doug created that crazy home theater with stadium seating and those fancy running lights on the floor?

Have you always wanted those cool running lights you see on the floors of movie theaters?

Bet you didn't know you could get something going like that, for one tenth of the price and the work?

Don't be afraid to have a little fun when you are designing your home theater. Consider transparent cord covers for the floor on either side of your home theater chairs or couch. Just get some simple christmas or holiday lights, and insert them into these nifty cord covers. The light shines through and the cords and mini lightbulbs are protected from walking feet! How cool will you be next movie night? You decide.

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