Should You Use a Custom Home Theater Installer?
When people start thinking about getting better picture and sound for their homes, they often get overwhelmed. There is just so much information out there! What they thought would be a couple of hours of Amazon research and an afternoon of setting up gear has clearly snowballed. It can be dizzying how much there is to know and do. Maybe they should just hire a custom home theater installer instead? Let’s discuss!
Reason to Use a Custom Installer #1 – No Hassle
Your time is not worth nothing. Think about how much you get paid. More importantly, if you work in an industry where your time is billed, think about how much your time is worth to your employer. Clearly, your time has value. If you are going to install your home theater, you have to take that value into account.
Hiring a custom installer for your home theater means you’ll have to make decisions and that’s about it. Let them worry about all the headaches and running wires and where studs are placed and all that. You just have to answer a few questions, write a few checks, and stay out of the way.
Just like the difference between your billing rate and how much you actually get paid, you are paying extra for someone else to do the installation for you. If your time is worth more than the extra you’d spend, then it is worth it. But if you actually like learning about home theater, and take value in knowing you did it all yourself, then that extra cost isn’t worth it. You need to decide where to spend your capital. Either spend it on paying others so you don’t have to take the time, or spend it in time so that you don’t have to pay others.
Reason to Use a Custom Installer #2 – Customization of Home Theater
It’s one thing to know about home theater, it is a completely different skill set knowing how to reconfigure a room so that it looks like the bridge of the Enterprise (or the Batcave or whatever). If you use a custom installer, they can ensure you get exactly what you want from your home theater. They may subcontract out the construction (adding more cost to the project), but they’ll manage those subcontractors. That’s worth something.
If you care more about aesthetics than actual performance, a custom installer is a great way to go. They normally deal with customers that care more about how a room looks than how it sounds. That’s why they often recommend all the speakers be installed in the ceiling. But if you are one of those that actually care about sound and video quality, it can be hard to find a good custom installer. You’ll need to find one that has specific training, measurement equipment, and expertise.
Anyone can slap some speakers into your wall or ceiling and paint your room. Knowing where to put those speakers and how to calibrate them is an entirely different skill set. You are now looking at having to evaluate the installers for their abilities and probably paying a premium for the best of the best. You not only need an installer that can make your room look the way you want but one that can get the very best performance out of your gear.
Reason to Use a Custom Installer #3 – Gear Selection
There are some brands that are limited to dealers. You can’t buy them online or from a retail outlet. You might be able to find them, but they will be without any sort of warranty and no recourse if you buy outside of the dealer network. If you want specific gear, you may have to buy from an installer and have them install it.
If you aren’t looking at dealer-specific gear, custom installers have relationships with specific home theater gear manufacturers. They get the gear at discounts and can pass some (usually not all) of those savings on to you. You feel like you are getting a deal! But if they don’t have those relationships in place, they won’t carry gear from those manufacturers. That’s fine! You didn’t want to have the entire Internet to choose from anyhow. Plus, you can just have them pick out what gear they suggest will work best in your room. Easy!
If you’ve spent any time researching home theater gear, you’ve probably picked out a couple of pieces that you really want. Either because you like the looks, some sort of nostalgia reasons (dad had speakers from the same company and you loved them as a kid), or online reviews. If you can get your custom installer to touch the gear (many won’t), they certainly won’t warranty any of it. Custom installers will usually only warranty home theater gear that they sell directly.
If you want the best sound, you’ll care very much about what gear is installed in your home theater. Some of the best subwoofers out there aren’t carried by custom home theater installers. They carry speaker brands and their associated subwoofers. And those subwoofers? They are almost universally inferior and overpriced. Installing your home theater gear yourself gives you complete control over what gear you choose.
There is a learning curve in every hobby. I’m not here to tell you that everyone should install their own home theaters. For some people, hiring a custom installer for their home theater build just makes sense. They don’t have the time or inclination to learn enough about the hobby to install it themselves. Fair enough. We do recommend that you follow our guide on how to choose an installer.
If you are going from just a TV in the middle of a living room, any dedicated home theater space will sound infinitely better. That’s just a fact. How you get there is completely up to you.