Chesapeake Home Theatre & Hi-Fi

Larry Dent is the owner of Chesapeake Home Theatre & Hi-Fi.

These articles were written for the Islander Weekly.

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Larry's Tech Talk

Co-exist! Low Tech meet Hi Tech

I am going to guess that most of us have at least a few electronics in our homes. And some of us have a lot of electronics at home. How many TVs are in your house? You might have a surround sound system, CD player(s), iPod, DVD player(s) or maybe a Blu-Ray player or two. Cable TV or Satellite box(es), speakers, subwoofer, remote controls are just a few of the electronic components in our homes. And that’s just the audio and video components. I’m not even mentioning our computers, routers, and printers.

I am also going to guess that most interior designers really don’t like TVs. But unless you want to live in a museum, the issue becomes “function”. Let’s face it, most people spend a lot of time with the TV on. What good is a family room if there is no TV displaying the big game? Sure there are a few people that don’t want that lifestyle. But for most of us, audio and video entertainment is a big part of the time spent in our homes. Let’s add surround sound to that family room which requires 5 speakers and a subwoofer and there goes the décor and the interior designer’s blood pressure.

No problem Larry, why not get a cabinet and stuff all of those components in it, turn everything on, crank them up and slam the doors shut? I hope that sounds funny to you, but the reality is that is exactly what a lot of people try to do. Find or build the cabinet you like and then make the electronics fit! Yeah RIGHT!! Just put that receiver on the chop saw and make it fit in the cabinet?? YEAH RIGHT!!!!

Here is why that mentality will not work. First, most electronic components create heat. If you look at a surround sound receiver or cable box it will have vents on top of it. The vents are for ventilation! So when another component is placed on top of the receiver, it gets hot. And those solid doors won’t allow any heat to escape. Alright Einsten, how about if we drill holes in the bottom of the cabinet? That is actually kind of funny since we all know that heat rises! And that beautiful custom built-in wall cabinet with the solid doors won’t allow for infra-red signals to pass. So leave the doors open, or spend more money and install an IR sensor or RF remote control system if you want to be able to use remote controls.

Yeah but Larry, I measured and the components will fit. Will they? A lot of custom cabinet makers and even a/v furniture makers like to make furniture about 15 inches deep. So, if you measure that surround sound receiver it will probably be about 15 inches deep. So, where’s the beef? Here’s the beef, how about the connections on the back? They require about 2 more inches of depth. And that volume control knob on the front, count on another inch at least. And how about all of those wires? Lets see, each speaker gets a wire, that’s 5 plus the subwoofer. The TV gets an HDMI cable, The BluRay player gets an HDMI cable, and everything has a power cord. And I am just getting started. So those little access holes are virtually worthless when they get filled up with wires. And hard shelves are ridiculous. Components communicate with each other, meaning wires within the cabinet run up and down as well as in and out.

Most components are 17 inches wide. So cabinets should be 19 inches wide at a minimum. Heights vary depending on the component. And we already talked about the forgotten dimension, depth. So are we slaves to our furniture and décor leaving us functionally challenged? Well, yes if we allow that to happen.

Yeah, but my friend stuffed everything into her cabinet and it all works. OK, but how about a year from now, when she adds a BluRay player into that cabinet? It will turn a 10 minute job into a half day nightmare. And remember, heat is the number one enemy to all electronics.

All right dude, so what’s the answer? Well, there are several ways to approach the cabinet nightmare. I will first mention priorities. Décor is important, but leave décor for last. What good is a nice looking cabinet if it doesn’t work? You need ACCESS, VENTILATION, SPACING and then DÉCOR.

If you purchase an a/v stand from a big box retailer, understand that it might pretend to be used for storing electronics. Check the dimensions. The best units do not have backs, leaving access and ventilation. If you want doors, glass or metal mesh work best.

Ideally, rack systems are the best. They don’t always integrate with existing wall units, but if you are having one built any time soon, look into a sliding rack unit. They are not that expensive, are able to fit within a cabinet and slide out and spin for access.

The other answer is to have a metal component rack in a closet, basement or other area connected to the speakers and TV in the family room. That’s not always an option, but if you are building new or renovating your home, consider having the wiring done before insulation and drywall goes up.

Most of the ladies don’t want to see a bunch of black boxes. With the right planning, electronics and décor can “coexist”. Low tech, meet hi tech!