No matter how simple or elaborate the design of your home theater setup, it's not going to be much good if you end up with a shoddy electronics installation.
A major boon to do-it-yourselfers is the home theater component package that includes surround-sound speakers, amplifier, FM tuner and DVD player. You just add a TV and you're ready to watch a movie.
These package systems, manufactured by most of the big names in audio components, range in price from several hundred dollars to many thousands.
Some of the more recent packages even feature wireless rear speakers, so you don't have to hide the wires that run the long distance from the amp to the back of the listening area.
But once you start to get a bit fancy in planning a home theater, you might want to call on the services of a professional installer.
"People think that hanging a plasma screen on a wall might be easy, but when they find out how much it weighs and try to figure out what to do with the wiring, they realize they might need some help," said Andy Willcox, vice president of the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Assn.
Installers that belong to the association (a list can be found at www.cedia.net) generally take on the more complex, costly installations. Founded in 1989, it administers certification tests to membership candidates and hosts seminars.
Willcox's Chicago-based company, a member of the association, has done home installations ranging from about $2,000 to $3 million. He suggested that consumers carefully check references before hiring an installer and demand a drawing of the planned setup.
"Installers can go out of business, and if they do, you can be left with just a mass of wires it would take someone else a long time to figure out," Willcox said.
-- David Colker