So you've decided to hire a professional to install a whole-house audio/video system. You been around the AV block so many times since you bought those now-classic Advent speakers that you figure you can visit your local electronics retailer, pick out the gear you like, and then find a home electronics installer to integrate everything into your home.
Not so fast.
While your intentions are good, buying electronics before you hire a professional installation company is asking for trouble - if you can even find a pro who will take on the job. Stick to wine when it comes to BYO (bring your own), because there's no guarantee that the components you buy will be easy to operate, integrate properly with other components in the system (which will likely be built around an IP network) and work reliably.
Even great brands make stink bombs from time to time. (Remember Microsoft's "Bob" interface for Windows? Of course you don't!) And if you're just looking to save a few bucks, "few" is the operative word given the hyper-competitive nature of today's electronics marketplace.
Let the Expert Be the Expert
"It's always best to go through a professional," says Matt Bolger, project manager for Piscataway, New Jersey-based Electronics Design Group (EDG). "You'll get a good consultation and become educated on what's out there. Not to knock big-box retailers, but you can run into incompatibility issues. You might end up with a receiver that has two HDMI inputs but they sold you four sources that can accept HDMI."
System reliability is a key concern for DSI Entertainment Systems in Los Angeles. "We pick components that we know work reliably and interact well with control systems," says Josh Christian, vice president of marketing. "We often test components in-house before recommending them to clients. Sometimes a product will look extremely promising on paper but turns out to be a dud in testing."
Adds Bolger: "We have a guy who is dedicated to building racks and testing equipment and we trust his feedback." The takeaway: Your chances of being satisfied are much higher if you follow the advice of a professional.
Warranty is another big issue. What happens if a component you bought online suddenly craps out? Assuming a professional will even work with BYO gear, is it reasonable to expect them to make good on components they didn't recommend? "Once you start using products from unknown sources and they break, it creates a problem," Christian says. "If a component we provide is faulty, we repair or replace it right away."
Moral of the story: Consult a professional when you're ready to move forward with your project. You won't be sorry. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member home technology professionals in your area.