How To Install a Whole Home Stereo System

Written by Angie's List Staff
Updated August 18, 2016
stereo equipment
Determining which equipment you want to use for your whole house audio system is one of the first steps of the installation process. (Photo by Brandon Smith)

Install a whole house audio system for an all-encompassing sound experience.

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So you've decided to act on your dream of a whole house audio system so you can enjoy your favorite music or radio broadcast throughout the house. You've spent countless hours researching plans, equipment and techniques, and are now ready to put the planning into action.

But where to start?

Here is a framework for the DIY installation of a home audio system. Make sure you hit all the steps in order, and your install will go more smoothly.

Develop an audio plan

Consider what features you will want, such as different audio sources, the ability to control your whole house audio system from multiple locations, and volume adjustments in different zones.

Keep in mind, you may want to rock out while someone else in the house is trying to sleep or watch TV. Wiring flows will differ if you have a single master switch where all controls are operated contrasted with systems with multiple control points.

Review the wiring layout

Determine the best way to run wires given the layout and your home's architecture. Attic, basement, or crawl space access may not be available, so your wire runs will be dependent on your situation.

Avoiding unsightly wires everywhere is obviously desirable, but even conduit tracks are a no-no in any house. If speaker drops will be put in-wall from the attic or basement, having a clear plan of exactly where to drill is vital before you start.

Gather your supplies

When purchasing materials to install whole home audio systems, buy 15 to 25 percent more wire than you think you will need. Always leave extra at each connection point for movement of speakers and controllers when needed.

And here is a great recommendation - purchase the best quality speakers you can afford which have the appropriate specifications for your system. You do not want to have to replace speakers once they are installed.

Procure the proper tools

Regardless if this is a one-time personal install, or if you are planning to install several whole house audio systems, a few key tools will be well worth the investment in making your installation smooth with professional results.

Two items often overlooked are a wire fish tape and a line signal tester. The fish tape will help run the wires where you want them, and the signal tester will enable you to confirm the wire you are running is up to the task.

Nothing is more unpleasant than getting done only to find there is a bad bit of wire somewhere messing up your home audio systems! And tracking it down can be a real bear. So it's far better to avoid the problem to start with by testing before installation.

Test the wires beforehand

Test the wire before you run it, test each connection as you make them, and test the speakers before you install them. Even good quality speakers from a quality dealer can have the odd defect or damage in shipping.

It is far easier and less frustrating to test on the bench before installing than have to uninstall and re-do the work. Wire is less likely to have manufacturing defects or damage, but it happens. Locating and replacing a bad wire can be can be a nightmare post-install, but easily avoided by testing before installing.

Having a well-defined plan, plenty of supplies, and the appropriate tools will go a long way towards a smooth install. Work through your installation plan methodically and carefully, making sure all connections are solid. And remember - frequent line testing can save future frustration!

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