Custom Installation: A Real World Example

The market for high-end or even reasonable quality audio can be divided into two camps. Those interested and capable of acquiring their own components AND setting them up. And the group of music lovers that lacks the interest and motivation to research the best gear, for the best price, purchase the stuff, take it home, and plug it all together. I fall into the first category and most of my friends and family subscribe to the second group. They just want a good system at a good price, that’s easy to operate, and they want someone else to install it.

I get emails from CE Pro magazine and have attended a couple of CEDIA (Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association) conventions so I’m aware of the size of the market for individuals and companies needing help with their audio/video systems. It’s huge! According to a few of the articles that I’ve read at CE Pro, some of these custom installers are generating millions of dollars in profits…one guy flies around in his own private jet! I’m in the wrong business…I’d settle for any type of airplane. ..heck, even a new car to replace my 2004 Acura TL would be nice.

So it was with particular interest when I received a call from my cousin’s son (is that a second cousin?) about his new audio/video systems. He and his wife have just finished remodeling their condo in the mountains of Colorado and are just about to pull the trigger on some new gear. He called to ask about a particular piece of gear…and Anthem AVR…but my return phone call turned into a review of everything that his custom A/V installer listed in the proposal.

Being a member of the first group mentioned above, I select, purchase, and install my own gear. I’ve got the knowledge but mostly I think it’s because I’ve spent way too much time doing live sound, building electronic music studios, audio facilities, and because I’m cheap. And I suppose there’s a fair amount of personal satisfaction as well. My cousin is smart and could probably figure things out on his own but he doesn’t really have the time and wants to make sure things are done right. So he sent me the 10-page proposal from the AV company (I’m not going to specify any names). A couple of days ago we went through the document page by page.

I’ve never received a custom electronics proposal before, so I was interested in going the one my cousin received after having a consultation, on site visit, and a couple of follow up phone calls.

The document starts out with a warm and fuzzy, feel good introduction with a header photograph of a very high-end home theater. The company president pasted a few boilerplate paragraphs explaining why his company is among the best: harmony of design, excellent value, and ease of use. The final line highlights the lines that they represent, “the most respected names in Audio and Video”.

As I went through the document line by line, it became pretty obvious that the company was suggesting the right type of gear to accomplish multi room music and a good home theater system in the living room. But what caught my attention wasn’t the gear that was being recommended but the expensive cabling that was being spec’d to connect it all. Does my cousin really need a $100 6-foot RCA to RCA analog cable from the DAC (which was also unnecessary) to the receiver?

Alarms started going off.

To be continued…


Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

4 thoughts on “Custom Installation: A Real World Example

  • Dennis Ashendorf

    Your first cousin’s child is your ‘first cousin, once-removed’. The child would be your child’s second cousin.

  • I’ve heard it said that the average big box electronics store makes more money on cable sales and miscellaneous small accessories than they do on the major products sold.
    A few years back an old girlfriend bought a new Sony flatscreen TV along with a low end surround system in a box from a major name retailer. I offered to get the system up a running for her during her shopping days but she said “no thanks” the store was going to do everything for her at no cost.
    The setup squad came out and did the installation, a calibration, etc. She bragged to me how much discount she had negotiated on the TV and surround system. They were impressively low prices, then I saw the final bill. They had sold her all kinds of expensive HDMI cables, RCA cables, USB cables, plus the calibration, etc. I did try to gently mention the high cost of the cabling, etc. but she then explained to me how the sales people had explained to her how important “good” cables were and that the systems performance would be badly compromised using cheap stuff.
    The cost of the accessories almost doubled the final bill. $75 a meter HDMI cables were a “must have”!

    • This is a great story. I’m seeing the same thing happen to my cousin.

  • Arturo Perez

    Cables have the biggest profit margin.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *