Houston, We Have a Problem
These photos show what it looks like behind my home entertainment center. I fondly call it Houston Mission Control due to the plethora of wires and cables. Whenever I replace an old piece of equipment or add a new one (television, audio/video receiver, dvd player, cd player, speakers, XBox, etc.), I am presented with a fresh challenge as to how to connect the new piece. I'm having a double such challenge this week, as I replaced two items in the system.
What makes this all so complicated nowadays is one word: cables. In years past, there were few or no options for connecting home audio and video equipment to each other. Today, old-fashioned copper wires are typically found only in speaker cable. Instead, consumers can now choose from High-Definition Multimedia Interface ("HDMI"), optical digital, S-Video, coaxial, digital coaxial, component, and composite cable connections, among others. My system pictured above contains every one of these connections, except for composite. As a result, today's audio/video components such as receivers and high-definition television sets have rows upon rows of input and output jacks on the back, to give consumers flexibility as to what types of connections to make between components. And the instruction manuals packaged with this equipment read like NASA flight manuals.
This dizzying array of home entertainment wiring options has caused two cottage industries -- the high-end audio/video cable industry (best represented by Monster Cable) and the numerous individuals and companies who charge a pretty penny install home audio and video equipment -- to explode. Even if you install your own cables, unless you purchase a "home theater in a box" system, you can expect to pay up to $1,000 or more for the high-quality cables needed to connect a typical home entertainment system consisting of an HDTV, an audio/video receiver, six or more speakers (to achieve at least 5.1 surround sound), a cd player, a dvd player, and a video game player.
But instead of hiring the Geek Squad to assist me with my installation, I enjoy figuring out how to do it myself. It's problem-solving, and it's good exercise for the brain. I get out my little Mini Mag flashlight, and sometimes I even put it in my mouth to free up both hands (and to look like a high-tech burglar from an action movie). Although I have not yet figured out the new installation completely, I have not yet had to get on the phone and say, "Geeks on Call, we have a problem."