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CE on the Cheap: Are You Really Saving?
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April 23, 2009 | by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
On second thought, maybe that Costco TV wasn’t such a good idea after all.
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Posted by IsleOfMan  on  04/23  at  08:22 AM

I love EH, but this article screams of scare tactics to keep CIs in business.  CIs are a huge value to the industry, but there’s no need to try to scare folks out of DIY and bargain hunting.  There are always caveats, even with CIs (usually cost and the high risk of the uneducated being over-sold).

To counter some the specifics…

Costco TVs… discrete IR power codes?  That’s seriously your argument?  If your remote can’t keep up with what’s on or off, it sounds like the remote is to blame and not the display.  A $50 Harmony knows what’s on and what’s not… and it can be programmed by 4th grader.

Online purchases… know for sure you’re buying authorized or buy an extended warranty from a reputable agency.  Often an unauthorized product with a 3 or 5 year extended warranty is still a significant savings and is even more protected. 

Pre-wiring… I agree with pre-wiring, including extra runs of Cat5e, but $5k - $10k is absolutely ridiculous.  Roll of Cat5e? $50.  Drill?  Check.  Staple gun?  Check.  Fish tape?  Check.  Side cutters?  Check.  LV Boxes?  Check.  $4950 in margin?  No thanks.

Cheap HDMI cables… I’ve DIYed my own dedicated theater for myself and others for family/friends.  I’ve always used Monoprice cables, the defacto source for cheap HDMI, AV, and computer cabling.  I’ve done several runs of HDMI up to 50’ using passive 24awg cables, and one 75’ run using passive 22awg (only passing 720p) with absolutely NO problems… no flicker, no sync loss, no handshake issues, no sparkles.  I also use their color-coded 28awg patch cables to allow for easy identification/differentiation without the need for labels.  The ONLY time I’ve ever had an issue with ANY HDMI cable failing was when a drywall hanger hit a cable with a sheet rock screw… and even then, Monoprice replaced the cable at their expense. 

I’m not sure if news is slow or if CIs are really feeling the hit of the ecconomy driving more people to DIY, but this kind of article doesn’t advance people’s knowledge of the industry… it just tries to scare them into thinking the industry is too big for them to understand.  Try harder EH.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  04/23  at  08:33 AM

Isle, I think you’re getting a little hysterical here. By all means, buy stuff online (certainly EH.com provides plenty of advice for doing so), prewire your own house, purchase cheap HDMI cables. Just recognize some of the caveats as noted in the story.

Posted by David Garfinkle at 8:46am April 23  on  04/23  at  08:36 AM

Sometimes those limited features make automating remotes impossible without extra parts to move signals around. Such as a budget Samsung which will not allow the internal speakers to turn off while passing audio out of the jacks in the back. So just where is the savings? You get what you pay for. Still.

Posted by IsleOfMan  on  04/23  at  08:44 AM

I think the arguments are weak, the caveats are more than a little overblown, and the cited contributors are pretty slanted… asking a high end cable mfg to comment on cheap cables and a speaker mfg with a very tight distribution network to comment on unauthorized dealers is far from unbiased. 

I’m not anti-CI by any means, I respect their trade and understand that they are the source of much of the industry innovation in design and creative use of off-the-shelf and custom components that us DIYers strive to emulate… but this article reads like list of showroom scare tactics used to push people away from DIY with anecdotal warnings of overblown pitfalls.

Posted by Jed Carroll  on  04/23  at  09:18 AM

IsleOfMan…you are the arguments are weak. Harmony remotes? What a joke. These things are junk toys. My clients would throw me out of the house if I tried to pass this crap off as a real control system. Costco TVs having no discretes: So your Harmony remote can sense what input the TV is on? You probably want to take you cheapskate arguments back to AVSForums where they will be appreciated. Your prewire argument is moronic. Goes more like….5 rolls of structured bundled cable $1500 1000’ 16/4 cable $350 42” panel $200 Modules $200 Misc materials $300 Van expenses and 2 installers 2 days $1000+  and we get paid about $4000 hardly a profit. Prewires are a great value for the client and almost never profitable for the CI.

Posted by Doug  on  04/23  at  09:19 AM

I have to side with Isle, that article is weak.  No way do I put my Vizio plasma that I got 3 yrs ago on the same level as a Kuro but it is hardly the end of the world.  Cables and power conditioning are some of the biggest rip-offs around.  If my CE Pro can prove (meaning show me something I can see) that a $500 HDMI cable is better than the highest quality Belden at BlueJeans then I might buy it.  The problem is that there’s never any proof that people can see.  If there is then please show us.  Not only that but I have run some of this stuff by an Electrical Engineering MIT grad who designs stuff for a major CE company and he says the cabling and most of the power conditioning (unless you’re in area with unreliable electricity) is hogwash.

Posted by IsleOfMan  on  04/23  at  09:35 AM

Jed,

The Harmony is joke to you because you can’t charge someone $500 for hardware and another $1000 to program it… it does everything a URC MX can do at 1/5 the price and can be programmed by anyone.  And the pre-wire scenario you just outlined is a perfect example of over-selling people who don’t know better.  Labor and van are valid expenses to note from your end, but not having to consider them is another boon for a smart DIYer.

Places like AVS are an invaluable tool, just like CIs are.  You shouldn’t be bitter because someone realized they can do it themselves instead of paying someone like you to do it for them.  I’m not saying everyone can or should go DIY… but I am saying there’s no need to try to scare of those who can.

Posted by 39 Cent Stamp  on  04/23  at  10:16 AM

IsleOfMan, without discrete commands your system is never bulletproof. Harmonys attempt to remember will work just fine until one command gets skipped or someone starts fiddling with the buttons. A savvy user can work around this every time it happens but the average person will be in bigger trouble then if they had just stuck with 5 remotes.

Prewire..staple gun? What? Your going to use a staple gun to destroy the cat5 you just ran? You might as well unbox it and run it over a few times with your truck.

If you got a 50’ HDMI monoprice cable to work consider yourself lucky. Im not a kool-aid drinker and i think expensive cable is a bunch of crap. The one exception in my world/tiny brain is HDMI. If you had to install 2-5 50” HDMI cables a week like the average CI does you will encounter more failure. $50+450 in troubleshooting and service calls equals the same $500 for the better HDMI cable .

The typical DIY has a system that appears to be the same sort of system a CI installed. The subtle differences like a bullet proof remote, proper installation (no staples destroying cat5’s) configuration and calibration are no big deal for some.

There are a handful of DIY guys that know what they are doing. Of that handful.. none of them are praising harmony. Harmony is a universal remote, it is not a control system. Universal remotes can be had for $10.

Posted by 39 Cent Stamp  on  04/23  at  10:26 AM

Doug, are you seriously saying that a Vizio TV is even acceptable compared to a Kuro? Is the Vizio a plasma (at least)?

Forget about that fact that a Vizio TV cant be integrated because it has no discretes. This only effects complex systems. But quality? Come on.. i would prefer to drag up a tube TV out of my basement before i would put a Vizio in my house.

My issue with cheap HDMI is that they dont comply and you cant get them to work AT ALL. Its not like comparing lamp cord to monster cable speaker wire where no one can tell the difference.

Posted by IsleOfMan  on  04/23  at  10:32 AM

For the few times a Harmony gets out of sync, there’s the help button.  For Cat5e there are variable-depth staple guns, guards to prevent strays, and insulated staples.  For long HDMI installations, there’s testing before you run the cable. 

Not every scenario needs triple redundancy and expensive (i.e. high margin) solutions.  99% of the time forethought and planning will get you to your desired result, and when it’s your own forethought and planning, you’re not paying anyone else’s margin.

Posted by IsleOfMan  on  04/23  at  10:41 AM

39 Cent Stamp… now you’re brand bashing when it’s really not necessary.  No one was equating a Vizio to a Kuro, but that doesn’t mean they can’t produce an acceptable image, especially in a secondary room like an office or bedroom where critical quality isn’t the priority.  I have a 37” 720p Vizio in my bedroom for just this reason… it’s more than good enough for where we watch the news and where my wife watches her reality tv trash. 

And now your HDMI argument has gone from “when dealing with volume you’ll see more failures” to “they don’t comply and you can’t get them to work AT ALL”.  If that were the case would they be selling so well with such positive reviews?  Monoprice cables have worked flawlessly in every system I’ve installed and they’ve stood behind cables damaged by others who were supposed to be “pros”... would a high-end cable mfg replace a cable that was hit by a screw without even requiring the damaged cable be returned?  I doubt it…

Posted by Doug  on  04/23  at  11:24 AM

39 Cent Stamp - I said “no way” is it as good as a Kuro.  Is it acceptable but do I want better?  Yes, but I only have so much money.  It is a 3+yr old tv that at the time was a crazy bargain. As far as whether expensive cables are better, just show me some tangible proof.  When I finish my basement I am going to have a video professional calibration done, I’ll pay for because I can see the difference.  Same thing with the audio side.

Posted by Doug  on  04/23  at  11:38 AM

When did DIY become such a nasty word?  My grandfather used to fix his own car and I do some repairs on my own but I don’t get dirty looks from mechanics.

Posted by Dave  on  04/23  at  11:45 AM

Used 6 50’ monoprice cables on a renovation of a master bed and bath with no problems. 3 TV’s with a cable fed with one hdmi and the dvd with the other. Also use 2 - monoprice 1 X 4 powered hdmi splitter to send the signal out and work flawlessy! Also use a harmony 890pro and love it. No need to call and set up an appointment with an installer to change my remote when I buy new equipment. Saved $1000’s doing it myself.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  04/23  at  12:49 PM

People, this is not a debate about DIY vs. professional installation. We like ‘em both! And there is no suggestion that you shouldn’t buy cheap cable or Costco TVs ... just a few harmless caveats to ensure that you actually DO save money when you buy on the cheap.

Posted by IsleOfMan  on  04/23  at  01:03 PM

Julie,

I trust your intentions, but it didn’t read that way… especially with the quotes from Straight Wire and Speakercraft.  My earlier points were also galvanized by the attitudes and responses of the CIs that posted.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  04/23  at  02:49 PM

Isle ... I think there is enough data out there to indicate that high prices and major hype do not (necessarily) equate to better products (HDMI or otherwise)

Posted by IsleOfMan  on  04/23  at  02:53 PM

But if the article is to stand on its own, it should be read as such… and the way it reads to me is “be afraid if you don’t use a CI”...

Posted by Persain  on  04/24  at  08:43 AM

@IsleOfMan
Couldn’t agree more this article reads as if you just buy everything yourself and want to set it all up, get ready to spend hours messing with with it, looking online for help.  because unless you are and installer all these little things are going to cause u major problems. 
I mean seriously one or two meter runs of HDMI cables is the max before there are issues. 75-100 ft is the First time i’ve ever seen and issue with monoprice type cables and thats typical of most HDMI.
And while i dont know about the wireless issue 5-10k is a giant rip off as u can get 1000ft of cat6 for $100 thus at 10k your paying $9000 for the actual intall as 500 for cable and 500 for other should cover you.

Posted by S Henry  on  04/24  at  10:00 AM

Many costco TVs are the exact same models sold by CIs.  They carried the 6020 Kuro, the 850 Panasonic Plasma and the 65” Aquos LCD.  May not be a Runco or Elite but most would agree these are very good sets.  Their discreet codes are identical whether purchased from costco (who doubles your warranty for free) or go a more expensive route.  Most consumers are not running 100 ft HDMI runs, yes, some are, but for you to say 1-2 meters might be okay max is just silly.  Any decent cables can easily handle 10 meter runs.  It seems this article is what needs the caveats!

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