DIYer Makes Home Theater His Business

Coronado home theater

After years of planning his theater and doing the bulk of the work by himself, Ray Coronado finally gets his name in lights.

Ray Coronado's hands-on installation of his own home theater turned a hobby into a side business.


Apr. 12, 2007 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Ray Coronado is a home theater installer’s dream—if that installer likes to be lazy. This do-it-yourselfer needed a little help from a contractor and an electrician, but Coronado demanded to be included in his home theater’s dirty work.

The Coronado home theater is where “Cribs” meets MacGyver. “I’m real hands on,” Coronado says. “I really don’t buy anything until I personally take a look at it, use it and see if it’s going to integrate well with my stuff.”

For years Coronado kept his hands busy by testing A/V equipment in his living room. Sure, any space can fit a big-screen TV or a projector, but Coronado wanted both and more. It seems there’s always room for home theater—even if you have to build that room.

Coronado hired a contractor to build the addition, but while the walls were going up, his wheels were turning. Coronado jotted down ideas, thoughts, and equipment he had seen in magazines and heard about. He also picked the brains of two friends, who were also fellow theater junkies.

After the room was framed, Coronado went in to install the speaker wiring, networking lines and all of the cables for the projector. While many people would shell out big bucks for a wiring job, Coronado wanted to install, set up and calibrate everything. “I want to know exactly how everything works and I don’t want to rely on someone else to repair my problems,” he says. He had one week to complete the work before the contractor sealed the walls.

Choosing equipment wasn’t a big chore, since most of it was already in his house. Of course, being a theater geek means there’s always a rabid thirst for new technologies. In Coronado’s case, it all came down to cost. “There are a lot of things that I’d love to have, but I can’t seem to justify the cost,” Coronado says. “Everything that I’ve gotten, in my opinion, is the best product I could buy for the amount of money that I allocated for each individual product.” Most recently, however, he did splurge on a Toshiba HD DVD player and at press time, he was waiting on his new JVC projector to join the mix.

Three years and about $55,000 later (with $35K of that going to the addition), Coronado is very pleased with his work. “I had a hand in everything in that theater—either by design, actual hands-on or by just implementing things,” he says. “I worked very close with the architect to design the room. I worked very close with the contractor to have them build the room the way I wanted it. I worked very close with the sub-contractor and worked hand-in-hand with the electrician.”

In retrospect, his only regret is that the room could have been a bit wider. “It’s just kind of a personal preference,” he says. More width means he could have squeezed a few extra seats in there, making two more of his friends very happy.

Regrets aside, the end result has opened up the floodgates for a lot of compliments, as well as inquiries. These days, when he’s not watching things blow up on his big screen, Coronado spends time hanging with a group of home theater buffs, who get together to enjoy each others’ accomplishments and exchange ideas.

He’s also spawned a little business for himself. “Because of this room, I have basically started a home theater consulting business.” He has helped out with design, installation, calibration and setup on about six theaters so far. Coronado suggests that people think about what they want to spend, then he tries to suggest the best bang for their budget. “I don’t sell anything,” he says. Instead Coronado directs people to certain stores or dealers and leaves a lot of the planning in the customers’ hands.

“I really enjoy the hobby, and sometimes when I charge people, I feel bad,” Coronado says.

You can contact Ray Coronado through his Web site.

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