At the heart of any great home entertainment system is a suite of black boxes that supplies audio and video content to your speakers and TVs. Streaming media players, audio/video receivers, Blu-ray disc players, high-def cable boxes, and a host of other gear are essential to the home entertainment experience, and if you’re like many homeowners, you’ve probably gathered quite an assortment of boxes over the years. Or, maybe you’ve been using just a couple of components and are ready to introduce a few others to your entertainment setup. Whatever the case may be, where you place that suite of A/V hardware can have huge impact on the performance of your entertainment system.
A/V Storage Options
While there’s are no home entertainment rules that say you can’t stack A/V components on wooden shelving in a closet (good option) or inside a piece of A/V furniture (better option), there’s always the risk that your equipment will overheat if the storage space lacks proper ventilation.
According to research from leading manufacturer of equipment racks, Middle Atlantic, the lifespan of electronic components can be drastically compromised without adequate ventilation. “When heat generated from the equipment can’t escape, fans in the equipment start running to the point where the equipment will shut down,” says Middle Atlantic director of product management, Tim Troust. “The temperature inside a storage unit should not exceed 85 degrees. For every 10 degrees above 85, the life of a piece of equipment is reduced by 40 percent.”
For this reason, and others, the best storage option for A/V gear is within a specially engineered equipment rack. These racks, which come in a variety of sizes and price ranges (usually between $500 to house a modest home theater system to upwards of $5,000 to accommodate A/V gear as well as home automation, security, energy management, and other processors), feature open, exposed shelving that, promotes a natural airflow that helps equipment run cool and efficiently. Fans can be added for extra ventilation, but usually aren’t necessary, says Troust.
Well Organized Cabling
Another design feature that promotes top-notch performance from equipment is a built-in cable management system. This enables the various cabling that makes up an entertainment system to be laid out in a neat, orderly fashion and to be segregated to prevent interference that can occur when power and low-voltage cabling are in close vicinity, for example. The design of the rack also prevents cabling from being bent too much, which can degrade the audio and video signals. And should you add new components to the rack, its open back and well-organized cabling layout will make connecting the new device a cinch.
Supports Expansion of your System
Just as the rack ensures that the cabling it “dressed” properly, it keeps maintains organization among the A/V components. You can group like-brand products together for a cohesive look, adjust shelving to accommodate new equipment, and add a fascia, trim, LED lights, even a glass door to enhance the rack’s cosmetics. “We’ve even had customers use LEDs that change color in the rack based on a holiday or special occasion,” says Troust. As a rule of thumb, he recommends buy a rack that’s 20 percent larger than what you need based on your current A/V configuration. You’ll have plenty of space for new components without compromising airflow.
Sure, an equipment rack is an added expense, and one you may not even see on regular basis—especially if it’s housed in a utility room. But if you want to fully protect your investment in an A/V or home automation system, it’s well worth the extra cost. “It’s like an insurance policy for the life and reliability of your gear,” says Troust.