First time home theatre setup

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by Barena, Jan 23, 2014.

  1. Barena macrumors newbie

    Jan 20, 2014
    I’m in the process of building a house and looking at getting a home theatre set up properly for the first time and want it to be relatively future proof.

    I generally just stream media from a selection of external hard drives connected to my MBA to an Apple TV, but want to streamline it as I have over 4TB of media (all iTunes friendly).

    Would a Mac Mini connected directly to my tv be the best option? I don’t think I need a NAS as I plan to eventually connect the existing Apple TV to a tv in another room.

    Any advice or things I haven’t thought of would be much appreciated!
  2. rayward, Jan 23, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2014

    rayward macrumors 68000

    Mar 13, 2007
    Houston, TX
    Before they seal up the walls, I'd have them run ethernet throughout the house - at least to every location where you have a cable outlet - back to a single hub. That way, you can use a Mac Mini (or other host of your choice) as your media hub, and feed media anywhere in the house over your wired network. If you use Cat 5e or Cat 6, it's lightning fast!

    I did this in my last house, my hub was in the same place as the phone and cable hubs, and it's awesome. It's also incredibly cheap to run the wires during construction. All you'd need in addition is a router (which I'm sure you have already) connected to a switch (at the hub) that has enough ports for your various ethernet connections. At my home theater, I added another 3-port switch so that I could connect an Apple TV, the TV and a PS3 to a single ethernet connection.

    In total, I had an iMac (media hub in the office), 5 ATVs, an internet ready TV and a PS3 all hard wired to the network. I had the cable modem, a router (AEBS) and a NAS (for TM back-ups) in the same closet where the wires all came back to the main switch, so that it was all neat and hidden away.
  3. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Jan 1, 2008
    You have about the minimum necessary equipment as it is. It is not clear how you could "streamline" it any further. :)

    A Mac mini makes a great server, but as an interface to your content it would be a serious downgrade from the Apple TV. I agree that you do not need a NAS.

    If you want to move your content from your Macbook, then an old mini would make a fine server. You will want another Apple TV for that other television. :)

  4. warvanov macrumors 6502a

    Oct 13, 2011
    In a similar vein, you should also consider hard wiring speaker cable throughout your home theater room. Invest in good quality cable. You may also consider running a pair of cables to one or more other rooms in your house, such as the living room or even the backyard patio, etc., depending on the layout of your house.
  5. fhall1 macrumors 68040


    Dec 18, 2007
    (Central) NY State of mind
    This goes a little outside of the HT domain, but if you're having the house wired with ethernet cable, don't forget to run a couple into the attic and out to the eaves of the house - maybe all four corners or whatever makes sense for the house style - so you can later mount some PoE IP cameras for surveillance purposes.
  6. Barena thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 20, 2014
    Thanks for the great advice, I really appreciate it.

    Mind if I ask why you think the interface is a downgrade? Do you think I should connect the one ATV I have to the main tv? I just find it cumbersome to have to go between three different hard drives and connect each at different stages to the MBA.
  7. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Jan 1, 2008
    I feel that the Apple TV, with its designed-for-big-screen UI, plus the convenience of the remote control, beats anything you can put on your Mac - especially in your case as your content is all iTunes-friendly.

    I do think the Apple TV will provide the best interface. If you are swapping disk drives around then you would benefit from a dedicated machine. A Mac mini (old, used, cheap) would work fine. Plug in a drive large enough for your collection into it and you are good to go.

    Benefits of the mini:

    Small, quiet.
    Can sleep when not in use (Apple TVs can wake it up)
    Can serve content to the Apple TV(s) plus all your Macs via Home Sharing.
    Can be used for other functions (file sharing, etc) as your needs grow).

  8. djdirect macrumors newbie


    Feb 18, 2010
    I plan on eventually removing my ATV from my home theater and replacing it with a Mac Mini running XBMC connected to a Drobo 5D since my home theater will mainly be used for watching movies 98% of the time. I enjoy having the XBMC interface over the ATV interface. But that's just me.
  9. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Jan 1, 2008
    I think everyone has different likes and dislikes, and I would not claim that my preferences is best in all cases. I've tried XBMC and Plex (and I am sure that they have improved since I last tried them), and I came back to the plain Apple TV. It is not perfect, especially with large collections, and works best if the media is all iTunes-friendly. The defining moment for me was when the Apple TV supported Dolby Digital. I handbraked or remuxed everything and never looked back.

    Now I am spoiled. I can be watching a movie on the big screen in the living room, yawn and shut that room down and move to the bedroom and pick up where I left off on the TV at the end of the bed. When the movie is over (whether I am awake or not) everything (Apple TV, television, server) goes to sleep and/or powers down till next time.

  10. rayward macrumors 68000

    Mar 13, 2007
    Houston, TX
    Agreed. My house had 5 ceiling mounted speakers in the HT room, plus stereo wired to two other rooms and the back yard. A 2-zone receiver drive the whole thing. I had them add individual volume controls on the wall at each remote speaker location (it's a simple choke control that can reduce/kill the volume to that set of speakers).
  11. Madmic23 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 21, 2004
    Put at least one CAT6 cable in each location where you might have a TV in the house. Run all of the CAT6 and coax cable to a central point in the house, where ever the cable / DSL / Fiber / satellite coax comes into your house is a good location. Locate your ISP's modem and router here. You now have the absolute best flexibility.
    Using the CAT6 you have through the house, you can add wireless access points to each end of the house, providing you with full coverage. If you need to change a room from an office to a bedroom or a playroom or a games room or anything, you have the flexibility to move things. That's how I have my house set up.
    I also have speaker wire in the ceiling of each room for a whole house audio system. So far, I'm just using one Sonos Connect Amp to drive four speakers in my living room ceiling, but as I get more Sonos units, I can add speakers to more rooms since the wire is already there. All of the speaker wire runs down to my central distribution point in the basement.
    As far as your home theater goes, make sure you run in wall rated speaker wire to each corner of the room for your speakers. Also, you should have an electrical outlet installed at the point behind your TV if you plan on wall mounting it. Also, think about having a conduit installed behind the TV so you can run an HDMI cable from your AV receiver to the TV. You really don't want to see any wires hanging down.

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