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Multi-room entertainment systems becoming the norm
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As technology continues to advance, more people are realizing their dreams of making the home into their own mini movie theater. Home theaters have begun to extend well beyond the living room or basement.

Many homeowners have embraced the very realistic possibility of having theater and music access throughout their home instead of just in one particular area.

Multi-room systems have grown in popularity for a number of reasons. Advancement in television technology has allowed for bigger and more precise images, while the digital revolution in music has enabled music lovers essentially to create their own radio stations, with playlists filled with all the music they love.

In general, unless a homeowner is highly skilled, it's best to leave the installation of multi-room systems to a professional. Such a decision will limit surprises and ensure your system doesn't take forever to install.

However, simply because a multi-room system is best installed by a professional doesn't mean a homeowner can't buy his own products. Those thinking of adding a multi-room system to their home will need the following materials.

• Multi-room home theater receiver: In order to hear music in more than one room, you'll need a multi-room receiver. Before purchasing the receiver, decide how many rooms in the house you want connected. You can do your entire house, but that can be a costly choice. Many people choose to have a two- or three-room receiver.

The latter enables your receiver to play three different sources in three rooms simultaneously. Some three-room receivers even allow video to be sent to an additional room. Many people like the three-room option because it allows music in the original source room, another room inside the house and even outside the house (such as on the patio) if you choose such an area.

• Home theater speakers: Decide on how many rooms you'll want to be connected and then buy your speakers accordingly. Consider in-wall or in-ceiling speakers as well, and don't forget speakers for the main room. While in-wall or in-ceiling speakers can be more expensive options, they're also more aesthetically appealing.

• In-wall volume controls: It's best to install these in all additional rooms where you'll be installing speakers. When doing so, it makes it easier to control volume in each room, as you won't need to return to the main room to control volume. If you do decide to have an outside space connected, make sure you get a weatherproof volume control system that can handle nature's elements.

• All necessary speaker wires: A professional will certainly remember this, but those who insist on DIY or those who prefer to have everything ready for a professional and just want installation should remember to get all necessary wires ahead of time. You'll need wires that connect the main room selector to all volume controls, and you'll also need wires that connect volume control to all speakers. Again, for outdoor rooms, make sure everything is weatherproof.

Once you've purchased the materials, it's important to realize professional installation can be expensive. The overall bill for the technology alone can add up quickly, and many have found it tempting to install the system themselves once they've purchased everything they need.

For those with little or no experience, this approach has proven an expensive and time-consuming trap. Those who haven't proven particularly tech savvy would be wise to seek the help of a professional regardless of cost. Luckily as home-theater systems become more prevalent, so do installers, meaning you can comparison shop.