The Audio Upgrade: Installing Flatwire 5.1 Surround Sound Wiring

Who doesn't love a proper home theatre (pronounced 'truh')? Not as beloved: the amount of cables, cords, and wires inherent in connecting all the components. We've talked about Flatwire's products before, but here's our actual experience installing it ourselves, part of a 5.1 surround sound system...

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We've been watching movies projected on our wall for prolly 4 to 5 years and listening to audio on various small stereo systems in 2.1. Honestly, nothing to complain about, considering our needs.

But we feel now is the time to upgrade. We even have a surround sound amplifier and speakers ready, but we just haven't had them hooked up for fear or our little nest becoming too...nestlike. We have the same problem as everyone else: WIRING!

A lot of you out there live in apartments or condos or somewhere where cutting up your walls is either against the rules or is too hard to deal with. We happen to be at the end of a remodel and it's still too much trouble. WIRING SUCKS.

...Or so we thought.

The first thing you notice when the rather substantial box arrives in the mail is the rather substantial box. Seriously, this is supposed to be wiring, not a stereo system. But once you crack it open, it becomes apparent the Flatwire system is more than just wires, and one to be taken seriously. The build quality is extremely high which is important if it is going to stand the test of time- you won't feel as though you are going to have to redo the install in two years when some hot new wire hits the market.

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You get the wire, terminals for both ends, subwoofer wire and terminals, mesh to cover the wire and trowel putty onto, and adhesive to mount the wire to the wall.
Required tools for installation:
  • Scissors (or 'a scissor', if you are very young)
  • Screwdriver
  • Wall putty
  • Trowel for said putty
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer and Paint (that matches your wall- we happened to be getting ready to paint anyway, so you know...)
  • The usual tchotchke and tools to fix stuff with
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First you got to flatten out the walls; if you have cracks, smooth 'em out an' fill 'em.
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We just smoothed this one down since the whole thing will be covered by the wire.
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We are going to put our audio system in a closet in the bedroom (which we just built) so we drilled holes in the wall in order for the wire tape to go into the closet. We taped a bag to the wall in order to catch all the dust (highly recommended).
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Then we used a butch (meaning tough) knife to make a more slit shaped opening that would make it easier to slip the wire through to the other side
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Then you just spray the adhesive to the wall, taking care not to overspray (overspray will interfere with putty adhesion). Oh, and make sure you have good ventilation. Lastly, bend and stick to the wall. We used a plastic CD case to flatten it the heck down- the glue is forgiving, so if you muck up, you can just pull it up and press again.

The process is admittedly a bit of work, but nowhere near the trouble of wiring in the walls. We accomplished the install in about 2-3 hours in the morning, including watching the extraordinarily helpful DVD included with the kit.

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Here is where we are now- you can see how we have different length wires to reach each speaker for the front left, middle, and right speakers. We will continue to work on this over the next few weeks and keep you all in the loop- feel free to axe questions and so forth- catch you next time. If you feel like playing along pick up the kit here for $399.

Originally posted October 17, 2008

Follow more of this audio upgrade project:
The Invisible Audio Upgrade Part 2: Installing a Rear Speaker Wallplate
The Invisible Audio Upgrade Part 3: Installing Flatwire 5.1 Surround Sound Wiring

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