Just what is custom installation? The "custom" industry consists of skilled professionals who design and install audio/video and other related systems in residential and commercial spaces. These systems differ from what you would buy in a retail store in that they are engineered to not only meet and fulfill the needs of the client, but to optimize performance while complementing the physical and aesthetic demands of the space — hence the term "custom". These systems can be configured to accommodate security, telephone, and other home systems while providing a user-friendly interface for the customer.

    Professional installers will typically work with the client to coordinate their efforts with other contractors — such as architects, interior designers, and electricians — to ensure that the system blends into the home both functionally and aesthetically.

    A simple comparison: Whereas an off-the-shelf stereo system sits obtrusively in one's living room and serves only that space, a custom A/V system uses these components plus others to form a nearly invisible system providing music and video to any number of rooms.

    There are many reasons why the business of custom installation is attracting such avid consumer interest. Today's audio and video components have become increasingly sophisticated and capable, yet one is often drawn to discount "superstores" when lured by low prices and a vast product selection. Unfortunately, many of these "superstores" lack the expertise of professional installers, and are therefore unable to provide quality service and advice, often to the customer's disadvantage. Where does one look to obtain good advice and make educated purchases of these products? More and more, consumers are turning to custom installers who can help them explore the myriad of home entertainment options now available to them, and explain the features and functions of each in laymen's terms.

    A second factor which is contributing to the popularity of custom installation is that the consumer electronics market is driven by clever product applications, clearly the domain of the custom installer and manufacturers such as Niles.

    Another reason why custom installation has become so popular is that it is now being fed by its own prominence. The growing popularity of "home theaters" (which were pioneered by custom installers) speaks to a change in the way you look at audio and video components. Many see them as an integral part of one's home and lifestyle, and as an investment in both. Manufacturers of traditional components such as big-screen TV sets and audio/video components are targeting these new sensibilities by promoting professionally installed home theaters and "multi-room" audio systems.

    But perhaps the most compelling reason for the continuing success of the custom installation industry is right before your eyes. Your home is rapidly becoming a monument to your lifestyle. If you exercise regularly, you want a home gym. If you work a lot of overtime, you want a home office. If you enjoy watching movies, you want a home theater. "Convenience" is no longer simply a goal, it's a must. That alone describes the design objective in home entertainment electronics, one which ensures the continued growth of the custom installation industry in the coming days as High-Definition TV, DVD, and a litany of other home automation technologies as they become available.