We don’t know about you, but our experience with the local cable company often goes like this:
Mr. Smith, our client, calls and says that the cable company has upgraded his equipment (insert cable box or modem here) and now his TV, internet (insert service here) doesn’t work.
Come to find out that this “upgrade” installed by the cable company has re-routed his wiring and is improperly installed for his system, or has changed his home network settings arbitrarily. This happens to us far too often and with just about every media product they offer. Several mind-numbing calls to the company for tech support and countless hours are spent troubleshooting and getting the client back up and running.
And to add to the sting, we have to charge the client a service call to fix the cable company’s mistakes.
We bet you have your own horror story to tell.
Why would anyone trust their home automation and security to the cable company? New services are being offered from everyone from Comcast to Lowe’s to Verizon that control your lights, heat, security and more all for a low monthly price. We certainly aren’t convinced that these companies are truly focused on your individual home’s security so much as they just want more monthly revenue.
We aren’t saying their products don’t work or are terrible, we are just questioning the technology choices that are out in the marketplace for critical systems. You can get along just fine without TV for a day but what about lights? Heat on a cold January day? Security for your family?
Our recommendation is to use proven products and systems with professional design, installation and certified programming. Yes, it may cost more but you get what you pay for and in the end, we think you’d prefer one less reason to call the cable company.
The decision to build a new home is incredibly exciting! There are so many fun choices to make – finishes, coverings and fixtures and all sorts! We are often called in to help “technify” a custom home and we see many common mistakes made over and over – you can be better prepared with a couple of tips:
Design Before You Design (Plan Ahead)
Save yourself a ton of money by planning your electronics ahead of your final home design. Bring in your audio video/integration specialist early, during the design phase of your home, to eliminate common problems that happen after the fact (and sometimes too late):
- Proper places for equipment, correct dimensions and cooling needs
- Blocking behind wall-mounted TVs for support
- Pre-wiring plan to a master control area (head end)
- Room size for theaters and media rooms
- Dedicated circuits for equipment rooms and areas with high demand
Prewiring Is Cheap
You can always change carpet, paint or counter tops, but it’s not so easy to retro-fit wiring so find a line that you are comfortable with between “wire for everything” and “wire for the bare minimum.” You can also run smurf tubes (a type of conduit) between floors so that you can retrofit wire more easily if necessary.
Sure, many things can operate with wireless technology but to have the most robust and problem-free system, hard-wired is always best.
Prepare A Budget
This seems like a no-brainer, right? True, but be realistic about what it costs. You can go to Big Box Retailer and purchase a 50” TV for under $700 but will that give you what you want? Same goes for audio, security, control… well… everything. A good integrator can give you realistic ranges to get you started.
We are not talking about how big or small your theater room is here… we are talking specific dimensions that you want to absolutely avoid. Why would that matter? The short answer is that sound waves have specific sizes, like ripples in a pond or waves in the ocean. The waves bounce off, or are absorbed by, the interior of your theater room in specific places. If the room is of certain dimensions or oriented poorly, you have sound canceling at many points in the room with the result being a dead sounding theater. A dead sounding theater will have pockets of no sound at certain frequencies – it has no punch, no liveliness to the sound, no impact when you are watching your favorite movie. It just sounds boring or even bad.
The worst sounding theater room is a perfectly square cube. But you also don’t want a single theater room dimension to be equal or be a multiple of another.
12’ X 12’ X 12’
8’ X 16’ X 32’
8’ X 16’ X 16’
You get the picture…
Typically, every room needs some help to really knock you out of your seat. Properly setting up your equipment is a must but we also recommend acoustical treatments that are strategically placed to absorb, reflect or diffuse sound. For a dedicated movie/theater room, it’s ideal to have no windows, but they can be dealt with.
To read a more detailed description and use their optimum room dimension calculator click here.
You can always contact us for more information!
Get Out of the Big Box for Big Sound in A Pretty Package
Sound bars are designed to attach to your television to provide better sound quality and a seamless look. They can be fitted to the sides or along the bottom or top of a flat-panel television. They typically come in two forms, powered and self-contained, or “custom”, meaning they’re designed to wire back to an amplifier located not directly at the TV to get their power.
Self Contained Sound Bars
Self-contained speaker bars are what you commonly see in your big box retail shop. They require being plugged into electricity at the wall with your TV and then connect to your TV to get an audio signal. They come in lots of shapes, sizes and brands, and very few of them deliver great sound. They also are “best matched” to your make and model of television – not built to the exact dimensions. Although these retail solutions are better than the speakers built into TVs today, custom solutions offer better sound and aesthetics.
Custom Sound Bars
Custom speaker bars will come from a specialty manufacturer and will almost always sound much better than an off-the-shelf solution. Most are built specially for each job, so they can match dimensions of your TV. This way the sound bar looks like it was always meant to be a part of your TV experience. They can be built to go above the TV, below it or even on the sides. If you are doing a surround sound room but don’t have a place for the front speakers, custom sound bars can even be built for left, center and right speakers, so you sacrifice nothing!
Step Eight: The Summary!
So we’ve talked about all the technology, wired up the house, racked the gear and installed it in the home. So how did it turn out?
This homeowner now has no electronics scattered around the house, just a TV and a handheld remote. Whether in the kitchen, living room, master bedroom or down in the movie room, they simply pick up the remote and select what to watch or listen to, all choices require only one button press! Speakers have been installed in the walls or ceiling and are paint-matched to virtually disappear into the room.
In the kitchen and master bedroom, there are 6″ touch panels in the wall for controlling music, the heating and A/C system, security system, and in the bedroom – even the fireplace! The client can listen to digital cable music, music from any iPhone or iPod in the home, or even the DJ system one of their kids has setup in his bedroom.
The network in the home features in-ceiling Wi-Fi access points, so there aren’t little radio boxes hidden in cabinets anywhere, the Wi-Fi simply works with nothing to look at. They even have Wi-Fi coverage through their outdoor living and BBQ space by the river!
If someone rings the doorbell, the homeowner can easily, with one button press, view the front door camera on any TV in the home! The cameras have time-lapse recording and are viewable on iPhones, iPad, computers or even over the internet from any web browser. The security system in the home can be armed and disarmed with the touch panels, or with the client’s iPhone, giving them the ability to check on the home wherever they are!
Our goal was to provide a system featuring maximum entertainment with minimum effort to operate. The walkthrough portion is always our favorite, showing a homeowner how to use their system and seeing their excitement. The best part – after demoing the theater system, the client blinked – eyes wide open – and simply exclaimed, “WOW!”
Step Seven: Hook it all together!
Now that we’ve discussed all the different parts necessary to totally integrate a home, let’s see what it takes to put it all together and make it tick! First, we need a place to hold all the equipment and in many cases we use a rack like the one pictured below. Racks come in all sorts of shapes and sizes; some look very industrial and others integrate into a nicely designed room as a piece of furniture that hides the gear! We proudly use Middle Atlantic racks because not only are they Made in the USA, but they also offer an amazing variety of designs for any home or business!
This rack is going to hold the networking gear, main controller, audio switcher, video switcher, surround sound receiver and all the wires for security cameras, touch panels, keypads, fireplace control and even operating your garage door openers! We take great pride in wiring racks in our office well ahead of the installation date. Not only can we connect everything neatly, but we can label the wiring and test functionality so it’s all ready to run when we arrive at the job site! Here’s an example of how we started wiring the electricity, networking and audio cables with everything labeled so we know where things go!
To us, details really matter. Electricity cables run down one side, while audio, video and network go down the other side. We do this to keep the rack more clean looking and to decrease the chances of interference between different types of wires and signals. With a system tested and functioning at our office, we know that once it’s in your home and connected it will most likely “just work”. It allows us to be more efficient with our installation and decreases the amount of time we spend in your home.