Although not a new concept, the wireless music scene is getting a lot more crowded. For those of you who haven’t discovered the category yet, Wireless Music Systems are a nice step between a whole house music system, wired into your home, and using headphones and an iPod or similar device. With Apple’s inclusion of AirPlay a couple years back, manufacturers looked at this technology with skepticism, thinking that no one would really want to carry around there phone to listen to music. Some manufacturers embraced the technology and created this new category. With HTC and Samsung now supporting similar technology, there’s been an explosion of new systems from many manufacturers. Thankfully, two of our key vendors adopted this technology early and have been at the forefront of the new genre of music systems. Bowers & Wilkins and Pioneer both showed new products to expand their offerings, and both offer great ways to enjoy your music throughout your home or office, at various levels and price-points. Here’s a link to some of the great new products, arriving soon at Audio Video Interiors. Stop by for a demo of some these great new solutions.
Project Engineer & Technology Advisor
One of the most exciting things to come out of this years CEDIA conference was the formal introduction of the new CI-800 series of custom install speakers from B&W. We received a sneak peak at the concept last year, but the official launch versions were being demonstrated by B&W in a private suite near the show. The sound was incredible, and is an amazing engineering accomplishment. We had a chance to talk to the legend, Senior Development Engineer Dr. John Dibb, who oversaw every aspect of the speakers design and execution, as he does with the entire B&W line. John showed us many aspects of what allows the CI-800 speakers to jump out of the walls and ceilings, and sound like a large standing speaker in the room, including the new tweeter design using carbon fiber reinforcement. The speakers are a complete marvel, and will be available soon, with pre-orders being accepted now.
Project Engineer & Technology Advisor
For those of you who have been following my blog on this topic, we’ve gone over the various ways of finding and determining what content providers will work for you, allowing you to cut out subscription services like cable or satellite, and going to the internet for TV watching. Now it’s time to talk about what products and interfaces are out there, some of which you may already own, for sorting and playing back the content you’ve found. For the purposes of this blog, we’re assuming you’re not going to custom build your own computer to give you the ultimate in versatility, and subsequently the ultimate headache of maintenance. We’re going to focus on family friendly, tech novice devices, that you can learn to live within a relatively short amount of time. Let’s profile the major players:
Connected TVs, BluRay Players, and Gaming Consoles
Many of our clients already own various devices that can access much of this content, and they don’t even know it. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best at it, but it would certainly be worth trying out to gauge your comfort level with the services if you already have the devices. Most of the current TVs we sell are internet or “smart” enabled, giving you access to the most popular services. The only downside to using the TV, is for those customers using surround systems, as most of the time there isn’t sufficient wiring to send the sound back to the system. Also, the newer TVs are now using special, motion controlled or voice control enabled remotes, meaning that you need to use the factory remote in lieu of a simplified custom programmed remote. The BluRay players typically offer the same functionality but with the added benefit of allowing you to enter into the highest quality picture available via the BluRay disc playback. Also, modern game systems have many of the same features to the most popular services, albeit you may have to use a game controller to navigate the system, which isn’t always the simplest to use, or find. Lastly, the interface these devices will change from manufacturer to manufacturer, and even model to model. So the Sony TV you use in one room will have a completely different look and interface than the LG Bluray Player or the Microsoft XBOX360 in another room. Google is hoping to cure this with the second iteration of GoogleTV, built into many new consumer devices, but we’ll need to wait and see how successful their second go-around will be.
Probably the most popular media streamer we sell, the AppleTV has been giving clients easy and quick access to their digital content for years. The newest iteration offers 1080P playback, and access to Hulu and Netflix as well as the iTunes store and several of the popular subscription based sports services. Unfortunately, that’s it. Not really the king of internet media, but if most of your content is media you intend to buy from the iTunes store or via the two major content providers, it’s arguably the easiest and most reliable device to use. Couple that with the ability to stream content from your iPad or iPhone, and the $99 streamer makes a lot of sense as an add-on for even the hardcore media junkies.
Another small and affordable streamer that has been popular for several years, Roku offers multiple models for different playback requirements ranging from $60 to $100 and offers one of the largest selections of services, working with the two major providers, as well as the growing Amazon Prime market, the long established VUDU market, and popular music services like Pandora. The only major downside to the Roku is the overall user experience. While new versions have helped it along, most users find the interface to be oversimplified, and have stated that the box itself is more prone to locking up. Nothing a simple unplugging-and-plugging-back-in procedure doesn’t fix, but couple that with limited abilities to show off connect that you’ve stored like movies, photos, and music, and this is more of an add-on for those of you that have solved how to play your content a different way, and don’t mind the occasional hiccups.
Possibly the best combination of power and usability, Boxee has been a software service for years that integrates many of the popular services with social media, allowing you to post links to your favorite content, and browse recommendations of your friends. The latest incarnation is the Boxee Box by DLink, which has incorporated the software on a very stable, and very small machine. The device will play pretty much any format of stored media that you have, and is highly customizable for different services and channels. Plus, you can now add an OTA (over-the-air) tuner so that you can view internet content as well as local HD broadcasts for free with the added antenna. However, all that customization comes at a cost, as many users will find the interface challenging at first. Also, from a hardware solution perspective, it’s near the top in price at nearly $200. They do give you a great handheld remote with a full QWERTY keyboard on the underside, as well as IP control through apps for iOS and Android devices though, so they win our hearts in terms of integration support.
There are hundreds of other device solutions out there, that are better fits for some of our clients, or more complex than some can handle. This small offering of the most popular players we’ve been asked about illustrates the over-riding theme of this blog series; it all depends on the content you want to use, to derive the possible and best solutions out there. Feeling confused by this topic? Call, email, or stop by where you can experience some of these technologies first hand.
Joe Calderaro, Project Engineer & Technology Advisor
For the music lovers among us who are fortunate enough to own an installed high fidelity music system at home and/or in the office, the last few years have seen us migrating to the iPod, iPhone, or iPad as our primary music source. Whether it be from iTunes downloads, Pandora, Rhapsody, Spotify, internet radio apps, or podcasts, the “i” device has become ubiquitous, and synonymous with the idea of convenient access to a universe of music and information. So, after a long day at the office, you arrive home, slip into your favorite jeans, pour a drink or grab a cold one from the fridge, connect your “i” device to your music system by connecting a cable from your “i” device’s earphone jack to your system’s “aux” input, then on your “i” device, you select the artist, album, genre, track, or playlist you’re in the mood for, then after touching the “PLAY” icon & laying the “i” device on the shelf next to your receiver or pre-amp, you waltz over to your favorite chair, sit down in front of your world-class speakers, drink in hand, finally ready for the trip to that personal musical heaven inside your head. After setting your drink down on the end-table, you reach for the remote, right there on the end-table where you left it last night. But it’s not there. You wonder for a second; kids, spouse, or dog? So, after a moderately lengthy search, you finally locate the grape jelly and peanut butter encrusted remote (kids) under the chair. It’s been a few hours & so at least it’s not quite as sticky as it certainly was earlier. The grape jelly is still wet down in the dog bite holes from all the times when it was the dog that made the remote disappear, but since that’s not “surface jelly” it’s easily avoided. So, you relax back into your chair with the semi-sticky remote, carefully aim at your equipment cabinet, press the “POWER” button, then the “CONCERT HALL-SURROUND“ button, then the “AUX” button, then quickly!, very quickly!!, the “VOLUME DOWN” button (kids left it at “permanent hearing-loss” level!) Now, since at least five minutes have elapsed since you touched the “PLAY” icon on your “i” device, you have missed the first song, or the overture, or the first movement of the symphony. But now that you’re finally comfy in your chair, you simply settle on just waiting for the next track in the playlist, rather than getting up & walking back over to your “i” device, touching the “BACK” icon, & then hurrying back to the chair before the music begins again. So now, you pick up your drink, take a sip or two, set the drink back down on the end-table, relax, and the next selection’s music starts and finally, at long last, the trip begins…. you feel yourself sliding toward nirvana…. you close your eyes & you can see the beautiful, multi-color light of musically inspired synesthesia up ahead. Almost there…. almost…. then suddenly…. SILENCE! ….. What the #@*&%$#*&%$ just happened?!!!! Now, waving your arms in disgust and disappointment, you knock your drink off the end-table, and as your $5,500.00 per bottle Château Mouton Rothschild 1959 is soaking into the carpet you remember noticing that when you read that last e-mail or made that last call before pulling out of the office parking garage, the battery charge indicator on your “i” device read 5%. Oh, yea…. forgot…. $#&^**&&^^$#@#$^ it!!!! You scurry off to the Kitchen, and then with paper towels in hand, frantically start looking for your “i” charger. NIRVANA CANCELLED. Or, at least seriously postponed. You’re hardly in the mood now anyway, down on hands & knees trying to save your carpet from making you look like an animal abuser who, amongst other horrible & dastardly things you do to your pets for your morbid, twisted sense of amusement, you also regularly ignore your dog’s pleading for “walk-time”. to be continued….
Steven Bland, Technology Advisor
We ran across this article by our friends at Electronics House and wanted to share. It’s a terrific checklist of what to look for in an electronics/technology integration company.
May 16, 2011 | by EH Staff
by Chris Chiarella
Apart from finding a spouse, choosing the right home integrator might be one of the most important decisions we ever have to make. We’re not just purchasing components, we could be entering into a long-term relationship. Then again, it is a serious investment, with workers occupying our inner sanctum, and fervent dreams of pushbutton ease and high-definition glory.
So we need to go in with our eyes wide open, understanding the essential topics that must be broached, ones that can enlighten and empower us when we’re ready to close the deal.
To help guide our readers in their future projects, we have hereby attempted to narrow down this list of questions that cut to the chase, formulated to elicit the answers homeowners need to make informed choices.
1. What are the integrators’ training and certifications?
The technology of electronic home integration has never been more sophisticated, and not all of the professionals out there are fully qualified for the projects they take on. Some potential clients are lured only by the lowest bid and don’t take the time to ensure that the people working on their home have undergone the necessary training for the job. They just take it on faith that the work will be done correctly, which can be a costly assumption in the long run. A well-trained installer is proud of his credentials and won’t hesitate to share them!
2. Does the integrator have references, specifically on projects of similar size and scope?
References are the lifeblood of the home integrator. A job well-done for a happy homeowner is the ultimate “win,” and so the thumbs-up from a previous customer—one not unlike yourself—is a great way for the client to establish a comfort level by proving that the integrator has successfully completed similar projects. Again, this information should be freely offered, so don’t be afraid to ask.
3. Do they have photographs of completed projects?
Word of mouth is one thing, but a picture is worth a thousand of ‘em, right? Apart from the beauty of the finished product, a photograph conveys important sub-text: The homeowner thought enough of the work—and the company behind it—to allow them back to take photos, and everyone can preen over the results. But strictly on face value, photographs will show the quality of work and attention to detail that the integrator puts into his projects.
4. How long has the integrator has been in business?
A well-established integrator simply has more hands-on experience, has encountered more challenges and has therefore figured out more solutions. A difficult customer might be the biggest challenge of all, so you can surely appreciate the skills of a pro who has turned numerous frowns upside-down. Successful years/decades past also suggest that he will be more likely to still be around in the future to service the client’s needs.
How many similarly-sized projects has the integrator done in the past?
If this is the first time an integrator has done, say, an end-to-end whole-home project, he is far less likely to have a successful outcome as opposed to one who routinely performs those types of jobs. It’s not solely a matter of experience, but specifically experience that matches your needs.
5. Does the integrator have a showroom location or office that the client is able to visit?
A modern, welcoming showroom is an indication of how stable the organization is. A competitor operating a smaller, home-based installation business might lack the resources to execute larger projects, or to be there to maintain his previously installed systems in the future.
6. What is the experience level of the company’s installers and technicians?
Even the best techs—the men on the front lines pf the job—have all had to overcome at least some minor (in some cases major) obstacles while installing a system. A seasoned installer/technician brings those experiences with him to subsequent jobs and knows how to best deal with most surprises as they occur. If you’ll pardon the cliché, there really is no substitute for experience.
7. What is the support system behind the salesperson?
An African proverb states that “It takes a village to raise a child.” In the consumer electronics world, it takes a dedicated team to see a job through from the contract to the popping of champagne corks and the watching of the first movie. The right salesperson should have all the answers you need and inspire confidence in your purchase, but ultimately the work is only going to be as good as the weakest link in the chain, so get to know them all: the designers, electricians, A/V experts and so on.
8. What is the warranty period on materials and workmanship and how is service is expedited?
No one wants to imagine that any part of their fancy new custom installation will fail, but preparing for the worst case scenario today might spare you some fretful hours tomorrow. How long should you expect the dealer to stand behind his work? What is the procedure should the need for a service call arise? And the promptness of a repair/replacement visit is one of the distinguishing factors between a good integrator and a great one.
9. Does the integrator offer extended service agreements and/or system maintenance contracts?
Find out how long the standard protection lasts on your new home system, and then ask if extended coverage is available either through the dealer or the manufacturer. System maintenance contracts are also worth investigating, a sort of “umbrella policy” against a multitude of potential misfortunes. Again, here’s hoping you never need to take advantage of it, but a small investment now can bring priceless peace of mind down the road.
10. Does the integrator have a project manager who will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the project?
Having a single contact, a “point man” to oversee the project and all of the stakeholders involved, will drastically reduce any confusion during the execution of the installation. Have a question? A complaint? A new idea? Find out who your go-to-guy is, then program his number in your phone.
11. Who are the vendor partners that the integrator works with and how long has the integrator been a dealer of those proposed vendors?
We can infer a certain confidence from the brands and products that an integrator provides, as they are typically well-researched and backed by solid guarantees and reliable service from the manufacturer. And because the level of support that a vendor/manufacturer provides to the integrator will directly impact the integrator’s ability to support the client, assurances of a strong working relationship “behind the scenes” can go a long way to maintaining total customer satisfaction.
12. How long will it take to fully complete the job?
While a finished product on the scale of The Sistine Chapel would be swell, hopefully no one will be writing a book entitled The Agony and the Ecstasy based upon your home integration experience. Everyone who has ever undertaken a large home project has wondered, “When will they be done and out of here?” This is your turf, so you have every right to be involved in setting the deadlines and enforcing them. Go in with a reasonable timeline in mind, but be prepared to adjust those expectations: Exceptional electronic home systems, much like a certain Italian capital, aren’t built in a day.
Special thanks to Brian Perreault of Barrett’s Technology Solutions for his generous wisdom.
It seems that more and more clients are asking us about integrating internet services into their home music systems. With the proliferation of smarter devices, like the iPad, iPhone, and Android phones available today, users want to add the content they’ve become accustomed to on the road, at home. While you’ve been able to plug your computer in as a source for some time, this solution is less than desireable and requires users to live with all of the fun issues a computer can have when trying to relax or setup for a great party. Along with internet radio stations, consumers have continued to move away from terrestrial radio and expand into satellite music, but home systems require outdoor or “in-the-window” antennas which are less than reliable. Enter in the new Rotel RDG-1520. The new Digital Tune allows users to access thousands of internet radio stations, streams music from network devices, and can stream SIRIUS/XM radio via the internet connection. While this new device simplifies integration of non-traditional sources, it still rich in Rotel heritage with onboard Wolfson DACs and high-end audio output stages to create the best possible sound from your digital devices, including a USB connection on the front for stellar playback of a connected device like the iPod. The unit comes with a wireless USB dongle to allow wireless streaming if your equipment center is short on wiring. They’ve also integrated these features into the new RCX-1500 which includes all of these great features plus an onboard Rotel 1500 series CD player and ClassD 100 watt per channel stereo amplifer. The new units are shipping now and are a great addition to any music lovers arsenal. Email, call or visit our new offices today to learn more about this and all the prestigious offerings from Rotel. Contact Joe at email@example.com or post your comments.
Kaleidescape, the powerful system that organizes and visually catalogs your collection of Blu-ray Discs, DVDs and CDs in HD with eye-popping detail adn intuitive onscreen interfaces, announced an update this week. The KEAOS 4.1 is the most recent update to the Kaleidescape Entertainment Appliance Operating System, providing Blu-ray enhancements.
|See the Modular Disc Vault in action!Blu-ray EnhancementsKEAOS 4.1 includes the following enhancements to the Kaleidescape Blu-ray movie server:|
|Control Protocol Enhancements|
|Some enhancements have also been made to the Kaleidescape System Control Protocol:|
Please check with us regarding any control updates for your remote.
firstname.lastname@example.org Please put KSCAPE in the subject line.
Don’t tweet your holiday plans….
Home for the holidays? If not, be careful NOT to post your travel plans on your facebook or other social media sites. Would-be criminals love to know that your status is “away”.
If you’ve considered adding an alarm monitoring system, call us for a quick, complimentary analysis and quote. We can provide peace of mind and low monthly monitoring rates. No home phone line? No worries. We can provide systems that allow alarms and alerts over your internet connection with power-outage backups.
CO2 and fire monitoring is a critical concern when your house is buttoned up tight and your tree and fireplace are lit….for pennies a day, you can add a layer of protection for your family.
For our full Thanksgiving mailer, please follow the link….
Want to know what is "Hot" for this year's electronic gift choices? I am sharing this video from HTSA representing opinions from 60 Home Theater Specialists across the country on what are the top electronic choices for this holiday season. HTSA (Home Theater Specialists of America) is one of the leading Buying groups representing Custom Audio/Video companies. Enjoy!
Enthttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44PYHlJICZwer a URL of the video you would like to share
I attended the Springsteen concert recently at the "Q Arena" along with thousands of other "Baby Boomers". I was blown away by the intensity and emotion that this 60 year old rocker still had for his music. I listened to him belt out the "Born to Run" album in its entirety with the same entensity he did 20 years ago. It occurrred to me that he still has what many of us have lost…passion for good music! We have become convinced that digital, compressed music played through head phones induces the same passion that great music played on a high performance sound system does. NOT!
Don't get me wrong, I understand and subscribe to the use of digital music, especially when convenience and circumstances dictate it. I readily admit that my "IPod" is as much a part of my excercise wardrobe as my tennis shoes!
But what do you do when you have had a bad day at home or in the office? Try sitting down with some high-performance speakers, kick-ass sound system, and "uncompressed" music…you will re-discover what you have been missing. If your stereo system has gone by the wayside over the years, I encourage you to seek out a Custom Audio/Video Dealer and audition one now!
Don't trade convenience for quality. Today, we can store and distribute native music and video media without sacrificing quality. My clients never stop thanking me for bringing music back into their lives!
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has a website with unbiased information on upgrading your sound system and choosing a reputable Custom Audio/Video Integrator for the design and installation of your system:
http://www.digitaltips.org/audio/buyingGuides.asp Digital Tips Buying Guide
http://www.digitaltips.org/locators/techhome/default.asp Locate an Installer
And if you need some advice remember to ask Your Technology Advisors @
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