January 17, 2008
| by Lisa Montgomery
Most people own at least one piece of decent audio and video equipment, be it a beefy stereo system or big, bright, flat-screen TV. The owners of this recently remodeled 5,000-square-foot home were no exception. They had already been using several flat-panel and rear-projection TVs, a few audio/video receivers and three 400-disc CD mega-changers in their home prior to its makeover.
Seizing the Moment
The modest assortment of components had served the homeowners well for many years. So when it was time to update their house with a new kitchen, master suite and media room, this practical-minded couple wasn’t about to swap their trusty A/V equipment for a completely new set of gear. However, they were eager to expand into new features and functions. And like most tech-savvy homeowners, they knew that if they were going to do it, they should do it while their home was undergoing a major renovation.
At the recommendation of their interior designer, Lorraine Gordon of L. Gordon Designs in Charlotte, NC, the owners contacted a home systems professional to help them with the technical details. They had a good idea of what they wanted; they just needed someone to set the wheels in motion. “The owners came to me with a six-page outline of their needs and expectations,” recalls Bryant Moore of Matthews, NC–based Moore Audio Design. “It was the most comprehensive wish list I had ever seen.” That list included amenities such as a system that could play music throughout the house, several surround-sound setups, surveillance cameras that could be accessed remotely, and devices that would let the homeowners control their entertainment components from anywhere on the property. They also wanted to be able to integrate most of their existing equipment into the new systems. This last request would end up saving them thousands of dollars on the cost of the electronics project, says Moore.
Committed to keeping costs under control, Moore and installation specialist Tad Popple selected an Escient FireBall E2-100 music server to manage the owners’ 1,000-plus CDs already loaded into three existing Sony changers. The more expensive alternative would have been to replace the changers with a hard-disk media server, Moore explains. By skipping the server, Moore figures the couple saved at least $15,000. Despite the dramatic cost savings, not an ounce of control or convenience was compromised. Thanks to the FireBall, the owners can view the titles of their CD collection on the screen of any TV and use a basic handheld remote to enter a song selection. The FireBall automatically catalogs the CDs by artist, genre and other categories to simplify the search process. And when the homeowners want to take a CD with them on a road trip, the FireBall’s TV-screen menu can tell them exactly in which slot in the changer to find the disc.
Most important for the homeowners, the FireBall music management system has eliminated the strain of trying to keep their huge music collection organized. Before Moore set up the system, they did everything manually, painstakingly loading the CDs into the changers alphabetically and cataloging the titles in spiral notebooks. Now the FireBall does all the work for them, pulling all the pertinent song information from the Internet, categorizing the music and updating the data each time a new CD is loaded into a changer.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.