What do you do if you’re a classically trained musician who’s made a very nice living in software development? You build a very high-tech home with a very cool music system, using high-performance loudspeakers that convey the ethereal essence of classical scores. You might even add a digital player piano that can perform piano pieces over a whole-house audio system, but can also be played to accompaniment—very loud accompaniment—from the home’s audio system.
And if you’re this Vancouver, B.C., homeowner, you also have all the technology cleverly concealed—except for the piano, of course. That means there’s a bevy of in-wall and in-ceiling speakers, TVs hidden by scrolling artwork, subwoofers that fire bass from beneath the floor, and in-wall touchpads and control panels to operate this orchestra of goodies. (Click here to view additional photos and information.)
“The owner expected superior audio/video performance everywhere and brought us literally thousands of media discs to upload and be accessible anywhere in the home,” says Harold Clark, director of the RSI Group at Vancouver-based Commercial Electronics. “He wanted immediate access to a digital piano, electronic games, and laptops.”
So how does one achieve maestro-level performance with in-wall and in-ceiling speakers? RSI used a complement of “ribbon” speakers from BG Radia, which better convey that airy presence of classical music. A ribbon speaker consists of a membrane that vibrates uniformly and without much bending or wrinkling as with a traditional cone-shaped speaker driver. “They provide a very high resolution,” says Clark. “There’s no time delay distortion as with a traditional voice coil speaker. And the sound from these speakers disperses evenly,” like in a good concert hall.
The speakers were also acoustically tuned to the room, says Clark. “We used audio test gear to see the room response and to find standing waves, or low frequencies that make boomy sounds or no bass, and we used that to determine best locations for the speakers. Then we adjusted the speakers’ crossovers [the points at which certain frequencies go to different drivers such as tweeters, midranges and woofers].”
RSI worked with interior designer Alanna Johnston of Living Environments in Vancouver to ensure that the electronic systems provided the family the right amount of performance and enjoyment while not encroaching on the look and feel of the home.
RSI consulted with Johnston on the necessary locations for speakers, screens, and other electronics gear, as well as designing a lighting system with a clear separation of zones for localized control.
In addition to all the stealth, there are 19 zones of heating and cooling, plus motorized window shutters and security sensors that prevent the shutters from closing on open windows. All of this required a carefully planned CEBus wiring system consisting of two RG-6 coaxial cables and two Category 6 high-speed data wires to plates hidden in baseboards throughout the house and routed to a centralized equipment room.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates