March 24, 2011
| by Grant Clauser
Who can argue with the cool factor of being able to control all your AV gear from your iPhone or iPad. Sure, getting out of a chair to change CDs or dim the lights isn’t a huge chore for most people, but high-end control systems often are about convenience and cool.
Electronic House recently stopped in at the home of Kyle Hoff, who is now enjoying his newly installed Savant control system and all the audio/video gear connected to it. But for Hoff, this system isn’t only about convenience and cool, it’s also about independence.
In 2007 Hoff, a civil engineer who lives in a suburb about 35 miles from Philadelphia, was involved in a construction accident which left much of his body paralyzed. He gets around his house in a powered wheelchair, but has virtually no finger mobility and limited hand mobility. His new control system allows him to enjoy his vast music and movie collection without having to ask for help.
As Hoff’s new house (complete with wide doors and an elevator to accommodate his powered chair) was being designed, he consulted Montgomeryville, PA’s World Wide Stereo for advice on an automation system. He’d been familiar with World Wide Stereo for years, having purchased home audio and car electronics from them since he was in high school. When the initial consultation began, the iPad didn’t even exist. Hoff had planned to go with a different control system, but as construction came closer and World Wide Stereo’s Bob Cole showed him the Savant system, Hoff, an Apple fan already, was hooked.
“The beauty of the system is it’s all on apps. I have the apps on my iPhone, iPod Touches and iPads,” says Hoff. He has iPads for each surround sound system—currently three; a fourth will be added when the dedicated theater is complete. Mostly, though, he uses his iPhone for controlling everything since it’s with him all the time. The iPads sit on tables or bed stands within reach. “I could put an iPad in the wall, but then you lose the other functionality of it,” he adds.
Currently, his main home theater system is in the great room, just off the home’s main entryway. A 65-inch Panasonic VT25 plasma is flanked by Klipsch R-5502 in-wall speakers with a Klipsch Reference RC-64 II center below in a Salamander cabinet. The lower-level gym (accessible via the elevator) includes another 65-inch Panasonic plasma and a pair of Klipsch Reference RF-7 towers, Reference Center and surrounds plus two Klipsch 12-inch subwoofers. “I went a little nuts for the gym” he says.
In the master bedroom, a 50-inch Panasonic plasma sits above a gas fireplace with B&W in-walls and in-ceiling speakers supplying the audio. Throughout the house, in-ceiling speakers, mostly Speakercraft AIMs, supply multiroom audio. There’s even one in the master bathroom. A pair of Elan D12 digital amps, hidden in a downstairs gear rack, provide the audio muscle.
As a movie lover, his favorite part of the system is the Kaleidescape 3U DVD/Blu-ray server. He has about 800 Blu-ray movies and about 1,200 DVDs, so he plans to add more Kaleidescapes to the system. The Kaleidescape feeds all the home’s TVs, so he can start a movie in one room and finish it in another.
In the near future, a dedicated home theater with a Runco projector and MacIntosh electronics will fill an empty space near his gym. He has a lot of friends, so he plans on installing seating for 15. Recently he hosted a “Lord of the Rings” trilogy party with 12 people staying for all three movies.
With so much control over his audio/video gear, one would think he’d want to include lighting and window covering control. For those features, he prefers the old fashioned way over automation. “I didn’t want to do that because I wanted to do as much as I could. I just have light switches I can reach. I don’t want to get too lazy and rely on technology.”
Hoff and his wife moved into the house in December, so the place is still a work in progress. In addition to the theater room, more outdoor speakers are planned, and beyond that, who knows.
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had audio training from Home Acoustics Alliance and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.