Custom electronics professionals (CE pros) have an advantage over the rest of us. They get to experience some of the best technologies available every day as they do their jobs.
Granted, they’re usually installing these technologies into the homes of clients, but having daily exposure to lighting control systems, audio/video equipment, automation systems, etc. must come in handy when choosing electronic systems for their own homes.
Some manufacturers provide discounts to CE pros to make it more affordable for them to set up their own home-based “test beds.”
But they’re just like the rest of us in this sad economy, buying only the key essentials and focusing on solutions that’ll add real value to their homes or saving up to buy big-ticket items that’ll make their homes a high-tech showpiece worth bragging about.
We asked three CE pros to tell us about, and show us, their own setups.
Ryan Herd, 1 Sound Choice
Home: Four-bedroom Cape Cod-style, northern New Jersey
Family: Married with a 2-year-old son and a dog
High-Tech Profile: Hosting parties, a great back yard
Tricking out the back yard was just as important to Ryan Herd as doing up the inside of his four-bedroom home. Even without technology, Herd’s yard is fantastic. There’s a swimming pool, and a small brook that runs along the back, as well as two sheds (one for his motorcycles and the other for his tools). Naturally, outside is where you’ll find him and his family most of the time.
Having video and music available outdoors was a top priority. Underneath a cabana there’s a 20-inch Audiovox TV with a built-in DVD player. For larger gatherings, he can plug either a 50-inch plasma TV (which usually resides in the garage) or a Panasonic video projector into the component jacks on a pole outside. Tucked away for outdoor movie nights with the projector are either a 10-foot wide or 26-foot wide blow up projection screen (Herd also rents out the blow-up screens for parties).
A NeoPro Avalon 8x8 switcher tucked inside well-appointed equipment rack in the house feeds a variety of entertainment to the outside viewing area and to eight other TVs inside. Each TV has its own Control4 remote, which lets the family navigate a menu of entertainment choices that the Control4 automation system displays on the screen of every TV. Their choices include movies on two Sony CD/DVD megachangers (one holds kids movies, the other is for the adults), Vudu on-demand settop box, AppleTV unit, a Interact-TV ProTelly media server and an HD-DVD player. “I’m not sure why we still have the HD-DVD player, but we do,” says Herd.
Outdoor music is provided by:
- A Control4 AM/FM tuner
- Two cable boxes
- Two iPod docking stations
- Hard drives
- Streaming audio from the Internet and Rhapsody
All the outdoor music be delivered to several Niles and Boston Acoustic speakers around the yard.
Herd rolled lighting into the Control4 automation system, which has completely eliminated the need for manual operation of the various fixtures that illuminate the property. “I put all the low-voltage lights on a timer, the lamp posts and the other decorative lights turn on at dusk and turn off at 1 a.m., and the flood lights switch on automatically if any outdoor sensor is triggered,” Herd explains.
These lights, as well as fixtures inside the house, can also be controlled simultaneously by engaging scene buttons on Control 4 keypads or handheld remotes. “One of our favorite scenes is summer party,” says Herd. “The lights around the deck and the outside audio turns on, and when we’re done we hit one button and everything turns off.”
Video, audio and lighting may be the focal points of Herd’s home automation system, but “it’s the little things that have really made the biggest difference,” he says. For example, when the water level of the brook reaches a certain point, it triggers an alert in the house, letting the Herds know to watch out for flooding. Temperature monitors in the swimming pool report to the Control4 on-screen menu the current temperature of the pool water; other sensors do the same with the air temperature. It’s a good way to know if the conditions are right for one of the Herd family’s outdoor parties.
The living room
The home office
A back yard speaker
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.