January 01, 2006
| by Lisa Montgomery
Ah ... you remember it well: that obnoxious box on the wall that mysteriously transported your voice from the kitchen to the bedrooms upstairs. Sure, it was a handy way for Mom to call the kids to the dinner table—and fun to fool around with—but oh, what an eyesore. Thanks to sleek, attractive designs from M&S Systems, Nutone, Russound and others, the intercom finally looks like it belongs in today’s modern kitchen. And here’s even more reason to have an intercom installed: Today’s models can also play music. In fact, Russound’s ComPoint system is at its core a whole house music system. It comes with a keypad (no bigger than a light switch) that can be used to summon music as well as family members to the kitchen.
A computer is another common fixture in the kitchen. And it, too, can handle music. Just hook up a pair of attractive multimedia speakers to the machine, and as long as the PC has an Internet connection and Windows Media Player or some other type of multimedia software installed, you can download music to your kitchen. You can even store the music you already own on the hard drive of the PC. That way, your CDs can stay in the family room (or closet) where they belong.
There are a couple of ways you can convert your CDs to digital form. The first is by using ripping software like Smart CD Ripper. Depending on how many CDs you own, however, that may take the better part of a weekend to complete. To save yourself the time and energy, consider shipping your CDs to a CD ripping service like Riptopia or MusicToDigital. They’ll compile all of your music onto one disc that you can pop into the CD-R drive whenever you’re in the mood. Connect a media adapter to the computer so you can stream those songs to a stereo system located elsewhere in the house.
OK, so maybe you’d like to leave your computer out of the music loop. If you happen to own an iPod, you can use it as your main source of music in the kitchen. JBL offers a sleek, stylish iPod desktop speaker station that takes up very little counter space. Just pop your iPod into the cradle and hit play. iPort offers a similar arrangement, but with the addition of a handheld remote control and the ability to hook up to stand-alone speakers (we recommend in- ceiling models). And if you’d like to hear your iPod tunes in other rooms, iPort, Russound and other manufacturers offer in-wall and countertop docking stations that can connect your iPod to a whole house music system.
Kitchen designers put a lot of thought into a kitchen’s work flow when they position the sink, oven, breakfast bar and other fixtures. You should do the same for the audio components. An intercom, for example, should go near the busiest part of the room. The computer, on the other hand, should occupy an area away from the hubbub so that it’s far from water, grease and crumbs. Finally, if you choose an in-wall docking station for your iPod, locate it near the entrance of the kitchen so you can cue the music as you step into the room. Now get cooking!
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.