August 27, 2012
| by Steven Castle
Update: Baseball star Adrian Gonzalez was recently traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Los Angeles Dodgers, as part of a nine-man blockbuster deal. But the new Dodger can still peek in on his Boston-area home, thanks to a Savant control system and iPad/iPhone apps. Electronic House visited with Gonzalez and his family in their newly completed suburban Boston home that sports a game room, several surround-sound systems and an iPad-operated home control system that mirrors the interface of their residence in San Diego. Will the Gonzalezes need yet another home control system for a home in Los Angeles? That remains to be seen—but a lucky buyer in the Boston area may soon get a super-high-tech home with a very cool home control system.
It’s a long way from San Diego to Boston. But when Major League Baseball star Adrian Gonzalez was traded from the San Diego Padres to the Boston Red Sox in late 2010, he knew he and his family would have to make a second home nearly 3,000 miles away.
That became a reality this April when Gonzalez, his wife Betsy and 6-month-old daughter Brianna moved into their Cape Cod-style retreat in a leafy suburb of Boston. The comfortable new digs make up for the coast-to-coast move, though, thanks in part to an Apple-based Savant control system that forms a high-tech tether to their home across the continent.
The control system in Gonzalez’ Boston-area home features the same Savant system he and his family used in their San Diego home, with the same interface they’ve become accustomed to since 2010, when that system was first installed. “They’re very familiar with it, so the learning curve is the same,” says Otto Benson, president of La Jolla Home Theater & Automation in La Jolla, Calif., which equipped both of the family’s bi-coastal homes with the technology.
Perhaps even better, Gonzalez and his family can use the Savant system to check in on either home remotely. “When I’m on the road I can check on the home from my iPhone and check the system and the San Diego house,” he says.
iPad, iPods and iPhones
You won’t find a single in-wall touchpad in Gonzelez’ 9,600-square-foot East Coast residence. Nine iPads, several iPod touches and the couple’s iPhones operate a host of audio/video components, as well as thermostats, the lights and security cameras.
The soft-spoken and unassuming Gonzalez leads us downstairs to the lounge, a space equipped with a 5.1-channel surround-sound system and a 55-inch Samsung HDTV flush-mounted into a stone fireplace. Paradigm speakers—the front speakers with drivers tilted 30 degrees so that the sound is aimed at the couch— are tucked into the ceiling. Gonzalez instinctively plucks an iPad from the wall. (Several of them throughout the house are mounted to Savant’s in-wall docks, while others in the more media-intensive spaces are attached magnetically to the induction-charging iPort LaunchPort).
With a tap on the iPad’s touchscreen, Gonzalez is quickly in the Savant app and the controls for the lounge area. He manipulates sliders to dim the lights in the room. “One of the things my wife likes is the scenes,” he says, “like ALL ON and ALL OFF and PANIC!!!,” where all the exterior lights flash, all house lights turn on, an alarm sounds and the police are notified.
He shows how he can swipe four fingers across the iPad’s touchscreen to get from another app to the Savant app, without having to navigate to the home screen first.
Icons indicate the room lights and audio/video sources like a Squeezebox music streamer, Apple TV and Marantz Blu-ray player. He quickly calls up camera feeds from around and outside the house—a total of 14 camera views can be accessed via the iPad and other iDevices. This is one of Adrian and Betsy’s favorite features.
Next, we peek into the exercise room, where instead of an iPad dock there’s just a simple iPhone/iPod dock. Gonzalez can plug in his iPhone to call up his favorite country, Mexican or Christian music from the phone or via Pandora through the Logitech Squeezebox unit. His choice is delivered through the in-ceiling speakers.
Onto the game room, which features a pool table, Samsung 55-inch and 65-inch TVs, 7.1-channel surround sound with in-wall Focal speakers and a massive cherry-wood bar that is bigger than what you’d see in some barrooms.
The Focal speakers, says La Jolla Home Theater & Automation’s Benson, provide good, pure audio with high fidelity, internal bass and very clear sounds. “That’s something that Adrian wanted in his house,” he says. The Focal speakers are used throughout for the home’s 13-zone distributed audio system.
The game room, lounge and playroom upstairs run off of three Anthem 120-watt-per-channel MRX-700 A/V processors, which are stored in an equipment rack in the basement.
In his New England home, Gonzalez opted for a multiuse theater space rather than the more traditional theater he has in San Diego, which features four built-in iPad consoles in the back for multiplayer gaming. Here it’s a pool table and a bar and some arcade games for kickback fun with family and friends.
Upstairs, the home has a comfortable and easy Cape Cod cottage feel, with hardwood floors, light-colored carpeting and soft-hued furnishings selected by interior designer Trisha Roberts, whose husband Dave Roberts also played for both the Padres and the Red Sox. It’s a place most conducive to kicking back and relaxing and getting away from the outside world.
When Gonzalez gets home from a night game or a long road trip, he and Betsy usually hang out in the kitchen—equipped with Focal speakers and a 22-inch white-painted LG TV monitor that regularly displays feeds from the security cameras. They’ll also plop down in the adjacent family room, with its comfortable couches, 65-inch Samsung TV and McIntosh in-ceiling speakers.
Gonzalez grabs an iPad from the iPort LaunchPort dock and quickly navigates to TV choices and the 1,400-plus movie library accessed from hard drives through a Mac mini. He likes action movies; Betsy likes chick flicks like The Notebook and Rachel McAdams films. They both like Denzel Washington and on TV they go for Animal Planet.
Benson explains that the McIntosh speakers and McIntosh MC8207 multichannel amplifier were used in the family room to provide the home’s most used media space with very powerful, clear and yet warm and consuming sounds. The MC8207 sends 200 watts per channel to the five in-ceiling speakers, while Paradigm’s X-300 amp delivers 300 watts to an in-wall Paradigm subwoofer.
Even 6-month-old Brianna has her own media system in a playroom upstairs, which is equipped with a 65-inch TV, 5.1-channel surround-sound system, on-wall Paradigm speakers, and a cleverly hidden Focal subwoofer. It’s a room that is sure to get a lot more use as Brianna gets older. In the meantime, the family can use iPads, iPod touches and their iPhones thoughout the house to call up lullabies from Pandora to play over the Savant whole-house music system. And Brianna’s bedroom has a networked camera so the family can peek in on her remotely.
Audio and video can also follow the Gonzalezes into their master suite, whether they’re relaxing in the bedroom or master bath with its standalone tub and 32-inch LG TV, or reading in the sitting area that looks down to a two-story office/library, complete with its own 47-inch TV and stereo Focal speakers.
The Gonzalezes purchased the home while it was under construction, giving La Jolla Home Theater & Automation time to consult with the builder and have the house wired for audio, video and more. Dual runs of Category 6 Ethernet cabling distribute HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) signals through WyreStorm HDMI baluns at either end. The house had already been wired for speakers but not for lighting. A Lutron RadioRA 2 wireless lighting control system was utilized with four RF extenders to cover the 9,500-square-foot home. It is controlled by simple wall switches—no touchpads, remember—and through the Savant app on the iDevices.
Another reason for the RadioRA 2 system: It is also used in the family’s San Diego home. Familiarity here breeds confidence.
Control by Savant
Gonzalez’ house may be operated exclusively by iPads, iPod touches and iPhones running Savant’s control app, but behind those easy swipes of a touchscreen resides a powerful system that makes the Apple-based control seamless and instantaneous. Several Savant components reside in a basement equipment rack, giving the home the brains and the brawn to simplify the operation of a slew of audio/video equipment, lights, thermostats and security cameras.
At the core of this system:
• A Savant HST-3001 host processor and a redundant host containing the software and custom-tailored programs that run the house.
• Three SmartControl 25 units that support IR and RS-232 control, as well as triggers, relays and IP control.
• Savant System 12 modular switcher with audio and video modules to distribute audio to 13 zones and video to 11 zones.
• Two Savant AMP-1640 16-channel class D amplifiers to ensure the audio reaches its intended speakers without any degradation.
The Savant components are complemented by an Apple TV receiver, and a Mac mini hard drive. In addition, the home uses four Apple AirPort Extreme routers.
McIntosh Media Room:
In the family room, McIntosh’s MC8207 amplifier delivers 200 watts to each of five McIntosh 8-inch CS100 in-ceiling speakers. Each combines an 8-inch cone woofer with a rotating baffle of a 3.5-inch midrange and 1-inch tweeter so sound is aimed directly at the listener. The A/V is tied to a McIntosh’s MX121 preamp, which contains Apple AirPlay for wireless iTunes streaming.
Home Control: Savant
A/V Distribution: Savant
Lighting Control: Lutron
Video Displays: Samsung, LG
TV Mounts: Sanus
Speakers: Focal, Paradigm, McIntosh Labs
A/V Processing: McIntosh Labs, Anthem
Amplification: McIntosh, Paradigm
Source Components: Logitech, Apple, Marantz
Security Cameras: IC Realtime
Equipment Racks: Middle Atlantic
Power Management: Monster Power
SYSTEMS DESIGN & INSTALLATION
La Jolla Home Theater & Automation
La Jolla, Calif.
Trisha Roberts Design
La Jolla, Calif.
An Organized Nest
San Francisco, Calif.
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