February 19, 2013
| by Arlen Schweiger
The custom electronics pros at Hampton Falls, N.H.-based Audio Video Experience (AVE) can empathize with you and your old home, and its potential stubbornness to enter the high-tech age.
Several years ago, AVE moved from an office strip plaza into a home that was built in the late 19th century. Now, when New England-area homeowners visit the company’s design center and showroom, they get a good dose of possibilities that they can relate to and see how their own house—whether it’s 10 years old or 110—can be transformed with technology.
“We wanted to maintain the characteristics of a home and real living space,” AVE president Andy Himmer says of the goal in creating the showroom. “We did a facelift, gave it some cosmetic updates, skimmed the walls, cut in the ceiling with architectural speakers and recessed lighting .... We wanted some cool things in here, but we also wanted to capture some of those rich New England things, like the colors.”
The first main room visitors step into features an array of loudspeaker options, two types of motorized art-concealed TVs and a basic, but full-featured, living room type of A/V setup.
Looking at the walls of speakers, you can see architectural models and small and large bookshelf-size and stand-size speakers, while floorstanding speakers are used in the living room media setup. In the middle of the room are the attention-grabbing motorized art pieces, which demonstrate a custom pro’s ability to integrate form and function as well as tailor it to the homeowners’ tastes.
Toward the back, the room is anchored by a configuration that includes a large flat-panel display, console, A/V components and speakers—it’s the type of nuts and bolts setup that almost anyone could envision in their family room or finished basement bonus room, where the whole package can be put together for around $10,000. Himmer estimates that about 60 percent of the furniture, however, that AVE installs in a project is of the custom variety, noting that his company has built great relationships with other trades such as woodworkers, stone masons, etc., to bring their design expertise into the fold.
From there we get to some serious custom A/V chops, with a dedicated theater room and then a trip upstairs for a more multipurpose theater room that incorporates dual screens.
An interesting aspect of the dedicated theater room is actually the adjacent lobby area—a transformation of what would have previously served as the kitchen. AVE gave it a combination of fun move theater ambiance with items like a popcorn maker, but also used the cabinetry for a practical application too. Instead of using space—and worrying about heat or noise issues—in the theater itself, the projector was housed to hide inside a lobby cabinet and beams into the theater through a cutout in the rear wall.
“We want people to feel comfortable and to give them ideas for the theater room,” says Himmer. “We want to provide the seating, the millwork … [the adjacent area] could be a room with a pool table, an entry to the wine cellar or maybe lead out to the pool. We want them to dream.”
Related: Great Basement Home Theaters
Inside AVE’s theater an immersive CinemaScope-wide screen takes center stage, while most of the surround-sound audio stays unobtrusive with side speakers located behind acoustical fabric and rears up in the ceiling. The ceiling also sparkles with fiber-optic star lights.
The main room upstairs delivers an ideal setup for a multipurpose room in which you might want to have a 55-inch flat-panel TV for everyday viewing, but with the option for a nice big projection screen to drop down and wow guests on movie nights. Even with a lot of ambient light flooding into the room, the Epson projector used in this room illustrates how good a projection system can look even as a primary viewing display for family rooms these days.
The company includes two sound systems in the demo setup, with some in-ceiling speakers taking over when the motorized Vutec screen descends. “The really smart guy will say, ‘Look what that’s doing to the sound,’” Himmer notes, because it’s not an acoustically transparent screen that covers the Leon speakers used with the TV. Custom installers like AVE are always thinking ahead.
Take the Audio Video Experience tour with this slideshow.
Meet More Pros:
Home Theater of Long Island, Manhasset, N.Y.
Bekins, Grand Haven, Mich.
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.