May 03, 2010
by Arlen Schweiger
Life is sweet for these Illinois homeowners. They have five TV locations that can show Blu-ray discs, DVDs, recorded or live satellite broadcast programming and Apple TV content, yet the components reside nowhere near the flat panels. They have 13 audio zones with loudspeakers that can play thousands of songs, yet no clutter of wires or A/V receivers can be seen. They can control all of the media from the palms of their hands, yet they don’t have to juggle multiple remotes.
Most important for the owners, the aftertaste of such a widespread electronics project was unusually sweet. They got everything they hoped for, yet saved wads of cash because they were willing to make compromises that still met their A/V wishes.
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Sure, that meant fancy automation systems and touchpanels were avoided; television audio actually comes through the TV speakers and not surround-sound systems; multiroom Blu-ray resolution is only 1080i instead of 1080p; and while the distributed video system can tap into multiple sources, the distributed audio system only pulls from a single source.
No matter. Such sacrifices are the furthest things from the family’s mind when they’re out on the patio enjoying warm weather and catching up on episodes on their DVR.
And as mentioned, that DVR—along with another one reserved just for the kids—and other electronics are kept out of sight, thanks to the handiwork of the custom electronics professionals at Audio Video Concepts (AVC) in Columbia, Ill. Everything is wired to components stowed in an OmniMount rack in the basement that serves as the brains of the home, which Audio Video Concepts outfitted while the house was under construction.
“Their main objective was to get distributed video more so than audio,” says AVC president Rob Roessler. “We started out with a Crestron [control and distribution system] and put together an estimate. They didn’t really give us a budget number, but Crestron was higher than they wanted so we started looking around for different options.”
Three key components that project manager Jerod Merz employed in the solution were an Audio Authority matrix video router, a Yamaha receiver and Behringer amplifier. Costing less than $3,000, the Audio Authority unit is on the low end for multisource, multizone video; and the stereo receiver and multizone two-channel amplifier provided some bargain fuel for the distributed audio at little more than a few hundred dollars apiece.
“From the distributed audio side, we prewired for future stuff, but for now they were really just interested in a single-source system,” notes Merz. “The homeowner came to us and said he used iTunes a lot, so we set up Apple TV as the primary audio source and all of the songs are there. He has an iMac and iPod docking station in the kitchen for updating iTunes, and the iMac is also networked throughout the house so it can be an audio source.”
It helped that AVC convinced the owners to run Ethernet cabling to each video location. This way, they can use an iPod touch or iPhone to control the networked Apple TV (the URC MX-900 remotes in every room also do the trick, but with less functionality) and navigate its audio and video cover art to make selections, and rent iTunes movies directly from the TV screen interface. Niles Audio in-ceiling speakers were installed throughout the home, plus a pair of Rockustics rock speakers were stationed in the yard, all wired back to a wall plate that ties everything together so that heavy 10-gauge wire can connect to the Behringer amp.
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.