My Favorite Things from 2013
These are a few of our favorite things we wrote about, learned about or used in 2013.
December 23, 2013 by EH Staff

At Electronic House we are lucky to be exposed to the best new technology and most impressive. In the spirit of Julie Andrews’ rendition of “My Favorite Things” (or Carrie Underwood if you prefer) from The Sound of Music, we bring you our favorite things from 2013.


LISA MONTGOMERY:

Homes:

Sophisticated Library Includes Hidden Lighting Controls

I love it when custom electronics professionals get creative, and the book spine that was fitted with buttons for controlling the room’s lights is the epitome of thinking outside the box.

Smart Glass Creates a Home Office Hideout
It’s not often we run across a home where smartglass has been integrated into a control system. Here, a curved wall of glass goes from clear to frosty when a button on a Lutron keypad is pressed.

NetZero Home Gets 600 LEDs Controlled by an Automation System
To me, a story about an automated home is always more interesting when the owner of the house is intimately involved in the project. In this story, the owner was not only involved … he actually built a product that would expand the functionality of his professionally installed home automation system.

Trends:

5 Up and Coming Technologies for the Home
It’s fun to look into the future ball of home technologies, and this story does just that.

WiFi Strengthens its Position as a Home Control Protocol
I always like cheering for the underdog, and in this story I do give a big hurrah to Wi-Fi, as it makes inroads as a very viable home control platform.

Integrated Control Vs. Multiple Apps for Home Automation
Smartphone and downloadable apps have had huge implications in the home control marketplace. This story investigates the advantages and disadvantages of using apps to rule your house.

Products

Super Shading Solutions Get Motorized

Of all the electronic systems available to the home, motorized shading is one of my favorites, mostly due to the fact that shades look about as low-tech as a throw pillow. Add a motor to them, though, and they can do some amazing things. This story discusses what’s possible.

High-Definition Artwork for Your TV
This story came to my by surprise. I received a very well written email about a new technology that solves a very real problem facing anyone who owns a flat-panel TV: what to do with the screen to make it look better when the TV is off. This solution, unlike many others, is super affordable, easy to implement and lets you change the look of your static TV screen on a whim.

ARLEN SCHWEIGER:

Homes:

I Dream of Genie in a Home Theater
This grandiose home, with tech installed by Horner Networks, was the craziest, most over-the-top one I wrote about this year. It’s also awesome in so many ways. The “theater” room (there are tons of areas with big TVs and surround sound, including two about 50 yards away from each other) is a genie-in-a-bottle theme with purple tones, a place I think my daughter would never leave.


Inside Tech with Kevin Jonas
You don’t get too many opportunities to check out celebrities’ homes, so interviewing Kevin Jonas (before the Jonas Brothers split, and before, apparently, he put the house on the market) to talk to him about his Savant-based installation was a highlight of my year. His old Savant system was completely overhauled because of a bunch of issues, and installer Intra Home Systems did a great job of re-integrating everything and programming it to work smoothly.

Control System Security Blanket for Colorado Home
This home showed how you could have a truly upgraded and highly functional automation, security, A/V and lighting experience without breaking the bank. The installer did some innovative things with the wires and sensors to optimize every space, and the care they took in installing the flat-panel TVs really showcased how some companies go beyond the run-of-the-mill when it comes to keeping aesthetics in mind when they’re adding electronics.


Trends:

High-resolution Audio
I’m excited that studios and retailers (and electronics manufacturers) are making use of today’s increasingly cheaper computer storage to release 24-bit recordings. They’re certainly not for everyone, but audiophiles can definitely appreciate them. Plus having a great hi-fi system might now only mean requiring three main components - a computer, DAC and speakers ... easy.

Soundbars Sounding Awesome
I’ll admit it, I kinda dig them. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy having a 5.1-channel surround setup in my living room, but that’s just not feasible for everyone. And certainly not necessary in bedrooms and kids rooms. But hooking up a soundbar? Simple, effective and much better sounding than the TV’s speakers. More about soundbars here.

Concert Webcasts
I’ve mentioned this before, but being able to live-stream a concert (sometimes free, sometimes paid) with plenty good video and plenty good audio might be the coolest application of streaming A/V. I hook my laptop to my flat-panel TV or my projector, connect to my speakers and bingo - grab a cold one and enjoy. Follow Twitter: @CouchTours for a “schedule” of what’s out there.
Products

Products:

Bryston’s BP-1 Digital Player
Feeding my high-res audio addiction (now with the next-gen BP-2 version out there), this is about as pure a way to play your 24-bit music as what’s out there, and obviously you can play tons of low-res files too.

Meridian Explorer DAC
Another audio goodie for plugging into computer-based music. Elegant, compact and delivers your tunes with a whopping difference over the way you’ve been hearing them.

Digital Projection M-Vision LED 1000
This projector was stunning to see at CEDIA Expo 2013. Relatively inexpensive, with LED color saturation providing incredibly vivid, realistic images - this projector could win over anyone interested in truly big-screen home theater.


GRANT CLAUSER:

Colonial Cabin with State-of-the-Art Home Automation
I love the rustic look of this home, especially the interior room that was once part of a 200+ year-old cabin. The blend of old and new in this home makes it a work of art.

Super Automated Home Theater
Owner of a home automation company went all-out to design his own dream room. Even the tech added to the movie posters will blow your mind. 

Florida Dream House
What I like so much about this home is the ingenuity that went into creating the impressive outdoor theater system, complete with Stewart Starglass and a hidden Digital Projection DLP projector.


Trends:

Expanding Wireless Audio Options
One company, Sonos, pretty much started a revolution in home audio several years ago, and strangely, it took the rest of the audio industry several years to catch up. While Sonos still appears to be the leader in the category, and we’ve enjoyed many of the company’s products, it’s nice to see the options expand. Look for more of this in 2014. Learn more about wireless audio here.

Home Automation Available to More People
Home control and automation still seems, to many people at least, like something only for people with the salaries of sports stars, executives or brain surgeons, but more options and systems are now available to the rest of us. The major phone and cable providers are behind a lot of this momentum, but new start-ups like Revolve and the Staples Connect (powered by Zonoff) are helping too.

The Rise and Leveling of 4K Ultra HD
If you’re into television and home theater, then you couldn’t have missed all the 4K TV news of 2013. Every major TV maker (and most of the others too) either have or will soon be launching their own Ultra HD TVs. Content solutions have been slow this year, but the rate of change is poised to scale up soon.


Products:

Kaleidescape Cinema One
Kaleidescape’s newest and most affordable movie server is something every serious home theater should have.

Philips Hue LED Light Kit
Lights can be fun and interesting, and these are both that plus easy to use.

Epson 5020Ube Home Theater Projector

Epson’s projectors continue to outperform similarly-priced systems, making high-quality home theater something within reach for more people.

Now it’s your turn to play along. Tell us about some of your favorite things from 2013. 

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