This time of year has me thinking of new technology for two reasons—first, it’s resolution time, so my mind immediately turns to things I want to try, upgrade or learn about for the coming year; the second reason is because next week is the Consumer Electronics Show where I’ll be swimming in hot new technology all week.
So in the spirit of both events, here’s my home technology resolution list:
Things to upgrade:
Wireless Lighting Control
I recently put in a new home theater room in my basement (which doubles as my Electronic House review lab). It’s an awesome place to enjoy movies, music and video games, but the lighting situation drives me nuts. There’s a light switch at the top of the stairs for the main overhead light and a dimmer for the wall sconces. Whenever I want to adjust the lighting I need to get up and either run to the top of the steps and/or go to the wall to adjust the dimmer. That’s a pain, especially if I just need to turn the lights up for a second to find something. A wireless light switch and dimmer will make the home theater more functional and less frustrating. Even better if I can integrate the lights with my universal remote.
Better Music Management
My music currently comes from a mishmash of services and devices. A few nights ago some friends were visiting and I wanted to play a particular song, which I was pretty sure I had… somewhere, on a hard drive, portable device or playlist. After spending 15 minutes searching apps on my phone, plugging and replugging in different HDMI and USB cables, I eventually found it… several minutes after my friend found the same song on YouTube on his phone. There has to be a better way.
My home network hardware consists of a Verizon Wi-Fi router and a few Powerline adapters. That used to be sufficient for my family’s online existence, until the teenagers got smart phones, my wife got a tablet and two thirds of my home entertainment content came from online services. I need to rethink my networking strategy to make sure my music, movies and web access all work when I need it to.
Things to Watch for:
4K (Ultra HD)
As you probably know by now, 4K or Ultra HD, is going to be the big buzz at the 2013 CES. There are still a lot of questions about the new technology, and I’ll be paying special attention to all the news. One thing’s for sure, this will have the biggest impact on the home theater market of any video innovation since Blu-ray.
This one’s related to my previous comments on my home network and an earlier blog about IP control. I believe that in the near future the Ethernet cable will be the most important cable in any home entertainment system. As an industry we’re getting closer every day to an all-IP content delivery paradigm, and on top of that, an all IP control/integration paradigm.
Yes, soundbars. After my recent experience reviewing Atlantic Technology’s PowerBar 235, which uses the company’s H-PAS system, I’m convinced that the soundbar has the potential to achieve great things. Soundbars offer a welcome compromise between people’s desire for simplicity and their need for better fidelity. While loudspeakers, in general, haven’t experienced a whole lot of innovation in recent years, the soundbar is the one area that has. While it hasn’t happened yet, I expect high-performance soundbars to start having an impact on the audiophile market as it already has in the home theater market.
While I’m still on the subject of audio, expect to read more about acoustic enhancements as well. Speakers and components are just two thirds of an audio system. The room, and how it’s arranged, accessorized and treated is the last third. Acoustics seems like a mix of science and magic, but we’ll try to break it down so it’s easier to understand and easier to implement in your home. When your integrator tells you that your $5,000 speakers would sound a lot better with some panels hanging on the wall, believe him.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.