Managing five acres of property is tough for all but the most robust electronics systems to handle, so when the owners of this award-winning space contacted the custom electronics (CE) professionals at Casaplex, Kensington, Md., to prime their backyard for summertime parties, it made sense to choose powerful products that could easily entertain a crowd for hours, and effortlessly showcase the elegant features of the expansive area.
Casaplex put a Crestron control system in charge of the extensive lighting features, which includes colored fiber-optic lighting in and around two swimming pools, floodlights for security purposes, dozens of landscape lights, and spotlights to illuminate an archery range. Using a portable Crestron touchpanel or a wall-mounted version in the poolhouse, the homeowners can turn on and off select lights and engage specially programmed scenes to complement activities like outdoor parties, dinners at the poolhouse and an evening dip in the swimming pool. When the outdoor fun is over, one touch of a button shuts off every light, but in a way that won’t ever leave the owners or their guests in the dark.
“The main house sits more than 300 feet away from the poolhouse, so we programmed the Crestron system to wait five minutes after the button push to start slowly fading out the pathway of lights that leads to the house,” explains Casaplex principal and CEO Derek Goldstein.
The outdoor lights are just as easily controlled from Crestron touchpanels inside the house, and also enable the homeowners to prep the entire area before stepping outside. A waterfall that spills over a grotto can be activated and adjusted from a slow trickle to a torrential downpour; meanwhile, music and video can be routed from an enormous media library inside the house to an array of exterior speakers and a 60-inch Samsung TV stationed at the poolhouse.
Music complements the water features and lighting scenes in a big way. In order to reach the far corners of the yard and everywhere in between, Casaplex elected to install speakers usually reserved for use in stadiums and other large venues. According to Goldstein, the homeowners didn’t want to litter the yard with dozens of small landscape speakers, so 10 super-powerful, commercial-grade JBL Pro speakers were employed instead. Driven by pro-grade Crown amps, and positioned and calibrated correctly, they have the audio muscle to reach the archery range 500 feet away. “These are the types of speakers you would use for parties of 100 people or more. They make the back yard sound as if you’re at a concert,” Goldstein says.
Four of the 10 speakers were installed into a stone wall that lines the front of the poolhouse; the other six were mounted to the eave of the house. To help protect the wall-mounted speakers from the elements, each one was tucked into a cavity specially constructed by the project’s mason. Fiber-optic cabling, which unlike copper cabling is impervious to lightning strikes, feeds audio sources from the house to the speakers and two Velodyne subwoofers, which are tucked into a nearby stone bench. The finishing touch: speaker grilles to match the stonework.
Safe Audio Travels
The owner of this outdoor space had already outfitted his home’s interior with a wide assortment of audio and video components. During a renovation of the yard, he decided to extend the A/V to the swimming pool, grotto, archery range and poolhouse, all of which encompass five acres. That’s a lot of ground to cover, and a huge distance for the audio and video signals to travel. Given the finicky outdoor conditions, the size of the yard and the distance between the house and the outdoor speakers and TV, fiber-optic cabling was the way to go, says Casaplex’s Goldstein. “Plus the transmission speed of fiber is at least 10 to 100 times faster than copper and picks up no interference,” so music and video signals remain strong and pure, and would let the professional-grade JBL speakers perform to their full potential. Expect to pay at least four times more for fiber than coax, but for long cabling runs and fast, reliable signal transmission, it’s often worth the extra cost, says Goldstein.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.