A/V Solutions for Small Spaces

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Five tips for anyone struggling to integrate A/V equipment into an apartment, condo or tight space.


Jul. 15, 2008 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Last year when the American Can Company factory in Jersey City, NJ, was converted into luxury condominiums, the million-square-foot industrial building not only became inhabitable for the first time in many years as CanCo Lofts, but it also went high-tech. In addition to a wireless business center and pre-wired residences, the lobby, designed by LOT-EK, an architecture firm in Manhattan, used two-dozen plasma TVs to broadcast a live feed of the New York City skyline.

As more condo and apartment dwellers alike expect higher-tech amenities to come pre-packaged with community residences, like Wi-Fi, VoIP and pre-wiring for A/V, and as more hardware also gets streamlined, there are plenty more entertainment options for gadget lovers living in small spaces.

Flat-screen TVs, in-wall speakers and wireless music, video and audio have all made an imprint on home entertainment for both luxury and budget lifestyles. As solutions become more compact, there are better ways to update your own small living space with handsome, sophisticated hardware. Here are five tips to achieving a high-tech paradise in less than 1,000 square feet:

Choose Wisely
When it comes to selecting the best A/V system for a small space, there are two important considerations to make: size and impact. You don’t want bulky loudspeakers taking up a lot of already precious space in a small living room, but you also can’t get a sweet sound from flimsy laptop speakers. Fortunately, more manufacturers are introducing small systems that deliver high-quality sound. But don’t simply settle for the first out-of-the-box system you find at the local big box. Because you’re faced with size restrictions, look for hardware that is compact and can expand to meet the needs of a growing system down the road.

Bose now offers several compact home entertainment solutions that boast big sound without the clutter, including the Bose 3-2-1 GSX DVD system. The system simulates surround-sound which means you don’t need to run wires to the back of the room for rear speakers. And you can cut back on CD clutter by digitally storing up to 200 hours of your favorite music in the versatile media center.

Other products, like the ultra-compact Harman Kardon DMC 1000 digital media center, even include multi-room output so you can listen to more than 60,000 digitized songs in your living room, bedroom or kitchen. In a small space, this may not be the most important feature, but it certainly cuts back on the amount of hardware necessary for each room. It also lets you expand your system in the future when you may move into a larger space.

Don’t Overwhelm Your Space
While new plasma and LCD televisions are being introduced well over 60 inches, finding the best screen to fit your small space doesn’t always mean upgrading by size. The benefit of flat-screen TV technology is its ability to actually save space (you can display it on a TV stand or hang it on a wall). That’s why it’s especially important for small home owners to pay attention to size as it relates to viewing angles around a room and the main TV seating area.

Consider flat-screen televisions starting at 20 inches. For most standard studio and one-bedroom residences, a flat-screen TV sized between 20 and 30 inches will likely fit well into a space where the main seating area is only a few feet from where the TV sits. Every major flat-screen manufacturer, including Sharp, Samsung, LG and HP, offers small-to-mid-size flat-screens for smaller living quarters. Sharp even offers compact wireless versions of its AQUOS model that allow you to watch TV anywhere inside or out within a few feet of a media server. Wireless flat-screens are a good option for budget-minded users who may want to take advantage of video in multiple rooms without having to invest in multiple units.

Lighten Up
Today’s technology isn’t just about audio and video. Lighting controls also play an important role in smaller living spaces that can double as a game or movie room or triple as an entertainment space. While most lighting controls tend to expand well beyond the needs of a small home owner, Lutron’s AuroRa is a pre-programmed, wireless lighting control designed especially for more intimate interiors.

AuroRa controls up to five areas of light from a tabletop master control, wireless handheld or individual wall dimmers. Because a user can operate the system from outside the home, the solution can save energy and create ambience for a variety of situations, like parties, reading, movie watching and bed time. By using a lighting control system like AuroRa, a living room can be transformed for a cocktail party, movie night or study hall by simply changing modes. You not only save on electricity by being able to control lights minutes before entering or after exiting your home, but you also save space on traditional light configurations.

Consider Hidden Potential
In the same way that flat-screen televisions can take advantage of wall space, so can speaker systems. Rather than investing in bulky black boxes that take up space in your living or family room, make better use of in-wall speakers that require simple installation. Not only will you save space, but you’ll also create a better sound system without all of the unnecessary hardware.

Phase Technology’s dARTS IW-Series in-wall speakers are ultimately a very high-end approach to audio. The sophisticated in-wall speaker system connects with most major receivers and audio players, as well as home theater systems. The compact speakers can be easily installed into a wall discreetly, leaving plenty of space for additional components.

Other in-wall speakers for smaller budgets include Insignia’s pair of 6.5-inch in-ceiling speakers, JBL’s two-way in-walls and MartinLogan Passage, Helos and Fresco speakers, most of which can be installed on a wall surface to save on additional construction costs. Smaller, less expensive flat-panel and on-wall speakers also work for renters who don’t have the option of making major cosmetic changes to their properties.

Table Your Options
iPod not only introduced the world to digital music on the go, it also spurred a whole new market of sexy table-top audio players, like the Chestnut Hill Sound George iPod player (www.chillsound.com). The ultra-modern table-top player not only streams digital music from your iPod, but it features an AM/FM player.

If you want to tap into more than just the music on your iPod, then Meridian-Ferrari’s F80 is a table-top system that doubles as a music server. It stores and plays music conveniently (no custom installation is required). It also operates with most products from speaker manufacturers if you want to take advantage of even bigger sound in style.

Suggested Reading:
Home Theaters for Condos and Apartments
Home Theater for Small Rooms
The Perfect TV for Your Room
Tabletop Radios - Not Dead Yet
The Book on Bookshelf Speakers
How to Wire Tricky Rooms



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