Multiroom A/V Install Offers a Lot for a Little
GOLD WINNER: Best Integrated Home Under $15K
CE pro Audio Video Concepts managed to keep these homeowners' budget down without compromising on their requests.
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.
Because the speakers are all stereo pairs, the Yamaha unit is a stereo receiver, as opposed to a more robust but costlier surround-sound processor. Niles volume controls in each spot also make adjusting music levels a snap.
The multiroom video installation was just as simple, save for some trial-and-error on the Blu-ray distribution (see sidebar). From the Audio Authority piece in the rack, two Category 5 (Cat 5) Ethernet cables carry component video and audio signals to each TV (AVC even added extra Cat 5 and coaxial cable for future use). The well-labeled MX-900 remote in each room makes switching between sources easy. And unlike a fancy touchscreen, as Merz notes, if the handheld remote drops on the tiles and breaks, it doesn’t break the bank to replace.
Blu-ray on the Cheap, on the Fly
One A/V component that did not get rack-mounted in the basement is a Samsung Blu-ray player. The high-def disc player sits near the 46-inch Samsung TV in the living room armoire, where it can still be concealed.
Just because it’s not in the equipment rack doesn’t mean discs are limited to playback on the living room TV, though. Audio Video Concepts managed to route the Blu-ray content to other sets in the house, as distributed video was a big request of the homeowners. Getting the system right, however, took a few practice swings, according to Merz.
“We located the Blu-ray player in the living room so we could hook it up via HDMI for 1080p video resolution, but we also distributed it with Niles baluns and sent the audio down to the Audio Authority [matrix switcher] via component cable and that’s available around the house,” Merz says. The only issue? Other TVs receive the distributed video via Cat 5 cable that carries component video, so resolution is maxed at 1080i—still HD, just not optimized to the Blu-ray or TV resolution.
Finding the right disc player was challenging enough, says Merz, as others dropped the component video when they were hooked up locally for 1080p before AVC found the sub-$300 Samsung 3600 that could do the job.
Audio Video Concepts
3,700 sq. ft.
Whole House Audio
11 Niles VCS-100
2 Niles WVC-100
10 pr Niles CM-610
1 pr Niles CM-710
1 Niles CM-710 SI
1 pr Rockustics Rocky III
1625 ft Proconnect 16-4
The connected audio sources include 2 HD Satellite receivers, a Samsung Bluray player, the integrated AM/FM tuner, an Apple TV, and the Mac in the kitchen
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Audio Authority AVX-562
Audio Authority IR Injector
10 Audio Authority HD Wallplates
2 Niles Component Baluns
2 Niles Audio Baluns
LG 47” LCD Outside 47LG50
UT Pro 310 mount
Samsung 46” LCD in the Great Room 46A860
LG 37” LCD in the Master Bed 37LG30
LG 19” LCD in the Master Bath 19LG30
UF Pro 100 mount
LG 42” LCD in the Gym 42LG30
UA Pro 200 mount
5 MX-900 Universal Remotes
2 MRF-350 Universal Remote Base Station
Existing 46” Rear projection in Playroom
Monster HTS 1800
OmniMount 30 space A/V Rack
2 Direct TV HR21