What does a professional baseball player do months before he has to trade uniforms and play for a team in different city? Get a distributed home audio system installed in his house, of course. That’s what new Red Sox relief pitcher Mark Melancon did just before he packed up for Florida for spring training.
Previously with the Houston Astros, Melancon will still make his home in Texas and bought a house in the state. He recently had a new Niles ICS whole-house audio system installed by integration systems experts Modia.
Melancon hadn’t ever seen (or heard) a whole-house audio system like this before, but he’s a believer now. He explains that when he and his wife first saw the house, it already had a system, an older Niles product, installed, and that’s when his interest in the concept began. “Just listening to it for a couple of minutes when we walked through the house was something special,” he says.
Once the couple was moved in they knew they needed a system like the one they’d heard on the house tour, but the prior owners took it with them. When they met with Modia to plan out the system, ease-of-use was a top priority. “We specifically chose the Niles ICS system because of the simplicity of programming and operation,” says Modia’s Prashant Mody.
While the house had some of the wiring already done, Melancon’s plans for his new audio system were much bigger than what had previously been there. The old system only had three audio zones. The new system upped that to 11 including four zones of outside audio.
Being in Texas where the weather is warm for much of the year, outdoor music was a high priority for this home. Melancon spends a lot of time outside. In the large front yard he has rock speakers along the walkway, speakers mounted outside the garage and more speakers in the back around the pool, fire pit and the area that will eventually be an outdoor kitchen. An outdoor TV is probably in the home’s future as well. “I’m excited to have a Super Bowl party next year because there will be people in the pool, and we’ll have a TV out there to watch the game and be surrounded by audio,” he said.
Most people have a couple of radios and maybe a good surround sound system in their home, but Melancon says living with an integrated whole-house audio system is a completely different experience. From any of the wall-mounted touchpanels or the portable Niles iRemote he can control the source and volume of any zone in the house. “The first thing I do in the morning is get out of bed and hit the keypad in the master bedroom to turn music on in the kitchen. When I get down to the kitchen it’s already playing for me. Then I usually head outside to do some yard work and put on more music outside.”
The Niles ICS system is based around the GXR2 multi-zone receiver. The receiver is modular, so users can add the modules they want for whatever music sources they like including iPod, satellite radio, HD Radio, and network music. The Melancons mostly listen to their iPods and Pandora. He says he’s a real country fan, so expect George Strait on his playlist.
Music throughout the house is provided by both in-ceiling and in-wall speakers because the Melancons didn’t want to see bulky speakers taking up floor space. Even in the living room, where the couple has a home theater system set up, the architectural speakers do double duty for the whole-house system and for movie surround sound. An eight-inch subwoofer hidden in a cabinet provides the LFE support. To navigate between the Niles audio system and the home theater system (consisting of a Sony LED TV and a Sony ES receiver), Modia programmed a URC MX remote control.
Even though there was already some structured wiring in place, the expanded system required a lot of pre-work before Modia actually installed the equipment. Several new wire runs, including wiring for the new touchpanels, plus all the outdoor speaker wiring, had to be mapped out from scratch. Reaching some of the upstairs areas was a challenge, but Modia found a small crawl space that would help them get from the main floor to the third floor. To make it easier for the installers, they built a ladder from 2x4s inside the crawl space and left it in place in case they or anyone else needs access to that area again.
The only drawback to this cool new system is that it was completed just before Melancon had to pack up and leave for spring training, and then when the season starts, he’ll be heading to Boston. “It’s a little disappointing that we have to leave, but it’ll be fun to come back to. I’ll press a button and it’ll be home again.”
Check out the slideshow for images of Melancon’s home and audio system.
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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. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.