Retiring in Tech Style
See how a pair of retirees used home entertainment and home control system to make their golden years that much better.
With the Philips Pronto remote control, the Joneses can bring music into any room equipped for sound in their 2,800-square-foot home. Photo by Scott Braman.
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May 01, 2005 by Rebecca Day

Keeping up with the Joneses of Guilderland, NY, means installing a plasma TV above the fireplace, enjoying a sonata in the hot tub in February and keeping clean with a central vacuum system that even sweeps the garage. These trappings aren’t what you’d associate with a retired couple with nine grandchildren between them, but these older newlyweds have a fresh outlook on life.

After Ruth and Walt Jones decided to get married, the next step was to construct a new house for their new life. And they wanted music and a flat-panel TV to be part of it. “We had done a lot of reading about what we’d like to have,” Walt says. That included multiroom music and the plasma TV for the great room. “We chose to have a great room rather than a living room we wouldn’t live in,” Ruth quips.

They also knew there were a lot of expensive gizmos they didn’t need, such as a pricey control system. So custom installation company Tangora Technologies of Delmar, NY, introduced them to the Philips Pronto TSU 3000 touchscreen controller that at under $400 fit both their budget and their comfort level. Tangora technicians consolidated the functions of six remotes into the Pronto. Ruth and Walt can simply choose the function they want—whether HDTV, local TV or DVD for video or radio, CD or cable music for audio. Because the Pronto transmits radio frequencies, the couple can control the sound system from anywhere inside or outside their home.

A single-source Niles multiroom audio system fit the Joneses’ lifestyle perfectly. “If we still had teenagers at home, they wouldn’t listen to what we listen to, so different sources might have been an option,” Ruth explains. “But we like the same kind of music.” Keypads in each room allow the homeowners to select volume and sources for easy listening and classical music.

Tangora also introduced the couple to home theater surround sound. The Niles in-wall speakers are tucked away in the ceiling for a stealthy look, but that doesn’t mean the house doesn’t rumble, especially when Walt tunes into a NASCAR race in high definition. Movies are nice, but NASCAR in surround sound makes Walt feel like he’s got a seat in the pit. “It’s like they’re driving all around you,” he says.

Be Prepared
The Joneses had read enough articles about the high costs of retrofit wiring to know that they should prepare for installation before the sheetrock went up. So they had Tangora snake wire throughout the house—even to locations where they wouldn’t have speakers. “Adding sound is not something we’ll probably do,” Ruth says, “but it’s something a future owner could tap into.” They’re also set up for whole-house Internet access through a wired Ethernet network.

Ruth and Walt were excited about living with a modest array of music and video equipment, but they didn’t want a trophy case of black boxes and blinking lights. All the gear had to be hidden. That was fine with Walt, because it gave him several projects for his woodworking talents.

Planning ahead was crucial to getting exactly what the Joneses wanted. During construction, Walt advised builder Manchester Associates of Altamount, NY, to leave space under the staircase for an equipment rack. He contacted Tangora for precise measurements for the amplifiers, DVD changers and other gear, then custom built shelves for each component. The front panels open to the great room, and the rear panels are accessible from the other side of the staircase. Since the Pronto is a radio frequency remote control, it operates the equipment through walls and through the cabinet door while keeping the components hidden. The only time the Joneses have to see the equipment is when they load a DVD.

Walt also crafted the frame for the 42-inch Pioneer plasma display. He chose poplar wood because “it’s easy to work with and paints well,” and the white frame matches the other shelving in the room. Finding a wall mount for the TV took some hunting, so they flipped through magazines for ideas. “Most of the mounts we found were as thick as the TV, which made the TV stick out farther in the room,” Ruth notes. “And that defeated the purpose of having a flat TV.” They turned to Chief Manufacturing to match a mount to the Pioneer monitor. And now the display mounts flush in the wall.

Next on deck is an Internet connection for the great room so anyone who uses it can hook up a laptop and play video games on the plasma screen. Fortunately, Tangora left a space on the Pronto remote for the PC input. The setup will be ready and waiting when the grandkids next visit. But if Walt finds a NASCAR video game in the meantime, they may have to wait in line.

Equipment list

  • Yamaha YHT-900 surround-sound system
  • Yamaha HTR5660 receivers (2)
  • Yamaha DV-C6660BU five-disc DVD/CD changer
  • Denon five-disc DVD/CD changer
  • Philips Pronto TSU 3000 touchscreen remote control
  • Niles MRZ6 multiroom audio system including amplifiers, switcher and keypads
  • Various Niles indoor in-wall speakers
  • Niles OS-3 outdoor speakers
  • Pioneer 42-inch plasma TV
  • Beam central vacuum system (Serenity 2100 power unit and Rugmaster Power Team)

Systems Design & Installation
Tangora Technologies, Delmar, NY

Manchester Associates Ltd.

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