Surround Crown

One cool and entertaining condo that merges A/V, Apple devices and clever controls.


Bronze Winner: Whole Home Under $50,000

He already had the TV, and it’s a good one: a 60-inch Pioneer Elite Kuro plasma, with great blacks and contrast. This owner of a condo in a Baltimore industrial building just needed something more—like surround sound and a control system that could tie his A/V components together.

The ultimate goal wasn’t only to have a stunning and smart media room, the owner wanted a complete home automation system that could operate the condo’s thermostats, lights, and shades, and link with his Apple products using AirPort Express.

“He had a clear vision of what he wanted, and just didn’t know what products he needed,” says Andrew Davis of custom electronics installation firm Gramophone, located in Timonium, Md.
Gramophone examined the condo and looked for ways to run the wiring that would connect the various electronic components. Although the floor and ceiling are made of concrete, the installers were able to find a few avenues through which to fish the cabling.

The wall where the TV hangs had to be rebuilt to support the 60-inch plasma display, so there was some space there to pull cabling. Old phone plates were converted into Ethernet jacks, and existing Category 5 Ethernet cables were used as pulls to install data lines for a Control4 home control system. New higher-speed Category 6 cabling was added from the utility room, where a rack of A/V gear resides, to the home entertainment wall.

An existing Lutron shading system was updated, too. The buttons on the original Lutron wall-mounted keypad were swapped for blue LED-backlit buttons to match the hue of the condo’s new Control4 touchpads. In addition to the keypads and touchpads, the owner can use his iPad to operate the lights, shades and everything else in the condo.

System Design & Installation

Gramophone, Timonium, Md.

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Gramophone matched the Pioneer plasma to B&W’s sleek XT8 front speakers, XTC center channel and XT2 surround speakers—with B&W’s circular PV1 subwoofer to round out a 5.1-channel system. “The XT series matched the sleek look he was going for,” says Davis, “and the sound quality is great for listening to music as well as home theater.”

The B&Ws are driven by a Rotel RMB-1575 five-channel power amp, delivering 250 watts per channel through an Integra receiver. The audio system is connected to an Apple TV and Apple AirPort Express to stream music via Wi-Fi. The pleasures of Blu-ray come from a Sony BDP-S1000ES player. In the bedroom is a simple but great-sounding B&W Zeppelin iPod dock.

At the front entrance to the condo, Gramophone went above and beyond. The condo owner wanted to know when the cleaning or building maintenance staff had entered his space when he isn’t there, so a ZigBee-enabled occupancy sensor at the front door signals the Control4 system to send him an email with the time of entry noted. Gramophone is working on a solution that will enable the sensor to recognize the Bluetooth on the owner’s iPhone, so if someone enters without that, he receives an email alert. EH


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