Whole-House Audio Creates Household Harmony

FAMILY LIFE is always a bustling hive of activity. But with four daughters–all of them teens and tweens–the owners of this elegant yet unpretentious estate have their hands full. Throw in media demands that rival those of a high-tech Hollywood production studio, and it’s easy to see why a hearty audio/video distribution system was not only a major part of this home remodel, but was essential to household harmony.
“Everyone in the family has different tastes. One daughter wants to listen to Kelly Clarkson; another likes Lady Gaga. The parents might want to hear Led Zeppelin or watch the news,” says John Goldenne, president of Digital Home Technologies, Palatine, Ill. “The girls practically live on their iPhones, so playing music from those devices was also very important.”

To satisfy everyone’s unique entertainment cravings, Digital Home Technologies designed a system that gets media from point A, the centralized equipment racks in the basement, to point B, the 12 displays (including a dedicated theater) or 14 zones of audio throughout the home. An Atlona matrix switcher shuttles the appropriate content to the appropriate display or audio zone based on what the homeowner selects from an Elan g! home control system. Incorporating touchpanels, iPhones, iPads, computers, and handheld Elan HR2 remotes, this system offers multiple points of control that allow any family member to order up music and movies using whichever device they prefer.

For wireless A/V and home networking, the home required the addition of a robust IT infrastructure, including Luxul wireless access points. Getting a reliable signal in this somewhat remote location was, in fact, why Digital Home Technologies was contracted for the job in the first place. “It all started because the homeowners wanted to get their cellphones working better,” says Goldenne, who installed a Wilson cellular booster system to ensure complete coverage.

The wireless Internet coverage extends outside thanks to an exterior Luxul wireless access point for infallible connectivity, whether poolside or in the English garden, both independent audio zones. These two zones also include a whopping 24 Sonance speakers (a mixture of Sonarray and Landscape models) and three underground subwoofers. “We started with 13 speakers, but ended up doubling that for a more balanced effect that blankets the area with sound,” says Goldenne. Fusion Audio’s Ovation music streamer sends audio to any zone, while video sources like Apple TV, DirecTV, and Comcast are also stored in one spot, yet watchable from anywhere.

The Players
Electronics Design & Installation Digital Home Technologies, Palatine, Ill., adigitalhome.com
Contractor Dan Lord, Lord Construction, Naperville, Ill.Equipment
Screen Stewart Filmscreen
Projector Epson
Theater Audio Paradigm
Control Elan
Outdoor Audio Sonance, Crown
Network Luxul, Wilson Electronics
Switching Atlona
Displays Samsung
Sources Fusion Audio , DirecTV, Comcast, Apple TV, Samsung
Lighting Lutron RA2
HVAC control Lutron RA2

Structurally, getting from source to speakers or TVs was more challenging than meets the eye. “It was very difficult to get access to the attic to run wires throughout the house from the basement racking area without damaging the floors on the first floor,” says Goldenne. “We only had one shot, so we used the very old circular staircase to create a wire chase that would carry enough cable for current and future needs.”

Should family interests converge, there is plenty of room for parents and kids alike in the dedicated theater in the basement (also home to a gym and bar). This dramatic theater features handsome padded walls that are a feat in their own right, with 3.5-inch-foam padding covered in fabric. Digital Home Technologies worked with the fabric to test airflow and created foam cutouts for the surrounds and subwoofers in the 7.2-channel Paradigm surround-sound system. Likewise, the front speakers are hidden behind the Stewart Filmscreen Microperforated acoustically transparent projection screen. The screen, which stretches out at approximately 130 inches diagonally, transmits sound from speakers through to the audience unfettered, while insulation above the ceiling stops sound from invading the upper levels of the house. The finishing touch is an eye-catching star ceiling Digital Home Technologies and the contractor, Dan Lord of Lord Construction, Naperville, Ill., collaborated on and floated out an inch-and-a-half to create even more drama with the color-changing LED lights.

In terms of learning curve and usability, the kids had the system figured out in the first couple of days, according to Goldenne. “I always show kids a system first,” he jokes. “If I can get them to use the system, they can help the parents.” In this case, the strategy worked. Now each member of the household can enjoy whatever audio or video they want, wherever they want, all while maintaining complete familial accord. EH


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