Custom Installation Equipment Reviews

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Darryl Wilkinson  |  Oct 04, 2012  |  0 comments

Build Quality
Price: $10,000 (23 shade system) At A Glance: Up to three-year battery life • Extremely quiet operation • Simple installation

Of all the “this is the coolest damn thing I’ve ever seen” things a home theater/wholehome automation system can do, the one that is consistently the most mesmerizing, most envied, coolest “coolest damn thing” is the control of motorized window treatments. (Although it sounds like something a doctor would prescribe for sick building syndrome, window treatments is the term people in the know use for what you and I would call curtains, blinds, and shades.) If you’ve never experienced motorized shades (or drapes or blinds)—and I mean experienced in the sense that you’ve seen them in action in someone’s home and not in a too-clean-to-be-believable picture-perfect designer’s showroom or a slickly edited online video—it’s difficult to grasp the enchanted feeling and quasi-mystical pleasure that even the least gadget-savvy person can get from being in a room in which some hidden electronic sorcery conjures the shades to obediently open and close (or stop anywhere in between) on command or makes the curtains part like the Red Sea as if Moses were holding a remote control in his hand instead of a staff. Even the reticent Wizard of Oz, himself, would rush out from his hiding place behind the curtain to watch it open and close by remote control if it were motorized.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Oct 07, 2011  |  3 comments

Price: $17,000 as tested At A Glance: Control one to 200 devices • No new wires for easy retrofits • Saves electricity and lengthens bulb life

Unless you’re one of the enlightened, you probably use the same simple lighting-control system that most everyone else in the electrified world uses—your finger. Sometimes it’s the side of your hand, or when your hands are full, a nudge with your elbow or shoulder. While the electrical hardware is reliable, this type of system is prone to user error (forgetfulness), doesn’t react quickly to changing circumstances (daytime/nighttime), and is often just damned inconvenient (you’re here, but the switch is over there). On top of all that, gangs of three, four, or more switches on the wall, no matter how fancy the wall plate, are unsightly and not especially intuitive to use when it comes to flipping the right switch to turn on the right light—especially in the dark.

Kim Wilson  |  Jun 07, 2011  |  0 comments
We marvel at how thin flat panel TVs have gotten and it stands to reason that these lighter, thinner sets would usher in a new wave of mounts and lifts. Naturally, mounts have gotten smaller and lighter offering some unique designs that were not possible with previous generation sets. Lifts conceal your TV when you are not using it, offering even greater creativity and integration into your decor. These eight models will hold, lift, tilt and swivel your TV for optimum viewing in any location.
Kim Wilson  |  Apr 25, 2011  |  0 comments
Buying furniture for your AV components and HDTV can seem like a daunting task with all the choices available and like any type of furniture there are all types of styles, designs and sizes. Here are six of our picks for AV furniture that fit a variety of styles and budgets.
Darryl Wilkinson  |  Apr 19, 2011  |  0 comments
[Part one of this article can be found here.]

The wholehouse story.

Home automation is just too cool. There’s no doubt about it. Sure, it’s great to turn on your home theater system and go to the correct input or channel with the press of one button. But there are a number of good universal remotes that’ll do that. I want to be able to use that same remote to turn the lights on and off, lock and unlock doors, raise and lower shades, and, well, anything else I can think of. (I’d like it to cook and clean, but I’m afraid domestic robots are still a bit further in the future.) In last month’s issue, I highlighted parts of the latest incarnation of Control4’s expandable home automation system, specifically how the company’s three controllers and new 2.0 software update give you the ability to control your entire home theater, the lights in your house, and even door locks. Control4’s 4Store marketplace will ideally let third-party apps expand the system in ways that Control4 hasn’t thought of—such as managing the energy usage in your home. But there’s plenty more to talk about that we couldn’t fit in that issue. This time, in addition to the seduction of motorized shades, I’ll cover some of the nuts and bolts of putting a Control4 system together, as well as what it takes to program and control it.

Kim Wilson  |  Mar 31, 2011  |  0 comments
A unique mounting system that adds some extra dimension and style to your living room theater.
Darryl Wilkinson  |  Mar 30, 2011  |  0 comments
Building an automation nation—one house at a time.

I reviewed Control4’s first offering in February of 2006 (oh, those were the days, weren’t they?). The system—based around the company’s $599 Home Theater Controller (HTC)—could easily have been described as a universal remote control with grand aspirations. As the name implies, the HTC was designed to control the components in a home theater (including access to a stored digital music library) with a simple, highly intuitive onscreen graphic user interface. That by itself was pretty sweet. But behind the HTC’s deceptively blank faceplate was hidden a formidable engine capable of powering a sophisticated wholehouse automation and multiroom music system using a combination of Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and ZigBee communication to control things like lights and thermostats as well as distribute music around the house. All you had to do was pony up the extra bucks for the wireless ZigBee thermostats and light switches (up to 125 of them—but at $100-plus a pop, it was unlikely that you’d ever max out the system). You also needed some Control4 Speaker Points, plus the labor to install and program everything, and you were ready to command and conquer the homeland. I liked—no, I lusted after—that original system and was extremely reluctant to box it up and send it back. It couldn’t necessarily do all the amazingly complex things that a Crestron or AMX system could do at the time, but it was a fraction of the price.

Kim Wilson  |  Mar 15, 2011  |  0 comments
Once you add grilles no one will suspect that you have attached high-end loudspeakers to your flat panel TV, until you turn on the sound. There is no reason to have large speakers cluttering the front of your room, when you can integrates these state-of- the-art speakers that create your entire LCR (left, center, right) array with only two speakers that are just as thin as your TV.
Kim Wilson  |  Feb 08, 2011  |  0 comments

Combine a 3D Blu-ray player with a 12TB hard drive and you have the Mozaex Solo 2. With USA retail pricing less than $6,000 for up to 12TBs of media storage, the Solo 2 is more affordable than many other media server systems, providing a highly scalable solution. Up to four additional Blu-ray Players may be added for $2,495 apiece.

Kim Wilson  |  Jan 30, 2011  |  3 comments
The emergence of 3D movies on Blu-ray presents more of a challenge than just a new Blu-ray player, you'll also need a new display. If you are using a projector, you also have to consider the screen you are using. For optimum performance your current screen may or may not be adequate. In fact, a screen optimized for 3D doesn't always provide the best 2D image. However, Stewart Filmscreems has come up with the Daily Dual, providing a solution for optimum 2D and 3D viewing.
Kim Wilson  |  Dec 03, 2010  |  1 comments

Ever wish you could afford a Kaleidescape system? Well, now it's more affordable than ever before to bring their intuitive and comprehensive products into you living room with the introduction of Cinema One, a stand-alone DVD Movie Server, which is their first offering to a broader audience and features kid-friendly operation.

Kim Wilson  |  Nov 04, 2010  |  0 comments
For DIYers, it's never been easier to find the right mount for any model flat-panel TV. Just download the free Install Tool Kit iPad app from Sanus in the Apple App Store. Within seconds you'll find the perfect mount and determine the exact drilling hole placement for installation. It's also possible to keep your own notes and single out the mounts you like the most with the MyNotes feature.
Tim Kulin  |  Oct 17, 2010  |  12 comments

I'm the owner of a small cabinet shop and decided to built this attractive and highly functional entertainment center in my home. All the woodworking throughout the room is mine (except for the chairs). It's all made from Alder that is finished in honey stain with a sable glaze. While it may look like wall paper, the wall treatment is a faux finish.

Kim Wilson  |  Oct 07, 2010  |  0 comments

With flat panel TV's getting so thin, speaker manufacturers are again challenged to create speakers that compliment them. Artison, a leading innovator and manufacturer of custom high-performance loudspeakers, recently introduced an incredibly thin speaker that attaches directly to your TV.