Computer Controlled DIY

I have been an avid reader and subscriber to Home Theater magazine over the years, when the new issue comes in I thoroughly enjoy reading it and always refer to past issues. My favorite part of the magazine is the home installs, reading about what other people put into their homes and to what lengths they go. Crazy stuff!

We purchased our home in 1997 and have done three renovations. The last renovation was forced because we had a fire in 2005 and it destroyed our basement and we had extensive smoke damage. The fire started in the basement and at the time I didn’t have a dedicated room so I shared the downstairs rec. room with our two boys so my home theater system took the worst of the fire (my Bryston Pre-amp completely melted into itself). Luckily no one got hurt and we had a hell of rebuild to do!

As they say “Every cloud has a silver lining” we were living in a suitcase, me and my wife and our two boys and our Lab “Jet”, since we had to rebuild we decided to renovate the house at the same time and add a master-bedroom suite along with a home theater room. I have always been a do-it-yourself guy so I attacked the design and started running wires for computers and speakers everywhere! I believe I installed over 3000 feet of wire in my home, ethernet cable was everywhere and that total does not include speaker wire or cable wire. So while the contractor was rebuilding I was designing and putting up walls to start my shell. After years of reading and wishing “to have one like that” I was on my way.

I wanted to incorporate a computer to function as the system’s main control center. It is running Vista Ultimate with HDMI out and an ASUS Xonar D2 7.1 channel sound card capable of any sound spec. I desired. The most important component was the video card, NVIDIA was my only choice, over the years I have seen their cards evolve and get even better. I am able to achieve 1920 x 1080 resolution with a dynamite picture that in combination with the SONY KDS-R50XBR1 (reviewed by you in Feb 2006) gave me the picture I wanted without going to a projector. I wanted a clean uncluttered look, so the speakers were installed in-wall (those new speakers with IP addresses they have will make a hell of an upgrade!) I also wanted limited wires in the room so I designed an equipment room and ran all my wires from the TV to there. Before the fire I had separate components Bryston, ProCom to name a few, I wanted to incorporate computers and TV, and limit the design to as few manufacturers as possible. Yamaha has a great reputation so I went with a Yamaha receiver and speakers. I also have a pair of Klipsch front speakers that I used when listening to Jazz, which sounds awesome. To complete the system, I found a Movie marquee that I had custom designed and my 10 year old loves to put the letters together for movie night.

The house has two cameras accessible on the computer, a sound system in the master-bedroom suite with in-wall speakers a Fisher Amp and a Soundbridge Network music player. The main level of the house has a system with an Apt Holman Pre, Hafler Amp and Soundbridge Player also Infinity outdoor speakers for the patio. The basement has multiple In-wall speakers for the recreation room and, of course, the Theater room. The computer server in my equipment room has multiple hard drives for music, all my CDs are transferred to FLAC (uncompressed) files and all movies are saved on disk for easy access. We play network computer games on our computers (Call of DUTY 4 and Red-Alert are our favorites) and everyone has a dedicated system for play and work. Music is very important to all of us and both SoundBridge units access the music located on the main-brain or the music can be accessed via computer systems that have Windows Media Player configured.

My home theater room is accessed via a fingerprint lock, only my fingerprint opens the door, when the kids were younger the temptation was too great. We use the room to watch sport events in HD and just yesterday we watched AVATAR for movie night.