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Interior Designers Benefit from Residential Electronics Experts

The CE Pro, January issue’s article Closer Ties Between Tech & Interior Design is old news to us. We have been working with Interior Designers for many years. Whether the homeowner, general contractor or the designer contacts us, we have been solving difficult aesthetic problems that designers face when their clients want a clean look, but also expect a quality sound and audio system. And, of course, hiding all those nasty wires.

For the first time ever, at CEDIA Expo 2018, groups of interior designers assembled to hit the show floor for an up close and personal look at the technologies shaping home interiors. And this trend continued at the 2019 show.

Interior designers are incorporating wireless networks, smartphone usage and hidden speakers into their design elements. Clients are also asking for more smart home technology such as smart shades and lighting control to full scale wireless speaker systems.

Manufacturers understand that consumers and especially interior designers want more products that are aesthetically pleasing and they are delivering. Providing a holistic environment for consumers is a win-win for everyone. Besides developing products that are hidden behind walls and yet still produce incredible sound, they are creating products that work with a variety of design elements, so while homeowners can see the electronics, they are less obtrusive.

Designers are being encouraged to pull in AV designers at the beginning of a project, and that means learning more about what is offered. If nothing else, simply adding “AV needs” to their spectrum of offerings, when meeting with clients, will produce much happier clients in the long run.

Audiophiles can get excited over CES introduced products

Here are some exciting new audio products for those really looking for an advanced sound experience.

Technics SL-1210 MK7: The Technics SL1200 turntable expands on the series’ legendary sonic engineering and distinct visual design with new DJ features (such as reverse playback) when it arrives in the summer. An iconic slice of sonic history, it is destined to be popular among DJs and vinyl fans alike.

NAD Masters M10: NAD’s brand-new just-add-speakers audio system is the latest product to feature the BluOS multi-room streaming platform developed by NAD’s partner brand Bluesound.
The Masters M10 – an answer to Naim’s five-star Uniti Atom – supports hi-res audio, multiple streaming services and MQA, and features several analogue and digital connections (including HDMI eARC) and Dirac Live Full Room Correction. Apple AirPlay 2 is also imminent. It starts to ship next month.

Classé Audio Delta Series: Almost a year to the day after Sound United acquired the Canadian high-end hi-fi company, Classé Audio is preparing the launch of a new, three-strong amplifier range.

The Delta Mono monobloc ($11,000 each) and Delta Pre preamp ($10,000) pairing running at $42k pair of Magico speakers. A Delta Stereo integrated amplifier completes the series’ line-up. Shipping summer 2019.

PSB Alpha Series: 28 years after the original Alpha speaker series was launched by Canadian company PSB, the range returns in 2019 with a four-strong line-up
The P3 ($199) P5 $349) standmounts, C10 centre channel ($299) and T20 floorstander ($599) use a new 19mm aluminium dome tweeter with neodymium magnet (placed below the woofer on the standmounts), a mid/bass driver with textured polypropylene cones and rubber surrounds, and a crossover with an Acoustic Linkwitz-Riley filter design.

ELAC Navis Series: What stands out not only in ELAC’s well-stocked suite but also in The Venetian is its all-new Navis powered speakers, the Navis ARB-51 standmount and Navis ARF-51 floorstander. A new midrange/tweeter design sees a 1in soft dome tweeter concentrically mounted in the middle of a 4in aluminium midrange driver, and also new is the 5.25in aluminium cone bass driver(s) that sits below it. Each speaker houses tri-amp amplification, with a 160-watt amp for the bass woofer, 100-watt amp for the midrange and a 40-watt Class AB amp for the tweeter.

GoldenEar Technology Triton One.R: GoldenEar Technology’s Triton One.Rs are the newest addition to the brand’s flagship Triton Series of tower speakers, and have been designed to make the distinct form factor and top-end technologies of the $8000+ Titan Reference (where the range culminates) more accessible with a smaller build and cheaper price. With more than a handful of drivers, and integrated 1600-watt powered subwoofers, they need to be seen and heard.

Audioengine A2+ Wireless: Audioengine has made wireless versions of its A2+ bookshelf speakers. The logically named A2+ Wireless are desktop-friendly powered speakers with aptX Bluetooth streaming, in addition to 3.5mm, RCA and USB inputs.

TEAC AX-505 Reference Series: TEAC is adding two new amplifiers to its Reference Series range this year – one of which is the AX-505 integrated amp, which TEAC has launched at CES this week.
The 70-watt-per-channel AX-505 – $1500 uses a Hypex Ncore power amplifier specifically tuned for TEAC, and is an analogue-only design with three pairs of analogue RCA inputs and one pair of balanced XLR sockets.

Kanto TUK: It should come as little surprise that a speaker whose name takes after a hamlet from which the Aurora Borealis can regularly be seen (Tuktoyaktuk) is one of the most attractive speakers we’ve seen at CES. With a sleek baffle and distinct AMT (Air Motion Transformer) tweeter, the minimalist active speakers from Canadian brand Kanto have everything a multimedia mogul could ever ask for: aptX HD Bluetooth, an integrated USB DAC, optical input, line-level RCA, and phono inputs for a turntable for a rather respectful $799.


Considering an Upgraded Router from your Carrier

Think twice…Or it may Cost you!

While H&ONS doesn’t mind performing service calls for its clients and even new clients, we get a little angry with the Internet carriers, ( i.e. Verizon, Comcast, etc.) for selling people on upgrading their router and then not telling them it will impact their existing system to the point of needing someone with expertise to come in and fix it.

Communications carriers bring bandwidth to your home. Don’t expect anything more than that, as that is what their business is and that is what they train their techs to do. They will pretty much set up their internal equipment the same for everyone, even where it is located within the home. What this translates to is that if you have anything slightly sophisticated, as most of our clients do, they will either a) disconnect it, b) not configure it correctly or c) not even install their router.

So, while they may tout better speed or promise a lower monthly fee for changing out your router, keep in mind that there is a very good chance that you will have an additional cost of anywhere from $200-$600+ depending on your system, to get things right again.

What really gets our goat is that sometimes the carrier will force their customer to upgrade due to changes within the carrier’s internal system infrastructure. When this happens, we suggest that you try to schedule a service call with us within a day or so of their set up. It may be advantageous to contact us first to ensure that we are available before you schedule the new equipment with the carrier.

Our hope is that your communications carrier brings you new equipment, sets it up and everything works great. Getting business because of their lack of communications and capabilities is not what H&ONS is about. We will, however, support our clients and do everything we can to assist you.

Networking your home is the gift that keeps on giving

In this day and age, no one should have to put up with slow streaming devices, drops and dead zones within their home. But, calling your Internet Provider and increasing your Internet speed isn’t going to resolve these issues, since the problems generally exist within the home due to the home’s physical structure and your service provider won’t help you. Fortunately using a combination of wired & wireless products, your problems can be resolved.

Once you’ve got your network running smoothly, upgrading your video and audio products inside the home is the next step. Many people put #2 before #1 mostly because it is easier to go out and buy a TV and sound system, then it is to get your network in order. Unfortunately, what happens is that you don’t get the quality out of those new products because all those Smart features are working at a snail’s pace. If you’ve just bought a gaming device, you will really feel the effects of a poor network infrastructure as today’s games require a strong bandwidth.
After you’ve got your home’s internal electronics system in order, you might consider venturing outside to look at outdoor WiFi, audio, video and even cameras. We spend more time in our homes than ever before. You deserve to have your electronic purchases working at peak performance.

Wired vs. Wi-Fi?

When people call us for help in improving their Wi-Fi in their home, sometimes there is a Wi-Fi solution and sometimes the best solution is hard wiring. In most cases, a combination of both hard wiring and Wi-Fi is the best choice. Here are six things we discuss and look at within the home to determine what will work best for the customer.

1. Mobility: The number one reason to choose Wi-Fi over a wired set up is mobility. If you are going to move your device around the house, then you need the flexibility of the Wi-Fi. Laptop computers, iPads and cell phones need a strong wireless set up. Devices that stay put should be hardwired. They include PCs, Televisions and sometimes the audio (in-wall and in-ceiling should be hardwired). When it comes to audio, you can combine wired & wireless by expanding a wired audio set up with products such as Sonos, that permit you to go wireless, therefore expanding your music coverage within the home.

2. Aesthetics: If you have a fully decorated room and now want to have it wired, cuts will need to be made into the drywall to route the cabling from one point to the next. Most residential walls have wood studs 16” apart, so to move horizontally around a room, studs are in the way and wiring has to go through the stud (thus the need to cut the drywall at the stud). If you don’t want your walls cut open, then the best time to hard wire a room is either during a remodeling or just before you decide to redecorate, i.e. so the drywall repair can be covered with spackle & paint.

3. Security: If a client works from home or runs a business from home we generally recommend hard wiring for the company computer. A lot of companies will not allow employees to Telework when using a Wi-Fi connection at home due to the inherent security risk.

4. Airtime: This is a term that is rarely heard but is the most important part of Wi-Fi performance. All devices share the radio transmission of a Wi-Fi network that they are connected to with the other connected devices. Airtime is the amount of time a device uses the radio for sending and receiving data. The more devices there are on a Wi-Fi network, the more contention there is for Airtime. If a device is an Airtime hog, ( a smart TV streaming Netflix, gaming system playing a multiplayer game, etc.) then the performance of all other connected devices will suffer. There is a common misconception that Bandwidth from your internet provider is the problem. Nine out of ten times the problem is with Airtime contention, not Bandwidth.

5. Bandwidth: Naturally the more devices you have on your network, the more bandwidth is used. If you have a house full of kids gaming and using Wi-Fi for the phones, homework and music, you may find when you sit down to use your own device that the speed is very slow. The solution can be either wiring some devices or additional Wi-Fi access points to increase the bandwidth capabilities. You may be surprised at what bandwidth you actually need to operate your household network. Typically you can operate on a lot less than you think, when the infrastructure is designed correctly.

6. Structure of home: Some homes just don’t make it easy to use Wi-Fi. The construction of the walls, the # of levels and the layout of the home can make it nearly impossible for your single router to handle all the signals that are attempting to access it. Wiring upper level rooms and adding Access Points can help. (Access Point is the correct term for the radio transmitter/receiver for Wi-Fi)

A good network infrastructure adds immediate value to your home and adds value when you are ready to sell. Millennials are very tech savvy and will be looking at how well they can access their electronic devices. Most likely they will not care as much about the cable outlet as they will not use traditional cable services but they will be VERY interested in a house with a robust network infrastructure.