Product Spotlight: Crestron Digital Media

There’s no question that the digital age is here today. Analog television is off the air; practically every device that plugs into a display has an HDMI port; the latest MacBooks only provide DisplayPort outputs; laptops now include built-in Blu-ray players; and the latest video conferencing systems feature HDMI/DVI outputs exclusively. Crestron DigitalMedia™ (DM) is the only solution that answers the challenges of tomorrow – today.

Whole-house multimedia distribution offers several conveniences including having the ability to access your sources at all television locations (Set top boxes, Kaleidescape, Game Consoles etc.) which allows greater installation flexibility, but more importantly offers access to all of your content at every television. In many instances, RMS installs and configures multiple Digital Video Recorders (DVR) for each user in a home. This gives great flexibility and convenience by allowing per-user recordings and also the ability to monitor what the children are watching at any given time (by switching to their cable box).  Multimedia distribution also allows you to start a program in one room, and finish it in another, without missing a second of it.  The Crestron Digital Media system provides the backbone for new and upcoming multimedia technologies such as HDMI, USB, and ETHERNET. This system is “card-slot” based, meaning it can be expanded and adopted to work with future technologies at a later date.

In many cases, the majority of the system is installed in a rack located in a mechanical room, out of site.  At each television is a Crestron DM-RMC (Digital Media – Room Media Controller) device that is small enough to be easily concealed.  This provides the link to the system and all of the sources available, at every television.  This type of system design places all of the source components in one central area for installation flexibility, and eliminates redundant components in the system.

The difference between Crestron Digital Media, and every other video distribution system, is its “future-proof” design.  The system was engineered specifically to tackle the difficult distribution of today’s high-definition broadcasts (with its encrypted HDCP system), and also allows upgrading and expansion for new formats and technologies.

RMS is a leader in Crestron installation and programming with many satisfied clients utilizing this great new technology.  Contact us for more information or for a consultation to see if this technology is right for your needs!

Apr 20, 2010 / Features

Product Spotlight: Sonos

With more and more clients requesting the ability to access online music services such as Pandora and Rhapsody, RMS has researched several products that deliver these services intuitively and at a good value.  One of these has become the go-to product for RMS clients who want a standalone music system which offers streaming music content as well as their local music collection in a simple, easy-to-use interface.  That product is Sonos.

Music in your house.

When it comes to playing music, we believe all rooms should be created equal. That’s why you can put Sonos in absolutely any room where you want music. With Sonos, no room is off-limits and you can add music wirelessly to practically any number of rooms: the bedroom, the backyard, even the bathroom.

Music in your hands.

Sonos puts the control of all your music and all your rooms right where it should be — in your hands. With the touch of a finger you can find and play a world of music, whether it’s streaming direct from the Internet or stored on your computer. Tune in to your favorite radio station or browse through your entire music library. You can play the same song in every room or choose different songs for different rooms. It’s up to you. And so is which Controller you use — the dedicated Sonos Controller 200, Sonos Controller for iPhone™, Sonos Controller for Mac or PC, or a combination of all four.

SonosNet: Wireless that works like magic

The key to designing a music system that plays music all over the house is having a wireless network that works all over the house. That’s why Sonos created a wireless mesh network called SonosNet to deliver the range and performance required of a multi-room music system. When you need to stream music wirelessly, the network you use really matters. When a network is overloaded or stretched to its limits, you hear echoes and delays from room to room, and your Internet speed can be sluggish. Not so with Sonos.

Sonos chose a mesh network because a traditional network with a central hub relaying all the traffic didn’t provide the house-wide coverage we wanted. What’s more, access point networks were plagued by performance issues. SonosNet changes all that — providing the extensive range and superior performance you need to enjoy music in every room without requiring a massive wiring remodel.

Key Products of a Sonos system

  • Controllers
    • Sonos Controller 200 (CR200): The Sonos Controller 200 is a wireless, handheld Controller with a 3.5” full-color VGA display and ultra-responsive touch screen. Pick it up or touch the screen and it’s instantly on, ready to play your music. You can quickly find and play all your music and control all your ZonePlayers with the touch of a finger. And dedicated Mute, Volume and Zones buttons get you to the functions you use most. The Sonos Controller 200 provides instant access to your personal music library stored on your computer, plus thousands of Internet radio stations and the most popular online music services. And, it comes with a Charging Cradle so it’s always ready to go and easy to find.
    • Sonos Controller for Mac or PC: The Sonos Controller for Mac or PC is free software that’s included with every ZonePlayer. It offers almost all of the functionality as the handheld Sonos Controllers, and allows you to control your entire system from any desktop or laptop computer in your house.
    • Sonos Controller for iPhone: The Sonos Controller for iPhone is a free application that turns your iPhone (or iPod touch) into a full-fledged Sonos Controller. Plus, it fits in your pocket so you can carry it with you all over the house.
  • ZonePlayers
    • ZonePlayer (S5): A high-performance wireless music system with 5 speakers powered by 5 dedicated digital amplifiers for crystal-clear, room-filling sound. Just plug it in wherever you want music.
    • Sonos ZonePlayer 120 (ZP120): The ZP120 has a built-in 55W per channel digital amplifier. Just add speakers to bring superior audio quality to any room.
    • Sonos ZonePlayer 90 (ZP90): The ZP90 connects directly to your home theater receiver, stereo system and more, so you can instantly add music to the audio equipment you already own.
  • Sonos ZoneBridge
    • The ZoneBridge™ is a wireless product that can be used instead of a ZonePlayer to set up your wireless Sonos system. If your house doesn’t have Ethernet wiring or your router is in a room where you don’t want music, connect the ZoneBridge to your router to instantly activate the SonosNet wireless mesh network. The ZoneBridge can also be used as a wireless extender to increase the range of your system and expand the Controller’s wireless coverage.

Instant access to endless music.

Sonos plays it all. Music from your personal library stored on your computer. More than 25,000 free Internet radio stations, shows and podcasts. And music services that let you stream and download their vast collections of songs from the Internet to the rooms of your choice.

Sonos gives you the freedom to listen to whatever you want, wherever you want. Play a classical album from your music library in the kitchen and the living room. Wake up to a local radio station in your bedroom or use an online music service to create a custom radio station to play all over the house. Whatever you’re into, rock or rap, interviews or instrumentals, Sonos gives you instant and endless music gratification.

If you would like more information on Sonos or if you are interested in purchasing a Sonos system for your home, please feel free to contact RMS.

Apr 20, 2010 / Features

Home Improvement: From Old Cellar to New Theater

This mid-1800’s two-story colonial farmhouse in Lancaster, Pennsylvania remarkably juxtaposes the old and the new.  Over the last several years, the homeowners have renovated the home, tacking on several new additions and, most recently, an underground state-of-the-art home theater.

This home theater, however, is not your typical basement install.  It was created in the old farmhouses’ 14-foot x 26-foot root cellar – a structure used from the 1800’s, before the days of the refrigerator, for storing crops and roots, like carrots and potatoes (hence the name) that needed to be kept cool.  Quite narrow with low, arched ceilings, and made of dry, laid stone and dirt floors, you’d think a root cellar would be an acoustical and sight-line nightmare, but installer Matt Early of Residential Media Systems in nearby Manheim rose to the challenge.  He soon realized, however, that the space wasn’t as tricky as he’d first expected.

The room, which metamorphosed once before into an office, had been previously finished with a stamped concrete floor and a concrete stucco finish for the walls.  “While the room had a definite reverb issue,” says Early, “surprisingly, the tunnel’s shape possessed a quality in sound where there was minimal amount of standing waves, resulting in a warm deadness in the acoustics.”  To tame the acoustical weaknesses of the room, Early and his team, which included Garry Longnecker of Longnecker Construction and Gary Hampton of Hampton Cabinetry, created the necessary staging and risers, then installed carpet and strategically placed mahogany “trays” or crowns, to counteract resonance.

While there were existing phone lines and a few electrical outlets in the cellar-turned-office-turned-theater, Early didn’t use any of them for the project.  Instead, he used the architectural and design elements to stealthily wire the theater.  The trays, arches, and staging provided a space for a network of channels for all the wiring needs.  “We carefully laid out the wiring to keep all high and low voltages separate,” says Early.  Not only did the theater’s structural elements help hide the wiring, but they house the intricate lighting system.  “The concept of the lighting ws to enhance the interesting shape of the room,” Says Early.  “There had to be a balance between creating indirect lighting while trying to keep the imperfections of the rustic location from being revealed.”  Early picked Lucifer Lighting (controlled by a Lutron GrafikEye) for the main lights in the room, while strip lights were used under all the steps and staging as well to create the illumination of the ceiling.  Sposts were placed on a strip-lighting track to create the lighting pattern on the walls, and P.U.K. lights were implanted into the flat part of the tray to shed light on the 12 burgundy Premiere leather seats.  Early achieved the ethereal effect of the ceiling by creatively employing a blue filter gels on the uplighting to give the audience the feeling of sitting in moonlight.  Although the ceiling came out beautifully, its inherent proximity to the ground could have posed significant sight-line problems.  Ideally, installers would design a room from the ground up, building in risers to their heart’s content, at the ideal levels.  With an existing, low-ceilinged room, Early had to make the risers shorter than he would have liked to accommodate headroom in the back row.  “I am 6-feet, and I feel comfortable in the back row,” says Early.  “We managed to maximize the dimensions of the room while not obstructing the screen with viewers’ heads.”

The theater’s overall look is one of warmth and leisure.  Early and his team helped the homeowners pick out the chairs and persuaded them to go with a deerskin gray finish on the walls to minimize light reflection that would interfere with the apparent brightness of the projector.  The clients put their stamp on the theater by selecting the neutral carpet and the color of the chairs.  “The dream client allows creative freedom with the knowledge and trust that you will far exceed their expectations,” says Early.  “Their down-to-earth attitude and desire to have a fun room to complement their easy-going lifestyle made the project very enjoyable.”

Like the risers that house the wiring, the mahogany arch at the front of the theater also has aesthetic and practical purposes.  It discreetly hides the Dwin HD700 projector, which is practically out of view.  The only evidence that it exists is the beautiful image it projects on to the receptive 104-inch Vutec screen.  “The Dwin projector and transcanner combination, in my opinion, created one of the best pictures I’ve seen,” says Early.  “Clarity and focus are terrific and the convergence has held up wonderfully.”

Without a truly powerful sound system, awesome video is useless.  To complete the big picture, Early used Triad In-Wall Golds throughout the room and Triad Silver/15 subwoofers.  “These speakers have a terrific natural sound with lots of impact and great separation,” says Early.  “Center-channel voice imaging is perfect.”  The speakers are flush with the wall and remain hidden, not detracting from the elegant design of the theater.  So that all the explosions in the clients’ favorite Bond films could be felt as well as heard, Residential Media Systems installed two Buttkicker tactile transducers powered by a Carvin power amp into the staging.

The AMX Landmark control system automates all that wonderful audio and video.  The theater is controlled by an AMX Viewpoint touchscreen, which allows users to simply push a button and the theater is illuminated, equipment is fired up, and the DVD logo appears on the Vutec screen.  There are four DMS keypads throughout the house that control the satellite TV, CDs from a Sony 200-disc changer, AM/FM radio, and the security system.

The carrots and turnips that formerly occupied this root cellar have also been supplanted for those refreshments without which our movie-watching experience would be utterly incomplete.  The homeowners had Early excavate a 100-year-old furnace out of a room at the rear of the root cellar, where a kitchenette complete with ice cold drinks, a candy counter, and a popcorn machine were installed, much to the delight of the clients’ two children.  The room also houses the family’s extensive movie collection, which contains gems starring John Travolta and Sean Connery, who are both represented in the theater’s unique Hollywood-inspired mural.

Six months from start to finish and a one-time root cellar is now a remarkable home theater.  “There can be disappointing moments in any installer’s career when a system is complete and no matter how much more money you spend on it, it still doesn’t shine like you had hoped, Early concludes.  “This is one of those rooms that just came together naturally, is comfortable and easy to use and performs amazingly.”  A technological marvel in this 150-year-old home, the theater is an elegant haven where the family can dig some underground cinema.

Jan 14, 2010 / Features

Bethlehem Residence 1

This 10,000 sq. ft. custom home truly offers its occupants the conveniences of home automation and entertainment.

Creston provides the back-bone for the whole-house audio distribution with speakers in the family room, kitchen, formal living room, office, billiard room, master bedroom, master bathroom, exercise room, back patio, and pool.  Various keypads, remotes, and touch-panels in convenient locations, provide easy control of the XM Satellite Radio, Kaleidescape media server, iPod, and FM radio.  Sonance in-wall and in-ceiling speakers throughout the home integrate nicely for a clean installation.  In the formal family room, Sound Advance “disappearing” speakers were integrated into the walls, for a completely seamless installation, while providing great sounding music.

The family room offers a theater experience, with a 50” High-Definition plasma integrated into the beautiful custom cabinetry.  RBH left, center, and right channel speakers are cleverly concealed behind custom designed speaker grills in the cabinetry.  RBH in-wall speakers provide the surround channels, while an RBH 12” subwoofer is in the front cabinet with barely visible vents in the toe-kick.  A Marantz digital surround receiver powers these speakers with ease.  The Kaleidescape movie server provides the family with their entire movie collection in an easy-to-use graphical interface.  The server can also make “recommendations” on what to watch, based on the current movie selection.  A local iPod dock gives the users the ability to watch any iPod video on the system.  An RTI T2b RF remote provides easy, one-touch control of the entire system.  Lutron Lighting and Shading is also integrated, and is easily controlled either by the touch-panels and keypads, or the RTI remote.  Setting the room up for a movie is a simple “one-touch” operation, lowering the lighting and the shading for just the right ambiance.

All of the televisions in the home are connected to a unique central video-distribution system, so all of the client’s content is available at every television.  DirecTV DVRs provide the parents, children, and guests with their own recordings, channel preferences, and parental control. The Kaleidescape movie server can also be viewed on any TV allowing the clients to start a movie in one room, and finish it in another.

There is as much fun outside as there is inside. A covered patio provides entertainment with a weather proof Sunbrite TV mounted above a beautiful stone fireplace for those nice evenings for sitting outside.  In-ceiling speakers provide great sound for any of the various sources in this space.  The open air pool house is also home to a discrete TV available for viewing even from the Hot Tub.

Lutron provides the lighting and shading control for the entire home.  This system allows the users to select various “scenes” for each of the rooms.  Since each room features multiple lighting loads, this saves the homeowners from having to fumble for various switches and dimmers in each space.  Also, the Lutron lighting control system greatly reduces the amount of unsightly switches and dimmers, providing access to multiple loads from a single keypad, greatly improving each room’s visual appeal.  The Lutron shades are provided in the family room and in the breakfast nook to allow just the right amount of sunlight based on the user’s preference.  In the summer time, they can be lowered during the day to reduce the cooling costs, while in the winter they can be raised, to allow the sun’s natural warmth to help heat the large home.

The Crestron system also provides access to HVAC and security systems as well, greatly reducing the amount of unsightly keypads and displays throughout the home.  The large easy-to-read touch-panel located in the kitchen acts as the “control-center” for the entire home, providing access and control to the whole-house music system, Lutron lighting and shading, heating and cooling, and security.

This family of 4 uses their RMS system every day, and truly appreciates the convenience it provides them to fully enjoy their large home, and its complex systems.

Jan 14, 2010 / Features

Lancaster Residence 1

A finished basement quickly turned into much more, once the homeowner saw what technologies were available. The local Lancaster PA residents decided they wanted much more than just a home theater in their basement but with two children, they knew they would need a system that also fit their daily needs.

A Crestron Digital Media system provides the backbone for the various televisions around the house. The Crestron DM system gives each user access to the various video sources at every television location. The children can watch recorded High-Definition television shows from the Comcast HD-DVR, while Mom and Dad watch a movie on the Kalaidescape system. Apple TV and Boxee are additional sources which can be viewed at every television location and provide access to streaming HD video content.

Crestron was also used for the whole-house audio system with architectural speakers located in the Family Room, Kitchen, Sunroom, Office, Master Bedroom, Master Bathroom, and the Outside Deck and Patio. The family can listen to a variety of audio sources including; iTunes, Pandora, Rhapsody, and the family’s local music collection. A Crestron TPS-6X wireless touch panel gives control of the entire system and can be carried throughout the home. Easy access is also available on the owners Apple iPhones and iTouches. This control even extends to the Lutron Lighting and HVAC systems via the Crestron control iPhone app.

The Family Room features a Pioneer 50” HD Plasma display concealed behind a Seura Mirror and Frame so when the system is off, there isn’t an unsightly TV taking away from the décor. Flanking the Plasma are ARTCoustics DF100-75 speakers providing the front stage of sound and are easily mistaken for framed artwork. In-wall speakers to the right and left provide surround sound, while blending seamlessly in with the walls. An RTI T2+ remote control offers simple, one-touch control for the entire system.

The basement Theater system provides High-Definition viewing for the entire family. A Draper 96” screen is flanked by KEF Q-Series speakers and powered Subwoofer. A Pioneer D-ILA digital High-Definition projector provides beautiful life-like images from a variety of different sources. A Kaleidescape DVD server allows access to all of the family movies from an easy on-screen interface. AppleTV allows access to HD movies and TV shows on demand. A Boxee server also provides on-demand video, and access to online video services such as Hulu and YouTube. The entire system is controlled by an RTI T2-C remote control. The remote also allows control of the Lutron Lighting and Shading as well as the Color Kinetic LED system allowing the user to change the color of accent lighting in the space to set just the right “mood”.

This family truly understands what it means to allow home automation and Audio/Video to work for their lifestyle.

Jan 14, 2010 / Features

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