The latest in custom home theaters, whole-house audio systems, and other cutting-edge enhancements for home and office

by Laura D.C. Kolnoski

Keeping pace with rapidly evolving lifestyle technology and planning for smooth upgrades can be challenging. Installing the ideal electronic systems into a home or business is dependent on choosing the right equipment, then integrating it with good design/architecture, factoring in ergonomics, acoustics, sound isolation, automation, seating, and lighting. Not surprisingly, many solicit guidance through the process.

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“For design and installation of most electronic systems, especially home theaters and complicated AV setups, it’s best to leave the job to professionals,” said Tom Curnin, owner of BravoAV Consulting; a former finance and management guru who made a passion for tech his career in 2006. “Today’s customers crave quality, and trained and certified professionals understand compatibility—how to create a unified, sophisticated system, what the newest and most reliable products are and how to integrate them, as well as provide service and support.”

Initial consultations begin in the showroom and on location to create home theaters/media rooms, audio, video, and networking systems, computer networks, closed-circuit cameras, security, whole-home systems, and corporate media room designs. Coordinating with contractors, managing the process, and adhering to needs and budgets should be undertaken with a holistic approach, Curnin explained.

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Home Theater Components: Video Any room can function as a home theater—a bedroom, family room, or den. The space itself, how the video screen and speakers are positioned, types of remote controls used to operate the equipment, and even subtle shifts in lighting all affect the experience. Regardless of location, three basic pieces of equipment are required: video, audio, and a control system.

Timepiece Spread

For displays, Curnin said 4K or Ultra High Definition (UHD) is the current gold standard, offering four times as much information as 1080p monitors of old. Combined with 14-bit color management and High Dynamic Range (HDR), the result is a stunning way of enjoying the fast-growing range of 4K streaming video content.

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“We are actually up to the fifth generation of UHD 4K TVs,” Curnin said. “When people eventually upgrade, they kick themselves for taking so long, as this is a bigger jump than going from the old standard-definition square sets to flat-panel, high definition displays. The difference is astonishing.”

Sound
With respect to audio, emerging high-quality streaming services allow users to immerse themselves in music. Dolby Atmos, for example, is a “revolutionary” way to make soundtracks for movies come alive, Curnin observed. “Sound moves around you in three-dimensional space, so you feel like you’re inside the action.” Ceiling speakers and sound-reflective surfaces transport viewers from the ordinary into the experiential.

 

Sonos is a popular multi-room audio system that lets listeners enjoy different music in different rooms, independently or simultaneously. The system makes listening possible with digital content on iTunes stored on computers or phones, Sirius satellite radio, and Internet radio (both individual stations and music services). Control is made easy through desktop programs and/or via iPad, iPhone or iTouch and Android apps.

Upgrades
Baffled about when to get the next big thing? The right answer depends on the product release cycle and the homeowner, but a good rule of thumb (in industry parlance, the “Technology Adoption Life Cycle”) is to jump to the next audio or video standard every four to five years. When installing systems, an experienced tech will look toward the future—ensuring the system has the ability to evolve as new technologies emerge. As an intermediate step on the way to whole-system upgrades, firmware updates fix bugs and add additional features, such as new streaming services.

And visual stimulation isn’t relegated to the display; interior designers and homeowners are graduating to preprogrammed lighting modes to create dramatic entrances, flood spaces with welcoming warmth, accent décor features, and set moods—produced with one-button control. Motorized window treatments deliver additional lighting options, ease of application, and efficiency.

Lastly, the trend toward elaborate al fresco entertaining spaces is seeing an increase in the form of outdoor televisions—the new Holy Grail being movie theater-sized screens that rise or descend from poolside structures.

Kitchen Systems iPads on kitchen table top stands or wall mounts are, of course, commonplace. Newer on the cooking front are systems from makers like Savant Home technology, which control TV, music, lights and shades, as well as keep tabs on security cameras—with all features monitored/controlled via smartwatch or phone. Consumers are also frequently upgrading standard kitchen outlets to those with USB charging ports, allowing multiple users to fuel up phones or tablets on the counter while cooking.

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What’s Next?

Voice Control
Masters of their personal universe can also speak and have their home obey. With voice control, command over all aspects of audio and video, along with home automation features such as lighting, shades, and HVAC control, is upon us, with Google and Amazon among those leading the way.

Better Security
“Having a secure home network and Wi-Fi backbone is a necessity due to the amount of internet-connected devices, from the computer to the fridge, iPhone, cameras, garage door openers, and more,” said Curnin.

“Service providers are actively marketing better, faster routers with Wi-Fi capability. Users also need the proper Wireless Access Point to be located in a key area of the home to get coverage throughout.”

To foster additional security and convenience, remote power management allows audio-video professionals to reset various electronics like cable boxes and network equipment without requiring a service call.

“Internet of Things”
Curnin calls this “a nascent area of technology that holds great promise.” The “IoT” is the integration of physically connected and smart devices embedded with software, sensors, etcetera—connectivity that enables the objects to collect and exchange data. The IoT allows such objects to be sensed and/or controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure.

Virtual Reality
As top tech firms compete for innovation prominence in the wildly popular VR arena, the technology has seen growing applications in education, training, engineering, archaeology, medicine, architecture, retail, gaming, and fitness. The expectations of consumers keen to be immersed in virtual experiences are evolving at pace with new advancements.

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Bravo AV Consulting
Bernardsville Center / 80 Morristown Road, Bernardsville
908.953.0555 / bravoav.com