Category Archives: Media Rooms

Is Your Home Ready for Guests?

Summer is in full-swing and the holidays inevitably are approaching. Before you know it you’ll likely be hosting an out-of-town guest or two. You might be ready for visitors – but is your home? Whether it’s a party that requires a reliable system to impress and keep your guests entertained or some in-laws visiting that could benefit from more intuitive controls, there’s a lot to consider! If you haven’t thought about your home’s technology in a while, now might be a good time.  Upgrades to your home automation can ensure your systems are working seamlessly in time for your guests.

Home Automation Simplifies Control

You might have mastered your control panel, but will your guests be able to figure out how to turn the lights on and off and adjust the thermostat before they go to bed? Is your lighting control is a bank of switches at the front door or are your shades on a separate remote? Talk to us about integrating your systems and simplifying control. It’s crucial to make sure your controls are easy enough for your guests to understand.

Service Plan add Peace-of-Mind

Maybe you already have all the right home automation tech in place. However, when was the last time you checked your service plan? Having a proactive service plan for your home automation system from a knowledgeable integrator like La Scala helps ensure you’ll always be up and running.  We’ll be alerted before any potential problems arise. While you’re at it, don’t forget to check your network and make sure it’s robust enough to handle streaming on all your guests’ devices.

Regardless of whether you’re entertaining a few or dozens, for a night or a week, make sure you have the right smart home technology and the best service plan in place. Both you and your guests will be comfortable and thoroughly entertained.

Here’s How to Get the Most Out of Watching Sports this Summer!

This summer is the stuff of dreams for sports fans, with the FIFA World Cup, the US Open and the College World Series all taking over our televisions. But before huddling in your living room around your old TV to cheer on your favorite team, make sure you’re hooked up with the correct audio-video setup for the most immersive, bright and connected viewing experience for you and your guests this season.

Regardless of your setup, a few things are clear: for the ultimate viewing experience, you’ll need a large screen with the most clear, bright picture possible, complete with fluid motion displays, a setup with no clunky speakers or wires to distract you from the on-screen action, and strong network capability along with the technical support you need to make sure you don’t miss a play. Should you opt for LED or OLED technology? Or maybe a big-screen 4K projector is more your speed? And which audio setup will deliver that immersive audio experience? What’s more, it’s important to consider which cable or streaming service to use. The options are endless.

If you’re ready for the ultimate experience, a home theater with custom seating, a large screen projector and surround sound will help you feel as if you’ve been thrown into the game. If a TV-based setup is more of what you’re looking for, some key features to look for are motion-smoothing technology and color accuracy, as well as a bright picture, since most of the matches are during the daytime. But if you’d rather be outside by the pool, maybe an outdoor setup, equipped with weatherproof speakers and televisions, is your solution.

Whether you’re a dedicated fan looking for the most immersive and elaborate experience possible or you’re simply hosting your first watch party among friends, you need an experienced team of professionals to help ensure your home is equipped with the best technology and support to make you feel like you and your guests have been transported into the stadium.

 

Beyond the Lighting Strike: Why Power Management is So Important

Protect your systems from everyday power spikes for improved performance and longevity

Protect your Vancouver Smart Home with surge protectionWe’ve all heard the catastrophic tales of lightning strikes critically disabling a home’s electronic systems. To add to the frustration and expense, these overwhelming losses are seldom covered under your warranty as the failure was not the fault of the equipment and because additional damage caused to circuits is nearly impossible to detect. And the issues with power extend beyond the occasional lightning strike. “Dirty” power, power abnormalities that include voltage or frequency variations, low power factors and surges, critically impacts your system’s performance and longevity.

Digital Performance

Dirty power creates “noise” across your sensitive audio and video equipment. While the external power source may be partially to blame, so is every appliance, motor-driven and “connected” (Internet of Things) device throughout your home as each are drawing power as they cycle on and off. These drops and spikes across a shared circuit result in poor quality and performance.

It’s what you don’t see

Damage is sometime instantaneous and obvious, but often slight damage can occur and go undetected, weakening the equipment and impacting its performance. Over a period of time, this drain will shorten the unit’s lifespan. The use of inexpensive power strips can lead to this type of failure. Not commonly known, many of these devices are “once and done,” meaning that it may be able to protect the connected equipment against one surge, but not against subsequent spikes. So, what if the homeowner were unaware that the power strip had been “hit”, rendering it useless thereafter?

Back it up!

Control processors and other sensitive equipment will experience an immediate shutdown during power outages. As power restoration is attempted, perhaps repeatedly, the system will attempt to reboot. This can affect the software and firmware, potentially losing stored content. By providing a battery backup, the processor can power down on its own and successfully reboot. Lamp displays and cooling fans can continue to run, preventing lamp burnout and overheating. And for the gamer, unsaved “levels” will not be lost!

So, how do we achieve “clean”, constant power? Starting with a robust network, we follow best practices, installing power filters, professional-grade surge suppression and battery back-up. The results are reliable, safe power that improves your system’s longevity and performance while protecting your investment.

Audio & Aesthetics. The Soundbar Solution.

As the choices in mounting options for TVs grow, so do the challenges in speaker placement. Today’s thin, sleek, lightweight displays can be mounted just about anywhere; above the mantle or slim console, in a custom alcove or on a clean, open wall. So, where do you place the speakers? While in-walls offer an elegant solution, installing them is not always feasible. Enter the soundbar and its versatile installation and feature options.

Many leading audio manufacturers offer a soundbar solution, an all-in-one speaker system that delivers high-quality audio without requiring the space of a home theater receiver and surround sound speaker system. Mounted or placed below your display, they offer exceptional sound and stunning design. A remarkable improvement to your TV’s speakers, the soundbar features a center channel and often a full LCR (left, center and right channels) experience. Some are designed to be paired with surround speakers and a subwoofer while others replicate full surround sound.

Connectivity, control and quality are prevalent across today’s models, offering conveniences such as music streaming, wireless connectivity and simple IR learning for integrated control through your current remote.

Touting exceptional performance, Triad has an extensive array of options ranging in size and capabilities. They offer micro and mini LCR’s as well as a micro 3-in-1 speaker designed for use with shallow flat-panel televisions. New to their line-up is their on-wall Mini LCR 3.0 SE (Special Edition), offering “unparalleled” performance with 3 separate audiophile speaker systems integrated into one sleek, acoustiperf-grilled package.

Custom fit & finish

An elegant choice, James Loudspeaker offers a variety of soundbar solutions. True to their brand, their line of soundbars is completely customizable and offered in an array of both standard and custom colors. The line-up includes an extensive variety of formats to suit client preferences and range from center channel, stereo bar, or complete LCR package. James’ soundbars are custom fit to the TV for seamless integration and elegant design. For added design versatility, they are available in vertical or horizontal configurations. And the sound, well, they raise the “bar”!

Dimensions of sound – Dolby Atmos

Dolby Atmos has the sound “bar” even higher and a select few manufacturers have integrated the immersive technology into their soundbar line-up. Dolby Atmos “frees” sound from its channels for heightened impact by enabling finer control of individual sounds. Through strategically positioned speakers, sounds move around the listener from every dimension for an immersive, life-like experience.

Samsung has this mastered. Paired with one its breathtaking 4K displays, Samsung delivers a seamless 4K Hi-Res Audio experience with its HW-K950 Soundbar speaker system. The system replicates cinema-style sound with 15 built-in speakers including 4 upward-firing drivers and rear wireless speakers for crystal-clear sound all around.

On-wall or on console, wireless and Bluetooth, surround sound or Dolby Atmos, the choices are endless but all are great solutions for incredible audio and gorgeous design. Give us a call. We’ll help determine the best features and solutions for your overall system requirements, connectivity, control and space.

Preparing Your Home For the Holidays

Company’s Coming to Town!

Crestron home with automated shades and multiscreen displaysThe holidays are around the corner! Soon our homes will be filled with festive decorations, mouthwatering scents wafting from the kitchen and guests to entertain! Whether you’ve been thinking about sprucing things up before your guests arrive or simply want to make some comfortable home improvements that will add to your holiday merriment, here are some things you may wish to consider.

Home for the Holidays

Nothing says “Welcome” quite like lighting design. From the moment your guests turn the corner, they’ll see your beautifully lit landscape and inviting walkway.  Highlighted artwork and the soft glow of a chandelier in your foyer make a stunning first impression. Programmed lighting scenes can transform the mood at the touch of a button (or a simple “ask” of your voice control). An “Entertain” setting may turn your kitchen into a bustling center of activity full of food prep and laughter while lowering the downlights, sconces and chandelier in the dining room, setting the stage for the elegant evening meal. Following dinner the lights come back up to your “Clean-up” setting and your favorite holiday playlist ques up, drawing everyone to gather around the fireplace (also integrated into your Crestron home automation system).

On milder evenings you may wish to entertain on your covered patio. Lighting scenes showcase architectural features, planters and fountains for added drama while highlighting uneven walking surfaces and stairs for comfort and safety.  You and your guests can enjoy cozying up with your quilts around the firepit to watch your favorite holiday classics on a weatherproof TV or outdoor projection screen.

If the weather outside is Vancouver “frightful”, bring the party indoors into an updated media room or dedicated home theater. We’ll help you plan the perfect space with plenty of plush custom cinema seating for everyone!

Be the Envy of Your Neighbors

If you’re one who wants to share your joy and seek to become a “destination” (or the next viral video) by putting on an outdoor display that can be seen from space, you’ll need a sound system that’s worthy of the task. Those synchronized music and lighting displays are sophisticated but, if you have an integrated home automation system, we can get you in control and in “sync”!

While the neighbors are out gawking at the lights and enjoying the orchestration, unless you have an infamous Leg Lamp prominently displayed in your front window you may want to add some beautiful motorized window shades.  Automated shades can be integrated with your lighting scenes and come in an elegant array of weaves, styles and colors. They are the perfect solution for hard to reach floor-to-ceiling windows in voluminous rooms and can be on separate settings. They’re also great for blacking out light in areas for TV viewing and are available for custom installations over skylights, stairway/foyer accent windows, etc. Check out this beautiful guide outlining the Top 10 Reasons to Add Crestron Lighting & Shades to Your Home for some great design ideas.

Like a Warm Cup of Cocoa

While preparing your guest rooms, imagine offering them the luxury of automation. Easy-to-read and use touch panels, keypads and hand-held remotes that control lighting, fans, fireplaces and more in their room add elegance and enjoyment to their stay.

All Snug in their Beds

While we’re off dreaming of sugar plums, others are up to Grinch-like behavior scheming to steal the joy from our celebration. Yes, sadly, according to the FBI, nearly 400,000 homes are burglarized during November and December each year. Burglars are opportunists and will move to an easier score when a few simple deterrents are in place. Strong, automated door locks will keep them out while allowing you the ability to “buzz” your family and friends in if you’re caught in holiday traffic. And nothing says “we’re home” like well-timed automated indoor and exterior lighting. And your lighting control can be integrated with your home security system for even greater peace of mind.

So give us a call and let us help you prepare for the holidays! We’ll put together the perfect system for you. All you need to do is create your holiday playlist, address your invitations and start shopping! Shopping? Oh yeah, we’ve got you covered there too! Stay tuned for our gift giving guide. We’ll help you find something for every tech-enthusiast on your list!

Need more Décor ideas? Visit Vancouver Christmas Market

Entertaining ideas outside of your home: Top Things to do in Vancouver at Christmas

Lutron Lighting Design – Inspirational Design Gallery

What’s Important to Know About Furniture for AV Storage and Wire Management

Technologies for today’s homes and offices are sleek, contemporary and elegant. Some elements, such as touch panels, custom-framed displays and speakers that look as incredible as they sound, are meant to be seen. But then there’s the behind-the-scenes components; the receivers, amplifiers, switchers…all the things with the blinking lights and knobs that you choose to either showcase or hide away. Either way, they all “live” somewhere and that somewhere has specific requirements.

Custom Rack Installation

Custom Rack Installation

Technology systems are comprised of various electronic components that require power and, inherently, produce heat. Like your laptop or other electronic devices, they need proper ventilation for reliable, peak performance. Not all furniture is suitable to store electronics.

Choices for housing audio video gear are numerous and offer clever solutions for providing air-flow, managing cables and allowing IR signal visibility when required. Regardless of whether your components are stored in an equipment rack in an out-of-the-way storage closet or front-and-center in a media cabinet or credenza, purpose-built AV furniture will provide these critical features.

The AV Rack

AV equipment racks are available in various heights, measured in rack spaces or units, depending on the requirement of the components.  They can be installed inside of a media cabinet, on a wall using a swing-out mount or placed on casters for ease of accessibility when servicing. For extensive whole-house or integrated commercial systems, multiple racks may be required. Racks can be placed in the room or located in an off-area such as a centrally located, climate-controlled closet. Some installations will require forced ventilation through the use of thermostatic rack fans that will draw heat from the gear.  When gear is stored in an enclosed unit, it is imperative that air be allowed to flow so that the heat can adequately dissipate.

Wireless But Not Cordless

The beauty of an integrated system is, well, that it’s integrated; all the systems “talk” to each other.  Talking equals connectivity and connectivity equals cabling and cords, including wireless solutions. While wireless gear and speakers offer elegant, wire-free signal, electronics still require power. AV furniture provides access to the components as well as rack “rails” or channels to attractively conceal or “manage” the wiring.

Once the cabling leaves the rack or unit, the best path for wire runs needs to be determined, along with factoring in the length of the run and calculating conduit specifications.  This is where LaScala shines. We’ve got the tools and know-how to get cables from Point A to Point B with minimal impact and while factoring in future demands and incorporating those unattractive wires into an aesthetically pleasing (or even invisible) design.

Depth is also a consideration when placing components. In addition to allowing some space for airflow, connecters and cables add to the depth required for the back of the gear.  At a minimum, plan for a depth of 20”. Knobs and control access are also a factor for various reasons. First, units with doors need suitable clearance to close properly. Second, if the system is IR-controlled, a clear line-of-sight must be established otherwise an IR distribution system will be required.

Gaming consoles and media storage present additional considerations. With all that processing going on, game consoles give off considerably more heat than AV equipment and, while they are RF (radio frequency which does not require sightline) allowing for entertainment unit doors to remain closed, gamers still need convenient access to the unit to charge their controllers.  And, even though it seems the thing to do, Media should be stored separately from electronic equipment so the heat does not affect the digital content.

Customization and Communication

While audio video racks and entertainment units are available in a wide variety of sizes and styles, custom units are often desired. Some people embrace the high-tech electronics and incorporate the sophisticated gear into the room’s design through custom-framed racks that face the interior. We love this approach but advise that they be installed at the back of room so as not to be a distraction while viewing an LED display or projection screen.  Another popular solution is that of the “floating” shelves or enclosed media unit. These units are bracketed to the wall without a base as if they are hovering above the floor. For any of your custom work, we can provide you or your interior design professional with detailed drawings and/or dimensions for millwork. We will also communicate with your electrician or other trade where power drops need to be located.

Form and Function are One!

Today’s purpose-built AV furniture – credenzas, entertainment centers and glass étagères -will offer proper ventilation, accessibility to components and elegant wire management.  We’ll determine the space requirements and share with you and your designer a variety of elegant choices or, when a custom solution is desired, provide the details needed to create the perfect solution for your home or office technology.

Feature-Rich and Trouble Free! How to Optimize Your Enjoyment of Your Home’s Technology Systems

We’ve recently talked about getting together to assess your home’s technology systems. It’s always a good idea to make sure you’re abreast of the latest technologies available and how to implement new devices both now and in the near future. The other key to satisfaction with your technology systems is ensuring their technical health. Simple things, such as cleaning components in the equipment rack, go a long way in preventing equipment from overheating. Part 2 of our annual Tech-Up addresses the advantages in having a preventative maintenance plan that would include a visit from one of our technicians.

Proper Digital Health Requires a Regular Check-up and Some TLC

While everything may be running smoothly, it’s possible you’re due for a firmware or software update that could potentially activate new, desirable features. We’ll put your network and systems through a thorough test to ensure functionality and make necessary security updates. We’ll also check to make sure everything is properly connected to your network, preventing trouble down the road.

We suggest you make a note of any questions you’d like to ask during the service call and be sure to advise us of any new devices, features or systems you’re interested in learning about or adding.

An Ounce of Prevention

To optimize your enjoyment and satisfaction and to prolong the life of your system we offer our LaScala Client Care Plan. The Plans offer proactive monitoring and maintenance of your systems. Our goal is zero system downtime and 100% client satisfaction. We understand that from time-to-time, equipment will fail. The goal of our Plans is to be able to discover problems before they occur.

Healthy Network, Happy Home      

All La Scala systems are backed by a Lifetime Warranty on workmanship without exception and our annual service programs ensure years of uninterrupted enjoyment of your system. A proactive service visit with a LaScala Client Care plan would typically include:

  1. Thorough check of network, AV and Smart Home systems, testing each system through a complete operational check to ensure functionality.
  2. Firmware, software and security updates installed as needed.
  3. Minor programming and personalization improvements.
  4. Analysis and tweaks of audio and video performance

 

Your home technology is a part of your everyday life. We want you and your family to get the most out of it and we want you to know we’re here to help. We’d love to hear from you – please call or email us with any questions or to schedule your maintenance visit today!

Time for a Tech-Up!

The transition to fall brings many changes; mild temps that have us rushing outdoors to enjoy fall festivals and food trucks, our beautiful Vancouver bursting with color (plan a trip to VanDusen Botanical Garden!), the onslaught of pumpkin-flavored everythings…and the slew of marketing messages stuffed into your bills suggesting it’s time to review your policies!  Just like your homeowner’s policy, auto coverage and health insurance are affected by the change in seasons and life events, your home’s technology systems may benefit from an annual assessment too. 

Imagine all of the devices connected to your personal “internet of things.” How many of those devices have been added since your network was initially set-up? A network upgrade may yield a remarkable difference in your system’s performance.  And of those new devices, how many were added to your home media system? Are you getting optimal image and sound quality? And how are they controlled? Some minor programming tweaks could go a long way in how your family uses and enjoys your home’s technology.

To Your (System’s) Health!

As a CEDIA professional, we recommend an annual “tech-up”, a comprehensive assessment of your home’s technology systems to ensure your system’s “health” and to gauge how happy you are with it and what it provides.  We all know how fast time flies and, in “tech” years, that’s “amplified” even more. If it’s been a year, or 3 or 5 since your system was installed, chances are you’re not taking advantage of all it has to offer.

You’ve got Questions, We’ve got Answers

Let’s set aside an hour to just sit down and talk about how you use your home’s systems. We’ll talk through all of your technology questions; what can my new Apple watch do? How do I set up Alexa to control my automated shades and lighting? Is my media room 4K ready? How do I integrate CDs onto a new platform? Can my new gaming console be integrated onto my remote control so I can stream movies?

There’s nothing we love more than to talk tech! Let’s get all your questions answered….maybe even some you hadn’t thought of! We’ll explore your existing system demands. Maybe you added new users to your network or are working from home. And we’ll determine if there are any upgrades available that could maximize performance or add features. We can also address anything you’re currently wanting to add or change and, together, develop a strategy for implementing NextGen technologies.

It’s an exciting time in the home automation industry. Systems are integrating more elegantly and efficiently than ever before and voice commands are at the center of it all. Art and technology are truly fusing to create innovative, sophisticated forms of concealment and google and Apple continue to influence everything that touches tech. We’ve got lots to talk about!

Make a Note!

Like prepping for any valuable appointment, as your technologist we suggest you start of list of things you’d like to discuss during our visit so that we get the full picture of your technology needs. Do a quick walk-through and think about how adding or tweaking a feature could be beneficial. Write down your questions, what you’ve added to your system and what you want to add!

Your home’s technology is a part of your everyday life and we appreciate you entrusting us with its care. Please know we’re here to answer your technology questions and help you make the most out of your systems, now and for years to come. Call now and schedule your annual Tech-up! We welcome the opportunity to reconnect.

And be sure to check back soon. We’ll discuss optimizing your system’s health through a comprehensive preventative maintenance program that takes the worries out of everything from changing batteries in the smoke detector to checking for firmware updates. Stay tuned!

Wait! Where’s the TV?

Interior Design and Technology

Technology in Design by Vanilla Ice (Vanilla Ice Project)

It’s quite the dilemma. Many of us are fixated on home renovation shows, becoming obsessed with shiplap and subway tile.  We’re into open floor plans and oversized clocks. We want large dining rooms and dreamy outdoor spaces for entertaining, but when we’re ready to settle in on the comfy couch for our favorite weekly drama, or curl up with the family to stream a movie, we’d like to see a TV!  Have you noticed what’s missing in some of the “fixer upper” shows? Technology! Why IS that? Granted, some embrace technology-free zones with no disruptive television, gaming consoles or mobile devices in designated homework or family dinner spaces. That’s great, but many technologies actually keep us safe, comfortable, informed and entertained. Window coverings, LEDs, control devices and lighting design are elegant and convenient. So, why is technology so often overlooked in design?

Plan Now or Patch Later

First, for the best possible outcome, let the technology solutions provider (us) work with the Interior Designer from the onset of the project.  We can determine the technology requirements and provide the needed infrastructure before the shiplap, subway tile or custom wallpaper goes up. We can provide the cabling and determine power requirements, saving time and costly refinish work now or down the road. Sure, that painting looks great over the mantle, but would you eventually like to hang an OLED there? Let’s wire for it now so we don’t disturb the brick or wood later. Or, even better, let’s hang it now and conceal it with custom framed artwork that scrolls up to reveal the display! Oh yes, we can!

Wireless Isn’t the Only Answer

Windows are another key design element that require careful planning. Not only should consideration be made for the type and size of windows in media areas and other TV viewing areas, but thoughtful pre-wiring for control and power will be appreciated when you decide to install motorized shades.  It’s true that control for some features can be via wireless remotes, but we still need a power source. The same holds true for keypads and touchscreens, projectors, security features, architectural speakers and especially the home’s equipment rack.  The equipment rack is the technology hub, housing some or all of the system’s components. It is often centrally located in a closet that offers adequate ventilation and the ability to run cabling for every device and control interface to each room of the house. Homes with crawl spaces, basements and attics make this task somewhat easier, but often times we are faced with concrete, wood beams or even glass walls and floors of exquisite hardwood or tile that don’t allow access.  Get the picture?

Speaking of exquisite features, one “designer” that truly embraces tech is South Florida’s Vanilla Ice. While his over-the-top “bring on the bling” style is as different as our landscapes, his luxury designs focus on the elegance, entertainment and fun-factor of well-planned integrated technologies. From outdoor living areas, kitchens, master bedrooms and baths to outrageous home theaters and virtual reality gaming rooms, he focuses on how the family will use the space and designs around the technology. Say what you will about a rapper-turned-house-flipper, but his VIP (Vanilla Ice Project) designs require no retrofit (and he’s all about that fancy wallpaper).

So, let’s get the whole design team – the homeowner, the interior designer, architect and technology solutions provider in sync.  The end result will be a happy homeowner and beautiful, untouched high-end finishes (or maybe even some shiplap)!

The Home-Field Advantage

Why go out to the sports bar, when you could build one in your own home?

 What comes to mind when you think of college football in Canada? Does the image of a crowded sports bar, or your friends and family struggling to view the same television screen come to mind? What about the ultimate in-home sports bar? Now, finding the best seat for the University of British Columbia game means never leaving the comfort of your own home.

When it comes to designing the ultimate in-home experience for game day viewing, a personal sports bar, with comfy furniture and lots of space to entertain, is highly sought-after. But what really matters is creating an immersive experience, complete with a large projection screen and high-definition projector or a huge flat screen television, and a complete surround sound system to bring the sights and sounds of the stadium into your home.

With your own in-home football zone, you never have to worry if the bar will be playing the right game, or if you’ll be entering into enemy territory. Your space can be designed around your team’s colors and memorabilia. Just think: acoustic paneling, comfy theater seating and wall art tailored for the ultimate UBC fan. Integrating your memorabilia and colors with the best audio and video can transform game day into an ultra-engaging sports experience.

Are fantasy sports more than just a hobby for you? Consider opting for multiple screens and watch multiple games at once, so you never have to miss a play. The ability to view multiple games and toggle between audio at the touch of a button gives any fantasy player an advantage on tracking stats.

And the options aren’t just limited to your home. Consider taking your dedication on the road with you, and deck out a mobile home like these Auburn football fans did, so that you always have the home-team advantage. Regardless of where you wish to create your personal “home team advantage,” give us a call and we’ll get your project kicked-off!

How to Build a Listening Room, Part 2

We talked about performance speakers and the importance of proper speaker placement in Part 1 of our Listening Room feature. We also covered the acoustic properties and critical dimensions of the room design. Now, let’s dive into what drives the sound!

Key Components

The heart of your system driving sound to each channel is the amplifier.  Unlike your Home Theater’s AV Receiver that houses an all-in-one pre-amp, amplifier and processor for surround sound, hi-end audio systems have dedicated amplifiers, often one per channel. A more sophisticated set-up will have 2-way or 3-way amps that support each speaker. A pre-amp serves as the input device. It will convert signals from all audio sources such as a tuner, turntable and streaming devices to the signal that the amp wants.

It’s essential that the amplifier be matched to the specifications of the speaker to provide optimal output. LaScala can guide you through your choices and design to your listening preferences.  Our go-to is Classé, part of the B&W Group. Their line of components offers exquisite sound to complement any hi-end audio system. Check out this recent review of the Sigma 2200i integrated amplifier by Stereophile.

Connections

It is common knowledge that HDMI Cables are required to pass 4K and hi-end audio has similar requirements. Like video, quality cables are recommended for a solid, clean connection.  That doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive, just of good quality and appropriately sized for the given application. We can calculate the appropriate gauge cable that will deliver the necessary wattage to the speaker based on the distance. As for the connectors, gold are preferred over silver or other metallic. Locking connectors are a good choice for equipment that is seldom moved.

Having sufficient, clean power is paramount to the sound quality. Every AV system needs a name brand, purposely built, surge protector. Surge protection will remove artifacts from your power, filtering out spikes and dips. Insufficient power can make the amplifiers put out harmonics that will “color” the sound, creating unwanted distortion.

Commissioning

Once the system has been designed and the components selected, the next step is installation and commissioning. Measuring and testing the room’s characteristics, reverb, etc., we’ll “tune” the room to enable undistorted sound.   By adjusting equalization (EQ), gain structure and speaker placement, we target a flat frequency response.

Content in Controversy

We often hear that a turntable’s needle against vinyl is the only way to listen to music. It can be argued that the harmonic distortion created introduces a mild alteration that is perceived by many as warmth. The pops and crackles the needle yields evoke a “vintage” sense that some find pleasing and quite authentic. However, according to Mark Slee of Facebook, “In terms of fidelity and accuracy of sonic reproduction, CDs outperform vinyl in significant ways. With that said, there are sonic artifacts and emotional attachments with vinyl that many find pleasing. This creates a preference for vinyl – which some would describe as better, but this is a subjective quality as measured by the ear of the beholder.” With turntable sales up 16%, there’s apparently some “old schoolers” out there that agree.

The higher the bit rate of the audio, the more accurate the sound. Analog is uncompressed and the format truest to form. Overly processed audio, on the other hand, can mask or cancel parts of the music, eliminating the ability to hear everything as it was mastered.

All things being equal, the more information a format can transmit, the better the sound produced. For the best listening experience, the sound transmitted should pass through quality cabling and components and be listened to in a space that is purposefully designed to capture every nuance. Are you ready to hear what you’ve been missing? Let our award-winning team at LaScala help design or retrofit your personal listening space and enjoy music as it was intended to be!

Additional Resources:

Is the sound on vinyl records better than on CDs or DVDs?

Vinyl Vs CD/Mp3: Insights into Music Formats & the Metaphysics of Our Music

24/192 Music Downloads…and why they make no sense

Sony Music Goes Back to Vinyl Records

What bitrate is needed to sound like analog FM?

OLED is Flexing its Muscles, and its Design Capabilities!

On-Wall displays, once avoided by the Interior Design Professional at all costs, has thrust itself into the realm of stunning artwork, worthy of being featured, not hidden.  OLEDs of 2017, consuming less power than LED TVs, offer striking blacks and brilliant whites from surfaces that are no thicker than a credit card!

While the video technology’s curved, flat or even “wallpaper” configurations allow for incredible flexibility in design options, audio solutions have become equally as creative.

For example, LG’s newest OLED Wall-Paper, introduced at CES earlier this year, is so thin and light, it actually mounts to the wall with magnets, leaving no room within the display unit for AV control, connection ports or audio.  Their solution is an external shelf-like sound bar, mounted just below the video display which boasts Active HDR with Dolby Vision as well as spectacular Dolby Atmos for the sound.  You may imagine that professional installation is needed.  While some embrace the sleek design, others would prefer a less conspicuous solution: and perhaps it’s in the works.

Sony jumped back into the OLED arena, introducing its new Bravia A1 OLED TV, which turns the glass front into a speaker! The “Acoustic Surface” vibrates to create audio. The super-thin design also means there’s no need for a traditional stand. Instead, it features a pop-out lean stand similar to that of a much smaller tablet.

Samsung deviated from OLED by developing QLED which features “reinvented Quantum Dot technology.”  Truly designer-friendly, it comes with “invisible connection” for nearly undetectable cabling. For audio they’ve developed the Sound+ soundbar with subwoofer, complementing their line of flat and curved units both aesthetically and acoustically.

Interior Designers can now embrace technology in design with OLED TVs that are beautiful whether on or off.  So, which is right for you?  Give us a call – we’ll help you navigate OLED!

Mad About Your Media Room!

Content is king!  From subscription streaming to satellite, sources for content seem endless, and so are your options for viewing!  Whether you’re hosting a Sunday afternoon of sports, a night of gaming, or any other excuse to have friends over, here’s some tips to treat all your guests to their favorite team, game or conversation.

Multi-screen or Multiple Screens?

The popularity of picture-in-picture viewing has exploded with the recent, feature-rich 4K options available.  And video walls comprised of multiple displays are seeing a spike, taking full advantage of available content.  Configurations include a mix of flatscreens and projection, offering an endless range of size choices.  Some prefer one large, main viewing canvas, flanked by smaller screens, either symmetrically or asymmetrically placed.  Others prefer a massive video wall comprised of a grid of narrow-bezel displays that can be configured to toggle content across the entire grid or in a multi-screen matrix.

Another option is offering multiple screens throughout a space, providing viewing from several seating or entertainment areas.  This works well when incorporating spaces such a billiards table, bar area, casual seating nook, etc.  Mounting solutions for a video matrix is somewhat complex however.  Aside from a seamless installation, panels must be accessible for maintenance, allow for heat dispersion and more.

And keep in mind that any security feed, such as your front door camera or baby monitor, are sources that can be fed onto the screens as well. This is ideal when your media room is in the basement and you’re watching for the pizza guy!

Design 

As an Electronics System Contractor, we will help with space planning and AV design and work alongside your interior design professional to ensure the best possible outcome, the perfect blend of aesthetics and technology.  Once you’ve decided on entertaining and viewing areas, there are a number of things to consider.

Optimize your room’s viewing by creating multiple layers of seating.  Take the tiered home theater seating approach and apply it across your space to take advantage of line of sight from anywhere in the room.  A first tier could be a mix of sleek gaming chairs, multi-purpose seating/storage ottomans and kid-friendly bean bags that could be stowed away when not needed. For your main seating tier, modular sectionals offer terrific flexibility while some well-placed  swivel chairs keep viewers engaged and comfortable.  Hi-top tables and bar seating provide guests a clear shot across the room while offering spaces for intimate conversation or a competitive hand of poker. And don’t ignore design conveniences like installing drink rails and providing side tables for your guests.

Sound

Audio does not take a back seat to video!  Designing the room’s acoustics is essential for comfortable listening and conversation.  Thoughtful acoustic design and noise control reduces fatigue and allows guests in each area to enjoy content and conversation.

Seamless Audio Switching is also essential to content enjoyment.  As content is chosen or swapped across screens, the sound must follow without a distracting stutter.  We can program flawless source switching across your devices – no fumbling with multiple devices and no missed moments of the game!  No time here for amateurs!

Ready to host a party in your in-home sports bar?

Great! Call us!  We’ll walk you through your choices, then design the system of your dreams that’s robust but fun and simple to use. Better get stocked up on beer!

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