Category Archives: Tech Trends

Advantages of a Dedicated Home Theater

La Scala Custom Home Theater

The quality of content these days is unprecedented, as are the vast number of options we have in accessing digital entertainment. Is your home theater or media room making the most of the high definition audio and video available? With summer blockbusters now available for streaming and the holidays just around the corner, now is a great time to add the home theater you’ve dreamed of or to upgrade your existing theater so that you may enjoy the very best audio and visual experience!

Whether you’re a movie lover, serious gamer or avid sports fan, a dedicated home theater is an exceptional space for home entertainment. And with technologies like Dolby Atmos and 4K, enjoying the sights and sounds in a room specifically designed for hi-performance audio and video create the ultimate entertainment experience!

What’s the right choice for you? Home Theater vs. Home Media Room

Your home media room offers a great space for enjoying some family-time movie-watching and for hosting your friends on game day. It can boast stunning OLED or 4K display quality along with Smart TV streaming and social media features. A well-designed and outfitted media room can also take advantage of exceptional audio through a surround sound or Dolby Atmos system. One potential downside however, is its central location; today’s open floor plans often place the media room adjacent to the kitchen. While this is great for engaging conversation, it is not ideal for either sound or picture quality as the room is open to the back and likely flooded with natural light. These features distract viewers from enjoying a truly immersive movie-watching experience.

Creating an immersive cinematic experience

A dedicated home theater includes technologies specifically designed to perform in the controlled space. Acoustic issues have been addressed for optimal sound as well as for noise-control from adjacent spaces. Custom seating is ideally positioned for comfort and viewing enjoyment rather than based on window placement or conversation. Speaker systems, like Bowers & Wilkins flagship custom theater series, can be positioned and calibrated in the defined space as designed.  This space is generally free of glare as it will rarely feature windows. If there are any windows, they will have been treated with black-out shades to maintain the perfect environment to soak in an afternoon football game or to binge-watch your favorite streamed series.

In a purpose-built space, décor doesn’t depend on the rest of the house, so the sky is the limit (actually, it’s not; you can add a custom fiber-optic constellation mural on the ceiling!). A home theater is also a place that reflects your personality and style– from mid-century modern to transitional or something all “you” like the Millennium Falcon, Batman’s lair or a wine cellar reminiscent of the south of France. Here’s a little inspiration: CinemaTech Gallery.

The set up can be one or multiple screens, or a hybrid of multiple screens for watching sports with a large projection screen that drops down for serious movie watching. Integrated controls allow the user to choose from a variety of streamed or local content. The content may be exclusive to the theater or shared across the home’s systems from a movie server.

Theater Trends

Aside from mind-blowing imagery and sound, what’s trending in custom theaters now?

  • Wearable home theater & virtual reality – experiencing virtual reality through wearable technology that transforms your movie-watching experience.
  • Social Media integration – Superfans of sports, gaming and original network series want to connect in real-time
  • Seamless connectivity across a robust network
  • Integrated control throughout the home, with access to content sources, control of security features, whole-house lighting, HVAC and more
  • Voice Control – Limitless searching, command and control of the theater and smart home’s multiple features including the ability to order your showtime pizza via a voice control interface such as Josh.ai!

Where will you be hosting holiday game-watching and cozy mid-winter movie nights? Give us a call and let’s get started planning the best seat in the house! Oh yeah, Josh, please start the movie!

Smart Bathrooms of the Future are Here

Seura Smart Mirror

What comes to mind when you think about a smart home? You probably didn’t imagine a sleek, high-tech smart bathroom.

The smart space you’ll REALLY live in

It’s easy to want the best and newest technology and design for all your living and entertaining spaces, but what about the rooms you actually live in? Most homeowners place such an emphasis on their living spaces – only considering those in which they entertain guests – that they forget about just how much time they spend living in their bathrooms.

So why haven’t you made your bathroom just as smart as the rest of your home? It’s probably the first place you go when you wake up and the last place you go before crawling into bed. You pamper yourself here, you prepare for the day here – not to mention the necessary nature of it in the first place. And if you’re at all concerned about resale value down the road, all signs point to futuristic bathrooms making their way into everyday homes.

From high-tech toilets to functional fixtures

Technology exists for every purpose and place in your home – including your bathroom. Whether you want a television mounted by the bathtub so you can watch your favorite movies, piped-in audio so you can perform a concert in your shower, or a smart mirror to keep your life at your fingertips, consider turning your bathroom into the place you love to live in most.

Consider the added comfort of connecting the smart home control you already have in the rest of your home to your bathroom. Control your thermostat, dim the lights and still have access to your security system so that winding down from the day is just as relaxing as it is necessary. By incorporating the right features into your bathroom, you can create an oasis out of something that used to be seen as utility.

Consult a professional integrator

Regardless of how futuristic or minimalistic you’d like your bathroom to be, the pros are here to make sure it’s just as smart as the rest of your home. Need more inspiration for bathroom tech and design before you start? Check out this handy guide to some of 2018’s trends.

Smart Home Meets Smart Style

Samsung The Frame at LaScalaSo you want a smart home, but you’re not sure how to integrate all of the technology you want into the design style you have. Lucky for you, technology doesn’t have to be a hindrance to your style anymore. Instead, choose technology that stands out and doubles as artwork or has the ability to blend seamlessly in so that you won’t even realize it’s there.

Design That Changes with Your Mood

Think about the way your living spaces are currently configured. There’s a good chance your furniture centers around the television. But what about that space when your television is off? You’re left with a black, blank rectangle on the wall – and that’s a missed opportunity. Consider adding a television that easily doubles as your own personal art gallery, with paintings or photography you can change as you wish, that matches your style and mood perfectly. You can even use your own photographs to add a personal touch to your living space to make your technology work for you, even when it’s off. What’s more, these televisions can be fitted into the wall for a seamless look or come beautifully framed, ensuring your television fits the design, and not the other way around.

A Reflection of Your Design Style

And it doesn’t stop with just television screens. Adding a smart mirror (or a few) to your home is an excellent way to add connectivity to your smart home without compromising style or practicality. Imagine a customizable dashboard complete with weather, social media updates, your calendar – even voice-control of your home’s systems – all from your bathroom mirror. Smart mirrors allow the perfect mix of entertainment, organization and functionality, while also coming in designs that are sure to enhance your space.

Whether you’d like to start from scratch and include a technology integrator from the beginning of your design plan, or need help updating your current living spaces but aren’t sure how to do it without compromising design, consult La Scala Integrated Media to make sure you’re getting the best tech for your lifestyle and interior design.

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

home media room sports fan experience

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 sports 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.

 

Determining the Proper Display Solution, Part Two

Conference room display size

What drives the technology in your meeting room?

“Which screen type is better for my meeting room, an LED display or a projection system?”  It’s one of the first questions we’re asked when approaching a collaborative room project however, to achieve the best outcome it’s important to keep in mind that technology does not drive the best application but instead, the use and goals of the space will drive the technology. While ease of installation, price and total cost of ownership (TCO) are factors, the answer depends on the project’s goals and on the calculated proper screen size. Once the size is determined and the client and AV Designer have a clear understanding of the goals to be achieved, the type of display best suited for the application can be revealed.  Let’s take at look at what each has to offer.

Flat Screens

The main flat Screen display technologies are Plasma, LED, and OLED (organic light-emitting diode), with the most widely accepted being the LED LCD display. Plasma, still in use in a consumer “niche” market by video purists who believe it provides the truest contrast and color saturation, is no longer used in commercial applications. As 4K continues to become more prevalent however,  plasma will be going the way of the VCR.

OLED, dating to 1987 was developed by researchers at Eastman Kodak, is the next great technology sweeping the flat screen market and will likely become the next standard. It may be a short-lived victory however as manufacturers are already looking ahead to direct view micro-LED technology as the next “big thing.”

Although similar in name to OLED, QLED technology is dramatically different. QLED is essentially an LED TV that uses quantum dots to enhance key picture quality areas and boasts of creating deeper black levels and reproducing more colors than ordinary LEDs.

LED Direct View technology is rapidly evolving. Originally making a splash on the likes of NY’s Times Square, over the past few years manufacturers have been able to provide smaller “pixel pitch” (ppx) panels that provide finer, more detailed picture quality.  These units are ideal for close viewing, making them a great choice for retail signage, auditoriums and Emergency Operations Centers or Network Operations Centers (EOC/NOC’s). LED Direct view is also perfect for spaces affected by uncontrolled ambient light. As the price continues to settle and the pixel pitch technology becomes smaller (Micro-LED), we will see more direct view applications in board rooms and smaller spaces.

As shared in Part 1, there are guidelines and formulas for determining the proper viewing screen size in a conference room. Those best practices hold true for 4K displays/projection screens as well but, with the incredible resolution of a 4K display or projector, you’ll need to consider that 4 times the amount of pixels will be displayed (imagine duplicating that screen into a 2×2 grid on the viewing surface). What does that mean for your image? While the resolution is incredibly true and sharp, font size and detailed content such as spreadsheets, will need to be enlarged.

Projection Systems

There are three main types of projection systems in use: traditional lamp (HID, high-intensity discharge lamps) DLP, LCD projectors and the new laser projectors (laser phosphorous projectors).  Laser projectors are quickly gaining momentum in the industry because of their picture quality, long-life lamps and energy efficiencies. A laser projector can run 20,000 hours before displaying a noticeable degradation of light output, whereas a HID lamped unit’s degradation may be detected as early as 1500 hours. HID lamp changes are usually made every 2,000 to 3,000 hours so, despite the added initial cost of laser (approximately 30% over that of HID), it yields a lower TCO. LED lighted technology is still available, but its lower lumens are more appropriate for home theater than a bright office environment.

Flat screen or projection – which is best for your meeting room? Just give us a call. We’ll uncover the right solution to make your meetings effective and productive.

Entertaining in the Elements

Vancouver summers are meant to be enjoyed… outside! Whether you’re hosting a dinner party poolside, sipping cocktails beneath the pergola, or catching Sunday’s game at your outdoor kitchen, a well-placed TV is a great source of entertainment. But extreme temperatures, moisture, dust and even unwelcome insects, take a toll on the display.  This is why it’s important to use a unit specifically designed to stand up to what British Columbia can dish out.

­­­­­­Weatherproof TV adds to Outdoor EntertainingWeatherproof TVs hit the market a few years ago. While they were sealed from the elements and offered a brighter screen to compensate for sunny conditions, they were somewhat bulky. To overcome the unstylish appearance, we crafted custom enclosures which limited installation options. Well, have things changed! Outdoor LEDs today are sleek and provide optimal image quality that overcomes extreme brightness as well as low light levels. Anti-glare and anti-reflective features also improve the viewing experience. Not only do these weatherproof TVs look sensational, but they’re built to withstand our extreme temperatures, resist moisture and seal out dust, dirt and those pesky insects that could compromise the life of an ordinary indoor unit and void its warranty.

TVs built specifically for outdoor use also offer durability and safety. Unlike indoor units that could pose a greater risk of electrical shock or fire hazard if used outdoors, outdoor TVs are built tough with durable exteriors and tempered safety glass for extended enjoyment, safety and reliability.

Weatherproof TVs are not only perfect for covered porches and sunny patios, but for marine use as well. They can take the punishment of the waterways and, when not in use, can be covered with an attractive dust cover made specifically to keep them clean.

Complementing your weatherproof TV with impressive outdoor audio also offers a variety of choices. Like purpose-built outdoor-rated LEDs, speakers and subwoofers created for outdoor use feature weather-resistant materials. Their cones are made of specialized materials and their electronic components are sealed from moisture, but their sound performance is uncompromised. They are designed for even sound dispersion across expansive areas, some even providing full 360° coverage. And the design choices are endless with speakers created inside elegant planters, made to resemble natural stones or sleek landscape spotlights. Subterranean subwoofers are available for hidden underground installations. Outdoor-rated soundbars are also available and provide a designer-friendly solution. And many weather-resistant accessories are available such as wireless gear, seals for cable cover doors and remote controls.

Ready to make some weather-friendly updates to your outdoor living space? Call La Scala today to request a complimentary consultation. We’d love to show you the latest in outdoor living solutions.

Meet Your Home’s New Interface

The tiny interface that can understand your natural language and connect your whole home

Josh aiYou’ve automated your entire home. Your new, smarter home—outfitted by your professional technologies integrator—is complete with all of the control systems necessary to keep your home in check. But how do you plan to keep it all connected?

Meet your home’s new interface, Josh. Josh.ai is a luxury voice control system, designed to work with your professionally-installed home automation. Leading the industry in Natural Language Processing and complete with machine-learning to adapt to you and your preferences, Josh is easy to use. When properly installed by a professional integrator, Josh ensures the best home automation experience.

Josh.ai is “artificial intelligence as unique as the home it runs,” and serves as a whole-home processor, connecting with all of the devices in your network, from pre-existing control systems like Crestron and Lutron. The interface, designed to fit the aesthetic of any room, can go anywhere and do anything you want in your home. Its touch-sensitive surface works to control event triggers like mood lighting or volume control — a feature only outdone by its intelligent voice control and ability to understand natural language.

Josh can help you control the temperature, humidity and lighting in your home to make your home even smarter. Its sensors can tell which room you’re in and can adapt its functions using its contextual awareness. Josh allows you to make your home automation smarter, without even needing to physically interact with it.

If you’re serious about automating your home and making your professional installation work for you, Josh could be the “holistic interface” you need.

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.

Smart Home, Healthy Home

The Integration of home automation and healthcare is life-changing

We’re just beginning to realize the extensive benefits of home automation. For years, we’ve recognized the luxuries, conveniences, comforts and safety aspects of an integrated home, but we’re learning that those attributes are just the tip of the iceberg. Today’s smart home can aid the disabled, monitor the ill and enable our Vancouver residents the opportunity to stay in their homes longer.

It wasn’t so long ago that baby monitors hit the market. We could breathe a sigh relief while carrying the walkie-talkie-like device around from room to room. And then…baby cams were introduced and suddenly we could watch over them day and night. Flash forward and now we can check in on our homes via our smart phones anytime and from anywhere. We appreciate the convenience and peace of mind that brings in terms of home security or even keeping watch of our pets, but imagine the comfort of being able to watch over an elderly parent.

Automated Healthcare

Modern healthcare is finding new, innovative ways to capitalize on our connected homes, allowing people to remain in comfortable, familiar surroundings longer. Automated, simple-to-use devices can remind an elderly person to take their medication or instruct an autistic individual how to prepare a meal.  Caregivers can be alerted when an Alzheimer patient opens a door or when a diabetic’s glucose monitor sounds. For an added measure of security, automated lighting can be triggered as well so that, in the event an audible alarm is missed, visual cues will wake the caregiver while lighting the way to their loved one.  Visual prompts can also be life-enhancing for the hearing impaired and elderly.

Voice and “Stress” Control

The more recent introduction of integrated voice control has opened up a whole new realm in home healthcare. Individuals that may otherwise be unable to physically or mentally operate a touch panel or control device can now gain control of appliances, entertainment and security devices, affording them independence.

Home automation and, more specifically, voice-controlled devices also have a positive impact on our mental health. Multiple medical studies from various academics from Rutgers, Stanford, and University British Columbia have concluded that individuals who feel a greater sense of environmental control demonstrate increased persistence, motivation, and optimism, and have been shown to have lower risk for psychopathology. That research extends to a homeowner’s ability to be “in control” of their smart home, accessing features that reduce worry and, therefore, stress levels.

The life-saving stories are many and we can each likely envision a scenario where remote monitoring, automated lighting, cameras, door locks and voice control can make ours and our family’s life easier, healthier and more gratifying. Innovative technologies continue to transform our lives. Home automation, once considered purely a luxury, has become a wonderful, life-changing tool and essential part of our daily lives. Healthcare, along with our homes, just gets smarter and smarter.

Mental Health Benefits of Owning a Smart Home, CEPro

Health Care in Home Automation Systems with Speech Recognition and Mobile Technology, American Journal of Engineering Research (AJER)

Digital Doctors: Home Automation is Redefining Healthcare, Collective Evolution

5 ways tech is changing retirement, Ameriprise Advisors

After Son’s Diabetes Diagnosis, IoT Exec Sees Big Role for Home Automation in Disease Management, CEPro

How Alexa’s best skill could be as a home health-care assistant, CNBC

How to Set Up a Productive, Collaborative Home Office

The environment and infrastructure requirements for today’s remote workforce

According to a recent survey by Randstad, non-traditional workers (freelance, flex, remote employees) make up 30% of Canada’s workforce with 85% of them projecting a rise over the next 5 years. Similarly, projections estimate that by 2020 mobile workers will account for nearly three quarters (72.3%) of the total U.S. workforce.  Mobile devices and simple, yet sophisticated, collaborative tools have enabled today’s workforce to effectively work from anywhere – an airplane, a hotel room or a well-appointed home office. Remote work is a boon to productivity and can lead to higher efficiency and lower turnover. Not only does it attract younger workers (Millennials highly value flexibility and technology), it keeps older workers in the workforce longer. So, the benefits are many but establishing a remote environment that represents the employer’s brand while providing a productive, collaborative space for the employee requires more than simply plugging in a laptop.

The Space

The first step is to define the space. The design will be driven by the type of work performed, the equipment required and the available spaces within the home. The room should be a space separate from daily living areas, free from distractions that could potentially interfere with work or interrupt calls or video conferencing. It will need to offer adequate storage and easy accessibility to the home network.

  • Color – Furnishings and walls should be ergonomically pleasing and conducive to extended use. Opt for neutral tones or soft, muted shades such as periwinkle blue, avoiding harsh, dark or vivid shades. Choose a matte finish over reflective glossy sheens. Wallpapers and fabric wallcoverings with subtle, non-reflective designs also work well.
  • Backdrop – Consider the background when video conferencing. Keep the space clear of clutter and personal affects. Portable pop-up screens (plain or imprinted with the company logo), elegant room dividers and organized bookcases provide a professional backdrop and element of privacy.
  • Acoustics – Create a quiet space. Carpeting, area rugs and upholstered furnishings help to manage reverberant noise. Acoustic treatments, including custom wall panels, also aid in noise absorption.
  • Lighting – The more natural the lighting, the better the overall experience. Take advantage of natural sunlight by positioning the desk to face the window, avoiding shadows while on camera. For harsh, direct sunlight, add motorized window shades, available in various light-filtering, non-reflective weaves. If the room’s design is not conducive to proper desk placement and the light source is behind you, blackout shades can be added to properly control the light levels. Ceiling fans with lights create a strobing effect on camera and should be turned off. An integrated home automation system provides agile control of lighting, window shades, ceiling fans and HVAC, ideal for the working from home.

The Infrastructure

A secure, stable and robust network connection is essential for reliable network connectivity and a quality conferencing experience.  Hardwired broadband is recommended over wireless when possible. Also important to consider is the number of users in the home that are competing for bandwidth.

The Tools

Based on network capability and hardware compatibility, there are numerous platforms available for seamless collaboration. Implementing a few tools that enhance audio and video will afford an even better experience.

  • Audio – Conferencing requires 2-way audio and can be problematic without the right equipment as devices can produce distortion and echo. Rather than relying on the laptop’s built-in speaker and microphone, opt for an external echo-cancelling speaker with mic for clear communication. In a reverberant environment, a headphone with built-in microphone will filter distracting background noise.
  • Video – A high-performing, properly positioned camera is critical for effective collaboration. Invest in a high-quality auxiliary unit rather than using the built-in camera that restricts control and image resolution. The camera should be placed where the user is focused, just above the monitor’s content for a near-to-natural experience. This will simulate “looking” into the camera. Common mistakes include mounting the camera below the screen which produces an unnatural angle or mounting it on a monitor other than the one hosting the content, showing you looking away from the camera.

Trial Run

Evaluate the quality of the experience by conducting trial runs. Most platforms offer the ability to record your meeting, giving you the opportunity to view the meeting as if on the far side. Record sessions using various scenarios – both while the room is quiet and when things from across the house are “active” – pets, HVAC, dishwasher, etc.  Type on the keyboard to gauge the sound level of keyclicks, assess how the background looks and adjust camera position and lighting to simulate a face-to-face meeting.

The “agile workforce is coming!”

Getting started requires thoughtful design and know-how, but it’s an investment that will be realized through effective collaboration and increased productivity for years to come. As experts in both the technologies and design aspects of this rich, residential/professional hybrid environment, LaScala can help you with the infrastructure and hardware requirements and work with your interior design professional to create the ideal remote workplace.

Resources:

9 Ways Tech companies Can Accommodate Millennial Workers, Randstad Interim Inc. [CA]

Workforce 2025: The Future of the World of Work, Randstad Interim Inc. [CA]

IDC Forecasts U.S. Mobile Worker Population to Surpass 105 Million by 2020, Business Wire

Considerations When Setting Up a Room for Video conferencing with ViewStation (Polycom)

Today’s mobile workforce: any time, any place, The Telegraph

American Workplace Changing at a Dizzying Pace, Gallup News

How to Design the Ideal Home Office, Entrepreneur

10 Best Jobs for Americans Over 65, The Fiscal Times

Smart Ways to Invest Funds Remaining in Your 2017 Budget

Crestron Mercury

As 2017 draws to a close, so does the availability of funds allocated for 2017 spending. The New Year brings opportunities to upgrade existing infrastructure, increase productivity through updated collaborative technologies and promote your brand through dynamic lobby displays and improvements to client-facing spaces.

By purchasing equipment now that will be implemented into your 2018 projects you’ll be able to take advantage of the additional funding while stretching the capabilities of next year’s budget. We can help you and your team strategize, aligning your technology systems with your vision and overall budget. Here are some items for consideration:

Digital Upgrade

Does your system provide connectivity for today’s digital devices? Users have an expectation of utilizing a meeting space with plug-and-play technologies. Transitioning from outdated analog to digital capabilities is paramount to ensure this functionality. Does your system, for example, have connectivity for wireless, HDMI and mini display port?

Meeting Spaces

Meeting spaces that are easier to use and more collaborative increase user adoption which, in turn, results in faster decision-making and greater productivity. In the trending open-office environment, huddle spaces offer a focused, collaborative meeting space for small group presentations and ad hoc meetings. Interactive collaborative displays, robust cameras that are soft codec-enabled (Skype for Business, Bluejeans, etc.), and wireless presentation connectivity promote efficient, productive meetings in these spaces.

Traditional conference rooms with audio and video-conferencing capabilities would benefit from these enhancements as well as an automated control system.  Lighting scenes and motorized shades can also be integrated into the room’s control for an improved user experience. If your room features an older projection system, an upgrade to a laser projector would offer a more engaging presentation along with a significantly lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

Client-facing Areas

Your lobby/reception area is your first opportunity to engage your customers or prospective employees and convey your brand. Dynamic digital signage can enforce your branding, promote your products and services and inform dwellers of important information and events. Innovative meeting spaces in these client areas make a lasting impression.

Hands-on Experience Centers are a great way to engage clients through various interactive displays and immersive technologies.  Architectural features in these environments are accentuated by inspired mosaic displays and exceptionally designed lighting for the ultimate customer experience.

Sound Management & Speech Privacy

Proven to increase worker productivity in today’s open office environments, sound masking eliminates noise distractions. It also adds privacy of enclosed meeting and office spaces from common areas, rendering speech unintelligible.

Acoustics are another noise control solution providing barriers and sound absorption that lessen overall noise levels and reduce reverberation from hard surfaces. This increases intelligibility in desired areas and provides a more comfortable working environment. There are numerous ways to address acoustic control. LaScala can provide consultation and recommend the appropriate solution for your space.

If you’ve done a great job at controlling your budget throughout the year and find yourself with a surplus, consider an investment in technology that will help grow your business, increase efficiency and foster an innovative and collaborative environment for your employees. Give us a call to strategize ways to put your remaining budget to work for you in 2018 and for years to come.

Living with a Smart Home

In this ever changing world that we live in, there is no escaping technology.  Our personal world appears more and more to be enveloped by a device we call a “smart phone”, although more and more of the ‘phone’ use is being replaced by a myriad of ‘apps’, and other functions of the device.  From capturing visual moments on the fly to directing us to our next destination, to telling us how to cook our favourite dishes, this device has come a long way since its inception over twenty five years ago.

Today’s vehicles are also following suit in the technology game.  Most new vehicles today don’t require a key to open the door or start the car, instead opting for a ‘fob’ device one can keep in one’s pocket or purse, and which transmits a signal notifying the vehicle that you are within its vicinity.  More, the car will know that it’s actually ‘you’ that is near, and adjust the seats, mirror, and other features to your taste – automatically.   Voice commands and other formerly futuristic features are now becoming commonplace in today’s vehicles as well.

But what about your home?  When most people arrive at their door, they pull out a device that was invented in the 1840’s – a tumbler lock key.  Once inside, you feel around for the light switch, invented in 1884.  You can probably guess where I’m going with this – the home hasn’t caught up with technology, or has it?   While only 12% of homes currently might be considered ‘smart’, that figure is projected to double and triple over the next few years.  Why?  Because the technology is truly getting ‘smart’, and the price is way down.

Much is being said about devices in your home being integrated and controlled by a singular control device.  Be it shading, lights, temperature, security, locks, the pool/hot tub, and any number of other electronic devices, there are systems that will control them all, via a wall mounted or portable ipad or remotely through your ‘smart’ phone.   But what about Automation?  A True Smart Home should work for the home’s occupants, just like your car does.  When you arrive home, your home should know it and act accordingly.   You can have your system set up so that certain lights turn on at a pre-set time, the shades close, the temperature goes up, and even have the door unlock if the system sees that you are within feet of the door.  You could also have one button programmed on your control device that says “Party”, amongst other feature sets.  The lights in various areas could alight or dim, the music could begin to play from your favourite source in various specific areas of the house that you’ve previously chosen, and at a pre-set volume level.  The gate could unlock for a specified timeframe to allow guests easy access.  When you leave your home, press ‘goodbye’ and the security could engage, the shades could close, the music could turn off, the temperature could drop, and all the lights could turn off.  If you’re away for an extended period, the lights (and other devices like music) could turn on and off based on your previous two weeks of use so it appears as if you’re home.  The list of options is endless.  Wake up options, going to sleep options, dinner party options, and more.  This year will see a surge in Voice Activated command technology, offering even easier control of all home devices.  This is not just a ‘cool’ gadget, but something that will become a mainstay of home control system installations.

At a time when technology is offering so many opportunities to enrich and simplify ones daily life, it is clear that technology is moving into the house.  For more insight into the options available see your La Scala Integrated Media representative.

The Emergence of the Technologist

Mike Chorney

An interesting shift is occurring. In this fast-paced race to digitalization, the role of the technology integrator has, once again, transformed. As more devices, features, systems, services, apps and appliances exist on the network and integrate or “talk” to one another, the technology integrator is transpiring as the single-source service provider for all things “technology.” Hence, 2017 has witnessed the residential systems technology integrator, a low-voltage provider specializing in everything from network infrastructure, communications, security, energy management and HVAC to elegant lighting and shade control, home entertainment and fully integrated control systems, emerge as the “Technologist.”

The Art of Technology

As a Technologist, we design, build, program and service our clients’ connected homes, ensuring seamless compatibility of systems across the platforms for an easy and intuitive user experience. We’ve been positioning our clients for this over the past several years noting that a pantry full of ingredients does not make a master chef. It’s the art, the science, of pulling those ingredients together.

At LaScala, we make your home comfortable, safe, productive, convenient, entertaining and beautiful. We partner with you, exploring your wants and needs, developing a technology strategy that will grow with you and your family. We stay current on emerging technologies and inform you of your myriad choices. We stand by you through the years, offering valuable service coverage to keep your systems running efficiently, effectively, trouble and worry-free. We make life simpler.

Our extensive training and years of experience in this evolving field have allowed us to foster valuable partnerships with design professionals and adjacent trades. From inception to implementation, we work with an outstanding team of architects, interior designers, builders, landscape architects, plumbers and electricians, managing all aspects of your home project. We communicate the aesthetic and technical requirements of your connected home and make sure provisions are made for future needs. From the simple to the sophisticated, we strive to be your go-to resource for all things technology, your trusted technology partner, the Technologist.

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!

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!

What’s Trending in Home Automation? Luxury

Gone are the days of home automation and luxury being two separate conversations and design concepts. More and more, luxury living is embracing home automation in order to provide optimal comfort solutions.

Imagine walking into your home, and the first thing your eye is drawn to is the artwork in your foyer – highlighted using experienced lighting design. Entertain guests with your high-tech wine cellar, complete with automated climate control and inventory management system. Even more, control the quality of the air inside your home.

And the options don’t end on the inside. Control luxury water features, audio and video entertainment systems, even operate a summer kitchen by the pool.

Home automation technology provides the epitome of luxury when combined with your own design style. The right technology will allow you to personalize your system to suit your lifestyle, giving you control of everything in your home – from the window shades, to the temperature and air quality, to your lights and even your security system. Advances in this technology provide you easy access to your entire home from your phone or tablet, and some systems can even operate via voice-activation.

With today’s trends in home automation luxury, nothing is off-limits. Whether you want a top-of-the-line smart kitchen, an all-encompassing security system, or an over-the-top outdoor movie theatre – there is a right mix of home automation technology for you that can be designed to suit your individual home design style.

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?

Move Over Man Cave, The Lady Cave is here to Help Her Disconnect

Men aren’t the only ones to enjoy their personal space. She Sheds, Woman Caves, Lady Caves are throwing the man cave a “curve.” Feeling a need to escape the chaos and disconnect from the disruptive, hyper-connected world, the woman cave provides a soft sanctuary that continues to grow in popularity. Despite all the talk of “disconnecting”, many technologies can actually add comfort, convenience and the fun-factor to the space that is “for girls only!”  Here’s some things to keep in mind as you contemplate designing your personal corner of the world.

Choose your space

This is where the creativity begins. She caves are as varied as their female occupants. A spare bedroom with sunny windows that look out across the harbor may serve as a charming, relaxing haven while an outdoor she-shed (a transformed utility shed) may suit the clever crafter or budding artist quite well. With a little renovating, the attic could become the perfect refuge for the creative writer or provide some quiet “me-time” of yoga. Even a generously-sized closet or dressing room can become a cozy reading nook and, of course, the basement can make the ultimate gal-pal hangout, complete with wine frig and big screen.

Yours and Yours Alone

So, what’s your plan? Your space may require some outfitting or updates to make it comfortable and offer the amenities you desire. Disconnecting doesn’t necessarily mean a space void of any and all connectivity either. If you’re a fitness fanatic or serious music lover, you’ll want your she cave decked out with a nice sound system and HVAC control. The work-from-home entrepreneur will need to rely on a solid, secure network and the wine enthusiast may wish to consult her eSommelier or favorite Vivino app.

Additional smart technologies such as lighting and shade control, remote-controlled fireplaces and water features and user-friendly access to music or video streaming (yes, Chic-flicks!) can actually make things simpler and more comfortable.  And, while you may not want disruptive emails in your sanctuary, you do want to be reached if needed – safety first! And speaking of safety, nothing is more “glam” than security – both physically and digitally. Home technology can help you keep an eye on things – the front door, the crib-cam – which is comforting. Automating tasks such as locking all the doors, lowering all the window shades and turning on the alarm can instill a sense of calm after a chaotic day.

Design

No matter the look or theme of your space, properly planned technologies will not distract from your Zen. Whether working with your designer or putting the space together on your own, we can help by introducing you to gorgeous framed artwork that lifts to reveal your on-wall LCD and speakers that disguise themselves into the ceiling or wall without detracting from the décor. And imagine replacing that unsightly bank of light switches with an elegant keypad or touchscreen!

So, curl up on your chaise, grab your tablet or mirror your laptop on the big screen and scroll through these inspired spaces.  Imagine your perfect little getaway from the everyday and give us a call. Mom cave, shabby chic she shack…whatever suits you, and let’s get started!

Additional Resources:

At Home: The “she-shed” – women’s answer to the man cave

“She Shed:” The Answer to the Man Cave, WSJ Video

Today: Introducing the “She-Shed”: Women’s answer to the man cave

How to Build the Ideal Audiophile Listening Room, Part 1

B&W 800 Diamond Series

Hear the Music. Really Hear it.  “I’ve listened to that song a thousand times and I’m hearing things I’ve never heard before.”  That’s the definition of your perfect Listening Room. While our world of listening has transformed dramatically over the last decade, all that matters is what you want to hear. The science and mathematics are real, as are the hi-end audio components. The rest is subjective.

The Speakers

Loudspeakers convert electrical impulses into sound. Depending on the dimensions of the room, as well as the listener’s preferences, a well-designed audio system will transmit the desired range of frequencies (note that it may not be the widest range). Some audiophiles swear by 2-channel, with speakers positioned a calculated distance apart and at an optimal distance from the listener, facing the listener for a 2 dimensional listening experience.  The 2-channel system creates a virtual sound stage.  When professionally set-up, the listener is able to close his/her eyes and actually pick out exactly where, on the “stage”, that musician was positioned. Unlike viewing a movie, there is no need for various sounds (voice, music, effects) to “follow” around the room, so rear speakers or a full surround sound system are not desired. In fact, some find it unnatural for instruments to be heard behind them. The perfect speaker system, in the perfect acoustically treated room, will reproduce the sound as authentically as possible. However, while science can measure all facets of sound, the listening experience is quite personal and our passion for particular brands is rather cult-like. We, of course, have our favorites too.

An industry icon with a prestigious reputation built over 5 decades, Bowers & Wilkins touts its 800 Diamond Series as “the industry standard for accurate sound.” We couldn’t agree more.  The Diamond Dome tweeters of the iconic 802 D3 deliver natural treble while its Continuum cone and Aerofil cone provide amazing, subwoofer-free, midrange and bass, respectively.  Frequently the subject of audiophile reviews, the B&W Diamond Series does not disappoint. The D3 was unveiled last summer in Boston. Here’s a review featured in Audioholics that details the author’s experience of both the D3 as well as B&W’s flagship speaker, the $60k per pair Nautilus. The line’s CM Series, with its minimalist exterior and “tweeter on top” technology, also offers incredible audio performance. It is designed with the highest quality components and a “less is more” philosophy that ensures “nothing gets between you and the sound the artist intended you to hear.”

The Construction

Equally as important to the components is the environment.  The ideal listening room will be free of ambient noise and other distractions. Acoustic treatments will absorb the hum of the HVAC and rattling water pipes.  The space will be free of harsh lighting, filled only with soft, relaxing light and there will be no capacity for video. This combination of exceptional components producing nearly flawless sound and the distraction-free environment, will allow the listener to hear subtle artifacts in the music that were previously unnoticed.

The room’s furnishings and physical dimensions are essential to the experience.  The proper room requires some soft surfaces – some will say that even a glass coffee table or leather couch is not suitable as they will reflect sound, opting instead for fabric seating. The height of the seat back is recommended to be below the listener’s ear level, allowing unobstructed hearing without reflection. The single seat should be positioned in what will be known as the “sweet spot” or “money seat,” as determined by the engineer’s calculations. The calculations for the room itself are also of great importance.  To determine an acoustically accurate room for optimal listening, audio engineers employ the Bonello Graph, a method of calculating the ideal room ratio of dimension and volume, explained here by AcousticFields.com.  In the audiophile world, this is also referred to as the acoustic amoeba.

Are you an audiophile or serious music lover that wants to experience all that the music has to offer?  Hearing is believing! Let’s set up an in-home consultation and schedule a demo – you can even bring your own music. And stay-tuned. Part 2 will cover amplification, calibration, connectivity and content. Did you know Neil Young was launching a high-quality music streaming service?

Additional Resources:

Ideal Room Size Dimensions and Ratios for Audiophile Listening

Ideal Room Size Ratios & How To Apply The Bonello Graph

A Room to Listen In

B&W 800 Diamond Series

B&W 800 Diamond Series

A New Way to Keep Your Things Under Lock and Key

Smart Home Basics: Locks 101

We’ve all been there – you’re running late to work and you realize you never locked the door or closed the garage and you’re already at the office. If you are one of these people, a smart lock or garage might be for you!

With these smart security features, you’ll no longer need to rely solely on your existing monitoring system. By pairing your monitoring system with a smart lock or smart garage, you’re gaining 24/7 remote access to your home and who’s allowed in it – all from your smartphone or tablet. With features like keyless entry, remote locking and alert options, leaving a key under the mat is no longer necessary.

Smart locks and apps like Alarm.com’s have the ability to send you alerts whenever someone enters your home – and you will always know who it is, thanks to unique security codes you can set for each user. And good news for those forgetful folks: these apps can also send reminders whenever you forget to lock the door or close the garage, thanks to GPS monitoring on your phone. Thankfully, you’ll always have the ability to remotely lock and unlock your door.

Want more? Considering a smart lock with a video doorbell, or a camera that records each time your front door is opened. And if you’re one of the 70 percent of people who uses their garage as their main point-of-entry, some apps also feature alerts when movement is tracked by image sensors in your garage. And with a top-notch camera system, such as Luma Surveillance, you can even access remote playback and view live feed via their app.

Regardless of which smart home security technology you think is right for you, make sure you pair it with a professionally-monitored security system.  LaScala can help you pair features with your current or desired home automation system. For monitoring, we partner with Provident Security to keep your home secure. Give us a call and let’s get started. Then, you’ll be able to rest assured that your family (and belongings) are safe.

Additional Resources: Crestron

What are the Advantages of Custom Motorized Window Shades?

As chic as they are functional, motorized window treatments provide elegance and convenience to any space. They harvest natural daylight in sleek, sophisticated styles.  Motorized window coverings integrated into your home’s automated system make life easier, especially since many can now be controlled with your smart phone or tablet.  And, as they have become more popular in recent years, an added benefit is the increased value they bring to your home or office space.  But that’s just scratching the surface.

Designer-centric

There is a fabulous array of styles and custom solutions available that will complement any setting.  Aside from the huge variety of colors, patterns and weaves, the types of coverings are also extensive, ranging from pleated to honeycomb and roman shades to automated draperies.  Motorized treatments are even available for skylights, vertical and bottom-up applications for a unified design across all openings.

A 2017 trend is “clean”, multi-layered window treatments, pairing simple drapery panels or sheers with blinds or shades for the perfect combination of light and privacy.  As a CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association) professional, we’ll partner with your Interior Designer to create an expert blend of technology and design, pairing the right combination of weave and color with exquisite patterns and luxurious textures.

Another design-friendly benefit is the prevention of fading of fine furnishings through the UV protection properties of the shades. Aside from the practical aspects, the design applications seem endless! Window treatments no longer rely on wired connectivity and power. Battery-operated units allow for use on doors and other applications where wiring is not possible.  Motorized shades and draperies are not confined to windows either. Imagine the drama of elegant draperies parting at the touch of a button to reveal your home theater screen! Or being able to install a hidden drop-down projection screen in front of a window thanks to having black-out shades! For more ideas, visit our gallery.

Eco-friendly

Energy-saving is a prime function of shades. They are designed to both harvest daylight and block generated heat, offering substantial reduction in costs.

People-friendly

Window shades promote biophilic design, maximizing sunlight while reducing glare and fatigue.  While natural light is often sought to fill space however, according to a recent blog in ASID’s icon, “…sometimes natural light is just too bright. Blocking it out can be as important as letting it in. New innovations and technologies in shading are making it easier for designers to obtain the optimal balance of highly sought natural light and much needed light control.”

Another people-friendly feature is serving as nature’s alarm clock.  Imagine the peaceful, subtle awakening to the natural glow of sunrise.  Shades can be set to open gradually in the morning and close again at sunset.

Safety & Security

An important advantage to motorization is the lack of chains or cord pulls that entice children and pets, posing a serious safety hazard.  Another advantage is in your home’s security.  Just like programming lights to go on and off throughout the day while you’re away, shades opening and closing simulate a lived in look, deterring break-ins.

Privacy

Shades are an elegant solution for privacy.  They are perfect for hard-to-reach windows such as those surrounding your garden tub, an elevated vaulted ceiling area or featured stairwell niche.  In a space with multiple windows and French doors, this is a tremendous convenience and time-saver. And some fabrics even offer a one-way weave, blocking visibility into your house or hi-rise without interrupting your view to the outside.

In an office environment, shades are a simple solution to transforming glass-enclosed conference rooms into private meeting spaces.  Coupled with their acoustic properties, they also contribute toward privacy compliance measures.

If you’re considering updating your window treatments, consider not only integrating them into your home’s design, but into your home.  Let us show you why LaScala is “The Art of Technology” and how shades can transform your home or office.

Additional Resources:

Houzz: Small Luxuries: Motorized Window Coverings Offer Benefits to All

Electronics House: 10 Things to Know About Motorized Shades

http://www.lutron.com/en-US/Residential-Commercial-Solutions/Pages/Residential-Solutions/ShadingSolutions.aspx

https://www.lutronfabrics.com/fabrics/shade-type/roller-shades and check out inspiration gallery

How to tech-out the most important rooms of your home

Incorporating smart technology into your favorite rooms creates aesthetics and luxury in any home.

Style and comfort are crucial to any home’s design; and implementing smart technologies into your design plan can provide a custom solution that gives you full control and accessibility of your favorite spaces. Equipping key rooms in your home with technology can provide endless comfort, while still complementing your individual style.

Home automation in the Master Bedroom

Home automation adds elegance and comfort throughout your home

Keeping your style in mind is key. Seamless built-in panels, hidden television units and in-ceiling speakers are just a few ways you can customize your audio, video and lighting experience, without compromising your rooms’ style.

With the proper technology in your design plan, “you can have full control of the technology in your room, and around your house for that matter, from the convenience of your bed.” For instance, by discreetly enclosing your television in a beautiful cabinet that matches your décor and in-wall speakers covered by your wallpaper or custom paint, bulky and aesthetically unpleasant equipment are hidden.

But this trend expands beyond just your bedroom. Imagine catching your favorite show while you’re in the shower, or checking up on your home’s surveillance video while you’re cooking dinner. More and more, homeowners are deciding to add technology in their bathrooms and kitchens – ensuring continuous accessibility at an arm’s length.

Finally, don’t forget your favorite outdoor spaces! Integrated lighting, video and audio technology are just as important in your indoor living spaces as they are the outside. Mood-lighting and discreet surround sound speakers can provide the same level of comfort and style in any livable space.

Let’s get started on your wish list.

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!

Virtual & Augmented Reality: Ready for Take-off?

We’ve heard about it for decades, but is Virtual Reality, with its sleek companion Augmented Reality, finally ready for prime-time?  Over the holidays, we all watched the commercials with people of all ages laughing, gasping, stunned as they were submerged into a deeper reality.  It’s only now that we’re seeing the potential, and how amazing VR & AR truly are.

Prevalent in the gaming world, augmented reality blends real-world with virtual world, allowing users to interact with virtual content in a real setting.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Imagine where that will take us.  Here’s just a sampling from the floor of CES2017.

AR goes beyond any other experience and its applications are as infinite as its experiences.  We’ll explore the gear in another post.  For now, just fathom where this incredible technology can transport you to…..

At home: Take a destination vacation, virtually

At work: Recruiting, training, visualization and providing a real connection for your remote workforce.

At play:  Pokemon was the tip of the gaming iceberg. Coming soon to an Xbox near you (2018) is mixed reality! And Six Flags partners with Samsung to launch a VR Roller coaster!

In retail:  VR/AR enhances experiential marketing and customer engagement

In healthcare: Imagine if your surgical team had access to augmented reality?   And for those experiencing low vision (blurry vision, tunnel vision or blind spots that can’t be corrected), a University of California, Berkeley Professor is working to bring a lower cost aid to this community, helping to restore their sight.

In education: True abstract learning at all levels.

In worship: Imagine.

Ready for take-off?  At the speed of sound! Mr. Sulu, set course for Earth. Punch it!

Recommended Sources:

https://www.cnet.com/news/gaming-vr-virtual-reality-ar-augmented-reality-help-restore-sight/

http://augray.com/blog/augmented-reality-virtual-reality-gaming/

http://augray.com/blog/augmented-reality-helps-reinventing-customer-engagement/