|RHT How To: Whole House Audio How-To: A Homeowner’s Guide to Planning a Whole-House Audio Distributi|
|Home Theater Feature Articles Audio Related Articles|
|Written by Joe Hageman|
|Tuesday, 01 March 2005|
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The complexity of the system is also something to consider. While adding a ton of extra features and loading touch screens to access all things electronic in your house may seem cool at first, after a while, your system can become cumbersome to use and downright impossible to use for those not familiar with it. Keep it simple. Add just enough features to make it useful. You can always add other sources and features later on if necessary. Keeping it simple also makes sense if you ever plan on selling your home. Rule of thumb is, if your parents can’t figure the system out, chances, are a potential buyer won’t be able to either. You may have the most beautiful house in the neighborhood, but if people can’t figure out how to turn the lights on and off, your automation system goes from being an asset to actually devaluing your house.
For smaller homes, an all-in-one-box solution is a good one because these systems are affordable and give you just what you need, nothing more. Typically, they’ll come in varying kit forms containing all the components one would need and of course, will carry a cute little moniker like “Elegante” or “Voila!” Contained in the kit will probably be the A/V controller that may or may not house a tuner, enough amplification to distribute music to up to four zones (about 12 speakers or so), a few volume controls and maybe a keypad. Some of the better systems of this nature I’ve seen are available from Nuvo Technologies and ZoN. These “audio distribution-in-a-box” products offer homeowners a simple solution when they’re trying to choose the system that is right for them – plus they’re extremely simple to use.
Larger homes require, you guessed it, a larger audio distribution system. In a larger home, you want more access points (keypads or otherwise) to the system so you have full control no matter what room (or wing) of the house you are in. You don’t want to be on the third floor and get stuck listening to Maroon 5 and have to run down to the first floor to change it to … well, just about anything but that. You will also want the system to be able to access other features, such as security, lighting, HVAC, CCTV, etc. This requires a much more sophisticated A/V controller (a “hub,” if you will) and the use of touch screens. Yes, keypads can do the trick as well, but they have nowhere near the sophistication and ease of a touch screen. A good A/V controller/touch screen combo can give you access to the Internet, the temperature reading outside, let you adjust the lights in any room and, of course, listen to music. They can also go as far as letting you watch TV or a DVD on them.
To save money, one might be tempted to mix and match keypads and touch screens. I don’t recommend this, because the look and feel of the system changes from room to room and makes it harder to use. When a system looks the same and acts the same in every room, it makes it much easier for you and others to use. Unless you have a zone that requires only very limited access to the audio distribution system where a small keypad will do the trick, either go with all keypads or go with all touch screens.
When choosing an audio distribution system, you need to carefully map out the location of speakers and volume controls and/or keypads/touch screens with your installer. Depending on the size of the area two or four in-ceiling speakers may be appropriate or not appropriate at all. For instance, unless your dining room is secluded from the other rooms, I don’t recommend installing speakers in this area. Music at dinner time should be background music and not interfere with the conversation at the table. Speakers located directly above the table can become distracting to the point where you’ll stop using your system altogether at dinner time.