Archive for Home Audio and Video

If I tell you that we could install speakers that you won’t see when you walk into a room, of what do you think? You probably imagine speakers hidden behind a sofa or char, or a room where you can see speakers that are flush against the wall, or plugged in up in the corners of the room.

But what do I actually mean?  I mean the speakers are invisible.  You literally do not see the speakers. You can look around the room all you want, and you won’t find them.

You still get tremendous results out of this technology, and invisible is the ultimate in home theater. It’s the way to go.

What’s that take to install? Check out this video it’s not us, but it’s similar to how it works

If you’re looking to install invisible speakers, honestly, don’t even bother researching brands.  There are a lot off them out there, and we’ll happily recommend the best ones you can get at different price points.

Are you worried about us tearing up your walls and making a mess of the house? Don’t be. In fact, some of our clients hire us for installations that we can do while they’re away on vacation.  They don’t even notice we were there, but having a complete home theater system with those invisible speakers is a nice surprise to have upon their return.

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Despite the fact that we’re online almost constantly, can carry around the web in our pocket or surf it from inside a coffee shop, there’s still one place where the Web hasn’t taken hold: our TVs.

It’s not easy to use a keyboard with a TV, and there’s no mouse, so Web browsing on your flatscreen is still clunky.

Well, that’s about to change.

By 2014, In-Stat reports, 57 million U.S. households will be watching full-length online content from TVs. That’s expected to be a $17 billion industry. Why? According to NewTeeVee.com:

This research is supported by the belief that the number of installed web-enabled video devices will increase to 237 million units over the next five years. In-Stat also believes that in 2014, the the set-top box market will be worth $1.4B, undoubtedly a major part of that potential growth, thanks to the 11 million hybrid boxes enabling that web-to-TV connection.

There are a bunch of new devices and services available that will contribute to this. At Sound and Image Design, we’re seeing more and more boxes being built with Internet connectivity and, as NewTeeVee mentions, new set-top boxes and services (see Boxee, YouTube’s so-called Leanback user interface for couch — or recliner — viewing and Google TV) make it easier to browse the web on a TV.

Many of these services turn the TV screen into an easily navigable iPhone-style app center.

If you’re in the Central Virginia area, you’re a phone call away from getting the web on the final frontier: your living room TV.  Give us a call at 804.741.5816 for a complimentary assessment of what you’ll need to get it done effectively, and at the right cost.

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Technology, in and of itself, can be very complex. Boxes contain buttons and lights and switches and ports and inputs and outputs and wires and cables. So when we see a high-end piece of home theater equipment that is clean, simple to use and works well, we get happy.

Musical Fidelity M3i Integrated Amplifier

Musical Fidelity M3i Integrated Amplifier

Take Musical Fidelity’s new M3i integrated amplifier. This thing looks like the sports car of amps. Audiophiles will love having this as part of their high-end home theater system. This review from Neil Gader at AVGuide.com really puts the 20-pound M3i through the paces.

It’s proudly back-to-basics in functions and connectivity. True to the audiophile ethic, there are no tone or balance controls to tarnish the signal. It even shrugs off the near-commonplace front-panel iPod mini-jack.

But with a handful of RCA inputs, a tape loop, home-theater bypass, and pre-outs, the M3i is all about business. The flat-black front panel is accented by a large aluminum rotary volume control and tiny pushbuttons with virtually unreadable micro-labeling and pin-lighting.

A sign of the times, yes, but with the emphasis having shifted to remote controls, front-panel legibility is rapidly becoming an afterthought. Unless you have the eyesight of a barn owl or wear night-vision glasses leave the switching to the full-featured remote.

The review goes pretty deep, as Gader points out the A/V minutiae that only an audiophile like us would notice (the little things make a big difference!). He sums up:

Its performance is rock-solid, it’s sonically well-rounded, and it’s comfortable with a wide array of speakers. And it’s all served up in an elegant, no-nonsense package exactly the way I like my audio prepared. Well done.

The M3i starts around $1,500. Give us a call and we can show you an array of amp options in addition to the M3i.  804.741.5816.

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Even the people who make their living by selling or renting music or movie discs admit:  DVDs are going away very soon.

We’ve already seen it in the music industry, as iTunes takes over and music stores shut their doors.  And you can see it happening as the likes of Blockbuster and Movie Gallery close.

Netflix, the nation’s most popular mail-order DVD movie service, projects that business to start falling in 2014 as their Instant direct-to-TV streaming services (and others like it) take off. Check out this graph, it’s pretty telling.

 

Netflix DVD Rentals to Dwindle: chart

So what’s this mean for consumers? Well, for movies, it means cataloguing movie discs into either a physical library or making them accessible from a computer – a Media Server can play movies stored on an internal hard drive or external attached or networked hard drive (aka NAS drive).

You can also buy or rent movies straight from the Internet and keep them stored on a hard drive, such as an Apple TV or an Xbox or PlayStation. Or simply take advantage of on-demand movie services.

Most consumers already have music figured out.  iTunes software has made it easy.

Renting movies on a DVD is going away, and going away fast.  Honestly, if you’re thinking of buying anything on a CD or DVD, even Blu-Ray, think twice.  Invest instead in a solid Internet connection and the devices that you will need to entertain your future.

Consult us if you have questions.  We answer for free.

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TV Remote Controls

Is this what you have in your family room?

How many remote controls do you have on your coffee table right now?  Most homes have at least three, some as many as five or six.  Consolidating them into one can ease headaches, but when it comes to a universal remote, you get what you pay for.

If you spend $100 or $200, you’ll get one of the more inexpensive universal remotes on the market.  You’ll end up programming it yourself, and more often than not, you’ll find yourself with the same headache you had before, only directed at a single, convoluted piece of equipment.

The difficulty of these remotes is that they’re made by companies that don’t have a concept of what makes a good user interface. Additionally, how all the components work together isn’t a priority either.  And, unfortunately, one of their primary objectives is to engineer the remote with the bare minimum features and make it as inexpensively as possible.

Enter Control4.

Control4 Home Theater On Screen

Control4's Home Theater Simple Remote Control

Control4 is a control system that allows you to have one controller for all the electronics in your home, from your TV to your stereo to your game systems to your heating and air conditioning to your indoor and outdoor lighting, security system, garage door, cameras.

You can control everything from an easy-to-use remote or a touch screen that sits on your coffee table (or lap).

You’ll need to have the Control4 system professionally installed in your home, but it’ll be less of a headache than trying to program a universal remote on your own, only to have it come up short.  They always do.

If you’re interested in installing Control4 technology in your Richmond area home, give us a call at 804.741.5816.  We’ll help simplify your remotes, and your life.  And that’s pretty awesome.

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VUDU On Demand HD Video ServiceVUDU, one of the biggest and longest-running providers of HD streaming movies, has upped the ante on quality and availability. VUDU already offers the biggest library of HD movies available anywhere at over 3,000 titles (and that includes physical or online sources) through the many VUDU-embedded HDTVs and Blu-ray players.

Fun fact: VUDU was actually the first on-demand service that offered download-to-own HD movies. Now they’ve expanded their services to provide higher quality, new apps, trailers, and connections to social media.

First, the big news. VUDU has added a new highest quality option to viewers – HDX. Compared to the normal instant high-definition format of 720p, HDX is 1080p at 24 frames per second. This is roughly the equivalent of Blu-ray quality – provided over web streaming.

This quality of streaming HD is unmatched, but with great high definition streaming comes great web speed requirements.The current minimum requirements for internet connection speed run at 1Mbps for SD, 2.25Mbps for HD, and 4.5Mbps for HDX.

Other new features include Coming Attractions, VUDU’s catalog of trailers for upcoming movies. New apps gives VUDU some versatility, allowing users to stream their own video, host and browse photos, listen to music and more. As they say, there’s an app for that.  Social.Media. (not a typo, VUDU’s name for it) allows tweeting and Facebooking straight from your TV, as well as access to other popular sites such as RottenTomatoes, Wikipedia, and New York Times.

The great thing about using a web-based service is that updates to the system are smooth and automatic.

If you’d like to know more about how you can provide the best of HD video in your Richmond area home for you and your family to enjoy, simply call us at 804.741.5816.  We have many options from which you can choose.

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Inner Ear Hair Cells

Electron Microscope view of hair cells embedded in the basilar membrane of the inner ear

As we age, even the little hairs in our inner ear lose some of their function which means we begin to lose our hearing in the very high frequency ranges and even some of the low frequency ranges.

The average range of hearing for children is from a low of 20 Hz to a high of 20 kHz. By the time a person hits the age of 20, years of attending loud concerts may already have killed off the ‘high tones’. Studies show that the high range for an average young adult is about 16,000 Hertz (16 kHz). In another 10 years, a 30-year-old is often down to a mere 12,000 Hertz (12 kHz). Such a person would simply not be able to detect the presence of, say, a 14 kHz squeal in an audio track.

Loss of hearing as a result of the aging process is called presbycusis. The process involves degeneration of the inner ear (cochlea). Presbycusis can also involve other parts of the auditory system. The hearing loss is progressive in nature with the high frequencies affected first. While the process begins after age 20, it is typically at ages 55 to 65 that the high frequencies in the speech range begin to be affected.

So why is this so important? Well, knowing how people hear high and low frequencies in music and knowing what type of music the family listens to most – rock-n-roll versus classical, for example — is critical to designing a home media room for that family to truly enjoy.

This is just one of the many hundreds of considerations that Sound + Image Design takes into account when working with their Clients to tailor a custom-built home media room for their Clients’ listening pleasure.

If you’re ready to take the next step in building your home theater room or perhaps your looking to build a whole house audio and video integration system, simply call our Richmond showroom at 804.741.5816.