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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 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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With last year’s release of Avatar, 3D has never been more popular.  And with this year’s big introduction of 3D TVs, people can now bring this multi-dimensional experience into their homes.

For a price. And, we think, a headache.

3D TVs are expensive. And the technology required to view a program in 3D isn’t the same as what you see in a movie theater.  Viewing a 3D TV requires special viewing glasses, which essentially filter a 2D movie or TV show and make it more dimensional.

And everyone looking at the TV must be wearing these glasses.  And they don’t come with the set.  So you’ll pay another $150 to $200 per pair of glasses, which require yes batteries.  So what if you have a family of five? What if you have friends over?  You’re talking big money.

If you’re a consumer who loves having a nice entertainment system, you’d be better off buying a nice HD TV and a Blu-ray high-definition DVD player at your favorite big box electronics store.

But if a full home theater experience is what you’re looking for, here’s what you should know:

We don’t test products in my clients homes.  Anything TVs, cables, security systems, lighting controls that we install into your house, we have in our own homes or have tested extensively.  We play with it, we test it, and we make sure the technology is going to perform to your expectations and in an easy-to-use, reliable way.

For now, we don’t recommend 3D TV.  The technology isn’t there yet, the prices are too high, and quite frankly, it’s just not all it’s cracked up to be.

Of course, if you’re still determined to put a 3D TV in your house, we’d be happy to install one for you. We just don’t recommend it!

By the way, our friends at CNET have a great Q&A on 3D TVs. Be sure to check out it out.

Want to talk to a local expert about 3D TV technology?  Then simply call our home theater showroom at 804.741.5816.

Categories : Home Theater
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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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The best way to install a home theater system is to do it as the house is being built.  We won’t have to cut into any walls, drill holes into floorboards, or work our way around furniture.  We love working with homebuilders to create exceptional systems, but don’t let that fool you: our relationship is still with our customer, the end user.

Starting from scratch does require a level of sensitivity with homebuilders. We don’t want to get in the way of contractors, or have our work delay scheduling.  Still, home electronics in many ways are just as important to a new home as is the plumbing, wiring and structure.  Our work goes beyond entertainment, too: It’s lighting, security systems, and heating and air conditioning controls and integrating it all for ease of use.

Working with builders makes our job easier, too.  If we can see where recessed lighting will be, for example, we can build our speakers around it.  It gives us flexibility.

D-Tools System Integration Software Logo

Sound + Image Design uses D-Tools software for precise custom home electronics installation.

Our industry software is called D-Tools, and allows us to create accurate A/V system designs and manage our projects.  We can import an architect’s CAD drawings and design your electronics architecture around the home design plans.

D-Tools is System Integration Software for the AV, Energy, IT, and Security Industries

Building a new home? Think beyond the walls and roof.  Give us a call and let’s go over your design plans and optimize your home electronics systems.  After your custom home is built, you’ll be glad you did.

P.S.  While we love custom-built home construction, we have a passion for home theater retrofits.  A bit more challenging, yes, but, well, we’re just that kind of design team that loves that kind of project.  So don’t hestitate to call us if you didn’t get all you wanted in your home when you originally built it or when you bought it from the previous homeowner.  We’re just a phone call away at 804.741.5816.

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There’s a term for the people in our industry that you should probably keep away from when it comes to home theater systems: Trunk slammers.

These are the guys who mainly work out of their car, just doing what he needs to do to get by. Home installs are probably a side job for him.  You’re not really dealing with a company, per se.

With us, you are. And we can prove it, with the little icon you see in this post.  We’re CEDIA certified.  So what does being CEDIA certified mean to you?  Seeing the CEDIA stamp means you can trust that you’re dealing with proven experts who are committed to a higher standard of education, according to the organization.  You’ll not only get the finest in custom electronics design and installation, but you’ll also have peace of mind.

CEDIA Member Logo

Sound + Image Design, Richmond, are members of the trade association, CEDIA.

Our experience with CEDIA which stands for Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association is that this is a group that is extremely supportive of our industry and is serious about the work that comes out of it.  Sound + Image Design went through rigorous testing and training because we believe in CEDIA certification so much.

But let’s be serious for a moment: This is a fun job.  And we meet tons of fun people and get to play with all kinds of fun toys.  CEDIA’s annual Expo (see pics and a review here) gives us an idea of the latest and greatest (and the blah products) coming on the market.

We’re confident that we’re the company that will meet your unique needs. Talk to others who have been through the process. Read our testimonials.  If you’d like to talk to or see projects we’ve done, let us know.

We think you’ll realize: When it comes to home theater, audio and video installations in Central Virginia, we set the bar.

How can CEDIA help you as a homeowner?

Adding custom home theater, multi-room audio, or automation is a wonderful investment that will add to the enjoyment and value of your dream home. But an investment of this size shouldn’t be trusted to just any company. That’s why you should consider a CEDIA certified member.

CEDIA certified companies have met vigorous industry standards and have been formally educated and specially trained. These are critical steps to ensure that your investment in your home is not wasted. In addition, CEDIA member companies have agreed to the CEDIA Code of Ethics, perhaps the most highly regarded standard in the Electronic Lifestyles industry.

For a free home theater consultation in the Greater Richmond or surrounding areas, simply call our office at 804.741.5816.

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Control4 Lifestyle

Knowing your home media lifestyle helps us to design a system just for you. And Control4 makes it easy for everyone in the family to operate.

Let’s talk about client process.  You’ve obviously heard the customer is always right.  The only way to make sure that happens is to get to know you and your needs.  If you’re in the market for a home audio and/or video system and the service that goes along with it here’s what you can expect from Sound and Image Design.

When and why do our clients come to us?  Two reasons mainly:

  • Many times, they’re building a new home, putting on an addition, or landscaping their property and want to install a new home theater system.
  • Other times, the house, room or yard is already there, and the client wants a quality entertainment system.

We work with builders, architects and interior designers, but ultimately, our duty is to the client the person, couple, or family that is going to be using the products we install and the services that we offer.

But before there can be entertainment, there must be ascertainment. We have to get an idea of your lifestyle goals and needs.

It begins with the Sound and Image Design Meet & Greet (aka the Discovery Phase).

This is where you get to know us, and perhaps more importantly, we get to know you. What are your priorities? What’s your lifestyle? Are you more into music or movies? Is this system going into one room, two, or all of them? How many TVs will you have? Do you want electronics indoors and out, or just one or the other?

We’ll look around the blueprints or your home take a site survey, as it were and write down notes of the challenges or obstacles we’ll face while installing.  Retrofits are a bit more difficult than installing in a home under construction, but we love doing both.

And here’s a little fun fact: You won’t see wiring on any system we install. It’s all concealed in your walls or cabinets.

I’ll be honest: Most clients don’t have an idea of their budget, and for most, their needs are more expensive than what they were expecting.  Not because of our cost, but because of the equipment involved. It’s not cheap stuff; but it’s high-quality. We know the equipment we’re installing or recommending we’ve tested it and use it ourselves.  And, of course, we’ll discuss options with you.

Bottom line: We won’t put a box into your house that we don’t believe to be the best in class of its kind.

For a free consultation, give us a ring: (804) 741-5816 to make an appointment at a time that is convenient for you.

Control4 Woman in Kitchen with Home Audio ControlYou’d think men, with their love of big screen TVs for football watching, would be the one to be in the market for a high-tech home theater system, wouldn’t you?

We’ll, you’d be surprised.

In my 20 or so years of installing home theater systems, I’ve discovered primarily two types of customers that are split across the sexes: The man of the house, typically a husband, who is big into the technology and wants an awesome home theater installed for his castle.  That’s the main type of customer you probably think of, too.

But then you have the woman of the house.  She’s typically tired of having 30 remotes on the coffee table.  She’s tired of wires, of seeing different black boxes that do different things and DVD or CD cases cluttering up the TV stand or living room.

Typically, he wants performance and she wants aesthetics.

And men think they can do it all, too. From one survey:

When it comes to installing a home theater, nearly half of men say they are very confident they can do it themselves while just three in 10 women say the same. In fact, the majority of women surveyed (51%) say they are not at all confident about installing a home theater themselves.

Typical of us guys, right?

Control4 Home Theater On Screen

Control4's Home Theater Simple Remote Control

When it comes to performance and looks, at Sound and Image Design, we make sure to meet the needs of everyone in the house. We create home theater systems that work reliably and sound great, but also look good within the home’s decor.

You won’t see the boxes if you don’t want to. We hide speakers in the walls of your entertainment room  literally, invisible speakers. You will not see anything. We whittle all your remotes down into a single easy-to-use device, from Control4 (now compatible with the iPad).

So, no matter who is in the household and no matter what the technology or design concerns are, we have a solution for you. Give us a ring at 804.741.5816 to find out more.

Categories : Home Theater
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Super fan Gail Fenton gives a tour of the 2010 HGTV Dream Home’s home theater. This video is part of HGTV Dream Home 2010 show hosted by Gail Fenton.

Categories : Home Theater
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Home Theater Question: Is there an ideal distance (or maximum/minimum distance) that a person should sit from their television for optimal viewing? Also, is there an ideal height to hang a TV if you’re putting it up on a wall? What are the guidelines you give customers?

Control4 Home Theater ImageThe ideal viewing distance depends on 2 main factors; screen size and resolution of the TV or display.

Most displays manufactured today have a resolution of 1080P, so we’ll use this as our reference. Although there are varying opinions and methods to calculate this, two of the most common viewing distance guidelines are 1.5 – 2.5 times the diagonal measurement of the display or 3-5 times the screen height (preferred). If you sit any closer than 3 times the height of the screen you will start to notice the display’s pixel structure. As viewing distance increases beyond 5 times the screen’s height, you will lose the benefit of the display’s 1080P resolution.

In other words, you’ll miss some of the detail of high definition content. The higher a display’s resolution is, the closer you may sit to it. As resolution decreases, you’ll want to sit farther away to avoid seeing any imperfections.

There are exceptions to every rule, but the general guideline is to mount your TV at a height that allows viewing to be natural and comfortable. It should be mounted allowing you to view the screen head on with the center of the screen being at eye level. This is generally at a height of around 48 inches for the average person. You don’t want it mounted at a height that forces you to tilt your head back. If circumstances require that the TV be mounted higher, make sure that the bottom of the screen is no higher than eye level.

Sound and Image Design helps homeowners simplify and enjoy their lives with easy-to-use home technology systems such as home theaters, whole house music systems, and home automation.  For more information or to receive a free estimate, please call your Richmond home theater experts at 804.741.5816.

Categories : Home Theater Q&A
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