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$20M Project: Equipment Upgrades & Downgrades

Networking equipment gets upgraded to handle concrete and some loudspeakers get swapped out to save money. Home theater is ready to be built out.

Any good athlete or politician is always looking straight ahead, both to what they have to do right now and the next event. Looking back is something you do lying in bed at night. During work hours, taking care of business means forward progress.

We have been reviewing the products for this project for the past two years (hard to believe) and watching every up and down by manufacturers along the way.

No Regrets About Control4 Choice
Control4 has worked through some issues with my dealers telling me all the good and bad at any given moment. The status of the project, as of now, is better than I could have imagined.

Control4 garnered more than a little heat with some fan boys taking offense to my choice for the project. Since then, dealers from all over the country (and world for that matter) have contacted me to say they have added Control4 to their lineup with great success. I didn’t do anything other than catching them on the way up and talking about it.

A commenter on one of the forums called C4 “ankle biters,” but with sales looking to pass $100 million soon, I think they have made “player” status. Control4's new HC-800 controller is really fast and the door station looks very stylish. The cameras now come up on all the touchpanels, more than my client had asked for at the onset of the project. Exceeding expectations is great, but not always possible. I’m sure somewhere else I will disappoint at some level just to keep me in line.

Photos: $20M Home a Work in Progress

Had this project been some techie client looking for every wiz bang function, it might have gone different. My client wanted a certain level of control and we will give him that, and more. Most of my clients are “titans of industry” as opposed to the younger tech-hungry set. I work on very few jobs since my other businesses take up most of my time, but the ones I do work on are very interesting.

Switching Speakers
Loudspeakers is one of the products we decided to change from Totem to Paradigm. It was hard for me since I have made no excuses of my appreciation of Totem speakers. When the manager of the integration company Cinemagic, Terry Kohler, suggested we look at other speakers, I wasn’t very interested. Keeping an open mind and the fact that we could save some money for the client and even upgrade all speakers to 8 inches, I had to look and listen. The speakers were impressive and the savings substantial. So now I’m at the tipping point.

I decided to call Rob Sample, the Western regional rep for Paradigm, and talk about not just the line but how they work with consultants. No, not money, but support. When I call someone it would be nice if they got back to me quickly and didn’t treat me like a nuisance. Rob couldn’t have been nicer and more supportive, answered all my questions and sent anything I asked for.

The client was sure I was slipping in sub-par product and making something on the side. He is, in his own right, a large commercial contractor and always leery of changes. Once he knew who Paradigm and Anthem were, he still had his doubts. Finally asking friends and other contractors he saw what he was being offered and decided to go with Paradigm for all in-ceiling products. Totem speakers are staying in the massive Grand Room and the dedicated theater, but the rest of the project is now Paradigm.

Every project either reinforces or kills a product for me. Totem is still the right choice for our theater and the large Grand Room, but Paradigm is now my speaker of choice for in-wall/in-ceiling. Changing to Paradigm, at retail, saved my client over $4,000, the dealer then upgraded to 8-inch speakers.

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Article Topics

News · Slideshow · Installations · Home Theater · Installation · All topics

About the Author

Mark Sipe, System Designer
Mark has been both a commercial and residential integrator and systems engineer for over 25 years. He works with Builders, Homeowners and Architects to design and support all types of projects around the world. He is also a software developer (SalezToolz) and mad scientist/inventor (Xspot Products) all developed around what he saw as a need for the businesses he works with and supports. He has been a CEA Mark of Excellence judge the last 6 years and CE Pro Best awards Judge.

72 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Bradley Elliott  on  02/08  at  07:04 PM

I aggree… the project is $20M but I think the Integration was $1M.. even at that, why switch? If I was the client I would rather install all one speaker manufacture. You don’t have to install Tribes everywhere, just the primary locations.

$4000 is .4% of the $1M, really?

Posted by Hagai Feiner / Access Networks  on  02/08  at  07:27 PM

Thank you for your response Mark. Since the network was upgraded, would you mind sharing what the client has to spend on this upgrade?

Posted by John  on  02/08  at  08:04 PM

Ah, I get it Mark, it’ top secret and you can only share the WAP model with dealers who contact you off line.  If this was a more established industry such as the PC industry you’d be laughed right out of it.

BTW, anyone notice how Mark loves to challenge people to say who they are, as if that has anything at all to do with the quality of their questions, but doesn’t challenge the guys who post under first name only who are associated with him but don’t mention it?  I guess it’s fine to post under your first name and give Mark kudos even if you have a vested interest, but if you ask a tough question you’re a troll.

Posted by Mark Sipe  on  02/08  at  09:19 PM


People that aren’t afraid to be recognized always carry more weight than “shadow people”, just rules of the road brother.

I have another article coming out next week (the Mexico project), save some vitriol for that, you seem like the kind of guy who pulls the trigger a little quick, pace yourself.  I’ll be here all month.

Posted by John  on  02/08  at  10:16 PM

Mark, you’re not only a liar, you have myopic vision.  Pseudonymity and anonymity has a long history on the Internet, and adding ones name does not necessarily add more weight.  Your name is on all of your blog posts and most of them are still a joke.

Yet it’s all you can grasp at because you absolutely positively refuse to answer questions when you are called on your BS.  My name is John.  If that’s not good enough for you, if you can’t answer a question unless you also know my last name, then you reveal yourself to be the one who is the troll.

Posted by John  on  02/08  at  10:26 PM

Let’s make this really SIMPLE.  What is the make and model of the network WAP you are testing?  And are you using a wireless controller with it, and if so what is the make and model of the wireless controller?

Can you answer those 2 questions, or do you need to know my last name and address and social security number to answer?

Posted by Mark Sipe  on  02/08  at  10:36 PM


My blog, my rules, and no I don’t think I’ll succumb to your demands, mostly because it will piss you off.

Liar, followed up by all those big words, aren’t you the smart little fella.

And yes John, adding ones names does add a huge amount of weight….. just does.

Posted by Hagai Feiner / Access Networks  on  02/08  at  10:49 PM


I know you are 2+ years into this project. Regardless of your new network solution, science is at work. The first managed wireless environment I deployed in 2006 could literally be moved to your clients home and cover it with ease. Forget that it was a Cisco 4450 controller solution, an expensive solution for 2006 and even today. my point is that there are solutions that can guarantee performance. So again, understanding the electromagnetic spectrum, and knowing that unlike x-rays, radio waves cannot go through concrete, what was the original idea behind your wireless design?

Posted by Mark Sipe  on  02/08  at  11:10 PM


Before there was a design, I hired someone who knows networks.  I surround myself with lots of IT brainpower since everything we do is part of a network.  While only one company is responsible for the design and hardware, I have 5 or 6 guys review the offerings before we accept anything.  Like any good boss I don’t have to know everything, I just have to have people that do know their business.  I work with our talent pool to create and review the different systems.  There is never just one right answer, just lots of good choices and more than a few bad ones. 
In the end, all that matters is someone’s iPad connects by the pool, in the garden or the shooting range.  The project in Mexico had 2 foot thick walls, 2 stories, with concrete and steel, the network connects all through the house, the courtyard, all the way down to the beach. 
I have wired for WAPs all over this house.  I expect maybe four units, maybe five, we’ll see.

Posted by Hagai Feiner / Access Networks  on  02/09  at  09:50 AM

Good morning Mark,

I am still trying to figure out the original design behind this network as it relates to this specific home. But I am going to set that aside for now. I am going to wait for you to come up with the upgrade, reveal it and then run my own analyses as I am sure other readers will.

You are right Mark. There are many solutions out there. But how many of those are viable, scalable and repeatable? Only a few.

Thank you for sharing what you have. Not many will be willing to take this position. I look forward to your next posts and best of luck!

Oh- and yes, amazing fireplace! I hope the network solution is just as amazing smile

Posted by John  on  02/09  at  10:48 AM

Mark, I’ve already explained why I don’t list my last name, it’s for the same reason you won’t list the WAP, because then I would be “endorsing it with my name”.  What’s a matter, doesn’t that line of BS work when someone else uses it?

Hagai is writing under his full name and you can’t seem to answer his questions either.  Anyone with a brain sees through the smokescreen Mark.

Your friend keeping you honest,


Posted by John Banner  on  02/09  at  11:10 AM

Mark, I don’t know about the other John, but this John is also curious about what WAP you are testing, and I’ve included my last name so you can answer.  Thanks so much in advance!  Great house!

Posted by Mark Sipe  on  02/09  at  12:14 PM


Send me an email from one of my websites, I may post it next week as part of the Mexico project but I won’t be putting it up on this project thread until I have tested it a little more.  Don’t mean to make it hard but it isn’t part of this job yet, just looking at it.  Might turn out to be a piece of garbage, so no endorsement or even a mention yet.

Posted by John McCain  on  02/09  at  01:53 PM

I’d also like to know the make and model of the way.  We are thinking about deploying new waps on congress and it sounds like these might help us reduce the deficit.

Posted by Mark Sipe  on  02/09  at  02:03 PM

I’m not sure I can support that, you know I didn’t vote for you and Sarah last time.  I liked you better than her though. 
You’re not in touch with how things work today, you should listen to your daughter more.  You were going to support SOPA, and that would have been a catastrophe.

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