$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.

By Mark Sipe
February 07, 2012
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.

Upgrading Networking Equipment
Next on the chopping block was our network equipment, where we seem to have big changes every day. I switched out the Luxul WAPs and antennas, which I have in my own home and work well, but couldn’t service this project or my other current project in Mexico.

The new units, which I cannot name the brand at this time, work great through concrete and steel at one third the price, not a hard choice. All the big luxury hotels use the same units, all construction is concrete, rammed earth and steel in most of the world. Once I have finished testing I will reveal the name of the brand for our new antennas and WAPs.

Putting a Rush on the Home Theater
The client just emailed me, he is putting a rush on the home theater build out. I have been pushing for decisions on acoustics, panels, projectors, screens and trim for months, now it has to happen next week - sound familiar? Fortunately I had already pulled the list of questions together and sent it to him with full specifications.

I did this work two years ago, all we have to do now is pick our providers. The customer was impressed; he already had this information, just couldn’t find it. I have a whole shelf, floor to ceiling in his office, of documents he never looks at until I go there and show him where it is.

Planning, no matter how detailed, is always second to people who make the job happen. Every plan is subject to change and having a team that keeps everything moving without having to be told is important. I’ll stop by the job to find out products are ordered, wires are moved or questions are answered without having to run through channels.

I am very happy with the team. Going into the final quarter, we’ll see just how well we’ve done.

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