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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The commercials playing in streaming media are loud enough to drown out Lemmy’s Murder One Marshall rig.

By Robert Archer

For years audiophiles have complained about the quality of CD and digital audio files, and the negative effects of the so-called “loudness wars.”

In many cases, including when it comes to voodoo cables, exotic gear and their lack of emphasis on acoustics, I think audiophiles are off the mark. However, when it comes to their loudness war complaints I think they are right on the money.

Dynamically crushed recordings and heavy-handed mastering are, in my opinion, a bigger detriment to audio quality than the choice of file formats such as the comparative differences of low-res audio downloads, CD-quality 16/44, and high-resolution audio (HRA).

With all of that being said, the video industry is having its own issues with loudness. A recent email newsletter item from the professional audio equipment manufacturer TC Group underscores the situation, which is frustrating to millions of people across the globe. (Brands under the TC umbrella include Lab.gruppen, Tannoy, Dynaudio Professional and TC Electronic)

In a recent TC Electronic newsletter the company explains the importance of loudness, how it relates to the television broadcast market and why it has become such a problem for that industry.

“Today, the most fundamental audio issue of all is control of loudness. Every day, millions of people adjust their volume controls over and over. Music recordings from the past often appear to be significantly softer than modern pop and rock recordings, and in a television context, promos and commercial are generally much louder than e.g. film, drama or newscasts. No wonder that it…

Posted by Robert Archer on 12/17 at 07:29 AM
Blogs, Audio, Legal, (3) Comments, Permalink

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

No astronauts were harmed in the construction of this couch.

By Julie Jacobson

The almost famous “$20M Project” featured on CEPro over a period of two years two years was completed in 2013. And now it’s on the market for $24M in Paradise Valley, Ariz.

And boy is it something.

I can’t quite describe what that “something” is but whatever the word is for the complete opposite of my taste … that’s what this 25,851-square-foot monstrosity with an indoor shooting range and 25-person elevator is.

The project had its share of challenges, as any large construction project would. Integration project manager Mark Sipe parted ways with the homeowner. The home’s architect closed shop  in the early stages of construction. And there were the usual technology downgrades to make room for one more sweater in the master closet.

The Scottsdale-based installer CineMagic seemed to be on good terms with the homeowners when we spoke last.

Looking at the pictures, we can only wonder what became of the interior designers, but I have a good idea what their Christmas sweaters look like.

Enjoy the holiday season with these festive images.

And if you haven’t seen enough of this house, jump over to the Sotheby’s listing page.

UPDATE: I’m told by the integrator that this was not meant to be a spec home. More to come. Oh great.

Thanks for the heads up, Kevin Luther at Blackwire Designs.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 12/16 at 01:24 PM
Blogs, Slideshow, (31) Comments, Permalink

Friday, December 12, 2014

Guests at the Crestron/Sapphire Marketing holiday party got to have a little fun drawing on a giant curved floor-to-ceiling chalkboard in the nightclub.

By Jason Knott

You know you are at a hip party when you’re in a club where Gronk parties.

Crestron and its Northeast rep firm Sapphire Marketing hosted about 100 or so guests for an enjoyable holiday event at the trendy Tunnel nightclub in the posh W Hotel in downtown Boston this week, where New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been known to frequent, according to news reports.

Attendees noshed on pulled pork and other hors d’oeuvres with cocktails flowing while mingling and swapping industry tales. They were also greeted by a large chalkboard and every attendee was invited to write a holiday message. The location was especially convenient for top integrator OneVision Resources, which is located one block from the club, top commercial integrator Dave Gormley of Adtech in Sudbury, Mass., as there with some of his key end-user clients for the festive occasion.

At the conclusion of the evening, Sapphire Marketing principal Marla Suttenberg awarded a grand prize raffle prize of a free Crestron Pyng. The lucky winner was Kort Mathon of Atomic HiFi In Ashland, Mass.

It was a great way to kickoff the holiday season and thank loyal customers.

Posted by Jason Knott on 12/12 at 10:55 AM
Blogs, Slideshow, Home Automation and Control, Control Systems, (0) Comments, Permalink

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

By Jason Knott

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is getting plaudits for being a really nice place to work. And gauging from some of the benefits the association offers, it sounds pretty cool.

For the fifth year in a row, CEA was named as one of the 2015 Best Places to Work in Virginia by Virginia Business and Best Companies Group, which recognizes the 100 best places of employment in the Commonwealth that benefit the economy, its work force and businesses.

Take a look at some of these cool benefits. Do any of them fit in your company culture?

  • A mortgage assistance program offering a $25,000 unsecured, forgivable loan to apply towards a down payment of a primary residence within a five mile radius of CEA’s headquarters in Arlington, Va.
  • A tuition assistance program offering employees up to 75 percent reimbursement on college or university expenses, up to a maximum of $5,250 annually.
  • Instructor-led boot camp, strength training and yoga classes as well as access to a 24/7 onsite gym at no cost to CEA employees.
  • Summer hours, allowing employees to work extra hours Monday through Thursday from Memorial Day through Labor Day in return for leaving the office at 1p.m. on Fridays.
  • A flexible work arrangement, including the opportunity to telecommute one day a week.
  • Maternity and paternity leave. Depending on length of service, employees are eligible for two or four weeks of paid leave upon birth or adoption of a child.
  • Broadband reimbursement where full-time employees are eligible for 50 percent broadband reimbursement up to $500 each calendar year.
  • CEA matches employee contributions to charitable causes dollar for dollar up to $500 annually based on years of service. Employees with less…
Posted by Jason Knott on 12/09 at 09:17 AM
Blogs, Events, CES, (1) Comments, Permalink

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Mike Marko, Capitol Sales, is a no-nonsense tech teacher

By Julie Jacobson

A 12-year techie with distributor Capitol Sales has his own TV show kind of. It’s called “A Minute with Mike,” and I warn you some of the segments run over one minute and 30 seconds, but only barely.

The show is hosted by Mike Marko. who wears a nerdy lab coat when he walks through products, like Legrand’s new Adorne wireless video intercom system, which I wouldn’t have known about if not for Mike’s video introduction. Now I’m sold.

While we all thought Capitol’s tech guru and CE Pro contributor Fred Harding was the superstar over there, look out for Mike. He does a lot of training for Capitol Sales, which you don’t want to miss at the CEDIA Expos. No fluff, just good old-fashion learnin’.

I’m predicting he’s the next YouTube sensation.

Here’s what Capitol says:

Debuting this week, the latest addition to the “A Minute with Mike” introduces the Atlas Sound AA35 three-input mixer amplifier for business paging and background music. The durable 35-Watt amp is an ideal solution for light commercial contractors serving the retail sector.

Next up will be a demonstration of Lutron’s automated shades. And over the next few weeks, Capitol will roll out additional videos focusing on NEC leasing; the benefits of BenQ Integrator’s Choice projectors; the Niles MRC6430 multi-room audio control system with remote, keypad, and touchscreen; the JBL EON206P portable PA system; why the Panamax Power360 protection and charging stations are essential in a multitude of applications; and the many benefits of the Panasonic KX-NS700 IP-based phone system.

The video series premiered…

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 12/04 at 06:12 AM
News, Blogs, Product News, Distributors, (2) Comments, Permalink

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Valens Semiconductor - #4 in Deloitte Fast 500 EMEA

By Julie Jacobson

Valens Semiconductor, the Israel-based developer of HDBaseT technology, ranks #4 in Deloitte’s 2014 Technology Fast 500 list, which recognizes the fastest-growing public and private tech firms in Europe, the Middle East and Asia (EMEA).

Now in its 14th year, Deloitte list considers growth over the most recent 5-year period. Valens grew a staggering 33,244% between 2009 and 2013.

In all fairness, HDBaseT, which passes high-speed audio, video, IP data and power (up to 100W) over a single Cat 5e/6 cable, is new. Valens’ partners did not launch products until 2010, so the silicon-maker’s 2009 revenues would have been nominal, accounting in part for the “explosive” growth over the five-year period.

Even so, HDBaseT has been a major success in the higher-end media distribution market. We’d still like to see the technology implementations come down in price and, more importantly, be embedded in traditional consumer electronics products including TVs and Blu-ray players.

Extending HDMI over cheap Cat 5e/6 cable at distances of up to 328 feet is a beautiful thing!

Hats off to Valens.


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Posted by Julie Jacobson on 12/02 at 08:28 AM
News, Blogs, Product News, Video, Multiroom Video, (0) Comments, Permalink

Monday, December 01, 2014

Triad principal Larry Pexton demonstrates the upward-firing Bronze LR-H that includes drivers for both the left/right and height channels as required by Dolby for Atmos speakers. No in-ceiling speakers required.

By Julie Jacobson

I don’t know if it’s out of obligation, boredom, awkwardness or genuine interest, but the proper thing to say in the airport after CEDIA to anyone who attended is: “What’s the coolest thing you saw at the show?”

And so it was at Denver International, September 2014, when I bumped into A/V reporter extraordinaire Dennis Burger, and he answered The Question with “Dolby Atmos”.

And I wondered aloud if it was really that good and, apparently, yes it was.

I had meant to check out the Atmos demos at CEDIA, but I simply couldn’t get around to it. We already had our A/V people, after all, and I needed to hustle to the home automation booths.

But gosh darnit, dealers are telling me every day that Atmos is the next big opportunity in home technology – a sentiment that was never quite as resounding with 3D, smart TVs, 4K, 7.1, even high resolution audio (HRA).

Just recently, another dealer told me Atmos is the most promising new A/V technology since color TV, so I have to believe it’s as big as they say.

RELATED: Why 2014 Was Most Significant CEDIA Expo Yet

Actually, the dealer didn’t reference color TV, but he did say, “It’s the first thing since 5.1 that I would actually pick up the phone and call a customer and get them to change a format.”

That was Chad Shell of Stereo Types, based in Charlottesville, Va., who told me he was “energized” about the category after experiencing Atmos for the first time at a Pioneer demo during…

Posted by Julie Jacobson on 12/01 at 07:40 AM
News, Blogs, Audio, Receivers, Events, CEDIA, (2) Comments, Permalink

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

By Jason Knott

What if a custom installation company didn’t do any installations? Impossible, right? Not for some security companies apparently during the recession.

At the recent ISC East event in New York City, Jorge Hevia, national marketing and sales manager for Napco Security, told me an amazing fact: a great number security integration companies completely stopped doing installations during the recession. They shut down their entire installation team, laid off every technician and support person possible, and maintained their business solely on recurring monthly revenue (RMR).

Hevia, of course, would know this fact because Napco is a major supplier to security dealers who buy in bulk for items like PIRs, smoke detectors, door and window contacts, and alarm panels. Of course, these hunkered-down alarm dealers still needed to employ service technicians to handle problems that might have cropped up, and had either their own central station or a third-party monitoring relationship, and other minimal staff in place, but that’s it.

Imagine a custom installation company being able to do the same thing. According to the latest CE Pro Readership Study, integrators report 16 percent of total revenues came from RMR. That’s double what it was back in 2011 but still a far cry from the 50 percent RMR goal for security companies reported by IHS Research.

Chalk this one up to another value in building recurring revenue for your business.

Posted by Jason Knott on 11/26 at 07:48 AM
Blogs, Home Automation and Control, Security, Events, (0) Comments, Permalink

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tom Lee, president of WiSA, says it’s time for a single, unified wireless audio standard, noting that multiroom devices and speakers are being vastly undersold due to consumer hesitancy.

By Tom Lee

Throughout the technology sector it has been shown that closed systems that do not interoperate with other brands and products inherently limit the growth and size of a category, as well as consumer choices. In emerging markets like high quality wireless audio speakers, it often causes consumer confusion and creates a fracture in the market.

Indeed, a recent article on whole house audio pointed out that the current demand for multiroom speakers is only an average of 2.1 speakers per household, far below what most available products can technically support.

The hard cold fact is that the average consumer isn’t looking for, nor could they afford 32 zones in their homes. Even adding a dedicated audio network to their home for two to three speakers can be cost prohibitive when given the limited choice of proprietary speakers

This begs the question of why pay for two separate audio networks within the home when one will do? 

That’s why the consumer electronics industry needs a single open wireless audio system for all speaker brands. That is the mission of the Wireless Speaker and Audio Association (WiSA). An open system benefits the growth of the overall category for high resolution wireless audio products and enables participation from many manufacturers and consumers. 

For example, a single WiSA transmitter can support multi-channel high resolution home theater audio and can be extended into other rooms within the home at a fraction of the cost for the majority of homes in the United States, by offering up to 7 zones and 32 speakers. By being interoperable, a consumer…

Posted by Tom Lee on 11/25 at 07:11 AM
Blogs, Audio, Distributed Audio, Speakers, (0) Comments, Permalink

Thursday, November 20, 2014

By Jason Knott
In this edition of Throwback Thursday, CE Pro goes back to 2011 and revisits this look at five of the worst tech predictions ever made. Which predictions do you think have fallen short since then?

The custom electronics industry has had its share of really bad predictions.

Technology in general is rife with poor prognostications, just like weathermen and sports analysts.

If futurists were always right, we would all have flying cars, personal robots, underwater homes and jet packs!

One of my favorites is in the 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey during a scene in which the main character is on the moon using a videophone to speak to his family, except it’s a payphone!

So while the author Arthur C. Clarke or director Stanley Kubrick correctly predicted telepresence systems, they clearly did not predict cell phones.

On a more serious level, we have rounded up predictions for the custom electronics industry that have been off the mark.

Click here for 5 Worst Tech Predictions Ever

What bad predictions am I missing? Share in the comment section.

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