It's probably pretty tempting to jam every piece of technology and integrated platform you're capable of creating into a showroom in order to say, “Hey, look at everything we can do.” But oftentimes that amount of choice can overwhelm a timid customer.
Rich Babcock, owner of Integrated Concepts, has experimented with showrooms and show homes long enough to know that sometimes, less is more.
Founded in the mid-1990s, Integrated Concepts serves the A/V, security and connected home needs of Fairfield County, Conn. Babcock created a demo in a local home in order to showcase the latest technologies and possibilities in an environment that isn't as intimidating.
“We show clients everything here—from advanced integrated security options, the quietest motorized window treatments, home automation and the Autonomic-based, whole-house entertainment,” says Babcock. “The customer can experience these technologies in a way that is conducive to envisioning them as part of daily life. That is the purpose of creating a show home.”
Having an appointment-only environment like a show home is very different from walking a customer through a retail store, Babcock points out. He first endeavors to understand some of the client’s specific needs so that when he arrives for their appointment, he is prepared to demo the proper technologies.
At the Corner of Autonomic and Crestron
“With Autonomic, everything is centralized so the demo is easy to grasp, full of colorful metadata, and the client can envision how this will fall into place in their home and in their daily lifestyle,” explains Babcock.
Babcock can demonstrate everything from a 20-inch, in-wall touchpanel, a 15-inch tabletop touchpanel as well as both iOS and Android portable devices using the Crestron Smart Graphics interface.
Functionality is the same across all platforms, which Babcock says is important to his customers.
There are architectural speakers throughout the home and an audiophile listening area adjacent to the upstairs master bedroom. Streaming services offered include Pandora, Spotify, TIDAL (premium versions) and TuneIn.
This gives the customer an opportunity to explore the functionality of each service and the sound quality of TIDAL, especially in the upstairs listening system (more on that in a minute). Babcock feels strongly that demonstrating all of the services through a single intuitive interface helps entice his clients.
“In order to deliver the desired streaming services, we used to employ multiple devices such as Apple TV and others,” says Babcock. “Now with Autonomic and their exceptional native integration with Crestron, everything has been aggregated into a single experience, including local content such as iTunes and/or large collections stored on external drives.”
“Autonomic is the best blend of entertainment and sophisticated home integration available,” he continues. “Something this good changes our world as integrators; it really makes a difference in how we present technology to consumers.”
Though he also cautions, “The key to success here is a robust home network—ideally, Autonomic operates on a separate sub-net to maximize reliability even when the kids are streaming video or taxing the network in so many ways.”
Upstairs, Listening Room
In the upstairs listening space, the Autonomic MMS-5A is connected via S/PDIF output to an exotic DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) preamplifier from AURALiC.
This gives Babcock the ability to demo high-resolution digital playback and 192 kHz/24-bit files, as well as TIDAL lossless streaming, all in a single location.
TIDAL is also available throughout the home on the architectural speakers.
“You can make quite an impact on a customer by playing them better quality formats—much more effectively than talking about it in conversation,” says Babcock. “With Autonomic, everything is centralized so the demo is easy to grasp, full of colorful metadata, and the client can envision how this will fall into place in their home and in their daily lifestyle.”
Babcock also leverages Autonomic's TuneBridge feature, which enables users to map content by genre, artist or song type when they hear something they like at the touch of a button.
“TuneBridge is brilliant; however, I typically bring my customers along slowly, and let them get comfortable with Autonomic gradually before introducing the power of TuneBridge,” he says. “When it comes to whole-house entertainment and justifying the purchase of an Autonomic MMS, I often tell my customers, 'You are getting one of these; you will thank me for it later.'”
The interface is great, the firmware updates keep things operating smoothly—this is the solution that works no matter what size the system and regardless of which streaming services you choose.
Downstairs, 4K Home Theater
The Integrated Concepts show home offers a basement theater experience featuring 4K video and 4K video switching along with the latest HDCP 2.2 support.
Autonomic streaming content is also available to be enjoyed in the theater, along with video projection.