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The Smart Home Blog

The latest news and updates on home technology

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07
Oct

Home Electronics Protection: 3 Ways to Ensure Top-Notch Performance and a Long Life for Your Smart Systems

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The time has come. You have done all your homework and, after much deliberation, have finally selected all of the electronic components for your fancy new media room! This is an exciting project, but before you pull the trigger on that new gear, it’s important to ask yourself one key question. Have you given enough thought to how you’re going to protect your investment? After all, these components are not cheap. However, with a small amount of extra planning at the outset, you’ll enjoy your home electronic systems for the longest time possible. Keep reading for three effective ways to protect your electronic equipment.

Power Protection
One of the primary considerations that must be given to protecting your equipment has to do with power. The electricity feeding your components has traveled a long way to get to the outlet in your media room. In the course of that travel, numerous factors have likely affected its integrity. The degree and manner in which possible degradation of electricity occurs is beyond the scope of this article. What’s important to understand is that before that power enters the circuitry of your new gear, it needs to be cleaned up. Most often this is accomplished by using a separate piece of equipment commonly called a “power conditioner.” This term is a bit of a catch-all to describe a device that will perform a few different functions, depending on the make/model. These functions include surge protection, voltage regulation, noise filtering, and battery backup. Take the time to understand the purpose of each of these features, then purchase a unit that checks all of the boxes you deem necessary.

M4000-PRO-slant-left,_power_conditioner,_panamax

The M4000-Pro Power Manager from Panamax protects electronic equipment from potentially damaging electrical issues. For example, when it detects unsafe power conditions it disconnects components completely from the AC line.

Proper Structural Support
Proper structural support for items like flat-panel TVs is critical. In addition to protecting your investment, this is also a matter of personal safety, and is particularly important if you have small children in your family. Make sure that your TV bracket is mounted securely to the studs behind the wall. Anchors and toggle bolts are rarely an acceptable option. If you’re not 100 percent confident in your ability to safely hang a TV, or if certain factors preclude you from mounting to the studs, contact a local professional. This is a straightforward and inexpensive task and could save you a lot of headaches in the future.

VLF525_LS

A variety of different wall mounts are available from companies like Sanus, to ensure that your flat-panel TV is installed securely.

Structural considerations do not only come into play with TV mounts. This is also a consideration that affects your cabinet or A/V rack. If your gear is going to live in a cabinet (particularly on adjustable shelving) make sure that the shelves are properly supported. Heavier devices like amplifiers and battery backups should always be installed at the bottom of the cabinet. If a heavy device must be placed on an adjustable shelf, reinforcement should be added. If you are using a freestanding rack instead of a cabinet, be sure to mount heavy devices at the bottom. This will prevent the rack from getting top heavy and potentially toppling over. If you live in earthquake country, be sure to secure the rack to the wall. This can be accomplished easily by purchasing some screw eyes and ratchet straps from your local hardware store.

Cooling and Ventilation
All electronics produce heat, to varying degrees. It is critical that this heat not be allowed to build up within the cabinet. Studies have shown that 85 degrees Fahrenheit is the maximum safe operating temperature for most electronics. These studies have also shown that for every 10-degree rise above this threshold, the life of digital equipment is reduced by up to 40 percent.

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The heat that’s generated by rack- and cabinet-mounted electronics gear can be damaging, so invest in equipment racks with vented shelving and fans like the products pictured here from Middle Atlantic.

For installations with a small number of devices, ventilation by natural convection is usually sufficient. This simply means your cabinet needs to be “breathable.” A vent or series of small holes at the top (and preferably near the back) of the cabinet will allow hot air to escape. Equally important is the need for make-up air, the cool air that will naturally draw in as hot air escapes out the top of the enclosure. Again, use a vent or series of small holes, this time placed down low (and preferably at the front) of the cabinet to introduce cool air into the cabinet or A/V rack.

EcoSystem_Frontlight_on

Place the heaviest equipment on the bottom of an A/V rack to prevent it from becoming top-heavy. Picture here, the EcoSystem from Sanus.

For cabinets and racks with lots of gear inside, natural convection may not be sufficient and a system of forced convection should be implemented. This can be accomplished simply with the use of some small fans. There are dozens of options on the market built specifically for this type of application. The best device for you will depend largely on the particulars of your installation. Take the time to research your options. A final note on cooling: Plan on installing fans prior to placing any other equipment inside the cabinet. The fan installation will likely require drilling and/or cutting of multiple holes in wood. Not only is it far more difficult to do this in a cabinet full of gear, but it also creates a ton of dust, which you obviously do not want covering your electronics.

Outfitting your home with new technology is a fun process. In the excitement of purchasing a new system it can be easy to overlook a few key facts about equipment protection. When preparing your home for the installation of your new gear, make sure to consider factors such as power conditioning, structural support, and equipment cooling. EH

Need help installing a new home theater system? Find an Installer Near You

Jason Griffing is the Director of Business Development at Harrison Home Systems in Denver, CO, (HHSUSA.com) and co-hosts two industry related podcasts at HomeTech.fm & AVShopTalk.com

Original author: Jason Griffing
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06
Oct

Home Theater Projectors Ready to Expose Themselves

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It used to be that when custom electronics (CE) professionals designed theaters one of their chief objectives was finding a way to hide the video projector.

Big, bulky and industrial looking, they were considered an eyesore by many homeowners, and CE pros became masters of concealment. A popular method of disguise was the soffit. Usually constructed of wood, it was designed so that the entire projector could be stowed inside. The only giveaway was a small, round opening in the front for the projector lens to shine through.

Soffits, when designed correctly with adequate ventilation and easy access to the interior, are still effective hiding spots, but recently, we’ve seen more and more homeowners electing to bring their projectors out of hiding, leaving them completely exposed for everyone to see and admire.

Why the trend? Thanks to the implementation of new technology—particularly LED and laser—manufacturers are able to design projectors that are not only smaller than earlier models, but are also quieter. Better internal cooling and sound insulation make newer projectors quieter, so their fan and color wheel sounds don’t get in the way of your movie enjoyment. Some manufacturers also offer customization services, so you can order your projector in a color and finish that complements the room—or that makes it stand out as a visual showpiece.

So what’s the best solution: soffit or no soffit? Based on the wide variety of choices now available in projector designs, it’s become a tough decision. This list of pros and cons will offer some guidance.

Pro Soffit
Hides the projector for a clean room aesthetic
Offers protection from dusk and other elements
Contains the noise of a projector when it’s operating
Can add architectural interest when designed appropriately


In this theater, the projector is built into the back wall.

Pro Exposed
Easy to service the projector
No worries about ventilation of heat that’s generated by the projector
Can add visual interest
Inexpensive to install, minus the soffit

Con Soffit
Can be expensive and complicated to install
Tough to access the projector for service and maintenance
Can eat up a fair amount of space
Presents safety issues, particularly from heat build-up


Here the projector is exposed, making it easy to access and keep ventilated.

Con Exposed
Can clash with the décor
Some projectors can be noisy


Quiet and attractive projectors like this SIM2 can easily be exposed without being distracting.

Check out the best home theater projectors for under $1,000 or a little more .

Original author: Lisa Montgomery
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06
Oct

Nest Weave is the Smart Home Platform You’ve Been Waiting For

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Nest thermostat

Nest is sharing the love—or at least sharing their protocol. The company just announced Nest Weave, a communication protocol that will allow all sorts of smart home devices to communicate with each other, as well as devices like the Nest thermostat, the Nest Protect, and the Nest Cam.

Besides allowing all of these devices to talk directly to each other, Nest Weave promises to solve some of the problems you may encounter in the smart home. Some of the specific issues cited include the ability to connect power-constrained devices as well as devices that require low latency and redundancy.

Nest Weave uses WiFi and Thread, and promises to be reliable, compact, secure and scalable. In addition to integration with the Nest thermostat, the Nest Protect and the Nest Cam, the platform will allow third-party devices to tap into Home and Away states, smoke and carbon monoxide alerts, motion and sound alerts, and peak energy rush hour events to create new smart home options.

Nest says that the Yale Linus lock will be the first Works with Nest product to use Nest Weave. The Linus can be accessed via the Nest app, allowing users to check the status, lock and unlock the door, set up passcodes, and more. It also provides alerts and monthly access reports. Look for the Yale Linus to launch sometime in 2016.

According to Nest, Nest Weave will be able to start talking to other devices via a simple software update. Several companies have already committed to using Nest Weave, including Big Ass Solutions, Daikin North America, GE branded lighting controls, Hunter Douglas, iHome, Legrand, LIFX, Lutron Electronics, P&G, Philips hue, Rachio, Somfy, SkyBell, Tyco, and WeMo. Google also plans to add Nest Weave to the OnHub router. More are expected to follow as well.

In addition to Nest Weave, the company also debuted a new Nest Cam API, so that several products can connect to the wireless security camera. August, Mimo, Petnet, Philips hue and Skybell will start integrating products with the Nest Cam this month.

And finally, Nest is working on launching the Works with Nest Store, a one-stop online shop for all “Works with Nest” products. Currently, there’s an online store that offers the Nest thermostat, the Nest Protect, and the Nest Cam. However, the new Store will be available to customers later this year.

“Building a connected product is hard,” said Matt Rogers, vice president of engineering, Nest. “We’ve been doing it for the past five years and have first-hand experience with the challenges. That’s why we want to make it easier for developers. We’re offering proven technologies like Nest Weave, along with cloud services and the ability to integrate with the Nest app. Developers have an end-to-end solution when they work with Nest, and can use only the parts of the program that meet their needs.”

Nest Weave, Nest cloud services and the Nest app integration will be available to developers in 2016.

Original author: Rachel Cericola
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06
Oct

Understanding Home Theater Receivers

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Onkyo Home Theater Receiver

If it’s been more than a few years since you’ve upgraded your home theater receiver, then you’ve got some catching up to do. Home theater receivers function as the main box for processing audio signals and feeding them to your speakers, but the category has progressed into wilder territory than that. AV receivers are now the central hub for a complete entertainment system, combining audio signal processing, smart input switching, automatic calibration, video scaling, media streaming and system control. Check out these home theater receivers for under $1,000.

Power Output
Power output should be one of the first features you look for when selecting a home theater receiver. You’ll want enough power to fill your room and juice your speakers, but don’t just look for the biggest numbers. Power ratings are described in watts per channel, each channel being one speaker, but not all watts are created equal. Ideally, look for high power measured at low distortion (usually between 0.02% and 0.08% THD (total harmonic distortion). Power is also measured at a certain impedance, or electrical resistance. On most receivers you’ll see impedance measured at 8 ohms; make sure that number matches the impedance of your speakers. A typical power specification may look like this: 100 watts x 7 into 8 ohms (20-20k) at 0.05% THD. Some manufacturers will only list a “maximum” power specification which is not an accurate reflection of what the system will deliver for you.

So how much power will you need? That depends on several variables. Some speakers are more sensitive than others and will therefore require less power to drive to the same volume as less sensitive speakers. Similarly, a small room won’t need the same 200-watts- per-channel that a 20-seat theater does.

Speaker Outputs
How many speakers do you need? For a proper home theater, you must have a minimum of 5 speakers and 1 subwoofer (5.1), but many people opt for the fuller experience of a 7.1 or 9.2 system. Often with a 7.1 receiver, you can set up a 5.1 home theater and use the additional two channels as stereo speakers for another room.

Ports and Terminals
While feeding audio signals to speakers is one of the primary jobs of a receiver, it’s the inputs that bring home theater systems together. The receiver acts as the interchange that lets all the signals come in, then directs them to the proper place.

If your system components are all fairly new, then most will rely on HDMI (most will have version 1.4a by now, but you should look for HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 DRM copy protection to support new Ultra HD content). A minimum to consider would be a receiver with 3 HDMI inputs (for a Blu-ray player, cable box and game console) and one HDMI output. A home theater with more components (Ruku, Apple TV, multiple game consoles…) will obviously require a receiver with more inputs. Other audio/video inputs include digital optical and coax, plus analog stereo inputs. Additionally, if you have older components, then you’ll need analog inputs, such as component, composite and S-video.

For ease of installation, the speaker terminals on the back of home theater receivers should be clearly labeled and allow enough finger space for connecting and tightening the speaker wire.

On more fully-featured receivers, expect to find additional inputs like Ethernet, USB, additional AC power outputs, RS-232 for connection to a control system, IR ports to support a remote control, and pre-amp outputs for sending signals to an additional amplifier. IP control compatibility is increasingly becoming important as well. A few newer receivers even include Ethernet switches, which is convenient if you have multiple streaming devices in your system. Do you want to listen to vinyl records? Then a phono input may be in order. A few front panel inputs can be helpful, too, for quick connections to USB hard drives, video cameras and gaming consoles.

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Audio Processing
There was a time not so long ago when audio processing was not terribly complicated. Most all DVDs were in Dolby Digital, sometimes DTS. Now there are multiple audio formats, so your receiver should be capable of handling all or most of them (they keep changing, so there’s a good chance that once you take your receiver out of the box, another new codec will be released). In addition to the various Dolby and DTS decoders, many receivers include a variety of surround-sound modes and processing settings. High-end models often include THX certifications, which signify that the product meets certain reference standards.

The newest audio CODECs to insist on are Dolby Atmos and Auro3D. Both create three-dimensional sound experiences. Dolby Atmos soundtracks are showing up on more Blu-ray releases now. To appreciate Dolby Atmos you’ll need in-ceiling speakers or Dolby Atmos compatible up-firing speakers.

Video Processing
Because today’s receivers can handle more than just audio signals, video upconversion can frequently be found on better products. Video processing chips from Marvell, HQV, Anchor Bay and others will scale signals to 1080p or even up to 4K and allow you to adjust a number of video settings for the best picture.

Setup and Calibration
Let’s be honest: Setting up a receiver can be confusing. Many manufacturers are taking some of the guesswork out of the process by incorporating auto-calibration features into their products. Included with an auto-cali-bration receiver is a small microphone. When it’s in its setup mode, the receiver transmits a series of test tones from each speaker while the connected microphone records the levels so that the receiver can make the necessary adjustments. The result is a perfectly balanced audio system, and all you had to do was press a button.

Multizone Distribution
Most good receivers can distribute audio and video signals to several independent listening and viewing zones (rooms). Some receivers come with an extra set of line level stereo outputs, which will require a connection to an additional stereo amplifier or active speakers. Other units will have additional amplified speaker terminals to support multiple zones. Many also offer additional video outputs so you can send audio and video signals discretely to other zones, like to the back yard or the dining room.

Remote Control
While the receiver is the brain of a home theater system, the remote is really in charge. Basic receivers come with basic remotes, which often can be frustrating to use. Better products include universal learning remotes capable of handling the control functions of all your gear. Many incorporate HDMI:CEC, a protocol that allows all HDMI-connected products in a system to be run by one remote. Unfortunately, HDMI:CEC is only a basic standard and may be implemented differently across brands. The best products come precertified for compatibility with advanced control systems, which require professional installation. Nearly every new receiver will also have a compatible iOS and Android app that permits some level of control. These are usually good as secondary or backup remote solutions.

Extras
If you’re looking for more than just a place to plug in a host of audio and video components, check out the list of extra features available on many receivers. The most commonly found feature is iPod/iPhone/iPad connectivity. Other features sometimes found on receivers include the ability to stream content from a PC and the Internet. High-resolution DACs for playing higher-quality audio files is also a plus.

Learn more about amplifier class here.

This article was originally published on May 15, 2015 and updated on October 6, 2015.

 

Original author: EH Staff
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30
Aug

RTI Custom Home Automation

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RTI is one of the best custom home automation in the market, until recently RTI have bean just a great universal remote control system until they came out with smart phone and tablets user interface as well as new products and features.

Smart Homes Innovations have installed many smart homes systems over the years from all the top brands in the market and after seeing those systems in action and geting the feedback from our clinets this is by far one of the best smart home system in the market! RTI can integrate to most of the top 3rd party systems out there like NEST thermostat, Sonos Audio system, Lutron RA2 Lighting system and much more... and we can tell you that integrating to those system is very easy on our technical side so you experiance a great seamless working system. 

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07
Jul

Ring

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Video Doorbell for Your Smartphone

The Ring™ Video Doorbell lets you answer the door from anywhere using your smartphone. It features an HD camera with night vision, providing a clear view from your front door, day and night.

A built-in rechargeable battery lets you install the doorbell anywhere, or connect it to existing doorbell wiring. Motion-triggered alerts sent via the free Ring™ app (iOS® and Android™) notify you of arriving guests and deliveries.

Cloud Recording ensures you’ll never miss any activity at your home. With Ring, you’re always home.

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13
Apr

Connected Home Control

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Affordable Smart Home System

We have been installing and testing the New ProControl remote control system for a about a year now and I have to say its 100% success, easy to install and program and customers just love it! And the way it works with no RF glitches compare to other brands out there. We just love it!

Recently Pro Control have been integrating popular name brands to their systems so now we can connect the Lutron Caseta Wireless ,Nest thermostat and Sonos audio system into a single app, and of course it will connect and control your local audio video system like your TV, Cable box etc. so all you need is your iPad and the ProControl processor and you have an amazing low cost smart home system.

For more information please call 877.744.1477 or Contact Us page

 

free consultation button

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07
Feb

WiFi-enabled Smart Pool Thermometer

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Everything in the home is smartening up these days. We’ve seen plenty of smart pool cleaners and temperature controls. However, the Vigilant LilyPad allows you to just check in on that waiting water temperature from any smartphone or tablet.

“Big whoop,” you say? Well, that’s not all that this little device can do. This smart pool thermometer may actually save your life! (Not saying anything nasty now, are you?) Continue reading
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16
Jan

Alarm.com Adds Location-based Geo-Services to Home Automation System

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The new option can automatically adjust lights and send alerts about open garages, windows and doors.

The best home automation system should be automatic—and easy.Alarm.com is looking to deliver on that but with an added twist, via Geo-Services.

Geo-Services is a fancy term for “location-based automation.” That basically means that something like your thermostat will always know where you are and when, and will make home adjustments accordingly.

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16
Jan

Apple HomeKit Smart Home Devices Unveiled at CES

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Although Apple didn’t exhibit at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this year, its home automation platform, Apple HomeKit, was well represented by several companies that introduced new HomeKit-enabled products. These recent additions strengthen Apple’s play in the home automation marketplace and will likely encourage future developments from other manufacturers still scratching their heads about which home-automation protocol camp to join. Continue reading
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05
Nov

7 Great Places for In-wall or In-Ceiling Speakers

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In-ceiling or in-wall speakers are very popular for home theater and media rooms where people want the focus on the screen and not on big speakers. Built-in speakers are especially popular for living rooms or family rooms where home furnishings and walking traffic take precedence over electronics, but quality sound is still desired.

Ceiling speakers or in-wall speakers (also called architectural speakers) are perfect for other parts of the home too. Any place you listen to music and don't want floor or shelf speakers getting in your way is a good place for an architectural speaker. If you have an intercom system or a home security system (that sends alerts to the speakers), putting speakers in less-than obvious rooms is also an important safety issue. Here are 7 of our favorite places consider installing some.

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14
Oct

The Nest Thermostat.

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Energy saving features

The Nest Learning Thermostat offers several features that help users save energy: Auto ­Schedule, Auto ­Away, Time­ to­ Temperature, True Radiant, the Nest Leaf, Energy History and Report, and remote control using the Nest app.

Auto ­Schedule

The Nest Thermostat automatically learns customers’ schedules and preferences based on their selected temperatures. Through the automatic learning algorithm, the thermostat creates a setback schedule that uses a lower temperature setting when people are away or asleep, providing energy savings without compromising comfort.

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08
Oct

5 Tips for Better Home Networking

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You are trying to watch a film in high-def on Apple TV,  your daughter is listening to Spotify while she’s doing homework,  your wife is working on her laptop,  your toddler is playing on the iPad, and your son is, gulp, doing some serious PC gaming. All this online action can bring your home network to its knees.

With the ever-growing trend in home networking of connected home-entertainment gadgets and gear adding to this already gridlocked state of affairs, a strong home network is a must . . . but not a given.  To get the most out of your IP-based toys, we talked with the folks from Luxul, maker of robust networking products for both the home and office. Here are a few tips for making sure your network is ready and optimized for smooth operation.

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21
Sep

Vanishing Television For Your Home

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Incorporating the latest technology into your home doesn’t mean compromising your décor. Séura’s vanishing mirror displays provide a crisp television image and, when turned off, a fashionable mirror remains without a hint of its technological applications. You decide when a television is in the room with the simple push of a remote control button. No more unsightly and obtrusive monitors!

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18
Sep

Pyng by Crestron - The Home Automation App

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The App is All You Need

Don't just add an app to the home automation system; download the app that IS your home automation system.

Crestron Pyng™ enables complete setup and control in just a few easy steps right from the iPad. Smart Homes Innovations can create lifestyle scenes for each room, schedule events, and much more in minutes without ever opening a laptop.

Setting up a new home is streamlined by pairing Crestron Pyng accessories with the app. Accessories include Crestron wireless lighting controls, shading solutions, thermostats, and Yale wireless door locks, as well as security systems. Home settings are backed up to the cloud, so making changes is easy and secure.

Once the initial set up is complete, anyone can easily modify settings or create new scenes right from the app. Homeowners can make changes themselves with the confidence that all their original settings are backed up in the cloud.

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14
Sep

What is Dolby Atmos?

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What is Dolby Atmos? and should you care about it? i think we all should care about it. Dolby Atmos is true multidimensional listening experience in the cinema and at home. It precisely places and moves sounds anywhere to match the scene, including overhead. This is will change the way we watch and listening to movies for ever, after listing to a demo few days ago at Dolby's theater in CEDIA i was amazed how the sound travels around and across the room like there is a hundred of speakers in every corners you can't believe it until you hear it. Truly a new cinema experience.

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03
Sep

Should you upgrade to a UHD 4K TV now?

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If you are in the market for buying a new TV you probably asked yourself should i get the new 4K or should i just get the 1080p TV? great question, my personal opinion is NO don't buy the 4K just yet, you are probably surprised to hear it from me right? well how much of a 4K content there is out there maybe a handful that's it DVD players are not native 4K they are up-scale only don't get confused so it will only allow you to see your Blu-ray DVD (1080p) in more pixels its slightly better then 1080p at this point but its nothing compared to a true 4K resolution.

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Tagged in: 4K TV HDTV UHD TV
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02
Sep

Do you have HDMI signal problems on your TV?

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Have you ever experienced issues with your TV displaying no image or the image goes in and out every few minutes? we do to, no worries the problem is due to HDMI technology and the way your TV and the video source like cable box and DVD player are talking to each other, This two-way communication first encompasses EDID exchange, with HDCP authentication to follow if the content to be displayed is HDCP-encrypted. Successful completion of both is prerequisite to enabling the flow of digital AV content from source to display. Problems with EDID or HDCP are major causes of system failure leading to this very common symptom: a blank or blue screen with a message that reads “No Signal Present” or something similar. Issues with HDCP handshaking are well-known in the field. EDID also has a long history in AV and is widely familiar to integrators. However, it is also difficult to fully understand, and perhaps more importantly, to effectively troubleshoot when things go wrong in a digital video setup.

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27
Aug

Caséta Wireless Lighting Control System

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Adjusting lights from a smart phone has never been easier, more reliable, or affordable.

If you are looking for a simple lighting control system that is easy to install can you can control it from your smart phone or tablet look no further! Lutron just released their new wireless lighting system that everyone can afford, Control lights from anywhere in a room with Caséta Wireless remote controls and dimmers. Take light control to a whole new level with a convenient, energy-saving solution that installs in minutes. Once you make the switch to Caséta Wireless, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

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24
Aug

Integra Introduces New Receivers

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Integra, a brand whose products are specifically engineered for custom audio/video installers, has introduced two new home theater receivers, models DTR-30.6 and DTR-40.6. Both are designed to provide state-of-the-art home theater sound and video performance by combining the latest HDMI version supporting 4K/60 Hz and HDCP 2.2 copy protection, as well as excellent compatibility with advanced multi-room and home automation systems. The DTR-40.6 is also THX Select2 Plus certified to help ensure the finest audio quality possible and includes HDBaseT connectivity.

Both models provide seven-channels of power at 95 and 110 watts per channel, respectively. The DTR-30.6 has seven HDMI inputs and two outputs while the DTR-40.6 includes HDBaseT connectivity along with the 7 in/ 2 out HDMI configuration. HDBaseT is the only technology that enables long-reach wired connectivity up to 328 feet (100 meters) for uncompressed full HD multimedia content, through a single CAT5e/6 cable, including 3D and 2K/4K Ultra HD making it ideal for the custom integration specialists. The HDBaseT and HDMI output ports on the DTR-40.6 can be assigned for either main or second zone configuration.

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