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A Penthouse View

State-of-the-art technology, impeccably installed but never obvious, heard but not seen. Thats the design ticket to a 7,800-square-foot penthouse on Fisher Island.

State-of-the-art technology, impeccably installed but never obvious, heard but not seen. Thats the design ticket to a 7,800-square-foot, sixth-floor penthouse on Fisher Island, Florida, an exclusive enclave near Miami, accessible by private ferry.

The single-level contemporary family residence includes whole-house A/V, lighting, HVAC, and a multi-purpose media room featuring a Kaleidescape DVD server. No area of the home is devoid of technology attention: the master bath has an LCD behind a mirror for her, a 32-inch Sony tube TV behind a mirror for him. Spacious terraces overlooking the Atlantic have Sonance Symphony Extreme speakers.

The $575,000 system was designed and installed by Miami-based Advanced Home Theater. Founded in 1996 by Al Reinhard and Robin Bogle, AHT is a premier custom installer with clients in Florida and around the world, including Chicago, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, the Bahamas, London, and Thailand.

Al and I are hands-on owners, Bogle noted. Were not only engineers but salesmen and project managers. We work together on all our larger projects and handle smaller ones individually.

The key to AHTs success, Bogle says, is stocking core product at all times. Its essential. For many of our clients, this is their second or third home, and if something is not in proper working condition we can swap it out immediately.

The penthouse client, a medical equipment entrepreneur, was a new client for AHT. We were introduced by Lorraine Letendre, a well-known Fisher Island interior designer, Reinhard said. She loves tech but hates to see it in a room. Weve worked with her for about five years as well as with Handcraft Woodworking in Boca Raton.

There are Crestron touchscreen panels of every size and type throughout the multi-zone home, for total control from any location. But the system doesnt stand out until a touchscreen is activated. Then it all comes to life; thats the best part, Reinhard said.

The most important consideration was ease of use for everyone in the family, which includes two teenagers, he says. Crestron is reliable, and the company is great to deal with. They and Lutron, which we also installed here, are major partners of ours.

For the media room, about 28 by 20 feet on the east side of the residence, AHT selected a Marantz PD6140 61-inch plasma, Sony Qualia 004 SXRD front projector, Escient CD Management System, Stewart Luxus Model A 110-inch screen, and Electro Kinetics motorized lift for the projector. Two central racks are located in the media room, with four more racks in the kids rooms, master bedroom and office.

When you walk into the media room the only thing you see is the plasma and a Crestron TPMC-10 wireless touch screen panel on the bar, Reinhard said.

The TPMC is a great piece. We try to implement products that are rock solid; were not reinventing the wheel. We dont want to have to wait for things to be refined.

The screen is integrated into the custom millwork, hidden from view until it drops down. The client had a low-quality projector in his previous home, and he didnt feel that he needed a projector here, Reinhard said. Once he was introduced to the quality of the 004 he changed his mind. It drops down from the ceiling, and I think the picture quality if very lifelike. We used to do a lot of CRTs and had a hard time adapting to the new type of tech such as DLP or DLiA. This is the one that comes closest to matching the characteristics of the CRT.

Complementing two pairs of Triad Silver Surrounds, AHT installed three in-ceiling Triad Silver Mini Monitors, left, center, and right, for the room. We didnt have space in the cabinets, and the client doesnt like grill cloth, Reinhard said. We used in-ceiling monitors; theyre best for the application.

The centerpiece of the media room is the Kaleidescape system. When we first saw it, at a CEDIA show, we were a little skeptical, Reinhard said. We didnt really audition it; we knew it was pricey, and we were wary of implementing anything new. We found it hard to swallow the price tag of $32,000 plus $4,000 per additional room. For the penthouse, they have it in five zones, for $48,000. Thats a car.
When a Kaleidescape rep visited and dropped off a demo, Reinhard and Bogle took it home, and changed their minds about the product. We loved it, Reinhard said. Robins wife and my girlfriend loved it. Women are rarely impressed with tech, but they took to it. We saw it as something special. It comes together so well, and the interface between user and machine is so minimal that any client can do it.

The penthouse client knew a little about the product, and when AHT showed him the demo, he was sold, Reinhard says. Weve now been a Kaleidescape dealer for nine months. Once we had it we were absolutely sold on the product and the company. They dont sit back and ship and walk away. Theyre on top of everything.

Reinhard is undaunted by the current lawsuit against Kaleidescape by the DVD CCA. In the end, he said, there will be some resolution to this lawsuit that will enable Kaleidescape to continue to do business. The DVD CCA cannot kill an entire segment of the market. Kaleidescape is fully committed to its dealers and clients. I have personally spoken with [Kaleidescape founder, CEO and chairman] Michael Malcolm, and he has assured me they will fight the lawsuit because they feel they have done all they can to comply with the DVD CCA.

In fact, Malcolm is assuring dealers that his company has been careful from the outset to do everything on the up and up in compliance with the law and the required license agreements.

Thats the way we do things, Malcolm said. In fact, Malcolms wife, Denise Malcolm, is an intellectual property and securities attorney who also serves as general counsel to the company. She has helped Kaleidescape navigate myriad legal issues since its inception.

With a product like this we needed to license more than 2,000 patents, and enter into a number of license agreements; this is a whole new world compared to the computer industry, Malcolm said. We were flabbergasted when the DVD CCA filed a lawsuit, and were going to fight it vigorously. We know were on good solid footing.
He remains confident that his company will survive any outcome of the lawsuit. Malcolm points out that a significant part of Kaleidescapes business remains unrelated to the lawsuit. We have enterprise sales, and later this year, well introduce support for music, he said.

Malcolm was careful to note that dealers and customers are not parties to the lawsuit. This is strictly a contract dispute between the DVD CCA and Kaleidescape, he said. There are no allegations about copyright infringement. Our dealers understand this, he said. We have a great network of dealersa couple hundred worldwideand the list continues to grow.

Having completed the penthouse system in February, AHT is looking forward to designing another whole-house system, featuring Kaleidescape, for the same owner who recently purchased a waterfront home in Miami. The penthouse is for sale, Reinhard said. Weve already started designing the new system. The client wants every aspect done, from current integration to wiring for the future. This will be a premier project.

AHT will move the Kaleidescape server, with its content, to the new home, and purchase new players. Of course, well put another blank server in the penthouse for the new owners, he said.

Karen Mitchell is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado.