In this season of migration, custom integrators are observing movement of their own. In a growing trend, more firms are designing state-of-the-art residential systems for installation into living spaces and bedrooms, rather than into the sequestered confines of dedicated home theaters.
A recent, ambitious project by AVIA-the 10-year old custom installation company based in Huntington, New York-embodied the spirit of this growing trend by installing a top-tier, high-performance home theater system into a newly constructed bedroom suite. The stunning project, which won Best Hidden Installation award at this year’s CEDIA EXPO, demonstrates the skill and craftsmanship necessary to blend high-tech equipment into a master bedroom without sacrificing style or system performance.
The audio/video system was integrated into a newly constructed, 24- x 20-foot master bedroom, which was built specifically to retain the charming character of home, as well as honor the location’s bucolic, Long Island Sound setting. Therefore, optimizing the space as a fully operational home theater required the AVIA team to use creative techniques to hide even the largest pieces of equipment. Among many of the “firsts” that this ambitious project has accomplished, it includes the first Zenith 60-inch HDTV plasma installation in the U.S.
AVIA’s director of marketing and audio engineer, Bill Alexander, believes that his team was honored with the top CEDIA laurel because of their artful integration and sophisticated mastering of the project’s unique system challenges. “When you see a giant plasma gracefully dropping out of the ceiling, you may not get the full scope of what a huge undertaking this project really was,” he stated. “This is a second-story master bedroom, so the hurdles were immense. We had to rent a specialized lift for the 60-inch plasma, and that was just the beginning.” The gross weight of the final plasma/lift assembly is 500 pounds. The exorbitant weight required a special hydroelectric mechanical lift, a crew of six technicians and a full day to mount it in the second-story ceiling. AVIA turned to Electro Kenetics, specialty-lift manufacturers, for the customized plasma lift. Additionally, the plasma’s viewing angle and distance were measured for optimal “in-bed” viewing, and when retracted, the monitor vanished completely out of sight.
Another novel aspect of project is the center-channel speaker, which the AVIA team positioned right below the plasma in the drop-down lift. “Making that center channel [under the plasma] jive correctly with the right- and left-channel speakers was ultimately important to me as an acoustician, because the center is so close to you while the other channels are so much further back,” Alexander stated. “Generally that is a huge ‘no-no’ when designing a surround sound system, so perfecting that was a great accomplishment.”
For completion of that aspect of the project, AVIA chose an area relatively high on the semi-vaulted ceiling, perpendicular to the main sweet spot (the bed). The speakers themselves were mounted to aim down into the room, angled for proper sonic diffusion.
The system designers on this project, George Fraga, Ernie Wohlleben and Joe Vuotto (who also served as system programmer) had other formidable challenges to overcome. The room’s aesthetic design permitted absolutely no supporting stands or furniture for local audio/visual components. The homeowner requested complete invisibility when the system was not in use, keeping peaceful and placid country milieu intact. To meet this demand, the AVIA team kept the subwoofer and the other audio/video components centralized in a small closet adjacent to the bed. The closet is “open-backed” and accessible from an adjoining sitting room. AVIA utilized an EAS AVTRAK pull out/pivot rack for quick access. The Velodyne subwoofer was set up in a grilled, acoustically dampened cabinet just below the A/V rack.
Another special programming feature included the “sleep-timer function.” When activated, the whole system can shut down sequentially over a five-minute period to reduce sudden changes in ambient system noise.
Every aspect of the room-including audio/video control, lighting control, motorized window treatments (drapery), HVAC, fireplace and surveillance system-is controlled by AMX automation, a wireless AMX Viewpoint remote or DMS keypad.
For the best possible audio performance, AVIA selected the B&K AVR 305 audio/video receiver/power amplifier. Because of the AVR’s flexibility, the integrators were assured of the accurate time aligning and speaker balancing. According to AVIA, the unit also is equipped with a well-designed compression/limiting algorithm to adjust and control the dynamics for late-night bedroom viewing. The receiver features a parametric equalizer to compensate for the low-end frequency build up in the “bedded” portion of the room “We specialize in thinking of the creative solutions to solve major design issues,” Alexander said. “We’re one of the larger residential automation companies in the whole New York area, but more than that, when it comes to designing audio/video and automation systems, we are more creative and imaginative about what we offer to people. We have the best ideas for projects and we have the depth to complete them.”
Margot Douaihy is managing editor of Residential Systems magazine.