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The Apartment

Park Avenue Audio Adds Panache to a New York City Domicile

Its a slice of city life: A 30-something couple buys a newly renovated, spacious, three-bedroom apartment in a venerable old building with high ceilings and an address on New Yorks Upper East Side.

They like technology and they want music in every room, home theater in the living room and master bedroom, and easy integration and control of lighting onto one type of interface. They want systems that are clean looking, only showing what cannot be concealed.

Enter Evan Fusco, vice president of custom sales and design, Park Avenue Audio, in New York City. Park Avenue, which maintains a retail presence in midtown Manhattan, concentrates on residential clients in that borough, working mainly in apartments and townhouses undergoing renovations that include extensive A/V systems upgrades or new installations.

Park Avenue Audio was born out of the audiophile business, and we still do about 20 percent on the retail side, Fusco said. The retail space also acts as our showroom for custom design and installation, and having potential clients see what they are considering works to our advantage. Were located in an office and banking neighborhood so weekend traffic is slower, but were a destination.

For the recent project, Fusco was approached by the clients New York-based interior designer, Jennine Williams. Williams, who designed and managed the renovation, wanted to incorporate new technology with many elements of traditional Upper East Side living. The result was a $130,000 full-on Crestron-controlled project featuring two plasma home theaters, living room and master bedroom, two other rooms with stereo audio and plasma/LCD displays, four rooms of music, and a Crestron lighting system. Sound Advance invisible speakers provide audio throughout the home, with additional speakers and subwoofers in the living room and master bedroom.

Park Avenue also integrated Crestron control of shades, thermostats with remote temperature and humidity sensors, and security, including peephole cameras at the main and service entries. Crestron TPS-2000Ls, ML-500s and a STX-1700CXP controls handle A/V, lighting, and shades. The main rack is located in a closet in the maids room. Music sources include XM satellite, CD player, and Time Warner music through a dedicated cable box.

The project presented an opportunity to utilize several TPS-2000L features such as video for security, two-way XM information, and C2NSSC2 shade controllers. Lighting control is augmented by C2NDB8 single-gang, Decora-style keypads located in intuitive light switch locations to allow anyone to roam the apartment with ease. A processor backup feature for the AV2 is in place to assume lighting controls and notify Park Avenue should the PAC2 fail.

Weve been Crestron dealer for about two years, Fusco said. Its the only company offering total control of A/V equipment without exceptions, via infrared, serial, Ethernet, or IP protocol. This open architecture offers greater choices for pairing with other gear, and since Crestron is close to us, we can usually get anything we need the next day.

Crestron wireless remote controls work well in the city, because they have a rugged RF protocol with a friendly range of use, Fusco explained. The STX-1700CXP is a two-way wireless device that has the same feedback capabilities as the TPS-2000L wall panels.

The living room features a Leon Horizon HZ/515/50 LCR main speaker incorporating left, right, and center channels, and is the exact width of a 55-inch Fujitsu P55XHA40US HD plasma that sits above a fireplace. The grill cloth and paint match the bezel on the TV. The invisible surround speakers are sealed on the back to mitigate noise that might travel to neighboring apartments. A local DVD player is built into an enclosure to the right of the fireplace.

The majority of New Yorkers dont have dedicated theaters, Fusco said. Like these clients, they have multi-purpose rooms with surround sound and good-sized plasma displays. Fujitsu invented the technology and stand behind it with longer warranties. They offer a 55-inch which is a good larger size for New York apartments.

The master bedroom, which has a 50-inch Fujitsu plasma, has Artison LCR plasma attached speakers, well suited, Fusco said, to go onto the sides of the TV. Like the living room, the master bedroom has a Definitive Technology SuperCube Powered Subwoofer under a skirted table. The master bath features Sound Advance in-ceiling speakers and a TPS-2000 in-wall touch panel on the odd chance that batteries run out in the bedroom, or that the remote is misplaced.

Other features of the system include a 32-inch Sharp TV on an arm in the eat-in kitchen. When not in use, the TV retracts into custom millwork. The kitchen also has an in-wall touch panel and a hard button remote with a display screen. The touch panel controls dining room lights and music as well.

For the living room STX-1700CXP, Sculpt3D (Bonita Springs, Florida) made custom bezels for us, Fusco said. They cut holes in only one side of the remotes bezel, and engraved the buttons with glow-in-the-dark materials. The one side only approach makes the remote much easier to pick up without accidentally depressing buttons.

The guest bedroom has a 12-button keypad and invisible speakers, and the study, which opens to the master bedroom, has a 42-inch plasma and a hard button remote with display screen, and a TPS-2000L in-wall touch panel.

I use Crestron for all of Park Avenues high-end A/V projects and commercial integration, Fusco said. We use Crestron lighting when clients want maximum control with one unified device for A/V and lighting to reduce wall clutter. When adding lighting control on a retrofit basis, Lutron Radio Ra integrates nicely.

The projects success, Fusco said, is due in part to Park Audios working relationship with Williams, who takes a hands-on approach to interior design, and with the general contractor, JCR Contracting in New Hyde Park, New York, who is creative and a problem solver.

Their project manager, John Stolz, was totally solution oriented, Fusco said. Hiring a contractor with active and present supervisory staff who is willing and interested in working with the other trades makes a big difference. Even when a busy client pays little attention to the project, as is often the case in the city, the right contractor can overcome that potential problem, as JCR does.

The realm of urban residential projects has its own nuances, he said. In the suburbs, where houses are primarily wood construction, its relatively easy to run wires. However, many older New York City buildings have solid block or concrete walls making it difficult to run wire. In newer city buildings, the floors and ceilings are super concrete between floors.

Although thats an obstacle, the nice thing is that the walls are hollow and we can pull wire through easily, Fusco said. For this project, I had the contractor pull wire, a common practice in the city where contractors generally have this high skill set.

Scheduling within the confines of permissible working hours also can be challenging. New York building hours are from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The buildings are manned by doormen and maintenance staff, and in some buildings many of them go to lunch simultaneously which means we cant get up or down in the service elevators at that time, Fusco said.

One urban trend Fusco notices is that everybody wants his or her computer to be a music source. That can be handled well or poorly, he said. The big conflict is that people who keep a lot of music on their computers dont have great control interfaces from their multi-room systems. Some products such as Sonos handle this well, but integration of home computers into a foolproof music source is not quite there yet. Younger people tend do it more easily.

Since many city projects are design driven, clients seem to care less and less about sound quality, Fusco continued. Theyre using iPods as their main music source controlled through touch panels. The sound qualityunless theyre very careful when they downloadis not great. The number of people with the passion for chasing the last five percent of sound quality has decreased, but not for those who really appreciate the art of music.

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