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Getting to Know SE2 Labs

Until seeing the ITC One product in person, I had no idea how cool it really was.

There was a full-size diagram that greeted me when I entered the W Hotel meeting room to visit with SE2 Labs last month in Chicago. The poster, which Im confident will be on display at next months CEDIA EXPO, shows an AutoCAD drawing of a full Middle Atlantic Products rack, stock full of gear. Next to it is an AutoCAD drawing of SE2 Labs pre-built ITC One box that includes the same functionality as the MAP rack, at a third of the height.The ITC One enclosure is much sleeker than advertised.

Before meeting SE2 Labs founder Mike Pyle in person, Id interviewed him remotely for the magazine and learned about the concept behind the ITC One. Until seeing the product in person, however, I had no idea how cool it really was.

The ITC One is a home theater in a box on steroids. Pyle, as part of the management team for high-end Utah integrator Aurant, used to pre-build racks for other residential electronic systems contractors. Over time, he began to realize that by using the same mix of products in the rack, he could create certain efficiencies that his competitors could not. Eventually he realized that circuit boards and other internal parts could be extracted from the black metal boxes housing most components, and integrated back into one, smaller unit. The end result was the ITC One, which ended up weighing 110 lbs, taking two hours of labor to build, with 30 connections at $25,000 MSRP. Thats compared to the same gear, left as separates in an MAP rack, that weighs 275 lbs, takes 80-plus hours of labor, hosts 330 connections and costs $45,000 MSRP.

SE2 Labs found Mike Pyle during his Chicago media event in late July When I first spoke to Pyle late last year I understood the concept completely and had faith that Pyle knew what he was doing. But theres nothing like seeing the finished product and listening to and watching content from it to help it really sink in. Its truly amazing how well the SE2 Labs team has integrated such a long laundry list of products into one small chassis, then fine-tuning the overall performance of the gear as well. Heres everything thats packed into a typical ITC One box:

Vidikron Video Processor
Bryston Digital Surround Processor
ICEpower High-end D-Class Amplifiers
Netlinx Control System
Transparent Cable Power Conditioning
Microsoft Xbox 360
Apple iPod video dock
HD DVR from DirecTV (or Dish or Comcast)
SE2 RF System Remote Control
Super Quiet Cooling System
4.3 Front Touch Screen
Anti-Noise and Vibration System
Super Easy 2 Connect Rear Panel
Transparent Cable Harness
Apple TV (optional)
Blu-ray Disc Drive (optional)
Nintendo Wii (optional)

Not only was the performance of this gear at even a higher caliber than what Ive come to expect from professionally integrated AV systems, but the size and design of the box were sleeker than anything system of this size and scope that Ive ever seen.

According to Pyle, the main industrial design influence for the ITC One is the architecture of a building, with its sharp corners, art deco vents, and grid lines reminiscent of windows on a skyscraper. While the design had a definite aesthetic intent (Pyle wanted the unit to blend as easily into a room as it would hide in a cabinet), but much of it was a form following function thing as well. I loved seeing the inner workings of the ITC One and how the circuit boards and cooling fans were so efficiently engineered into such a small box. It was also fun to experience a streamlined AppleTV and an Xbox 360 from the same box. Pyle and I joked about the Apple and Microsoft technologies beating on each other inside the box while we werent looking. The fully stocked “innards” of the ITC One

The cornerstone of the ITC One, however, is performance. Pyle and his team have done a great job making youtube videos actually watchable on large plasma screen and iPod video content look good as well. Hi-def content is supposed to look good, but when you can make the bad stuff look good, youve really accomplished something.

If you havent checked out the ITC One yet, look up Pyle and his team at EXPO. His product might be able to fill a niche or two in your product offerings.