Electronic Design Group Wins CEDIA Level 5 Award for CAT System Design

Chili Davis was part of three World Series winning teams over his 19-year Major League Baseball career with the Giants, Angels, Twins, Royals and Yankees, but it was his home theater system that garnered the most recent awards, thanks in part to the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Electronic Design Group (EDG).
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Chili Davis was part of three World Series winning teams over his 19-year Major League Baseball career with the Giants, Angels, Twins, Royals and Yankees, but it was his home theater system that garnered the most recent awards, thanks in part to the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Electronic Design Group (EDG).

EDG was awarded the Best Level 5 Home Theater at the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) awards ceremony on September 8, in Indianapolis, Indiana, for its work on Davis' home in Paradise Valley, Arizona. Level 5 is the highest budget level for the awards, with a range of $380,001-$785,000. Davis paid $346,000 for the theater system and $154,000 for the remainder of the project. The system also won the Best Home Theater Architecture award for TK Theaters of New York City.

The system contains five main components. First, is a custom-built California Audio Technology (CAT) speaker system that includes three CAT Sonoma front speakers positioned left, center and right, two pairs of JBL custom-side and rear-surround speakers and 12 CAT 3.0 SUB in-wall subwoofer drivers.

The second components are Audio Design Associates (ADA) amplifiers that are built to CAT's specifications. CAT and ADA actually have an exclusive partnership, a relationship that pre-dates the Davis project. ADA produced the only amplifier that could handle the power of the CAT speakers.

Next, is a Digital Projection Highlight 5000 1024 x 768 DLP 4500 ANSI lumens projector with a Stewart A/B Electriscreen 81 x 144-inch motorized screen. These particular units were selected because the 40 x 28-foot room required a high-ANSI, high-output projector, and this model produced the best picture in that class. The projector alone produces so much heat that it requires its own HVAC air-conditioning unit for the projector room to provide significant cooling year round. Without this the projector would go into thermal overload, eventually shutting down. The HVAC unit also cools the adjacent equipment room, where six, full-height Middle Atlantic racks fit into a space with only six feet of overall depth. These racks hold, among other components, a Pioneer DVDV-555 DVD/Karaoke Player, a Sony DVP-CX850D 200 Disc DVD Changer and a Sony SLVM20 HF Hi-Fi Stereo VCR with Smart File. A second air conditioning unit cools the main theater room.

Also in the equipment room is an Escient TB PRO MK II Multi-Room CD Management System, which allows Davis to load up to 1,600 compact disks at once, and is expandable up to 4,800 CDs. Finally, an AMX PHAST control system accesses all the home theater features from a touch panel. The PHAST systems enables Davis to control window treatments, curtains, temperature and lighting all from the touch screen. He can also access up to 20 play lists of custom-created music. As a result Davis can select "B" on the PHAST Viewpoint touch panel and access the entire Beatles play list. "Chili's theater combines shining video clarity with precise and powerful audio in an environment that's whimsical in its architectural design," said EDG vice president of sales, Tony Tangalos, 41.

Tangalos, who founded EDG in 1995 and owned the company for seven years, said the "whimsical" architecture originates from the 8-foot-high, to-scale, 3-D model of the South Beach, Florida, skyline--complete with working lights--that surrounds the main room. Len Smith, 48, has been EDG's president and owner since January, when he bought the company from Tangalos. He said that the CEDIA award was possible due to the team effort of the company's nine employees. "As big complex theaters go, this particular job came together due to the efforts of a lot of people, both with the client and behind the scenes," said Smith, who is new to the A/V installation industry after being president of two insurance businesses. Smith said that five employees--warehouse manager John Barry, lead installer Chip Satterlund, closing project manager Andy Watkins, programmer Jeff Quick and Tangalos--provided a "Herculean" feat on the system.

Tangalos said the project was seven years in the making. Davis' former home in Scottsdale was completed in 1990, but he was unhappy when the home theater system had to be built to fit the house. For his next home the avid audio/video enthusiast wanted to make the theater the focal point, so he designed the entire system himself even before the house was designed. "Chili said, 'I'm going to have my own theater design,' and then he literally designed the house around the theater," Tangalos said. It was during the construction of the first home in 1988 that Tangalos became good friends with Davis. His first company, Electronic Design Associates, was building that home theater system. This relationship would eventually lead to EDG winning the job on Davis' new home.

Tangalos said the biggest challenge for the project--and the main sticking point to whether or not EDG would undertake such a project again--was managing five independent trades that each had its own agendas and conflicting goals. This included the architects, builders, lighting specialists and independent contractors. "I would love to do it again as long as EDG is the recognized project manager, and there are clearly stated and unanimously agreed to series of steps as to the specific responsibilities of each subcontractor," Tangalos said. Tangalos added that this "traffic cop" was needed to avoid such problems as not having a place to install the speakers because it had not even been built yet. Tangalos and CAT's Brian Barr are now working together, along with other top CAT dealers to develop a mutually agreed standardized list of protocols for future high-end theater projects.

Smith said he agrees that a main project manager would have made the Davis project an easier one, and that EDG should take on that role in the future. He believes that, in the end, it is the client's decision who should be the project manager, and that that decision has to be respected by all of the trades.

"You're dealing with high-end products and with savvy clients who expect you to perform," he said.

Smith said that, currently, EDG is building home theater systems for new homes and retrofitting theaters into existing homes, all in the greater Phoenix area. However, that may change in the future when EDG becomes more involved in projects outside the city.

"We are always looking for opportunities, but it really has to fit what we're trying to accomplish," he said. "Our plan is to keep the new theater efforts in place and expand the retro activity." Smith added that they already have a new marketing relationship with Be At Home to allow users to access the Internet to monitor their homes using closed circuit cameras, as well as control temperature and lighting.

As for the CEDIA award, Smith said it has added more credibility to EDG in the greater Phoenix area and will help the company further market its skills.

"The award helps us to be positioned where we belong, which is as an award-winning organization," Smith said. "And it's one we want to win again."

--Craig Mandelbaum is a freelance writer in the New York area.

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