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The Art of Invisibility

Sonance proved that a product designed to be heard but not seen could be awarded for its aesthetic beauty and craftsmanship. That was the case at Residential Systems magazines 2007 Resi Awards, where the companys Architectural Series won the award for Best In-Wall or In-Ceiling Speaker in addition to the coveted Product of the Year honor for earning the most votes in the competition.

The Resi Award is the only industry honor that recognizes the industrial design of products catering to the custom installation industry. It is also the only magazine-led competition that features an independent judging paneling of residential electronic systems contractors and independent industrial designers, making it perhaps the most objective award given by a magazine or website.

For custom installers, proper industrial design can mean products that are easier and faster to install. For their customers, it can even provide products that are easier and simpler to use, which can translate into higher satisfaction with fewer callbacks.

In addition to Sonances accolades, 11 other manufacturers were honored for their excellence. The other category winners, which are featured on the following pages, are: Best AV Controller or ComponentControl4s Home Controller HC-300; Best AV MountVantage Points The evo system; Best Combined Product FamilyKaleidescapes Second-Generation Entertainment Server; Best Control InterfaceUniversal Remote Controls MX-810 Remote Control; Best Custom Installation AccessoryiSky Panel Systems; Best Media ServerEscients FireBall FP-1; Best Power Management ProductFurmans Reference i-series; Best Speakers (Bookshelf or Tower)Bowers & Wilkins Signature Diamond; Best Speakers (On-Wall)Leon Speakers Horizon 414-LCR; Best Video Display Device (tie)Fujitsus AVIAMO P65FT00AUB and Runcos VX-22 CineWide with AutoScope.

Product of the Year & Best Speakers (In-Wall or In-Ceiling)
Sonances Architectural Series

A quarter century ago Sonance created what many people consider the first in-wall speaker for the burgeoning custom installation market. Over the years, the essential look and performance characteristics of that original has changed very little. That was until Sonance unveiled its Resi of the Year award-winning Architectural Series last year at CEDIA EXPO.

Sonance co-founder, Scott Struthers, won two Resi Awards for his company’s Architectural Series. In the 25 years since Sonance invented the in-wall speaker for the residential market, every in-wall and in-ceiling speaker has looked the same, with a wide trim surrounding the grille, explained Sonance chief marketing officer, Steven Crawford. Even though the custom installation industry has always called these speakers flush mount, they really are not since the trim always sits on top of the wall or ceiling surface.

Sonance Architectural Series speakers are the first speakers that eliminate the trim and are mounted perfectly flush with the surface. Because theyre available in a range of sizes, shapes, and grille finishes they are also a perfect complement to todays high-end, flush-mount lighting fixtures. Aside from a completely invisible speaker like the companys Sound Advance SA2, Sonances new Architectural Series is the most design neutral speaker available today.

Crawford explained that the companys innovative speaker line was designed, not in a vacuum, but from direct dialog with representatives of every segment of the homebuilding and installation community.

As a company that was built on the idea of providing superior design solutions in custom installation, we are always looking for that next big idea that will improve how well our speakers integrate into architectural spaces, Crawford explained. Our conversations with architects and interior designers told us that they strongly disliked the plastic trim surrounding in-wall and in-ceiling speakers but they tolerated it because they had no other options. We then invested heavily in R&D that not only involved our engineers but also dealers, installers, architects, interior designers, drywallers, and general contractors.

The result was a breakthrough, patented speaker mounting system that guarantees a truly flush, trim-less installation and precise hole with a clean edge every time.

This gives our dealers a highly differentiated product that they can profitably sell at a premium, which is very important in todays market environment, Crawford added.

The Architectural Series speakers recede into subtle geometric forms: square, rectangular, or round. Each one is a visually quiet complement to the lines that define the surrounding architectural space. The installer can select whichever size, shape, and grille material to suit the clients home, without ignoring the demand for audiophile-quality speaker performance. Available in different size footprints for both ceiling and wall installations, 8-, 6-, and 4-inch Architectural Series speakers can mimic high-end flush-mount residential lighting such as Iris, Lucifer, and RSA; complement a high-end plasma screen with high-performance audio speakers; or blend into the surrounding design unobtrusively for multi-room audio applications.

Crawford said that winning the Resi Award for Product of the Year provides validation that the companys strategy is the right one for both Sonance and its dealers. It also confirms the importance of design in the custom installation business, he said. At a time when there is so much focus on video products, winning this award shows that real innovation in design can happen anywhere. We really appreciate the insight of the Resi Award judges in providing Sonance with this recognition.

Best Combined Product Family
The Second-Generation Kaleidescape System

With its perennial success, Kaleidescape is becoming the New York Yankees of the Resi Awards competition. Over the four-year history of Residential Systems recognition program for top product industrial designs in the custom installation business, the media server manufacturer has won a trophy every time. This year the honor was bestowed upon the companys Second-Generation Kaleidescape, a media server designed to join forces with other Kaleidescape components to form a combined product family.

The honor is one that Kaleidescapes CTO Dr. Stephen Watson said he appreciates even more this year than the prior three years. We have designed the form and function of the Kaleidescape System to deliver an exciting and natural user experience that promotes the rediscovery and enjoyment of movies and music, he said. We are honored that Residential Systems has recognized our industrial design with this coveted award.

The Second-Generation Kaleidescape System offers a contemporary and elegant look that complements either traditional or modern dcor. The white front bezels with their cool blue glow stand in contrast with traditional AV equipment, making the components visually stunning conversation pieces. The designs use simple, flowing geometry and elegant lines to create a fresh and unique appearance.

The front bezel of the 3U Server embodies a clean look and feel, yet allows easy access to the Disk Cartridges. The slim front bezel of the Movie Player 2 hides the drive door of the built-in DVD/CD combo drive. Cosmetic side bezels can be added to both products so that they can be placed around the home without introducing an industrial element.

Installing each Kaleidescape component (Movie Player, Music Player, 1U Server, 3U Server) is relatively simple, requiring only ethernet and video and audio outputs, Watson explained. This reduces pre-wire requirements for new construction as well as disruptive wire-pulling in retrofit installations.

The Kaleidescape System components can either be installed in a 19-inch EIA-standard rack or as stand-alone devices. In either configuration, the products are an attractive addition to any whole-house entertainment system.
Our goals for the Second Generation Kaleidescape System included superb performance, outstanding engineering, and customer satisfaction, Watson added.

The 3U Server has the industrys largest storage capacity of up to nine terabytes, capable of storing up to 1,340 DVDs or 15,000 CDs in an economical footprint, while weighing only 58 pounds (holding 14 Disk Cartridges).

Our highly scalable design means that a Kaleidescape System can be designed and customized to meet the unique needs of any customer, Watson added. Movie and music collections can continue to grow by simply adding more servers to provide up to 100 terabytes of system storage. Additional zones can easily be added at any time and the system can support a virtually unlimited number of DVD playback zones.

Reliability was designed in as a core feature of the award-winning system. Kaleidescape proactively monitors the health of every system and notifies the dealer if diagnostics show something is amiss, from a temperature extreme to a disk drive failure, so the dealer can schedule a service call before the customer even knows there is a problem. The companys proprietary RAID-K technology prevents data loss in the event of a disk failure. The 3Us Hot Spare Disk Cartridge automatically activates if a disk drive fails, turning a potentially serious system crash into a routine service call scheduled at the owners convenience.

This is particularly important in marine installations, where the system may be days away from being able to receive assistance, Watson said. Our focus on outstanding engineering and a dedication to customer satisfaction has allowed us to provide the perfect home entertainment solution without compromise.

Best Display Device
Runcos Video Xtreme VX-22d Featuring CineWide with AutoScope

Designed with performance in mind, Runcos Resi Award-winning Video Xtreme VX-22d featuring the companys exclusive CineWide with AutoScope (CWAS) technology is much more than just a pretty face. The THX- and ISF-certified projector combines a sleek black chassis and silver cannon detail with 1920 x 1080 SuperOnyx advanced 3-chip DLP resolution and a unique CineWide anamorphic lens affixed to its exterior.

Runcos ingenious design and technology combination allows end users to utilize and enjoy the most high-fidelity 2.35:1 home cinema experience available. The forerunner in providing super-widescreen 2.35:1 solutions for home theaters, Runco continues to lead the industry as CWAS delivers a true home cinema experience with no loss of resolution or image area to black bars. Runcos VX-22d features a motorized CWAS lens mounted on a specifically designed track allowing it to quickly and seamlessly slide into place in front of the projectors standard lens with the touch of a button, transitioning from 16:9 to super wide 2.35:1 movie viewing.

This projector needs to be seen to be believed, said Planar Systems Inc. vice president and general manager of home theater, Scott Hix. Weve taken 1080p to a whole new level with the VX-22d.

The projector features a rear flip-down door to hide component connection cables, and an optimal heat flow pattern protects the output and life of the 250W lamp. Quiet fans inside the VX-22d CWAS eliminate humming that is often disturbing to viewers.

The VX-22d caters to high-end home theaters in which the projector is often hidden, however Runcos sleek black DHD digital video controller/processor is designed for easy rack placement. A feature called Dual Link, which is a DVI-D digital video connection, enables all-digital command and control functionality via an all-in-one connecting cable. With Dual Link, you also get a pure digital signal path from input to output, Hix explained. Were always trying to make it easy for our dealers. The last thing they need to deal with is a nest of wires, some of which may perform better than others.

Another example of Runcos design focus is its motorized AxiShift horizontal and vertical lens shift capability, which gives installers maximum placement flexibility. These installations arent always textbook, so the ability to place the projector virtually anywhere in the room is often a project-saver, Hix said.

Although Runco is often acknowledged for its video performance, Hix added that its nice to be recognized for how the company designs its products, too. Our installers always give us positive feedback on these design features, but to get a Resi Award for them means that the whole industry recognizes our efforts, and that is extremely validating.

Best Power Management Product
Furman Sounds Reference i-Series

For a product usually hidden behind the scenes in an integrated system, Furman Sounds Resi Award-winning Reference i-Series features an industrial design that stands out from the power management crowd. With the product line, the company blends its advanced technology with a refined and elegant aesthetic that is complementary to any home theater system.

With a history rooted in the professional audio, video, and broadcast markets, Furmans focus has long been on mission-critical power management with a secondary regard for appearance and form factor. In short, the companys professional clients needed products that protected and maximized the performance of their equipment, but didnt really have much interest in how the products looked. That, according to Dave Keller, Furmans executive vice president of sales and marketing, has changed with the companys CE lines. With the Reference i-Series, he said. we were able to keep our focus on professional-level functionality, with the technology re-engineered for the specific challenges of home theater systems and an appealing, sleek design that fits the needs of our residential customers.

From an engineering and performance standpoint, the goal of all Furman CE power management products is to protect and maximize the performance of home theater components. To this end, the company created application-based solutions.

The IT-Reference 20i, for example, is designed to eliminate ground noise, provide on-demand current for power amplifiers and subwoofers, and dramatically reduce differential AC line noise to ensure the best performance possible for premium home theater components. The SPR-20i is an AC voltage regulator that is designed to tackle another problem by converting unstable voltage to a constant 120V AC to provide maximum performance and longevity of connected equipment.

We employed a minimalist aesthetic to our industrial design, with the intention of keeping the solution-based application of these products as their essence while maintaining a very high-end, premium appearance, Keller said.

This all leads to the highest honor a custom installation product manufacturer can receive for their industrial design. The Resi Award is one of the industrys most esteemed recognitions, and it is truly an honor to be included, Keller added. While its easy for us to call our own products innovative or appealing, it means much more to be recognized by a panel of expertsespecially a panel of dealers and design professionals who work with electronic components on a daily basis. It is truly a great privilege to receive this award, and a fantastic culmination to the hard work our engineering team devoted to this product line.

Best A/V Controller/Receiver
Control4s Home Controller HC-300

Control4 is the first company to make whole-home automation a practical option for any residence, and they are doing it will style. The companys Resi Award-winning Home Controller HC-300 is designed to make everyday life easier by providing one-touch control of both new and existing electronic systems in the home. An HC-300 replaces, on average, more than four traditional remotes and delivers easy navigation and operation through a universal Control4 system remote control. In addition to managing the home theater, the HC-300 is capable of controlling multi-room music, smart lighting, advanced temperature control, security, and many other home automation sub-systems

Best AV Mount
Vantage Points The evo system

Vantage Point took the concept of mounting a TV or speakers on the wall to a whole new level. The companys Resi Award-winning the evo system, is an on-wall storage system incorporating a true furniture-quality appearance in a modular and upgradeable design. With 16×16 removable real wood veneer panels in five finishes, this innovative product allows easy access to hidden wires and power connections. The aluminum frames are available in three finishes (Silver, Graphite and Black) to coordinate with todays most popular electronics finishes. The evo system is the only complete mounting solution available on the market that can be positioned over an outlet to eliminate cutting holes through the wall for wiring and power management.

Best Control Interface
Universal Remote Controls MX-810 Remote Control

For many end users, the control interface is the system. Thats one thing that makes successful industrial design so important to Universal Remote Controls Resi Award-winning remote control. The MX-810 is a strikingly modern remote, aesthetically streamlined, equally comfortable in either hand, and made visually appealing by a bright, color-saturated active-matrix LCD display larger and more vivid than those typically found in other remotes. Its strong visual and ergonomic appeal help make the MX-810 is an ideal remote for single-room home theater systems, as well as homes with multiple AV systems and more than one remote control, as each MX-810 remains dedicated to a single rooms equipment, complete with a user-changeable label identifying the room.

Best Ci Accessory
Fiberoptic Studios iSky Panel System

When the design team at Fiberoptic Studios came up with the idea for their Resi Award-winning iSky Panel System, they literally had stars in their eyes. The iSky product delivers a technically advanced, cost-effective, star-field ceiling for home theaters, in a package that is both simple and fast to install. As a result of the exclusive low voltage iSky Star Engine, embedded into each panel for simple daisy-chain wiring, lighting effects mimic the random glimmer and color temperature of starlight for visual impact unlike any other system on the market. Add-on uRay Lighting Strips are innovative, flexible LED lighting that can be applied like tape to the inside edge of iSky Surface Mount Panels to add a glow of light for depth and drama. The double-sided tape application is easily installed and perfect for additional applications like lighting behind screens, equipment racks, displays, and under seat or cove areas.

Best Media Server
Escients FireBall FP-1 Music Manager

Some would contend that iPod docks are a dime a dozen. Unique among this ubiquitous category, however, is the Resi Award-winning Escient FP-1, which offers several distinguishing features and capabilities that significantly expand the users iPod entertainment experience.

In addition to allowing computer users to merge their stored iPod files and iTunes music with their PC-based music library, the FP-1 lets users enjoy DRM content throughout the home, providing access to legal iTunes music playback and allowing any networked Fireball to browse and play protected files. Users may add multi-zone iPod capabilities by connecting to existing Escient Fireballs.

Additionally, the affordable FireBall FP-1 maintains all of the FireBalls custom install features users have come to expect, including two-way RS-232 and ethernet control, discrete IR remote codes, multiple IR code banks, and built-in software updating over the Internet.

Best Speakers (Bookshelf or Tower)
Bowers & Wilkins Signature Diamond

For a loudspeaker, this is as close to being a piece of art as it gets.

At $18,000 a pair, the Resi Award-winning B&W Signature Diamond features a tweeter enclosure that is actually sculpted from the finest Italian marble (marble is absolutely inert and totally solid). All enclosures are made perfectly the same by using computer-controlled marble cutting devices, ensuring a consistent, beautiful free shape with identical acoustic characteristics.

Visually, no two tweeter enclosures are identical due to the natural random veining of the marble. Two different types of marble were selected to complement the two available finishes. For the white speaker finish, Grigo Carnica was selected, and for the exotic Wakame finish a more subdued Belgian Black was chosen. Each pair of speakers is therefore truly unique.

To create the main speaker cabinet, a visually beautiful statement in itself, sheets of MDF are bent into shape on a hydraulic press. The cabinets are then finished in wood veneers. Two finishes are available: minimalist white or a designer wood veneer: Wakame.

Best Speakers (On-Wall)
Leon Speakers Horizon 414-LCR

In 1997, Jeff Gordon co-founded Leon Speakers to combine the aesthetics of beautiful design with the dynamics of high-fidelity audio reproduction. Today, Leon produces more than 40 models of on-wall speakers, including the Resi Award-winning Horizon 414-LCR.

Each Leon Speakers product is finished by hand to cosmetically match a specific flat-panel displays finish and physical horizontal or vertical dimensions. This level of customization provides an aesthetically pleasing appearance while satisfying the performance requirements of discriminating audiophiles.

The Horizon 414-LCR was designed for 32- to 43-inch flat-panel displays. An ultra-thin, space-saving four-inch-deep design combines world-class four-inch woofers and one-inch cloth dome tweeters in a single MDF enclosure with left, center, and right channels featuring a power handling specification of 75 watts at 6 ohms. Frequency response is 65-20 kHz with sensitivity rated at 88 dB@1w/1m.

The Horizon HZ414-LCR easily mounts to any articulating mount with Leons exclusive Horizon Under-Mount Bracket. The speaker may be flush mounted over or under the display making an aesthetically pleasing, on-axis custom installation. Timbre matched on-wall or in-wall surround speakers are available at additional cost.

Best Video Display
Fujitsu General Americas P65FT00AUB

Fujitsu enlisted one of Japans top artists and designers, Shigeru Uchida, to design its current line of 1080p AVIAMO displays. The companys Resi Award-winning P65FT00AUB AVIAMO display is an elegant departure from conventional flat-panel display designs.

Most striking is the rich piano-black bezel and sharp-angled features of the display itself. On-screen images jump off the screen against the glossy black bezel. The high-quality black finish creates an elegant atmosphere even when the set is turned off. The enamel process itself is quite refined; inspectors examine 40 individual quality items on each frame.

AVIAMOs form differs from all other displays. It was shaped using cultivated techniques that other display cabinet makers have not yet mastered. In Fujitsus factory, AVIAMO sets are hand-assembled, one at a time, by highly skilled machinists. While lesser displays rely on injection-molded plastic frames, AVIAMOs protective frame is made entirely of aluminum. And, AVIAMOs aluminum frame is environment-friendly

All AVIAMO TVs feature 1920 x 1080p resolution, and all feature an advanced IEEE 1394 (i.Link) connection, providing additional input flexibility and access to high-definition content. To achieve their image performance capabilities, all Fujitsu AVIAMO displays feature AVM III processing, which has been specifically enhanced for 1080p scaling, processing, and display.