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An AV Integration Guide to Racks, Mounts, and Enclosures for New Tech

In the past, the bulky nature of essential home entertainment components has guided the design of the mounts, lifts, racks, and enclosures that have literally supported them.

This Integration Guide to Racks, Mounts, and Enclosures was sponsored by Chief, Installer’s Choice, and Lowell as a supplement to Residential Systems, June 2014.

OmniMount says that its OC80FM mount—designed to be a high-margin mounting solution that doesn’t skimp on safety (it’s UL2442 rated) and is compatible with a range of panels up to 63 inches—has been a sales success. In the past, the bulky nature of essential home entertainment components has guided the design of the mounts, lifts, racks, and enclosures that have literally supported them. With slimmed down electronics setting the trend, mounts and other component containers have adapted to embrace not just form but also the technologies that are redefining how consumers interact with their entertainment and home automation units.

For instance, Sanus’ mounts have been very heavily influenced by the enhanced design of sleek TVs, with a high-end aesthetic design and reduced hardware, enabling easy installation and consumer and installer confidence.

“With compound curvature, a clean and organic aesthetic, and racetrack design, the new Sanus mounts were created with soft finishes that enhance the beauty of any home,” noted Rob Zurn, product manager for Sanus. “Waterfall edges and wall plate covers hide hardware for a clean look from the wall to the TV.”

Taking into account what consumers said they needed in a mount (safety/reliability, aesthetics, ease of installation and product performance) Sanus created bestsellers in its VLT5 tilting mount for 51- and 80-inch TVs and VSF415 full-motion mount for 13- to -39- inch TVs. Easy to install and requiring minimal steps and hardware, both mounts include a drill template in the box and feature post-installation adjustments to perfect leveling of the TV and to provide easy TV movement to adjust to the perfect viewing angle.

TruAudio has created the Padimount, an in-wall iPad dock that, when used for the iPad Air, extends 3.6mm and allows for mounting over studs in dry wall as thin as 0.5 inches. Crimson AV’s Ultra Thin Articulating mounts have garnered praise from integrators in part because of their design, which according to company president Vlad Gleyzer, allows them to provide the lowest profile will retaining the ability to expand the size range from VESA 200 hole patterns to 300 and 400 hole patterns without compromising strength, durability or covering the inputs.

“This unique combination of features enables integrators to utilize these mounts in a wide variety of residential and commercial applications; they’re extremely versatile and are an item that typically gets put in every truck that rolls for easy on-site upgrades,” Gleyzer explained.

Taking pride in its ability as a smaller manufacture to make everything in-house and deliver products quickly to market, Future Automation has focused on customization of its range of mounting solutions. With that, the company has seen an increased demand for rotating larger format screens in the 75- to 90-inch range and has answered the call with the PS60 mount.

“[The] mount allows any screen up to 90 inches to be effortlessly pulled forward and rotated in either direction,” explained Ollie French, president of Future Automation. “Using a unique scissor design, the mount has perfect parallel forward movement so that it is ideal to fit within a tight recess and allows for one-handed manipulation and movement. As well as the functionality for the consumer, the mount allows the integrator to service the screen far easier than on a flat mount. It is a win-win for integrator and consumer.”

Chris Franck, vice president of product development for SnapAV’s Strong Racks & Mounts, pointed to the company’s history of working closely with custom integrators to help define solutions to problems to underscore the popularity of its line of Strong Razor mounts and Strong VersaBox enclosures.

Installers Choice’s SnapRax ship flat and can be assembled on the job site. “Our Strong Razor line of mounts has been popular with both integrators and the end consumer due to its high value proposition,” Franck noted. This mount series gives users the thin profiles, rich feature sets, and proven quality they love and have come to expect from our brand.”

The 7615B tilting wall mount by Bell’O has become a go-to mount for integrators thanks to its versatility, durability, and ease of use, the company said. Compatible with almost all 37- to 80-inch flat-panel TVs, the mounts holds up to 200lbs, which as noted by Bell’O CEO Marc Sculler, makes it sturdy enough to accommodate add-ons such as a soundbar mounted with Bell’O’s new 7912B Universal Soundbar Mount.

“Mounting a TV can be an intimidating and daunting task,” Sculler said, “so ease of installations is a feature that’s extremely important to consumers and the detailed installation guide, mounting template and complete hardware kit included with Bell’O’s 7615B mount makes installation extremely simple.”

Alex Shirdel, director of business development for Monster Mounts, pointed to the company’s keen attention on innovations in the consumer electronics industry as a factor in maintain the quality of their mount solutions, which includes the MSFTM/MSFTL slim tilt mount.

“These slim tilt mounts are perfect for today’s super thin TVs, as they are only 1 inch thick,” Shirdel said. “When the TV and mount are positioned parallel to the wall, there is only room for ventilation. It smoothly tilts 15 degrees downwards for optimum visibility and in turn this creates the necessary space for servicing and connections.

Promounts’ SAM and SAL Ultra Slim articulating mounts cater to the decreased weights of televisions and facilitate faster installations for integrators. Noted as bestsellers by CEO Rick Massoumi, the mounts rest a mere 1.7 inches from the wall when fully collapsed and extend up to 18.9 inches to provide an optimal viewing angle from anywhere in the room.

“The modern design of the articulating arms are constructed from high-quality aluminum extrusion that is durable yet aesthetically pleasing,” said Massoumi. “With both the integrators and end users in mind, the SAM and SAL come fully assembled while incorporating features for easy installation. The mounts also include cable management and cosmetic covers, to hide unsightly wires, screws, and hardware.”

Hidden Vision TV Mounts has two goals when designing mounts: identify and meet a need that has not been met; meet the need with a product that takes minimal time to install and requires minimal planning and coordination. This could account for the success of the company’s motorized Flip-Around TV Mount.

“Integrators love that they can be mounted in any room without home modifications, installation is fast and easy, they offer great builtin cable management, minimal to no third-party coordination required, and, ultimately, great profitability,” said Karen Beshara, co-owner of Hidden Vision TV Mounts. “Additionally, our mounts are offered at an unmatched price point that was previously unavailable in the hidden TV market, broadening the reach of hidden TV products to the upper middle class, a ripe and untouched demographic of end users.”

Racks and Enclosures

Middle Atlantic has taken shrinking component sizes and new home networking requirements into consideration in the design its latest racks and enclosures, which now include intelligent ventilation that removes heat more effectively and reduces the need for active thermal management. Coupled with greater flexibility for placement thanks in large part to the centralizing effect of the transition to IP and wireless technologies, Middle Atlantic has also begun to focus on the aesthetic appeal of its hugely popular rack and enclosure solutions.

“The BGR Series is one of our latest successes because of its ability to adapt to changing technology trends and meet the design elements desired by the end user,” said Jay Franetovich, Middle Atlantic’s application engineer for racks and enclosures. “For the installer we included the Lever Lock system, which allows for tool-free access and out-of-the-way installation of many smaller items instead of on a shelf that consumes precious rack units.”

SnapAV’s Strong VersaBox has “redefined in-wall enclosures,” by giving customers the ability to conceal a full-featured AV system behind most TVs. With a watchful eye on AV installation rack requirements and job site installation efficiency, Installers Choice has designed a rack that features its “Snap” technology, named the SnapRax. The rack’s consoles ship flat and can be assembled and implemented at job sites quickly compared to builds where traditional welded racks are difficult to deploy. They contain minimal hardware and take only minutes to install. Features include self-squaring HD caster base (with casters and leveler brake), which provides structural support, tapped No. 10-32 mounting rails with individually labeled RU for quick, easy equipment mounting, and cable egress (top and base for easy cable access.)

“The SnapRax assembles quickly, saving time and money,” noted Jim Walenda, director of marketing for Installer Choice. “Most SnapRax assemble in five minutes and are available as individual racks and components—or sold as pre-configured kits. They take up a minimal amount of floor space as they are 20 inches wide and available in rack heights of 8RU, 14RU, 21RU, 29RU, 37RU, and 43RU, and depths of 20 inches and 26 inches.”

Noting the heavy influence of emerging technologies, as well as lighter displays, Peerless-AV’s executive VP Nick Belcore said that the company is incorporating the latest Wi-Fi and HDBaseT iterations into its mounting systems to provide an out-of-the-box all-in-one solution for the integrator.

“Our racks have played an important role in the design of our tech-based products, namely the PeerSound, which is the first rack-mountable wireless audio transmission system,” said Belcore. “We specifically built the PeerSound with this capability in mind. We also understood that a rack could limit wireless signal transition, so we launched the product with the ability to run the antenna outside of the physical rack while still mounting the components within.”

With its RE18, RE27 and RE42 fully assembled racks proving popular among integrators, OmniMount looked to improve the racks further with quieter cooling fans. Among these, the RE27 has reached bestseller status for the manufacturer, which has also reported that the OC80FM mount—designed to be a high-margin mounting solution that doesn’t skimp on safety (it’s UL2442 rated) and is compatible with a wide range of panels up to 63 inches—has been a success.

“The RE27 is our best-selling rack. Integrators love that it ships pre-assembled and ready for the job site,” said Bill Ennis, OmniMount’s general manager of sales. “All they need to do is wheel it in and load it with gear, saving them valuable time and money. In many cases integrators are pre-loading and pre-testing the racks in their shop, so the work at the job site is even faster.”

According to Video Mount Products president Keith Fulmer, his company determined the features that were consistent across the broadest platform of installations and incorporated them, as well as giving integrators the ability to customize their enclosures to specific jobs or customers.

“Given the continuous evolution of equipment dimensions, aesthetics and functionality, it was much easier to give the integrators and their customers the power to control the installation as opposed to the limiting technology options,” added Fulmer, who pointed to the company’s EREN-27 as a big seller among integrators and end users.

A fully welded steel cabinet, The EREN-27 ships assembled and comes complete with 5x2U vented shelves, 5x2U blanks, a two-fan kit, casters, leveling feet, removable side panels, a smoky gray tempered glass front door, and a twin “center-open” steel rear door.

With the security and IT markets influencing the design of their racks, Lowell Manufacturing has added new products like the wall mount swing gate rack and a variety of half racks and half rack accessories to its roster of rack solutions.

“We work closely with our system integrators to create market-driven products that are built not merely because we can, but because they fill a need in the marketplace,” said Tom Lowell, residential sales manager for the company.

Lowell’s best seller is its LWR-series racks, which swings open right or left depending how the integrator mounts it. It is available in four depths: 19, 23, 28, and 32 inches. The 19-inch and 23-inch depths are available from 7U to 35U and the 28-inch and 32-inch are available from 12U to 24U. The wide array of depths, available rack heights, and the weight capacity are big hits with the integrators. Also, the fact that this series is made in the USA with 100-percent certified U.S. steel is a real plus for some integrators.”

Furniture and Lifts

Dave Adams, marketing manager for BDI, noted that consumers are no longer looking for furniture that is simply functional, but are interested in well-designed, quality, and stylish furniture with a purpose, namely pieces that can function with the constant influx of new AV components. This demand for functionality is behind the success of the company’s Corridor Home Theater Collection, which includes the Corridor 8177, with a center drawer that opens to reveal a full-width shelf allowing for the optimal placement of a soundbar.

“Designed by Matthew Weatherly, the Corridor collection features handcrafted solid walnut or oak louvered doors that provide IR-remote access and allow sound to flow freely from added speakers or a soundbar, a feature consumers don’t realize they need until they see the difference it makes,” Adams said.

BDI furniture products provide the ability to fully ventilate AV gear by dissipating heat under the floating glass top. Additionally, integrated cable management helps keep everything organized, removable back panels make for simple setup and maintenance, and hidden wheels allow for easy movement and convenient component access. In pursuit of ever more quiet operation of its unique lift units, Inca has continued to fine tune its ultra silent motors while also maintaining its focus on customization to meet special application requirements. It is an approach that has seen the company’s new Ultra Silent flatscreen lift and custom Ultra Silent fold-down ceiling units gain traction with integrators.

“The emitted sound from both of these units has been greatly reduced from previous similar model types, and is in the range of pedestal type units made by others,” noted Roger Fortier, who provides technical support for Inca.

iPad Solutions

The iPad has become such a ubiquitous part of residential systems that it now has its own mount category, a development that iRoom has long recognized. With the ability to design, engineer, and produce a docking solution for the latest iPad within 30 days of release, the company’s iPad mounting solutions have evolved with each new iPad design. They include glass and aluminum elements to match the iPad’s aesthetic, as well as the luxury surroundings in which they are often integrated.

“With our new flush-mounted design, the Dock mounts completely flush into the wall while adding a touch of style,” said Chris Lehnen, iRoom’s North American division president. “Thin aluminum frames allow an additional dimension of design where bezel material and color can be combined with frame color. To expand on this concept, iPad color can either blend in or accentuate the statement. Integrators and end-users love our motorization and the ability to lock the iPad into the dock.”

Focusing on aesthetics, iPort, a division of Dana Innovations, continues to market its hybrid wall mount and charger, LaunchPort, as a portable protective solution for iPad.

“The greatest influence on our mount and enclosure designs has been the growing popularity and adoption of iPad in the home automation market and our firm commitment to create opportunities for dealers and integrators around changes in technology,” said Derick Dahl, product manager for iPort. “LaunchPort has been a runaway success for us. Users love the ability to effortlessly mount and dismount their iPad on a wall with magnets, and integrators utilize features like the wave-guide and microphone port, which work great with automation system features like Savant’s whole-home intercom.”

Tapping into the growing “tech-centric” homeowner looking for automation with their personal digital devices, TruAudio has created the Padimount, an in-wall iPad dock that, when used for the iPad Air, extends 3.6mm and allows for mounting over studs in dry wall as thin as 0.5 inches.

“The stainless steel Padimount in the 7-inch variety has quickly become the fastest mover because of the size, sleek look, and ability to mount anywhere on the wall without the need to find a stud,” noted Chad Clark, TruAudio’s director of marketing. “The paint-able version is close behind because integrators and homeowners love the seamless look.”

Llanor Alleyne is a contributing editor to Residential Systems.