Call it the Great American Staycation.
Americans are on the move, but often with destinations no farther than their own property lines.
“It feels like we’re moving more into our outdoor spaces as an escape without having to go far away,” says Eyal Akler, Founder/CEO, ATTYWON, Great Neck, NY. ATTYWON’s clients, typically at the higher end of AV budgets, are located from NYC to the eastern tip of Long Island.
“Much of our business is for new construction, although rather than spending money on trips or on loans for new homes, many of our clients are putting money into landscaping with AV, outdoor lighting, and even outdoor theaters to enjoy the properties they already have,” he says. “We expect our total outdoor AV business to grow by about 20 percent this year as we add new lines and get involved in high-end landscape lighting fixtures as well.”
Upstate, in New York’s Finger Lakes region, Sound Integration president Jeff Bradford designs and installs many projects for clients with summer lakehouse properties. “About 25 percent of our projects are for outdoor AV, for both new construction and existing homes,” he says, “With our climate, clients are looking to maximize the time they spend outdoors with the greatest amount of amenities. Our revenues are up, too, which means spending for the outdoor space has grown. Our goal is to design easy, turnkey systems that they can operate via a tablet or touchscreen.”
Bradford’s projects typically feature Crestron control systems and MSE Audio products, including Rockustics, the bluetooth OS-440 amp, and the new Cherry Bomb as outdoor solutions. The OS-440, from Phase Technology, is the industry’s first outdoor smart amp, and is weatherproof. “The amplifier is great for Upstate New York weather, and is flexible,” he says. “Best of all, it sounds amazing.
“The Music Garden (Rockustics) keeps the great sound of the rocks, but adds a sleeker aesthetic that allows us to have a complete solution no matter what the client wants to see and hear outdoors,” he adds. “I have Music Garden in my own house and use it even in winter. l love the performance.”
Sound Integration has also been installing AV around a lot more barbecue areas and fire pits. “We’re doing a lot for outdoor patios with pizza ovens and for outdoor kitchens; we’ve even been asked to enable tablet control for gas,” Bradford notes. “One project included an outdoor kitchen with speakers and a TV with in-ground speakers around a pool and in soffits. Outdoor WiFi with an access point is pretty standard now, and for that we install Luxul access points.”
Episode speakers are the loudspeakers of choice for certain outdoor projects, ATTYWON’s Akler says. “Episode may not have the longest history in outdoor speakers, but what typically sets them apart is that they produce speakers that can play louder, with deeper bass, than most other residential 70-volt speakers. With 70-volt, you can run longer distances and install more speakers on the line; and with 8-inch woofers and 60-watt tap setting, you get bigger sound.
“Eight-ohm speakers sound better and generally have a wider frequency range than 70-volt, but 8-ohm is limited in how long the wire can be and how many speakers can be used on each channel. Most large outdoor spaces require many speakers in order to get good, consistent sound coverage without hot spots — areas that are too loud. Most of the time, we would design a 70-volt outdoor system with smaller satellites, such as a 4- or 6-inch, coupled with one or more subwoofers that pick up the lower frequencies, giving the space deep bass as well as decent sounding high frequencies. But, in some cases where subwoofers are not an option, 8-inch satellites can be used to compensate for the lack of subs and bring back some of the bass. A larger woofer usually equals lower frequency capabilities for bass.”
“Outdoor TVs are being requested frequently, and we install SunBriteTV,” Bradford says. “Sunbrite is the leader in outdoor TVs and they’re reliable. Outdoor cameras are gaining in popularity, and we install Hikvision both inside the home and outdoors. And outdoor lighting control and motorized shades are hot right now — no pun intended.”
ATTYWON is also designing more projects with multiple outdoor TVs. “We recently completed one with three TVs in the pool house; two 75-inch SunBrites are installed on the outside and we installed a 75-inch Samsung inside the pool house,” Akler says.
“A handful of fire pits have been integrated into the control system, with Lutron, Savant, and ELAN being our preferences,” he adds. “Shades are big, but mainly for indoor applications. In outdoor spaces, we sometimes use automated shades in cabanas, or motorized awnings to help with shading.”
Light It Up
Lighting is becoming big for using the spaces at night, Akler continues. “A lot of landscapers come in to install cheaper fixtures where the quality of the bulb is inconsistent with the main space, thus producing uneven color. Outdoor spaces should be designed to last a lifetime with lighting that reflects color consistency to highlight specific features ornamentally and for security, without hot spots.
“Another trend is to change the color of lights, integrated through Lutron and controlled through DMX, to represent the seasons, various holidays, or special events. These outdoor systems have their own stand-alone WiFi apps so colors can be changed easily.
“Although still not a frequent client request, there is interest in outdoor theaters using blow-up or collapsible screens. In the past, we’ve had projects using a blow-up screen in a yard, but we also have drawn up plans for a dedicated theater with surround sound for year-round enjoyment. We’re exploring the possibilities of installing collapsible screens using an awning or overhang. We have some planned testing using Coastal Source speakers, a company that started in the Florida Keys, with those connected to a surround sound receiver from Sony, Marantz, or Denon inside the house. These speakers produce incredible sound in any environment and they are designed to stay outdoors forever.
“For projectors, we will likely use Epson; they make a nice 4K, high-lumen product that we mount indoors, if possible, or put on a rolling stand. We’ve used these indoors and they have high enough lumens to get a clear picture without being washed out. This would be ideal for late afternoon or evening viewing.”
Spotlight: Global Outdoor Concepts
Specializing in outdoor weatherized super bright TVs and digital signage, with sizes that range from 32 inches to a whopping 200-plus inches, Global Outdoor Concepts has sold thousands of systems since 2004. Pricing starts at $850, and products include outdoor speaker bars, waterproof remotes, outdoor TV mounts, outdoor TV lift cabinets, and outdoor rolling TV cart with battery operated outdoor TV.
For more information, visit globaloutdoorconcepts.com.
At Sound Integration, his challenge, Bradford concludes, is that many of his lakehouse clients also want AV in their boathouses: “Those can be a good distance away from the main house. So it’s a challenge to get the wiring in. We’ve done two AV projects with an airplane hangar on the property. MSE Audio and the rest of our brands allow us the most flexibility in providing solutions for the diversity for client needs. For example, two of our latest outdoor projects have been to tie airport hangars and boathouse AV to the main house, even though they’re good distances apart. Being able to offer these solutions is how we’re growing our business.”