The Integration Guide to Racks, Mounts, and Enclosures

In the custom integration sphere, the slimming down of components has had a knock-on effect on newer models of AV racks, mounts, and enclosures—originally intended to be the nerve centers of once-behemoth components that powered equally complex integrated systems.
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This Integration Guide was sponsored by Lowell Manufacturing, Middle Atlantic Products, and Peerless-AV as a supplement to Residential Systems, November 2016

“Thinner is better” can be a rude statement in some contexts, but when it comes to AV components, those three words have been a driving factor in the product development of everything from televisions to smart devices. In the custom integration sphere, this slimming down of components has had a knock-on effect on newer models of AV racks, mounts, and enclosures—originally intended to be the nerve centers of once-behemoth components that powered equally complex integrated systems.

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Trak-Kit, which manufactures display enclosures, designs its products with an eye on urban settings, namely apartments with views.

“As today’s AV products have become slimmer and more compact, these devices have introduced complexities that make it difficult for integrators to install them into traditional rack solutions,” said Paul Dolynchuk, senior product manager, Infrastructure at Middle Atlantic. “One driver is localization. Because these devices are no longer sitting in an equipment closet, integrators need solutions that enable them to install these devices in other places as well. Whether it’s behind the display, in traditional furniture, in walls, or other areas, these solutions must fully support a decentralized infrastructure in the same manner as a traditional rack solution.”

Dolynchuk’s observation extends to mounts—especially those designed for ever-slimmer televisions—as well as enclosures, which have in themselves become smaller and more flexible while maintaining the traditional box design.

But before we get carried away by the svelteness of newer racks, mounts, and enclosures, SnapAV’s Emily Heichel reminded us that traditional lines of these products are still very much in demand, due in large part to integrator requirements of installation efficiency and tidiness.

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Peerless-AV’s DesignerSeries features an “I-Shaped” adapter plate designed to significantly improve the available real estate for connectivity on the back of ultra-slim 4K UHD displays.

“The ease-of-install focus is the demand that continues to influence our designs,” said Heichel, SnapAV’s product manager. “We see other factors such as ease of install and aesthetics driving the direction of the rack business more than the overall size of the rack. Our larger racks continue to be very popular, so we’re not seeing the decentralization as much as others. The perception is outpacing the reality.”

Heichel has a point. While manufacturers in the category have moved away from physically heavy and visually clunky mounts and racks, the way in which these products operate and are used is the more interesting and subtle story here, with TV mounts as the most overt examples of this change.

“What has been most notable and impactful to Peerless-AV’s core business of mounts are the ultra-slim 4K UHD displays,” noted Earl Naegele, director of professional AV sales for Peerless-AV. “As a result of the popularity and growing use of these types of displays, we have continued to reduce the depth of our better mounts.”

Of these “better mounts,” Naegele highlighted Peerless-AV’s DesignerSeries, which features an “I-Shaped” adapter plate that significantly improves the available real estate for connectivity on the back of ultra-slim 4K UHD displays. Integrated internal cable management in the mount arms, open backs in the wall plates, and refined cosmetics were all design improvements that Peerless-AV deemed top priorities when the DesignerSeries was developed, noted Naegele. “All of these ultimately influenced the most desired request by integrators, which was higher margin attainment and a reversal of lower ASPs (average selling prices),” he added.

MantelMount’s eponymous television mount directs all pulling and pushing forces directly to the mount via handles that extend to the bottom of the television, with these handles extending much farther down for larger displays. With a request from integrators for a much more robust structure, MantelMount has also made its mount stiffer to reduce wobble and to maintain television levels.

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MantelMount’s eponymous television mount directs all pulling and pushing forces directly to the mount via handles that extend to the bottom of the television.

“MantelMount is loaded with safety features that aren’t found in any other mount,” said CEO Evan Pale. “All ranges of travel have adjustable limit stops so the TV never hits the wall or mantel. The handles are temperature sensing so the TV won’t be damaged by heat from a fireplace, and there is a unique feature that locks the mount in the lower position so the TV can be easily hung, bolted in, and adjusted under controlled conditions.”

In September, Middle Atlantic debuted the Proximity Series In-Wall Box, which is designed to allow integrators to use the wall space behind a display to conveniently mount system components, power solutions, and cables for localized, all-in-one system support. It also features Middle Atlantic’s Lever Lock mounting plates with integrators able to choose the optional Proximity Series Mounting Plate for the back of the display for additional localized system mounting.

Of note is James Loudspeaker’s entry in the category with its TV Bracket, which is designed to ensure that displays will fit in along with the company’s soundbars. The bracket allows installers to present the display either parallel to the wall or with a few degrees of tilt, and the design inherently pays attention to what chief marketing officer Ted Telesky calls “the cosmetic alignment” of the soundbar.

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Middle Atlantic’s new Proximity Series In-Wall Box is designed to allow integrators to use the wall space behind a display to conveniently mount components, power solutions, and cables for localized, all-in-one system support.

“The James Loudspeaker TV Bracket is our first entry into the “mounts” category, and we brought this product to reality based on market demand,” Telesky said. “Integrators must have a reliable, secure, and elegant TV bracket that delivers the proper viewing angle and flawless integration of a matching soundbar.”

Future Automation’s president Ollie French said the company has found a demand for incorporating smaller form-factor components directly behind televisions or inside joinery work, rather than in a central rack. To address this need, the company has developed accessory mounts that work with VESA-compatible brackets.

“With such a large variety of products that modern installers are choosing to incorporate into their jobs, we have had make our Accessory Mount range fully adjustable to cater for small streaming units like the Apple TV to large game consoles like the Xbox One,” French said. “In response to this we have released a full range of in wall mounting boxes for our PS Articulated Wall mount range, along with specialized SB40 and SB55 service bracket that enable the screen to be mounted 0.5 inches off the wall, but still maintain the easy access of a pull-and-turn bracket.”

Trak-Kit, which manufactures display enclosures, designs its products with an eye on urban settings, namely apartments with views. With customers who preferred their sightlines either uninterrupted or at least visually appealing, Trak-Kit’s enclosures fit custom soundbars, baluns, amps, DACs, and more, so that a single Cat-6 can carry everything back to the only required device at the head-in location, an IP-based video and audio matrix.

“Since the system hangs from a track and moves, access to the back is easy,” said Shadi Shahrokhi, founder and chief designer for Trak-Kit. “A fully automated Trak-Kit can also have a voice activated trigger, so basically you can call the unit to go or arrive at specific locations and have also specific angles. Our latest Trak-Kit model also rotates the screen from landscape to portrait. This allows for more flexibility for larger screens, as well as the ability to display art in portrait format.”

Similarly, with the shift to tablets as whole-home control devices, manufacturers like Basalte, iPort, and iRoom have put a lot of effort into creating mounts with the expressed purpose of keeping these devices within easy reach while maintaining their form factor and functionality as key members in the development of the smart home.

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SnapAV focuses on ease of installation with its Strong FS Series 27U rack, which comes preassembled with side panels, doors, shelves, and fans.

Basalte’s Eve is for the iPad Pro with compatible wall and table mounts for the latest iPad Mini 4 and iPod Touch 6. Eve allows the iPad Pro’s large screen to function as a smart home control device while keeping it charged and in sight.

Austrian brand iRoom, which is now distributed by Origin Acoustics in the U.S., has garnered attention with its iDock, a motorized in-wall solution that allows charging of the iPad in addition to a unique Touch Code security function that locks the device into the dock, especially useful in commercial applications.

And this past summer, iPort unveiled its new Surface mount, which can receive power from a PoE switch or 24V DC power supply and can be installed in any orientation using a single-or double-gang wall box. Additionally, iPort has introduced Surface Mount with Buttons, which combines an iPad Mount and IP keypad in one device, allowing direct communication between the unit and many control systems.

BACK TO THE RACK

Rack systems have faced the most challenges in the face of increasingly smaller devices.

At this year’s CEDIA, Middle Atlantic debuted its 1RU RSH Custom Rackshelves that address the challenges integrators face mounting small devices. The new series features a face-after custom-cut faceplate that attaches to the shelf after installation and enables small device mounting capability.

“With end users wanting to stay up to date with the latest technology trends, the face-after design allows integrators to easily switch out these devices,” said Dolynchuk. “The rest of the shelf gives integrators a smart place for the other small components within the system that previously didn’t have a home, while providing these devices with the security and thermal protection they require.”

Middle Atlantic also offers the robust Essex Quick Assembly Rack (QAR) that ships flat for quick integrator assembly onsite and is designed to save space in the integrator’s van, as well as the popular BGR Series, that Dolynchuk noted is an integrator favorite because it helps to “mount small components and power supplies where they never could before, easily manage cables, and through a series of innovative features, adds much-needed flexibility for a range of installations.”

SnapAV focuses on ease of installation with its Strong FS Series 27U rack, which comes preassembled with side panels, doors, shelves, and fans. The FS Series line also has 15U and 21U units that ship directly to the customer’s location.

“Our main focus is on ease of install and providing accessories that can successfully outfit each unique job,” Heichel said. “We provide adjustable rails, cable management, half-depth shelves, offset lace bars, and removable rack tops with fan brackets so it’s easy to add cooling, to name a few. All of these accessories are born out of the focus on a positive user experience for the integrator.”

Lowell Manufacturing’s LWR Series racks are heavy-duty, sectional wall-mount racks with a steel backbox and separate front cabinet, boxed separately so the back can be field-installed while the front is loaded at the shop. The backbox has a center opening to fit around wall protrusions, while embossed dimples and lacing points allow flush installation of board-mounted accessories. The unit includes adjustable front-mounting rails and integral rails on the top and bottom.

MOUNTING FUTURE COMPONENTS

There is little doubt that while televisions will continue to increase in size, other AV devices, such as AV receivers, media players, and power conditioning units will inevitably shrink as the mechanisms that drive them also become smaller and more powerful.

“Equipment enclosures and racks of the future will continue to become more integrated and connected to home infrastructure,” predicted Dolynchuk. “They will work even more discreetly behind the scenes while becoming more flexible, allowing integrators to quickly meet the rapidly changing needs of any system. One day, racks and enclosures will provide integrators with a more plug-and-play experience, in which they can bring their customer’s desired system components and effortlessly mount, connect, and service within a complete infrastructure foundation. All this will be a seamless, tool-less task with monitor control becoming a big driver of the installation and servicing.”

This might seem like a lot to ask at first glance, but with IoT dominating the AV conversation as well as heavily influencing technology development across all industries, it’s a smaller leap than might be imagined.

Llanor Alleyne is a contributing editor to Residential Systems.

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