Reflecting on 2016

Manufacturers, Distributors Share Success Stories From the Past Year
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The end of the year is when many people reflect on their successes and failures. While no one is perfect, and not every decision (in life or in business) can be a home run, we wanted to offer a collection of industry manufacturers and distributors a chance to brag a little bit about their successful product launches in 2016. Early next year we’ll reach out to the home tech professional community to find out more about their best business practices and brand partnerships.

Epson America cited its sub-$3,000 Home Cinema 5040UB, a 3LCD projector with UHD signal input, HDR support, and 4K enhancement (4KE), as its breakthrough product of the year. “Professional installers have applauded Epson’s execution of 4KE and HDR, as delivering the picture quality of any native 4K projector at a much more accessible price point,” said Rodrigo Catalan, senior product manager, projectors, Epson America. “Home tech pros and their customers can be confident they will not overpay for 4K and still enjoy the best image quality possible with Epson’s groundbreaking 4KE technology.”

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Rodrigo Catalan, EpsonEpson’s Home Cinema 5040UB

D+M Group’s most successful launch this year was the Denon AVR X6300W, which offers HDMI connectivity, “further-refined Denon sound,” and Heos integration for extended access to music streaming services and multiroom audio distribution. “This product really resonates with those who understand and appreciate where home audio is going, and what is best for the end user,” said Kevin Zarrow, VP and GM for D+M Group–The Americas.

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Denon’s AVR X6300W

Lee Sachs, Platinum Tools president, called his company’s Net Chaser Ethernet Speed Certifier and Network Tester “a hit” since its launch earlier this year because residential integrators are looking for one device that can run all the tests needed on their cable installations. “Net Chaser gives home technology pros the ability to run physical cable tests that give their customers the proof that the cables installed will handle 1Gb network speed reliably,” he said. “Residential integrators can also run multiple active network tests, which can be saved for documenting.”

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Mike Everett, RTI

RTI began shipping its KX10 in-wall touchpanel with 10-inch display at the end of July, and it already has been a hit for the company. “What sets the KX10 apart is the long list of features that add flexibility and power, such as the HDBaseT input, a composite video input for checking security cameras, and built-in intercom support,” said Mike Everett, vice president of sales and marketing, Americas, RTI. “The KX10 also offers direct control via IR or RS-232, and full two-way control when incorporated into the RTI ecosystem.”

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RTI’s KX10

Monitor Audio’s CSS230 superslim in-wall/in-ceiling speakers were designed to provide great sound where no speaker has gone before. Apparently this approach resonated with dealers. “With a shallow depth of only two inches, and the option to have a closed box or open back configuration, the CSS230 offers versatility and Hi-Fi levels of performance between two-inch stud frames or where pipework or cabling reduces mounting depth,” said Sheldon Ginn, VP of sales and marketing at Kevro. “Where a lack of space can be a real challenge for custom installers, the CSS230 is the ideal solution.”

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Monitor Audio’s CSS230

The modern home is host to a growing number of DC-powered devices, from streaming media players to extenders and network switches, all competing for space and power outlets for wall wart plugs. Middle Atlantic’s DC Power Distribution may have resonated with dealers for that very reality. “We designed the DC Power Distribution with the integrator in mind, speeding up any installation headaches with colored-coded connector terminals and polarity labeling that empowers integrators to quickly and intuitively connect, install, and power up any DC device,” said Scott Lowder, CTS, senior product manager of power, Middle Atlantic.

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Scott Lowder, Middle AtlanticMiddle Atlantic’s DC Power Distribution

Charlie Derk, Crestron technology manager for shading solutions, noted that his company has invested heavily in adding value to its shading product line that benefits not only its dealers, but end users as well. Their efforts, he implied, have been well received in 2016. “We’ve worked hard to make sure that installation is easy, and seamless integration with systems such as Pyng make programming tasks effortless,” he said. “Simple things such as our choice of paint and texture for our metal extrusions speak to our relentless pursuit for world-class aesthetics… something that our end users have come to expect from us.”

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Tim McInerney, Savant

According to Tim McInerney, director of product marketing at Savant, the Savant Pro Remote was a top seller, “based on its overall design, including an elegant aluminum chassis, curved glass over a high-resolution touchscreen, and effortless accessibility to key features.” Voice control enhances the user experience, as well. Users can use their voice to turn on their favorite channel by saying, “watch HGTV,” eliminating the need to remember a daunting array of channel numbers. Other home automation functions are just as easy: for example, homeowners can say “I’m cold” to turn up the heat or “play music” to restart their last playlist,” McInerney said.

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The Savant Pro Remote

Earlier this year Eleven Engineering launched Talisa, a SKAA (SKAA.com) transmitter for televisions. Talisa is an S/PDIF input (digital audio in the form of optical or coax) wireless audio transmitter that is so tiny it can live happily hanging on the back of most flat screens. “It was immediately picked up by GoRave (gorave.com) brand which makes excellent custom install SKAA speaker systems,” said John Sobota, Eleven Engineering CEO. “So, imagine your monster widescreen TV sending its sound to not just a GoRave wireless sound bar and wireless subwoofer, but to your in-ceiling and in-wall speakers, too. It’s been a hit with the new home builders and adoption is spreading rapidly.”

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Earl Naegele, Peerless-AV

Earl Naegele, director of professional AV sales at Peerless-AV said that his company’s UltraView Outdoor TV has been a huge hit with dealers. “First, the TV is competitively priced, allowing integrators to offer their homeowner customers a more affordable option to upgrade their outdoor entertainment space,” he explained. “Second, the UltraView Outdoor TV’s durable design and vast operating temperature (minus 24 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit) ensures the TV can withstand the harshest elements. Third, the UltraView Outdoor TV is easy to install and maintain. This design gives integrators the confidence in knowing they will not have an unhappy customer calling for service.”

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Peerless-AV’s UltraView Outdoor TV

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Jon Zabel, AVAD

On the distribution side, AVAD pointed to its success with the Ubiquiti UAP-AC-PRO. “Ideal for high-density deployments requiring low latency and high uptime performance, the UAP-AC-PRO provides our dealers with a reliable, robust wireless networking solution,” said Jon Zabel, VP of sales and merchandising for AVAD. “With its software-based capabilities, the UniFi virtual control plane allows for unlimited scalability under one centralized controller.”

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Ubiquiti’s UAP-AC-PRO

For Lutron, voice control integration with its mainstream Caseta lighting control product was a big success. “Voice control is quickly redefining the connected home industry,” said VP of sales, Michael Smith. “Consumers want simple, easy, and reliable technology in their homes, and easy control of their household technology.”

Metra Home Theater Group’s Ethereal HDMGA1 Gigabit Accelerator seemed to succeed as solution for reliable 4K and HDR products. “We created the HDM-GA1 Gigabit Accelerator to give integrators a plug-and-play upgrade to 4K for passive cables because we understand the changing trends and we design our solutions with the future of technology in mind,” said Jessy Crabb, general manager for the company. “With the HDM-GA1, our dealers and their clients don’t have to worry about rewiring an entire house because the client wants to upgrade to 4K video.”

For TiO dealers, the StealthStream 1 (SS1) was the reliable, easy-to-use home automation solution that they were seeking. “The StealthStream 1 was a big success for us this year because it’s simple to use, while providing scalable options for those looking to add more automation over time,” said Sanjay Patel, president and CEO for TiO. “The StealthStream is a versatile and powerful audio zone player that provides users with easy access to many popular digital music services and Bluetooth through the TiO Home App.”

Kelvin Yan, president for KanexPro, said that the success of his company’s 4x4 Ultra-Fast 4K HDMI Switcher (HDMX44-4K) reflected the growing trend in high-tech home theaters and the increasing need for “simple-to-use” technology. “Controlled entirely via web-based GUI using ethernet, it allows integrators to switch, control, and matrix directly from a touchpanel or computer with the touch of a button,” he said.

Aaron White, Severtson Screens national sales director, Home Theater Division, noted that his company’s Thin Bezel/SAT-4K screen was hit because its “clean lines” created an understated accent for the screen, while the acoustic properties of the SAT material allowed speakers to be concealed directly behind the screen.

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Dennis Holzer, PowerHouse Alliance

At CEDIA 2015, the PowerHouse Alliance announced the addition of VIZIO’s Reference Series of 4K UHD TVs with built-in 5.1 surround sound, to its distributor lineup of vendors and products, and the entire series has been a tremendous success for Alliance members. “Most surprising, has been the high sales of the 120-inch model,” noted Dennis Holzer, executive director. “Priced at $129,999.99, the 120-inch model has been a top seller across the nation, with units being sold to both consumers and major American corporations. Given the high cost and less-flexible mounting options of projectors and screens, the 120-inch Reference Series 4K UHD TV from VIZIO is seen as a great solution for clients with unique needs.”

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The VIZIO Reference Series

Pro Audio Technology’s SCRS-6im in-wall loudspeaker was an immediate success with customers, according to company president Paul Hales. “This model offers the exceptional performance of our already best-selling SCRS- 26im in-wall model, but at a more affordable price. The SCRS-6im loudspeaker uses only one woofer (compared to the 26im’s two), and also offers an internal passive crossover network that allows customers to drive it with a single amp channel, saving cost.”

EPV Screen’s Dave Rodgers believes that growing demand for ALR (ambient light rejecting) projection screens signifies the increased popularity of replacing residential flat panel TVs with a larger-than-life projection display. “When coupled with a quality 4K projector, the DarkStar eFinity creates an exponentially larger image than a 100-inch TV at a fraction of the cost,” he said, noting that specific product’s success. “The DarkStar eFinity not only negates the washout effects of ambient light but provides a wide viewing angle that is more consistent with the casual seating arrangements of a home living room.”

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EPV’s DarkStar eFinity

Across SunBriteTV’s line of outdoor TVs, the Signature Series 55-inch displaced its 46- inch Signature Series to become the company’s new leader in both residential and commercial applications. “In 2016, its sweet spot pricing, integrator-friendly feature set, and our unyielding consistency when it comes to weatherproofing has made it our best-selling product,” said general manager, Jonathan Johnson.

For Vantage, the Universal Dimmer Module has been the best selling product of 2016. According to the company, this product allows its customers to deliver a control and dimming solution for a wide range of lighting fixture types including energy-efficient LEDs. For sister brand QMotion, the Motorized Roller Shades with ZigBee HA 1.2 two-way communications have been best sellers. Available as either battery-operated or hardwired, the two-way communications and ease of installation and programming has resonated with integrators and dealers, the company said.

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QMotion’s DualShades

The Panamax VT4315-PRO power conditioner grew directly out of discussions with dealers and their desire to get all the protection and filtration from the Panamax flagship M4315-PRO power conditioner without sacrificing rack space, according to Mike Jordan, Core Brands VP of product management. “So, we took the M4315-PRO’s AC surge protection, line filtering, IP-controlled power management, and signal-side protection and designed it into a vertical form factor to attach to the back of the rack,” he said. “Doing this also let us add four outlets; the VT4315-PRO’s 12 outlets are organized in eight controllable banks, with four individually controlled outlets and four controlled duplex pairs.”

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Panamax VT4315-PRO

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Mike Jordan, Core Brands VP of product management


The product’s performance starts with Panamax’s Protect-or-Disconnect surge protection, and adds Automatic Voltage Monitoring to protect connected equipment against over and under-voltage situations, and LiFT Linear Filtering Technology to maximize AV gear performance. It’s also BlueBOLT-enabled, allowing integrators to remotely reboot components, resolving on-site issues without a service call.

BenQ’s top seller is the HT2050 projector, which builds on the success of its other home theater models, the W1070 and HT1075. “[The products] all hit the sweet spot in terms of quality and value,” said J.Y. Hu, VP, business line management at BenQ America Corp. “The Colorific full HD 1080p home theater projector brings the big screen experience into the living room and is packed with features including lens shift, side projection, short-throw technology, CineMaster audio, ISF calibration, and full HD wireless connectivity. Plus, its color performance is up to par reproducing perfectly balanced picture; sharp, crystal-clear imaging; and crisp shadow details thanks to an all-new premium glass optical system.

Based on the popularity of its ERWEN-9E, ERWEN-12E, and ERWEN-15E wall-mounted rack enclosures, VMP launched the ERWEN-6E this year to be as effective and rugged, but in an even smaller package that is ideal for home theater settings, according to Keith Fulmer, president of VMP. “Where space is at a premium, getting equipment off the floor and on the wall is a must when floor-standing equipment racks just won’t do,” he said. “VMP designed the ERWEN Series wall mounted racks for both form and functionality, especially with the AV installer in mind. With adjustable front and rear rails, removable hinged back panel, and a reversible glass front door, the ERWEN-6E is the answer to the most demanding rack mount requirements in the custom home setting.”

Jeremy J. Glowacki is editorial director of Residential Systems.

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