Apartment Home Theater Renovation – Part 2
By Mark Vignola on
In Part I of this series we look at the conception and design of our apartment renovation. We also covered equipment selection. Now it is time to take a look at the final product. Once again, the interior AV design was done with Value Electronics, who has been doing custom install work in the NY Area for years.
First – let’s take a look at the finished product. I’ll walk through each room before ending at the equipment rack. I’ll also take a look at some of the emerging smart home technology we’ve incorporated – including use of Amazon Echo.
Main Living Room System
Here you can see a picture of the main system – anchored around the 77” LG C-series OLED. A custom entertainment credenza provides a spot for the KEF Reference C2 center channel and also hides the speaker wire terminations. From the wall plates, we used finished speaker cable from my “collection” – in the case of the KEF Reference 1’s these are SVS Sound Path Ultra cables. For the center channel, the cable is my own construction. Rob’s team found a neat way to route the speaker cables, allowing us to preserve the look of the cabinet effectively. As depicted in Part I, we incorporated spots for the right surround and subwoofer in cabinetry bordering the office. This has proven an excellent way to keep a second subwoofer off the floor. The surround left speaker resides on a speaker stand tucked behind our couch – directly across from its partner.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the installation are the Atmos speakers – which blend seamlessly into the extended beams as intended. I couldn’t be happier with how these turned out. Also fittinging into the room perfectly the Lutron Triathlon solar shades – in this picture they are fully down. Custom shades are expensive but with how well they integrate into the AV system, lowering automatically when watching a movie or at night, we’ve been happy to have made the investment. Lutron also has some more affordable models that also integrate with home controls systems.
Control in this room is handled by the URC TDC-7100 touch panel – which lives in a charging cradle on the bookshelf when not in use. Like many, we keep the AppleTV remote out and handy. We also have an Echo Dot centrally located in the kitchen which handles voice commands. On the wall of the living room you can see one of a handful of Lutron Pico Remotes – in this case they control scenes and shades in the room. I’ll have more to say about Lutron later in the review, but we’ve leveraged Pico remotes quite a bit in the apartment.
Rounding out equipment in the main room is a Bluesound Mini 2i speaker in the corner of the kitchen.
In this picture you can see the Sony X900-Series bedroom TV mounted along with the Bluesound soundbar. We have the accompanying subwoofer below our bed which works perfect. An Echo Dot provides voice control in this room. The TV is controlled with a URC remote – though I’ve been very surprised at the functionality that we’ve been able to get from the included Sony remote. Given that our only source in this room is streaming content accessed directly from the Sony – the eARC control of the Bluesound bar has proven very reliable. When audio is needed, AirPlay 2 seamlessly allows us to access the soundbar via our phones. This has meant that we can have a functioning remote on either side of the bed. On the ceiling is a Haiku fan – which is networked and controllable easily via Amazon Echo. Shades again are controlled via voice or a pico (when not responding to pre-programmed routines).
In the kids room, you can see the small Bluesound Flex 2i speaker in the corner – with an accompanying Echo Spot for voice control. Shades in this room largely operate on time programmed routines – though we can control them via URC and voice.
The nerve center of the apartment sits in a generous storage room.The SnapAV rack that we used here is on wheels, allowing easy access to the rear panel. At the top we have the Panasonic UB9000 UltraHD Blu-ray player – mounted high for easy disc access – followed by the networking equipment, control hubs, sources, URC base station, and finally the receiver. We left several panels open for review equipment. All of the cabling originates from behind the wire rack. You can see we have several redundant runs tucked away behind the rack. Rob’s team elected to wall mount the Verizon Fios box. We’ve vented this room in two ways – firstly on the door we left extra room at the floor; secondly, we installed a vent closer to the ceiling.
On top of the rack is our wireless access point – of which we only needed one in our apartment. Speed and signal strength is fantastic so I haven’t had the need to move the access point from where it sits on top of the equipment rack.
Smart Home Control & Features
Lutron represents the majority of “smart” devices in the apartment. Every light switch is networked along with all of the shades. I’ve used the Lutron app to program scenes with both the lights and shades. These scenes are easily exportable to URC, Amazon Echo and IFTTT. I have been totally floored by the robustness of the Lutron RadioRa2 Select system. The system just always works. As I said above, we’ve leveraged Pico remotes throughout the apartment which are also great. They are easy to program and easy to mount.
Amazon Echo has proven to be an excellent integrator in its own right – and I’m continually impressed by just how robust this system is, how easy it is to program, and how reliable it is at tying together multiple systems across the apartment. “Echo, goodnight” turns off all the lights in the apartment, puts down the shades (both Lutron and Hunter Douglas), turns on our fan to medium (a Big Ass Fan Haiku), turns on our Dohm sound machine (via Monoprice Stitch Smart Plug) and locks our front door (a August Smart Lock – a highly recommended addition by the way).
As I said in my review of the Bluesound system, Apple Airplay 2 continues to amaze. I can easily direct music all around the apartment from any of our iOS devices reliably and group zones intuitively. It just works and works well.
I’m just getting started with IFTTT – and so far I’m really impressed by how easy it is to use. From the app I was able to, in about a minute, install a macro that turns on our hall and living room lights when the August lock is unlocked. I can even change how bright the lights turn on based on time of day. The program is so capable and easy to use – I’m eager to spend more time playing.
August Smart Lock
One of the more game changing additions to our smart home – and likely the one that my wife would be most enthusiastic about. Not having to remember your keys is incredibly liberating. Also wonderful is the ability to issue temporary codes for access to the apartment – either permanently for a nanny or dog walker, or temporarily, for a plumber. The August is rock solid from a reliability standpoint. Our lock, The August Smart Lock Pro – utilizes a wireless bridge for access remotely via WiFi. The app is intuitive and easy to use, and the addition of a keypad outside the door means that a phone isn’t needed for access. Also nice very good integration to Echo, Google Home and Apple Homekit. Highly recommended.
4K Apple TV
Bluesound Node 2i
Smart Home Control
Lutron RadioRa2 Select Repeater
Hunter Douglas PowerView Hub
Honeywell Redlink Internet Gateway
URC MRC-15 Base Station
Luxul EPIC-4 ABR4500
Araknis Networks 210 Series Websmart Gigabit Switch (PoE)
SnapAV 27U Strong Rack