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By Todd Pierson, Larry Epperson, Sam Guarino & Tim Balvanz – Custom Electronics

So now, you’ve finalized your plans for your new home and you’re wondering what to expect during the construction process. As the homeowner, you will be the driving force concerning the direction of your project. You will need to maintain constant communication with your contractor (Job Superintendent). Your ESD (Electronics Systems Designer) should coordinate with your contractor and act as a project manager to make sure that project needs are being met. It would be a good idea to confirm with your contractor that your ESD is working in accordance with your wishes. This will help avoid conflicts with other disciplines.

Before all plans are finalized, coordinate with your cabinetmaker, so they can allow for any specific equipment requirements. Today’s amplifiers, cable boxes and Blu-ray Disc players can generate an appreciable amount of heat that will need to be vented in order to keep the equipment operating at peak efficiency. In some cases, your ESD may be required to order equipment early and pre-rack your A/V system, so that your cabinetmaker will have accurate measurements for the final cabinet designs (Pre-racking is when all the various components are mounted into a rack system that will later be installed into some type of cabinet or enclosure).

Your ESD will want to be in on the electrical walkthrough to make sure that all the electrical needs for your systems will be met. This will be especially important if you are having the ESD integrate lighting, motorized drapes or HVAC control. This usually occurs two weeks prior to electrical completion.

Shortly after that, there will be a low voltage rough-in walkthrough. This should be done with the homeowner present, as well as your interior designer, contractor, and possibly your electrician. At this time, your ESD will work with you to finalize speaker placement, TV locations, telephone and network outlets, and any control systems interfaces, such as keypads and touchpanels. As far as your ESD is concerned, A/V quality and functionality is paramount, but changes due to esthetics can sometimes offer similar results with only minor compromise.

The actual rough-in will likely occur sometime after electrical, plumbing and HVAC are completed. It may also start in the final week of electrical work, once rough-in lighting fixtures have been set. Make sure your contractor has allotted enough time for the A/V rough-in to be completed. Depending on the scope of your project, a rough-in can take anywhere from one day to multiple weeks. Your contractor should make sure that your ESD is given at least two weeks notice to arrange for all materials to be ordered in a timely fashion and the proper amount of labor to be scheduled. In some cases, in-wall/in-ceiling speakers will also require pre-construction brackets to be installed. This will make the finish installation of those speakers go much more smoothly.

Next comes the trim phase, if your system has any in-wall/in-ceiling speakers, they should be painted to your specifications and installed before the painting of interior rooms begins. When the electrician starts installing switches and outlets, your ESD will oversee the installation of cable/satellite, phone, and network outlets. You should expect to be billed for all of the products, along with installation labor used in this phase, one month prior to delivery.

Finally comes the finish phase of your project. Starting with your equipment, expect it to be ordered about one month prior to final installation. This typically allows a two-week buffer prior to install to make sure everything is ready to go. Depending on the contract with your builder, this phase is usually done after “closing”. Sometimes, equipment may be included in the mortgage and this phase may actually take place prior to “closing”. This process can again take from one day to multiple weeks depending on the amount of work required. You should expect to make a final payment, to be due upon substantial completion of the project (meaning almost all of the equipment is installed and working). Be aware that there may be additional changes that occur over the next few weeks, or months (i.e. – calibration and adjustments to software and hardware, as well as personalization of some buttons/controls that require engraving).

After the finish phase, your ESD or installation technician should be willing to spend time with you, going over the operation of your home A/V systems. This might take as little as 20 minutes, or it might take a couple of hours to cover all the training necessary. As in the beginning, we’d highly suggest you keep a notepad handy to reference any issues or questions that arise after your installation. These notes will help your ESD to resolve those issues quickly, and to your complete satisfaction.  At Custom Electronics, as with any reputable ESD, you should expect a 1-year warranty on the system operation, programming and all the installation components (wiring, etc.). Equipment warranties will vary with each manufacturer. At Custom Electronics, we also keep programming and remote backups at our location, should any control panels or remote controls become accidentally damaged. By doing this, we can get your system up and running in a timely fashion with a new replacement remote or control panel. This also allows us to do minor updates for your remotes when new equipment is swapped out for the next generation of home entertainment.

At any time during the process, you may elect to do something different from the planned bid proposal. Sometimes these changes can also come from the contractor, interior designer or other trades. If this happens, communicate with your ESD the desired changes. Your ESD will then generate a “Change Order” form that you will be asked to sign. This makes sure that your wishes are being met and that you have been made fully aware that there may be changes to your final bid amount, due to those modifications. You should also be prepared to pay for those changes as they occur.

As we’ve stressed throughout these articles, communication is key. If you have any concerns, you must establish a good working relationship with your ESD early in the project. This can insure that all your desires are met and that you will have a home entertainment system for which you can be proud. Custom Electronics has a web site where we highlight systems we’ve installed to give our customers ideas of what to expect with their finished project. Good luck with yours!

"This article will be in Omaha Living Magazine in a future issue"

By Todd Pierson, Sam Guarino and Tim Balvanz – Custom Electronics

In our last article, we discussed when to involve your Electronic System Designer (ESD) and what tools to provide, so your voice could be heard in the process. In this article, we will show you what to expect while finalizing those plans. Coordinated properly, you will go through a couple of meetings with your ESD. It is likely that those meetings will also involve your Architect, Interior Designer, and possibly your Builder. Expect this meeting to be no less than one hour in duration.

What should you bring to the meeting? It’s important to have a full set of current blueprints. This should be a set that can be left with the ESD. If you do not have a set to leave, make arrangements with your architect to get them to your ESD as soon as possible. Also bring your notebook that we discussed in the previous article.

Before you get started, you and your ESD will need to determine what services are required for your project. Below is a detailed list of design & engineering services that Custom Electronics is able to provide its’ clients.

•    Whole House Audio
•    Whole House Video
•    Surround Sound Media Systems
•    Dedicated Home Theater Design
•    Integrated Remote Control Systems
•    Centralized Lighting Control Systems
•    Telephone Systems
•    Cable/Satellite Wiring Infrastructure
•    Computer Network Wiring Infrastructure
•    Telephone Wiring Infrastructure

In the initial meeting, your ESD will discuss each of these services and how they would relate to your project. Expect to be asked a series of questions related to your lifestyle. Some of these questions may be related to your listening/viewing habits and what types of music and video content appeal to you and your family. What type of entertaining does your family do, etc.?

The next step will be to go over the blueprints, room by room. The ESD will ask you questions about how each room will be utilized. Will there be a TV located here? Does there need to be computer or telephone jack located here? Is it important to incorporate sound/music in this room? During this discussion the ESD will be taking detailed notes. Your answers to these, and other, questions will help to determine your wants and needs more accurately.

At this point your ESD will give you a brief overview of products that fulfill the requirements of your project. This product tour will give you an idea of all the possibilities available in today’s world of technology. The product features, along with their costs, will help you and your ESD to come up with a projected budget range that you feel comfortable working within.

At the conclusion of this meeting you may be asked for a design retainer. This is determined by the overall size of the project. A retainer is required on any larger projects to develop a series of documents that will become you’re A/V Blueprints. These are very labor intensive and can take upwards of 40 man-hours to produce.

In the next meeting your ESD will go over the A/V Blueprints developed for your project, and present you with a more accurate cost to complete the project. As with your previous meeting, allow no less than one hour for this presentation, to make sure you understand everything this project will entail. These A/V Blueprints are much like architectural blueprints. They are more than just a list of unfamiliar products, and will graphically detail how the products will be integrated into your system, so that you can easily understand how the system will operate.

This meeting, more likely than not, will illicit some design changes and corrections. Based on these changes, your ESD will be able to supply you with an updated quote within a few days. Once you have accepted the quote, the ESD can now coordinate a starting date, and establish a timeline for each phase of your project. They will contact your other contractors to make sure that his/her schedule works within their established timelines, and modify the schedules that don’t.

In our next article, we will discuss what to expect during the pre-wire, installation and finalization phases of your project.

"This article will be in Omaha Living Magazine's November 2009 issue"

By Larry Epperson, Sam Guarino & Tim Balvanz

Since you are reading this magazine you are probably contemplating building a new home. You may also be considering a remodel of your current home and are likely thinking about a home theater, or entertainment system and possibly whole-house audio. This will be the first in a series of articles to assist in determining when is the right time to involve your System Designer to optimize and assist you with achieving your goals.

When you started to think about building a new home, you probably first thought about hiring an architect to develop a set of blueprints. That’s good thinking. Now apply that same thinking to all the subsystems in your home. That is where the Electronic Systems Designer (ESD) comes into play. The role of the ESD is to apply scientific and engineering knowledge to develop a set of A/V (Audio/Video) blueprints similar to the blueprints done by your architect. He/she will design the systems, specify the equipment, formulate system set-up, direct the installation, define system operation, and more. They will have an integral role as an interface with the client, performing needs assessment, addressing lifestyle issues, and optimizing user interfaces for primary and secondary users. They will have the knowledge and ability to design and integrate residential electronic systems, including whole-house audio/video, home theater, and the virtually unlimited world of sub-system integration (security, HVAC, lighting, motorization, environmental system, and more).

A qualified ESD should have extensive training and some sort of certification. In many cases they will get this training annually through services like CEDIA (Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association - ). In addition to certification and on-going training, your ESD should have ample field experience in designing and implementing progressing technologies in electronics. A good ESD will not necessarily specify the latest/greatest in technology, but will specify systems based on equipment that is know to be reliable and proven in thousands of existing installations. You can find an ESD at the web link listed earlier in the paragraph. You should try to involve your ESD in your plans as early as possible, presumably concurrent with discussions with your architect. Your architect may even offer a suggestion of an ESD.

Why is it important to involve your ESD so early in the project? The ESD will likely affect the work involved with all the following trades… architect, interior designer, builder, electrician, HVAC, cabinetry, cable/satellite provider, phone and internet provider, pool and spa company, and more. It is their job to make sure that all your needs and desires are integrated seamlessly and cost effectively.

Most ESDs will want to start the consultation process as early as possible, preferably before the architect finalizes your house plans. Before you sit down with your ESD, get a notebook and take notes of all your wants and needs pertaining to your home entertainment system. Be specific about which rooms will need speakers, a TV, and what type of sources you will want access to (i.e. – CD, DVD, Blu-ray Disc, iPod™*, HD-Radio, cable TV or satellite, etc.). You will also want to determine which rooms you will require maximum performance for any serious movie watching and music listening. This will allow your ESD to make suggestions on room shape and design that will help improve both sound and picture in ways that your architect may not have considered. Be prepared to bring along a set of rough plans and your notebook filled with all your ideas.

Homes today are far more sophisticated with regard to electronic controls than those built just 10 years ago. Green compliance and consideration are important to today’s homebuyer, so, involving a qualified ESD at the outset of your project is not only important, but can be a great cost saver in both time and resources. Be prepared to spend time with your ESD communicating frankly and openly about your lifestyle, needs and budget.

In our next article we will discuss in more detail, the various electronic subsystems and processes you may want to incorporate into your home project.

iPod™ is a trademark of Apple Inc.

"This article will be in Omaha Living Magazine's August 2009 issue"

We are making a concerted effort to keep our Current Specials page up to date. We will try to update this on a weekly basis, so please check back to see what new items we have listed there.

PerspexBack in 2002 my wife and I bought a new house and that meant packing up all our belongings, including my turntable (record player) and record collection. With so much going on, it wasn’t until 2007 that I finally broke out the turntable and proceeded to integrate it into my home theatre setup. Once I did get it running, both my wife and I were amazed at how good it sounded. We’d forgotten about the detail, resolution and warmth that records (aka vinyl) could deliver. I bring this to your attention, because vinyl has been seeing resurgence of late.

According to Nielsen SoundScan, sales of vinyl were up 89% in 2008 and there is a reason for this. Vinyl records play back the sound information recorded on them in the same analog fashion that our ears hear with. There is more detail and resolution, because unlike Digital media, records utilize a wider range of frequencies than a typical CD does. 
Also, records don’t have the same sampling rate limitations present with CDs. If CD’s could store all the information present on an LP, they would have to have much more storage capacity than they currently do. Digital is not always better, it’s just more convenient.

Here in the metro area, we’ve seen shelf space being expanded in favor of vinyl. Homers Records has devoted an entire wall in their stores for vinyl and now stocks a wide selection of used LPs and singles as well. Homers also stocks supplies for vinyl (record cleaners, stylus cleaners and inner/outer sleeves). So, now you know where to get some supplies to take care of the collection you have and where to start expanding your collection.

So, what is one to do with their old record collection if they want to take advantage of this great medium? First, you will want to get a turntable. There are turntables ranging from the very affordable, say $100, to units costing in the thousands. A good manual turntable will start about $349. You will also need a good cartridge. The cartridge is part of the turntable that has a stylus (needle) that reads the information stored in the grooves of the record and then sends that signal to the receiver, which then amplifies the sound for your speakers. A good cartridge will start at around $60, although many lower to mid-end turntables will ship with a cartridge.

You will want to make sure your receiver has a “Phono” input. If not, you can use an available analog input (CD/AUX/TAPE), but you’ll need a phono preamp to match the signal level to the receiver. A good quality phono preamp can be had starting at about $159. Like turntables, there are cheaper ones out there, but you will get what you pay for. Some turntables also have built-in preamps. Don’t skimp if you really want to take full advantage of the sound quality that vinyl has to offer.

As I said earlier, there are cheaper turntables out there, but if you are serious about your music reproduction, avoid the cheap ones with the USB outputs or cheap plastic platters. They will not give you that warm sound you are searching for, and there are other options available if you want to archive your old vinyl for the car or iPod playback. Some phono preamps have a USB output for not much more money and they will work with Windows, MacOS or Linux computer systems.

I think after you give vinyl a chance, you will find that you will still listen to your iPod or CDs in the car or outside of the home, but when you want to sit down and give a critical listen to your music, I think you’ll find yourself breaking out the vinyl again and again. It is also a great way to relive fond memories. Enjoy!

Tim Balvanz – Sales Consultant
Custom Electronics, Inc.

"This article will be in Omaha Living Magazine's June issue"

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