Surprisingly, this is the first time Phil has had a house packed with so much technology. "Prior to this home, we lived in a penthouse where we had a Bose surround system we bought about 10 years ago," he says. "We didn't have any distributed audio at all. Having access to music throughout the home has changed my lifestyle completely. I turn it on in the morning to get myself going before work, and I would say that 90% of the time from when we get up to when we go to bed, we have music playing."
When the Pates tire of listening to music, they can turn to one of the house's 15 TVs. Phil already owned two plasma TVs - a 42-inch Hitachi that we installed in the grillroom and a 50-inch Pioneer that's now in the master bedroom. A tabletop Elan Via touchpanel sits next to the master bed. For handheld IR control in the bedroom and the grillroom, we chose Harmony remotes because of their simple operation.
When it came time to buy the new TVs, Phil had a specific request: Sharp Aquos LCDs. "I owned some Sharp Aquos TVs in other homes, and I was always impressed with them," he says. "For simplicity's sake, I wanted to keep everything the same throughout the house, so I decided to go all Sharp. They're great TVs - good, clear, and visible from the sides. They also handle the light coming in from all of the windows really well." A sports bar upstairs - complete with working beer tap, Gamecocks-themed pool table, and Ms. Pac-Man arcade game - features three wall-mounted 20-inch Sharp LCD TVs for watching multiple games.
In the downstairs great room, two 26-inch Sharp sets flank the fireplace, with a giant 65-inch 1080p TV inset above the mantel. Tom Ramirez, who installed the TVs here, says, "This project allowed us to be really creative and try out some ideas we've always wanted to use. With the cabinetry layout, we wanted to mount the smaller TVs so they would have the effect of floating in the cabinet. The result was a clean install that allowed for both form and function."
The living room also has a separate four-channel surround system and a DVD player. Phil often has his grandkids over, so we wanted a location where the kids could watch a movie while the adults kept an eye on them. Using a Universal Remote Control, Phil can call up any of the DVDs managed by his Escient system.
The living room is so large that most bookshelf speakers wouldn't be up to the task of filling it with sound. So we chose Definitive Technology's PowerMonitor 900s, which feature built-in powered woofers and pack an astonishing wallop. "Every time I play music through them, I'm amazed," Phil says. "I can't believe all of that sound comes out of those small speakers."
To make sure visitors aren't left out of the action, the three guest rooms are all independent audio and video zones, and they feature 42-inch 1080p Sharp LCDs. Guests can use the Via touchpanels in each room to select their music or movie choices, which then appear on the HDTV.
John Sciacca began his career as a custom installer in 1998 at Custom Theater and Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, where he still works. He's still trying to figure out how to get the members of his family to turn the lights off when they're actually in the house, let alone from hundreds of miles away.
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