Dallas Single-Storey Mansion Gets Smart with Multi- Zone Audio and Control4 Home Automation
Pre-Installation and Setup
The owners of this large sprawling Dallas property approached us with one very specific need in mind, Multi-Zone Audio and easier control of their Audio/Video. The owners frequently host guests, and sometimes wanted to listen to their independent music in separate areas at individual volumes. Controlling the Audio/Video also proved to be very difficult with their current setup. There were several remote controls for every device and devices were hidden away in closets making them difficult to control.
After an initial site visit and clearly understanding the home owner’s requirements we suggested a 4-Zone Audio Solution which could be controlled by a single app on their smart phone or tablet. The original AV Integrator had also hidden away a majority of their components in closets and used IR Repeater kits to allow their remotes to be able to control the equipment by pointing at the main IR Emitter located on the display. We explained to our clients though this method works, it is now a bit outdated and keeping a universal remote control would be an optimal solution for them. A Universal Remote Control not only allows you to control everything with one remote, you don’t require messy wiring with the IR emitters to be shown on the television. All equipment can be hidden inside the closet but connected to a master controller or input/output extender and controlled without having to be visible.
Our clients had Audio/Video equipment already in place which was more then satisfactory in terms of the sound stage and audio quality they hoped to achieve. They wanted to enhance the experience by distributing their existing equipment into multiple zones and finding an easy way to control everything.
When we choose an amplifier for Multi-Zone Audio, we look to have the ability to control each zone independently with separate volume control and DSP for every zone. With the possibility of different types of speakers being used in every zone, a good EQ for calibration of each independent zone is extremely important to creating an amazing sound stage for each zone. Enough power is also essential for every channel incase the home owner wants to really go loud in certain zones they should have the option to do so. In our experience working with Multi-Zone amplifiers so far the AudioControl M4800 successfully accomplishes all of the above and more. It has 8 channels of audio which can be separated into 4 independent zones with each channel delivering over 100 watts per channel at 8 ohms, 200 watts per channel at 4 ohms and 400 watts at 8 ohms bridged, all channels driven. It also easily integrates with a Home Automation systems allowing our clients to control each zone independently from the app on their smartphone or tablet.
For each zone we managed to integrate the clients existing speakers. They had in-ceiling speakers by Sonance in their living room and bedrooms. And for their front patio and backyard zones there were Outdoor speakers from Episode. With the Audiocontrol M4800 we were able to separate the four areas into four easily accessible music zones with independent source selection and independent volume control.
Our clients were extremely enthusiastic about the idea of using Home Automation in their residence. They felt controlling the Audio/Video would be just the beginning and hoped to eventually integrate all the features a smart home can offer. Our immediate goal though was to ensure we gave them a solution which was not overly complicated and personified ease of use. After giving them a demo of the Control4 Home Automation system and how easy the GUI makes controlling Audio and Video zones and individual rooms, they fell in love with the system.
We set up a Control4 EA-3 Home Automation Controller in their Living Room Server Rack alongside the AudioControl M4800 and their existing sources for the room. Control4 easily integrates with the Audiocontrol M4800 through the network and can control all source components like the Televisions, DVD players, Cable Box and Apple TV through Infared signals. Their favorite part of the entire system came in the Control4 SR-260 Universal Remote which allowed them to easily control all these sources and their television from a single remote control. No more having to look for the Cable Box Remote or dealing with the untidiness of wires hanging out with IR Extender Kits. The SR- 260 remote speaks to the Control4 EA-3 controller wirelessly through zigbee and allows instantaneous wireless control of the entire room from the easy to use handheld interface.
Network and Media Streaming
With the EA-3 controller’s audio output connected directly to the AudioControl M4800 4-Zone Amplifier our clients were able to stream high resolution audio from Pandora, Deezer, Spotify and Tidal to any zone. You can choose your own playlists or select from ready-made charts all through the Control4 interface and play what you want, where you want. If one of the home owners was in the bedroom listening to their favorite playlist on Tidal, the other could be in the backyard listening to Spotify. The possibilities are endless with Multi-Zone Audio and it ensures everyone gets to listen to what they want, where they want, and the their favorite listening volume.
One of the biggest challenges we faced in this project was with the network not being run to all the important locations where we were to set up our Audio/Video components. The main router and WiFi Access point for the residence were located in the closet of the Master Bedroom. Our Automation and AV components which were essential to put on the network though were located in the Living Room Server Rack. Since this was a retrofit installation, we were not able to run a cat6 cable from the Master closet to the server rack. We found a great solution though by using the TP-Link AV500 Powerline Extenders and extending the network directly over the powerline. We simply plugged one of the powerline extenders into the Master Closet and connected it to the router. We then plugged in the second powerline extender from the kit in the Living Room server area and connected the cat6 cable from this extender to a 5 port network switch. This allowed us to easily have all of our components connected to the network without any drops of connection as we would have faced if we tried to extend the connection wirelessly.
Components and Cables
Home Automation Controller: Control4 EA-3
Home Automation Universal Remote Control: Control4 SR-260
Multi-Zone Amplifier: AudioControl M4800
Living Room Speakers: Sonance CR101SST
Bedroom Speakers: Sonance CR101SST
Outdoor Patio Speakers: Episode Standard 5 inch White
Backyard Speakers: Episode Standard 5 inch Black
Powerline Adapters: TP-Link AV500
Once the network was extended and all components came online the system worked flawlessly. With the Shairbridge feature from Control4 our clients could easily airplay from their smartphones directly to any zone, and of course, set that zone to their preferred volume. Once the network was extended and all components came online the system worked flawlessly. With the Shairbridge feature from Control4 our clients could easily airplay from their smartphones directly to any zone, and of course, set that zone to whatever volume they prefer.
The two televisions zones and their attached sources have also become much easier to control. The simple universal remote control interface for the hall has definitely made life much more simple. And with some fine tuning in the DSP of the AudioControl M4800 we were able to really fine tune each zone to deliver crisp and detailed audio which did not cause any listening fatigue or wear out the listeners.
The Final Verdict
This was by far one of favorite custom integrations to date. We had the help of an amazing electrician and the clients were wonderful to work with. After the setup Whole House parties or backyard get-to- gethers are a lot more enjoyable now and our clients continually rave to us how much they are enjoying the system. They are so happy with using automation in their residence, the next step is to integrate the lights and security system and add Amazon Echo dots throughout for Voice Activated Control. Stay tuned for our next visit to see the new additions we are able to integrate into this amazing Dallas property!