Take Complete Control Of Your Automated Home With Control4

Control4 is one of the world’s leading complete home automation systems, allowing you to take total control of a huge variety of electronic devices with a single touch, swipe or voice command.

Described as an ‘operating system for the home’ by some, it seamlessly connects TV, lighting, security, communications, and entertainment systems not only in the home, but for retail and business premises too. It’s the unified Smart Home system which enhances the experience of all its users by being easy to use, and energy efficient. Control4 integrates and operates with more than 13,000 different third party electronic devices made by a huge range of household name manufacturers of a multitude of diverse durables and services, including Sonos, Nest, Lutron, Hulu, Napster, Apple Macintosh, Pioneer, Bose, Mitsubishi, and Toshiba. All these companies make devices which can easily be added to the Control4 environment, all working together and making use ever easier. Read more

Which is Best For Home Cinema, Projector or Flat Screen?

installing motorised home cinema screenIf you’re looking for a large HD picture to watch movies, play games, create a home cinema or just watch regular TV you might think you need to buy a large format TV. However, it may surprise you to know that many projectors are not only HD but 4K compatible, giving a clear, crisp image up to two or three times the size of a comparatively priced HD TV set.

Ideally the room you would set your projector up in to create a home cinema would be dark enough to eliminate ambient and encroaching light. Just like at the cinema, the darker the room the better, but if you want to get a real home theatre experience, that would be equally true for an HD TV too. If you’re converting a basement or loft, rooms which don’t have windows or rooms which can easily be blacked out are the best because the darker the room the better the picture. Consequently a projector with delivers 1,500 lumens would be sufficient for a room which can be completely blacked out, while a room which can’t be blacked out entirely would require a projector of 2,500 lumens and high gain screen to deliver a high contrast, bright image. Read more

Unlimited Data Means Students And Renters Can Get All The Benefits Of The Smart Home Revolution Too

smart devices, connected devicesA short while ago Three.co.uk started offering a HomeFi wireless home router which delivers unlimited 4G to 32 devices for £22.00 per month. I had to check that was correct, as compared to other providers unlimited internet access for more than 30 phones, laptops, smart speakers, CCTV and alarms seems phenomenally good value. I was assured by the sales assistant that yes, it really was unlimited and, as he signed me up he checked all the ‘unlimited’ boxes on the form, which made me phenomenally happy!

Now, this package isn’t designed for a small business running their entire internet service via this one little Huawei device. You could try to connect 32 computers all streaming movies all day all month, but it’s only a little box which works on a GSM network so the connection just isn’t built for for that kind of data usage, so ‘unlimited’ actually means ‘unlimited depending on the speed and quality of the phone reception you’re receiving’. But if you’re not able to consume huge amounts of data due to the limitations of the phone network, what is it good for? Read more

DIY HiFi, How And Why?

DIY is one of the UK’s favourite pass-times. Last year the DIY industry was worth £36,000,000,0000 and caused 25,763 injuries requiring medical attention between 2014 and 2017.

I’m sure if you really looked into it you could find out how much of that £36bn was spent on repairing their own mistakes, and replacing stuff that they had broken. Look deeper still and you can probably find how much was spent getting a professional in after a disastrous weekend of failed home improvement.

DIY ranges from building a lean-to, putting together flat-pack furniture, decorating or installing home entertainment systems and the like. For the most part these kinds of jobs are easy enough, don’t require any specialist tools besides pliers, screwdrivers and a drill. I could write for ages about the guy who removed all the floors and load bearing walls out for reasons known only to himself, or the one who began burrowing under his home, then his neighbours’ eventually undermining several properties down his street over a period of years.

DIY Is Often More Expensive Than Hiring Professionals

Instead we’ll stick to covering the mistakes and mishaps that can happen when you’re installing your own home entertainment systems. These mistakes can prove costly, and incredibly inconvenient if you have to replace expensive TV or hi-fi equipment when you break it. Others, while not needing a pricey fix, can be really irritating if you get them wrong.

Cabling. Even speakers, routers, and other devices named ‘wireless’ still need power cables, so the cliché runs as true for them as it does for traditional cabled equipment, you can always cut it shorter, never longer. Always buy and fit more cable than you think you’re going to need because you’ll always want to move things around, change your mind about positioning, find the wire has to go around something, and no matter how good your wire is, it never ever stretches. Once your speaker is in position there’s nothing as irritating as pulling it out to adjust it and the cable comes out, and then slips back down behind the bookcase you’ve put it on!

On the subject of cabling; ID your ends! Once you start to get into a multichannel system with amps, DVD players, CD players, decoders, computers, HDTVs etc you’re going to find that you have A LOT of cable and they’re all going to start looking very similar. If you haven’t identified the ends of each cable you’re going to have to spend a lot of time and trouble tracing each line from one end to the other, scrabbling around behind furniture, untying and untwisting knotted wires… All you needed to do was stick a label made of masking tape to the end and all your woes would have been solved. Read more

Is Sky Q The Service For You?

Sky Q is the latest offering from Sky intended to change the way we watch TV.

Sky Q brings all of your entertainment into one place and makes it easier to use wherever you are. Stream movies, sports, TV, music and boxsets while you record other channels and watch a different channel altogether. The beauty of Sky Q is that it can handle a huge amount of data and deliver it to multiple locations throughout the home all at once.

Depending on whether you choose 1 terabyte or 2 terabyte options you will have several different options available to you.

1 terabyte:
• 150 hours of HD recording space
• 8 TV tuners
• 1 minibox
• 1 tablet
• Full HD 1080p but no Ultra HD playback

2 terabyte:
• 350 hours HD recording
• 12 TV tuners
• 2 miniboxes
• 2 tablets
• Full HD and 4K HDR playback Read more

DIY Hi-Fi, WiFi And Home Entertainment Pitfalls

DIY is one of the UK’s favourite pass-times. Last year the DIY industry was worth £36,000,000,0000 and caused 25,763 injuries requiring medical attention between 2014 and 2017.

I’m sure if you really looked into it you could find out how much of that £36bn was spent on repairing their own mistakes, and replacing stuff that they had broken. Look deeper still and you can probably find how much was spent getting a professional in after a disastrous weekend of failed home improvement.

DIY ranges from building a lean-to, putting together flatpack furniture, decorating or installing home entertainment systems and the like. For the most part these kinds of jobs are easy enough, don’t require any specialist tools besides pliers, screwdrivers and a drill. I could write for ages about the guy who removed all the floors and load bearing walls out for reasons known only to himself, or the one who began burrowing under his home, then his neighbours’ eventually undermining several properties down his street over the period of several years. Read more

How To Plan Your Entry Level Home Cinema

Finding information on many aspects of home entertainment, wireless, SMART homes, home cinema and home networking can be really tricky.

If you’re only asking basic “how to” questions, but the information you get back is in depth technical specifics, product descriptions, or professional level discussions including baffling jargon and acronyms, the information is useless. So, instead of confusing you with useless data, we break it down for you.

When I started researching this article I Googled “how to design your own home theatre” just to see what other home entertainment fans were doing. Wow! Those guys REALLY take home cinema seriously!

So, this blog is going to be about what the average home entertainment fan can do in their home to create the best viewing environment, without building a soundproofed extension and furnishing it with rows of suede armchairs. Instead, this will be about screen and surround sound location. But if you do have a mancave and want it turned into a theatre, you’re welcome too.

You can skip straight to the bulletpointed list now, or read on to see why we recommend doing things the way we do

First of all, decide which room you’re going to convert into a home theatre and entertainment centre. If you’re thinking you can just put a new surround sound system into the living room, think again. The room you choose will need to be dedicated to movies and games or the entire point of investing in the effort and equipment needed is lost.

Next you’ll need to set a budget. If you know the size of room you’re converting, and the type of movies you’re going to want to watch then you’ll also know the size of TV screen you want, the number of speakers required for the best sound and the size of furniture you can have in there. The price of the TV and separates is item 1 on your budget, but then it may be necessary to add carpet, comfortable furniture, and thick curtains to keep out light and muffle sounds.

As well as the AV equipment itself, think about lighting too. Too dim and you’ll need to turn it up every time you misplace the remote or game controller, too bright and it interferes with your immersion into the picture. Lighting which is controlled by your home hub would be perfect, but a dimmer switch will do for now.

As well as dark, heavy curtains to block out the light and noise from outside your house, it’s a good idea to get dark carpet or rugs. These not only baffle the sound while adding a soft, comfortable surface underfoot, they reduce the ambient light in the room too. Paint the walls a muted colour too, or, better yet, use a noise reducing wallpaper.

Build a rack for all your equipment. All the different pieces of technology you’ll need soon mount up, and hoping to make sense of them all if they’re strewn about will become impossible. Building a rack will mean that they’re all in one place, neatly stacked but with all vents clear and the wiring loom will be much easier to make sense of too. Nobody wants wires all over the place, but if you don’t go completely wire free, you at least want the cabling to be neat and tidy with all lines neatly identified. Find a good universal remote control too. Having half a dozen different handsets all over the place, all getting lost, needing batteries gets very tiresome very quickly.

Next you need to start making it look like a luxurious home cinema. You’ll want to place the primary seating directly in front of the screen, at approximately 1.5 to 2.5 times as far away from the screen as the screen’s diagonal width and the primary speakers should be at eye level and equidistant from your head, ideally forming an equilateral triangle of left and right channels and your head. The secondary speakers need to be set up behind you, ensuring they’re on the right sides of the room, otherwise the stereo effect will be lost. The subwoofer can go under the TV, or directly behind you. Some say it should be aimed toward the head for the best sound, while others say “no, point it at your torso for a bone rattlingly intense experience!”

Ideally the maximum width of sofa will be two seats. Wider than that and the benefits of a wide screen and surround sound will be lost. If you’re planning on having more than two people at a time watching, don’t put additional seating alongside your primary viewing position, but behind.

When choosing what furniture to use, heavy, comfortable couches with fabric covers are best. As well as being comfortable to sit in for the duration of a movie or extended game-play, the fabric will deaden ambient sound. Other furniture should be kept to a minimum. Flat surfaces reflect sound back into the room which can affect the dynamic surround. Keeping curtains closed when you’re watching will also prevent the windows reflecting sound back into the room as well as keeping out bright sunlight or street lighting.

Another reason to keep furniture such as dressers, chests of drawers et cetera to a minimum is data and signal. If you decide to use wireless devices and wireless speakers interference can come from many sources, and objects in between a signal source and the receiving device can reduce the strength of the signal, which in turn affects the output.

Finally, KISS. Keep It Simple, Seriously. Too much clutter, too many boxes and devices needing to be plugged in, swapped over, or charged, too much cable, are irritants. Even pictures and posters on the wall which can cause reflections and detract the eye all interfere with your viewing pleasure. You don’t want a bare room, but a zen-like peaceful space, at least until the opening titles run, is a must.

 

Now for that bulletpoint list:

• Dedicate your space to movies and games

• Set a budget, and tweak your expectations accordingly

• Think about how you’re going to light the room

• Use soft furnishings such as curtains and rugs to muffle sound and light

• Keep your home cinema clutter free

• Plan the layout of the room, speakers, subwoofer, screen and seating

• Use heavy fabric furniture for comfort and noise deadening

• Think about signal and data, keep the line of sight between radio sources and receivers such as wireless speakers clear

• And finally, keep it simple

The Wireless World’s Guilty Secret: Wires!

Start Living Your Life Clutter Free

When you’re thinking about installing your Smart Home WiFi, entertainment and security devices certain things make themselves annoyingly apparent. Cables.

Every electronic device naturally needs its own power supply, notwithstanding the application is ‘wireless’. Wireless speakers still need to be connected to the mains, even if they don’t need to be connected to the amplifier or TV. To keep up with the power supply demands means using all the available power points or littering your home with extension cables. And suddenly becoming ‘unwired’ is looking like more and more of an impossibility.

If we look at the case of wireless speakers a good deal of the problems with going ‘wireless’ come to a head. Despite the fact that the drivers don’t need to be connected to the device which is playing the sound, they do still need a power supply, so they need to be located near a power point, or have a long extension cable running to them. Wireless speakers also have a certain range. Take them too far away and they start to show a reduction in sound quality. They can also experience interference from microwaves, phones, and other wireless devices. None of these problems exist if there is a cable running to the speaker, although the wire can be unsightly, and pose a potential trip hazard.

With the advent of flat screen TVs it’s been possible to hang the screen on an interior wall. They take up almost no space and are easily located out of harm’s way. The down-side is that this means having several cables running up an otherwise blank section of wall. Read more

Decoding The Jargon; What To Look For When Buying Your First Home Cinema

Home Cinema InstallationOnce you’ve decided that you’re going to install a home cinema or audio visual system, one of the hardest things to find is information on the best products for your situation. Because of the myriad variables involved, there is clearly no ‘one sizer fits all’ solution, you need to put together your own package yourself. But where do you start if you’ve never done this kind of thing before?

Naturally, your first port of call is going to be to ask the experts, but searching online brings up an awful lot of jargon and system specifications that will mean nothing to you if you’ve not already incredibly savvy with the home AV market. And because your home is unique, and your taste in music, favourite TV shows and movies is something that’s personal to you, the system you end up with will look very different to anybody else’s. If you like to relax to classical music, like wildlife documentaries and watching costume dramas your system’s spec will be entirely different to an entertainment system which has been set up for someone who likes pop, and watches loud Hollywood action blockbusters. So you’ll have to weigh up which HDTV, soundbar, amp, speaker brand, speaker surround format.. And you’re confused already aren’t you? So why don’t we break down some of the tech talk so you know what these terms all mean when you’re trying to decide what to invest your money in. First of all, let’s start by looking at the most common acronyms that you’re likely to hear about when shopping for a home theatre.

Clearing Up The Digital Tech-Speak

• 3.1, 5.1 and 7.1 Surround Sound indicates the setup of the speakers you are using with your TV. 3.1 means that you are running three speakers, plus a subwoofer, while 5.1 would mean that you’re running a 5 speaker surround sound setup, with one subwoofer. It follows that 7.1 consists of 7 speakers and a subwoofer. A subwoofer is a bass speaker which handles the low end sounds, going below the audible range, so a powerful subwoofer will make snarling engines, explosions and the growling of monsters reverberate through the body, as well as being heard.

• ATST 3.0 stands for “Advanced Television Systems Committee standard version 3” and is a method of broadcasting TV to an antenna (also known as ‘over the air’ or OTA) which allows for 4k and superior sound. 4k is the latest high definition standard which means that the signal is designed to give high definition to a screen up to 4,000 pixels wide. You will be able to plug an ATST device into your tv which will wirelessly connect to your WiFi router

• DTH or DTHTV simply stands for ‘direct to home’ or ‘direct to home television’ and is the signal your satellite dish picks up.

• DTH splitters are devices which enable you to split the cable leading from your satellite dish to more than one decoder or box, making it possible to watch more than one channel from one dish. If you live in a communal building or apartment block, these devices make it possible for multiple homes to each receive satellite TV without having to have a separate dish fitted for each residence.

• FTA stands for ‘free to air’ and means the basic package of free TV channels you will get with any system.

• HDMI stands for ‘high definition multimedia interface’ and is an interface by which video and audio can be sent to a variety of different compatible devices, such as hifis, digital projectors, TV and computer monitors.

• LNB is a ‘low noise block downconverter’ and is the device that sits in the parabola of your satellite dish, picking up the signals and sending them into your home. The reason why you would consider which LNB is best depends on the TV you want to watch. If you just want a standard TV package there are plenty on the market, but if you want to watch Sky+ or Sky+HD or if you want the ability to run more than one tuner, which will make it possible to watch one channel while recording another, then you will need to carefully consider which LNB best suits your needs.

• LNB Skew isn’t a product or service, it is literally the skew of your satellite receiver. If the dish or LNB are angled even slightly wrong, the picture quality will suffer. Professional service and maintenance will mean that your dish will always be aligned correctly. With the work carried out by qualified personnel, such as those employed by Briant Communications, quality and safety are guaranteed

• PVR or DVR stands for either Personal or Digital Video Recorder. It’s a device which, as the name suggests, allows you to record digital TV. You can record direct to the PVR’s internal hard drive, a USB device such as a memory stick or an SD memory card such as found in digital dSLRs or video cameras, making to possible to remove the recorded programmes and watch them elsewhere.

• SCART is an acronym of Syndicat des Constructeurs d’Appareils Radiorécepteurs et Téléviseurs or ‘syndicat of radio and television equipment manufacturers’ and refers to the cable which connects DVD, DVR, video, computers and games to a TV. A SCART lead will have a 21 point plug on at least one end, the other could have one of many different connectors which will be appropriate to the device you wish to connect.

• Smart TV is a home AV system which is connected to the internet. If you want to watch BBC iPlayer, Youtube videos, listen to internet radio or Spotify and Netflix, you can do it all via your Hi-Def widescreen large Smart TV. Some Smart TVs can even be used as Smart hubs, making it possible to control all of your Smart devices from your TV.

• VSAT or ‘very small aperture terminal’ is satellite technology which delivers not only TV, but data as well. Used by business and domestic consumers, it allows you to watch TV at home, and also connects you to the internet. Because the equipment required is compact, reliable, simple to use, and lightweight, it’s VSAT technology which users such as explorers and search and rescue teams take out into the field to connect with home.