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Help! Really Need Some Advice

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
Okay, I have a pretty new house with a Russound multi-room audio system (I think it's the MCA-CA5). I'm currently using 4 zones and I'm doing my basement right now. I'm planning on adding a zone by my basement bar and another outside my house. I'm planning on buying the keypads, speakers, and having my builder run the wire, and then I'll program the system. The only thing I have hooked in the Russound right now is the tuner it came with.

I'm also looking into home automation with a system like Control 4. I'm probably only looking to do something basic at the start like control my TVs, Russound multi-room audio, and perhaps my thermostats. I have all Apple equipment - multiple iphones, iPads, lap top, and desk top. I have an upstairs hearth room with surround sound, I'm doing a new basement family room that will have surround sound, and I'm doing a dedicated movie theatre that will have surround sound. We're typically pretty practical and don't want to spend a ton of money. We think the home automation stuff is cool, but aren't willing to spend ridiculous amounts of money to get it. Our house is currently wired with Cat 5e cable, but I planning on Cat 6 in the basement and I may redo some of the cabling to the upstairs while we can still get to it.

Here's my series of questions (because my head literally spins with people telling me different things):

1. I'm interested in Russound's DMS 3.1 Streamer because I want to stream my music and I'd ideally also like to be able to play Pandora and Sirius/XM radio on my Russound speakers. I believe the DMS Streamer will do these things for me. However, the Control 4 guy told me that he wouldn't do that; he thinks he should install a driver that will run my Apple TV and I can stream all my iTunes on the Russound that way. Is using Control 4 or a different home automation system a better way to bring more functionality to the Russound? Should I be looking at something like Sonos? Does it integrate with Russound? Is this an easier way to bring more sources into my Russound?
3. We'd really like to be able to control all our TVs/theater with home automation like Control 4. Do you think you get the best bang for your buck with Control 4? Or is there another professionally installed system that's just as affordable that we should be looking at?
4. What's the best setup for receivers? We have the Russound for the multi-room audio. I have a decent Onkyo receiver for my upstairs hearth room. What should I be looking at for my downstairs family room and theater? I've had one professional recommend a new Marantz receiver that can control 2 different systems off the same receiver.
5. If this was your home, are there any options/things we should really consider doing? I don't know all the capabilities or best practices that I should be considering so am open to ideas.
6. I have about a week to make a decision on what I'm going to do. If I can't make a decision on which way to go, what type of prewiring should I be doing that will give me the best options long term if I want to do home automation?

Thanks so much in advance. I just haven't been impressed with the professionals in my area. Their knowledge seems really limited where they really don't understand their systems and good practices so I've recently started trying to learn as much as I can on my own.

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post #2 of 5
Who installed the Russound system? Are you near a city? Maybe you just haven't found the right AV company/integrator.

Because you're most interested in audio, and controlling a couple 5.1 systems, and you're not made of money, perhaps a whole-house control system isn't for you.

I'd use 2 receivers/AVRs for the 5.1 zones, research the Russound streamer more, add zones to the Russound system, and spend the money on some nice remotes for the hearth room and basement 5.1 systems.

Find a new integrator, one who doesn't do Control4. Ask around at work for references, and the builder may have other recs.

I'd be nervous having a builder run my cables. Find a company that does this professionally. Although i's not rocket science, it's easy to screw up.

There is often a disconnect between the knowledgeable installers and the salesman, within AV companies.

You'll have a much better basement theater if you find a good AV company. They'll consider room acoustics, projector location, lighting options (dimming, control), and AV control, while the builder and anyone else won't have a clue. You want to involve him/them before doing anything to the basement space.
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the reply/advice. Yeah, I'm in the Kansas City metro so I had the Russound professionally installed. I just wasn't impressed with the guy's knowledge and he was someone the builder recommended. I feel like I'm aware of more the possibilities in the market place than he is. Overall, I've talked to a few different integrators and haven't found what I'm looking for yet (each one has different systems and some aren't knowledgeable about other systems). I'm thinking I can add to the Russound myself with the builder's help.

Do you think Control4 is a bad home automation system? I actually think it's pretty reasonable cost wise to get started and I like that I can add to it over time. Plus, it sounds like Control4 can control my Russound.

On the cable installation, my builder's going to have the electrical contractor run the low voltage.

On the theater, he did my next door neighbor's theater and did a fantastic job. I'm confident in his ability to deliver what I'm looking for quality wise there.

I'm thinking I want a professional home automation system like Control4 that doesn't break the bank. I've thought about going the DIY route with mControl or something like that, but just wasn't sure how much time I wanted to spend figuring everything out. Is there anything else out there that's comparable cost wise to Control4? Is Savant? I've heard Crestron is expensive.
post #4 of 5
First time I've heard heard someone say that C4 was affordable.

The price of Crestron will be coming down, with more affordable programming. You should look into that, rather than C4.
post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 
What do you like about Crestron versus C4? My Russound guy does Crestron, but every time I talk to him, he's doing jobs that are like $40k. I think home automation is cool, but not that cool. So I think he's scared me off in thinking that it's not an affordable option for me and way more expensive than some of the other systems out there.

If I can't make a decision, any recommendations on what type of prewiring to do? I've seen some people recommending 2 or 3 Cat 5e or cat 6 cables to each location. Why do I need more than one to an area? Thanks.
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