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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am pretty sure an attempt is being made to take me to the cleaners. There just has to be a simpler / better / cheaper way to do what I am trying to do. I am looking for alternatives.


Last year I completed a new home, and had a lot of wiring installed, and some inwall and inceiling speakers. I finished out the system in my den, and now I'd like to finish the job with other rooms.


Here is where I am with things now:


I have a dedicated AV closet, with all wiring led there. A serious rack that rolls out. A total of 5 zones in the total picture.


Den: This room is "done". A 5.1 speaker arrangement, inwall and inceiling. Driven by an Integra AV receiver. Cable TV, ipod dock, CD player, and DVD player (not yet Blu Ray). A power conditioning unit is installed. The remote is an RTI.


Master Bedroom: Installed are 2 B&W inwall speakers running stereo, and the adjacent master bath has a single B&W inceiling playing mono. The room is wired for a wall mounted TV not yet installed. The master bed and bath are to be a single zone. There is wiring for a keypad in the bath. The bedroom is a very short run to the AV closet, so I believe the TV is wired for HDMI cable.


Kitchen: a pair of B&W inceiling speakers installed. There is wiring for a wall mounted TV (and keypad for a control system). There is some distance to the AV closet, so it was wired for Cat 5, intending to use a balun to achieve HD TV.


Study: Wired for 3.1 speakers. Wired for wall mounted TV. Nothing installed as of yet.


Outdoors: Wired for a pair of speakers on a porch. Nothing installed yet.


On a temp basis, the kitchen and bedroom / bath speakers are connected to the den system on a simple A/B switch. I can turn on the speakers in the second zone set to listen to whatever is playing on the AV receiver, and control volume in each of the two zones independently.


Now, I'd like to install the 3 additional TV's, the outdoor speakers, and the speakers in the study. I can easy make do with a pair of on-walls flanking the TV in the study for the moment, and have kinda thought I'd go with B&W FPM 5's, but that choice isn't critical to my question.


My goal is pretty simple: I want the AV clutter contained in the AV closet. I want audio in each of the 5 zones, each controllable for volume (separately controllable for bass / treble a plus, but not manditory). I want to be able to listen to different cable stations in the different rooms, or watch a DVD in one room and cable in another. In the kitchen, audio can be the TV speaker if this makes things easier. In the bedroom / bath, best if the inwalls and inceiling are used. In the study, the onwall speakers for the TV.


Now the cost of TV's, mounts, and speakers quote is $7800. That is what it is. I can certainly tinker with TV and speaker selections easily enough.


The problem is, the rest of the puzzle, including a Niles control system, remotes and keypads, a couple of keypads, and some other stuff apparently necessary to run BluRay distribution runs another $19k. Yes, shocking. And that's with all wiring already installed.


There has to be a better way.


Breaking this down, it appears that just getting the kitchen TV up and running using the TV audio, involves nothing more than the cost of the TV and mount, a balun on the Cat 5, another shelf in the rack, and a remote using radio frequency.


It would appear the same holds true in master TV so long as I am willing to not use the inwall speakers, and just go with the TV audio.


Which leaves a few challenges: 1) how to get DVD / BlueRay to 4 different TV's; 2) 5 zones of music from 3 sources (AM/FM, ipod, and CD changer) (the installed den being 5.1); and 3) sensible remote configuration, including enough feedback to reasonably operate the ipod, etc.


As quoted, the existing Integra AV receiver would continue to drive the den. The Niles system would provide the amps for the remaining zones.


Frankly, as a simple solution, I'd just install some sort of box to replace the simple A/B zone box controller, with a similar box to drive the audio zones. But that doesn't solve the problem of how to drive DVD / BluRay into the other TV's.


There has to be a better way, that doesn't cost so bloody much, compared to the solution quoted to me.
 

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You can do it all DIY, but it will take a lot of time to figure out.


You could ask kindly for a revised estimate, for a budget system.


Or, you could shop around for another installer, and make it clear you want a budget system.
 

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HDMI distribution is where the price is jumping up. You have to remember that the quirks that a DYI is willing to put up with to have an inexpensive HDMI switcher is not what a pro is willing to put up with, since he has to field the calls from the client on the piece of junk he was sold to hit his budget. Same thing for HDMI baluns. A pro that wants no drama will not use baluns that sell for $ 89.00, as there is too many potential headaches with that solution, as opposed to using something like Extron or Ethereal which cost north of $ 600 a pair.
 

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Thats the first thing i thought of also. I bet there is HDMI distribution in the mix.


How many remotes and keypads? These can start to add up also.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by ListeningOne /forum/post/18274914



Breaking this down, it appears that just getting the kitchen TV up and running using the TV audio, involves nothing more than the cost of the TV and mount, a balun on the Cat 5, another shelf in the rack, and a remote using radio frequency.


It would appear the same holds true in master TV so long as I am willing to not use the inwall speakers, and just go with the TV audio.

Don't forget that this scenario you are describing does not have a matrix switcher for audio or video. This means you have to watch and listen to the same thing in every room.
 

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First, listen to what the above posters have said, and take their posts to heart.


Second, I'm not sure you're being taken to the cleaners - but you most certainly are in sticker shock. Based on how you've phrased certain things and the lack of detail as to what's being proposed, I'm inclined to conclude that you and your installer are not clearly communicating - he may not completely understand your desires, and I don't know that you clearly understand what he is proposing. So, take a few deep breaths and relax. Then sit down with your installer again and have him walk you through everything - make sure you confirm each step of the way that it will do what you want - I did this with my theater build and found some things that were misunderstood by both parties. Start with getting to a common understanding of what you want and how much that will cost, then you can begin to make compromises (on what you want, or how much to do now vs. later) if that's more than you want to spend.


As stated above, trust that the installer knows the right equipment to choose - sure I could have DIY'ed some of my stuff, but in the end, having an installer choose equipment that's rock solid (and that I could get happy with) has made my use of the theater and other goodies pain-free.


What you are asking for is not going to be cheap (if done professionally), and this price COULD be very reasonable. Heck, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be cheap if DIY!!



I want to address some of your comments specifically:

Quote:
Now the cost of TV's, mounts, and speakers quote is $7800. That is what it is. I can certainly tinker with TV and speaker selections easily enough.

Bear in mind that if you "tinker" with tv selections, that might impact your control ability. Perhaps the installer selected tv's that have RS232 ports or even IP control abilities. Changing them to something else that doesn't have those control abilities might raise the other part of your quote, as now a different method of control has to be used.

Quote:
Which leaves a few challenges: 2) 5 zones of music from 3 sources (AM/FM, ipod, and CD changer) (the installed den being 5.1)
Quote:
As quoted, the existing Integra AV receiver would continue to drive the den. The Niles system would provide the amps for the remaining zones.

I don't understand - you seem to have answered your own question here - I'm ASSUMING (due to lack of information) that all of the sources will be in the central closet connected to a Niles distribution amp - which will feed all of your zones. I don't know anything about Niles, but I suspect it can feed a "line-out" to a zone (your den) to feed the Integra AVR (but in 2 channel mode - why use 5.1 for AM/FM/Ipod/CDs?)


Again, based on your information provided and HOW you've phrased it, I'm inclined to believe you don't fully understand the proposed system - go back to your installer and have him explain it, then it will likely make more sense to you - still won't cure the sticker shock, but you'll know if it will do what you want.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for the replies. Let me try to answer my goals very simply.


My goal is to have all AV equipment in a closet. If I have a TV in a room, I want to be able to watch TV (I'm OK with extra cable boxes to be able to select different channels on each TV ... I'd have extra cable boxes if I just had a basic TV setup in each room). I want to be able to watch DVD's on any of the TV's. Anywhere I have speakers, I want to be able to listen to music sourced from either CD's or ipod.






I agree about the communications issue. I've tried to address this. No luck yet. I try to frame the same question different ways, and get back techno-speak in machine gun fashion. This is a real issue.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by ListeningOne /forum/post/18281737


I agree about the communications issue. I've tried to address this. No luck yet. I try to frame the same question different ways, and get back techno-speak in machine gun fashion. This is a real issue.

Then you might want to talk to a different installer, if you have choices available to you. If you will post your location, some of the kind folks on here may be able to recommend someone local to you.


I have a little better idea of what you want - tell me, for the 5 zones, how many concurrent users will there be? (i.e., you, wife, 3 kids each in a separate room, etc.?) You want to distribute not JUST dvds but also blu-ray, right? I assume the music sourced from CD or Ipod will be from equipment ALSO located in the central a/v closet (i.e., NOT from your den equipment)?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by ListeningOne /forum/post/18281737


Thanks for the replies. Let me try to answer my goals very simply.


My goal is to have all AV equipment in a closet. If I have a TV in a room, I want to be able to watch TV (I'm OK with extra cable boxes to be able to select different channels on each TV ... I'd have extra cable boxes if I just had a basic TV setup in each room). I want to be able to watch DVD's on any of the TV's. Anywhere I have speakers, I want to be able to listen to music sourced from either CD's or ipod.


I agree about the communications issue. I've tried to address this. No luck yet. I try to frame the same question different ways, and get back techno-speak in machine gun fashion. This is a real issue.

The integrator's plan is probably to use a matrix switcher to route all audio and video sources to all TV's and audio zones. This is the typical multizone scenario. This is more expensive then just locating the hardware in a central closet and routing a single cable box to each TV.


The idea behind the matrix switcher is that lets say you have 2 people in the house and 7 TV's. Rather than get 7 cable boxes (1 for each TV) you would get 3 (his hers and guest) and route them to every TV. This way you can watch what you want in any room of the house. The other member of the household can do the same. Husband can watch his recorded shows, wife can watch her recorded shows or they could both watch a show together from either DVR in any room that has a TV. The guest box obviously is for when you have guests. No fighting over whos watching what.


The fact that you want to distribute all audio to any room with speakers and DVD to all video zones means that you are using a matrix switcher for audio (any source in available to all outputs) and some sort of distribution or matrix piece for video (dvd in out to all TV's) It just plain makes more sense to go ahead and matrix all video sources. You might be able to shave a little off the invoice but you are severely limiting yourself in terms of feature set by doing this. Plus the control side will be more involved.


The idea that you have distributed audio speakers and a TV in the room but you will just use the TV with its own speakers is just crazy talk
. It will require additional wiring and programming and its silly to have nice speakers for music but have to put up with the onboard speakers for TV.


If the matrix switcher is the big price bump you can always tell them to go with component instead of HDMI. Or you could eliminate video distribution all together and just get a cable box and dvd player for every zone. They can be centrally located in the basement and use baluns and the TV's speakers.


I would call in another professional and get another quote. If pricing is close then IMO thats what it will cost to do it. Dont be bashful about asking to visit one of their existing projects so that you can better understand how things will operate. Sometimes technical people are so wrapped up in the logic that they cant communicate things in plain english.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by mike1812 /forum/post/18286820


Then you might want to talk to a different installer, if you have choices available to you. If you will post your location, some of the kind folks on here may be able to recommend someone local to you.


I have a little better idea of what you want - tell me, for the 5 zones, how many concurrent users will there be? (i.e., you, wife, 3 kids each in a separate room, etc.?) You want to distribute not JUST dvds but also blu-ray, right? I assume the music sourced from CD or Ipod will be from equipment ALSO located in the central a/v closet (i.e., NOT from your den equipment)?



I am in Maryland.


Let's say a max of 3 users.


The closet is in fact in the den. On a wall adjacent to the bedroom (as the crow flies, maybe 10 feet from the bedroom TV location, but of course the cable run likely snakes longer. And may 15 feet as the crow flies to the study TV location. The kitchen is a much longer run away ... probably 30-40 feet or so.


What was installed initially was intended to be a sort of Phase 1 to get up and going as I moved in. So it is pretty simple ... a AV receiver, the sources ....


Yes ... distribute DVD's and BluRay. My desires are simple (even if implementation isn't). I want to watch whatever I want to watch, on each TV. And listen to whatever I want to listen to on each speaker set. I want to be able to have one person watch one show in one room, and another person watch a different one in another room. I do understand that if the ipod or CD changer is in use, any zone that selects that source will all be listening to the same song. And I do expect to have multiple zones playing the same music source at the same time ... picture the cocktail party, with music going throughout the zones.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·

Quote:
The idea that you have distributed audio speakers and a TV in the room but you will just use the TV with its own speakers is just crazy talk . It will require additional wiring and programming and its silly to have nice speakers for music but have to put up with the onboard speakers for TV.




I completely agree.


But not sure which is more crazy, that or paying $19k to achieve something that seems basic.


Frankly, one option I am considering is to just to abandon the goal of whole-house AV distribution, and just replicate TV/receiver/etc in each room where I want it. I'd save a bundle, and not have to mess with any installers, now as well as every time something needs to be tweeked.


My experience thus far reminds me of the early days of PC LAN's. Where it took a lot of brute force and great expense to move a file from one PC to another, when it was pretty easy to copy the file to a floppy and walk it to the next office.


Unless I can locate a local installer that can get something sensible assembled, my preliminary conclusion is that whole house distribution is a great idea whose time has not yet arrived because it can't be done reasonably using gear and technology currently available.
 

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Ok, that's a bit more of the necessary information.


Hope you read Stamp's response above - his is the "condensed" version of what I was thinking of saying (which is why I asked how many users - I didn't want you to have a cable box and disc player for each tv).


I'll tackle one thing per post, and bear in mind these are just thoughts from an end-user who's gone through this (I have 6 zones of whole house audio plus 4 zones of component/digital audio a/v distribution tied to a central rack room). I'm not a pro, I don't pretend to know all the answers (or even some of the questions!).


Whole House Audio - I'm all for the ipod integration, but I think you might consider using a storage solution to rip all your cd's to a high quality format - these usually allow for at least 2 outputs (some more) to the multi-zone amps, meaning you could have access to ALL of your music that was on CD and have at least 2 zones listening to different music at the same time. Of course, if all the music is on your ipod, then you can just use the ipod. Is the CD changer a 5 disc changer or one of the older mega changers - 300 or 400 discs? I would think controlling that remotely in terms of getting metadata to the keypad would be much harder than simply doing away with the changer in favor of only the ipod and/or a disc based storage solution - either a pc or a dedicated component. I would not do ipod alone though - if you are out and have the ipod with you, and someone else wants to listen to music, then what? Do you plan to have an AM/FM tuner connected to the whole house audio - what is the source? is this coming from your Den AVR? What about internet or satellite (Sirius-XM) radio?


Stamp has really covered what you need to know in his last post above. Only thing I'm not sure about- Stamp, please clarify - can you distribute Blu ray over component and retain full resolution?


I'll continue to think about your needs and give you some more food for thought as my time permits.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by ListeningOne /forum/post/18288586


Yes ... distribute DVD's and BluRay. My desires are simple (even if implementation isn't). I want to watch whatever I want to watch, on each TV. And listen to whatever I want to listen to on each speaker set. I want to be able to have one person watch one show in one room, and another person watch a different one in another room. I do understand that if the ipod or CD changer is in use, any zone that selects that source will all be listening to the same song. And I do expect to have multiple zones playing the same music source at the same time ... picture the cocktail party, with music going throughout the zones.

The above description requires a matrix switch for audio and video. I am pretty sure this is what you are being quoted. HDMI matrix switchers are not cheap. This is a new and buggy technology and only a handful of manufacturers have acceptable solutions and in my opinion only Crestron has a perfect solution.


Are you interested in changing from HDMI to Component distribution? This will probably save you money on the hardware side. It will probably also save the integrator money while trying to tame the HDMI switcher. These are guesses obviously because i dont know the HDMI product that is being spec'd and i am not familiar with the installation company you are doing business with.


I don.t have your proposal to look at so i can only guess where the money is being spent. So here goes my uneducated guess...


Labor 5 days 2 guys @ $95 an hour is $7600.00 (1 day per zone)


Keypad and touchpanel in each zone $7500.00 (guessing $1500 per zone for both)


Total so far is $15100.00 That means the additional amps and matrix switch and control system plus accessories is coming in around $3900.00. This number seems pretty low, i dont have price sheets for Niles so i cant total it up though.


Does the $19k include labor or is that a different line item? If the $19k includes labor then this is a fair price IMO.


If the $19k doesnt include labor then IMO theres about $5000.00 i cant account for. (I think the hardware should be around $6000 instead of $3900.) Maybe the installation is planned for more than 2 days. Maybe the hardware is more than $6000. Not really sure without a product list.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by mike1812 /forum/post/18288765


Stamp has really covered what you need to know in his last post above. Only thing I'm not sure about- Stamp, please clarify - can you distribute Blu ray over component and retain full resolution?

No. But IMO component working 100% of the time and staying within budget is more important than going beyond budget and having the possibility of HDMI bugginess to deal with.


I was just suggesting it as an option becuase i was afraid he might do away with a touchpanel or keypad here or there to stay under budget.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
39 ...


The heart of the system quoted is a Niles distribution system. And yes, there is a HD matrix switch for the bluray.





But apart from what the exact system configuration is, or needs to be, here's what's bugging me: that $19k is on top of TV's / mounts / and several onwall speakers still needed. All wiring is already in place.


So the alternative is: forget about whole house distribuution, and just go to someplace like the dreaded Magnolia, and get receivers, etc for the needed rooms. The cost of getting a receiver, BluRay, ipod dock and CD player for each room would be a ton less expensive, and easier to maintain, than this kind of whole house solution.


So what's bugging me is the "is it worth it?" question. That's mine to answer. I'd pay something more, but this is a lot more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Niles GXR2 ICS Multi Zone Controller

Niles IM-iCard 2 ICS iPod Module

Niles IM-Audio ICS Analog Input Module

Niles TM-AM/FM ICS AM/FM Tuner Module

Niles RFG Radio Gateway

Niles SmartDock 2 Docking Station for iPod

Niles iRemote ICS Wireless System Remote

Niles Single ICS Keypad (white)

Sony 5 Disc CD Changer (existing)

RTI RP6 RF Controller

Xantech IR-System IR Repeater System

Netgear GS108SM 8 Port Network Switch

Panamax MAX-4300PM Power Distribution Center

Middle Atlantic RSH4A,2.5Space Cable Box Shelf

Middle Atlantic RSH4A,2.5Space For Sony Blu Ray Player

Panamax GRM2205 Rack Mount for M4300PM

Niles Contact ICS Touch Screen (white)

RTI T2C Universal Remote Control

RTI RM433 RF Antenna

Niles Contact ICS Touch Screen (white)

RTI T2C Universal Remote Control

Tributaries ELEC-HDA140 1x4 HDMI Distribution Amplifier

Atlona AT-HD-V40SRS HDMI Balun over Single Cat5

Tributaries 5DH-010 Series 5 1M HDMI Cable
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·

Quote:
Whole House Audio - I'm all for the ipod integration, but I think you might consider using a storage solution to rip all your cd's to a high quality format




I completely agree. But I figured I'd do that on a later upgrade once the basics were in place.
 

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Ok.. from the equipment list it looks like you are not getting an HDMI switch. You are getting a 1X4 HDMI distribution amp. Its like a splitter. Probably for the Blu-ray player to be routed to each TV. I dont see a video matrix switch for the cable boxes so they must be wiring each one directly to an individual TV.


Niles has been around forever and they are a pretty solid product, same with Xantech and RTI makes a nice remote. While i think any capable company can use this mix of products to provide you with a good solution i personally would not want it in my own home.


My advice at this point would be to contact a Crestron Prodigy or Control4 dealer. Your system requirements are very basic and i think Prodigy or Control4 can offer you a cleaner solution that hopefully costs less.


I would skip HDMI distribution for the Blu-ray player and do component for everything. This will cut costs in an area where IMO where you wont feel like you gave something up. If you simply must have 1080P in a given room i would put a local BD player in the family room and do local (family room tv only) HDMI switching via the AVReceiver. This is common for houses with a dedicated media room/theater. Component HD distribution and local HDMI switching for the theater.


Both products have iPod docks, XM-FM-AM tuners, 2way remotes & touchpanels & assorted keypads, audio matrix switches and the ability to integrate with 3rd party Component video matrix switches.


Both products also offer a wireless lighting and HVAC solution that you can add on now or down the road. That means you can swap existing light switches and thermostats and be able to control them and view status on your 2way remotes and touchpanels.


Both products also offer an iPhone/iTouch app. While i dont suggest you try and use this as your main remote they are nice features for zones that are not used as much. Its a nice alternative that allows you to have a 2way remote in a room you might have just put a keypad in due to budget constraints.


Installation labor and the cost of the CE products will most likely be the same. TV's BD players, CD changers and mounts are no profit products for most CI firms.


I am in no way knocking the other company or the products the chose. Like i said they have all been around forever and they are all solid products. Im just saying that if i were you i would check into these other 2 products and see where it goes.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by ListeningOne /forum/post/18289548


39 ...

So what's bugging me is the "is it worth it?" question. That's mine to answer. I'd pay something more, but this is a lot more.

I have been thinking about this today. At home i dont have any distributed anything. The family room has a local system with surround sound but i rarely use it. At one point i had a projector and local system in the master bedroom but now there is a 32" LCD and a 27" iMac that get used for TV and movies. I rarely watch DirecTV at all anymore because i use hulu or itunes to keep up with shows i like and regular TV is 50% or more reality shows that i just cant watch. One season of survivor and Flava of love and its enough for a lifetime
.


What i am getting at is that have you thought completely thru how you will use each room? How about having the entire house wired and only pulling the trigger on the zones you will use the most right now? Then you can decide if you feel like something is missing or if you really don't need to do the additional zones.


Just outfitting each room with a plasma/cable box/blu-ray player and universal remote is always less expensive because you can do the install yourself and eliminate the labor bill and the centralized control system. You lose the ability to take advantage of using your in-wall speakers for TV and the convenience of being able to watch recorded shows in any room not to mention the fact that you only need 1 cable box and Blu-ray player for the whole house vs multiples.


How about just doing distributed audio now and wire for video? That way you can add it in if you decide you really want it. Or what about Sonos for audio and just do local video? This gives you a great audio product for the whole house and it doesnt require all of the additional parts. It totally excludes video distribution but IMO you will love the interface and feature set.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thank you 39 et al.


I'm not trying to shut down any other constructive suggestions, but at this point it is clear I need to step back and think, as well as find and consult with another specialist. If I solve this, I'll report back
 
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